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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Bill Keller; Bomb Threat Forces Closure of Major American Port
Aired June 26, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 tonight's top stories. Happening now, it's 7:00 p.m. in New York. Should a newspaper be prosecuted for revealing a secret government anti-terror program? As a congressman targets the "New York Times", I'll speak live with the newspaper's executive director, Bill Keller.
It's 4:00 p.m. in California where a bomb threat on a cargo ship forces the closure of a major American port. How real though is the threat? How safe are the ports?
And it's 7:00 p.m. in waterlogged Washington, D.C. There's a serious flooding situation across the region and a lot more rain may be on the way. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, a blistering battle brewing between the "New York Times" and the Bush administration. And late today the "Times" editor received a scathing letter from the Treasury Department. At issue, the need for a free press and the need for discretion when it comes to disclosing sensitive information concerning national security. It concerns the paper's unveiling of the secret program monitoring the financial transactions of suspected terrorists.
One republican lawmaker wants the newspaper prosecuted. The "Times" editor has a stinging rebut for the Treasury Department and enduring harsh criticism from conservative comment commentators. In a moment we'll speak live with the executive editor of the "New York Times" Bill Keller in his first television interview. First though let's go to New York, CNN's Mary Snow is standing by with all the late developments. Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf tonight another member of the Bush administration is taking aim at the "New York Times," calling it irresponsible for publishing a story on a secret money monitoring program to track terrorists. Treasury Department Secretary John Snow has sent a letter to the paper's editor, Bill Keller. He writes, "Your charge that our efforts to convince the "The New York Times" not to publish were half-hearted is incorrect and offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Now this as the "Times" has defended its decision as a matter of public interest.
SNOW: Is disclosing a secret government program to track the money trail of terrorists a matter of public interest or a blow to national security. The debate is so fierce, the president is weighing in after the "New York Times" first reported this story last week, followed by the "Los Angeles Times" and "Wall Street Journal."
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The disclosure of this program is disgraceful. For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.
SNOW: Radio talk shows and conservative blogs have targeted the "Times" with sharp criticism, and so has Vice President Dick Cheney.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The "New York Times" has now made it more difficult for us to prevent attacks in the future.
SNOW: On Sunday "New York Times" editor Bill Keller took the rare step of explaining the decision to publish the story saying it, "followed weeks of discussion between administration officials and the Times." And he called the administrations arguments against publishing the story puzzling and half-hearted. Republican Congressman Peter King who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee says the "New York Times" may have violated the espionage act.
REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: I believe that the attorney general of the United States should begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of the "New York Times" and that would include the writers who wrote the story, the editors who worked on it and the publisher.
SNOW: King also criticized the paper for disclosing the NSA telephone wiretapping program last year. Media observers say journalists have the responsibility to ask the question, does the public have enough information about the war on terror?
TOM PATTERSON, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: So the press asks itself, essentially, who's going to shine a light on this administration if it's not us? And so I think the press is feeling a different kind of burden than it normally does and is somewhat less inclined to bend over to the imploring of the administration that it not take things public.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
SNOW: And besides the "New York Times" we contacted the "Los Angeles Times" for reaction, but have not yet received a response. The "Wall Street Journal" did say, "We believe both our readers and the government were well served and no laws were broken in the reporting of this story." Wolf?
BLITZER: Mary Snow in New York, thanks very much for that.
Joining us now is the executive editor of "The New York Times," Bill Keller. It's his first interview since this uproar developed.
Bill Keller, the accusation is being made that you have endangered the lives of the American people by revealing this program. What do you say?
BILL KELLER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: I certainly hope that's not true, and I don't believe it's true. We are called upon, unfortunately, to make these kinds of calls on a somewhat regular basis. Sometimes they're easy. Our reporters who travel with the military in Iraq, for example, often have access to real-time operational intelligence about what the military is going to do. Of course, we don't publish that.
Sometimes the calls are harder. This is a hard one.
BLITZER: The Treasury Secretary John Snow says not only Bush administration officials but others appealed to you not to disclose this information, including Democrats, representatives from the 9/11 Commission, including the chairman and the co-chairman, as well as members of Congress on the Intelligence Committees. Is that true?
KELLER: To the best of my knowledge, three people outside of the administration were asked by the administration to call us. I spoke to one of them. One of them spoke to our Washington bureau chief. One of them spoke to Jill Abramson, our managing editor. All of them spoke, they thought, in confidence, and I don't think I will breach the confidence of what they said, although I will say that not all of them urged us not to publish.
BLITZER: Because in the letter from the treasury secretary, he specifically refers to former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, who, together with the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Governor Tom Kean of New Jersey, appealed to you not to print this information. I assume you can confirm Lee Hamilton, since the treasury secretary has disclosed his name.
KELLER: I am happy to tell you who we spoke to. I think I'll leave it to them to tell you what they actually said, but I will say that...
BLITZER: Who were the three people outside of the administration that asked you not to report this information?
KELLER: Tom Kean, Lee Hamilton and Congressman Jack Murtha.
BLITZER: Congressman Jack Murtha, who has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.
Let me read to you also from the Snow letter, the John Snow letter to Bill Keller. "The fact that your editors believe themselves to be qualified to assess how terrorists are moving money betrays a breathtaking arrogance and a deep misunderstanding of this program and how it works."
Those are strong and biting words. KELLER: Well, that's true. Those are strong words. Arrogant? With all due respect, I think it would be arrogant to us to preempt the work of Congress and the courts by deciding on our own that these programs are perfectly legal and abuse-proof. We spent weeks listening to the administration's case. I personally spent a long time in Secretary Snow's office and spoke on the phone to John Negroponte. Others at the paper spoke to other officials.
I believe they genuinely did not want us to publish this. But I think it's not responsible of us to just take them at their word.
BLITZER: When you say, Bill Keller, that their efforts to convince you not to publish were half-hearted, what do you mean?
KELLER: Secretary Snow has misquoted me or misrepresented me on that one. I did not say that their efforts were half-hearted. I said that one of the several arguments that they made struck me as half- hearted. And that was the argument that was really a secondary argument that they made against publishing, which was that the publication of this information would lead terrorists to change their tactics.
The main argument that they made to support their argument that publishing this would endanger the program was that bankers who were involved in it would be spooked by the publicity and would withdraw their cooperation.
We got a similar argument last year on the NSA eavesdropping case, that if we published it, telecommunication companies would be embarrassed by the disclosure that they were doing this, and they would be, you know, browbeaten by their shareholders into withdrawing their cooperation. To the best of my knowledge, that's never happened, and so far, there is no sign that the banks are withdrawing their support.
BLITZER: The administration insists that some terrorists, in particular including Hambali, one of top terrorists in Southeast Asia, was picked up largely as a result of this secret program, and that by disclosing the program, other terrorists may be able to go forth and be free and do their work, whatever they want to do. Was that true that Hambali was picked up as a result of this -- what's called the SWIFT program?
KELLER: We cited a number of sources saying that that is true in our original story, and cited some other examples of where they believe this program has been useful.
We're not passing judgment on the usefulness of this program. That's not our job to do. There are, as with the NSA case, people who are expert and involved in the program who have questions both about its legality and about the way in their view of what was supposed to be a stopgap measure has become something permanent. But you know, our original story did not quarrel with their assertion that this has been a useful program.
BLITZER: One final question. How worried are you that the government now is going to launch a criminal investigation into "The New York Times," and that you personally could possibly be in danger?
KELLER: I'm not a lawyer. So far, the administration, and in particular the attorney general, while they have dropped some hints about prosecution, they have not embraced in full the argument that the Espionage Act applies to journalists. My amateur reading and the reading of some of the lawyers who work for us is that that would be a big, big stretch of the law.
BLITZER: Bill Keller is the executive editor of "The New York Times." Thanks very much for joining us.
KELLER: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Other stories we're following, only moments ago, a port in California reopened but only after fears whether someone may have wanted to actually blow it up. Officials launched a massive check to see if an incoming ship might be a floating terror vessel after they found a threatening message. Let's go out to California, Chris Lawrence is standing by with the latest. Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf I just got off the phone with the port director and he says the dock workers are now reporting back to their jobs and the port is completely reopened after those bomb squads found nothing. Now Port Hueneme is about 60 miles north of here, it's the only deep water harbor between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay. And it is a primary export point for a lot of citrus products.
Earlier today a 30,000 ton ship arrived carrying bananas from Guatemala. One of the crew members discovered a note written on a (INAUDIBLE) in the ship's cargo hold. That note read, "This nitroglycerin is for G.W. and his Jewish friends." Now possibly the G.W. is a reference to President Bush's first and middle initial. Explosive ordinance team went through every room on the ship using bomb sniffing dogs. County officials also sent divers into the water to check out the ship's hull. They even investigated some of the nearby buildings but found nothing. So in a nutshell, they got a threat. They checked it out. They found nothing. Now the port has been reopened. Wolf?
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, thanks for that update. Jack Cafferty is in New York. He's got the "Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The senate began debate today on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. It would give congress the power to "prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." Majority Leader Bill Frist says the senate's going to vote on this by the end of this week. That will make it right ahead of the July 4th holiday and more importantly ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections. Supporters say the bill reflects the values of the American people and that they've never been closer to passing the amendment. They say they have 66 votes, one shy of the 67 needed for passage. Critics say the first amendment's right to free speech protects flag burning. And they accuse senate conservatives of simply pandering to their base. So here's the question, what's more important than congress passing an amendment to ban flag burning? E- mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Did you listen to that interview with Bill Keller Jack?
CAFFERTY: I thought it was a great interview.
BLITZER: He disclosed that the administration asked Congressman John Murtha, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, to go ahead and call the "New York Times" and ask the "New York Times" not to print that story.
CAFFERTY: Well some of Congressman Murtha's previous criticisms of the war in Iraq have had to do with the troops and the way they're deployed and how they're being used on the battlefield over there. And it seems to me that might be a bit of a separate issue from the controversy over this trolling and plowing through people's financial records.
BLITZER: Thanks very much Jack Cafferty. We will get the e- mail. That's coming up later this hour.
Also coming up, pulling out troops from the war in Iraq and a plan that could give amnesty to terrorists? U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, he's in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about what's going on.
Plus floods and torrential rain shut down parts of the federal government and create a travel headache across the Mid-Atlantic States.
And border wars. Get this, a conservative United States Republican congressman facing angry voters for siding with a conservative republican president when it comes to immigration reform. A closer look at the emotional divide at the ballot box. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following a developing story here in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Flood watches and warnings up throughout the region after a deluge that's threatening to continue throughout the week. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now live from nearby Alexandria, Virginia, where it's very, very wet. Just like much of this area. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf. We're going to show you some dramatic pictures here. This is Cameron Run, right next to the capital Beltway. This has been rising very steadily over the last few hours. This section of the capital Beltway was closed earlier because of a mud slide. What kind of mud are we talking about, well some of the wash from this run came up here earlier today into this parking garage in Alexandria, Virginia. Take a look at these cars. You have several here almost completely submerged. This was mild compared to what we saw earlier. Look at these cars, half way submerged in water and mud. We don't know when they're going to get out. Problems like this, steadily throughout the last two days throughout this area. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TIM SHEA: I had no idea it could happen that quickly. And cars, dumpsters, trees, just shooting down as though they were nothing. It was like Katrina.
TODD: Tim Shea was lucky, his car was spared by flood watered that inundated this hotel garage in Alexandria, Virginia.
SHEA: You could literally see it coming up, inch by inches, two or three inches a minute it seemed. And we just couldn't believe how fast and how furious and how absolutely devastating that torrent was.
TODD: Similar scenes have been playing out across the region, with heavy rain drenching the Baltimore, D.C. metropolitan area and beyond. It made for a difficult and frustrating commute for many this morning as water overran roads and highways. Some who took the gamble, like this woman, lost and found themselves wading instead of driving, forced to ditch their cars. Even airplanes weren't immune from the water. No takeoffs or landings at this small Maryland airport.
Amtrak service also was impacted. The Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department headquarters were among at least five federal facilities closed today because of flooding. But some of the hardest hit areas were in Delaware. Almost a foot of rain has fallen in the town of Seaford, turning the parking lot at this Wal-Mart store into a lake. Emergency officials say some nearby areas are under as much as five feet of water.
TODD: Now the owners and drivers of these vehicles were some of the lucky ones. No reports of any injuries from this mess because nobody was in these cars. But this is an example of some of the danger. The National Weather Service says 80 percent of fatalities in floods are in vehicles. They're telling people do not drive through large sections of water. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us, thanks very much. And right now almost a thousand tourists and workers are stranded in the Grand Canyon. A wildfire closed down the only major roadway in and out of the Canyon's remote north rim. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner, she's watching this story. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, I want to make the point that they are safe but stranded. Here's what we're talking about right here. It's a fire called the warm fire. Its right here, the north rim in the Grand Canyon's down here. This is a distance of about 30 miles. It's highway 67, the only major highway in and out of that area. You can see how this fire has spread since June 8th. It started right here due to a series of lightening strikes and then has basically spread down through this area.
Now all of these great maps and information come from the northern Arizona Type Two Incident Management Team. They're very good on their Web site about updating information. We have spoken to them, they say that they're using federal and local agencies to get people out of the area. If they can they'll use pilot cars with flashing lights if it's safe. Otherwise people are staying put and they're being well taken care of in that area. Wolf?
BLITZER: Alright Jacki thank you very much. And this just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM, a federal judge halts executions in Missouri. That story when we come back.
Also, will terrorists who killed U.S. troops be given amnesty in Iraq? I'll ask the U.S. ambassador of Baghdad, he's going to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And Harry Potter. Is his creator killing him off in her next book? J.K. Rowling conjures up an answer to the question. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Just getting a story in from Missouri. Let's go to CNN's Sophia Choi, she's joining us from the CNN Center. Sophia, what's happening?
SOPHIA CHOI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf this just in to CNN. The "Associated Press" is reporting a federal judge has stopped all executions in Missouri until the state makes sweeping changes in the way it puts its inmates to death. He says Missouri's lethal injection puts the condemned at risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering. Now the state has until July 15th to come up with a new protocol.
Also new developments now on a story you first heard here just a couple of hours ago. The pentagon says one pilot is dead, killed when two Navy F-18A fighter jets collided during a training exercise. A spokesman for California's Fort Hunter Liggett says, the two single- seat jets were flying at only 3,000 feet at the time of the accident. Now the second pilot ejected and might have suffered only minor injuries.
And an update today on General Motor's blueprint to streamline its operations. GM's chairman says about 35,000 hourly workers have taken buyouts or early retirement offers. Now that surpasses the company's expectations. The job cuts are designed to help the carmaker's long-term turn around. It originally announced plans to cut only 30,000 jobs. GM now expects to reach its job reduction target next January. That is about two years ahead of schedule.
Big news for Harry Potter fans. Well she won't say who, but Author J.K. Rowling tells a Britain TV show, at least two characters will die in the seventh and final installment of her wildly popular book series. The final book is expected to sell in the tens of millions of copies. The Harry Potter series has so far sold more than 300 million copies. Terrifically popular with a lot of kids and a couple of adults too. Wolf?
BLITZER: I would suspect a lot of adults, that's not too shabby. Sophia thank you for that. Just ahead, reports of 7,000 U.S. troops coming home from Iraq perhaps this summer. I'll talk about it with U.S. Ambassador in Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And Jack Cafferty is wondering what's more important than flag burning? He's standing by with the "Cafferty File." Stay with us.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. You're back in THE SITUATION ROOM. In Iraq today a furious new round of violence. Police say at least 18 people were killed when a motorcycle packed with explosives blew up in a marketplace in Baquba, that's north of Baghdad. That bomb went off shortly after another blast rocked a main market in Hillah south of the capital. Police say at least six people died there, dozens more were wounded. The violence comes amid a new debate over what could be a major U.S. troop withdrawal and an Iraqi reconciliation plan that may lead to the release of prisoners who've actually killed Americans. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is in Baghdad with details. Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf it's been barely 24 hours since Iraq's prime minister laid out his reconciliation plan for the country. And already his offer of amnesty for insurgents is causing some concern.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In trying to unite Iraqis, the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is dividing Americans. At issue, this statement.
NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQ'S PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Pardons for detainees who were proven to have not been involved in any criminal acts, terrorist activities, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.
ROBERTSON: It's part of his reconciliation plan for delivered Sunday. But does he mean freedom for men who have killed and maimed U.S. troops?
Listen carefully to the apparent partial veto in the words of the U.S. ambassador.
ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: What I have excluded is the irreconcilables, those who want the old regime back and those who are al Qaeda terrorist supported.
ROBERTSON: But that leaves the door open for nationalist insurgents who have been attacking American soldiers because they say U.S. troops are occupiers. However, nationalists have killed Iraqis, too, and by Maliki's definition, that would appear to rule them out.
The catch here is Maliki wants Sunnis, who are the majority of the insurgents, to support his new Shia-led government. AL-MALIKI (through translator): Those who wish to request pardons should condemn violence and promise to support the elected national government and to abide by the law.
ROBERTSON: And on this point, the U.S. ambassador is on the same page.
KHALILZAD: Assuming they accept the principles of this new Iraq, lay down their arms, reconcile, that -- as this initiative calls for -- there can be dialogue with them, bringing them into the political process. And we support that.
ROBERTSON: It appears that whatever ambiguity exists in this offer of amnesty, Iraq's prime minister is intent on pulling as many people as he can in line with his new government -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Joining us now from Baghdad is the United States ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us. I know it's late there, very late. Let's -- we've got a lot of issues to go through. Let's talk about amnesty first. Listen to what Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We liberated that country and the idea that amnesty would be give only to people who killed our troops is just unconscionable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, there's concern, as you know, that this reconciliation plan including amnesty by the new prime minister would allow among the 2,500 detainees they are about to let go, some who have killed Americans. What do you know about this because there's lots of confusion?
KHALILZAD: Of course, we want Iraqis who are opposed to the liberation of Iraq and the establishment of this new Iraq, who fought this new Iraq, to lay down their arm, embrace this new Iraq.
And that's what this reconciliation plan is about. And as part of the effort to end the war, and therefore honor our troops by getting Iraqis to accept what they fought for, amnesty is a possibility.
But that it going to be conditional. It will have to balance the requirements of reconciliation and justice and also the sacrifices of our troops. There has been no decision made with regard to the issue that Senator Levin was talking about. I believe, given our relationship with the Iraqis, we can be sure that our interests will be protected and the sacrifices of our troops will be recognized.
BLITZER: At this point, you can't rule out the possibility that some Iraqis who were involved in killing Americans will be allowed to go free?
KHALILZAD: Well, I can't rule out that some Iraqis would push for that. But I believe that it's highly unlikely and that all Iraqis, or the government of Iraq, will make a distinction and that will allow amnesty for those that killed American soldiers. But that they could be amnestied, but not those that killed Iraqis.
BLITZER: As we speak, there are new reports of another set of horrific attacks, bombings in Hilla and Baquba. Is the security situation, at least in the short term, right now getting worse?
KHALILZAD: Well, there are significant security problems that remain and will continue. You mentioned Baquba. There are continuing problems in Baghdad. There are continuing problems in Basra. Of course, there are problems in Anbar Province.
I think the new government is very energetic, moving on various tracks, on not only a security track, but on the economic and political tracks. And I believe that strategically, it's moving in the right direction, but there is significant security problems that persist.
BLITZER: At a time when these significant security problems persist right now, is it wise to be talking about troop withdrawals, including a few brigades in September, more by the end of this year, and a lot more next year, as apparently General Casey spoke about while he was here in Washington at the Pentagon last week?
KHALILZAD: Well, I believe that for the redeployment to occur, there has to be an agreement between us and the Iraqi government. The discussions about that have not started yet. When George gets back, he and I will meet with the leadership of Iraq, with the prime minister and we will establish a joint committee that will talk about adjustments in our forces, as well as conditions that could relate to, or will relate to whether those adjustments downward will take place or not. And that has not happened, so any judgment that the U.S. will adjust forces by particular numbers within a particular time frame is premature in my view.
BLITZER: We only have a little bit of time left. But I want to refer to that June 6th cable that came from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, signed by you, that was published in the "Washington Post." And it showed a very bleak picture of the Iraqis who work at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, what they have to endure. Let me read a little excerpt from the cable.
"Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as this makes them a target. Planning for their own possible abduction, they use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones. For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events." There was another quote, it said, "Another employee tells us that life outside the green zone has become emotionally draining. He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral every evening." And finally this quote.
"We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their cover."
It sounds awful what these Iraqi citizens have to endure simply to work at the United States embassy, where you are.
KHALILZAD: Well, yes. And that was a factual description of what these very brave Iraqis who work with us to build this free Iraq go through. But yet, they keep working with the embassy. And the Iraqis go vote, other Iraqis, by the millions for this new Iraq. And the Iraqi security forces fight those who want to stop Iraq from progressing.
That should be a source of inspiration to all free people, the sacrifices, the risks that the Iraqis are taking to build this new Iraq. But what was reported was a factual report of what are very brave colleagues, who are Iraqis, who are part of our team are experiencing in order to perform their mission.
BLITZER: Finally Mr. Ambassador, we are told it's about 115 degrees outside in Baghdad and throughout much of Iraq today. With limited amount of electricity, virtually no air conditioning, it looks like the situation is ripe for further anger as people try to make their way in these kinds of awful conditions.
KHALILZAD: Well, the conditions are hard but in fact, on the electricity front, in recent weeks, the situation has improved throughout the country. Now on average there is 12 hours of electricity every 24 hours available. In Baghdad, it's about eight. It used to be a month or so ago, about four. So, yes, conditions are hard, but Iraqis are making progress.
BLITZER: I know you have been there for a year now, almost exactly. Good luck, Mr. Ambassador. Good luck to you, good luck to your staff and to all the U.S. military personnel who are on the scene as well. In fact, good luck to all the Iraqi people. Thanks for coming in.
KHALILZAD: Well, thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And up ahead tonight, a key congressional battle could spin on one issue. What's at stake, and how could immigration policy turn a one-time political shoe-in into an also-ran?
He can't take it with him, so Warren Buffett is giving it away. Why the world's second richest man is turning over the bulk of his enormous fortune to the only man richer than he is? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. In the Republican heartland, a key congressional battle may hinge on the issue of immigration. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has the story -- Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, show me an incumbent candidate who is below 50 percent in the polls pitted against a challenger who has money and laser-light focus on a hot issue, and I'll show you a race worth watching. It's why we went to Utah to take a look at the Republican primary for U.S. Congress.
CROWLEY (voice over): On any given summer Saturday, this is the kind of place you can find a parade. In political lingo, this is Utah 3, probably the most conservative, most Republican, most Mormon district in the country.
REP. CHRIS CANNON (R), UTAH: The primary on the 27th, I hope you guys get out and vote.
CROWLEY: Chris Cannon is a five-term congressman representing Utah 3. He is conservative, Republican, Mormon, and in trouble.
CANNON: I could lose. There are a bunch of people that are really afraid, and they are going to vote, and they'll vote against me.
JOHN JACOB (R), UTAH CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Wow.
CROWLEY: John Jacob is a conservative Republican Mormon with a lot of money and a whale of an issue.
JACOB: Well, I think Chris can help with that, because he became the president's point man on -- on illegal immigration.
CROWLEY: Both Republicans want better border security. They differ on what to do with undocumented workers already here. Jacob wants them forced out of the country. Cannon argues, it's impossible and bad for the U.S. economy.
CANNON: That disagreement is whether the Republican Party is going to be some kind of new xenophobic, anti-foreigner party, or whether they're going to be the party of a country that we're thrilled has grown.
JACOB: You need to know, Chris, that it's not anti-foreigners. We love legal immigrants. It's strictly the word illegal...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CROWLEY: As a kind of petri dish for the national debate, Utah 3 has seen an influx of outside money and one very pointed third-party ad. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Congressman Chris Cannon says he's tough on illegal immigration.
NARRATOR: He says he's never supported amnesty for illegal aliens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Cannon has brought in the big guns, via robo-call.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BUSH: Hello. This is President George W. Bush. I'm asking you to vote for Chris Cannon on Tuesday, June 27.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: We need Chris in Congress, so he can continue securing our borders.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The Cannon-Jacob smackdown comes as the House and Senate struggle over when or whether to meet to find a mutually acceptable immigration bill.
(on camera): And if your opponent wins this primary, what's the message?
CANNON: Well, then, I think we go into a conference, maybe. Maybe we don't even get to a conference on immigration. And people say, this is toxic.
CROWLEY (voice over): Utah 3 is being monitored as closely as a canary sent into a cave to detect poisonous gas.
(on camera): And what's the immigration message that your election would send to the Washington establishment?
JACOB: Secure our borders. Make it safe here in America.
CROWLEY (voice over): The vote and the message come tomorrow.
CROWLEY: On the eve of the primary, a "Salt Lake Tribune" poll showed a dead heat between Cannon and Jacob's and 91 percent of likely voters saying immigration is a very or somewhat important issue. And turnout, the the advantage belong to Jacob's. Angry voters tend to go to the polls. The challenge for Cannon is to get those not so riled up to show up too. Wolf?
BLITZER: Candy Crowley, thanks for that. The billionaire Warren Buffett is giving away most of his billions to another billionaire.
Joining us now, our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Jeff?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, Wolf, yes, indeed, it is news. It is real gee-whiz news when the second richest man in the world decides to give away the bulk of his fortune, most of it to a foundation run by the richest man in the world.
But there's a bigger story. It's about the massive accumulation of private wealth, the shift toward a less equal America, and the potential of what that wealth might do about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you?
BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations.
GATES: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is great.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): Warren Buffett and Bill Gates made it official today. Some $30 billion of Buffett's fortune will be transferred to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which already has more money than any foundation in America.
WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: I am lucky to have accumulated it. And all the way along, I felt that it should go back to society. And my wife agreed 100 percent with me. My family agreed. And the question was how to do it.
GATES: A reordering of my priorities.
GREENFIELD: This announcement comes less than two weeks after Gates announced he was giving up day-to-day control of Microsoft to focus more on philanthropy.
It's hardly a new phenomenon. A century or so ago, two of the richest and most criticized members of the American plutocracy, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, gave away much of their wealth, more than $14 billion in today's dollars, to universities, libraries, and foundations.
GATES: You are seeing the three trustees of the foundation here.
GREENFIELD: But the Buffett-Gates news comes at a time when a little discussed issue in America, inequality, is gaining some traction. By one recent estimate, CEOs of U.S. corporations last year earned 262 times the pay of the average worker. Forty years ago, CEOs earned only 24 times as much as the average worker. Other recent data show a marked increase in equality in recent decades. Today, nearly 43 percent of total income in America is going to the top 10 percent.
And more and more, public policy, especially tax cuts on incomes, dividends, and huge estates, are likely to skew that balance even more. What all this adds up to is an astonishing level of accumulated wealth. According to one study, somewhere between $45 trillion and $150 trillion dollars -- that's trillion dollars -- will be transferred through inheritance over the next half-century.
GREENFIELD: So, in a time when the idea of using public resources to level the playing field has lost some political traction, the examples of Buffett and Gates suggest a major new role for philanthropy, dealing with such pressing public issues such as health, poverty, and education.
The question, of course, is whether private generosity is what we should be relying on to deal with these issues -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. Up ahead, patriotism or political posturing? The Senate moves to pass a constitutional amendment banning flag burning. And anatomy of a tantrum. Jeanne Moos on very poor sportsmanship. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack in New York. He has the "Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: The Senate began a debate on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning because I guess they didn't have anything else to do. They're expected to vote on this by the end of week. The question is what is more important than the Congress passing a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.
Peter in Rockville, Maryland writes "Almost anything's more important. How about global warming, social security, immigration, our disgrace of an education system, our out of control federal deficit, just for starters. Has anything been done about these problems? Congress is irrelevant at the best of times, but this empty posturing is an all-time low."
Harold in Anchorage, Alaska, "Jack I'd rather see an amendment prohibiting the U.S getting into stupid wars like the ones in Iraq and Vietnam. I find flag burning disgusting, except maybe for the Mexican flag, but it is after all freedom speech."
Karen in Peterborough, New Hampshire, "It seems more and more those among us who seek to destroy our American way of life and all that is good, come wrapped in the flag, carrying the cross, and try to shift our focus to silly pseudo-"patriotic" issues like this." Doug writes, "I'm retired military and I'm sick of the Senate sitting around with their thumbs in unspeakable places. The flag burning amendment is nothing more than a diversionary tactic, to divert attention from the fact that the Republican controlled Senate has done absolutely nothing to improve the life of American citizens. They can't even get a budget out by the end of the fiscal year and the Republicans control all of the branches of government. The terms monkeys and footballs come to mind."
Eric in Ames, Iowa, "The business of life, remember? Look for the Republicans to join their campaign for a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning and a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage to a constitutional amendment to revive Terry Schiavo. It's the only issue they have left."
And Gilbert in El Paso, Texas, "Congress addressing the flag burning issue is a very important first step in reducing global warming."
Blitzer: See you tomorrow Jack, thanks very much. Let's find out what's coming at the top of the hour. Paula's standing by, hi Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Wolf, thanks. We will look beyond the headlines tonight in a case that has some U.S. servicemen facing murder charges. What exactly happened in Hamdaniyah? Did a 54--year- old disabled man shoot at U.S. troops or was he intentionally kidnapped and killed?
Plus when flashing lights and police uniforms don't mean help is on the way. We're going to look at a frightening deception that happens to be on the rise tonight, Wolf. Fake cops who happen to be real criminals. That's coming up in about six minutes from now.
BLITZER: We'll be watching Paula, thank you very much. And when we come back, pitching a fit in the minor leagues. Jeanne Moos with the story. Stick around for it, you'll like it.
BLITZER: We have all seen it, a baseball coach that disagrees with a play and runs out to the field to let the umpires know exactly how they feel. Yet, in one case, the coach may have actually gone too far in making his argument. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're looking at a manager who could use a little anger management. Better to clasp his hands behind his back than to ring the umpire's neck. The manager of the Asheville, North Carolina Tourists went ballistic after a base runner from the other side was declared safe at second. Manager Joe Mickolic (ph) did his own instant replay and then proceeded to uproot the base itself. Typical, you say, for a guy in uniform, but hey, guys in suits have tantrums too. We have even seen law makers lose it from Taiwan to Russia.
At least Manager Mickolic didn't do what this Czech politician did, slapped the Czech health minister for supposedly making comments about his wife. But, we had barely gotten to second base with the baseball tirade, as the PA system controlled by the opposing team, taunted Mickolic.
The manager launched a line drive that didn't make it out of infield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty good toss, better than the slide. Kids don't try that at home.
MOOS: He kicked dirt at the home plate umpire. Then he took out his rage on home plate itself. Even used his hands to dish the dirt on the plate. At least he didn't throw a cell phone as Naomi Campbell allegedly did, enraged at her housekeeper supposedly over a pair of missing jeans.
Maybe the tendency towards tantrums is in your genes. Swipe those papers. Toss those bats. Mickolic threw four of them from the dugout. Just when you think it's over, out he comes to pour water on home plate. Clearly he's lost that loving feeling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you need anger management?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, never. My mom raised me the right way.
MOOS: The ejected Mickolic finally left the field. He lost his temper, his team lost the game. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne to do that piece. Let's go to Paula in New York, Paula?
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