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THE SITUATION ROOM

Rockets Fired Into Green Zone; Interview With Duncan Hunter

Aired January 25, 2007 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: 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 today's top stories.
Happening now, a bold attack on the center of the U.S. military power in Baghdad. Rockets fired right into the green zone and new fears that the training and weapons U.S. troops are giving Iraqi forces could one day be used against the United States.

Also, the Pentagon unveiling a new high tech and non-lethal tool for crowd control. It makes the targets feel like their skin is burning, but doesn't cause any lasting harm.

And a presidential meltdown by a leader accused of rape. We're going to have details of the tirade, the very serious accusations and why he can't be prosecuted, at least not now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A new wave of violence in Iraq, including an attack on the heart of the U.S.-led coalition forces. That comes on top of more bombings that left dozens of people dead across the capital.

All this amid growing concerns that U.S. forces right now may be arming and training a potentially future enemy.

More on that in just a moment.

But first, let's go to CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad with details of a very violent day -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at least 38 Iraqis were killed, at least another 100 wounded, in attacks across Baghdad. And Iraqi emergency police found 40 unidentified bodies strewn throughout the capital.

The deadliest attack, a suicide car bomber exploding in a very busy part of the city, killing at least 26 people. That attack took place in the heart of the capital. In fact, not too far from the heavily fortified green zone, where just hours earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki had urged lawmakers to support his new plan to crack down on violence and on sectarian attacks. We have been seeing part of that crack down, beginning with operations on Haifa Street, yesterday's eight hour gun battle, according to the U.S. military, to lay the groundwork for other units to eventually come in to clear, hold and rebuild that area.

We were back down on Haifa Street today. It was relatively calm. In fact, in one area of the street we saw children playing soccer. But where the fighting was concentrated, it really was something of a ghost town. The snipers, the battles, the intimidation campaign happening there really drove away most of the population and those that did remain behind, for the most part, stayed safely indoors -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting from Baghdad.

Good work.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that all the training and the weapons the United States is giving Iraqi forces could eventually backfire.

We're going to talk about that with our Baghdad-based correspondent, Michael Ware, in just a moment.

But first, let's get some background from CNN's Brian Todd.

He's watching the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those concerns stem from facts we're getting that despite all the U.S. efforts to build an army with the national identity, it's proving difficult for Iraqi troops to put their sectarian loyalties aside.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Every day they fight alongside Americans with the world's best military resources.

Could some of these Iraqi troops come back to haunt U.S. interests in Iraq?

A question posed to the vice president by Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE SITUATION ROOM")

BLITZER: How worried are you of this nightmare scenario -- that the U.S. Is building up this Shiite-dominated Iraqi government with an enormous amount of military equipment, sophisticated training, and then, in the end, they're going to turn against the United States?

CHENEY: Wolf, that's not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But several military and political analysts say it very well could. AARON MILLER, FORMER U.S. MIDEAST NEGOTIATOR: Without a political compact, without an agreement that creates a national identity for an Iraqi Army and the national police, I would argue it's a virtual certainty.

TODD: Observers in Baghdad tell CNN many Shias in Iraq's American forces have strong alliances with Iran. Major powers have been bitten before by armies they've supported. The United States once backed Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran. In Afghanistan, the U.S. through intermediaries, gave Islamic rebels sophisticated shoulder-fired missiles to use against Soviet forces in the 1980s.

STEVE COLONEL, AUTHOR, "GHOST WARS": A lot of the high technology weapons ended up in the hands of Islamist rebels who ended up joining the Taliban later and some who were protecting Osama bin Laden at the time that he formed al Qaeda.

TODD: In the early 1980s, Israeli forces trained and equipped the South Lebanon Army, made up of Christians and Shias, to fight Palestinians in Lebanon. That army later disintegrated.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Still, one former American military adviser says if U.S. forces don't train the Iraqis, someone else will, namely, Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, the U.S.

Brian Todd reporting.

So what's the likelihood of this nightmare scenario?

We're going to talk about that now with our Baghdad-based correspondent Michael Ware.

He covered -- he has covered the war from the very beginning.

He joins us from our New York bureau.

Here is the fundamental question -- Michael.

And you know these Iraqis now, having spent four years or so on the scene for us.

Are they Iraqis first or are they Kurds or Shia or Sunnis first?

Because so much of the U.S. strategy is based on this notion that they're more committed to being an Iraqi than to being a Kurd or a Shiite or a Sunni.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it very much varies. But overall, there certainly was a point in time where most of the ordinary people of that country where Iraqis first. I mean, with the great exception of the Kurds. The Kurds have always felt that they were a separate nation from Iraq itself. But certainly among the Arabs there was this perception that, yes, we're Iraqis before we're anything else.

Now, to some degree, that was underestimated, certainly when it came to the Sunni insurgency, because many of the Sunni insurgents, while they're being described as dead-enders, were actually fighting a cause of nationalism. They felt very Iraqi.

But what we now see is that people, ordinary people have been forced to choose sides in this great sectarian battle, because as far as they see it, Iraqi or not, the American forces aren't protecting them and their own government isn't protecting them, be it against al Qaeda or be it because many of the death squads that are targeting the Sunnis are from the government.

So very much that sense of being Iraqi is dissolving.

BLITZER: Sixty percent or so, if not more, of the Iraqis, are Shiites.

WARE: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: They're Arabs. They're Iraqi Arabs. They're Shiites. They're not Persians like the Shiites in Iran.

Talk a little bit about this Iranian connection or relationship with the Iraqi Shiites.

WARE: You know, this is a very complicated relationship, and you've rightly touched on some of the factors.

Now, it's -- it's, you know, Arab versus Persian, and it's Iraqi versus Iranian. So it's always been a very difficult relationship. But at the end of the day, I guess you can sum it up with, you know, any port in a storm.

I mean certainly under Saddam, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia fled to Iran for sanctuary. They were being persecuted, not so much for religious reasons, but for political reasons.

Now, many of these -- or a number of these people then actually joined Iranian armed forces or were formed into covert networks that worked against Saddam's regime.

now we see a lot of the apparatus still in place today now working against U.S. interests. But what we're seeing, by and large, is that whilst there's no great simpatico, there's an alignment of interests. And while that sustains, we will see a continuing growth of Iranian influence. Indeed, Iran has more sway in Baghdad than America does.

BLITZER: One final question, because we're almost out of time.

What's the bottom line as far as this nightmare scenario that Brian Todd was reporting on, that eventually these well-trained Iraqi forces, equipped by the United States, could turn against the United States?

WARE: Look, there's absolutely no question of it. In fact, I'm surprised that it is still a question. At the end of the day, there is absolutely no doubt that America is training and equipping, if not its enemies, then people who certainly don't share America's interests or agenda.

Now, these forces per se won't turn directly, one-on-one, against American troops. But they will continue to further their interests, which so happen more closely to align with Iran's than America's.

On the flip side, the Sunni, you could argue that America is training elements of the insurgency, its sympathizers or even future al Qaeda recruits.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us.

Michael, thanks very much.

Let's stay in New York.

Jack Cafferty has got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that stuff is just fascinating. It occurs to me, we should get Michael Ware to go down to Washington and hold some seminars for the people in the White House, because it seems to me listening to his thoughts on what's going on over there, he makes a lot more sense and has a lot greater knowledge than most of the stuff I'm hearing coming out of the administration.

BLITZER: Maybe they should invite him to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

CAFFERTY: Or just to come talk to them and maybe if they'd listen -- well, now, we don't have time to get into that.

In the beginning, a Senate resolution opposing President Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq seemed like a good idea. Now everybody wants one.

Two groups of senators, one led by Democrats, one led by Republicans, have already come out with non-binding resolutions opposing problems plans to increase troops in Iraq.

And now Senator John McCain, who is determined to be all things to all people, says he's working on a resolution.

And all these resolutions are symbolic. They mean nada.

In the meantime, nothing else is getting done. Democrats promised they'd come riding in on a white horse and get to work solving the nation's problems.

Here's a note to the Democratic senators -- spending days and weeks drafting and crafting and debating resolutions one after another about the war in Iraq when the resolutions, even if they're passed, mean absolutely nothing, is a waste of your time and my money. If you support the president, vote against the resolution. If you don't, vote to get the hell out of Iraq.

But in the meantime, isn't there something else you could be doing?

It's not like we're short of unsolved problems around here.

Here's the question -- how many Senate resolutions on Iraq are enough?

E-mail us at caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

It didn't take them long, three weeks, is it -- to get bogged down on non-binding resolutions. Next week we'll have debates about this stuff. It just makes your teeth hurt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack we'll be back with your e-mails shortly. Up ahead, fiery passions in Lebanon proving hard to put out. We're going to take you live to Beirut for details of a new round of deadly demonstrations.

Also, hot air -- it's the secret behind the Pentagon's newest tool for non-lethal crowd control. We're going to show you how it works.

Plus, it took a U.S. invasion to get him out of Panama. Now, Manuel Noriega is about to get out of prison. We'll have details of why it may be only temporary.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now in Beirut, people have been warned to simply stay off the streets. There's a curfew in effect meant to try to calm deadly tensions between two groups with opposing views on the Lebanese government.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Beirut.

He's joining us now live with the latest details.

The pictures we saw earlier today were horrible -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there was a lot of violence here earlier. It's been growing over the past several months. The Hezbollah-led opposition to the government camped out in a non-violent peaceful protest right behind me outside the prime minister's office for the last 50 or so days.

A couple of days ago, they called a national strike. That was violent. It's raised tensions here. And at the university today, those tensions sparked off in a very violent way. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Troops confront an angry, rock throwing mob.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Armed with rocks and intent on a fight, hundreds of ferocious and angry young men converged on Beirut's Arab University. Violence sparked in the late afternoon by clashes between pro- and anti-government factions inside the campus.

As the situation escalated, vehicles were set on fire. Anyone who could, scrambled to save them. Dense black smoke billowed up from the university.

Lebanese Army soldiers on foot and in armored personnel carriers pushed forward toward the rock throwing youths. From the tops of vehicles, in the midst of the chaos, appealing for calm.

(on camera): Right now, the army is holding back here. The violence is over there where the students are. There's a lot of gunfire going on. But at the moment the army holding back, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what they should do.

(voice-over):

BLITZER: At one point, a crowd of young Sunni men setting fire to a Hezbollah flag, as inflammatory an insult as any can be here. From within the battle zone, both soldiers and civilians stretch it out as the confrontation continued to flare.

At least three people killed and more than 150 injured. Volley after volley of gunfire blasted into the air by soldiers in an effort to calm and separate the rock throwing crowds.

In nearby side streets and on highways, the Lebanese Army flooded the area with troops to contain the violence close to its epicenter, at the university. Not long after, they called a curfew, from 8:30 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ROBERTSON: And the prime minister has called for calm on the streets and a leader of the opposition here, the al-Hezbollah led opposition, Hassan Nasrallah, has also called, in the strongest language, for his supporters to stay calm, stay at home and do what the army here tells them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, be careful over there.

We're going to check back with you.

Nic Robertson is on the scene for us in a very, very volatile situation in Beirut right now.

Meanwhile, how might chaotic crowds like the ones we just saw in Beirut be better controlled? The United States military has a new weapon to try to do that.

Let's get some details from our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, with U.S. troops getting more non-traditional missions -- everything from peacekeeping to pacification -- the U.S. military is looking at giving them some non-traditional weapons to help deal with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Troops confront an angry rock throwing mob. This scene is real today in Lebanon, where at least four people were killed.

This scene is not real. At Moody Air Force Base foreign policy in Valdosta, Georgia, the U.S. military simulates a hostile crowd to show off the latest thing in non-lethal crowd dispersal technology.

Enter the Active Denial System, a sort of souped up microwave blaster mounted on a Humvee. Its invisible beam actually uses millimeter waves, less powerful than microwaves, but able to create an intense burning sensation on skin from as far away as five football fields. The idea is to force people to flee while inflicting no lasting harm.

COL. KIRK HYMES, JOINT NON-LETHAL WEAPONS DIRECTORATE: The sensation of the Active Denial System is much like opening your oven and getting hit with a blast of hot air. Your response is to want to move out of the way, move back.

MCINTYRE: To make the point, the military gave some reporters a chance to feel the heat, which is roughly 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!

MCINTYRE: Even non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets, tasers and tear gas can be deadly if misused. And in theory, the heat ray could cause serious injury if people were subjected to prolonged exposure.

But the military insists the whole idea is to give troops an option to prevent casualties, from a safe distance away.

COL. JOHN DECKNICK, U.S. AIR FORCE: Rubber pellets, pepper spray, riot batons involve getting closer. And if you're close, then you're at danger and in danger. Distance and shielding is the key.

MCINTYRE: Human rights advocates contacted by CNN say they want to see more data about the health effects and worry about the technology falling into the wrong hands.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: But the Pentagon says more than 10,000 people have been subjected to the weapon since it began testing over a decade ago and none have required medical attention. Still, deployment on the battlefield is years away, Wolf, because full scale production has not yet begun.

MCINTYRE: We'll watch it together, that production, that development, together with you, Jamie, at the Pentagon.

Coming up, a former dictator about to be released after more than a decade in a U.S. prison. We're going to show you what Panama's Manuel Noriega intends to do right away.

Plus, a cold case heats up -- charges file in connection with two killings more than 40 years ago.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring all the wires. She's getting all the feeds coming in.

Let's check in with her to see what other stories are making news -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things to tell you about, Wolf.

In Mississippi, an arrest in a case dating back to the early days of the civil rights movement. A 71-year-old reputed Ku Klux Klansman has been charged in connection with the 1964 abductions and deaths of two young black men. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today announced that James Seale is charged with kidnapping rather than murder. Gonzales says after all this time, that is the charge they're most likely to prove in a court of law. Seale has pleaded not guilty.

There is a new chapter in the story of Anne Frank. "Time" magazine says letters from Anne's father, Otto Frank, are set to be released next month. They're said to chronicle his desperate attempts to get his family out of Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The family went into hiding in an Amsterdam attic in July of 1942. Of course, they stayed there until they were found and arrested two years later.

In new that could impact small businesses, President Bush traveled to Missouri to hawk his health care plan. He toured a suburban Kansas City hospital and then he joined a roundtable discussion of health care initiatives.

Mr. Bush's plan seeks to make health insurance more affordable by taxing employer-provided plans. It would also give tax deductions to other workers.

The slide in home sales continues. Sales of existing homes dipped 8/10 of a percent in December. For all of 2006, sales were down 8.4 percent. That is the largest annual drop in 17 years. One economist says recovery has not yet begun, but there are signs the housing market is stabilizing. Take a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you shortly, Carol.

Thank you.

And coming up, a president facing rape charges launching a tirade now against his accusers and the news media. We're going to have details of the case that's rocking Israel right now.

Plus, he's the newest official candidate for the White House and immigration is central to his campaign. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter standing by to talk about all of this live with us.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, the U.S. has given more than $14 billion in aid to Afghanistan since 2001. Now, a request for even more. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying the administration will ask Congress for another $10.6 billion in additional funds.

Right now, no people and no cars are allowed on the streets in Beirut. A Lebanese official says a curfew is in effect after deadly clashes between people who support the pro-Western Lebanese government and the people who support Hezbollah. Three people are dead and more than 150 are wounded.

And who said what and when -- today in the CIA leak trial, a former spokeswoman for the vice president testified she told Dick Cheney and his then chief of staff, Louis "Scooter" Libby, that former Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and she says she did so before Libby says he learned about it from a reporter.

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

He's a 14-term congressman, former chairman of the House Armed Services.

Now, California Republican Duncan Hunter can claim another title -- presidential candidate.

Duncan Hunter is joining us now live from South Carolina, where he made it official earlier today.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Immigration, border control, that's one of the key issues you're running on. And that's one of the issues where you disagree with the president, is that right? HUNTER: That's right, Wolf. I built the border fence in San Diego. We knocked down crime by 50 percent, knocked down smuggling in that -- in that area by more than 90 percent. And I wrote the provisions that the bill that the president signed that would extend the border fence across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas some 700-plus miles.

That will have a salutary effect on border control. And I think since 9/11, border control is now a national security issue. Primarily, not just an immigration issue.

BLITZER: The president, though, says that's important, border security, but you need a temporary guest worker program and you need a pathway for citizenship for millions -- of millions of the illegal immigrants who are here right now.

I take it that's where you strongly disagree.

HUNTER: That's where I disagree, Wolf, for this reason: Every time the president talks about amnesty or guest worker, massive arrests take place, or the arrests go up at the border, because people think they have to come in and get under the wire. And they overwhelm the Border Patrol and the National Guard that he sent down to try and stem the crossing.

So, we've got to get the sides up on the house before we decide how to adjust the front door. Right now, there's no sides on the house. And once we get the fence up and we have a secure border, then we can address how we're going to adjust that front door and let folks in legally.

But right now, the idea of creating another magnet that will make people -- human nature being what it is, I have to rush for the border because the U.S. is giving benefits, and if I get under the wire, I'll get there before they have a secure border, that defeats our purposes of the Border Patrol and the National Guard he sent down, and the whole idea of securing this border.

BLITZER: You know the president and his advisers deny they support amnesty.

HUNTER: Well, I know. But the problem -- the problem is, when this gets interpreted -- you know, we had 155,000 people come in last year from Mexico who weren't citizens of Mexico. They were people from every country in the world who watched television, and this gets interpreted, this guest worker things, as being amnesty. And so every time we talk about that, you see people pack the bags and head for the United States illegally.

Let's get the sides up on the house. And once we have a secure border, then we can talk about adjusting the front door. But if we get the sides up, we can tell people, if you want to come into America, knock on the front door, because the back door is going to be closed because the fence is going to be up.

BLITZER: So I just want to make sure I fully understand your position. By even talking about a temporary worker program and a pathway towards citizenship, the president, according to you, is actually making the border situation worse because people are trying to rush in?

HUNTER: Well, actually, when the president has mentioned amnesty in the past, you have seen more people trying to get across the border. And you have seen -- by statistics, you have seen the arrests on the border go up. So it does have an attractive dimension to it when the president does that.

And I think if we start talking about a guest worker program, attendant that will be some type of discussion about amnesty or handling folks who are already here. The message to the world, Wolf, will be, you better get in under the wire, because after this batch of folks get amnesty or get some kind of special treatment, others won't. And human nature being what it is, people will be packing their bags. And history has shown us that in fact arrests and interdictions do go up when they think there is a real or perceived benefit to get inside the United States.

BLITZER: As you begin your presidential campaign, do you think you'll want to be campaigning side by side with the president? In other words, do you want him to go out there and campaign with you?

HUNTER: Well, sure. You know, I support the president. And I have made those -- and I have made speeches on the House floor in support of the president. And I have stood with the president on sending reinforcements to the war-fighting theater in Iraq for which the president is immensely unpopular.

I don't this is a matter of popularity polls. I think you do what's right in this country. I won't look at popularity poll with respect to Iraq.

I think that since he's got the reinforcements already on the way, elements of the 82nd Airborne are in -- are in Iraq right now, as you know, it's time for us to get behind him and speak with one voice on this sending of reinforcements into that theater. I stand with the president on that. But I do disagree with him pretty strongly on whether or not we should have a so-called comprehensive immigration policy while the border is still out of control.

BLITZER: I'm going to just put up on the screen our latest CNN- Opinion Research Corporation poll. Registered Republicans -- you're down at the bottom -- Giuliani, McCain, Gingrich, to a certain degree they're up at the top. You have a big struggle ahead of your right now if you're going to capture that Republican nomination.

HUNTER: Well, you know something, Wolf? We won the Arizona Straw Poll, and that surprised everybody. And, you know, as I start to talk about issues of strong national defense, border control, two- way street on trade, I think that's going to resonate with the American people. And I think we'll do well.

BLITZER: I think we'll see you at that first Republican presidential debate we're going to co-sponsor in New Hampshire, Congressman. That will be in early April.

Thanks very much for joining us.

HUNTER: Great. Thank you, Wolf. I'll see you there.

BLITZER: Good. Maybe we'll see you in Washington before then.

And this coming up. A former dictator will, in fact, get a second chance. That would be Manuel Noriega. There are new developments regarding the imprisonment of one of the world's most famous prisoners of war.

And the president of Israel -- get this -- facing rape and other sexual assault allegations. But he's not backing down from his critics and his accusers. He's blasting them in a blistering verbal attack.

You're going to hear what he had to say.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They are shocking claims sending shock waves through Israel. Today Israel's president gave up his official duties but refused to outright quit.

President Moshe Katsav faces rape and other sex assault allegations. He says he's innocent, the victim of conspiracy. And today he lashed out his critics.

Our Atika Shubert is in Jerusalem with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If there were any doubts that Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, was temporarily incapacitated, this appearance did little to dispel them.

PRES. MOSHE KATSAV, ISRAEL (through translator): You shut up! I have been quiet for six months!

SHUBERT: Local station Channel 2 was singled out for verbal thrashing in a 50-minute tirade attacking the police, the press, and his accusers. He blamed the media for leading a "witch hunt based on false charges."

Channel 2's news director takes the criticism in stride.

SHALOM KITAL, NEWS DIRECTOR, ISRAEL CHANNEL 2: Let's be frank about it. His problem is -- was the legal system, not with the press.

SHUBERT: But as long as Katsav is president, he is immune from prosecution, even during his leave of absence, which by law could last up to six months. But if the attorney general does indict him, Katsav has promised to resign. After this performance, media polls show more than 70 percent want Katsav to resign now.

(on camera): It's something of an Israeli political tradition to come down to the market and get a peek into voters' minds here. So we've come down to ask people here what they think about the case against President Katsav.

(voice over): Most we talked to wanted him to resign, but this shopkeeper staunchly defended the president.

"He's a good man, I tell you," he said. "These women are lying to the country."

But another said Katsav failed to convince. "Any man in that situation would defend himself in any way possible," he says. "I hope he was successful in convincing some people, but most of the public didn't accept it."

This religious man blamed it on politicians' lack of faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they don't keep that relationship with God, that's what happens. You find that people can be crooks, can be dishonest.

SHUBERT: But this woman says it's actually a good thing, at least he'll have his day in court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you close your eyes it doesn't get better. You have to look at the problem and repair it.

SHUBERT: The one thing most Israelis agree on, they want what has become a national embarrassment to end as soon as possible.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's get some more on this and what's happening in the Middle East. Our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, former defense secretary, is here.

It's largely a ceremonial job, the presidency, in Israel. The prime minister has most of the political power. But this is really not something that's good for Israel right now, this embarrassment.

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it's an embarrassment, but we have to look at the other side of this. This is a democracy with a free and very vigorous press, and a system which puts sunlight on allegations like this. And we'll find out the truth or falsity of those allegations as times goes on. But I think this is a democratic system at work, and it's pretty rough, and he's feeling that heat right now.

BLITZER: The prime minister, Ehud Olmert, he's got his own problems right now. He's been politically weakened as result of the war with Hezbollah last summer in Lebanon, some other political problems he's facing. On the Palestinian side, there's still bitterness between the Fatah and the Hamas sections. It's what, a year since Hamas formed their government? And Condoleezza Rice is now trying to jump-start this process.

Is there any hope?

COHEN: I think there is hope. And I think the fact that Secretary Rice was in the region, is now calling for a reenergized policy toward jump-starting the Middle East peace plan, even though there's difficulty right now, it's important that we be seen as really working to try to bring the parties together, to narrow their differences.

I have been working with the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East. And that's a broad group of people, some 275 prominent Americans joined by nearly 10,000 signatories on an Internet petition, to try to show the president, the Congress and others that there is strong support for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

BLITZER: What specifically would you like to see the president, the Bush administration, do?

COHEN: What I want to see is Secretary Rice really committed to this particular effort. She's indicated she is. She has to make perhaps more trips back. We have to see perhaps a designation of an individual to monitor this day by day to bring the parties together, but to show that this is a sustained commitment on the part of President Bush.

BLITZER: Is that doable in these final two years as a political campaign gets going, and as Iraq clearly is dominating so much of the administration's attention? Afghanistan now is heating up. Everyone expects a spring offensive from the Taliban there.

COHEN: Not to mention Lebanon.

BLITZER: Right. And Lebanon, we saw what was happening there today.

You're saying that it's doable even in the midst of all of this?

COHEN: I'm saying it's necessary to try to do it. Whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen. But I think the effort has to be made.

We have to send a signal that the U.S. is committed to brining it. It's about -- a majority of the Palestinian people want it. The majority of the Israelis want it.

We need to be the only country that can really help bring this about. So, in this particular case, difficult as it is, I think it's important that we try.

BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, based on history, that if the United States isn't involved, it's not going to happen. COHEN: There is a notion that somehow because President Clinton tried and was unsuccessful, therefore we need to step back. But when we step back, we see what has happened. The violence continues. The tensions in the region continue.

We need to make this effort. And I'm hopeful that Secretary Rice will -- she has taken this leadership role. I hope that she will continue it. We need to bring her support and to that of the president.

BLITZER: Let's wish her luck on that diplomatic challenge. And it is a huge challenge, as all of us know.

Secretary Cohen, thanks for coming.

COHEN: Glad to be with you.

BLITZER: And up ahead, it's a TV show millions of you couldn't wait to see. Who leaked the hit show "24" to the Internet before it aired? Our Internet team is on the story.

And will former dictator and current prisoner Manuel Noriega be a free man?

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou's getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He's going to tell us what he's working on.

Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hi, Wolf.

Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern here, we'll be reporting on a new revolt within the Republican Party over the president's plan to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

We'll have that special report.

Also, new concerns that communist China is using U.S. military technology to modernize its military. Is the U.S. Commerce Department about to reverse course and toughen controls on American exports?

We'll have that story.

And the Bush administration, corporate elites moving forward with their plans to create a North American union among this country, Canada, and Mexico, without the consent of the American people or Congress. One of the leading supporters of the plan, some consider him the architect, Robert Pastor (ph), joins us.

I'll also be talking with Senator Wayne Allard about his efforts to stop illegal aliens from stealing your identity.

All of that, and I'll explain how I unfortunately and unintentionally turned the end of "The View" today into a cliffhanger.

We'll straighten it out.

All of that and more at 6:00 p.m. Eastern at the top of the hour. Please join us.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We're going to want to see that. Lou Dobbs was on "The View" earlier today. And I think your viewers and my viewers, Lou, are going to want to see something different. We don't often see you on "The View."

DOBBS: It's going start and end with an apology to Rosie O'Donnell for not giving her a straightforward answer.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Lou. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: You got it. Thanks.

BLITZER: Lou's coming up in a few minutes.

The former Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, is scheduled to be released from a U.S. prison in just months, almost 18 years after an American invasion ousted him from power. But his legal problems are far from over.

Let's go back to CNN's Carol Costello. She's in New York. She's got some details -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he is in for more legal trouble. But, Wolf, looking back on led American troops to invade a country and topple its leader, it wasn't the fear of weapons of mass destruction or harboring terrorist groups. It was, in large part, the fear of cocaine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): In September, Manuel Noriega will be going home to Panama. A prisoner of war jailed on U.S. soil since the early '90s, he'll be released from a Florida prisoner to go home and be a grandpa.

FRANK RUBINO, NORIEGA'S ATTORNEY: He wants to return to Panama, not -- and I overemphasize this -- not re-engage in politics or any kind of a public life. He wants to the quietly retire, enjoy his family, his wife, his children, and especially his grandchildren.

COSTELLO: It's hard to imagine the former dictator as a grandfather. Back in 1989, he, not Saddam Hussein, was the brutal dictator behind not the war on terror, but the war on drugs. The attorney general at the time, Dick Thornburgh, calls him today, "... the kind of oppressor we were trying to fight for democracy."

So in December of '89, American troops invaded. The goal -- to topple Noriega, arrest him and try him on drug trafficking and racketeering charges in Florida. Noriega managed to escape, fleeing to the Vatican's Panama City embassy. U.S. troops used the rock band Styx's "Renegade" to drive him out.

Finally, victory.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it's a major victory against the drug lords, and I hope it sends a lesson to drug lords here and around -- around the world that they'll pay a price if they continue to poison the lives of our kids.

COSTELLO: Noriega denies to this day he was a drug lord. But his lawyer says he feels he got a fair shake when he was tried and convicted in Florida. When he gets back to Panama, Noriega is likely to face murder charges for crimes committed against his regime. It's something his lawyer says he's ready to face.

RUBINO: Not everybody likes him and not everybody hates him. But I think his popularity rating in Panama is much higher than George Bush's rating is in the United States. So he'll probably do much better in Panama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, most everybody, except Noriega's lawyer, says he was an oppressive leader who was accused of the death of his political opponents and a U.S. Marine. President Bush's attorney general at the time, Dick Thornburgh, says he has no regrets about the invasion, calling Noriega a genuine threat to supporters of democracy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens to Noriega.

Carol, thank you.

Are spies ready for social networking? The CIA is using facebook.com, the hugely popular Web site for college students, to recruit new agents.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is looking into this story -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, you can only apply for the CIA online. But they do send out recruiters. And a couple of recruiters went out to a college career fair and they noticed that students were telling each other that the CIA was there using FaceBook, the online social networking site.

So they decided that maybe they should put their information out there on FaceBook, too, and did essentially what amounts to an advertising buy. They did a sponsored group on FaceBook.

It's a two-month project, and they say that they're not collecting any information about students. This is not particularly interactive other than this video. But they say they are giving students a way to find out more information about them. They have a full Web site dedicated to recruiting and careers. Now, it seems to be working. They have close to 3,000 member of their group so far. And we spoke with FaceBook and they say that students join the social networking groups as a form of self- expression. And increasingly, they are finding that companies, like Microsoft, and now an agency like the CIA, are using these FaceBook groups to do their recruiting and get students more involved -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. The CIA needs you. They need a lot of people out there.

Thanks very much, Jacki, for that.

Up next, how many Senate resolutions on Iraq are enough? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Wolf.

The question is: How many Senate resolutions on Iraq are enough? It seem like everybody wants one these days.

Doug writes from Honeoye, New York, "One would be enough if it was worded properly. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will either listen to the American people or we (the Congress) will begin impeachment proceedings against both of you and soon Nancy will be president."

John in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, "As many as it takes for the Democrats to feel good about themselves without taking responsibility for anything."

Sigrid, Black Forest, Colorado, "One non-binding resolution is too many. All this dithering over something that means zippidedoodah shows a total lack of moral fiber on the part of our representatives. Vote to stop President Bush, period. If he continues to ignore the Congress and the will of the people, impeach him."

Barbara in Wisconsin writes, "The question should be, 'When will the Senate stop this lunacy and do what needs to be done to start bringing our troops home from Iraq in a planned deployment?'"

Matt in Wisconsin, "If I wanted meaningless, do-nothing resolutions, I would look to the United Nations. I'd want my government to actually do the people's work instead of book tours and photo ops."

And Paula writes from Huntsville, Alabama, "Is this the same kind of question: How many senators does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the others have to say that they were part of the process."

if you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online -- Wolf BLITZER: See you in an hour, Jack. Thank you.

Episodes of the popular TV drama "24" leaked and posted on YouTube prior to the premier. Who posted them online?

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has some details -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, YouTube has now been served with a subpoena demanding they identify a user 20th Century Fox says uploaded entire episodes of "24" and of "The Simpsons" before they premiered on television. The video-sharing Web site Live Digital also received a subpoena.

Episodes of "24" turned up online at least six days before they premiered on television. And when the sites were alerted, they immediately took them down. But we had a look around today and we found that you could still find them. Like, for example, on this Swedish file-sharing Web site we found them there and we contacted the owner about that -- he was on vacation in Thailand -- and asked him if he was worried about being sued. He said he wasn't losing any sleep over it.

As for those users who put them up on YouTube and on the Live Digital site, Live Digital says they'll turn over any identifying information. YouTube has yet to respond -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

This note, finally. Earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM, in our story about the controversy of President Bush's library, we misidentified SMU's vice president of development as the Reverend Weaver. Reverend Weaver opposes the library and is leading the effort to try to keep it off the campus.

Our apologies to Reverend Weaver for this mistake.

Remember, we're back in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Much more of THE SITUATION ROOM coming up. Weekdays we're here from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. as well.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

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