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Snow and Ice Pound Northern Los Angeles; FISA Court to Monitor Domestic Surveillance Program; More Charges Expected Against Alleged Missouri Kidnapper; American Civilian And Three Security People Killed In Baghdad; Iraqi Secular Violence Victimizes Civilians

Aired January 17, 2007 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live from the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kyra Phillips.

Does all this snow and ice have you doing some California dreaming, or not?


WHITFIELD: Well, this is California -- I know it's hard to believe -- where winter has put a hurt on the commuters and the citrus growers as well.

LEMON: Court date in Missouri -- we will get the latest, as prosecutors build their case against Michael Devlin in the alleged kidnappings of two young boys.

WHITFIELD: And we all know our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a lot of heart. But he lets us see for ourselves, as doctors take a peek at his beating heart.

Scrub in. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: It's the top of the hour -- two big developing stories we're watching right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Let's get you out live now. You're looking at I-5 -- actually, this is tape -- I-5. It's called the Grapevine, an interstate that runs through California. This is Los Angeles County, the northern part of Los Angeles County -- this I-5 backed up because of snow that they don't usually get in this area.

To talk to us about what's happening there and the efforts under way to try to get these people moving and to make things safer, let's go to John -- Officer John -- is it Lakes? Or Hughes -- I'm sorry -- John Hughes from the California Highway Patrol.

Did I get your name correct?


LEMON: John Lutz. Got it. Thank you.

What is going on there? What are you doing to try to get these people -- some people are stranded, we understand.

LUTZ: Yes, the storm front moved in pretty quickly and stranded some of the motorists between the Templin Highway and Vista Del Lago ramps. And they're stuck there. We have officers on scene, moving them out of the location, as Caltrans is beginning to clear the lanes, as the storm front passes.

Right now, we're rerouting traffic off of the northbound 5, at Parker Road, to go and continue southbound, providing people with new directions on how to get northbound.

LEMON: Officer Lutz, how long have people been stranded here? Is it at a critical point...


LEMON: ... a critical point, where you're concerned?

LUTZ: No. We have officers out on scene right now that are tending to the people that are there, getting them turned around. Some need chains. Some do not.

We're getting them turned down to get off at Vista Del Lago and some to get off at Templin Highway. And, once that's clear, the Caltrans will be able to clear each lane, and we will get traffic moving again on the five again.

LEMON: Tell us about the backup there. How long is it?

LUTZ: The backup is not very far. Right now, it's only a couple of miles. We do have an active detour pattern that we use frequently when we do get snow or ice in the area. So, we use that road rather frequently. The backup is not too far at all right now.

LEMON: Yes. And I was seeing some salt trucks and plows out. You don't have to use those very often, do you?

LUTZ: Not very often. But we have an operation that's in -- in place that, when we do get these kind of issues, we get them out there immediately. Caltrans, we work in conjunction with them, as well, and we get the closure set up. They get to work, and we get it open as fast as we can.

LEMON: OK, Officer John Lutz, sorry for butchering your name at the top. I should have been a doctor. I can't read my own handwriting here.


LEMON: So...

LUTZ: That's OK.

LEMON: Yes. We wish you guys luck.

If anything turns up, if something happens, please check back in with us, Officer John Lutz from the California Highway Patrol.

It's I-5. It's called the...

WHITFIELD: The Grapevine.

LEMON: ... the Grapevine usually, but not much happening there on the Grapevine today...


LEMON: ... except for a standstill.

WHITFIELD: I'm calling it ice wine now.

LEMON: The ice wine?



WHITFIELD: Folks in Canada will understand what I'm talking about.



WHITFIELD: All right.

LEMON: Folks in California, though, not laughing.


WHITFIELD: No, they're not.

LEMON: We're sitting here laughing. They're not happy.

WHITFIELD: I know. It is serious.


WHITFIELD: But they're getting it under control. And that's good news.

LEMON: Right.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Let's focus on Washington now, where President Bush says it's necessary. Critics say it's Big Brother. It's a very divisive plan straight from the White House to use the nation's spy apparatus on people inside the United States -- new developments today.

Let's go to CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve in Washington -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the program ignited a firestorm when "The New York Times" first reported its existence in December of 2005.

Under the program, the administration monitored phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and people overseas, if there was probable cause to believe that one or more of those involved were linked to al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist group.

The president said he had the constitutional authority to conduct the program, but civil liberties groups and some Democrats were enraged, saying that surveillance on U.S. citizens required a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Now the administration says that court has issued orders authorizing the program.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are satisfied, not only that it meets the conditions of national security, but, in this case, also, I think, answers -- even though we have been doing this long before the criticisms arose -- that has the ancillary benefit of being able to deal with political objections a number of people have been raising saying, you need to do it within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

And now I think everything is done under FISA. The president will not reauthorize the present program, because the new rules will serve as guideposts.

QUESTION: Well, the president has always...


MESERVE: Justice Department officials will not say if the new orders require the court to approve individual instances of surveillance or whether it's taking a more blanket approach.

Some are suggesting that the administration moved in this direction to preempt the Democratically-controlled Congress. But the administration is insisting that it has been working on this since before the program was made public.

And we just got a statement from the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes. He says the decision is welcome news, if long overdue, but says he is withholding judgment on whether it is effective and whether it protects the rights of the American people -- Fredricka, back to you.

WHITFIELD: Something tells me this is a new beginning again.


WHITFIELD: All right, Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much. LEMON: So, who's watching, who's listening, and who's watching the listeners? The surveillance program was the buzz of today's White House briefing.

And Suzanne Malveaux was at that briefing to tell us the very latest about that -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, this is a very significant concession from the Bush administration.

All along, the president has said that he believed he had that authority, the warrantless wiretap authority, without receiving that warrant from that secret court. And the reason why, he has always argued, is that it was too cumbersome, took too much time, if they were going to try to get information from a conversation to disrupt some sort of terrorist plot.

Well, what has changed since then? And I asked Tony Snow two questions here, the press secretary. First, of course, what has changed? We now have a Democratically-controlled Congress. And, secondly, we have the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who is expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow in a special hearing.

So, my question, of course, is: Is this politically motivated or politically timed?


MALVEAUX: ... that he would be beaten up over this, and so you announce this today.

SNOW: I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so.

Number one, notifications began late last week. Number two, it's the FISA Court which has -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- which has done this. What you're doing is, you're accusing that court of engaging in political activity to, what, bail out the Bush administration? I don't think so.

They look at their business as being national security. And they are very professional and also -- they're determined to protect what they see are their responsibilities under statute.

So, I think it's a real stretch to try to say that that court somehow is engaged in a politically timed activity. So, I just -- I don't think...


MALVEAUX: Now, Don, of course, the president has always prided himself, after the September 11 attacks, really to be able to have all the tools at his disposal to execute this war on terror.

We see now, of course, there have been challenges to this particular one, whether or not it was actually unconstitutional, whether or not it was even appropriate. The court has spoken. And this is a change. This is a reversal here.

LEMON: All right.

Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much for that.

And, also, several senators and U.S. representatives recently went to Iraq. And they're back with their findings, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Evan Bayh, and then John -- Representative John McHugh of New York.

We're awaiting a press conference from them. Now, they are going to talk about their findings and how they think the situation can be approved -- improved on the ground there -- a press conference from them expected very shortly. We will carry it for you live, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: And now building evidence on bizarre details, four years' worth -- prosecutors in Missouri are tackling the case of alleged kidnaper Michael Devlin. He faces one criminal count and one court hearing, but there's a lot more of both to come.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim is in Potosi, Missouri -- Keith.


I'm in Washington County. And it was in this county four years ago where 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck was abducted. And, in just a couple of hours, we expect to hear from the Washington County attorney, who we expect to announce that there will be more charges against the kidnapping suspect, Michael Devlin.

Keep in mind, just last Friday, police found the two boys, 15- year-old Shawn Hornbeck and 13-year-old Ben Ownby, in Devlin's apartment in suburban Saint Louis. So far, Devlin's been charged with one count of kidnapping, and is being held on $1 million bail.

And, you know, the fact that police found a teenage boy who had been abducted for -- for four days, along with another teenage boy who had been abducted for four years, has led investigators to a central question in this case: Was Michael Devlin involved in other child abduction cases as well?


GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY, MISSOURI, SHERIFF: I can just tell you that -- that it's unlikely for people to wake up and become kidnapers, sexual offenders.

You know, there's all -- and it's getting back to his question. There's always the possibility, you know, that there may be other kids involved. And that's -- and we're looking at that, as we do in every other case.

(END VIDEO CLIP) OPPENHEIM: Now, just to be clear, police have not established that there was sexual abuse in these abduction cases. That has not been established yet.

But one thing that we do know is, tomorrow morning, in neighboring Franklin County, there will be a formal arraignment for the kidnapping suspect, Michael Devlin. And that hearing, Fredricka, relates to the 13-year-old, Ben Ownby.

WHITFIELD: And, Keith, is it expected that Michael Devlin would be there, because, sometimes, arraignments, the defendant is not present?

OPPENHEIM: Well, he will be there electronically. There's a closed-circuit connection between the jail where he's being held in isolation and the courthouse. So, he will -- he will appear in a booth. And we will be able to see him on a monitor there.

Now, law enforcement folks like that a lot for all sorts of arraignments and hearings, because it's not only good for efficiency, but, in a case like this, it's also good for security.

WHITFIELD: Keith Oppenheim, thanks so much.

LEMON: Final words before a fatal crash -- a transcript from Comair Flight 5191 offers chilling insight into a deadly accident in Kentucky -- details straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And two senators, one congressman just back from Iraq -- we will hear what they saw and how they plan to use their observations just ahead -- live press conference happening now.

CNN NEWSROOM -- you're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LEMON: We want to get you to Washington and a live news conference.

You see Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking there. She and a representative, a congressman, and also Senator Evan Bayh, just back from Iraq, they're offering their findings.

Let's take a listen.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We will went into Lahore for the purpose of meeting with President Musharraf, a meeting that lasted approximately 90 minutes.

During that extensive, broad discussion, President Musharraf described some of his frustrations with his relationships with the Afghan government. We have heard about some of the difficulties on both sides of the border in preventing the resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda forces from going back and forth.

And, when we were in Afghanistan, our military commanders described to us the challenges that they have faced with the increased penetration coming from the Pakistani side of the border. Obviously, from President Musharraf's perspective, he has some legitimate questions about how best to work with his Afghan counterparts that he shared with us.

He raised his concerns about the state of relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I am concerned that, when we most need troops on the ground in Afghanistan and a very tight relationship that is focused on good intelligence and military intervention to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda, we might have some difficulties between our two great allies.

I discussed with both President Karzai and President Musharraf whether a high-level United States envoy, on a continuing basis, would be helpful, and they both expressed a positive reaction.

As some of you might remember, President Bush had both presidents to dinner together to try to work out some of their concerns. And, upon returning to the United States, I placed a call to the White House and spoke with the national security adviser, Steve Hadley, to urge that the president consider appointing such a high-level presidential envoy.

From Pakistan, we flew to Ramstein Air Force Base, where we spent another very short night, and, the next morning, traveled to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where seriously wounded service members from Iraq and Afghanistan are brought for treatment.

We were very impressed with the high quality of services available to our men and women in uniform. And I met New Yorkers there. Senator Bayh met soldiers and Marines from Indiana.

But I could certainly assure everyone who has a loved one in these theaters of combat that they have the very best care available. In fact, I met one soldier who had suffered an injury in Fallujah. And he's from New York City. So, I called his mother to tell his mother that he was doing very well. And I could say that because he certainly was.

I also heard from some of the soldiers their concerns about the circumstances they find themselves in, in Iraq. One told us, as he was lying in his bed with his injuries, that, in encountering one of these shaped charges, these new, more advanced, sophisticated command- controlled IEDs, that the armored and fully equipped Humvee had saved his life and the life of his buddies.

We talked later about how we still don't have that vehicle, fully packed, available to everybody, something that we still have not yet accomplished.

We met with our U.S. commanders, as well, and toured the contingency aeromedical staging facility, which is the first stop for our brave wounded heroes when they come back for medical care, before being taken home.

During these intense four days, we had the opportunity to talk with U.S. military serving in the theaters, with our U.S. civilian representatives, and certainly with foreign leaders.

My experiences underscored my concerns, based on both what I saw and what I did not see. We saw American service men and women performing bravely and magnificently. And we also saw a strategy that is not working.

I personally did not see the kind of tangible evidence of actions that we should be expecting from the Iraqi government. And I believe our priorities are upside down. Afghanistan is a success story thus far. And, yet, we know it's going to be under increasing pressure in the months ahead.

We should be adding more American military forces, and we should be requiring the NATO countries to fulfill their commitments to the forces that they had promised us.

In Iraq, the prescription is the opposite. Rather than an escalation of U.S. troops, which I do not believe will contribute to long-term success in Iraq, we should be beginning a phased redeployment of U.S. troops, as a way to put pressure on the Iraqi government to take responsibility for its own security and future.

The president is sending mixed signals. He has finally said that this is not an open-ended commitment in Iraq. But he's providing the Iraqis with an open-ended presence of American troops. We need to change course. It would be a great irony if the administration's emphasis on escalating our presence in Iraq caused it to ignore the threat facing Afghanistan, where those responsible for planning the September 11 attacks are still our enemies.

The president's team is pursuing a failed strategy in Iraq, as it edges closer to collapse.

LEMON: That is Senator Clinton holding a press conference with a -- a congressmen and also Senator Evan Bayh. They are just back from Iraq, offering their findings, saying that Afghanistan -- that Afghanistan, that's where we need more troops, less troops in Iraq.

We're going to take a short break here. We're right back, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And, also, you can continue to watch this press conference, we want to tell you, on the CNN Pipeline.

We will be right back.


LEMON: Let's go back now to Capitol Hill, a press conference happening live right now, Senator Hillary Clinton speaking.

Now, behind her, that is John McHugh. He is a congressman, Republican congressman, from New York. And, also, Evan Bayh is there, as well, from Indiana, a Democratic senator. They just got back from Iraq, and they're talking about what they saw.


CLINTON: ... Hagel and who have been working with Senator Levin, Senator Reid (ph), and others to present a bipartisan resolution of disapproval of the president's policy.

I certainly will support that. But, from what I have heard out of the administration thus far, I think we will eventually have to move to tougher requirements on the administration to get their attention.

This is a grave matter. America's vital national security interests are involved. And, certainly, the lives and the health of our young men and women in uniform is at stake. And the Iraqi people's future is as well.

So, I hope that we can start having a discussion in the Congress among ourselves and -- excuse me -- and with the administration that will lead to a change of course, and not adding more troops, pursuing a strategy that, under present circumstances, cannot be successful.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Thank you very much, Senator.

I will be very brief in my comments, so we can get to your questions.

I think Senator Clinton has provided an excellent synopsis and overview of the situation, much in accordance with my own thinking.

Look, the heart of the matter in Afghanistan is that there are reasons to be hopeful there. That country is more unified politically. They don't want to go back to the days of the Taliban. And they're -- they're -- they support our efforts.

This coming summer is going to be a critical period. And our military commanders and intelligence officials there have asked for the resources, so that we can get through this critical period, so the Afghans will know they don't have to hedge their bets, and kind of be sort of for the central government, but also sort of for the Taliban. so, we need to step up and provide these resources, the additional troops.

There was some concern on the part of our intelligence officials that they may actually be facing a reduction in our commitment to resources in that area to empower our war fighters with the intelligence they need to act against the Taliban. Cuts like that would be madness at this juncture. So, we need to step up our efforts there, because the trends are in our favor, if we do what needs to be done.

Iraq, regrettably, is a different situation. We are laboring under the legacy of civilian incompetence on our own part. What might have worked two or three years ago simply is much less likely to work today. And, so, we labor under that burden.

And the key element now emphasized by every one of our military commanders is that this is largely up to the Iraqis. We cannot do this for them. Only they can make the tough political decisions that are necessary to decide whether they want to live in one country together or not.

And, frankly, some of the signs are not very hopeful. In our meeting with the prime minister, he paid lip service to some of the president's proposals. But, when asked what he would really prefer, he indicated: Well, you know, I would kind of prefer that you give us the arms and get out of the way.

That was not an encouraging sign. They say the right things, but the question is whether they mean what they say. And, to date, the evidence suggests that, too often, they do not.

And I just simply end up by saying two final things. No matter how long we stay, how many of our brave troops die, how much we spend, this will not work out well until they get their act together.

For three and a half long years, we pursued the strategy of trying to reassure them, to build up their confidence in hopes they would take the right steps. That simply has not worked.

Now the time for clear, direct, stern dialogue has arrived and to say to them, unless they are willing to step up and engage in the steps that Senator Clinton outlined and I would add another one.

You know, we face a problem of Iranians in Iraq who are actively involved in facilitating the killing of Americans. When we apprehend these Iranians, we hear from the Iraqi government, well you have to let them go. That is not good enough. So the rules of engagement need to be changed.

We need to be able to deal with the Shia militia. We need to be able to deal with the Iranians. They have to take the other difficult political steps she outlined or this simply will not work.

We need to let them know that if they are not willing to do what it takes to help themselves, then they cannot expect brave American boys and girls to do that for them. The final thing I would say ...

LEMON: All right. That is Evan Bayh, senator just back from Iraq. Basically, he and Senator Clinton and Representative McHugh from New York saying that Iraq, there should not be more troops sent to Iraq.

They disagree wholeheartedly with the president's increase in troops there and they're saying that the focus should really be on Afghanistan because Afghanistan is a success story.

So increasing pressure will -- they will come under there especially when it concerns the Taliban. They are also mentioning that bipartisan resolution that's put together by Joe Biden and by Carl Levin and Senator Chuck Hagel saying that the Congress needs to have more discussions about changing the course in Iraq.

You can continue to watch this press conference on the CNN pipeline.

WHITFIELD: We've been telling you since the weekend that the investigation of Michael Devlin was still in its very early stages. He is the man suspected of kidnapping the two boys who were reunited with their families this week -- Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby.

Well, now the Associated Press is reporting that according to Lincoln County sheriff's office deputy in Missouri, they are now investigating whether Michael Devlin may be suspected in a third possible kidnapping of a 16-year-old boy back in 1991. This according to the Associated Press.

The Lincoln County sheriff's deputies say that Devlin is now, quote, "the most viable lead in this investigation" into the 1991 disappearance of Charles Arlin Henderson of Moscow Mills there in Missouri.

The boy's disappearance was similar to Shawn Hornbeck's in many respects according to these officials being quoted by the Associated Press. Both boys vanished at the age of 11 while riding their bikes on a rural road about an hour's drive from St. Louis.

Both boys were sleight, weighing about 100 pounds and had close cropped hair, this information coming from the Associated Press.

LEMON: And we also have a report from one of our CNN affiliates. CNN reporter Randy Jackson filed this report for KSDK.


RANDY JACKSON, KSDK REPORTER (voice-over): This afternoon, Lincoln County sheriff's detectives poured over volumes of case files and evidence bags from two unsolved missing children's cases.

13-year-old Bianca Noel Piper disappeared in March of 2005, while walking on a rural Foley road and 11-year-old Arlin Henderson vanished in July of 1991 in rural Moscow Mills.

The recent rescues of 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck after 4 and a half years of captivity and 13-year-old Ben Ownby who was abducted and held for four days, has given new hope to other families living in anguish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, anything's possible. So we're hoping and praying because that was a miracle, not just for one, but they found two.

JACKSON: The arrest of kidnapping suspect 41-year-old Michael J. Devlin is breathing new life into the Henderson and Piper cases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're starting to receive new tips, not in abundance, but a few tips that may be critical to either of our investigations. JACKSON: Detective Bartlett says they're probing two chilling leads -- did Devlin participate in volunteer searches for Bianca Piper to learn investigative techniques he would later use to elude authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a part of it, in it in the middle, or just watching from afar. He absolutely knew what was going on. I certainly believe that Michael Devlin was monitoring our search in the disappearance of Bianca Piper.

JACKSON: And he says there is a startling physical similarity Arlin Henderson and Ben Ownby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you put each of their missing photographs up, they're both -- it's almost scary to look at each and the comparisons between the two.


LEMON: And that was KSDK reporter Randy Jackson. He filed that report talking about according to the Associated Press, the man who police believe abducted the two Missouri boys responsible, might be responsible for the abduction of another boy some 16 years ago according to the Associated Press.

WHITFIELD: Very disturbing developments, but bizarre nonetheless. And we know from the start this case has been very bizarre. We're continuing to follow it. We'll have much more of the NEWSROOM right after this.


WHITFIELD: This story we continue to follow now. The Associated Press is reporting the Lincoln County sheriff's office out of Missouri is now investigating whether Michael Devlin, this man right here, may have abducted an 11-year-old boy back in 1991. This according to the Associated Press.

That case 16 years old now, further complicates the very complex case of two boys allegedly abducted by Devlin four years ago and last week. Those boys, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby being reunited with their families over this past weekend.

Tomorrow, Michael Devlin is expected to be arraigned in connection with the case of Hornbeck and Ben Ownby. But the startling development that Lincoln County sheriff's office is investigating whether this man may be also connected to a missing person's case of an 11-year-old 16 years ago.

LEMON: An American civilian and three security people were killed today in Baghdad, their convoy ambushed by gunmen.

Here's CNN's Arwa Damon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An American female staffer working for the National Democratic Institute and three of her bodyguards were killed in the capital around noon. The three guards identified as being of Iraqi, Hungarian and Croatian origin.

According to Les Campbell, the group's regional director for the Middle East, they were traveling in a small convoy from an NDI project when they were involved in some sort of a firefight.

There the four lost their live. Another two personnel were wounded, one of them described as being in serious, but stable condition, the other lightly injured.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the attack took place near to the Iraqi Islamic Party's headquarters. They did say, however, that the U.S. military arrived quickly on site, cordoned off the area and did not allow the Iraqi police or the Iraqi army on site.

The U.S. military, at this point, had no comment about the attack, is not disclosing any information. Now, the group's main effort in Iraq was to strengthen Iraq's civil societies as well as their political parties.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


WHITFIELD: The fight for Iraq, it's not army against army. It's fighters from one Islamic sect targeting another and the victims are mostly Iraqi civilians.

CNN's Michael Holmes is in Baghdad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I've been told that the neighbor next door was killed. Where was he killed at?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a story about people, people in a neighborhood, Dora, at the center of Baghdad sectarian bloodletting, but people who are willing to talk to U.S. soldiers about who's doing the killing.

We'd like to introduce you to these people, put a name and a face to their pain and their fear, but to identify those who speak of the horrors they face could be to sentence them to the same fate as their loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They ask for $2,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they take his car (ph).

HOLMES: Later, this family added that the Shiite neighbor and friend had been tortured, first his eyes gouged out.

(on camera): Do we know who did it? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We don't know. These days you don't know. People get killed left and right.

HOLMES (voice-over): Next door, a man angry at the killing gave names, telling us later the reason. Fifteen of his friends and family have been killed in recent months.

We're on patrol with soldiers from a Stryker unit, the 520th, looking for weapons and insurgents, but also the crucial information that could lead to the murderers on these streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up? We're there.

HOLMES: The military calls it human -- human intelligence. Many who ask the questions call it courage when someone answers those questions.

(on camera): Is it hard to get people to talk?

1ST SGT. BILL MONTGOMERY, U.S. ARMY: Yes, it is. They're scared. And there's a lot of intimidation by the local sectarian groups. And they've been very effective in scaring the local nationals. And they're not talking.

HOLMES (voice-over): First Sergeant Bill Montgomery, on his second tour in Iraq, has been on dozens of clearing operations like this. But we watch as he spends time, a lot of it, in each house, questioning. Sometimes he hits pay dirt.

MONTGOMERY: Tell him we've got a lot of reports of a lot of murders in this area. Who's responsible for the murders in this area?

HOLMES: A man we won't identify has an idea, and names someone he says is a local leader of the Mehdi army in the area. He follows the lead, asks more questions.

Then this: the accused man's house is raided. He's not here, and only one legal weapon is found. The man is put on a watchlist.

(on camera): Families in Dora told us they rarely leave the house these days. It's simply too dangerous. No one said they send their children to school anymore. Be seen in the wrong place by the wrong person, and you could so easily end up one of the many bodies found tortured and murdered in the streets of Baghdad.

(voice-over): At this house, a stark illustration of the sectarian threat here. We arrive to find this Sunni family packing. It's 11:15 a.m., and the previous night they had been told by Shiite militiamen to leave by noon, or they'd be killed and their house burned.

A dilemma for the soldiers. They want to stay the night to protect the family and, they hope, greet the insurgents. But the terrified family wants to leave. They insist, and so the soldiers came back to escort them out of Dora.

Another family forced from their home by Baghdad sectarian war.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Dora, Baghdad.


LEMON: Final words before a fatal crash. A transcript from Comair flight 5191 offers chilling insight into a deadly accident in Kentucky. Details straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Well, this story just in. Remember the case of the mother in San Francisco seen by witnesses to throw her three children to their deaths in the San Francisco Bay? Well, a judge is sparing her possible life sentences by declaring her, 24-year-old Lashaun Harris, criminally insane.

This comes one day after jurors found her guilty of second degree murder of her three boys. The defense lawyers had argued that Harris was schizophrenic and borderline mentally retarded and that she was convinced that she was acting on orders by God to plunge her 6-year- old son Treyshun Harris, 2-year-old son Taronta Greely, and 16-month- old son Joshua Greely into the bay. The judge agreed with the defense, saying that Harris, quote, "was incapable of knowing or understanding the quality of her acts."

LEMON: Well, the copilot was the only survivor of last summer's Comair crash in Kentucky and he is said to remember none of it. Forty-nine people died at Bluegrass Airport in Lexington. According to transcripts and audio recordings released today by the FAA, the co- pilot noted it was weird that the runway they were using in the predawn hours didn't have lights. Seconds later the plane crashed.

Now, it turns out the Comair jet was on the wrong runway, one meant for much smaller planes. Just one week earlier, the runway layout was altered by a construction project. Though the FAA had alerted airplanes and their cockpits, the maps and charts had not been updated.

WHITFIELD: Not truthful and not real. That's how a Spanish doctor who examined Fidel Castro last month describes reports the Cuban leader is gravely ill. One of the Spain's largest and most reliable newspapers cites sources who say Castro had three failed operations to correct an intestinal infection.

The paper says Castro is in serious condition, but in an exclusive interview with CNN, the doctor says Castro is showing, quote, "progressive improvement." He says -- the doctor says the newspaper reports are rumor.

LEMON: Out of control wildfires in the Australian brush. Crews are fighting blazes in two states where several homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people have fled a mountain resort. Chopper crews are on the lookout for campers who could still be in danger.

WHITFIELD: And when we come back, a special mission to save some stranded dolphins. The news keeps coming. We'll keep bringing it to you. You're watching CNN in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: All right. Cue the "Jaws" music. Maybe you can give me a little backup, Don.

LEMON: I don't really know the music.

WHITFIELD: Bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bana!

OK, well, there's one more great white shark. It's out there and it's in the waters off California. A six-footer was turned loose yesterday after four crowd-pleasing months at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Great whites are hard to keep in captivity, but Monterey has now successfully exhibited two.

LEMON: And a few skittish dolphins are still floundering around in a shallow cove on Long Island. About 20 had somehow gotten stuck in the shallows and six of them died, apparently from hunger or stress. Yesterday rescuers managed to herd several out back out to the bay, but a few seem spooked by a narrow inlet. Choppy seas have put today's rescue attempts on hold. Yes.

A wrap of all the action on Wall Street straight ahead.


LEMON: What do you say we check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer?

WHITFIELD: I think that's a great idea -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, guys.

The White House is under siege; a Republican split on Iraq and an about face on warrantless wiretapping. We're covering all sides of the story.

Plus, Senator Chuck Hagel joins us live. Find out why he's breaking ranks with the president.

Also, fugitive from Iraq. We'll find out how a former Iraqi government official escaped from an Iraqi prison and flew right into Chicago without anyone stopping him.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. A doctor who actually treated Fidel Castro takes on reports that the dictator is on his deathbed.

And the doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight. We'll find out why some scientists say the end is near.

All that, guys, coming up right here in the "SITUATION ROOM".

LEMON: Hey, Wolf, were you a Muhammad Ali fan?

BLITZER: Certainly. Everybody was. LEMON: Absolutely. He has a birthday today. In our memories he still floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. He's brash, brazen, doesn't have a mark on him. But today Muhammad Ali, Olympic gold medallist, heavy-weight champion boxer, Vietnam War protester, convert to Islam, turns 65. Now he's eligible for Social Security and still in the fight of his life against Parkinson's Disease. He'll mark today's milestone in his home in Arizona with his fourth wife, Lonnie.

Happy birthday.

WHITFIELD: And still truculent. Remember that scene with Howard Cosell? And he was like, "Truculent? I don't know what that is, but if it's good, I'm that."

LEMON: The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. Hey, Fred. You know, and liked Muhammad Ali's poetry. I found this poem. It's part of a long poem about his rematch with Joe Frazier. It says, "Ali comes out to meet Frazier, but Frazier starts to retreat. If Frazier goes back any further, he'll wind up in a ringside seat."

that's just one of his many great lines from Muhammad Ali.

LEMON: And you know...

WHITFIELD: He's good.

LEMON: ... in those days, we would gather around the TV. I mean, you would watched a heavyweight fight when it was those guys, especially when it was Frazier and Ali. Those were good times. You don't do that any more.

LISOVICZ: You don't find many people like Muhammad Ali, a true one-of-a-kind athlete, person and very charismatic. Happy birthday to him.


LISOVICZ: Now let's go to "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer.


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