Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Ford's Rough Road; Selling Surveillance; Bush Defends Spying Program; Arlen Specter Discusses Wiretaps; Spy Scandal Between Russia and Britain

Aired January 23, 2006 - 17:00   ET


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, it's 5:00 p.m. in Michigan, where an icon of American industry announces massive layoffs. Is cutting up to 30,000 jobs Ford's better idea for the future?

And it's 1:00 a.m. in Moscow. James Bond would have been jealous. Russia accusing British diplomats of high-tech spying, hiding high-tech equipment inside a fake rock to collect secret information.

And it's 4:00 p.m. in Kansas, where the president vigorously defends his domestic spying program. But does he have the authority to eavesdrop on Americans? I'll ask Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

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

For much of the last century, Ford Motor Company was a symbol of America's ingenuity and industrial might. With the Model T, Henry Ford built the first car for the masses and within 20 years his assembly lines have turned out 15 million of them. Americans had a newfound freedom and mobility and a powerful new industry providing plenty of jobs.

Not anymore. Today the struggling automaker announced it will cut as many as 30,000 jobs and idle 14 manufactures plants.


BILL FORD, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: These cuts are a painful last resort, and I'm deeply mindful of their impact. They are going to affect many lives, many families, and many communities. And we'll do everything we reasonably can to ease the burdens.


BLITZER: One of the facilities that will be shut down is the Ford and Lincoln assembly plant in Wixom, Michigan. Our Ali Velshi is on the scene and he's joining us now with the latest -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the sun's getting ready to set here in Wixom, Michigan, and I've got to tell you, there are a lot of people who will be pretty happy that this day is over. It has been filled with emotion, it's been long anticipated. But some people around here are finding it tough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got comfortable. You know? We'll build it. They'll buy it.

VELSHI: Auto worker Darrell Hoffman (ph) echoes the words of a man he respects, a man who just ended Darrell's career.

FORD: If you build it, they will buy it. That's business as usual, and that's wrong.

VELSHI: Bill Ford, great grandson of Henry Ford, announced for the second time in four years that Ford will lay off up to 30,000 workers. It's a company in trouble.

While it made money in 2005, it all came from the company's finance division. The U.S. automaking division lost $1.2 billion last year. And it lost market share for the 10h year in a row. All of those facts are cold comfort to workers like Kim Stocker (ph), a 13- year veteran of Ford's Wixom plant. Her husband's been there 28 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like my job. There's a lot of good employees in that plant. A lot of hard-working employees. And it's -- we feel like we're all being screwed.

VELSHI: Most years this Monday would have been the first day back to work after the famed Detroit International Auto Show. But Darrell Hoffman (ph) missed the show this year. He knew what was coming and he wasn't up to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't go to the auto show this year. Normally I will go to the auto show every year. This year I was just -- Sunday I laid in bed all day. I wasn't well.

VELSHI: He hoped the layoffs weren't coming, but he sensed his 28 years on the job were coming to an end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did, but I didn't want to believe it. And I stayed optimistic.

It happens. And it will come back. As long as Bill Ford doesn't take my stock from me, I've got lots of stock. And I'm going to stay with it.

So please don't take it away from me. Let it grow.


VELSHI: And the only thing Darrell (ph) might be happy about is that the market did seem to respond a little better to the news today. But it is still tough. Strangely, an optimism around here with some people. But others, they know it's the end of the line for them. When 30,000 people get put out of work in America, although some of it will be over the next year or two, there's not a lot of silver lining to that cloud -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, we see a lot of Japanese automakers have plants in the United States, Toyota or Honda. They seem to be doing quite well making cars in the United States.

Is this a simple matter -- GM announces a lot of layoffs, as you well remember, last year. Now Ford. Is it a case that only the Japanese are going to be making eventually down the road cars in the United States? Is that too far fetched a thought?

VELSHI: You know, the Japanese started in the '70s making cars that people needed. They were smaller, they were more gas efficient, they were more stylish, they were more reliable, they were safer. The Americans kept building cars -- as Bill Ford says, they kept building cars and hoped people would buy them.

Well, there have been some exceptions to that rule, but I think the exception is going to become the rule now. Ford is going to try to build cars only that people want to buy. And hopefully they will be able to compete -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ali. Thanks very much.

Ali Velshi reporting for us from the scene in Michigan.

Let's turn now to the hot-button issue of domestic spying, electronic eavesdropping being carried out in this country without warrants. Our latest poll shows Americans are divided.

Forty-six percent say the Bush administration is right to conduct such wiretapping without a court order. Fifty-one percent say it's wrong for the administration to do so.

Meantime, the administration is pulling out all the stops in a P.R. campaign aimed at selling its surveillance program.

Let's turn to our national security correspondent, David Ensor, with more -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, that P.R. campaign got under way today with appearances by the president and a very senior general.


ENSOR (voice over): The Bush administration went on the offensive for its warrantless domestic surveillance program by the National Security Agency, the nation's eavesdroppers. Officials from the president on down arguing the program is aimed only at monitoring al Qaeda's communications in and out of the U.S.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if they are making a phone call in the United States, it seems like to me we want to know why.

ENSOR: As part of three days of national security events to make its case, the administration also put out a respected four-star general.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, DEP. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 al Qaeda operatives in the United States and we would have identified them as such.

ENSOR: General Michael Hayden, now the nation's number two intelligence officer, was head of the NSA in late 2001 when President Bush authorized it to listen in on certain international calls by Americans without a court warrant.

HAYDEN: This isn't a drift net out there where we are soaking up everyone's communications. We are going after very specific communications that our professional judgment tells us we have reason to believe are those associated with people who want to kill Americans. That's what we're doing.

ENSOR: Critics of the president's program include a former top White House counterterrorism aide.

RICHARD CLARKE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I don't see any loophole that would authorizes what he's doing. In other words, I think what they are doing is illegal.


ENSOR: The administration faces hearings early next month on whether the law should be changed to require court approval of all domestic surveillance. But administration officials believing the program is actually a political asset are now aggressively promoting it as part of the war on terror -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David Ensor. Thanks very much.

Does the Bush administration have the authority to conduct this domestic surveillance program? Coming up, I'll ask Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He's going to be holding these hearings next month. He'll be joining us here live in THE SITUATION ROOM.

His aching knees don't let him run much anymore, but President Bush completed a verbal marathon today, speaking for almost two hours at Kansas State University. The president offered a vigorous defense of his domestic spying program, then took questions from the audience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Tierra Mossa (ph). I'm an American-Iraqi Kurd. I would like to salute you and salute all the troops of freeing 27 million people. They are free.

BUSH: Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, I would like to share these thoughts with all our nation and everybody who is questioning what happened to the chemical weapons. Saddam burned 4,500 villages. I lost more than 10 members of my family underground. We found their bones when we freed Iraq.

Saddam himself and his people, his followers, they are (ph) chemical weapons. Please stop questioning the administration and their decision. It was the best decision anybody could take, freeing 27 million people.


BUSH: OK. This is a question-and-answer period.


BLITZER: The president didn't say what happened to the weapons of mass destruction though.

Let's turn to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

What's the strategy, Suzanne, behind this, really, for this president, pretty extraordinary free for all with question coming from the audience? The White House says these are unscripted questions, nobody's gone through them in advance.

I assume -- have we confirmed that, actually, our people on the ground?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's true. And actually, it's interesting. The president joking, saying only in America that this could happen.

And what the strategy is here, of course, is that this was about 9,000 people that he was in front of, 6,000 students. This is an event that was ticket only. So there is some organization about who actually gets in the audience.

But the White House insists that these are not prescreened questions, that the president went on for nearly two hours meandering from topic to topic. He did not have any kind of scripted remarks, essentially putting himself out there to try to convince the American people to support the Iraq policy, as well as the domestic spy program, even calling that program something different today, the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

The whole idea behind this, Wolf, is that he did very well in the campaign, reaching out to people, talking to audiences, kind of that give and take, using his sense of humor, using his sense of warmth to actually reach out, convince American people that he is doing the right thing, and to counter what the critics say. They say he is dishonest, and that is something that they think these events, particularly going out to the American people, will go against -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne. Thanks very much.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

In Iraq, when the trial of Saddam Hussein resumes in a few hours, there will be some new faces on the bench. The two top members of the five-judge panel are off the case.

Let's bring back CNN's Aneesh Raman. He's joining us now live from Baghdad with the latest -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a big shakeup at the top of the court today when the trial reconvenes tomorrow. It will do so with a new chief judge.

He's a 65-year-old Kurd in that position now, we are told on an interim basis. He replaces a man viewers will undoubtedly recognize, Rizgar Mohammed Amin. He had been chief judge up until now.

Last week he tendered his resignation, said he had been coming under pressure from the government to speed up this trial. He had also come under intense criticism here in Iraq for not having enough control on that courtroom, allowing Saddam essentially to speak at will, allowing the trial proceedings to veer off track.

Now, as you mentioned, also absent tomorrow will be Amin's top deputy. He has been transferred. We are not told why.

But Wolf, this means so far three of the five judges who sit at the top of this trial have been replaced since it began. Something the defense will undoubtedly seize upon in terms of an appeal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Aneesh. Thanks very much. We'll check back with you soon.

Aneesh Raman, he's back in Baghdad.

Good to have you back on the scene for us, Aneesh.

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


There's a new study out. It's called On the Corner. It's all about America's day laborers.

There are more than 117,000 people who gather at more than 500 hiring sites every day around the country looking for work on a daily basis. Seventy-five percent of them are illegal immigrants.

On average, they make about $10 an hour or about $700 a month. When it comes to conditions on the job, 93 percent of the day laborers report their work is dangerous. Twenty percent say they have been injured on the job. And almost half say they have been cheated out of pay in the last two months.

So the question this hour is this: What should be done about day laborers in the United States?

You can e-mail us at

There are several -- well, more than several, probably many. But I personally have seen several places around northeast New Jersey and the metropolitan area where you can see these young people gathered on the corner waiting for, you know, folks to come along in a pickup truck and pick up however many they need for that day's work and load them in the back. And, you know, no insurance, no health benefits, no nothing.

But on the other hand, they are in the country illegally. So it's a dilemma, as they say.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Cafferty -- that would be "The Cafferty File" and Jack Cafferty.

CAFFERTY: That's right.

BLITZER: We'll get back with you soon.

Up ahead, the deaths of 15 miners in two states in less than three weeks is shining a light on the dangers that lurk deep in the mines of West Virginia and Kentucky. What can be done to prevent the deaths and make mines safer?

And if only you could have had it for your new year's resolution. The Food and Drug Administration is weighing the pros and cons of allowing a prescription diet pill to be sold over the counter. We'll tell you what's going on.

And they are the parents of Toga, the baby penguin that was stolen from the British zoo just before Christmas. Now there's word they are trying to move on. We'll tell you what's going on.


BLITZER: Their dangers deep in the mines of Kentucky and West Virginia that generations of miners know full well but what the outside world is just beginning to understand right now. Mine safety hearings here in Washington are shining a light on ways to try to keep the mines and the miners safe.

Brian Todd is standing by. He's got more on this story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there was a lot of hand ringing and blame tossed around by many industry insiders today. But the hearing really focused on safety and the effort to explain why 15 miners have been killed in less than three weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice over): Most of this Senate hearing zeros in on technological advances which critics say were not available to the 12 miners who died at the Sago West Virginia site.

CECIL ROBERTS, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA: Had the miners at Sago had more oxygen and had the ability to communicate with the outside their lives could have possibly been saved.

TODD: Among the ideas, some experts call for equipment that could at least double a miner's supply of oxygen in an emergency from the one hour's worth that's now required and better communications gear, including more advanced two-way radios or phones. One union official says most mines have only one landline phone easily destroyed in an accident.

Davitt McAteer, the lead investigator into the Sago incident, displays a one-way tracking instrument to locate miners and a so- called personal emergency device for text messaging which he believes could have been saved the men at Sago.

DAVITT MCATEER, LEAD SAGO INVESTIGATOR: These devices have been approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. These devices have proved to be reliable. They have proved to be effective both in this country and abroad.

TODD: But he says they are only used in about a dozen mines in the U.S., despite their low cost. The Sago company's president says his firm has set up a task force to examine all safety issues, including oxygen supplies, but cautions that with communications, affordability and availability don't always translate to reliability.

BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: How do you keep an explosion from blasting away the antennas and the cables and everything else that we use to support these systems and still maintain that line of communication through 300 feet of rock?


TODD: Other ideas, like having rescue teams at more mines, have been pushed for a long time but rejected because of cost. Now, updated proposals for rescue teams and better technology are again on the table from the federal government and the governor of West Virginia. Many experts believe whether they will ever come to pass may depend on how much money companies are obliged to spend.

One note. We did try to reach officials from Massey Energy, the company that owns the Melville, West Virginia, mine where those two miners died just a couple of days ago. We wanted to get their reaction to those calls for better safety devices. We were not able to reach them in time for this show -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Good reporting. Thanks very much. Let's hope they can save some lives out there.

Meanwhile, there's an update on the condition of the sole survivor in the West Virginia mine accident that left 12 others dead. Randy McCloy's condition has been upgraded to fair condition.

Doctors say he's steadily showing slight neurological improvements and that he's reacting to those who speak with him, yet remains unable to speak himself. Doctors say McCloy regained additional kidney functions over the weekend.

We wish him only the best. A speedy recovery to Randy.

Coming up, he spent over half his life in prison, convicted of rape and armed robbery. Now new sophisticated tests confirm his innocence or his guilt. We'll have the verdict.

And the parents of a missing penguin, they now have some news that just might strike their grief. We'll tell you what's going on.


BLITZER: U.S. officials are casting a nervous eye toward Iran and its nuclear program which America and its allies fear is aimed as making a nuclear weapon.

Joining us now is a key member of CNN Security Council, our world affairs analyst, the and former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington.

Here's how the president earlier today phrased this potential threat. Listen to what he said.


BUSH: I'm concerned when the country of Iran, its president, announces its -- his desire to see that Israel gets destroyed. Israel's our ally. We are committed to the safety of Israel. And it's a commitment we will keep.

Secondly, I'm concerned about a non-transparent society's desire to develop a nuclear weapon. The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon.


BLITZER: Strong words from the president. I was struck on the comments he made about Israel. This comes after the defense minister of Israel, General Shlomo Faz (ph), the other day left open the possibility that Israel sees its own threat from Iran and might have to take its own action.

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think the Israelis are looking at it very closely. I have had discussions with a number of them, and they've indicated that they simply could not be in a position where Iran goes forward with a nuclear weapons program. Whether they would take military action remains to be seen, but they are certainly concerned about it.

But more importantly, you have the EU, the European Union, Britain, Germany, France all concerned about what would take place if Iran should go forward with this program. But the three key states happen to be -- our countries -- happen to be Russia, China and India.

These three countries really hold, I think, the most leverage over Iran in terms of persuading them not to move forward with anything but a peaceful and commercial nuclear enterprise as opposed to a weapons-producing facility.

BLITZER: I've heard U.S. military experts both in and out of government say, yes, there's a military option. The U.S. could launch cruise missile strikes or massive bombing strikes against, what, half a dozen or a dozen potential sites in Iran. And while it might not necessarily destroy Iran's nuclear potential, it would set it back for a long time to come.

Is that a realistic option?

COHEN: Well, using a military strike certainly is possible, but then you have to deal with the consequences. What are the -- what's the damage?

BLITZER: The political fallout.

COHEN: Not political, but also potentially military. You've got a very narrow Persian Gulf in which our ships and those in the international community have to transit every day, carrying millions of barrels of oil. That could pose a serious problem in terms of whether that would be shut down and how would you keep it open.

There would be other potential problems in terms of how Iran might react to it. So it's not to say that you couldn't have a military option, but it's to say that we should be pursuing diplomacy at all costs ifs we can, reserving any kind of military talk for much later, if at all.

BLITZER: You were at the White House a couple weeks ago with other former secretaries of defense, secretaries of state. Larry Eagleburger, a former secretary of state, was there with you. I interviewed him yesterday on this subject. Listen to this exchange.


LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: One day one of these countries is going to have that nuclear weapon because we wouldn't stop them. It's going to end up in the hands of an Osama bin Laden somewhere, and then, Katie (ph), bar the door, because we are all going to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and say, boy did we screw this one up.


BLITZER: Do you agree with him?

COHEN: I do agree.

BLITZER: The threat that a country like Iran would hand over a nuclear bomb to a group of terrorists? COHEN: I think the threat that Iran, North Korea, or any other state, as we see this potential for proliferation of nuclear technology falling into the hands of countries that may allow it to go into the hands of terrorist groups, that is a threat that every president, every American, every person in this world ought to be concerned about. So I think Secretary Eagleburger is correct about the worry about it. And that's why I say Russia has a real interest in this. They have a very close connection with Iran.

China is now dependant upon Iran for its supply of energy. India has an interest.

All of them have an interest in not seeing instability introduced into that region. Iran can introduce that instability, and it would not be for the benefit of the world.

So this issue of terrorists gaining access to more and more technology, becoming proliferated around the world, is a serious one. So I think in that sense, Secretary Eagleburger's correct.

BLITZER: The president is coming out right now. We've got some live pictures coming in. Let's show our viewers those pictures.

Stepping down from Air Force One, bringing him back from Kansas where he delivered that speech earlier.

As we look at the president, the other issue that's going to come up this week are these Palestinian elections that are scheduled for this Wednesday. And we see in all the polls, Hamas, a group the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, doing very well, threatening Fatah, which is the main political organization of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president.

Listen to Senator Joe Lieberman, your former colleague, what he said yesterday on the potential of Hamas doing well.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: And if Hamas becomes part of the Palestinian Authority leadership without any acceptance of the roadmap that the U.S. and the other three great powers have put forth, then the prospects for progress, let alone peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is going to be slim to none.


BLITZER: You agree with Lieberman?

COHEN: I do agree in the sense that if Hamas, which has as its goal the destruction of the Oslo peace process, so the destruction of Israel itself, were to win a significant victory and maintain that posture, and be part of the political process but call for the destruction of Israel and the destruction of the peace process, then I see very little that could be beneficial to the Palestinian people or to the Israelis. So I think there's a lot at stake here, that Hamas may very well win maybe 20 percent, as much as 30 percent of the vote. It's a democratic process, and so we have to look at that very carefully.

But if they continue to seek destructive means against Israel, then I think we will see nothing but a continuation of the hardship and the heartache that has been visited upon the people in -- in Palestine and Israel all of these years.

So, there's a lot at stake. Hamas, I think, will show at least 20 percent, perhaps more. And we have to accept that, in terms of the democratic process. But it's going to impede the peace process potentially, if they don't renounce the use of terror and force against Israel.

BLITZER: William Cohen, as usual thanks very much.

And we will have extensive coverage Wednesday on these Palestinian elections -- lots at stake, the elections on Wednesday in the Palestinian territories.

Coming up, wireless wiretaps -- should President Bush let the National Security Agency conduct spying at home without court orders? My interview with the Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter -- he's going to be holding hearings -- holding hearings on this next month.

And smoke and flames leave behind an image some call miraculous. It's drawing the faithful and the curious. We will show you what they are saying.


ZAHN: Zain Verjee is standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at other stories making news.

Hi again, Zain.


A 45-year-old man who spent more than half his life in prison is now free. Alan Crotzer walked out of a courthouse in Tampa, Florida, today, after DNA evidence proved that he was innocent. He had spent more than 24 years behind bars for armed robbery and rapes in Tampa in 1981. Recent DNA testing on evidence proved that he did not do it. He says he's looking forward to a soak in the tub and a pork chop dinner.

The Food and Drug Administration is weighing the pros and the cons of allowing a prescription weight loss drug to be sold over the counter. Xenical is the marketing name for the drug called orlistat. It works by blocking absorption of fat. Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline is hoping that U.S. regulators will allow a half-strength version of the pill to be marketed as Alli, saying that it permits gradual and modest weight loss. The major concern here is that the drug also blocks abortion of -- excuse me -- the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and could lead to vitamin deficiencies.

What some say is a likeness of the Virgin Mary is attracting a lot of attention in the town of Mexico, Maine. It appeared behind a framed painting in a home that was gutted by fire. Fire officials say that it was caused by heat and smoke seeping behind the picture. Others just say, it was a miracle.

And, Wolf, a bit of bright news for two parents in Britain who suffered a traumatic loss just before Christmas. Toga is the 3-month- old penguin who was bird-napped from the hope that he shared with his mom and dad at the Amazon World Zoo on the Isle of Wight. Despite urgent appeals that Toga could survive only a few days without his folks, he's never been found. But zoo officials announce, happily, that Kyala and Oscar are expecting a new egg.

And, Wolf, that should hatch in about 40 days.

BLITZER: All right. Well, good luck to them.



BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain, for that. That's a story a lot of people are interested in.

There's growing concern in New Hampshire -- get this -- over Internet-based hunting. This is a business that lets you aim and shoot an actual rifle at live animals by simply pointing and clicking your computer mouse. New Hampshire has introduced a bill that criminalizes online hunting. Similar laws already exist in 13 states.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has more.

This is really an incredible story, Jacki. What is going on?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, you can still take target practice online.

This is what the video of that looks like. What you can't do anymore is shoot live animals. This is the site where you could do it. You can see the contraption here, how the gun was set up to a camera and an Internet connection. They got a couple of hunts in, before Texas banned the practice in June of 2005 -- this from the Humane Society, a map, 13 states where the bills have been signed into law banning this practice. -- eight states in 2006 alone.

New Hampshire is the latest to introduce a bill -- eight states, in addition to the 13.

Now, I spoke today to the representative in charge of the Fish and Game Commission. They say the bill is moving through very quickly. They are actually trying now to define the term Internet hunting. That is what they are working on. Imagine. Who thought we ever would have had to define that? -- the Humane Society, the NRA both aware of the practice, Wolf, and both very much against it.

BLITZER: All right. We will watch the story and update viewers on it. Thanks, Jacki, very much.

Still to come, British diplomats accused of espionage, using some high-tech tools hidden inside a fake rock -- details of the spy spat between Moscow and London. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Once again, let's bring back Zain Verjee from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

You are following a story of spying and espionage. What's going on, Zain?

VERJEE: Yes, Wolf.

What could become a full-fledged high-tech spy scandal is threatening to strain relations between Russia and Britain. And it has left British diplomacy between a rock and a hard place.


VERJEE (voice-over): This is the device Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB, says was used by four British diplomats to send and receive intelligence -- FSB surveillance video, aired on Russian television last night, allegedly showing staff from the British Embassy caught in the act of spying.

The FSB, which is the modern descendant of the Soviet KGB, is linking the spying to alleged British funding of non-governmental organizations in Russia, specifically, human rights groups currently facing a crackdown by Moscow.

One Russian lawmaker says the spy accusations won't help.

GENNADY GUDKOV, MEMBER OF RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT: I can only regret that, as of today, the idea of NGOs has been compromised by the British intelligence services, and the evidence presented by the Russian television show.

VERJEE: That broadcast alleged that Russian informants were uploading information to a computer hidden inside a rock, which had been placed in a Moscow square. The British diplomats allegedly would later come to the rock and quickly download the data to handheld devices.

The British Foreign Office denies any wrongdoing, saying: "We are concerned and surprised at these allegations. We reject any allegation of improper conduct in our dealing with Russian NGOs."

Prime Minister Tony Blair is keeping tight-lipped. TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I only saw myself on the teletext this morning the -- the business about Russia. And I'm afraid that you -- you are going to get the -- the old stock and trade of never commenting on security matters, except where we want to, obviously.


BLAIR: But...


VERJEE: Britain is being quite open about its support of human rights groups in Russia, which isn't illegal. But the Kremlin sees such NGOs as undermining its authority. And it has enacted a new law aimed at curbing their activities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thank you very much.

Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, domestic surveillance. Does the president have the right to approve wiretaps without warrants here at home?

The Senate Judiciary chairman, Arlen Specter, he is standing by in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, a one-time calypso-singer-turned-actor-and-producer now turns into a harsh critic of President Bush. I will speak live with Harry Belafonte in the 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

President Bush today strongly defended the eavesdropping carried out in this country by the National Security Agency. Does his administration have the authority to conduct such surveillance without court orders?

Joining us now is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter.

You are going to hold hearings on this very subject next month. What is -- what is your sense, going into this? You have expressed some initial concern. Where do you stand? Does the president have the legal authority to do what he has ordered?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Wolf, that's the question we are going to explore at a hearing.

The initial claim to authority from the resolution to authorize the use of force, I think, is very, very thin. If the president had asked for authority in the Patriot Act, we would have had a determination as to whether Congress wanted to give it to him. But to say that there was congressional intent in the resolution for force, I think, is a -- is a stretch. It's a different issue under Article II, but where you have the Congress using our power, under Article I, to say that the exclusive way to have electronic surveillance is to get a court order, the presumption is against the president.

But I think we have to give him a hearing.

BLITZER: So, you -- you are going in with an open mind?


I think the president's entitled to -- to present his case. And we want to hear from the attorney general. I expect a full day of responses from Attorney General Gonzales. And, then, we are going to have follow-up hearings with experts, academicians, professors, experts, analyzing the law of the subject.

BLITZER: Here's how the president made his case, in part, earlier today. Listen to this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm mindful of your civil liberties, and, so, I had all kinds of lawyers review the process. We briefed members of the United States Congress, one of whom was Senator Pat Roberts, about this program.

You know, it's amazing that people say to me, well, he was just breaking the law.

If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?




BLITZER: He -- he briefed, obviously, the chairman and the ranking member of the intelligence -- at least his people did -- of the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate. Is that good enough?

SPECTER: The statute requires that the Intelligence Committees be briefed, not just the chairman of the ranking member or the so- called gang of eight, which includes the leadership, but the committees. And that's one of the questions I'm going to have for Attorney General Gonzales. How can you claim compliance with a statute which is very explicit, the committees, not just the chairman and ranking member?

BLITZER: Al Gore was very, very tough on the president last week in his speech on this subject. Listen to this excerpt.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law, repeatedly and insistently.



BLITZER: A week ago Sunday, you used the I-word, impeachment word. And you said it was, obviously, remote.

But if in fact it's determined that the president did not have the legal authority to do what he authorized after 9/11, he would presumably be breaking the law. Would he then be subject to impeachment?

SPECTER: Well, let me answer your question.

But, first, you showed me former Vice President Gore. I have got to respond to that.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

SPECTER: You made me watch him.


SPECTER: It -- it wasn't something I chose to do.

It was a political speech. Al Gore is carrying on the 2000 campaign, pure and simple. I was asked, what are the possible remedies? And I was very careful to delineate all of the theoretical remedies. And, if I had left out impeachment, people would have said, Arlen Specter soft on President Bush. That's a theoretical possibility.

And I quickly said, it doesn't apply in this case. There's no doubt that the president acted in good faith. He may be wrong, but he's not subject to impeachment.

BLITZER: If the president were to come to Congress now -- this program is out in the open -- everybody knows about it -- he has confirmed it.

General Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency, spoke about it himself today, and said, you know what? It's no longer a secret. I need authorization from Congress to go ahead with these wireless -- these warrant -- warrantless wiretaps of American citizens who may be in contact with al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Would the Senate -- would you support that?

SPECTER: Well, I want to have the hearing and listen to him. He would have had a much better chance to get that authority if he would had come to the Congress before he started to exercise the authority.

BLITZER: His argument was that he -- he -- he was afraid of disclosing this information, that it would tip off the terrorists.

SPECTER: Well, he's going to have to make some disclosures if he wants that authority, Wolf.

We are dealing here with the very basic concept of separation of power. And, under our Constitution, we are very leery about giving too much power in any one quarter. And there would have to be a very, very powerful showing factually for him to get authority from the Congress to act as he has acted. But I'm prepared to listen.

BLITZER: Are you prepared to answer this question -- and we asked it in our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll today -- whether a special prosecutor is needed to investigate these warrantless wiretaps? Fifty-nine -- 58 percent of the American public favor a special prosecutor when asked that specific question. Thirty-nine percent oppose.

After your hearings, would that be justified?

SPECTER: Well, let's see what the hearings show.

But I don't think that there's any call here for a special prosecutor. There's -- there's no showing of mens rea, or criminal intent, or bad faith on the part of the president. We just had a special prosecutor, a very high-profile one in Fitzgerald. And we ended up a "New York Times" reporter in jail for 85 days. And we still don't know what that investigation was all about.

I would be very leery about looking for any special prosecutor. But look here, Wolf. We have congressional oversight. I'm chairman of the Judiciary Committee. And we are going to have a hearing. And that's the constitutional way to go about it, without getting involved in special prosecutors, who haven't worked very well in recent times.

BLITZER: You are going to have a vote tomorrow on Samuel Alito to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In our poll today, "Would Alito vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade?" 34 percent said yes. Forty-four percent said no -- 21 percent unsure.

If you thought he would overturn Roe vs. Wade, would you support his nomination?

SPECTER: Well, that's a very hypothetical, iffy question.

I have never been for a litmus test. I voted for Chief Justice Rehnquist, when we knew he was against Roe vs. Wade. I think you have to judge a man on the totality of the circumstances. But, believe me, there is no way to make a prediction here. You had Justice Souter, when he was attorney general of New Hampshire, refuse to change the New Hampshire law banning abortion, even though it had been declared unconstitutional. And Souter became a great exponent of Roe. When his confirmation hearings were up, the National Organization of Women paraded on Capitol Hill with big signs, "Stop Souter or women will die." Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor...


SPECTER: ... were very much against abortion rights before they came to the court. And they support Roe.

So, the rule, Wolf, is that there is no rule.

BLITZER: We will watch the hearing tomorrow. I suspect there will be a 10-8 vote, but we could be surprised. We will see what happens.

Unfortunately, Senator, we are out of time. We will continue this discussion.

Let me just say, on behalf of all our viewers, you look great and you feel great. And that's good to know. Thanks...


SPECTER: Thank you very much, Wolf. Nice being with you.

BLITZER: Up next, what should be done about day laborers in the United States?

Jack standing by with your e-mail.

And, coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, he built a career as an entertainer. Now he's making headlines as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration. He's calling the president a terrorist and a tyrant. Harry Belafonte will join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

A new study out about America's day laborers shows that 20 percent say they have been hurt on the job. Almost half say they have been cheated out of pay in the last two months. The question is, what should be done about day laborers in the United States?

Skip in Naples, Florida: "Day laborer is code-speak for hiring illegal aliens. If the jobs go away, then illegal immigration is not very far behind. The people that should go to jail are the people that hire illegal residents."

Daniel writes: "Jack, have the Department of Homeland Security hire them. They can use them to do a job nobody else seems to want, protect the borders."

Marshall in San Diego: "Nothing should be done. I use them for weeding, landscaping. I pay them $10 an hour, pay and feed them during lunch, give them a ride to and from Home Depot, and often tip them. They are courteous, hard-working and honest. It's no different than hiring a kid to shovel snow or rakes leaves."

Ken in Yuma, Arizona: "Day laborers who are legally here should be provided controlled areas where they can register to obtain work from employers. Illegal immigrant day laborers should be hauled off to work at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas."

Joe in Humble, Texas: "People should remember that the term illegal immigrant means just that. To debate their rights is to address rights they do not have."

And Nick in Wenonah, New Jersey: "Nothing. Day labor spots don't exist, just as, according to the administration, illegal immigrants in this country don't exist. What are you even talking about?"



BLITZER: Nick in New Jersey.

You know, Jack, very quickly -- because we only have a few seconds -- what is wrong with the American auto industry?

CAFFERTY: They can't compete, for one thing.

The cost of producing American cars contains $1,500 to $2,000 of the cost per vehicle that doesn't exist in other countries. It's -- it's too expensive to make them.

BLITZER: Jack, we are going to have much more on this story coming up in -- one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.

To our viewers, remember, we are in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We are back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Harry Belafonte will be joining us live in one hour.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program -- that starts right now -- Lou.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines