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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Details About TB Patient Andrew Speaker; Outrage Over Iraq
Aired May 31, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, we now know his name and how he's being treated. We're learning stunning new details about the man with that rare and potentially deadly form of tuberculosis including that his father-in- law actually worked on tuberculosis research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also outrage over Iraq -- one U.S. governor says don't send troops into Iraq's killing fields without giving everything they need to keep them safe. He is making his demands directly to President Bush.
And who would run the federal government if the leadership were wiped out? It appears not all the branches have a so-called Plan B in the event of a possible doomsday attack.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're learning new details tonight about the man with that rare and potentially deadly form of tuberculosis. Right now he's isolated in a room. A special air system stops the air he's breathing from circulating back into the hospital. And anyone who visits him must wear a mask.
He told ABC News what started this health scare, he says, and he's asking for forgiveness from people onboard his flights. Meanwhile there's a stunning development regarding the man's connection to the CDC.
Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching all of this unfold. Mary, tell us about this man, the connection, to Andrew Speaker, the guy who flew around at least much of the world with tuberculosis. What's going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, strange new twists and ironic ones to say the least. The patient's father-in-law is not only a microbiologist at the CDC, but he works for the agency's division of tuberculosis elimination and that's just part of it.
SNOW (voice-over): The TB patient who flew on transatlantic flights against the government's wishes is someone familiar with rules. He's a personal injury lawyer. Law enforcement and medical sources identify the patient as 31-year-old Andrew Speaker. And in a strange coincidence Speaker's father-in-law works at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta researching tuberculosis. Dr. Robert Cooksey tells CNN he was not involved in the decisions his son-in-law made on traveling to Europe.
ROBERT COOKSEY, FATHER-IN-LAW OF ANDREW SPEAKER: I do not have TB nor have I ever had TB. My son-in-law's TB didn't originate from myself or the CDC labs which operate under the highest levels of biosecurity.
SNOW: Speaker is now undergoing tests for his rare drug resistance form of TB at a specialized medical center in Denver. As for how he contracted TB...
DR. GWEN HUITT, NAT'L JEWISH MEDICAL CENTER: It appears from the history that he most likely acquired this particular strain of tuberculosis from another person somewhere, somehow.
SNOW: Meanwhile passengers who shared flights with Speaker want to know if they have been infected. Beth Hawkins was on the same Air France flight from Atlanta to Paris as Speaker. The CDC is recommending passengers be tested for TB, which requires an initial test and a follow up eight weeks later.
BETH HAWKINS, PASSENGER ON AIR FRANCE FLIGHT: If by chance we did get infected it's possible that it could show up negative tomorrow because the incubation period is so long.
SNOW: Health officials say they advised Speaker not to travel. But the TB patient went ahead with his wedding and honeymoon plan. Mark Hill was also on the Air France flight.
MARK HILL, PASSENGER ON AIR FRANCE FLIGHT: If he was told definitely that that could be a problem for other passengers then I think it was somewhat irresponsible for him to get on that flight and endanger people like myself.
SNOW: Now other passengers who also spoke with CNN have also called Speaker's decision to fly irresponsible. The CDC is still trying to track down those passengers they believe to be most at risk -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we know where Speaker, Mary, himself, was infected?
SNOW: We don't know. And doctors say that what they're really looking at is the fact that he's traveled extensively over a six-year period and that is really what they seem to be focusing in on.
BLITZER: Mary Snow is watching this story for us -- Mary, thanks very much.
If any of those people who traveled with this man become infected, what legal options might they be able to pursue. Joining us now our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin -- he's in New York. Let's talk about the legal issues right now. First of all, based on everything you know, did Andrew Speaker himself an attorney, did he commit a crime?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: At this point it seems unlikely. Everything depends I think both as a civil matter and a criminal matter on whether someone gets infected because of his actions. If there's no infection as we obviously all hope, I think there probably would be a rule of no harm, no foul. Even though it's incredibly irresponsible what he did, it probably isn't a crime or even a civil offense.
BLITZER: But if someone's infected there's what's called manslaughter and potentially that could be a charge.
TOOBIN: Oh, absolutely. I mean I think the analogy you have to draw is if he knew that he had this potentially fatal disease and went ahead and what makes the case against him, if there would be a case against him, so potentially damaging is because he took the CDC's advice and then went to Canada instead of the United States.
He avoided flying into the United States. He avoided American carriers, so he knew he had a problem. But instead he went to Canada and then apparently drove across the border. So you know I think that shows consciousness of guilt. If, of course, someone gets sick -- if someone gets sick I think the analogy would be to the Aids cases we have seen. People who know they're infected with the Aids virus, who have unprotected sex with someone without informing them or share needles with them, they have been charged with crimes and I think a prosecutor might see a similar analogy here.
BLITZER: And, you know, there's the issue of mental anguish, these people, hundreds of people who flew in these various flights together with Andrew Speaker, they now have to be tested. Eight weeks they're going to be tested again. And now we're told that sometimes the incubation process could last for years.
They may test negative, but a few years from now they could show up with tuberculosis. These people have got to live with this for a long time. What recourse legally do they have against him?
TOOBIN: Well if nothing happens, if they're not found to have TB, I think it would be a long shot to say that it was some kind of tort, some kind of civil offense by flying on these planes, even though they didn't get TB. But if they do get TB, I think would have a very strong case against him.
And I think we may be focusing too much on this plane issue. I mean yes of course those people are at risk because they were in a confined space, but what about the other people he potentially exposed in his law practice. What if he sat across someone for three hours and had a deposition? I would be nervous if I was that person. What if you know you had -- you were a co-worker of his? What if you were, you know, a cab driver in a cab with him, his dry cleaner? I mean these -- there are a list of people that he potentially exposed is not limited to the aircraft passengers. It's everyone and apparently he's been infected for quite a number of months. BLITZER: Because -- and I have spoken to some of the passengers today -- his fellow passengers and the mental anguish they and their families are going to be going through over these coming weeks, months and maybe even years, that's obviously going to be not necessarily even in the back of their minds. That's going to be very worrisome.
TOOBIN: And not just the airline passengers, absolutely. I mean it is a very scary thing. I mean think if you had the next office to this fellow, think if you, you know worked in -- you were a paralegal or a secretary in his office where you saw him every day and he was in the office for hour after hour. Yes, it appears the kind of TB that he had is not immediately contagious, but it's a very scary situation.
You know, personally at this point, I think there probably isn't a lawsuit for someone who doesn't get infected and certainly we hope no one gets infected, but I wouldn't be surprised so see someone file one just on the theory that you're putting forward, that there was this intentional infliction of emotional distress by his irresponsible selfish decision not to get immediate treatment and stay away from other people.
BLITZER: Out senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin -- Jeff, thank you very much.
And later this hour we're going to be hearing from the man's father-in-law, the individual who actually works in tuberculosis research at the CDC and some other people who flew on those planes with him. We'll also hear from his father as well.
Meanwhile, other important news we're following. A top U.S. military commander now casting doubts on the White House timeline for determining whether the current troop increase in Iraq is actually succeeding. He's also broaching a new tactic to help end the sectarian violence.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us. Barbara, what exactly is this commander suggesting?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno is the number two commander in Iraq, in charge of day-to-day operations, one of the most candid senior officers in the U.S. military. He had one-hour press conference today with the Pentagon press corps and he laid a marker on the table. He says he's not going to get backed into a corner, a political corner about that September deadline to report on progress in the troop buildup. And he did sound a note of skepticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO, U.S. ARMY: I have to wait and see what happens. And if I think I might need a little more time, I will give an assessment, say, but I'd like to have more time. And if I don't think I have -- I need more time and I can make an adequate assessment that's accurate, I will do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) STARR: Now, Wolf, General Odierno did go on to say extensively that there are many signs of progress in Iraq, but he said the bottom line is it's still not enough, Wolf.
BLITZER: He also spoke of a possible cease-fire with some of these insurgents. What was he suggesting there?
STARR: Well, there is a bit of a new strategy, if you will. U.S. troop commanders are now going to try and talk to insurgents, to tribal leaders and religious leaders across Iraq in local areas, and indeed as General Odierno says try and reach cease fire, local cease- fire agreements with them. It's an acknowledgment that they need to bring these people into the fold.
But as you might expect one of the key questions is are they going to sign cease-fires with insurgents who may have been responsible for killing U.S. troops? General Odierno says that will be a case-by-case basis and any evidence of involvement of killing of U.S. troops, of course, would be taken into account -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara's watching this at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon also has some new casualty figures out tonight. It says 3,473 American servicemen and women have now been killed in Iraq since the start of the war.
Jack Cafferty is off. He'll be back tomorrow.
Coming up -- demanding answers from President Bush. Ohio's governor deeply concerned his National Guard troops aren't ready to deploy to Iraq, we're going to tell you why.
And there are new developments in the so-called honor killing that shocked the world. A teenager Iraqi girl stoned to death over what's called forbidden love. Now there are suspects in custody including her own relatives. But what about the cops who were watching?
And preparing for the unthinkable -- a terror attack that wipes out Washington. Are there holes in the federal government's plans that could leave the country in chaos?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A new sign of growing frustration with the war in Iraq. Ohio's governor now seeking reassurance from President Bush before he hands over more National Guard troops.
Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello. She's watching this all of this unfold. What's the governor, Carol, asking the president to do?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know Wolf, he's really asking for peace of mind. But, you know, it's an interesting scenario. What if the governor of each state said no to sending their National Guard troops to Iraq? They could. And while the governor of Ohio isn't planning to do that, his frustration with the president is rising.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Ohio's Governor Ted Strickland wants answers.
GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Mr. President, before you send more Ohioans into the war zone, will you give us your personal assurance that they will have all the equipment they need to be as safe as possible?
COSTELLO: It's the same question contained in two letters to President Bush. One sent during one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops in Iraq.
STRICKLAND: Right now, I remain their commander in chief. And I believe the president should be responding to my questions.
COSTELLO: That's right. The governor, as commander and chief of Ohio's National Guard has the power to refuse a request from the Defense Department to make troops available, hence the letter. One fully supported by the Ohio National Guard who says its soldiers don't have access to the equipment they'll actually be using in combat.
A few examples up-armored Humvees which are heavier and harder to maneuver than the vehicles soldiers train with now. Night vision goggles, they don't have them. They don't even have M-4s (ph), the rifles they'll use every day in the Iraq. They train with M-16s.
MARK WAYDA, OHIO NATIONAL GUARD: And it's a question of confidence. You're asking people to go into very dangerous situations. We should be giving them the best opportunity to succeed and we're not doing that right now.
COSTELLO: Which takes us back to Governor Strickland's letters to President Bush -- what about them?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of the governor's letter, but we've always made it clear that nobody goes into combat without sufficient training and equipment -- period.
COSTELLO: Snow says troops are trained with the proper equipment once they get to Iraq, an answer not good for Ohio's governor or its National Guard.
COSTELLO: Now, and I'm only talking hypothetically, if any governor would refuse to send his or her troops to Iraq, the president can simply federalize the National Guard and then of course he would be in control -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you. Carol is going to be coming back shortly. As of April 30, there were almost 30,000 National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with another 22,000 reserve forces, for a total of more than 51,000 so-called weekend warriors. Now they're working more than full-time -- full-time warriors right now, accounting for almost a third of the U.S. military force in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We want to follow up right now on a very disturbing story that made headlines around the world. An Iraqi teenage girl stoned to death over what was called forbidden love as police looked on.
CNN's Hugh Riminton visited her village where he learned suspects are now in custody and could be put to death themselves. We want to warn you, this report contains images some may find disturbing.
HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Bashiqa, northern Iraq. and it was here last month that according to local police, 2,000 people gathered to stone to death one of their own, a teenage girl. Seventeen-year-old Dua Khalil Aswad's crime was to fall in love with a Sunni Muslim boy.
Her murder captured on cell phones was soon flying via Internet across the world. We have come here to find out the state of the investigation. The unusual religious architecture tells us we have arrived. Bashiqa is a Yazidi town. The people here believe they're miraculously decedent from Adam alone -- not Adam and Eve, like the rest of humanity.
And to preserve the purity of Adam's line, marriage outside the ancient sect is strictly forbidden. The police chief, Colonel Hussein Mohammed Silea (ph) agrees to speak with us, but not on camera.
(on camera): Colonel Hussein (ph) says there has been a full investigation and that 10 people are now suspects. Six of them have fled the area. Four are in custody including the girl's cousin, who is said to have been the very first person to pick up the stone and push it down on the young woman.
(voice-over): He faces potentially the death penalty, as does the girl's uncle and a clan leader who allegedly ordered her to be stoned. Both have now gone underground. But what of the policemen I asked who were clearly seen standing by and watching? What discipline reaction against them.
None said Colonel Hussein (ph) and none will be. The mob he said was too large. There was nothing the officers could do. Less known than the stoning was the brutal reprisal a few days later. Sunni extremists stopped a bus and selected more than 20 Yazidi men. An al Qaeda linked Web site showed their fate. All were killed.
Bashiqa itself, at least on this brief visit, seemed relaxed and unafraid. I asked the colonel if he feared more sectarian killings. He replied not at all. Things are friendly now. Everyone he said has had their blood and that's enough.
Hugh Riminton, CNN, Bashiqa, Iraq.
BLITZER: The tragedy of these so-called honor killings happen throughout the Middle East all, all too often.
Still ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, the father-in-law of that tuberculosis patient is speaking out tonight and revealing a surprise connection to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And on a very different note -- tricks and ticks at the national spelling bee. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look at how the contestants cope. That's going to be later this hour.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: More nuclear talks today between Iran and the European Union. The meeting in Spain mentally the ground work for formal negotiations. But Iran is showing no sign of easing its hard-line stance. And the west led by Washington also refusing to blink. Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is in Germany where G-8 leaders will discuss the crisis next week -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's been exactly one year since the U.S. made a dramatic offer it says is too good to refuse. Iran says no thanks.
VERJEE (voice-over): The U.S. has one demand Iran won't accept. Secretary Rice's offer on the table -- the U.S. will talk to Iran about anything it wants on one condition -- stop enriching uranium the key ingredient in a nuclear weapon. But one year later, Iran still refuses to bite.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The question isn't why we won't we talk to Tehran. The question is why doesn't Tehran want to talk to us.
VERJEE: The U.S. is turning up the heat with the threat of harsher sanctions. But Iran is pushing forward with its nuclear program, claiming it's only for creating energy not weapons. Even as the European Union's foreign policy chief tries to coax Iran back to the table, Tehran's top nuclear man says forget it. Iran will never stop enriching. But the clock ticks. And while officials say Iran's nuclear know-how is getting stronger they still lack the ability to make nuclear weapons.
(on camera): At this point, are you just giving Iran the time it needs to make -- take advantage of the deadlock and enrich uranium.
RICE: Well clearly Iran may try to take advantage of that. But it takes some time.
RICE: It takes some time to really be able to master these processes.
VERJEE (voice-over): But Iran's progress so far make nuclear experts nervous. And they're starting to question whether it's time to change gears.
(on camera): Why not just drop the whole idea of suspension and go to the table like the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
RICE: Well if you drop the notion of suspension, you're simply giving the Iranians more possibility to practice and practice and practice.
VERJEE: If this week's diplomatic drive between the European Union and Iran falls apart, Rice says the U.S. and its allies will go to United Nations and slap Iran with new sanctions and force it to change its tactics -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks very much -- Zain Verjee, she's traveling with the secretary of state in Berlin. We're watching this story closely.
Also ahead, new video of the man who touched off that tuberculosis scare around the world, plus his connection to the CDC. We'll hear from one man who traveled with him and may have been exposed.
Plus -- critical holes in the government's doomsday plan. Could the U.S. be left without leadership in the event of another terror attack on Washington?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, scathing words for the West from the Russian President Vladimir Putin today. He accused the U.S. of imperialism and of starting a new arms race with its plans to develop a missile defense system.
President Bush today laid out his strategy for coping with global warming, seeks development of new technologies, but rejects caps on greenhouse gases braced by other wealthy nations. He invited the world's big emitters to meet in the U.S. next fall.
The Billy Graham Library dedicated today in Charlotte, North Carolina. The longtime evangelist, he was joined at the event by former Presidents Carter, Bush and Clinton. The library opens to the public next Tuesday. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
More now on our top story. New details about the man who sparked that international tuberculosis scare. The Atlanta lawyer, Andrew Speaker, he is now in isolation. He is being treated at a Denver hospital.
We now also know his father in law works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. We also know what Andrew Speaker looks like right now. In an interview with ABC News, he's asking for forgiveness from people on his flights. Rusty Dornin is watching all of this unfold in Atlanta. His father in law's role, that emerged today in all of this so, so intriguing.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a very strange ironic, really twist to this whole story. Dr. Robert Cooksey, Andrew Speaker's new father in law is a microbiologist at the CDC and he works in the division for tuberculosis elimination. We spoke to Dr. Cooksey at his Atlanta home. He refused to take any questions. But he did read a statement. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROBERT COOKSEY, TB PATIENT'S FATHER-IN-LAW: First and foremost, I'm concerned about the health and the well being of my son- in-law and family members as well as the passengers on the affected flights. I'm the father in law of Andrew Speaker. And I do work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have worked there for 32 years. I'm research microbiologist in CDC's division in tuberculosis elimination. And my work does involve working with a wide range of organisms including TB.
As a research microbiologist my laboratory work involves identifying characteristics and features of bacteria. As part of my job, I'm regularly tested for TB. I don't have TB nor have I have ever had TB. My son-in-law's TB didn't originate from myself or the CDC labs which operate under the highest level of bio-security.
I wasn't involved in any decisions my son-in-law made regarding his travel. Nor did I ever act as a CDC official or in an official CDC capacity with respect to any of the events of the past weeks. As a parent, frequent traveler and biologist, I well appreciate the potential harm that can be caused by diseases like TB. I would never knowingly put my daughter, friends or anyone else at risk of such a disease. I would ask the media to respect my privacy and that of my family.
And I will be respectfully declining all media requests other than reading this prepared statement.
My thoughts and focus over the next few months will be with my family and we're hopeful that Andrew will have a fast and successful recovery. And all I can add to that, is please try to refrain from uninformed anchor desk chitchat with this. There is so many factors involved. Please try not to hype this because it's a very complicated situation. And speculation will not do anyone any good. And that's all I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DORNIN: But it is unclear from that statement, whether Andrew Speaker did tell his father in law that two days before he left on his flight that doctors here in Atlanta told him that he had the multiple drug resistant strain of tuberculosis and they claim that they told speaker not to travel. And as you heard in his statement, it's unclear whether he did tell his father in law that doctors had told him that here in Atlanta.
BLITZER: Rusty watching this for us in Atlanta. We heard from the father in law. Andrew Speaker's father also now has gone public. Here's what he said defending his son and the trip he took. Here is what he told our affiliate, WSB in Atlanta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your family has been dealing with this for months.
TED SPEAKER, FATHER OF TB PATIENT: Unfortunately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever told to wear a mask around your son before he left for Europe?
T. SPEAKER: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever told you were at any risk?
T. SPEAKER: No. Matter of fact, they gave me a test, negative. They gave my whole family a test, negative. He specifically asked if he was not permitted to go, they said, no, we would prefer you not to go. But we're not saying you not to go. They knew he was going to get married. And they knew the arrangements.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they had told your son, not to go, because he would be a threat to other people, what would have done?
T. SPEAKER: He would have not have gone. The way he's being shown and spoken about on TV, it's like a terrorist traveling around the world. Escaping authorities. This is blown out of proportion immensely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As the man's family members give their side of the story, some of the passengers who actually flew on planes with him are giving theirs. One passenger spoke earlier with CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON VIK, ON FLIGHT WITH TB TRAVELER: I think if -- if he knew he had tuberculosis, regardless of whether it was XDR, I think anything contagious, if you wear a mask, that's one thing but for him to ignore health authorities is very irresponsible. I think it's selfish of him to do that and put other people at risk. And now you're looking at 30 college students, no telling how many kids were on this flight. And I think it's just ridiculous that someone could put that many people at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And that risk actually may last a long time. Health experts say a person can find out if they test positive for a disease within days. But get this, even if a person tests negative now, they'll need to continue getting tested to see if anything develops. And it could actually take year, years to be deemed all clear. A lot of mental anguish there.
Health investigators were looking for him. Alerts had been posted around the world. So how did Andrew Speaker slip through everybody's fingers, especially at the U.S.-Canadian border? Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is joining us now with this part of the story.
What happened, Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, Canadian authorities tell CNN they were not informed about Andrew Speaker and his illness about 12 hours until after he had crossed the border into the U.S. And it now appears that human error may account for his entry into this country undetected.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE (voice-over): Andrew Speaker and his wife arrived at the Champlain, New York border crossing on Thursday, May 24th.
According to a homeland security official, at 6:17 p.m. a Customs and Border Protection officer swiped Speaker's passport through an electronic reader and an alert displayed on the officer's computer screen.
But Speaker was not stopped. In less than two minutes, he was waved across the border.
MICHAEL CUTLER, FORMER INS AGENT: If this guy could get through, the question is who might also be able to get through, whether it's someone with a communicable disease, whether it's somebody who's wanted because of being a suspected terrorist. The system has holes in it.
MESERVE: The Centers for Disease Control had informed Customs and Border Protection on May 22nd, two days earlier, that Speaker should be stopped, isolated and public health authorities notified. The information had been put out to all ports of entry, including Champlain, and the lookout for Speaker showed up on the front line officer's computer screen instantaneously and in an obvious way, according to a homeland official. "Even the finest and most well regarded law enforcement agencies in the world will experience human error," says the official. "Our personnel understand they have to be right 100 percent of the time."
The Champlain port of entry is the fourth busiest on the U.S./Canadian border -- processing more than 10,000 people every day. And some believe the pressure on border officers to move people and products quickly could have been a factor in this incident.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: Senator Charles Schumer says the incident shows that border officers are understaffed and overworked along the U.S./Canadian border although investigations into exactly what went wrong and why have reached no firm conclusions. Wolf?
BLITZER: And briefly, Jeanne, what happened to the official, the officer who was involved in this?
MESERVE: That officer has been assigned to administrative duties while the investigations continue. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thanks very much. Jeanne watching this part of the story. Lots of worrisome developments. Also ahead tonight -- worst case scenario, what if the nation's capital came under a catastrophic attack. Would the wheels of government continue to spin? Reviewing the nation's so-called doomsday plan. That's coming up.
Plus, detailed pictures of your home on the Web for anyone to see. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton will show us why this new Google feature is raising privacy concerns. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Under review federal government's doomsday plan, as it's called, detailing the chain of command in event the country's leadership is killed in an attack on the U.S. capital. Now we're learning about some serious holes in this plan. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching all of this. What are the critics saying are saying is wrong with the government's doomsday plan, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're saying there are some serious gaps here, namely that two branches of the U.S. government don't have adequate plans if that worst case scenario really occurs.
TODD (voice-over): Doomsday in DC. Without warning terrorists' crude nuclear bombs take out the president, vice president, Cabinet members who work nearby, Congress, the Supreme Court, a threat widely discussed after September 11th. Recently President Bush signed a national security directive giving Cabinet agencies until early August to come up with plans to function if a so-called decapitation attack occurs.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I'm delighted that we know there will be somebody who can authorize Social Security checks or maintain civilian control over the military.
TODD: Since 9/11, a congressional scholar Norman Ornstein has been pressuring branches to establish doomsday plans.
ORNSTEIN: I'm not happy when I don't know who the president will be, who will make that decision, whether we'll operate for months under martial law because we don't have a Congress and with no Supreme Court to tell us who ought to be in charge.
TODD: Ornstein points out the president's order can only cover the executive branch. He says the Supreme Court and Congress don't have adequate plans for anyone to take over if all of their members are suddenly incapacitated.
Some members of Congress, including David Dreier, disagree. After pressure from Ornstein and others, they passed a bill 2005 calling for expedited special elections to fill vacancies within two months. On Ornstein's criticism that's too slow and temporary appointment should be made.
REP. DAVID DREIER, (R) CA: There is no way that someone should serve in the House of Representatives because of its constitutional history by way of appointment. They should be quickly elected.
TODD: But Ornstein also worries about the long-standing plan where if the president is suddenly incapacitated the job falls to the vice president, then the House speaker, then the president pro tem of the Senate. Then to Cabinet secretaries.
ORNSTEIN: It has nobody in the line of presidential succession who resides out of Washington. So if there is a surprise attack that takes out the business area of Washington we may have nobody in the line of succession.
TODD (on camera): Now it is worth noting that there are special bunkers outside Washington where Cabinet officers rotate in and out all the time in case of a disaster. But Ornstein says those are mostly career bureaucrats without leadership experience, Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this. Let's hope none of this ever materializes.
Brian, thank you.
Still ahead -- Google debuts a new mapping feature. Could it be putting your privacy, though, at risk? Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton standing by. She'll show us the situation online.
Plus -- tricks and tics at the national spelling bee. CNN's Jeanne Moos will be taking a "Moost Unusual" look. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Presidential debates haven't changed much in the last few decades. And some say that's not necessarily a good thing. Is there a better way to get White House hopefuls to focus on the issues voters really care about?
And joining us now our special correspondent Frank Sesno for this week's what if segment. Frank?
FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what if you had an opportunity to moderate presidential debate next week.
BLITZER: Guess what ...
SESNO: You do. Right. Two hours each.
BLITZER: Without commercial interruption.
SESNO: But look what's happened in the previous 90-minute debates. In the Democrats' case, fro example. How much talk time do candidates get? Barack Obama leading the pack at 12 minutes but it goes all the way down from there to Mike Gravel, only four minutes and 48 seconds. Quite a range.
BLITZER: And what about on the Republican side?
SESNO: On the Republican side, very interesting, more candidates. Ten of them. And here you get John McCain, he is winning at 9:51. And he goes all the way down to Duncan Hunter. Duncan Hunter at about 4:38. So again, quite a spread.
But here's the what if. What if the debates in the general election took on a whole new meaning?
SESNO (voice-over): These three primary debates are fine but can't drill deep. So many candidates so little time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time. That's time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Red light.
SESNO: Not exactly the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 when the senator from Illinois ended his opening statement with these words. I'm told that my time is out. Mr. Lincoln will now address you for an hour and half. Now that's an attention span.
But what if next year, 150 years after Lincoln-Douglas, the candidates, the parties got really serious about debates again. What if once the candidates are chosen they agree to a series of substantive prime-time encounters, between Labor Day and Election Day as some are proposing, one topic per debate. All over the country. Too boring some will argue. Won't hold the audience. Not so. Last election, the first debate was seen by at least 62 million people, 45 million watched George Bush's last State of the Union speech and he wasn't debating anybody and that was 13 million more than watched "American Idol" that night.
Issues do matter. When Al Gore debated Ross Perot on free trade all those years ago on LARRY KING LIVE it became the highest rated show ever on CNN.
What if theatrics trumped substance the way Al Gore's sighing, George Bush's watch and Richard Nixon's beard? Well, theatrics and gaffes won't disappear but more debates will force the candidates to answer questions, address issues. The voters, the candidates, and yes, the media will be better served.
At those Lincoln-Douglas debates, and there were seven of them the candidates dealt with the complexity and controversy of the day. In momentous times they had to defend and explain. What if we could repeat that part of history?
SESNO (on camera): What if today's candidates were asked to commit today to more debates in the future? If they were general election candidates that they would have the series of debates we're talking about. There is plenty of opportunity, not just yours, Wolf, across the country. CNN debates alone, there are seven of them scheduled and more on the way. So plenty of opportunity to lean on them hard.
BLITZER: But you're talking about debates that would happen after the conventions, between Labor Day and the election in November.
SESNO: That's right. Two candidates side by side. Repeatedly on issue after issue. So they can explore the complexity of these things and guys like you can press them for real answers.
BLITZER: Because at least right now, there have been two presidential debates after the conventions. Sometimes three. One vice presidential debate. What you would like to see one every single week.
SESNO: I think -- and I'm not alone on this. Plenty of people, Marvin Kalb and plenty of experts have been looking at this who say there need to be a parade of debates. To hold the candidates' feet to the fire. To give Americans the details, the information, the depth they really need. The candidates don't want it. There is nothing in it for them. Because these are uncontrolled events were they lose control and commit a gaffe and that drives the headlines.
What we're saying, though, is have more of them and the information can prevail not just the theatrics.
BLITZER: Frank Sesno, good idea, thanks very much. And don't forget we're gearing up for our big debates in New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR and the "New Hampshire Union Leader." We're sponsoring back to back debates beginning this weekend. The Democratic candidates square off Sunday June 3rd. That's this Sunday. 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Republicans go head to head Tuesday June 5th. Two hours without commercial interruption. We'll be up in New Hampshire for both of those debates.
A new mapping tool from Google is causing a stir online. You can zoom into maps so close as if you're standing on the streets almost. But does it invade your privacy. Let's bring in our Abbi Tatton. Abbi, how much detail can we actually see?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So much that you can read street lines, you can read license plates as well. The images that have been gathered over the last year are so detailed. You can zoom in on the produce outside this grocery store. Right now, we're traveling through the streets of San Francisco. This is one of five cities where this street view mapping is available. This is taking planning trips online to a whole new level. But how much detail is too much detail? My virtual tour of one city. Came across this man, he is standing in his garage. You can zoom in so much you can not only see him but you can see exactly what he has on his shelves.
And blogs are collecting images that may raise some security and some privacy concerns. Like sunbathers or a man coming out of an adult bookstore.
Google says it's only features imagery taken on public property. No different from what anyone can see readily walking down the street. Users can flag images they deem inappropriate. Google, Wolf, Google says they're going to be bringing this technology to different cities as well around the country.
BLITZER: It's amazing what's going on. All right. Abbi, thank you.
Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Paula's standing by. Paula?
PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Hi, Wolf. Thanks so much.
Coming up just about six minutes from now, a deeply disturbing investigation you're not going to believe. How little training most security guards or how little they're paid. We're talking about the guards on duty. Supposedly protecting some of our most vulnerable terrorist targets in this country. Are we really safe?
Plus my exclusive interview with a Marine who fought for freedom in Iraq then attended a war protest when he got back home. Why is the military threatening to punish him now? It's all out in the open coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Paula, we'll be watching. Thanks very much.
Up ahead, a look at the tics and tricks at the National Spelling Bee. Jeanne Moos on the story. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Here's some tics and tricks at National Spelling Bee. Jeanne Moos reporting.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Why read a dictionary at spelling bee when you can read faces? The Scripps National Spelling Bee features words that make contestants squinch. Eye-popping words. Words that have kids looking for answers in the back of their head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stapahalo -- stafa -- staffalot ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it didimus or is it didimis?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that English?
MOOS: (on camera) I guess you don't have to be monogamous to spell siphonogamous (ph). These words stump even spell checks.
(voice-over): And when these talented kids get stumped, they get the dreaded ding. For some the writing is on the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to ding.
MOOS: For others the writing is in their imagination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: B-U-T ...
MOOS: They wield invisible pens on their arms, on their hands, on their placards, in the air. No real pens are allowed. You can actually hear their fingers write what's in their mind's eye. If they could only doodle words like -- even experienced spellers are sometimes taken aback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meliodoisis (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melly -- what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perforatious (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh.
MOOS: No wonder a handful of demonstrators hovered outside the spelling bee protesting the idiosyncrasies of the English language.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's end the I in friend and spell it like end in send and lend.
MOOS: When it comes to spelling bee mannerisms, these are a few of our favorite tics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: P-O-R-T ... MOOS: Contestants know once they utter a letter they can't take it back. So some shield their lips until they're utterly certain. And we call this guy the cougher.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: P-T-E ...
MOOS: He finally coughed out the word pterodology (ph) correctly. A spelling bee sure can sting. A spelling bee can be sweet as honey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: N-E-G-U-S negus.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Congratulations to all those spellers. Let's go to Paula in New York. Paula?
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