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THE SITUATION ROOM

Mideast Peace Summit; Fighting in Afghanistan; Houston Police Drone Aricraft

Aired November 23, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


MALVEAUX: Happening now, were hitmen targeting President John Kennedy in Chicago just weeks before his assassination in Dallas?
We'll show you who's revealing details of a new alleged plot.

Also, they are used by the military. Now, one local police force is getting a drone of its own.

But what do they plan to do with it?

And one of America's most popular pastors, Joel Olsteen, joins us, weighing in on hot button issues, including gay rights. Find out why he says homosexuality is "not God's best."

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In Afghanistan, deadly fighting between NATO forces and Taliban militants. CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton reports that Taliban forces are posing a growing threat -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, critical moments for this mission here in Afghanistan. And what goes on in the next few months could determine whether or not more U.S. troops will be called to fight here.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

NEWTON (voice-over): They're taking the war to them -- house by house. In the words of combat soldiers here, "squeezing the Taliban until they can't breathe." But as fast as NATO forces can clear them, Taliban lie in wait and retaliate with still more savage tactics, soldiers say -- using civilians, even children, as human shields.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they can use that as a detonator.

NEWTON: Laying deadly trails of IEDs -- improvised explosive devices. And suicide attacks are back in record numbers. This doesn't look like progress. To get that, still more troops must take on the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contact with the Taliban and hear from his friend that we are (INAUDIBLE).

NEWTON: Here, they taunt Dutch NATO troops by radio. "They are the sons of George Bush," they say. And they will get the better of allied troops if reinforcements aren't found -- and fast. NATO commanders couldn't be more blunt.

GENERAL JOHN CRADDOCK, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: It will take longer. It will be more expensive in terms of costs of killed and wounded to every nation participating.

NEWTON: Afghan civilians couldn't be more desperate. "If you let the Taliban back," this mullah pleads, you might as well have not come at all.

NATO's secretary general took all this in as CNN was given exclusive access to his tour of Afghanistan. For months, he's been a losing battle of his own. He wants more NATO allies here and isn't getting it. Dutch and Canadians are considering pulling out. Other allies are refusing to take on combat roles.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Patience. Development means also patience.

NEWTON: It's very clear that some of the contributing countries are running out of patience.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Yes. And it's up to me and up to others to say if you're now running out of patience, you spoil a very worthwhile process.

NEWTON (voice-over): This is a turning point for Afghanistan. Development has been slow, but consistent. The Taliban could change all that. And so what's being discussed more and more now in Afghanistan is moving beyond the military options and something that might be just as risky -- engaging, negotiating with the Taliban.

President Hamid Karzai now says he's been increasing his contact with some Taliban leaders, including a half dozen times just this week.

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: We are willing to talk to those of the Taliban who are not part of Al Qaeda or the terrorist networks, who do not want to be violent against the Afghan people.

NEWTON: This effort toward conciliation is extraordinary and it's motivated by what goes on every day on the battlefields here. NATO forces still win every time they take on the Taliban. The problem is, they could still lose the war.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NEWTON: That move would be extraordinary and so motivated by what's going on on the battlefields here. You know, every time NATO allies take on the Taliban they win the battle. But some say they could still end up losing the war -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Paula.

A very high bar set for Tuesday's Mideast summit in Annapolis, Maryland. The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, saying that the goal is a peace deal by the time President Bush leaves office.

Well, the big question, of course, is can the administration pull it off?

CNN's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joining us live -- Zain, is this not a shift of focus for the administration to tackle this now?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.

Well, yes, it is, really. The war in Iraq, as well as Iran's nuclear program, have really been the administration's main focus. Now, for the first time in seven years, the Israeli/Palestinian crisis is now on the front burner.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): It may be Condoleezza Rice's biggest gamble yet -- can she close a Middle East peace deal by the end of the year, the prize that has eluded others for so long?

Rice says she'll give it her best shot.

DAVID WELCH, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: This is the launching pad for serious efforts between the two, to negotiate establishment of Palestinian state.

VERJEE: Still unknown -- after the short launch, will the Bush administration keep the pressure on after Annapolis?

Like anything in the Middle East, Rice risks failure.

DAVID MAKOVSKY, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Even if she took the bar 50 yards and doesn't go goal line to goal line, we'll be much better off. If she does nothing, we know that the radicals are going to score.

VERJEE: Arab countries like Saudi Arabia say they're coming, but want substance, not just show.

GHAITH AL-OMARI, AMERICAN TASK FORCE ON PALESTINE: These kind of conferences are more of a photo-op than substantive conferences. There will be no negotiations during the meeting. It's the one where -- a one day effort.

VERJEE: On the Annapolis guest list, more than 40 countries. One glaring absence, Hamas. It was elected by Palestinians but is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. Hamas is a deadly enemy to the Palestinian president coming to Annapolis. It controls a million Palestinians in Gaza and is calling the conference stillborn.

Also not invited -- Iran. But many say Iran supports the militant Palestinian group Hamas, and is a player.

Even though Rice has managed to call this conference, her critics have long doubted that she can seal any deal before leaving office in just over a year from now.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: But if Secretary Rice is able to pull it off, it's going to define her legacy and the administration's -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Zain, why would they push for this now?

VERJEE: Well, the administration has always said that this has always been a priority. But analysts say that that's not the case. They say that there's actually been a lot more pressure from Arab countries on the U.S. to do a lot more on this front. The U.S. also needs Arab countries help and support in Iraq and it wants them on board with a coalition against Iran. The Bush administration, Suzanne, may not want its legacy just to be Iraq only. And any success on the Israeli/Palestinian front would be a real feather in their caps.

MALVEAUX: Zain, thank you so much.

Earlier, this month, Condoleezza Rice made her thirteenth trip to Israel -- making it her most visited country as secretary of state. But despite her efforts, during that time, Hamas won parliamentary elections, Israel went to war with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and Hamas gained control of Gaza, fracturing the U.S.-backed Palestinian government.

Privacy advocates say Americans are being exposed to a troubling new level of government scrutiny because of their cell phones.

CNN justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, joining us live -- Kelli, what is up with the cell phones?

(CROSSTALK)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you may not realize it, but cell phones can be used as a tracking device. And experts say that the laws governing how that information can be used are just way too murky.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): Thanks to the latest technology, experts say that cell phones can help track people within a city block in real time -- even if your phone is turned off.

But just who can get access to that information and under what circumstances?

Marc Rotenberg is a privacy advocate.

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: I think we need some very clear guidance in this area, both on the legal side and on the technology side.

ARENA: It's a tool increasingly used by law enforcement working things like child abduction cases and drug investigations. Prosecutors have to go before a judge to get access to that information, but there's a big debate over the standard of evidence that they must present.

ROTENBERG: And the question comes down to this -- what does the government need to prove or assert before the telephone company can be required to provide this information about one of its customers?

ARENA: Justice officials say their lawyers have been told to prove there is probable truth that a crime is about to or has taken place, but that doesn't always happen. Judges sometimes rule the information can be turned over anyway, because it's relevant to an ongoing investigation.

David Laufman is a former federal prosecutor.

DAVID LAUFMAN, KELLEY, DRYE & WARREN: The government would take the position that this is not intrusive enough to require a showing of probable cause, in particular because no content of the communication is obtained by the information provided by the communication's carriers.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ARENA: The Justice Department argues that it's not interested in tracking law abiding citizens, but this is just another one of those topics being debated mostly in the dark. That's because the request for information and subsequent judge's orders are often kept secret -- Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's good to bring it out in the open.

Thank you so much, Kelli.

And no media allowed -- the test you were not supposed to see -- unmanned drones pressed into action for law enforcement.

Will eyes in the skies soon be watching you?

Also, televangelist Joel Olsteen -- find out why he's not preaching politics this election year and focusing on the family.

And it looks like, well, the Titanic -- a passenger ship sinking in the Antarctic.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A Texas mystery solved -- at least partially. We now know Houston police are going to start using unmanned drone aircraft.

But the question remains, well, for what?

Stephen Dean of CNN affiliate KPRC has got an exclusive look. STEPHEN DEAN, KPRC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Neighbors accustomed to livestock and wide open land had no idea what to make of all this -- black trucks, satellite dishes and a radar swirling and a portable launch pad, with something covered up. At the entrance to this Waller County ranch was a Houston police road block, checking all the dignitaries arriving for this secret test. Their invitation spelled out "no media allowed." We tried to ask this HPD lieutenant on his way back out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll be coming out here in a minute.

DEAN: They all gathered around the launch pad -- big shots with police departments from all over the Houston area. And, now, the show they came for -- the test you were not supposed to see. It's an unmanned drone aircraft. HPD, the federal Department of Homeland Security and other invited guests all watching to see how this drone could be used for police work in and around Houston.

(On camera): We tracked that drone from News Chopper 2. And that drone was able to use a high-powered camera to track us. Those cameras can actually look into people's homes or even follow them in moving cars -- which raises all sorts of new questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One issue is going to be, you know, law enforcement using this and when, by using these drones, are they conducting a search in which they would need probable cause or a warrant.

DEAN: The military has been dropping bombs and using drones for secret war zone surveillance for years. And last month, the California wildfires were snuffed out, with drones joining the other firefighting tankers in the air. This drone is made by a Washington State firm called Insitu. They weigh about 40 pounds, but they can carry 15 pounds more in police gear. They can stay airborne over Houston 15 to 24 hours without landing.

MARTHA MONTALVO, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF: I wasn't ready to publicize this...

DEAN: HPD quickly hustled together a news conference when it realized our cameras were there for the entire secret test.

MONTALVO: Potential public safety applications include mobility, evacuations, homeland security, search and rescue, as well as tactical.

DEAN: Executive Assistant Chief Martha Mantabo admits that could mean covert police action. But she says it's too early to tell what else HPD will do with the aircraft. Maybe these guys know. We saw many ticket writers from HPD's Radar Task Force.

So we asked, are these drones headed for ticketing speeders from the sky?

MONTALVO: I'm not ruling anything out. DEAN: Back at the secret test site, police helicopter pilots claimed the entire air space was restricted and even threatened our local 2 Investigates pilot with action from the FAA if we didn't leave. But we checked with FAA several times and there never was a flight restriction. That leaves some to wonder whether the police are now ready to use terrorism fears since 911 to push the envelope further into our private lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen that some of these technologies that are being used in the aftermath of 9/11 that we thought were necessary to protect our security in that time are now being used to diminish privacy in other contexts. And that is extremely worrisome.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: That was Stephen Dean of KPRC reporting.

Well, we're learning more about the American student who's one of the suspects in the slaying of a British student in Italy. Amanda Knox wrote a lengthy statement shortly after she was arrested.

Our CNN's Jennifer Eccleston reports.

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, it's a revealing insight into the mind of a very confused young woman who's accused of a very serious crime here in Italy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ECCLESTON (voice-over): Hours after her arrest on November 6th, Amanda Knox asked Italian police for a pen and paper and she began to write a rambling four-page statement now obtained by CNN. It carries the stamp of the Perugia police. A source in the prosecutor's office says it is authentic.

In a neat hand, Knox writes: "I know I didn't kill Meredith. That's all I know for sure."

Her roommate, Meredith Kercher, was murdered on November 1st. The investigating judge says her throat was cut after an attempted sexual assault.

Knox writes: "These things seem unreal to me. Like a dream." She also talks about her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. Knox maintains she was at his home that night and says: "After dinner, I noticed there was blood on Raphael's hands, but I was under the impression it was blood from the fish."

She says she didn't think he killed Meredith Kercher, but: "Now he is trying to find a way out by disassociating himself with me."

Sollecito was arrested the same day as Knox. He has told police he was home alone at the time of the murder -- surfing the Web. They both deny involvement in her death, but prosecutors say they have sufficient evidence to make them prime suspects. Bar owner Patrick Lumumba is also a suspect, but has been released from prison for lack of evidence. He says he wasn't at the scene of the crime.

In her statement, Knox writes: "In the flashbacks that I'm having, I see Patrick as the murderer. But the way the truth feels in my mind, there is no way for me to have known" -- a sign of her confused thoughts that night.

Attempts to reach Knox's attorney were unsuccessful. But toward the end of her statement she asks: "Who is the real murderer?"

It's a question everyone here is still asking.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ECCLESTON: Each day brings new developments in this complicated case, as police try to determine who killed Meredith Kercher and why -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

A disaster at sea -- a cruise ship sinking right now near Antarctica. We'll show you what's happening and the dramatic rescue of passengers and crew.

Plus, hugely popular TV pastor and author Joel Olsteen -- what does he think the greatest threat is facing America?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A cruise ship is on the verge of sinking in the icy waters off Antarctica in a scene that looks like the Titanic.

Our CNN's Carol Costello joining us -- Carol, passengers are obviously getting a little bit more than they bargained for. That looks treacherous.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was treacherous for a time, Suzanne. You know, they signed up for an adventure cruise. It's the thing in vacations right now. You don't cruise for relaxation -- but for the thrill of it. But for those aboard the Canadian cruise ship Explorer, they got the chills instead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): She's touted as a ship that can go with others cannot -- designed to navigate the heavy, icy waters in the Antarctica -- giving her passengers a chance to see incredible beauty. According to "The Times" online of London, passengers paid $8,000 per cabin for what was billed as an adventure cruise. And they sure got one. The ship hit an iceberg. Imagine what you would think if you were on board -- Titanic.

(VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And like the Titanic, the Explorer began taking on water in the ship's engine room. The iceberg punched a fist size hole in the ship's hull.

SUSAN HAYES, GAP ADVENTURES: The water began leaking in, but it was a slow process. The pumps were managing the water quite well for several hours.

COSTELLO: But the sea won and the captain ordered 100 passengers to board the life boats. A rescue effort was mounted by British, Argentine, Chilean and U.S. Coast Guards.

MIKE MULFORD, ROYAL AIR FORCE RESCUE AND SEARCH: You cannot underestimate how difficult it is when a ship gets into trouble in somewhere like the Antarctic. You've got cold. You've got distance. You've got the fact that there will be no helicopters locally.

COSTELLO: And even though it's spring in Antarctica, it is bitterly cold. These were taken by a nearby ship. The temperature hovered around 24 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature was around 34 degrees.

HAYES: The captain stayed on. Initially, the passengers were led into the life boats. The captain stayed on and the crew stayed on. They were the last to actually leave.

COSTELLO: They left only when it was clear the ship was sinking. For up to three frigid hours, 154 passengers and crew huddled in their life rafts, until a Norwegian whip was able to rescue them. Captain Arnvid Hansen told "The Times" online: "They wee wet and cold when they came aboard. None of them have hypothermia."

In fact, all are just fine and waiting for a plane to take them home.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: Yes, for that next adventure. The passengers are actually in the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica. And, hopefully, they're having some fun. In the meantime, the Explorer continues to sink almost completely on her side now.

MALVEAUX: This was just from a fist sized hole that caused that ship to sink like that?

That's unbelievable.

COSTELLO: Isn't it amazing?

It was a fist sized hole. They believe some cracks coming out from the sides of the hole. But it took two hours for the water to overcome the pumps in the engine room. And then the captain said everybody to the life boats. But, yes, that little hole.

MALVEAUX: A little too much adventure, I think, for me.

COSTELLO: It's too cold in the Antarctica to be in a little lifeboat in the water.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Carol, for the story.

A popular Evangelical leader who has decided to stay out of politics -- even in an election year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL OLSTEEN: Our congregation has many thousands and they're Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- people that are for the war, not for the war. And I believe I have to take the higher road and say let me take you in your spiritual walk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Joel Olsteen in THE SITUATION ROOM. He explains why he is sticking to religion in 2008.

Plus, suspects in court -- new evidence in the case of missing American teen, Natalee Holloway.

Do police now have enough to break the case?

And what would Jesus buy?

A one man crusade against holiday shopping madness. Find out why he wants the world to buy nothing this season.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the recent relative calm in Iraq is shattered. A bomb attack killed 13 people today in an outdoor pet market in Baghdad. Another bombing at a police checkout in Mosul also killed 13 people -- three police officers and three civilians.

New York City may we on track to have fewer than 500 homicides this year. That total, projected by the "New York Times," would be the lowest annual figure since reliable police statistics became available more than four decades ago.

And Beijing is taking new steps to fight HIV and AIDS as it prepares to host the Olympics. The city has now ordered hotels to provide condoms in all bedrooms. The number of HIV and AIDS cases in Beijing soared 54 percent in the first 10 months of this year.

Wolf Blitzer off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The world according to one of the country's most prominent television ministers. Joel Olsteen has a huge media ministry, a book on bettering your life and an interesting perspective on politics, the issues and what he believes is society's greatest enemy.

He talked with all of that with our own Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: And joining us now from the CNN Center is pastor Joel Olsteen.

He's the author of an important new book entitled "Become A Better You: Seven Ways To Improving Your Life Every Day."

Pastor, thanks very much for coming in.

JOEL OSTEEN, AUTHOR, "BECOME A BETTER YOU": Thank you, my pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We know you have a huge following and your best seller, "Your Best Life Now" has been a best seller for a long time. Let me read from your new book this graph that jumped out at me. "One of the greatest threats we face in the twenty-first century is not a terrorist attack or ecological catastrophe, but an attack on our homes. The enemy would love nothing more than to ruin your relationship with your husband or your wife or your parent or your children." The enemy. Who is the enemy that potentially would do that to our families?

OLSTEEN: Well, I think, I'm talking more in a spiritual sense there, Wolf, that the enemy being forces I call them forces of darkness. I think it start would the devil. We call it in bible terms. But I just think there are forces that are trying to pull our families apart today and we have to be strong to stay together and keep strife and division out of our homes.

BLITZER: Beyond the devil, are there groups, organizations, individuals you feel are part of this group that you call the enemy?

OSTEEN: No, I really don't. I don't really, I'm not going that, I'm not taking it in that direction. It's more of in the spiritual side and just, I just really believe that there's, there's things that try to pull us apart as a family. So, I'm seeing it more on the spiritual side.

BLITZER: Some evangelical pastors, leaders out there who get deeply involved in politics, others like you try to stay out of politics. Is there a right or a wrong course for an evangelical leader?

OSTEEN: You know what I don't think it's right or wrong. I think it's what god has put in your heart to do. I just have never had any desire in that area. I have good friends that are very strong that can get on there and debate and they're much more political. I don't know if it's right or wrong. I believe for, for me what's right is to not get on the political side. Sometimes I believe that divides the very audience I'm trying to reach. Wolf, in a church like ours, our congregation has many thousands and there are democrats, republicans, independents, people that are for the war, not for the war and I believe I have to take the higher road and say, let me help you in your spiritual walk.

BLITZER: What about what many evangelicals would cause the moral issues whether abortion or gay rights? Do you get involved in trying to express your opinions on those sensitive issues?

OSTEEN: I would say this, Wolf, I don't crusade against them or crusade to make my opinion known. I feel like my calling is it bring hope and encouragement and teach people how to live their everyday lives and I'm not for abortion and I don't think homosexuality is god's best but I try to stay in my calling. We're for everybody to bring them hope and encouragement and not to exclude a certain group from our following.

BLITZER: Explain why you think homosexuality is not god's best because homosexuals believe that was the way god created them. They were born this way to either love women or love men and they had no choice in the matter and this is simply the way that god created them.

OSTEEN: You know Wolf, I can't say that I understand it all. I don't when I read things like that, I don't know I understand it all. I just go back to the foundation of my faith is the truth that I found in the bible and I only see relationships between men and women is what, the way god created us to be. I'm not saying I condemn them. I'm not saying I understand it all but I have to say this is my core belief on the inside.

BLITZER: What about same-sex marriage or same-sex unions? If two men love each other want to spend the rest of their lives with each other, or two women love each other, should they be allowed to get the benefits, the rights that heterosexual couples have?

OSTEEN: You know, Wolf, I'm not up to speed on all that. I don't believe again that it's god's best for us to say that a marriage is between a man, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't know about the technical issues. I'm certainly for everyone having a chance in life and being kind and respectful to everyone. But I just don't know if I'm up to speed on it all.

BLITZER: Have you ever considered running for office?

OSTEEN: No, sir I haven't. I had people ask, but I just don't feel like that's what I'm called to do. I just feel like, you know, I'm doing what I was born to do right now.

BLITZER: So you don't think we should expect to hear you endorse a candidate either democrat or republican or eventually when there's the nominees either side you're going to stay out of it?

OSTEEN: Yeah, I'm going to stay out of it. I don't believe that's in the best interest of what I feel like that I'm called to do.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Become A Better You, Seven Key Ways to Improving Your Life Every Day." I know a lot of people will read this and they're going to really get some better ways to improve their life. Thanks so much for coming in.

OSTEEN: Hey thanks Wolf, my pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: 44 years and one day after President Kennedy's assassination we're learning more about allegations that he was targeted in another city. Our CNN's Brian Todd looking into this. Brian, what did you piece together?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Suzanne, it seems to happen about this time every year but there's buzz about another book on the death of John F. Kennedy and whether other assassins were targeting him just weeks before his death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A former Secret Service agent tells CNN, just before President Kennedy was supposed to go to Chicago in early November, 1963, the agency got an important tip. An employee of a boarding house had seen rifles with telescopic sites and an outline of Kennedy's motorcade route in a room rented by Cuban nationals. The former agent, Abraham Bolden, would not go on camera with us or do a phone interview. He's writing a book out next spring called "The Echo From Dealey Plaza." Bolden admits he was not directly involved in the Secret Service investigation into the alleged plot, but in the 1970s, he told the House Select Committee On Assassinations and learned bout it by monitoring Secret Service radio channels and observing suspects in custody. A different author, who's researched the alleged Chicago plot, told us what he believes happened to the suspected Cuban hit men.

LAMAR WALDRON, AUTHOR, "ULTIMATE SACRIFICE": From all indications, the surveillance on the two men was blown somehow. The two men were actually at large at the time that JFK was getting ready to leave Washington and come to Chicago.

TODD: Kennedy's trip to Chicago was canceled, but it's not clear if it was because of a security threat.

Contacted by CNN, the Secret Service would not comment on Abraham Bolden's claim, but did tell us he was separated from the agency in 1964 after being convicted of a crime. Published reports say Bolden was convicted of soliciting bribes from a counterfeiter but that his accuser later recanted. Bolden claims he was framed.

Another author says this about the various conspiracy theories surrounding the young president's death that seem to surface this time every year around this time around the anniversary.

VINCENT BUGLIOSI, AUTHOR, "RECLAIMING HISTORY": People find that intellectually in Congress that someone they perceive to be a king like Kennedy captivating the world with his wit, charm, intelligence, he's smiling, he's youthful and driving down the road and a second later it's all over with. They say something more had to be involved.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: What does Abraham Bolden's claim deserved to be lumped in with those up conspiracy theories? The House Assassinations Committee was not able to confirm the existence of an assassination team in Chicago and wrote that it found Bolden's claims had "questionable authenticity." But it also found the Secret Service failed to make appropriate use of the information about the alleged Chicago threat. Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So Brian, did Abraham Bolden, did he ever talk to the Warren Commission?

TODD: He was scheduled to in May of 1964 but at that time Bolden's lawyer advised the pending against him and anything he said might have an effect on his case. As of now we found nothing indicating that he ever spoke to the Warren Commission.

MALVEAUX: OK. Fascinating. Brian Todd, thank you. The Warren Commission was created just one week after Kennedy's murder. Its final report on the Dallas assassination says three shots were fired by the Texas Schoolbook Depository by gunman Lee Harvey Oswald who was acting alone and that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to kill the president.

Well, stop the shopping. We'll show you a very unusual anti- consumerism message and an even more unusual man behind it. Plus, a cold case heats up. Major new developments in the Natalee Holloway murder. We'll take you live to Aruba.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: It looks like a robust start to the holiday shopping season with Americans packing stores and malls across the country on this day after thanksgiving. Our CNN's Ali Velshi joining us live. It certainly looks like Americans hit the stores and the way I see it, it doesn't look like consumers are all that concerned about the bad news we seem to be getting lately. They're out there.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Suzanne and I don't know whether it's that they're not concerned or it's the opposite. They're actually trying to push away all the concern that they're hearing because most consumers have been following the news and they know, obviously they don't need to hear it on the news, their gas prices are high, their oil prices are high, their home values are lower and there's even talk about a recession. So I don't know if they were out there to sort of do what American consumers do best and say, we don't really care or they weren't concerned at all. We spoke to a lot of them and that's what they told us, that they're not all that concerned. I couldn't tell whether the sales were any better. The shift we did see this year, Suzanne, stores opened earlier. Many outlet malls were open as early as midnight last night. Sears across the country and other chains opened at 4 in the morning. So when I got to the mall this morning by 5:00, it looked like the middle of the afternoon on a normal day. There were a lot of people out there. The numbers are yet to come in, but, really, the American consumer has so many years been called upon to, you know, to disappoint and they never do. The American consumer likes to shop. I remind people of 2001 after the attacks of 9/11 when it was expected to be a very, very bad holiday shopping season. Consumers were rallied to come out. It wasn't a record-breaking season, but they did come out. Maybe the idea of saving the economy from a recession is enough to get consumers out there. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, because they're running up credit but they were out there today, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Ali, we'll see how that all shakes out. Thank you very much, Ali.

What would Jesus buy? It is an odd question at heart of an unusual campaign aimed at getting U.S. consumers to stop consuming so much. Our CNN's Kareen Wynter has the story. Kareen?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the holiday shopping season has kicked into high gear, but one man is actually begging Americans to put it in reverse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kohl's after thanksgiving sale starts at 4:00 a.m.

WYNTER: The message from advertisers this holiday season is shop, shop, shop. But this man wants you to stop, stop, stop.

BILL TALEN, "REVEREND BILLY": Give us the power to stop shopping!

WYNTER: Reverend Billy, as he is known, is on a crusade to get Americans to rethink their consumerism, which he says is destroying the country's soul.

TALEN: We're all shoppers. We're all sinners.

WYNTER: The reverend and his choir of followers have brought their campaign to super stores and shopping malls around the country. A tour documented in the new film "What Would Jesus Buy?"

TALEN: These products are taking over our lives.

WYNTER: It's an uphill battle when even the president promotes consumer spending.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I encourage you all to go shopping more.

WYNTER: The conference board predicts the average American household will spend $471 on holiday gifts this season, up from $449 last year. The Reverend Billy's demonstrations have gotten him tossed from Wal-Mart and ousted from Starbucks. It might surprise those companies to learn the reverend is not a real minister but the creation of New York-based actor Bill Talen. He says he created the character originally to rail against the Walt Disney company for transforming Times Square. His mission, expanded from there.

TALEN: When I was standing in front of the Disney Store preaching I noticed people gathered around and wanted to talk about consumerism.

WYNTER: Talen runs a non-profit theater group and says his anti- shopping activities are funded from donations by the public. He says he'll be out again this holiday season preaching repentance at the retail level.

TALEN: Save Christmas, amen.

WYNTER: By the way, this documentary is playing in New York and here in Los Angeles. And the Reverend Billy does admit there is a bit of a contradiction there at urging people not to shop this Christmas, but also encouraging them to pay to see his film. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Kareen.

And a possible break in the case of missing American student Natalee Holloway. We will take you live to Aruba.

And there could be a seismic shift in the way presidential candidates are chosen in California. Republicans and democrats are battling it out.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Two brothers who were rearrested this week in the Natalee Holloway case will remain in custody in Aruba. A third suspect is said to appear before a judge on Monday. CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is live in Aruba. Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We also have new information tonight because I just wrapped up conversation, a very lengthy one, with the new chief prosecutor in this case. His name is Hans Mos and he told me and we're hearing this for the very first time, that given the evidence that they have collected so far, he is convinced, in his words, that he has enough to get a conviction of the three people who are currently being held in custody. That's the two Kalpoe brothers as well as Joran van der Sloot. I followed up and said even without the body of Natalee Holloway? And the chief prosecutor said yes.

Now, the chief prosecutor would not reveal what this new evidence is, part of which is what was presumably shown in court today or passed on to the judge, but CNN has learned that one of the things that the new team of Dutch investigators and Aruban authorities have been doing is to reanalyze some old information, as well as new information using, in part, new technology to analyze, for example, cell phone calls and text messages that were made at the time on the night that Natalee Holloway disappeared, messages and phone calls that took place between the Kalpoe brothers and Joran van der Sloot. But again today, in court, a judge once he was given some information, decided to allow authorities to keep the Kalpoe brothers in court at least another eight days. Authorities could always go back and ask for more time as their interrogations continue.

Joran van der Sloot was extradited from the Netherlands and he should arrive shortly, if he hasn't already, here in Aruba. They're keeping a tight lid on things. He will appear in jail, but before a court this Monday. At that time, the judge will decide whether he can be held longer without further action on the part of the judge.

Now to recap here, these three men were charged Wednesday of this week with new charges on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter, as well as causing grave bodily harm that could cause the death of Natalee Holloway. If found guilty eventually of these charges and a judge would preside over this case, not a jury, these men could face a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Susan, for bringing us the very latest details on an ongoing case.

A federal lawmaker is making some very serious charges against Chicago police. He says they pulled him over and gave him a ticket for no other reason than his race. Our CNN Susan Roesgen joining us live. Susan, what do you understand happened here?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in this case, Congressman Danny Davis says he's a victim of racial profiling. You know studies show that African American drivers sometimes feel unfairly targeted by the police and in this case, the congressman is going to fight the ticket, although the police say he deserved it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. DANNY DAVIS (D), ILLINOIS: Well, initially I was thinking that someone had called the police and they were on their way to a scene.

ROESGEN: Congressman Danny Davis says he didn't do anything wrong. He says he was driving three people home from his weekly radio show just after midnight in this mostly African American neighborhood. He was stopped by two white police officers, who ticketed him for weaving and crossing the center line.

DAVIS: Since I knew that I hadn't done any of that, any of that, then I could only deduce that there must have been some other reason.

ROESGEN: The congressman believes he believes the sight of four African Americans in his black Mercury Marquise made the officers suspicious. Congressman Davis came here to the neighborhood police station and complained to a sergeant about the stop but the two white officers refused to back down. The Chicago Police Department has released a statement saying, "Congressman Davis was stopped on probable cause and issued a citation for violating a traffic law. We assure the Congressman that any allegations of racial profiling will be thoroughly investigated and the Chicago Police Department remains committed to enforcing the law fairly and without bias." But Congressman Davis insists there's nothing wrong with his driving and he will be in court to fight the ticket.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN: Chicago has nearly 14,000 police officers, Suzanne, and fewer than 4,000 are African American. Congressman Davis says that he hopes that by fighting this ticket he will push the Chicago police to recruit more African American officers and he hopes it will bring better racial sensitivity training for all the officers. Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Susan, thanks so much for that very important story.

And revamping the way votes are dulled out, we will show you an effort in one state that could have a huge impact on the presidential election and why some people are very unhappy about it.

Plus, his state hosts the first presidential caucuses in the nation in just six weeks. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack will join us.

You're here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Forty-five years after defeating a U.S. backed invasion force, Cuba is still worried about a possible attack. It's flexing its muscles this week with military war games. Our CNN's Shasta Darlington is in Havana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A battle cry in Cuba. Tanks rumble down country roads and soldiers tramp through the jungle. But these soldiers aren't at war, at least not yet. Cuba has launched five days of army exercises, aimed at showing people at home and abroad it can fend off a foreign invasion. To outsiders it may seem unlikely, but Cubans are often told by their government that the United States could one day attack.

HAL KLEPAK, ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE OF CANADA: It's not panic, it's not a deep-seated fear that this is going to happen tomorrow morning, but to add another factor in U.S. deliberations.

DARLINGTON: There's a historical precedent to these war games. In 1961, the U.S. backed an invasion of Cuba, the infamous Bay of Pigs. It was repelled by an army led by Fidel Castro himself. Then came the Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet Union installed missiles here in Cuba just 90 miles off the coast of the United States. These ancient relics are constant reminders of that turbulent past. More than four decades later with Fidel Castro sidelined by illness, there's speculation among Cubans that the United States might choose these uncertain times to intervene. Speculation fueled by comments by President George Bush last month.

BUSH: The operative word in our future dealings with Cuba is not stability. The operative word is freedom.

DARLINGTON: His comments riled even some critics of the government. So, authorities took the unusual step of reprinting Bush's speech in state newspapers. The foreign minister accused Bush of threatening to launch a new war of conquest against Cuba, like the one against Iraq. This week Cuba got to rule out the aging weaponry as a warning that any war of conquest won't go unanswered. Shasta Darlington, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Okay.

Happening now, a new ray of hope for Middle East peace. Arab nations are behind the break through before a critical conference here in the United States. How much is the Bush administration willing to give to get what it wants?

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