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President Bush Heads Home After Surprise Visit to Iraq; Rove Won't Be Charged in CIA Leak Case; Former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell Sentenced to 30 months in Jail for Tax Evasion and Racketeering; New York's Police Commissioner Says Iran Carrying Out Surveillance There; Shafiq Rasul Interview; Israel Military Claims No Responsibility for Deaths of Seven Civilians During Explosion Last Week in Gaza

Aired June 13, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 1:00 a.m. in Baghdad, where jaws are still dropping as President Bush heads home from a very unexpected visit with Iraq's new leader and with U.S. troops. We'll have the inside story of the secret trip and tell you what it might mean for a battered Bush administration.

It's 5:00 p.m. in New York City, where the police commissioner goes public with allegations of Iranian espionage. Why would diplomats carry out surveillance on the subway system?

And it's 5:00 p.m. at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where three terror suspects have committed suicide. I'll speak with a former detainee who says he was caught up in a nightmare.

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

They were supposed to speak via video hook-up as President Bush chaired a top-level strategy session at Camp David. Instead, President Bush met face to face with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and with U.S. troops in Baghdad. At this hour, the president is heading home from that very secret visit, which may also boost the morale of his beleaguered administration.

The trip comes less than a week after a U.S. airstrike killed Iraq's most wanted man, the terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And it follows word that the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, will not be charged in the CIA leak case. That's another boost for the Bush administration heading into midterm elections.

Our Justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is standing by with more on the leak investigation. Our Andrea Koppel is up on Capitol Hill. She's standing by with that, as well.

But let's go to our Suzanne Malveaux at the White House for a good inside look at what exactly happened today -- Suzanne. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, White House aides say that President Bush wanted to move as quickly as possible when the new Iraqi government was formed to meet face to face with the Iraqi leadership and really try to determine on a personal level whether or not Maliki was in fact committed and determined to taking responsibility for Iraq's future.


MALVEAUX (voice over): For President Bush, personal impressions are everything. That's why he secretly traveled to Baghdad, even surprising his host, to shake his hand and keep a promise.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've come to not only look you in the eye, I've also come to tell you that when America gives its word, it will keep its word.

MALVEAUX: The surprise visit is part of an aggressive new effort by the administration to bolster the new Iraq government and pivot the burden of security and governing to the Iraqi people.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of your country is in your hands.

MALVEAUX: The meeting with Iraq's new prime minister, Nuri al- Maliki, and his newly elected cabinet was the result of a cleverly orchestrated bait and switch.

Monday, Mr. Bush held five hours of meetings with his top advisers at his Camp David retreat, using a secure video link to confer with U.S. military commanders in Iraq. Then he said he would call Iraq's prime minister and his cabinet Tuesday morning to introduce them by videophone to the U.S. team.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Tomorrow's going to be a fascinating day.

MALVEAUX: A coy hint? Perhaps. But certainly an understatement. Aides say the trip had been in the works for a month but was given the green light after the new Iraqi cabinet was completed last Thursday.

GEORGE W. BUSH: On Monday, I will meet with my national security team and other key members of my cabinet at Camp David to discuss the way forward in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: The two-day war council was part of an elaborate rouse. Friday, a senior aide convened a background briefing for reporters to lay out the two-day schedule. Monday, the White House announced a Rose Garden press conference upon the president's return.

But the Camp David retreat was used as cover for Mr. Bush to quietly sneak off after dinner Monday night to Andrews Air Force base, where Air Force One departed for Baghdad just after 9:00. A handful of journalists sworn to secrecy went along for the ride, while those covering the summit back at Camp David remained clueless. Only the vice president and secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld knew of the president's departure. The rest off his cabinet was kept out of the loop.

By 8:00 Tuesday morning Eastern Time, Mr. Bush was in Iraq, quickly whisked away in a heavily-armed chopper for a six-minute ride to Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. There, Prime Minister Maliki and his cabinet were assembled for what they were told would be a secure video conference. Maliki was informed of Mr. Bush's arrival five minutes before he walked through the door.

Under incredible security, the two leaders met in one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces which is temporarily the U.S. Embassy. Later, Mr. Bush gave a pep talk to about 800 U.S. troops.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I truly believe the work that you're doing here is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

MALVEAUX: In Washington, the reaction to Mr. Bush's secret mission was predictable. The first lady gushed...

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I'm thrilled and I'm proud of my husband.

MALVEAUX: ... while some Democrats grumbled.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I'm glad he went to Iraq, get a firsthand look. Now maybe he'll come up finally with a plan that will show us the way out of this quagmire.


MALVEAUX: And aides say President Bush tomorrow will meet with lawmakers to brief them here at the White House about his brief trip to Iraq. Also, of course, this is his second time that he has been to Iraq. The last time, of course, back in 2003, when he had Thanksgiving dinner with the troops.

Back then, his approval rating about 55 percent. Now it's about 20 percentage points below that. He got a little bounce in the polls after that visit. White House officials still unclear whether or not he's going to get that bounce this time around -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much.

Let's get some reaction from Capitol Hill. Our Andrea Koppel is up on the Hill with more on that -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, there's a bit of an Iraq double-header that's happening in Congress this week. Over in the House, later on, they're going to be debating a global war on terror Iraq resolution.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, they've been debating a defense bill. And the hope among Republicans that they're going to be able to paint themselves as the ones with the vision on Iraq, while the Democrats are the cut-and-run party. To that end, the Democrat leader, Harry Reid, has been trying to get his caucus, members of the Democratic Party, to come out with a proposal that will be, in effect, anything but what John Kerry has proposed. Today, John Kerry came out saying that the Democrats -- that the U.S. troops in Iraq should withdraw and redeploy by the end of this year.

Now, I just spoke with Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, a short time ago, Wolf, and he told me that what he is looking to do -- and we've also confirmed that Joe Biden is of a like mind -- that he is pushing for U.S. troops to begin redeployment sometime this year, and to end by the end of 2007.

This is the first time that you would have a senior Democrat, someone who's considered a moderate, someone who's not running for president, to set a firm deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw. This is not the position necessarily that Harry Reid is going to come out with or that Democrats are going to come out with as their consensus opinion, but it is one that you're hearing Carl Levin and Joe Biden pushing behind the scenes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel on the Hill.

Thank you very much for that.

Other important news we're following. There's been a major new development in the CIA leak case. Karl Rove, the president's top adviser, has been informed he will not be charged.

Our Justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is joining us with details -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for months, Rove's legal team has been doing a very delicate dance with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald trying to avoid an indictment. Well, it obviously paid off.


ARENA (voice over): Karl Rove has been notified that he won't be charged by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, but Fitzgerald is not saying whether his investigation is over. So far, the nearly three-year probe has resulted in just one indictment against Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby is charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to a grand jury. He has pleaded not guilty.

SCHUMER: It is not good enough to simply have a case for perjury. We still need to know who did the leak.

ARENA: Fitzgerald is investigating whether Bush administration officials intentionally leaked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name. So far, no one has been charged with that. Instead, like many Washington sagas, it's the alleged cover-up that apparently has people in trouble. Rove himself has appeared before the grand jury five times in an attempt to correct faulty testimony he claims was due to a bad memory. Roscoe Howard, a former D.C. U.S. attorney, says legal statutes allow witnesses to go back and correct the record.

ROSCOE HOWARD, TROUTMAN SANDERS: With a case like this, going in multiple times really isn't that unusual. You'll find those sort of cases on a fairly regular basis.

ARENA: Eight months ago Fitzgerald made this pledge...

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL COUNSEL: I will not end the investigation until I can look anyone in the eye and tell them that we have carried out our responsibility sufficiently to be sure that we've done what we could to make intelligent decisions about the investigation.


ARENA: It seems the only question remaining is whether the original leaker will be charged with committing a crime. A source close to the investigation says that it's increasingly likely the answer is no -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, thanks for that.

Kelli Arena reporting.

Patrick Fitzgerald's decision not to indict Karl Rove is the hottest topic online right now. The Internet community has closely followed this investigation from the very start.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, some of these bloggers have been tracking the ins and outs of the investigation for years, and some Web site even came out last month and said that Karl Rove's indictment was imminent. Now what are they saying? Well, some of the go-to blogs are admitting they were wrong in that assumption.

For example, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft admitting she was wrong in thinking something would come down.

Also, Tom Maguire over at JustOneMinute, "Let me gulp down some crow."

There's some disbelief politically on the left. Take a look at the headlines.

"Is Rove in the Clear?" Also, "Did He Cut a Deal?" Some speculation over at Eschaton.

Moving over to the right politically, they're saying that Fitzgerald had no case. We look at Captain Ed now saying that "The venomous coverage," as he calls it, "will fuel Karl Rove going into the midterm election cycle." We're seeing a little bit of echoing of that at The Moderate Voice, that now Rove can focus on what he's good at, keeping the GOP in power, and now saying that the investigation speculation will shift away from Rove, back towards Libby, and maybe even to Cheney's role. All we know for sure is that the conversation and the speculation will definitely continue.

BLITZER: Jacki, thanks for that.

Jack Cafferty is off this week. He'll be back next week.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Iranian spies in New York City? The city's police commissioner says it's true. We're going to show you what's convincing him. Our Mary Snow watching the story.

Also, border agents accused of taking bribes to let in illegal immigrants. There are new developments in this controversial story. We'll get a live update from our Chris Lawrence out in California.

And Alberto arrives, but not as a hurricane. Still, it's causing plenty of problems. We're going to show you the latest.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

New York's police commissioner says Iran has been carrying out aggressive surveillance there, one more reason why the city is so upset over the cutting of some homeland security funds, federal funds from Washington.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us in our CNN "Security Watch" -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, New York City's police commissioner yesterday outlined 17 cases since 1990 involving terrorism or potential terrorism incidents. Three on that list included concerns about Iran.


SNOW (voice over): Is Iran keeping a close eye on New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, major buildings and subways? New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly lists three surveillance cases involving Iranians since 2002 as reasons for concern.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: Well, we know the Iranians have always had an aggressive surveillance program in the United States, and particular in New York City.

SNOW: In 2004, the State Department expelled two security guards at Iran's U.N. mission in New York after authorities say they were discovered taking pictures of subways, buses, tunnels and other landmarks. MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKING INSTITUTION: But my view is that there is a hypothetical danger here, but it's not imminent.

SNOW: At the time, the Iranian mission dismissed the incident, saying the photos were tourist shots. But two other pairs of security guards at the Iran mission have been forced to leave the United States since 2002 under similar circumstances.

Kelly says he believe it adds up to a pattern.

KELLY: Well, here's three incidents that we know of, but it's certainly been the word in the intelligence community that they engage in this sort of thing quite regularly.

SNOW: Just what would they do with these pictures? Kelly says there's no specific information on that, but he counts these incidents among 17 terrorism or potential terrorism incidents he says points to the need for additional security for New York. He is protesting cuts and funding from homeland security grants to New York.


SNOW: Now, CNN has made repeated calls today to the Iranian mission here in New York, but we did not receive a response -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks for that.

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

Coming up, out of rehab and into court. Congressman Patrick Kennedy makes his plea in connection with a Capitol Hill accident.

Plus, he spent two years at Guantanamo Bay at the prison camp there, where he insists -- he claims he was tortured. Now he's out and he's telling his story. My interview with a former detainee from Gitmo, that's coming up.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain. She's at the CNN global headquarters for a quick look at some other important stories making news.

Hi, Zain.


It never quite made it to a hurricane, but Tropical Storm Alberto is causing problems, nonetheless. Parts of north Florida and south Georgia could get 10 inches of rain. That's combining with high tide to cause isolated flooding. On the plus side, Alberto's rains have put out some of the 168 wildfires that were burning in Florida.

Police in Reno, Nevada, now have a suspect in the shooting of a judge and they're asking for public help finding him. They say 45- year-old Darren Roy Mack is already charged in the fatal shooting of his estranged wife. They think he may be the sniper who shot Judge Chuck Weller through a window yesterday.

Weller presided over Mack's separation. He's hospitalized but in good condition.

Pennsylvania Democratic congressman and outspoken Iraq war critic John Murtha is suspending his bid for House majority leader. The move's a surprise, as was his announcement last week, that he would seek the post if Democrats win control of the House in November. In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Murtha's move is in the spirit of unity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much.

Let's check in with our Ali Velshi. He's got "The Bottom Line" in New York.


BLITZER: Coming up, he says he was harassed and beaten as a terror detainee at Guantanamo Bay, yet he says he never should have been there in the first place. He'll tell us his unique story in his own words.

That's coming up.

And agents manning the nation's borders are supposed to keep illegal immigrants out. So why are a few border agents in California making their bosses suspicious by driving around in luxury cars? We have an update.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're getting this in from Atlanta, just coming in to CNN right now. A U.S. district court judge has sentenced the former Atlanta mayor, Bill Campbell, to 30 months in prison, fined him $6,000, and ordered a year supervision after he completes his sentence on three counts of tax evasion and one count of racketeering.

The judge said Campbell's punishment was harsher than it might have been because the politician had obstructed justice by not being honest with his parole officer. The former mayor of Atlanta, two and a half years in prison coming up for him.

Right now, the U.S. military says 500 terror detainees are being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. And the recent actions and ongoing plights of many of them are now very much in the news.

Our Zain Verjee is at the CNN Center in Atlanta once again with details -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, that man says he's lived to tell what happened to him at Guantanamo Bay and the bizarre tale of just how he got in there the first place.


VERJEE (voice over): Soon after 9/11, Shafiq Rasul left his home in northwest England to travel to Pakistan with two companions. One of them was getting married. They say they crossed into Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons.

As U.S. bombing raids mounted, Rasul and his companions say they were captured by an anti-Taliban militia and later handed over to the U.S. military. And then, like these detainees, they were flown from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay.

They claim that while held at the camp, they were struck with rifle butts, kicked and punched and threatened with unmuzzled dogs. They also say their heads and beards were shaved.

Rasul says a sense of despair led him and his friends to make false confessions that they had attended a rally addressed by Osama bin Laden. They remained at Guantanamo until March of 2004, when all three were released without charge.

Soon after they were freed, the Supreme Court ruled that foreign- born suspects held at Guantanamo had a right to challenge their detention in the U.S. courts. The three men, along with one other detainee, have since filed a $10 million lawsuit against the U.S. government for alleged violation of their religious rights.


VERJEE: Wolf, the Defense Department is responding to some of the accusations made by Rasul. In a statement, they say this, "The Manchester Manual, an al-Qaeda training resource, provides instruction on making false accusations in order to influence public opinion. Detainee 'fictional' assertions are another manifestation of this training. Simply stated, it is Department of Defense policy that all detainees will be treated humanely."

"U.S. law and policy condemn and prohibit torture and U.S. personnel are required to follow these policies and applicable law. Credible allegations of illegal conduct by U.S. personnel are investigated and people are held accountable for violations or misconduct" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

And as Zain just noted in the report, Shafiq Rasul was in Afghanistan when he was rounded up. Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Shafiq Rasul, thanks very much for joining us. Why did you go to Afghanistan a month after 9/11?

SHAFIQ RASUL, FORMER GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEE: Basically, we went to -- initially, we went to Pakistan. My friend was going to get married, and during the time that we were say staying in Karachi, we were staying in the mosque. And they were saying in the mosque talking about how we, as Muslims, should be helping fellow Muslims who are less off than ourselves.

And later on in the sermon, he said that there's going to be a convoy leaving with aid, food, water, to take to the people in Afghanistan and if anyone would like to come with us that they should then put their names forward.

And we discussed it amongst ourselves for a while, and on that basis, we decided to go, thinking that we're going to be there for the maximum of about seven days.

BLITZER: Did you think -- or do you think right now that Osama bin Laden is a terrorist?

RASUL: Of course. He's committed crimes against people. So I think if he was found, he should be tried for his crimes.

BLITZER: Well, do you believe he is responsible for the 9/11 -- the killing of 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, here in the United States?

RASUL: I think he has said it himself, that they were responsible for what happened in America. So on that basis, I think if he was caught, he should be tried for his crimes.

BLITZER: But what do you think? Do you think he's a terrorist?

RASUL: Of course, because he's terror -- he's killed people. He's killed mass people. So on that basis, yes.

BLITZER: Good. Because I'm trying to understand the mentality, what motivated to you go on that convoy to Afghanistan. Did you have any sympathy for Al Qaeda or for the Taliban?

RASUL: No. We weren't going for Al Qaeda. We weren't going for Taliban. We were going for the people of Afghanistan. It was a humanitarian group who were taking this aid. And we were going with them. It had nothing to do with Taliban, and it had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. We thought we'd be there for about seven days. We'd get to see, like, Kandahar, and we'd be back in Pakistan within seven days.

BLITZER: And then you were picked up and brought and arrested, clearly, and brought eventually to Guantanamo Bay. The mistreatment that you allege in your lawsuit against Rumsfeld and others here in the United States, was that mistreatment on the battlefield in Afghanistan, on the way to Guantanamo, or were you mistreated at Guantanamo Bay itself?

RASUL: On the way to Guantanamo, and in Guantanamo itself.

BLITZER: What specifically happened to you at Guantanamo that was so bad? RASUL: Basically, we were tortured physically and mentally. We were beaten constantly, taken to interrogation, put in interrogation rooms for hours and hours and hours in positions that are very stressful, that cause a lot of pain and having taken out of your cell on numerous occasions, getting beaten, put into isolation for months on end and constantly having this fear inside of you that you don't know on a daily basis what's going to happen to you and having our religious rights abused.

BLITZER: Was that at Guantanamo, though -- I just want to precise on this -- or was it before you were brought to the U.S. naval base, the detention center there?

RASUL: This is in Guantanamo.

BLITZER: So the extensive -- the interrogation and the brutal treatment that you allege, that occurred by U.S. military personnel on the scene at Guantanamo? Is that your complaint?

RASUL: The only people that run Guantanamo is U.S. personnel. There's no one else running it. And these are the people who were doing all this us to.

BLITZER: Here's what a Pentagon spokesman, Michael Shavers, Maj. Michael Shavers, told the "Boston Globe" in October of 2004, in response to your lawsuit.

"These individuals were captured in Afghanistan fighting illegally for Al Qaeda. They were properly classified as enemy combatants. Their detention was directly related to this combat activity as determined by an appropriate DOD official before they were taken to Guantanamo. There is no basis in U.S. law to pay claims to those captured and detained as a result of combat activity." Do you want to respond to that assertion by this Pentagon spokesman?

RASUL: We were in a prison in Afghanistan. We were taken out of that prison on the basis that we spoke English and we were British, and we were taken to Kandahar, the camp they had in Kandahar, and we were interrogated there numerous times, beaten there, as well. And then, one day, they decided to send us to Guantanamo Bay. On what basis, we do not know.

BLITZER: Were you surprised the other day when you learned that three detainees committed suicide at Guantanamo?

RASUL: I was shocked because I didn't think it would happen. But inevitably, it would happen because there was innumerous amounts of suicide attempts that would happen in front of me, and we'd hear about a lot them. It's a lot more than the people running Guantanamo are saying.

BLITZER: Did you ever think about committing suicide while you were there?

RASUL: Yes, because in the beginning, we were taken to Guantanamo. We didn't know where we were, and we were interrogated constantly, being told that you are members of Al Qaeda, that you're going to be spending the rest of your life in Guantanamo.

This is not just by the Americans, this is by the British officials that came there as well. And on that basis, you start losing hope. And the only thing that's going through your head is to end it all.

BLITZER: But you never really thought about actually trying to kill yourself?

RASUL: I did think about it, but I had to be strong. I didn't want to fall into that. When you see it happen in front of you, then you start thinking about it. But I had to be stronger and not actually try and do it.

BLITZER: And now, you've been freed. You've been freed for more than two years. You're a British citizen. You're living back home in Britain. Has anyone charged you in Britain with any crime?

RASUL: No, we've never been charged. We came out of Guantanamo. We spent 48 hours in a British police station. And after the 48 hours, we were free to walk the streets. And that was impossible to comprehend, from being under 24-hour lockdown, being called the worst of the worst, 48 hours later, walking the streets of the U.K.

BLITZER: So your bottom line, Shafiq, is that you happened to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time in Afghanistan. Your motives were pure, but unfortunately for you, you got caught up in something way beyond your control. Is that a fair assessment?

RASUL: Yes. We were -- it was five years ago. I was 23 at the time. And we didn't really think what our actions of going to Guantanamo would lead to. We were like basically naive. If I was to go through the same situation now, I'd be thinking a lot more about it because now I've got responsibilities, and I'm older and wiser.

BLITZER: If you had to do it over again, you wouldn't have gone to Afghanistan, is that right?

RASUL: No. I wouldn't even think about going there.

BLITZER: Shafiq Rasul, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck.

RASUL: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He's telling right now what he's working on.

Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing, Wolf?

Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, here, we'll be reporting on the president's unannounced visit to Baghdad. Will the president's visit convince Americans that he has a strategy for victory in Iraq? We'll have complete coverage for you this evening.

Also, the illegal alien numbers that the pro-amnesty movement are not talking about and would just assume you not know about. The Senate's amnesty legislation will do absolutely nothing to cut the numbers of illegal aliens crossing our borders. We'll have that special report.

And among my guests, tonight, Congressman Mike Pence. He says comprehensive immigration reforms don't have to include amnesty for illegal aliens but do have to include guest worker programs. We'll find out what that's all about.

And the rising threat to our democracy from e-voting machines. Many states have simply had a bellyful. They've chosen to eliminate those e-voting machine. We'll have that special report for you and a great deal more at the top of the hour right here on CNN. We hope you'll join us.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou. Thanks very much.

And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, U.S. agents stationed on the nation's borders. It's their job to keep illegal immigrants out, so why are some now accused of letting illegal immigrants in?

And it's rarely happened to a sitting congressman. But now, it's happened to Congressman Patrick Kennedy. We'll tell you about a new develop concerning his crash near the Capitol. Stay with us.


BLITZER: There are new developments in a California case getting lots of attention. Two federal border agents are accused of taking bribes to allow illegal immigrants into the country. Today, they were in court. CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us now near the border in San Ysidro with more -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, prosecutors accused a man in court today of allowing smugglers to pass-through one of his inspection lanes directly behind me.


LAWRENCE: On Tuesday, a federal judge allowed this border protection agent to post bail and go free, but only tethered to an active GPS monitor. The U.S. attorney accused Richard Elizalda of taking a car and cash and then waving smugglers through his inspection lane.

Investigators who searched his home said they found a briefcase with $36,000 inside. Elizalda's defense attorney says he served nearly two decades in the Marine Corps and did his best to protect the border.

GENE IREDALE, ELIZALDA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That doesn't mean he knowingly permitted contraband into the United States or permitted illegal aliens into the United States. What it means is that in an intensely stressful situation, he let somebody get through.

LAWRENCE: Michael Gilliland is the other inspector accused of helping smugglers. Prosecutors say Gilliland told smugglers he'd meet them for a movie at a certain time and asked them how many tickets he need, code words for the times he'd be working the line, and how many illegal immigrants were coming through.


LAWRENCE: Now, so far, we have not been able to contact Mr. Gilliland's attorney, but we do know that he was also allowed to set bail with the condition that he would be placed under house arrest and have the electronic tether. Both of these agents have pleaded not guilty to these charges -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fascinating story, Chris. Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence in California.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy here in Washington is pleading guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs. The Rhode Island Democrat and son of Senator Ted Kennedy crashed his car into a security barrier near the Capitol last month. Days later, he checked himself into a drug rehabilitation clinic for the second time. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has more -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, here's that Capitol Hill police report from the traffic accident that led to this plea today from Congressman Kennedy. The details in there after the collision that Kennedy with a barrier just by the Capitol, police describe his eyes were red, that also his speech was slurred, and also his balance unsure.

Kennedy wasn't tested for alcohol at the scene. Police did check this box here for alcohol influence. Congressman Kennedy has denied drinking alcohol at the time of the accident and his office has since released this letter from the attending physician of Congress, saying that in the days leading up to this accident, he was prescribed with medication before this accident here. We've put all of these online at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thank you.

Up ahead, they're images seared into the minds of many, families torn apart after a recent blast on a beach in Gaza. The Israeli military is now out with its version of what happened. We'll share it with you.

And from playing a mermaid to hugging a tree? Actress Daryl Hanna. What was she doing parked on a perch high above ground? Stay with us.


BLITZER: More bloodshed today in Gaza. The Israel military says it fired missiles at a van carrying rockets which were to be launched into Israel. Three Islamic Jihad militants were killed along with eight other people. Palestinian security sources say two of the dead were children.

Meantime, new controversy raging over last week's deaths of Palestinian picnickers. CNN's. CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney has the story from Jerusalem -- Fionnuala.

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Israel military say they could not have been responsible for the explosion on a Gazan beach last Friday in which seven members of one family who had been having a picnic were killed.

At a news conference following a three-day investigation, the Israel military listed the reasons why it believes it could not have been responsible. They include evidence that shrapnel removed from the injured, who were treated in Israel, were inconsistent with Israel military shells.

Israel also accused Hamas of laying mines in the beach in an attempt to dissuade Israeli commando units from landing there. Intelligence information, Israel says, showed Hamas quickly removing remaining mines from the beach after the blast.

However, Human Rights Watch disagrees with the report on almost every point, saying the injuries suffered to the dead and injured were mainly to the upper body and torso, consistent with an incoming missile rather than a missile laying unexploded in the ground.

And they say the crater left by the explosion was consistent was consistent with that of a 155 millimeter shell, like the type used by the Israeli military. One tragedy, two very different conclusions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fionnuala Sweeney in Jerusalem, thank you for that.

Let's check back with Zain for another look at some other important stories -- Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, they've had their chance to defend themselves. Now, that phase is coming to an end. Today, the judge in the Saddam Hussein trial told the defense it will no longer be allowed to call witnesses.

The judge says Hussein's defense team has spent much time just arguing with the court and not enough time actually presenting witnesses to bolster its case. But the defense team is protesting, saying that it just needs more time.

He's the University of Colorado professor who called some World Trade Center victims, quote, "little Eichmann's," in reference to Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Now, a university committee is saying that Professor Ward Churchill should be fired, not for his 9/11 comments, but for alleged repeated and deliberate infractions of scholarship rules.

A university investigation looked into whether or not Churchill conducted research misconduct and plagiarism. Churchill himself says the recommendation to fire him is, quote, "baloney." He denies any misconduct.

She once famously played a mermaid. But today, actress Daryl Hanna drew attention with actions on land. She's just been brought down from a tree in Los Angeles County where she parked herself in protest. The tree is in a 14-acre urban community garden. Hanna and others are protesting a plan to clear the garden to make way for a warehouse.

And Wolf, it's a really astonishing assessment. A renowned scientist says there's a growing risk the earth could be destroyed and that humans will survive only by finding real estate elsewhere in the universe. British scientist Stephen Hawking says things like global warming, nuclear war, or a genetically engineered virus could wipe out life on Earth and that humans could live on the moon and in Mars in the next 20 to 40 years.

Which would you prefer, Wolf, the moon or mars?

BLITZER: I'm not packing my bags yet. Thank you very much. See you soon.

Up next, did President Bush give himself a boost with that secret visit to Iraq today? And what message does it send heading into midterm elections? Jeff Greenfield's standing by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Back now to our top story, that secret trip to Baghdad. Only a handful of people were in on the secret, and it seems the visit was no last minute whim as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made clear just moments ago. Listen to this.


DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I was part of it. I've been aware for a week or so that -- longer, now that I think about it -- that he had contemplated that. And very skillfully. I told no one.


BLITZER: President Bush certainly made an impact by flying off secretly to Iraq. The trip may have come at just the right moment for the president and for his fellow Republicans. Let's turn to our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield in New York -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, the president's surprise visit to Iraq really isn't all that surprising. Visiting the troops in a war zone is what presidents often do. But the visit's timing and its context may offer some intriguing clues about its real message.


GEORGE W. BUSH: I truly believe the work that you're doing here is laying the foundation of peace.

GREENFIELD: Bush's trip finds parallels that go back almost a century and a half to President Lincoln's visits to Civil War battlefields, captured by photographer Matthew Brady, to FDR's visits to military installation during World War II, to Eisenhower's Korea visit, fulfilling a dramatic election campaign pledge in 1952, to Lyndon Johnson's trips to Vietnam, when he once urged to "nail that coonskin to the wall."

To the first President Bush's visit to Saudi Arabia before the Gulf War.


GREENFIELD: To this President Bush's Thanksgiving visit in 2003. But now look at the context. This visit takes place just days after the killing of the most notorious insurgent leader in Iraq and after a set of key cabinet appointments that ended a lengthy political deadlock.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I thought your assessment of the situation in Iraq was very realistic.

GREENFIELD: It follows by a day a Camp David gathering that included every significant policymaker on Iraq. And the trip began at almost precisely the time key Bush advisor Karl Rove, newly freed from the threat of a perjury indictment, spelled out for a Republican audience the line of attack to be aimed at Democrats this fall, that the Democratic Party would cut and run from Iraq.


GREENFIELD: In this context, the visit can be seen as a lot more than just a thank you to the troops. It can be seen as a way of underlying the key Republican message for the fall elections, that the midterms are not a referendum on a still-unpopular president, but rather a choice between a feckless Democratic Party and a Republican Party led by a president who's learned from mistakes, turned the corner, and is determined to finish the job. That message, of course, is utterly dependent on whether the violence and chaos in Iraq eases measurably by the autumn -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, thank you very much.

And this note as well. You might call it the president, the prime minister, and the king. A White House spokesman says that President Bush will take Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to visit Elvis Presley's Graceland estate. The visit is scheduled for June 30th following a meeting between the two leaders at the White House. The prime minister is a huge Elvis fan. He even shares the same birthday with him.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill Schneider, who knew?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I knew. I was in Japan a few years ago, where Prime Minister Koizumi was treated as a rock star, screaming teenage girls wherever he went. And he had just released this album, Junichiro Koizumi presents "My Favorite Elvis Songs" with a picture of the King and Prime Minister.

I actually don't think it's a real picture, but it has his selection of his favorite Elvis songs, including, I should point out, my favorite, "Can't Help Falling in Love." He has good taste.

BLITZER: I believe Kim Jong Il likes them as well. Thanks very much for that.

There's a story developing off New Jersey in the coast. Zain Verjee, what's going on?

VERJEE: Wolf, we're just receiving information. According to the U.S. Coast Guard in New York, a boat capsized this afternoon. You're looking at some live pictures that happened off Breezy Point. One person is missing.

The Coast Guard is actively searching for that person right now with several cutter boats. A cutter boat is basically a small boat that can accommodate a small crew to sleep on board. Three people have been recovered. It's unclear, though, Wolf, that they're injured. We don't know what caused the boat to capsize -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks very much. We'll continue to watch this story.

We'll be back in one hour, another hour of THE SITUATION ROOM coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.


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