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Deadly Shooting in Baghdad Involves Private Security Contractors; Homeland Security Releases New Report
Aired October 9, 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: But up first, that developing story involving yet another deadly shooting by private security contractors in Baghdad. Blackwater USA, tied to a bloody incident which left 17 civilians dead last month, says it was not involved this time.
CNN's Alessio Vinci is in Baghdad.
He's joining us now live -- who's getting the, Alessio, this time?
Tell our viewers what happened.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf.
Well, a security company called Unity Resources Group, which is based in Dubai, has admitted that one of its convoys was involved in a shooting incident earlier today in Baghdad.
During this incident, two women were killed. They were shot at in their car with -- we understand 19 bullets had hit their car alone and killed them on the spot.
According to a company statement, the security team was approached at speed by the vehicle, which failed to stop despite an escalation of warnings, which included hand signals, as well as a signal flare.
The company is saying that it is cooperating with Iraqi investigators to find out exactly what happened and that it regrets the loss of life -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Alessio is on the spot for us in Baghdad.
More than 5,000 American troops will be coming home before Christmas, a move announced last month by President Bush. He credited the surge in Iraq, as it's called, and made it seem like the drawdown of U.S. forces is speeding up.
Is that, though, really the case?
Let's bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, who's got the real story for us -- Jamie, what's happening? JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, ever since they made the statement that an Army brigade would be home by Christmas, we've been wondering if it's because of the success of the surge or because of the rotation plan. And after poring over those plans, we think we've cracked the code.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Remember this?
Just over three weeks ago, President Bush delivered welcome news to a war wary nation.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of this success, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. It will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas.
MCINTYRE: Listen to that again.
BUSH: Because of this success, it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade by Christmas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM PRESS CONFERENCE)
MCINTYRE (on camera): Which brigade is that precisely that would be coming home by the holidays because of the success of the surge?
MAJ. GEN. RICHARD SHERLOCK, U.S. ARMY: That decision has to get made by General Odierno and General Petraeus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): But Pentagon and U.S. military sources tell CNN the decision has already been made, to accomplish the president's troop reduction with a little sleight of hand, requiring no adjustment to the original troop rotation plan from August.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE: CNN has obtained that deployment plan, which predates general Petraeus' September recommendations.
Take a look. It shows that in December, four brigades are already coming home from Iraq and only three are replacing them because this one, from the 1st Armored Division in Germany, is not going in November, as originally scheduled.
Is that because of the success of the is surge?
No. It's because Defense Secretary Robert Gates laid down the law that every soldier gets 12 months off the battlefield. And this brigade didn't get its 12 months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The truth of the matter is it has been difficult for the -- particularly for the Army -- to meet my policy decisions, with respect to 12 months at home for the active force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: So despite the impression left by the president, sources tell CNN that no U.S. troops are leaving Iraq early. And, because thousands of support troops that went in with the surge brigades are still needed, there will actually be more troops on the ground in July when the surge ends than when it started.
BLITZER: So those 5,000 troops, that brigade, those guys were coming out of there no matter what happened with the surge, no matter what the president said?
MCINTYRE: Well, they could have changed the schedule, absolutely. But the schedule was for four brigades to come out. And what they did is they just didn't replace one.
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre doing some good reporting for us, as he always does.
Thank you, Jamie, very much.
A new report from the Homeland Security Department is raising some red flags today.
But is it aimed at the American public or at critical Democrats who are trying to curb White House wiretapping?
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.
She's watching this story for us.
What's this new report all about -- Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it really -- it's aimed at the American people, but more importantly, perhaps, a blow (ph) to the Democrats. This is report. It is really focused on the strategy -- homeland security, protecting this country, but also the administration really zeroing in on the terrorist threat here. That is because they are trying to make the case to Democrats the president needs all the tools necessary to protect the American people. So that, today, is the focus of this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here!
MALVEAUX (voice-over): We are a country at war and in constant danger -- at least that's what President Bush says as the key rationale behind his updated strategy to keep the homeland safe. He begins six years after the attacks of September 11th, 2001: "We remain at war." Then his homeland security report goes on to say: "The most serious and dangerous manifestation of this threat remains Al Qaeda, driven by an undiminished strategic intent to attack our homeland, through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups, particularly Al Qaeda in Iraq."
So, is anything new here?
The U.S. intelligence community released its own threat assessment three months ago. They warned al Qaeda would continue to use its terrorist wing in Iraq to train foreign plot attacks on U.S. soil.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The language in this homeland security report is almost verbatim what you would find in the National Security Estimate done in July in terms of the threat that it describes for Al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, really, what is the difference here?
It's all about the timing. This is really just the second homeland security strategy report that has been released by the administration. The last one was five years ago. So what you're hearing are these dire warnings about possible terrorist threats on the eve of this critical debate that's taking place on the Hill, with Congressional Democrats who are arguing -- trying to curb the president's powers when it comes to a warrantless wiretapping program.
The president is using this report, essentially, to make the argument that he needs all those tools necessary to combat those terrorists, including that particular program -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the report itself was prepared by the Department of Homeland Security -- or the -- or officials at the White House?
MALVEAUX: The Homeland Security Council prepared this report. This report, however, being an update from one that was five years ago -- really could have been put out at just about any time or so.
We asked the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, was it just merely a coincidence that they put this out?
She said they have to cross all the Ts, dot the Is. But, surely, Wolf, she also recognized, too, the very value of this report, putting this out now, making the case to those Democrats on the Hill -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much.
Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.
By the way, the former president, Jimmy Carter, will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. And you can send us some questions you'd like him to answer. Submit your video questions by simply logging on to CNN.com/situationroom. We'll try to pose some of your video questions to Jimmy Carter tomorrow.
Jack Cafferty is in New York and he's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, a passport to terror, dangerous and inconceivable, a frightening shift in policy. Those are some of the ways critics are describing New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plans to grant drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. They say that policy could protect illegal aliens from scrutiny by law enforcement and airport security and could make it seem like they're in the United States legally.
Spitzer, on the other hand, dismisses the critics, saying, "The politics of fear and selfishness has replaced the politics of common sense and responsibility."
Spitzer says under his plan, people would need a valid passport in order to get a license and new technology Spitzer wants installed in Department of Motor Vehicle offices would verify the authenticity of those passports, as well as other documents. The New York governor believes this program will bring people out of the shadows, will make the streets safer, lower the cost of automobile insurance, document thousands of immigrants and help in anti-terror efforts.
So here's the question -- is it a good idea to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens?
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.
Jack Cafferty will be back.
Up ahead, a dwindling coalition in Iraq. One U.S. ally has a grand total of three soldiers there.
What's America giving up to get this kind of help?
A new Google feature let's you zoom in for a street view of your home or workplace.
Could a criminal or a terrorist zoom in, as well?
And the movie stars say they're all fighting against global warming.
Is that just Hollywood hypocrisy?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Supporters of same-sex marriages are launching a multi- million dollar ad campaign in California this week. They haven't been able to legalize gay unions through lawsuits or legislation, so they're trying to sell people on the idea the same way advertisers might sell soap -- other products, as well.
Mary Snow is following this story for us.
The debate over same-sex marriage now on the front burner, specifically in California.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf.
And the state bill is up to meet its fate any day now. This is just as California's governor is expected to reject the measure that would allow same-sex marriages.
Gay rights groups are taking to the airwaves with a new approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): It starts like a primetime TV drama -- a bride falls, her veil gets caught, an old lady trips her. And that's where this California ad takes a turn, saying what if you couldn't marry the person you loved?
And the ad states, every day gay and lesbian couples are prevented from marrying.
It's all part of a campaign supporting same-sex marriage and it's aimed at changing people's mind by appealing to their hearts.
The campaign's backers say...
GEOFF KORS, EQUALITY CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE: The ad is designed it put people in the shoes of lesbian and gay people and understand the pain and hurt that we feel from being denied the right to marry.
SNOW: In 2000, a California ballot measure banned same-sex marriage. The California state legislature recently overturned the ban. But California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says he plans to veto that measure, just as he did to a similar effort made three years ago.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We rely upon our courts to enforce our rule of law.
SNOW: A conservative group specializing in the defense of religious freedom wants to ban same-sex marriage and calls this latest ad propaganda.
BRAD DACUS, PACIFIC JUSTICE INSTITUTE: If it's opened up to two men and two women, it could very easily be opened up to protect polygamy or adult incest or any other kind of non-conventional, you know, relationship outside traditional marriage.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: Now, responding to that, the gay rights organization Equality California Institute dismissed those claims, saying, in its words, "Right-wing groups will come up with all kinds of arguments to not allow gay couples to marry" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So what kind of tactics are they using to try to change the minds of a lot of people out there?
SNOW: You know, it's really almost like a presidential campaign. And one of the things that they're doing is they're holding house parties, where they are just trying to get their message out. There is no ballot coming up next year. But they want to get their message out and they say they want to change minds first.
BLITZER: I suppose this going to be an issue that's going to be coming up, obviously, in the next weeks and months.
Thanks very much.
You'll stay on top of it for us.
Let's check back with Carol.
She's monitoring some other stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Wolf.
Pakistani warplanes have bombed a violating shopping area in the country's western tribal region -- a hideout for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants. They are among the dead, but so are many civilians. More than 60 people killed in all by one account and 150 injured, including women and children.
A grim search for bodies in the mountains of Eastern Washington, where crews have located the wreckage of a skydiving plane that went down on Sunday night. All 10 people on board are believed dead. Relatives say they were part of a close-knit skydiving group. No word yet on the cause of the crash or the victims' names.
The mystery of the missing mayor at least partially solved. A lawyer for Atlantic City's Robert Levy, who has not been heard from in two weeks, says the mayor has been getting treatment at a clinic and is now recovering at home. The attorney will not say what kind of treatment, but the clinic he named specializes in -- you guessed it -- addiction and psychiatric issues.
And take a look at this on the wide screen. It may make you cringe. See that. Ooh, that kangaroo -- he took a wrong turn. He wound up on an Australian car racing track over the weekend. But as you can see, the drivers managed to dodge him. Not to worry. The kangaroo, as you saw, escaped the track safely.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lucky kangaroo, I guess.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Carol.
Up ahead, we're going to show you how a massive lawsuit settlement could lead to cleaner air for millions of Americans.
And a private spy firm which discovered the latest bin Laden videotape blaming the federal government for tipping off Al Qaeda by leaking that video.
Did the Feds fail the American public by going public?
What are the ramifications?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The coalition of the willing is steadily, steadily shrinking. Some U.S. allies in Iraq have literally a tiny, tiny number of forces in Iraq -- two or three soldiers.
So what's the United States giving up to get this kind of help?
Let's bring in Brian Todd.
He's watching this story for us.
Is it a coalition of the willing increasingly, Brian, in name only?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some are certainly calling it that, Wolf.
A lot of tough questions tonight about the real effectiveness of some coalition partners.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Critics say it's a sign of a dwindling coalition in Iraq -- one that doesn't give America much return for its investments. Latvia has a total of three troops in Iraq -- staff officers and administrative and planning posts. Here's what the U.S. gives Latvia. For starters, nearly $4 million in military aid this year. And Latvia gets to send officers to the U.S. for training. That's part of a broader overall aid package to Latvia.
CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, CATO INSTITUTE: I think it is an awful lot of money, frankly, to maintain the fiction that this a multinational effort. The vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of everyone else in the world knows that this an American mission. The U.S. is doing the lion's share of the fighting.
TODD: Nobody has presented evidence of a direct tie between the assistance and Latvia's contributions in Iraq.
Another modest partner, Lithuania -- nine troops in combat to support duties. A Lithuanian official tells CNN his country has gotten about $6 million in military aid from the U.S. every year since the war started, in addition to millions more in other aid packages.
Some analysts feel U.S. aid to these countries is worth it. Countries like Latvia helped bring down the old Soviet Union, they say, have been key strategic partners well before Iraq.
CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Our soldiers and our Marines are not just warriors, they're also diplomats. They're politicians. They're involved in reconstruction. That's a usually important part of it. And so if the foreign militaries who assist us get involved in that, that's fine.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And it's not all just behind-the-scenes. One very small coalition partner, Moldova -- 12 soldiers in Iraq. They've had about the same number there since the war started. They clear explosives. And a Moldovan official says since the war began, they have liquidated more than 400,000 devices -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The overall aid package, Brian, to Moldova, what's going on on that front?
TODD: Well, the U.S. government says it was nearly $18 million last year. But, interestingly, that's declined steadily since the war begun. Moldova got about $36 million from the U.S. in 2002.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks for doing some digging for us on that information.
Brian Todd watching this story for us.
He lost his son in Iraq. Now an illegal immigration in Texas may lose the rest of his family -- not to death, but to deportation -- his own.
CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nobody could talk Armando Soriano out of joining the Army after he graduated from high school. This American-born son of illegal immigrants believed serving in the military would bring honor to his family.
Then, three years ago, the 20-year-old Army private was killed in a convoy accident in Iraq. The pain still haunts his parents. The family living room is a shrine to the fallen soldier. And now, the family is facing yet another tragedy. Armando's father, Enrique Soriano's American dream, can crumble any day.
(on camera): How does the rest of your family feel about you being in this situation?
He says that, "My son fought and died for this country and it would help him rest in peace knowing that his family was taken care of and that they had the papers that they needed to be here legally."
(voice-over): Enrique Soriano has lived illegally in the United States since 1982. But in cases like this, the federal government has often looked the other way and allowed the immediate families of servicemen who have died in Iraq to get legal status.
Enrique's wife is now a legal permanent resident, but immigration officials argue that because Soriano was deported in 1999 and reentered the country illegally, he's not eligible for this form of amnesty.
(on camera): He says oftentimes he's at a loss for words to explain how he feels. But he feels very sad. It's already hard enough losing a son in this war and then now being threatened to be separated from his family makes it even more difficult.
(on camera): Enrique Soriano doesn't know how much longer he'll be living here in the neighborhoods of Pasadena, Texas. We tried asking officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but they refused our request for an interview, saying it wouldn't be appropriate for them to talk about his case while it's in the hands of an immigration judge.
LEOPOLD: And my gosh, what else can this man do for this country?
What else can he give?
He's given his son.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): But immigration attorneys say Enrique Soriano is a victim of a technicality and that the federal government has the power to keep his family together.
LEOPOLD: This could be fixed tomorrow. All that has to happen, despite the technicalities in the law, is for the Department of Homeland Security to do the right thing and to allow this man to stay in the United States.
LAVANDERA: Soriano says he can't imagine being separated from his wife and five children.
(on camera): He says that if he does get deported, that he really has no other option. He feels like that he has to try to come back. He's crossed illegally twice before and he'll do it again to be with his family.
(voice-over): And to be near his son's gravesite, where Enrique Soriano comes once a week to find peace.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Pasadena, Texas.
BLITZER: And up ahead, the biggest plan ever to clean up the air we breathe -- billions of dollars in play.
Will it make you healthier?
Miles O'Brien, he's standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He's got some answers.
Plus, celebrities helping the environment -- is it just Hollywood hype?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, regents at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma announcing an audit amid allegations President Richard Roberts tapped school funds for personal use. Richard Roberts will talk about those allegations tonight on LARRY KING LIVE.
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting an appeal from a German man of Arab descent who says he was abducted and tortured by the CIA. The government argued in lower courts that the case would reveal state secrets.
And the cold reality of staying warm this winter. The government now forecasting higher home heating costs, regardless of what kind of system you have. Look for costs to be about 10 percent higher than last year, with a national average of $977. That's the highest ever.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A private intelligence firm able to penetrate the inner workings of Al Qaeda's propaganda arm is today accusing the Bush administration of tipping off the terror network.
Let's bring back Brian Todd.
He's watching this story for us -- all right, Brian, what's behind the controversy?
TODD: Well, Wolf, it all started with a recent Al Qaeda video that terror researchers got an early peek at using a security breach in Al Qaeda's Web site. But soon the video leaked and the secret access was lost.
The question now -- was the administration to blame?
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): It was the first video issued by Osama bin Laden in almost three years.
But did its early release compromise national security?
A private terror tracking organization, SITE Institute, secretly accessed the video days before it was released and passed it on to two administration officials. Soon after, the private trackers say, Al Qaeda Web masters cut off their back door access.
But who's to blame?
SITE Institute says at 10:00 a.m. they e-mailed a private link to two administration officials -- White House Counsel Fred Fielding and the number two at the National Counterterrorism Center.
Over the next few hours, intelligence agencies and the Defense Department downloaded the video dozens of times. By 3:00 p.m., it was in the media, with the SITE Institute logo on it.
The White House says the leak did not come from them.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'd have to refer to the DNI's office in regards to any possible investigation into that leak.
TODD: A spokesman for the DNI, the director of national intelligence, tells CNN the intelligence community did not leak this to the media.
President Bush has been critical in the past of media organizations for reporting information which could tip off terrorists, like eavesdropping and bank monitoring.
BUSH: For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America. The fact that somebody leaked this program, it causes great harm to the United States.
I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information.
TODD: But one frequent critic of the administration is asking whether the White House has a double standard on security leaks.
MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: I think the president should address this and look and insist that there be an investigation as to who in the White House actually leaked this information.
(END VIDEO TAPE) TODD: What is the cost of the leak?
Well, so far two other terror trackers have told CNN that their access to Al Qaeda sites has not been affected. But the SITE Institute -- the company in question here -- says they lost their back door access to potentially crucial intelligence on Al Qaeda -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.
From the war on terror to the war in Iraq to hurricane Katrina, critics of the Bush administration have had a good deal of ammunition to accuse the president of mismanagement. Is that making an impact on the presidential race?
Let's bring back our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
So is competency clearly a factor in this contest right now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is, Wolf. I think it's becoming more and more of a factor. Even those people, you look at the polls who supported the war in Iraq, believe that it was mismanaged.
You take a look at hurricane Katrina, kinds of leaks like this coming from the administration and people are asking the question, where is the competency in Washington? You see the polls really reflecting that. Part of the president's unpopularity, you can see, is part of questions about mismanagement.
And you look at the polls of Congress. Congress' approval rating is now in the 20s and that reflects the question of whether Congress is getting anything done.
If you take a step back and look at this presidential race that we're covering, the candidates themselves are talking about their managerial experience. Mitt Romney talking about how he's been a CEO. Rudy Giuliani talking about how he managed the city of New York and you will see that come into play in this presidential campaign in a very big way.
BLITZER: All right. Speaking about Giuliani, he's going to have another chance in the coming days to make his case before religious voters. What's going on?
BORGER: Clearly, he wants to talk to religious voters. We saw last week that there was a meeting of the leadership of the evangelical community saying that yes they might think of a third party candidate if Rudy Giuliani who is pro-abortion rights would become the nominee.
So he's been invited to speak to this group. He wants to talk to them how he supports a lot of their issues, such as fighting the war on terror and crime and try to convince them that, in fact, they should support him.
Just as he went to the NRA and he's for gun control, went to the NRA and said, look, I believe in the second amendment.
I'd give him a piece of advice, Wolf. I'd say don't take a phone call from your wife in the middle of talking to the values voters as you did when you were at the NRA. Maybe he would have a bigger impact.
BLITZER: It looked like it was staged, is that the point? It looked like it was contrived.
BORGER: Yes and it looked like he was trying to defuse a tough situation, only it really didn't work for him.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Former president Jimmy Carter, the way, will be right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. You can ask some questions to the former president. Submit your video questions by logging onto CNN.com/situationroom. We will try to pose some of your video questions to Jimmy Carter tomorrow.
Going green in Hollywood. The people who live in tinsel town have a reputation for being environmentally aware. They also are said to be phony. So, when it comes to being green, do celebrities practice what they preach?
Also, Google, you probably already used it at least once today to search for something. But how would you feel if somebody used Google to find out where you live? It's happening.
Stay with us, you're in it THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A record settlement in a landmark lawsuit that promises to cut pollution significantly for more than a dozen coal burning power plants.
Our chief environment correspondent Miles O'Brien is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
How important, Miles, is this settlement to the environment?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if you breathe the air in the northeast, as we do, it's important. It's just the situation is not going it improve quickly.
Let's take a look at this whole notion. First of all, you heard the expression we all live down stream. In this case, we all live down wind. We're talking about 16 sites in the Ohio River valley. Coal fire and electric utility facilities that are particularly dirty and they send their pollution this direction, because that's the direction of the prevailing wind and that upset the residents of eight states in the northeast and that was the basis for a big lawsuit that got settled today. Where there's smoke, there is iron and after eight years of hard haggling with a big polluter, the federal government cut its biggest deal ever to clean up the air. Ohio-based American Electric Power forced it invest $4.6 billion in technology to clean up what it pumps into the air. The scrubbers will reduce company emissions of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide by 800 million tons a year.
GRANT NAKAYAMA, EPA ASSISTANT ADMIN.: To give you a sense of the amount of scale of these reductions, the amount of SO2 emission reductions from this settlement alone will exceed all the SO2 emissions from all sources in the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut combined.
O'BRIEN: The justice department filed suit back in 1999. Pollution from the 16 coal plants, mainly in the Ohio River valley, is blown by prevailing wind to the northeast, creating acid rain and all kinds of respiratory and heart ailments. Eight downwind states and a dozen environmental groups also sued.
NAKAYAMA: We estimate that the annual benefits to public health in the environment, once the pollution controls are installed will include a savings of approximately $32 billion per year in health- related costs associated with respiratory and cardio pulmonary illnesses including asthma and heart attacks.
O'BRIEN: American Electric Power issued a statement today. The chairman of the company said, "We have remained firm in our belief that we operated our plants in compliance with all the provisions of the law."
But this settlement, Wolf, will have potentially a ripple effect. There are four more cases outstanding right now the justice department is working on. Who knows, they may follow suit.
BLITZER: So how long before all of this falls into place to get implemented?
O'BRIEN: Well not to be flip but don't hold your breath. In this case, maybe perhaps people with asthma should, but it won't be until 2018. So if you take from the moment they filed the suit in 1999 to 2018, a child born on that day in 1999 will be going to college by the time the air will be cleaned up. But at least they're making progress.
BLITZER: It's a start. Thanks very much, Miles. Miles O'Brien, always good to have you in THE SITUATION ROOM.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Wolf, my pleasure.
BLITZER: Hollywood going green or not? Many celebrities talk a good game when it comes to the environment, but some say their action speaks louder than their words.
Kareen Wynter is joining us live from Los Angeles.
Kareen, how an issue is the environment in Hollywood? KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of course it's quite huge and, you know, many celebs they want to come across as being environmentally conscious, but how much are they really, really warming up to this idea of conservation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are gathered on all seven continents in eight giant concerts.
WYNTER: Leading to tons of unrecycled waste.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: More than 40 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation fuels.
WYNTER: He should know, he used to campaign in a gas guzzling Hummer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been unplugging all my appliances and trying to turn the lights off.
WYNTER: Except for this one, while filming the country's number one horror movie. Amidst a barrage of what seemed to be ecological contradictions, is Hollywood's passion for all things green the real thing or just another special effect?
TONY SCHUBERT, EVENT ELEVEN: I think it's 50/50.
WYNTER: Tony Schubert throws large-scale Hollywood parties. He just hosted "TV Guide's" post Emmy affair which he claims was about 90 percent green. But for all the hype, Schubert believes much of Hollywood's green carpet is just for show.
SCHUBERT: I'm going to fill the earth with, you know, pollution, but I'm also going to write a check to plant trees to become neutral. It doesn't make sense to me.
WYNTER: Even if Hollywood's track record isn't unblemished, its productions are making a big impact on the green debate. Documentaries like the "11th Hour" and an "Inconvenient Truth" increased environmental awareness. The eco-agency, Big Imagination Group, applauds these efforts.
COLETTE BROOKS, BIG IMAGINATION GROUP: Hollywood is setting a really good example and, although it may not be perfect, green is in the common vernacular now.
WYNTER: Colette Brooks agrees the Hollywood elite could be even greener, but when it comes to saving the planet, conservation should not be a black and white issue.
BROOKS: I don't think we should admonish people or judge people too harshly if they don't have a 360 degree perspective on this.
WYNTER: And another thing that Colette Brooks pointed out, Wolf, are all the partnerships that some of these high-powered production studios are forming. For example, Warner Brothers donates much of its set materials to Habitat for Humanity to help build new homes for the less fortunate. So as you can see, some would agree that it could be all about taking baby steps here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kareen, for that; Kareen Winter in L.A.
Going green could do more than help the environment; it can also save you some cash. The federal government offers tax credits up to $500 for energy-saving products like furnaces and water heaters and that expired, by the way, at the end of this December. But through December of next year, you can still get tax credits of up to $2,000 for solar upgrades. There are also tax breaks, rebates and discounts available through local governments and utility companies, even banks.
Let's go back to Lou Dobbs. He's getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour. And you had a good show.
We welcome you back, Lou, good to have you back in the saddle.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Wolf. It is great it be back in the saddle.
Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN tonight, we're reporting on startling new insults and threats against the United States by former Mexican president Vicente Fox. Fox declaring that xenophobics, racists and the superior race, as he put it, are deciding the future of the United States. Oh, yes, well who are the racists? By the way, President Fox is just a challenge for a debate. We'll be telling you about that and I'll have a few thoughts for the Mexican president.
Also, many state lawmakers in New York have had a belly full of Governor Elliot Spitzer's new proposal to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. They're demanding federal intervention. Two lawmakers with opposite views on the argument join me.
And an astonishing new example of our complete dependency on foreign food. Nearly all of our apple juice in this country now comes from, you guessed it, communist China, a country that is somewhat notorious for ignoring food safety rules and the interests of American consumers. We'll have that special report and tell you, of course, exactly what your government is doing it help you out.
All of that, a lot more at the top of the hour, all the day's news. Please join us.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Quick question, Lou, before I let you go. Vicente Fox, he's going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM in Washington on Thursday. Off the top of your head, give me a question that you would like to pose to Vicente Fox and we'll make sure he gets a chance to answer Lou Dobbs' question.
DOBBS: Why is it that the Mexican government cannot come up with policies and execute policies that are in the interest of reducing the poverty and the dependency of the Mexican people? Half the Mexican people live in poverty, Wolf. Why in the world are they creating the sham arguments to export poverty and their own people from the country? Have they no pride? I would ask that question, certainly.
BLITZER: We'll pose that question to him in your own words.
Lou, thanks very much. See you at the top of the hour.
DOBBS: Looking forward to it, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: And Google, it's a powerful verb in American life, but when does a powerful search engine become a peeping tom?
Also, Ellen Degeneres still has me on her mind, if not on her show. We're going to explain the latest in what's going on.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It was controversial but it first came out raising certain privacy and security concerns. Now Google's popular street view feature is offering detailed views of five more American cities.
CNN's Susan Roesgen is joining us now live from Chicago.
So are people there, concerned, Susan?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some of them are really concerned, Wolf. Because anything you could see from the street here in Chicago, you can now see online around the world. Google's technology has come to the heartland and some say it's come a little too close for comfort.
ROESGEN: Want it see where CNN Chicago is? Google the street view of 435 North Michigan Avenue and there we are, the Tribune Tower. How about the famous Sears Tower? Yes. Google lets you zoom in on that, too. But what about the little corner farmer's market where Michael Kalweit sells apples.
MICHAEL KALWEIT, CHICAGO VENDOR: I should put my name on the top of the tent or on the side of it.
ROESGEN: Michael thinks it is great, but some people are concerned about their privacy. Internet law professor David Sorkin says internet privacy laws don't apply to Google maps. Anything that can be seen from a public street is fair game.
PROF. DAVID SORKIN, JOHN MARSHALL LAW SCHOOL: We wouldn't have this kind of product if there was a law that said you couldn't show recognizable images on the web.
ROESGEN: Google didn't return our call for comment today, but on the web, the company says if the Google camera happened to catch you and you don't like it, you can ask the company to remove your image.
But how thin really is the line between a peeping tom using street view to look at your home or workplace and a terrorist using the same view to plot an attack?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The type of information that they'd be able to get from this is information they can get in other ways and probably is not all that sensitive. It's not like floor plans of buildings and things like that.
ROESGEN: As for privacy, well, if you live in one of the big cities Google maps, some say you don't have any privacy anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom will tell me that I'm very naive. I don't always shut my shades and things like that, but I just feel like there's other ways people will find things out and Google maps is going to be just one more thing that everyone's going to use.
ROESGEN: Better listen to your mom. If you live in Chicago, she just might be looking for you on Google, too.
ROESGEN: Now, Wolf, the one thing I did hear a big complaint about was the zoom in capability, the sort of superman vision that the street view gives that you wouldn't have with your own eyes. A lot of people say that's just plain creepy that people can look into doorways and windows and see things like that.
BLITZER: It's a new technology, I guess, barring something. We're going to just have to learn to live with it. Thanks very much, Susan Roesgen reporting from Chicago.
Google has put up a massive amount of photos online covering 15 cities so far. Let's go to our internet reporter Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, who's taking all of these pictures?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's the Google van. That's not the official term, but that's what blogs have dubbed these vehicles that are traversing the United States equipped with imaging technology to take all these pictures and finding image of that Google van on Google street view is becoming just as popular online as it is it to find pictures of say sunbathers or the guy heading into the adult book store.
Here's some that we found. Here appears to be the Google van caught in the window of dry cleaners there and another one caught in a San Diego mirror as it goes by. And this one doesn't actually show the van, but somebody there if you look in the bottom right-hand corner does appear it be breaking the speed limit as they go past.
Google street viewer, they're planning to bring it to as many cities as possible in the United States. Our advice to you here, if you see something like this headed down your street, our advice is it's probably not the best time to do something like this. We never got it the bottom of what exactly this lad in San Francisco was up to, but it's preserved forever online.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much. Abbi Tatton reporting.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for the Cafferty File.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, thinks it's a great idea to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens, a very controversial proposal. We asked the viewers what they thought.
Christine writes from Washington, "The state of Washington issues drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. I was sitting at the DMV waiting my turn, I heard a clerk tell a man that since he had only one form of I.D. and two were required he would get his license anyway, but it would be printed on his license unidentifiable. This is lunacy."
Mare in Iowa writes, "The governor in New York must have been dipped in stupid at birth. I hope they vote him out of office."
Alexander in Washington, "Of course issuing drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants is a good idea. Doing so would help bring this group of people into the open rather than forcing them to break laws to exist in this country. It would contribute to making society safer overall."
Lynn in New York writes, "I registered to vote today in New York State. I filled out the application and answered yes to the question are you a U.S. citizen and presented my driver's license I.D. What I'm wondering is what kind of checks are in place to prevent illegal aliens from doing exactly the same thing and voting even though they lack citizenship?"
Rosemary writes, "What's all the flap about? Most of the illegals already have them from the street anyway. These politicians need to move into some neighborhoods and live for a few years to realize what really goes on. They have no idea what life in real America is. They make me laugh with their ridiculous ideas."
Ruth in Buffalo, New York, "Wolf, listen closely, this is your hometown. Has Spitzer lost his mind giving illegals a valid drivers' license and not going to save us money on car insurance. It's going to flood New York State with illegals who will be taking our jobs and spots in our schools and swell the welfare rolls. Who knows how many terrorists might be among them."
Richard in Seattle, "Presently illegal immigration is like the Wild West, without law and order and without law enforcement. Without documents of registration, illegal aliens are invisible in the communities they live in. If they start to get documented, it's the beginning of their amnesty."
And finally, Carl has this observation. "If cab drivers in New York City can be licensed, then why not everyone else."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File.
BLITZER: I listened to Ruth in Buffalo. My heart goes out to my fellow Buffalonians on that heartbreak loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the last two seconds.
CAFFERTY: Did you see the end of that game?
BLITZER: I watched every second of it. Hold on one second. It was painful to watch because I want you it listen to the next story and I want to get your reaction.
Listen to this, Richard Nixon is coming back to haunt Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Reporters digging through the infamous recordings made in the Nixon White House found the former president had some less than kind things to say about Fred Thompson. Thompson became a national figure when he was appointed as the Republican counsel during the Senate Watergate hearings. Listen to Nixon's reference to Thompson while then talking with then White House Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER HAIG: I pulled Len off the phone. He's talking to Fred Thompson, I said you're not -
FORMER PRES. RICHARD NIXON, UNITED STATES: Oh sh**, he's dumb as hell, Fred Thompson. Who is he? He won't say anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's dumb as hell that's what he said about Fred Thompson then. You're smiling. You remember those days.
CAFFERTY: I do. I also remember that reading Thompson was a pipeline to the Nixon White House on all the stuff the Senate Watergate committee was up to during that investigation. I'm not sure a high I.Q. is a qualifier for that office. I mean, take a look at some of the people that have been president.
BLITZER: Well, Fred Thompson did establish a reputation and went on to become not only a United States senator but a pretty good actor in the process, as well.
CAFFERTY: He also referred to Russia as the Soviet Union the other day. So, go figure.
BLITZER: He forgot. All right, Jack, thanks very much. See you back here soon.
Up ahead fun and games with Ellen Degeneres and me.
BLITZER: I'm the answer. So what's the question I asked comedian and talk show host, Ellen Degeneres? Listen carefully.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN DEGENERES: Since you've been gone ...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Where are we? I'm losing -- he's on CNN and he wants to be on my show?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: They got that answer very quickly. We're working it out, guys. I'm going to be on that show sooner rather than later. We'll give you details. Stand by for news on that front.
Until one hour from now, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's in New York.
DOBBS: Your people talking with her people, Wolf. Is that it?
BLITZER: Yes. It certainly is.
DOBBS: Well, work it out.
Wolf, thank you very much.
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