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Suspected Taliban Gathering Spotted by U.S. Intelligence; NATO Commanders Say Need More Troops to Battle Insurgency; At Least 50 Reportedly Killed Across Afghanistan Today

Aired September 13, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And 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, from the air over Afghanistan, images seem to show a high value Taliban target. Should U.S. commanders have ordered an attack? The war of words over the war on terror, are they going too far with the partisan bitter battle. I'll speak with two powerful congressmen, Republican Duncan Hunter and Democrat John Murtha.

And a double-barrel verbal blast from Jimmy Carter -- tough talk from the former president to our Larry King about the vice president, Dick Cheney, and Senator Joe Lieberman.

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

Silently stalking its prey over Afghanistan a secret eye in the sky spots what appears to be an extraordinary target, but there is no attack. Did the U.S. military miss a chance to deliver a devastating blow to what's become a raging insurgency? There are new images, but no clear answers yet emerging from this fog of war.

Anderson Cooper is standing by live in Afghanistan. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd first with the latest on this story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a military official in Afghanistan tells me coalition commanders are looking into how one image in particular was released into the public domain. A picture of what was likely a very tempting target for coalition aircraft.


TODD (voice-over): In the sights, more than 100 suspected Taliban insurgents July of this year in southern Afghanistan. A coalition official in Afghanistan characterizes this only as intelligence imaginary. Will not discuss what type of vehicle took this picture first published by NBC News or whether that vehicle was armed.

The coalition considered firing on this gathering, according to the spokesperson, but did not. A decision made the official says at least in part because they were gathering at a cemetery, likely a funeral for Taliban fighters killed by coalition troops earlier that day. A missed opportunity or a disaster averted? The coalition won't discuss rules of engagement, so we asked CNN analyst General Don Shepperd.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Generally speaking we try to avoid strikes -- the military tries to avoid strikes on mosques and on cemeteries because we know the sensitivity of those particularly in the Islamic religion and in all religions.

TODD: But Shepperd and other experts also say U.S. forces do sometimes target mosques or cemeteries after going up the chain of command if they know there are high-value targets there and if commanders believe collateral damage is acceptable under the circumstances or...

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: somebody shooting at you from a church, you know a commander can protect his forces.

TODD: Still the coalition officials says U.S. forces do try to hold themselves to a higher morale standard than their enemy. The spokesperson cited a funeral this week for an assassinated governor in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber killed several people.

Quote, "It's hard to condemn the enemy if we do the same kind of thing."

Then there's the question of real-time accuracy.

SHEPPERD: When you're firing a missile from a predator drone or dropping bombs from an aircraft you can't really see what you're hitting on the ground. So although you're going to hit Taliban, you also are going to hit whoever is with or near the Taliban.


TODD: A military official in Afghanistan says the picture was quote, "inappropriately released to the media." Military officials at one point asked news organizations to pull it out of circulation. Then conceded the cat was out of the bag -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank you, Brian.

On the ground in Afghanistan there is bitter fighting going on right now as ally troops try to counter a growing Taliban insurgency. CNN's Anderson Cooper is live for us from Kabul. Anderson, you spent some time with U.S. forces. You were embedded earlier. Tell our viewers what you saw, what you heard on the ground.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Wolf, and it relates really to Brian Todd's last story, is that what U.S. troops and coalition troops are fighting here is a counterinsurgency and there is a real political component to that, as well as a military component. And so military actions at times really do have to take into account you know how it's going to impact on local people, how it's going to impact on their perceptions of the United States, on the government of Hamid Karzai.

So even there may be a tempting target, if it has the potential for a lot of collateral damage, if it has the potential angering large members of people, often times coalition forces or the U.S. may pass on that target no matter how tempting it may be because in the wider war it may have a negative impact. The fighting here really is intense.

You know there's a lot of debate, Wolf, about whether or not Iraq is the central front of the war on terror. There's really little debate about what is going on here in eastern Afghanistan and particularly in the south of Afghanistan where there are large number of Taliban forces massing and fighting against coalition and U.S. forces. This truly is ground zero for the war on terror here in Afghanistan.

The U.S. forces that I was out with on a daily basis they can sometimes see, they can often hear foreign fighters, Taliban militants and there's a great concern over what's going to happen now that Pakistan has signed that cease-fire deal with Taliban militants. Over in Pakistan they've already seen an up-tick, across from south Wiziristan (ph), where Pakistan government signed a similar deal. U.S. intelligence sources I've talked to are very concerned that there's going to be an up-tick just across from north Wiziristan (ph) where U.S. forces are as well.

BLITZER: Anderson, have you had a chance to speak with any U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, who earlier had served in Iraq for some comparisons on what they're thinking now in Afghanistan as opposed to what they felt and feared in Iraq?

COOPER: Absolutely. I've talked to a number of soldiers who served in Iraq, some officers who served in Iraq as well. Just about every one of them said to me that what they're seeing here on a daily basis and take in mind, these are soldiers serving on -- in eastern Afghanistan right along the border, which is the most intense zone for U.S. forces. They were saying what they're seeing on a daily basis is worse than what they were seeing in Iraq.

They have more engagement with the enemy, more contact with the enemy. One officer I talked to said you know that he had contact with the enemy three times when he was in Iraq. Here he surpassed that within the first two weeks of taking command of his soldiers on the Pakistan border. It's very intense fighting. There's a real sense of mission.

A real sense of who the enemy is. It seems very clear to these soldiers. And they are seeing a lot of incoming rockets. I mean the forward operating base I was just on, they've got more incoming rockets than any other base in all of Afghanistan and they have fired more rockets at the enemy, nearly doubled the amount than any other base has fired as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson thanks very much. Be careful over there. Anderson is going to have a lot more coming up 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "ANDERSON COOPER 360", two hours of programming from the scene in Afghanistan. You're going to want to see that tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Do the allies though have enough troops to do the job in Afghanistan? Let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even as the fighting continues against the Taliban, NATO today failed to reach an agreement on sending more troops to Afghanistan.


STARR (voice-over): Afghanistan's southern Kandahar Province is just one place where fierce fighting has erupted in recent weeks between Taliban fighters and NATO troops. And it's all beginning to sound like Iraq.


STARR: NATO announced that 173 Afghans have been killed this year in suicide bombings, a tactic not seen in the past. Dozens of British and Canadian troops have been killed in the last five weeks and new questions about whether NATO's security force, ICEF (ph), has enough troops.

JAMES APPATHURAI, NATO SPOKESMAN: There's no denying that they're stretched. And that more forces would allow all of the ICEF (ph) mission to achieve its objections more quickly and at lower risks.

STARR: But in Brussels a NATO meeting called Wednesday to ask member countries to send 2,500 more troops failed to win any new pledges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not expecting it.

STARR: NATO will try to agree on more troops by the end of the month. Commanders say they also need more C-130 transport planes and attack helicopters. There are currently about 20,000 NATO forces across the country and perhaps up to 7,000 active insurgents.


STARR: For now, many NATO countries say they are simply tapped out with other commitments and don't have the troops available. But the U.S. says NATO made the commitment and has the responsibility to live up to it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon thanks very much. Let's check in with Jack. He's in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the only Republican who voted against the Iraq war might help his party remain in control of the U.S. Senate. Moderate Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration on everything from the war in Iraq to tax cuts to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Alito, but his win over a conservative challenger in yesterday's Rhode Island primary means the Republicans might be able to hold on to a Senate seat. It's one of six seats the Democrats have to win in November if they want to have a majority in the Senate.

National Republicans spent more than a million dollars on TV ads against Chaffee's opponent and they sent volunteers to Rhode Island to campaign. Even the first lady made an appearance on Chaffee's behalf, which means that Laura Bush was campaigning for a guy who didn't even vote for her husband in the last election.

So here's the question. What does Senator Lincoln Chaffee's win mean for the Republican Party? E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you, Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File".

Coming up, former President Jimmy Carter, find out why he's lost confidence in Senator Joe Lieberman and doesn't want him re- elected.

Also the political war over the war in Iraq, Democrats call for Don Rumsfeld's resignation while Republicans accuse Democrats of protecting terrorists. Coming up, right here on THE SITUATION ROOM Congressman John Murtha and Congressman Duncan Hunter.

And racial politics, a segregated survivor loses big sponsors and gains the attention -- get this -- of white supremacists.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Elder statesman, former president -- right now Jimmy Carter is blasting the Bush administration for the Iraq war and what former President Jimmy Carter says are misleading words to the American people. But in an interview with CNN's Larry King he says he's saving some of his choicest words for a member of his own party. You're going to see that interview tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE". Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York with a preview -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, former President Jimmy Carter had some tough talk for Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman. He says he's lost confidence in him and he hopes he's defeated. And he has plenty to say about Iraq.


SNOW (voice-over): His words are blunt and at times stingy. Former President Jimmy Carter holds little back in criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. In an interview with CNN's Larry King, he takes aim at Vice President Dick Cheney, saying he's careless with the truth.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been most consistent since the very origin of the Iraqi war and deliberately misleading the American people by making false statements. Statements that I'm sure he knew were not true and this is a very serious thing for a highly placed official in America to do.

SNOW: The White House didn't have any reaction to former President Carter's comment. It did reiterate that Vice President Cheney has said that he and President Bush did everything they could think of to make the nation safe. On supporters of the Iraq war, former President Carter is highly critical of Connecticut Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman. He calls him a good man, but...

CARTER: He was one of the originators of public statements that misled the American people into believing that the Iraqi war was justified. He's joined in with the Republican spokespersons by saying that Democrats who disagree are really supporting terrorism. For all of these reasons I have lost my confidence in Joe Lieberman and don't wish to see him re-elected.

SNOW: To that a spokeswoman for the Lieberman campaign said Joe Lieberman has disagreed with former President Carter on foreign policy for a long time so his statement does not come as a shock. It is entirely false to suggest that Joe Lieberman in any way equated dissent about the war with supporting terrorists.


SNOW: And you can hear more from former President Jimmy Carter tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you, Mary Snow in New York. To our viewers, that exclusive interview airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You're also going to hear President Carter's solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. The entire exclusive interview tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE" 9:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Three of the Bush administration's biggest enemies will be gathering this week just 90 miles from U.S. shores. The presidents of Cuba, Iran and Venezuela will be in Havana for a summit of what are called nonaligned nations. That comes as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is making insinuations about the Bush administration and 9/11; some amazing talk from Hugo Chavez.

Let's bring in CNN's Zain Verjee. She's joining us with details -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, a special on Venezuelan TV focused on theory that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. So Hugo Chavez decided to weigh in.


VERJEE: At it again, this time raising the specter of conspiracy. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, mentions the unmentionable, the unthinkable to most Americans. The notions that 9/11 was plotted and planned by the U.S. government itself. PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): The hypothesis that is gaining strength, which was said on television last night and which could soon blown up, it that it was the same U.S. imperial power that planned and carried out this terrible terrorist attack or act against its own people and against citizens from all over the world.

VERJEE: Chavez says it's hard to believe the Twin Towers crumbled from the impact of the planes alone and suggests that dynamite could have caused their collapse. He says the Bush administration might have unleashed horror on its own citizens for political cover, so it could have advanced an imperialist agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To justify the aggression that was immediately unleashed on Afghanistan, on Iraq and the threats against all of us, against Venezuela, too.

VERJEE: Chavez also tried to raise questions about the Pentagon attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Apparently a plane went down in the Pentagon, but no one has ever found a single piece of wreckage from the plane, not even a turbine remained and they are made from titanium. Aircraft turbines are always to be found after accident. There's always wreckage. Not even a wing of this plane was found.

VERJEE: That's an urban legend. CNN has aired extensive video of the wreckage. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has saved a chunk of it in his office. No evidence has emerged to support any of the other 9/11 conspiracy theories.


VERJEE: The State Department had no comment on the latest outburst from Hugo Chavez -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He'll be in New York in the coming days to attend the United Nations General Assembly fresh from his visit from Havana. Thank you Zain very much.

Still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, who's accusing Democrats of protecting terrorists? Has the political war over Iraq simply gone too far? I'll speak with two powerful U.S. congressmen, Republican Duncan Hunter and Democrat John Murtha.

Also, drugs, terror, and the Taliban, live from Afghanistan, we're going to find out how the heroin in your city is fueling war thousands of miles away.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're standing by to go back live to Afghanistan. Our Nic Robertson's on the scene. There's a critically important story he's covering including heroin coming to the United States from Afghanistan, fueling the war in part. We're going to go to Afghanistan in a few moments.

The war on terror represents a new challenge for the U.S. military calling for combat gear, for U.S. troops' new combat gear. CNN's Miles O'Brien has our "Welcome to the Future" report -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, in a war zone, comfort and safety don't usually go hand in hand. In fact, when the war on terror began, troops were carrying upwards of 120 pounds in equipment and armor, but soon we may see a lighter, more nimble soldier emerge from the trenches.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Dutch Degay of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center is working to completely redesign combat uniforms from helmet to boot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're trying to evolve our body armor. This actually doesn't touch the body. This next generation piece of body armor actually stands off the body in order to absorb the impact of the round without the individual soldier feeling that impact.

O'BRIEN: Improvements also include sensors that monitor vital signs and a lighter state of the art helmet that provides infrared (ph) and thermal vision capabilities, as well as a futuristic eye monitor connecting soldiers to a battlefield network.

DUTCH DEGAY, U.S. ARMY NATICK SOLDIER CENTER: The individual soldier has the onboard computer plugged into the network so they now become network centric and can see everything inside the battle space, even though it's not directly in front of them.

O'BRIEN: Degay expects the new gear to be available in two to three years. The whole system could be in the trenches by 2010, so what's next after that?

DEGAY: A set of camouflage that actually acts as a mirror to the outside environment and will literally disappear inside the battle space.


O'BRIEN: The next generation gear isn't just safer. The new helmet weighs half as much as the current version. And the new armor is designed to shed heat and moisture more effectively. The hope is it will also give our troops some much-needed comfort -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien, thank you very much.

And just ahead -- tortured bodies tossed on city streets, killings and chaos involving innocent civilians. What is happening in Iraq today? It was one of the bloodiest days yet. We'll have an update. And in the other war -- the Taliban on a comeback in Afghanistan. What's the connection between the fighting there and drugs right here in the United States. We're going to tell you.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, new legal fallout in the CIA leak case, former operative Valerie Plame Wilson has added a new name to her lawsuit. That would be Richard Armitage, the former State Department official confirmed last week he was the source who revealed Plame Wilson's name to the columnist Robert Novak.

Bulletin bloodshed at a college in Montreal, a gunman dressed in black opened fire, wounding 20 students before being shot dead by police. According to The Associated Press, police say one woman who was hit has died. No word on a motive, at least not yet.

And Hurricane Gordon is getting stronger as it churns through the Atlantic, but it's still not expected to threaten land. The storm is southwest of Bermuda with top winds clocked at 110 miles an hour.

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

In Iraq today, the violence unrelenting and particularly bloody even by recent standards in Baghdad. Zain Verjee is back with the latest developments -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, more brutal and even more deadly as you say, 60 bodies found across Baghdad, most bound and tortured discovered by police over the past day. It's one of the highest tallies ever. Iraqi officials say sectarian death squads are running rampant around town in spite of the stepped-up security.

Also today two car bombs aimed at Iraqi police killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 70. Two more U.S. soldiers were also killed in Iraq, one in the dangerous western Sunni al-Anbar Province. White House spokesman Tony Snow responded to the up-surge and violence in Iraq and talked about the U.S. strategy in dealing with it.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: It has always been the strategy of this administration to work with the Iraqis so that their military and police forces are able to provide safety and security within Iraq's borders. It is not America's job to settle every dispute or to fight every insurgent.

VERJEE: As sectarian violence spins out of control bloodier and even more widespread, there are fears that Iraq will disintegrate into all out civil war. The United Nations has said about 100 people a day, Wolf, are being killed in Iraq in sectarian warfare -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you. And less than two months before congressional elections, Republicans and Democrats have ratcheted up their attacks on one another over Iraq and the war on terror. Tonight, Democrats are taking direct aim at the House majority leader John Boehner. He responded to charges that President Bush politicized the 9/11 anniversary by saying this, and I'm quoting Boehner now. "I listened to my Democratic friends and I wonder if they're more interested in protecting terrorists than in protecting the American people."

Also today, a leading administration critic on Iraq, Congressman John Murtha introduced a resolution calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign as defense secretary. I spoke with Murtha just a short while ago and asked him about John Boehner's counterattack on Democrats.


REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm convinced they're desperate, for him to say something. He can't mean what he's saying. In this free country, if we disagree with the president when he's going in the wrong direction, and we want to change direction, you are going to have to speak out. We can't just go along with a policy which is a failed policy. And that is what -- and he's holding nobody accountable. That's the thing that's so distressing.

BLITZER: Does he owe you an apology?

MURTHA: Well, I think he owes all the members an apology who disagree.

This is not only Democrats. This is Democrats and Republicans. I go all over the country. Is he saying that people who served honorably in the service and they disagree with this policy, that they're terrorists or abiding by terrorism? No, that's not what's happening at all.

People disagree with the direction, because nobody is being held accountable and we're not making any progress. So, they're striking out, just saying anything, just like they did the Vietnam War, just like people said if Dien Bien Phu falls. Vice President Nixon said at the time it will be chaotic. Just because they say it doesn't make it so.

BLITZER: You and Congressman David Obey came out with a report today on military preparedness, military readiness. Here's the reaction of a spokesman for the House speaker, Dennis Hastert.

Ron Bonjean said this: "While America is fighting the global war on terror, Capitol Hill Democrats are confused about who the enemy actually is. Congressman Murtha's resolution is simply a political ploy to try to stop the Republicans' momentum from passing our national security agenda."

Political ploy on your part.

MURTHA: Well, you know, here's a president who has held nobody accountable. He gives George Tenet, my good friend, a gold medal. He promotes Wolfowitz, Secretary Wolfowitz, to head of the bank. And Secretary Rice used to be national security adviser. And Rumsfeld has been there running the war for three-and-a-half years, and it's gone backwards. We have to hold somebody accountable.

This can't be won militarily, Wolf. It can only be won militarily -- or it can only be won diplomatically. We have to restore confidence worldwide. The way you do that is to change direction. This has got nothing to do personal. This is something that has to be done in order to restore our credibility, so we can move forward diplomatically.

BLITZER: Here's what you and Obey, Congressman Obey, write, among other things in your report: "The U.S. Army's preparedness for war has eroded to levels not witnessed by our country in decades."

Now, you have studied. You have been a strong supporter of the U.S. military over all of these years in Congress. What are you suggesting, that the U.S. military right now is not capable, for example, of -- of participating in a two different theaters of operation?

MURTHA: That's exactly right, Wolf.

What I'm saying is, all the troops in the United States, almost every brigade in the United States, combat brigade, is not prepared to go to war in another area.

For instance, we use the rhetoric about Iran and the rhetoric about North Korea. And, yet, our units, because they don't have the equipment, because they're taking people are not as qualified as they used to, up to 42 years old, and putting them in the armed forces, they're not as qualified as they should be.

The troops overseas are fine. The ones in Iraq are in good shape. But the ones back here could not respond. We have no strategic reserve. And it's the worst I have seen it since the Vietnam War.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but a quick answer.

Are you suggesting in your report -- because I read it -- that it's time to think about reviving the draft?

MURTHA: I will tell you this. They either have to do that, or they have to start to redeploy the troops, one or the other. We cannot sustain troops being there -- being home only a year, and going back in less than a year.

BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha, as usual, thanks for coming in.

MURTHA: Nice talking to you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Let's get some Republican reaction from the chairman of House armed services committee, Congressman Duncan Hunter.


BLITZER: You have known Congressman Murtha for a long time. You've worked together with him from a long time. Is he more interested in protecting terrorists than protecting the American people?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), ARMED SERVICES COMM. CHAIRMAN: No, no. John Murtha's not interested in that. But I will tell you what the -- I just finished the markup of the -- that is, a passage of the terrorist court bill, which will allow us to try these terrorists, including the ones that designed this attack on 9/11.

And the Democrats did offer a bill that gave more rights, more defendants' rights, to the alleged terrorists than my bill did. And they made a very passionate argument that we needed to give these additional rights to alleged terrorists.

And they made an argument that the only way we could obtain a conviction, if it was the only evidence available, and that evidence came from an American agent who was undisclosed to the terrorists, that we would have to disclose that agent, and let the terrorist himself, face to face, know the identity of the American agent.

Now, that's giving them enormous rights, and, I would say, to the detriment of American agents and American military personnel.

BLITZER: But you know, Congressman, on the Senate side, there are several important Republicans who say that these suspected terrorists and their lawyers should see the evidence, if the evidence is going to be used, including your counterpart, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, and John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

They're good Republicans, and they say the evidence should be made available to the terror suspects as well.

HUNTER: Well, let me tell you, Wolf, I have -- I have heard the arguments from the Democrats who offered that position on this side. And, incidentally, the bill passed 52-8.

But they offered that position. They said there's a risk that, if we don't allow the terrorists to know who our agents are, and don't let them come face to face in this court confrontation, that we -- we may be overturned at the appellate level or by the Supreme Court.

I said, there's a different risk. That risk is death, death of the agent, death of his family, death of American service personnel, death of Americans who otherwise would be insulated from an attempt to strike the United States or our citizenry in other places.

BLITZER: Well, let's get back to what John Boehner said, when he says that Democrats are more interested in protecting terrorists than protecting the American people. Does he owe Democrats an apology?

HUNTER: Well, I think that the context that he put that in was, he must have seen this proposed -- this proposed bill that they just put in front of us in the Armed Services Committee, that did give terrorist defendants greater rights -- I think we would all agree with that -- and protected them in a stronger way and gave them more liberal rights in the courtroom than the bill that we had.

So, I think that Mr. Boehner was referring to the rights that the Democrat bill would give to terrorists in the courtroom. And that's accurate. I mean, that's a fact.

BLITZER: But, so, am I hearing you right? Correct me if I'm wrong. You agree with Boehner, then?

HUNTER: Well, no. I agree with his reference to this bill that they just offered, which was offered on the basis that it gives increased rights to the terrorist defendants, because, according to the Democrats who argued it in good faith -- and I have got good friends who made this argument -- they said, we need to give them greater rights, because that will allow us to make sure that we don't get the cases overturned at the Supreme Court, and we will be an example to the world.

My answer back was, the downside is, you endanger American agents if you turn over that classified information.

BLITZER: Duncan Hunter is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. And Mr. Chairman, always good to have you on the program.

HUNTER: Well, thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: And this note, we invited Congressman John Boehner to join us today in THE SITUATION ROOM, to explain his remarks. He declined for today, but we hope in the coming days, he'll be a guest here. Up ahead tonight, war and drugs in Afghanistan. Is the Taliban getting help waging their war from drug profits? Our Nic Robertson takes the close look. He's standing by to join us now.

And he's the very available Canadian foreign minister. She's the very single U.S. secretary of state. Canada's Peter MacKay, Condoleezza Rice of the United States. Might they be interested in more than a diplomatic dance? There's buzz in Canada. Jeanne Moos takes a closer look.


BLITZER: It's a story about war, drugs and the war on drugs. In Afghanistan, some say profits from opium production are being put in the pockets of terrorists. The United Nations wants NATO to take action to destroy the opium crops. One U.N. officials says crushing the crops is important to crushing the Taliban and restoring order.

For more, let's go to the scene, CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is there in Afghanistan. How bad is this drug situation where you are in Afghanistan, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's bad. The drug production here has gone up 50 percent. This country's produces 92 percent of the world's opium. It overproduced the world's need by one-third this year. The value to the farmers here is about $3 billion.

It's half the country's GDP, and it's estimated from several sources that the Taliban here could be getting as much as one-third of that money. The Taliban could be making as much as $1 billion from the poppy cultivation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why is the Afghan government apparently incapable of doing anything about this?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, they've got a Counter-Narcotics Ministry. It is not powerful. They don't have a big army. They're training counter-narcotics officials. The bottom line is, when these counter- narcotics officials go out, they're intimidated in the villages and the farms that they go to by the Taliban, they're intimidated when they go home to their families at night. They can't do their job. It's a very tough situation. There isn't the security to enforce the measures necessary to eradicate the poppies.

BLITZER: The sale of heroin in the streets of major cities and the around the United States, I take it that some of that money winds up in the hands of people in Afghanistan including the Taliban. There's a direct connection there, isn't there?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely, there's a direct connection. I was speaking with a senior U.S. military commander. He has no doubt that the Taliban are making money out of the opium poppies. He has no doubt that that money buys the weapons that are being fired at his troops.

But right now the U.S. troops in this country don't have a mandate to go down and eradicate the poppies. I have been there when they have driven part of the poppy fields. It's not part of their mission right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: So if Afghanistan winds up a failed narco state -- and that's a dreadful thought given the investment since 9/11, the troops the U.S. has deployed there. I guess people there would suffer, but people all over the world, including here in the United States would suffer, as well.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely, Wolf. People here will suffer. There's over 100,000 heroin addicts here now. It wasn't the case before. It would be a threat to the countries bordering Afghanistan, because there would be instability as we're seeing now with the Taliban.

And Afghanistan is a partner on the war on terror, but they would be -- the country would be funding part of the terror campaign, funding the Taliban. It wouldn't be good for the rest of the world -- Wolf. BLITZER: Nic, thanks very much. Nic's going to have a lot more on this story coming up at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," Anderson reporting live from Afghanistan.

What do you want to know more about Afghanistan? Videotape yourself asking a question, send it to CNN's Anderson Cooper and Nic Robertson, Peter Bergen -- they're all there. They're going to answer your questions tonight as they report live from the region

Could the United States fend off a disabling cyber attack? Today the government released the results of a major exercise code-named Cyber Storm. Jacki Schechner now has details -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, when we talk about cyber security, we're not just talking about the Internet, we're talking about things like the U.S. power grid, or we're talking about how the FAA tracks flights across the country. All of these things are connected by computers.

Well, the Department of Homeland Security conducted an exercise they called Cyber Storm to find out how more than 100 public and private agencies would respond if a terrorist or a hacker tried to take out our infrastructure. And while they said that the report itself, the exercise, was a success, the report does mention some things that could use some improvement.

They say there could be better communication between the public and the private sector. They also say that responders were fine when there was one attack, but when there were multiple attacks they got confused.

We also asked the Department of Homeland Security today if there were a cyber attack tomorrow, how prepared are we? And they told us they weren't ready to answer that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you.

Up ahead, a hit reality series takes a controversial twist. Now there are critics that are calling for action. We're going to have new details of segregation on "Survivor."

Plus, international relations of a very different kind. Is there more to this diplomacy than meets the eye? CNN's Jeanne Moos standing by with a closer look.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: "Survivor" helped launch the pop culture phenomenon of reality TV, and now it's unleashing a new culture war. At issue this time, the decision to make this season a competition based on skin color.

Here's CNN's Brooke Anderson -- Brooke. BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, "Survivor" has, for years, really been the gold standard for reality television, but now some are asking whether the show has been tarnished with its daring new format.


ANDERSON (voice-over): "Survivor," now segregated by race. The new programming concept has ignited a firestorm of criticism. These New York City officials are outraged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really ask you to boycott CBS.

JON LIEU, NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN: The show is just plain stupid.

ANDERSON: CBS has divided its 13th season participants into four ethnic teams: blacks, Asians, Latinos and whites. "TV Week's" James Hibbert (ph) says the new format forces viewers to choose one race over another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Typically on "Survivor" you root for these arbitrary tribes. In this case, since the tribes are divided by race, you are put in the position of rooting for one race over another race.

ANDERSON: Host Jeff Probst tells CNN CBS made this move in response to complaints the show wasn't diverse enough.

JEFF PROBST, "SURVIVOR HOST": The original motivation for this was the criticism we've received for being too white. So we went out and tried to correct that.

ANDERSON: The idea has white supremacists buzzing on websites devoted to white causes. There are cheers for the white team. And there are also concerns the show will be staged and quote, whites will be morons.

The NAACP said in a statement, whether we like the concept or not, and for the record we do not, it is premature to judge the show purely on conjecture, to which CBS replied, we appreciate the NAACP reserving judgment on "Survivor: Cook Islands" until they've seen the show.

And this season will be different in more ways than one. Key advertisers Home Depot and General Motors are among those that have pulled their support. They both tell CNN their decisions had nothing to do with the show's new format.


ANDERSON: The question now isn't who will win a million dollars, but rather can survivor survive this contentious season of segregation? It kicks off tomorrow night on CBS, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Brooke for that. Let's go back to New York. Jack Cafferty's go the Cafferty File, Jack. CAFFERTY: There's one other question, who cares? I mean, you don't have to root for one team or the other, you can turn the thing off, which is what I've done for all the years it's been on the air.

Moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee won the Rhode Island primary yesterday. He's been a frequent critic of the Bush administration, voted against the war in Iraq. So the question is this, what does Chafee's win mean for the Republican Party?

Michael in California, "He's a warm body with a R behind his name. Even though Lincoln Chafee tends to vote against the president, he does count as Republican when they're deciding which party gets the majority in the Senate and then who gets to assign all those committee chairs.

Mike in New York writes, "the Senator Chafee win in Rhode Island means he would be a good Republican candidate for president in 2008. We need uniters, not dividers and Senator Chafee looks like a uniter."

Jeffrey in South Dakota, "Former Rhode Island voter, I think it means the Republican Party better start praying. See in Rhode Island voters choose the lesser of two evils, always have, most likely always will. Just another reason I moved."

Christine in Rhode Island, "I will vote for Mr. Chafee in the general election only if he publicly indicates a willingness to consider the question of whether Mr. Bush and his other members of the administration have violated the law and the constitution and the trust of the American people and should be impeached."

Byron writes, "It doesn't mean much. It shows the anti-war sentiment is stronger in the Republican base than is being reported. The general election will be the anti-incumbent change direction vote if Chafee loses.

And finally Michael in Gulf Breeze, Florida chose to answer all three questions today. He wrote this, "4:00 p.m., no, 5:00 p.m., it can't, 7:00 p.m., nothing. Thanks Jack, today was easy."

BLITZER: See you tomorrow. We've got three more questions tomorrow, Jack.


BLITZER: Appreciate it. Paula Zahn is standing in New York with a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour. Hi Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Wolf, thanks so much. Tonight our top story coverage looks at the trail of terror. We're going to show you a man who is probably causing a lot of sleepless nights at the Fbi. He happened to be educated in the U.S. but is now a top al Qaeda operative known only as the South American.

We're also going to show you a chilling al Qaeda video. Did this suicide bombing though really happened? We've got the powerful story behind the pictures. All coming straight at you at the top of the hour, wolf. Join us then.

BLITZER: We will.

ZAHN: You have no plans at 8:00, do you.

BLITZER: I'll be watching "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

ZAHN: Oh good, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you Paula, see you in a little while.

Still ahead Condoleezza Rice, a handsome foreign minister and the diplomatic rumor mill. Is it running on wishful thinking now? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to Canada is fueling some speculation that diplomatic relations may be turning into relations of a different kind. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She calls him by his first name.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: This has been a lovely trip, Peter.

MOOS: He calls her --


MOOS: Relations between Canada and the U.S. are heating up, at least in imagination of the press.

MACKAY: Please come back again.

MOOS: This is what you'd call a wishful thinking story on our part. Two singletons, the U.S. secretary of state and Canada's foreign minister seemed to hit it off. It doesn't hurt that Peter McKay is considered a hunk by diplomatic standards. Suddenly their Harbor side stroll seems enchanting, as enchanting as a walk trailed by cameras and noisy boom mikes can be.

Even a visit to the doughnut shop felt personally revealing.

MACKAY: I just have tea. I don't drink coffee.

RICE: You don't drink coffee?

MOOS: Almost like a date.


RICE: I'll treat you.

MACKAY: You're going treat me. Are you sure?

MOOS: Ever since Canada's foreign minister first visited Washington --

MACKAY: I have always been a fan of yours.

MOOS: His respect for the secretary of state has been anything but understated, noted on websites and categorized as hot by a "Toronto Globe and Mail" columnist.

RICE: I also last night had a chance to meet some of the members of Peter's family.

MOOS: Well no wonder the "New York Times" did a tongue in cheek article. Questions about the duo elicited a winced from the State Department spokesman. Not the single raised eyebrow.

QUESTION: How does she feel about this admiration?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had a good laugh when she read it.

MOOS (all right): All right, so maybe we're making something out of nothing. OK, we're almost definitely making something out of nothing, but at least we didn't do what the "Globe" did, "Bush and Condi Like Lovers."

MOOS (voice-over): The super market tabloid took innocent photos of the Secretary Rice and the president and had a body language expert analyze them in not so innocent ways. We'd never do anything like that with video of Secretary Rice and Canada's foreign minister. He finally did touch her. Must be something in the air.

RICE: I slept so well, you know, the air is so great. Terrific air to sleep.

MACKAY: She loves the cool Atlantic breezes here in Atlantic Canada. She left her window open last night.

RICE: Peter's right. I do love the cool, ocean breezes.

MOOS: All of this talk of cool breezes --

MACKAY: Cheers.

RICE: Cheers.

MOOS: -- is making us hot.

Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Leave it to Jeannie Moos. That's it. Barrack Obama, the senator from Illinois, he'll be her in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Let's go to New York. Paula Zahn is standing by, Paula. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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