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THE SITUATION ROOM
Omaha Mall Shootings; Iran's Nuclear Program; Terror Suspects Fight for Rights; Clinton Vote on Iran a "Mistake"; State of Emergency in Northwest; Modern-Day "Bonnie and Clyde"
Aired December 5, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: But let's begin with the breaking news. We're getting new details on that story we have been following for the past couple of hours. Multiple shots fired inside a mall department store in Omaha, Nebraska. There are now believed to be at least five victims, with two of them now reported dead.
Carol Costello is monitoring developments for us for us.
She's joining us now with the latest.
What do we know -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.
As far as we know right now, police in Omaha, Nebraska still searching that mall, going from store to store, searching for a gunman, someone -- either one or two people -- opened fire inside of that department store you were talking about, called Von Maur. And, according to witnesses, shot one man in the head and another man on a cell phone who was calling 911.
Hospital officials are saying now that a man and woman are dead and there is another woman in the hospital right now in critical condition.
Other witnesses inside the store told us they heard five or six shots. Other witnesses said they heard 20 to 30 shots. We saw at least two people taken from the mall on stretchers. We're hearing at least five or more people have been injured besides those that dead that I told you about.
Now, as I said, police are still going store to store. So some people reportedly are still holed up inside that mall, hiding in back rooms. The mall is locked down until police can wrap this thing up. Witnesses do say they saw some shoppers coming from the mall with hands on top of their head. And that's probably because police want to get them out of the mall and they want to make sure those people are not the gunman, so they're telling them to put their hands on their head.
We do know, Wolf, as you said, a man and woman dead. That's according to hospital officials. And one woman is in very critical condition. Five or more injured -- maybe up to 10. We just don't know. One local affiliate reporting that there was a man in handcuffs outside of the mall wearing a black sweatshirt with his hood up. We don't know if he was connected to that shooting. Another witness said that he thought he saw the gunman try to commit suicide and fail. We don't know if that report is true, either. Police are being very tight-lipped about this.
And as I said, as I get more information, I'll be glad to pass it along.
BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment, Carol, because I want to play some eyewitness accounts of what people saw and heard as this was unfolding.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in the center part of the mall. And with all the construction going off, it sounded like nail guns and whatnot going off. But then people just started running frantically, saying there's been a shooting in there. And I gathered my wife and kids and got out as soon as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just still in shock. I can't believe it. I mean I came here for an hour just -- I had an hour of extra time before I picked up my son from school and I was going to grab a few presents. And my daughter says, maybe they're doing construction downstairs, mom. And I thought that at first. And then the second time we just -- it was too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're also getting this from the Associated Press now, moving a story, quoting the major newspaper in Omaha. The "Omaha World-Herald" is reporting that at least five people are now reported dead and a dozen others wounded after this shooting at this mall in Omaha.
I want to go back to Carol. Costello.
She's getting this information, as well. The A.P. quoting the "Omaha World-Herald," saying at least five people now reported dead, a dozen others wounded.
This is a serious -- this is a serious development that's unfolding. And you know what, Carol, for a moment, let's listen in to our affiliate, as it's reporting live on what they're saying right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have just been able to go inside, grab their things, their purse, whatever they left inside. They are finally going inside to grab it and leave. But that wasn't the case around 1:30, 2:00 this afternoon. Customers told me it was chaos -- as well as employees. They said they heard more than 15 gunshot wounds -- or gunshots. I'm sorry. People were ducking, hiding, going into restrooms, fitting rooms, wherever they can to hide away. One of the customers told me when she heard the gunshots, she looked up and all she saw was a cloud of smoke. It took about a half an hour for police to go inside and let them out. But one of the employees -- one of the managers told me when she heard the gunshots, she turned around and she saw several people down -- laying down on the ground, shot with gunshot wounds.
Now, there are still people inside trying to get some of their stuff out. People are -- when people heard the gunshots, they actually didn't believe that they were gunshots. They said they thought it was construction going on. They didn't -- they didn't know what was going on. But when they realized it was gunshots, they practically ran and hid.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill Mulai (ph) reporting for us.
Right now, I understand that Bill can't hear us, so we're going to go ahead and try to get back to him as soon as possible...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...when he can hear us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, some of that video that you just saw right there was some unedited video we had just gotten back to our studios.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really got a feel for what the situation was like early on in this shooting at Westroads Mall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really some dramatic pictures. And earlier on, when were on the air, we talked to a Von Maur employee. She painted a dramatic picture herself before we even had those pictures. She was actually inside the Von Maur store when that shooting happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then she actually witnessed one of the people get shot. She was on the first floor in the cosmetics department.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where she works, in Von Maur, in the cosmetics department. That is on the west side of the store. She heard the gunshots that have been described very well by many people and then saw one of her employees -- co-workers go down.
Lisa Bottle (ph) is her name. She's going to describe to us what she saw, in an interview we had earlier for you, during our coverage earlier this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you were on the first floor when this happened?
You heard it from coming -- coming from either the second floor or third floor then?
LISA BOTTLE: Yes, it was coming from either the second floor or third floor, because they shot down.
(voice-over): So they shot from the upper floors down to the lower floors then?
BOTTLE: Well, they did both, because I only saw a couple of shots come down through. But, yes, they did shoot down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see any victims taken away?
Did you -- did you see any victims?
BOTTLE: I did. I don't know what's happened to them. I don't know what's all going on -- what's all kind of happened. But, yes, I did see them shoot down and hit someone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it one person or several people?
Do you know exactly how many people may have been in there?
BOTTLE: I don't know and I'm not sure enough to know, due to how many shots were fired, how -- if it was one or two people or if it was more than one. But I didn't see anybody. I just saw -- because I was on first floor and they were on the higher floors, I'm guessing second.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you happen to see the shooter or a shooter?
BOTTLE: I did not. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
BOTTLE: We hit the dirt. We hit pavement as soon as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was your response?
Obviously, that's the last thing you would expect to happen when you are working at the mall, doing your normal job.
What was your response?
What did you do once that -- once the (INAUDIBLE)?
BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from our affiliate coverage to go to a live news conference with details on what happened at that shopping mall.
Let's listen in to the Omaha Police Department.
SGT. TERESA NEGRON, OMAHA POLICE: ...that had been injured by gunshot. They also -- other officers arrived and they began to clear the mall, searching for a suspect. They located other victims. At this point, we can tell you that we have confirmed nine people that have been -- that have died from their injuries. We have five other people that have suffered injuries, have been transported to the area hospitals, Creighton University Medical Center and the Nebraska Medical Center with injuries.
We have been able to clear the mall. We do not believe that we have any other shooter. The person we believe to be the shooter has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The people are still inside the mall at this point in time. We can tell you that we've also set up a location for concerned family at the Hampton Inn. There will be no media allowed at that location at this time. Right now, we are still conducting our investigation and do not anticipate the Westroads Mall being open possibly until tomorrow.
I can tell you that both Mayor Fahey and Chief Thomas Warren are out of town at this point in time. They have been notified and provided the details and they are on their way back to Omaha at this point.
QUESTION: Teresa, could you just describe the shooter, just sort of male, female, age?
NEGRON: We believe the shooter to be a male. I don't have very many details regarding the age or description at this point in time. When we first arrived, I'm sure most of you that were listening to the radio could hear varying descriptions that were put out. I can't confirm exactly what that description is. But I can tell you it's a male.
QUESTION: Does the nine include the shooter, the nine dead?
NEGRON: No, it does not.
NEGRON: I'm sorry, it does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nine does include a shooter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it does.
QUESTION: He took his life inside the mall?
NEGRON: Yes, that's what we believe to have occurred.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us who the eight victims were and where all they were found?
NEGRON: I can tell you that it appears at this point that most of our victims were inside Von Maur.
QUESTION: Were they on the outside of Von Maur?
NEGRON: They were inside the store.
QUESTION: Were there any outside?
NEGRON: Not that I'm aware of at this point.
QUESTION: Were they on the first floor and the third floor? Were they in (INAUDIBLE)?
NEGRON: Well, we had several that were on the third and on the second floor of Von Maur.
QUESTION: Any indication of motive, Teresa?
NEGRON: At this point, I can't really answer that question and we're still investigating this to try to determine exactly why this all occurred.
QUESTION: Are there still people hiding inside the mall, still terrified of what happened?
NEGRON: I can tell you, we've secured and cleared most of the mall. There are some -- a few areas that we're still clearing. But, as far as we know, there is no other shooter that's in this mall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we don't believe any customers are hiding or in fear right now. We're just simply processing individuals to identify them and then we're releasing them if they were not witnesses.
QUESTION: Do you...
QUESTION: Or customers?
NEGRON: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Do you know the dead versus store employees and customers?
NEGRON: You know, at this point, we don't have that information.
QUESTION: Do you know if any employees were killed?
NEGRON: Again, we have not identified the people that are deceased at this point.
QUESTION: Do you know at all what -- if they're from Omaha or Nebraska?
NEGRON: Again, we haven't identified any of the deceased at this point. QUESTION: What kind of gun did the shooter have?
NEGRON: At this point, we believe it was a rifle.
QUESTION: Is six minutes an appropriate response time when there's an active shooter at the mall?
NEGRON: We -- an active shooter at the mall?
We sent every available officer in the City of Omaha. They came to the mall in lights and sirens. Six minutes is the time that it took them to arrive here at the scene.
QUESTION: What about security at the mall?
QUESTION: Do you know if the shooter is any way -- knew any of the other eight people?
NEGRON: No, I don't have that information right now.
QUESTION: Was there only one gun?
NEGRON: As far as we know, at this point, that's that.
QUESTION: On the other side of Von Maur, there is a secured area where there's been some police tape put up. The officers have been interested in some vehicles inside that tape.
Do you know what they're looking at there?
NEGRON: Well, it's very possible that we are, at this point, there -- the person that we believe to be the shooter came to the mall in a vehicle, so we would be looking for that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us where it started and where it proceeded from there?
NEGRON: I'/m sorry.
QUESTION: You said nine were confirmed dead.
Do you know how many injured overall?
NEGRON: There's a total of 14 people that were injured. Nine of those people are deceased at this time.
QUESTION: What's the status of the other five?
Are they -- they're at the medical center -- are they in critical condition?
What are they -- are they...
NEGRON: To my knowledge, we have two people that are still in critical condition and three that are -- have gunshot wounds.
QUESTION: Can you tell us where the shooting started and then where it proceeded from there?
NEGRON: You know, we are still doing that investigation and it is way too early for us to provide those types of details.
QUESTION: Any children among the injured or dead?
NEGRON: I don't have that information at this time.
QUESTION: Was the shooter alive when officers arrived?
NEGRON: You know, that's very difficult to tell. I don't know. I can tell you that the shooter is deceased and it appears to be a self- inflicted gunshot wound.
QUESTION: Did the shooter say anything when he went in?
NEGRON: I don't have that information at this time.
QUESTION: ...the initial officer on the scene, did the responding officers hear anymore gunshots when they (INAUDIBLE)?
NEGRON: To my knowledge, there was no other gunshots that were heard upon arrival. I believe that when the person who called 9/11 made that call, there was a possibility that there were gunshots heard in the background.
QUESTION: Has anyone else told you how this began or what -- how -- what's -- did they say anything or did he just sort of (INAUDIBLE)?
NEGRON: You know, at this point, I don't have any information as to what this person said when they came in the mall or if they said anything. We just don't have that information right now.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from this news conference. Clearly, lots of questions and not a whole lot of answers. But Sergeant Teresa Negron of the Omaha Police Department has told us now that nine people are dead. That would include the shooter who supposedly -- allegedly -- took his own life, had a rifle there. Five other people are injured, two of them critical, three others with gunshot wounds. Unclear how serious those wounds are.
But the incident, apparently, is over. Police are now going through this shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska, clearing it, making sure that people leave. But this is a horrific incident that unfolded over the past couple hours right in Omaha, Nebraska. Nine people, including the shooter, dead.
We'll stay on top of this story and bring you more information as it comes in.
In the meantime, let's check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got The Cafferty File.
The White House quickly reacting, Jack...
CAFFERTY: They did, yes.
BLITZER: ...to your e-mail question...
CAFFERTY: I have a statement from the...
BLITZER: ...of the last hour.
CAFFERTY: I have a statement here, Wolf, from the White House concerning the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is a private citizen government watchdog group that asserts that there are 10 million missing White House e-mails.
The acronym for that group is CREW. The statement is as follows: "CREW has yet to provide any basis for their assertion, be it their original assertion -- five million e-mails -- or their new claim. We are aware that some e-mails may not have been automatically archived in the past, but they may be available on backup tapes. Unlike what the liberal group CREW has asserted, we have never been without a backup system. The Office of Administration at the White House has been maintaining and preserving backup tapes for the official e-mail system."
Now, on to other things. You remember those heady days when home prices were rising like the tech stocks did back in the late 1990s?
The housing market was on fire. Subprime mortgage loans, rapidly rising housing prices -- well, that was a combination simply too to pass up for a lot of people. The trouble is, those things never last. And when that bubble burst, the hangover from the real estate party is turning out to be much worse than anyone expected.
Real estate foreclosures have now risen to the point that they are threatening the overall economy. People who were enticed into buying more house than they could afford because of very low teaser mortgage rates are now seeing those mortgage payments rise when the loans are being adjusted upward. And a lot of people simply can't afford the higher house payments and they're losing their homes.
Enter the federal government. President Bush is expected to outline a plan tomorrow to freeze mortgage rates for five years for many U.S. homeowners who are facing these sharp increases in their monthly payments. Officials say the plan could help prevent up to a half a million borrowers from possibly losing their home this next year.
The program will be aimed at borrowers who can afford their existing rates and who are current on their payments, but could -- who possibly could face default when their mortgage resets at a higher interest rate next year.
So the question we're posing this hour is this -- should the federal government bail out homeowners who are facing foreclosure because of rising interest rates?
E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
Coming up, criticism for the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, from one of her rivals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, she is qualified. But she made a mistake in voting for that resolution. That was saber rattling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to find out what else he has to say about Hillary Clinton and a lot more.
Also, Washington State now reeling from the worst flooding in decades. Hundreds of people are rescued from their homes. We'll take you there live.
Plus, a danger in the sky that passengers can't see -- find out why insiders say it's only getting worse.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We just want to update you on the breaking news that we've been following the past couple of hours. It's now over, that incident at a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska . Police -- Omaha police telling us just a little while ago, nine people, including the shooter, dead. The shooter apparently killing himself with a rifle. Five other individuals -- presumably either shoppers or employees at that mall -- injured, two of them in critical condition, three others suffering from gunshot wounds. But the incident, apparently -- apparently, is over.
Sergeant Teresa Negron of the Omaha Police Department having no information -- no speculation on what, if any, justification or rationale there may be for this incident. But the incident is over in Omaha, Nebraska.
President Bush is stepping up pressure on Iran despite new intelligence contradicting his earlier statements about the country's nuclear weapons program. He's warning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "come clean" and Mr. Bush is seeking new sanctions against Iran.
CNN's White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by.
He's joining us.
What else did the president have to say -- Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president made clear that he believes this new National Intelligence Estimate is no vindication for Iran and he's also sticking with his contention that, in fact, Tehran is still a threat.
HENRY (voice-over): President Bush laughed when asked about a demand for an apology from irregular president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then, after the TV cameras were off, the president told reporters: "You can mark down I chuckled."
Earlier in the day, he was equally as defiant.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian nuclear issue is a problem and continues to be a problem that must be addressed by the international community.
HENRY: At a quick stop in Nebraska, the president was supposed to focus on health care and raising political cash for Republicans. But when he landed in Omaha, Mr. Bush brought up Iran -- a clear sign the White House realizes the president's Tuesday press conference did not do enough to stem the tide of negative publicity from the National Intelligence Estimate, reviewing that, contrary to public statements by the president and Vice President Cheney, Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program four years ago.
BUSH: The Iranians have a strategic choice to make. They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities or they can continue on a path of isolation.
HENRY: The president is focusing on the part of the report which found Iran did, at one point, have an active nuclear weapons program that could be restarted. That's why White House officials say they're moving full speed ahead on seeking a new round of United Nations sanctions against Iran and have gotten positive feedback from key allies in France, Germany and Great Britain.
BUSH: The Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions -- especially the covert nuclear weapons program pursued until the fall of 2003.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HENRY: but another round of tough sanctions was already going to be an uphill battle, even before this new intelligence emerged. Now it's going to be even tougher to get China and Russia on board-- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, stand by.
Thanks very much for that.
In Iraq, meanwhile, a car bomb killed at least 15 people on a busy shopping street in Baghdad, just as the defense secretary, Robert Gates, was visiting another part of the city. And those who know the situation there say the overall violence is intertwined with the tense relationship between the United States and Iran.
And joining us, now, from Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware.
We know this National Intelligence Estimate now saying that the Iranians actually stopped building a nuclear bomb back in 2004.
But what about these conflicting reports that we're getting about Iran still meddling in Iraq?
What's going on?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what I can tell you is the latest that the U.S. military intelligence is telling Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on his sixth visit here to Iraq. What they're saying is that the number of attacks that they can directly link to Iranian support is down. Whether they can attribute that to a downturn in Iranian influence, that they cannot answer.
The other thing I can tell you, Iranian nuclear issues and Iranian issues on attacks on America here in Iraq are not unrelated.
Now, during the historic talks between the Iranian ambassador here in Iraq and the American ambassador, Ryan Crocker, here in Iraq, it was made very clear they would only talk Iraq. They would not talk nuclear issues or anything else.
Iran's strategy has been forced to -- has been to force to America to bleed here in Iraq to gain concessions elsewhere. Indeed, we got to a point where top American commanders were saying just a few months ago, more American troops were dying as a result of Iranian- backed violence than Al Qaeda-backed violence. We've now seen that dip.
But right now, I can tell you, Secretary Gates is being told that Iran, according to U.S. military intelligence, is still training Iraqis to kill Americans. None of this, Wolf, is unrelated.
BLITZER: Robert Gates -- he's in Baghdad right now -- an unannounced visit. And he and others are suggesting things clearly are getting better.
Is security and stability in Iraq right now within reach?
WARE: The short answer is that, yes, things are better. Where we would have 1,500 or 1,600 attacks a week -- be it bombs or shootings or suicide detonations or whatever you want -- it's down to something like 500 on a week.
Can you imagine if there was 500 and something attacks in Pakistan or Israel or America?
Yet this is our idea of success now. That's how numbed we've become to the violence. Nonetheless, less Americans, less Iraqis are dying. There's two reasons for that. One, America is backing Sunni militias. They're protecting their areas. America has finally cut a deal with the insurgency.
Secondly, Iran has cut down its military activity. You talk to the top U.S. officials, they don't yet know why. They don't believe it will old. But there's a key question there. It's quite a dilemma -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Michael Ware, our reporter in Baghdad.
WARE: Thank you, Wolf.
It's a pleasure.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break.
When we come back, we'll have the new reports coming in on the fatalities in that Omaha mall shooting. Police now confirming nine people are dead. The gunman, an apparent suicide, as well. We're going to have the latest for you from Omaha.
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court case that could determine the future of hundreds of suspected terrorists.
And a warning that could impact everyone who flies about a looming danger in the sky.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, at least nine people are dead, including the gunman, after a shooting rampage at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska. Five other people are wounded, two of them critically. Police say the gunman shot himself. The shooting happened earlier this afternoon at Omaha's popular Westroads Mall. We'll update you with more information.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is facing new criticism about a past incident that has to do with a convicted rapist who was released while Huckabee was Arkansas's governor. The man, Wayne Dumond, went on to rape again and to commit murder.
Huckabee's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, is trying to clean up a mess in his own backyard. He's fired his landscaping company for employing illegal immigrants. Questions are now being raised about whether that will undercut Romney's credibility on the immigration issue.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's a critical Supreme Court case that could determine the fate of hundreds of suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Supreme Court.
At issue -- what rights, if any, do they have to contest their imprisonment?
Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has been following this story for us -- Jamie, what happened at the Supreme Court today?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you, after sitting in on a little more than an hour of an hour of arguments, I can tell you, the Supreme Court is taking quite seriously this allegation that prisoners in Guantanamo should have their day in court.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Outside the court, snow fell on two dozen demonstrators portraying the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo -- held indefinitely without the ability to confront their accusers, see evidence against them, have legal representation or challenge their detention in federal court.
Inside the court, Justice Stephen Breyer posed a question that closely mirrored the circumstances of Lukdar Bumedian (ph), an Algerian arrested in Bosnia in 2001, who was one of the two named plaintiffs in the case.
STEPHEN BREYER, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I am from Bosnia and I've been here six years and the Constitution of the United States does not give anyone the right to hold me six years in Guantanamo without either charging me or releasing me. So, I'm asking you, where can you make that argument?
PAUL CLEMENT, U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I'm not sure that he can make that argument, Justice Breyer.
MCINTYRE: But Justice Antonin Scalia carried the flag for the Bush administration challenging lawyers for the detainees to cite a single case in which captured foreigners held overseas were granted the habeas corpus right to challenge their detention.
ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Counsel, we had 400,000, 400,000 German prisoners in this country during World War II. 400,000 of these people. It never occurred to them.
MCINTYRE: But in World War II, the detainees were prisoners of war, while P.O.W. status has been denied to Guantanamo suspects who don't fight for any nation or traditional army. The government insists opening the federal courts to enemy combatants would be unprecedented and make holding dangerous terrorists impossible. Ultimately, the case could hinge on whether Guantanamo is, for all intents and purposes, U.S. territory as the detainees' attorney argued.
SETH WAXMAN, GUANTANAMO DETAINEES ATTORNEY: I didn't mean to be facetious when I said our national control over Guantanamo is greater than it is over in a place in Kentucky.
MCINTYRE: So the more than 300 detainees in Guantanamo, some of them there almost six years, could have to wait another six months to learn their fate. Wolf, the high court is expected to hand down a decision by late June.
BLITZER: With enormous ramifications, indeed, Jamie, thanks very much.
As Jamie just mentioned, the case right now before the Supreme Court could hinge on whether Guantanamo is actually U.S. soil. Back in 1903, the U.S. government leased 45 square miles of water and land at Guantanamo Bay for use as a U.S. naval base. In 1934, a treaty between the U.S. and Cuba made the lease permanent. It could only be canceled if both countries agree. The U.S. pays $4,000 a year in rent, but Fidel Castro has never cashed the checks because he considers the lease illegal. In 1964, Castro cut off water to the base, so every since then, the U.S. has had to supply its own water, its own power and making gitmo, as it's called, entirely self- sufficient.
From the national intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear activities to what to do with those detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; talking points are coming fast and furious this week in the presidential race.
And joining us now, the governor of New Mexico, the democratic presidential candidate, Bill Richardson. Governor, welcome back.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran, this new national intelligence estimate. Arguably the democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton says that she voted in favor of that resolution that would declare the Iranian revolutionary guard a terrorist organization. Some saying she effectively gave the president a green light to go ahead and launch military strikes against Iran. Now, we know that four years ago the Iranians stopped developing a nuclear bomb. Is she qualified to be commander in chief?
RICHARDSON: Well, she is qualified but she made a mistake in voting for that resolution. That was saber rattling, that resolution was not necessary at a time when I think diplomacy should be paramount.
BLITZER: She doesn't think she made a mistake. She points that 70 other senators vote in favor of that resolution.
RICHARDSON: I think they all made a mistake. I think this report of the NIE basically says that Iraq is put on hold.
BLITZER: You mean Iran?
RICHARDSON: Iran. They're still enriching uranium. It's not exactly something we should celebrate. Now, at the same time ...
BLITZER: But they are entitled to enrich uranium under the nuclear non proliferation to be provided it is for peaceful purposes.
RICHARDSON: They are and I see this report. You know, I'm an optimist. I see this as good news. I think this provides an opportunity for a diplomatic opening. I can tell you as a former U.N. ambassador it's going to be hard now in the U.N. security counsel with China and with Russia to get sanctions.
BLITZER: Because U.S. credibility ...
RICHARDSON: That's right. Our credibility is shot. What this argues for, in my judgment, is direct talks without preconditions, United States and Iran to talk about them stopping.
BLITZER: You want President Bush to meet with Ahmadinejad?
RICHARDSON: Well, I would do a little preparatory work, first. I don't think Ahmadinejad is terribly stable. I would talk to moderate clerics. I would start at a lower level, secretaries of state, foreign minister. I think there are moderate elements there. And I think what we have, Wolf, is the possibility of an energy deal. You know in exchange for Iran developing nuclear power, with an assured fuel cycle, supervised outside of Iran. You know, perhaps that this could ...
BLITZER: You think there is an opening.
Let's move on to talk about another issue on the agenda today. The U.S. Supreme Court hearing this case about the Guantanamo Bay enemy combatants, the detainees, that they should get some more legal rights right now. As a practical matter, I know you're opposed to what's going on at Guantanamo Bay. Would you as a governor of New Mexico be willing to take these 300 detainees into your state and let the law deal with them there?
RICHARDSON: Well, I think, yes, I think any governor should. Military court should take care of this. I always felt Guantanamo, our detainee policy has been wrong. It deprives due process. It's sustained internationally. Yeah, I think it makes sense to take them into civilian courts, take them into military courts.
BLITZER: You have another proposal to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq within a year, if you were elected president. You know, I asked Michael Ware, our correspondent in Baghdad earlier today, he's been there for four years plus. What would happen? How would he feel if all U.S. troops were out of Iraq? I want to play his answer. Listen to what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't feel safe now, but I can tell you what, if every American soldier left, then it would be much more chaotic. I'd be dodging a lot more bullets and I'd be dodging a lot more kidnaps and I'd be treading much closer to the wire. What we're looking at is a much more destabilized Iraq. No matter what you can do in the next 18 to 24 months, we're looking at a more destabilized region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I wonder if you want to comment because he paints a very gloomy picture if what happened was your proposal was enacted.
RICHARDSON: Well, I totally disagree with his assessment. Here's my view, Wolf. You can't start a peace, in other words a political compromise among the three groups in Iraq; a U.N. peacekeeping force that is going to be needed, a donor conference to rebuild Iraq unless we get all our troops out within year. It's already chaos there. It's already civilian conflict and it's already a civil war. What makes sense in my judgment is to have the leverage of our withdrawals within a year in a safe way. I'd ask our military experts, and by the way, there are a number of generals, three-star generals that agree with me that we can have the safe withdrawal but use that to convince the Maliki government, which right now believes we're going to stay forever. Why should they give up power to move towards a political compromise? Maybe a soft partition. Sharing ...
BLITZER: You're not backing down. You still think get them all out, 160,000 within a year.
RICHARDSON: Absolutely and get all the contractors out.
BLITZER: One final question. The question I asked you at that last debate in Las Vegas when you suggested that human rights was a greater priority for the U.S., for U.S. president than national security and I wonder if you've had a chance to think about that and if you still believe that.
RICHARDSON: Well no, you asked me that in the context of the Pakistani situation. I think you to be very clear that American values, respect for democracy and the Geneva convention, human rights, that has to be part of any occasion in balancing America's security needs. I think in the case of Pakistan, yeah I do believe that we should have made it very clear to the Pakistanis that we expected them to respect democracy, for Musharraf not to cancel elections, not to have an emergency order. Look, Wolf, our strength is military. Our strength is political and but our greatest strength is moral authority and we've lost that authority by not emphasizing human rights and democracy. We should be the world's conscious and not the world's policeman.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
RICHARDSON: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Deadly flooding. Washington and Oregon are in states of emergency right now. We're going to take you to the flood zone live.
Plus, my interview with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He's fighting efforts to tie into a parolee who went on to kill.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Want to update you on that shooting incident in a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska. Police now saying nine people dead, including the shooter. Five others injured, two of them critically. Joining us now on the phone is a witness to what happened over in Omaha. Todd Trimpe is joining us. Todd, tell us where you were and what you saw.
TODD TRIMPE, WITNESS AT MALL: Well, I was in the area for business and I had just been right in the area right after the incident. A good majority of the police officers were showing up at the same time and I had pulled into the parking lot because about two weeks ago, somebody had left a grenade in the parking lot. I thought it was something about that scale. There was going to be a bunch of people around and wondering what was going on at the other end of the parking lot. You could immediately tell this was different because there was a police presence throughout the whole mall, the whole parking lot.
BLITZER: Did you have a sense immediately, Todd, how significant this shooting incident was? Eight people shot by this shooter who apparently then took his own life.
TRIMPE: Yes. I was speaking with the car next to me and they had mentioned that they thought there were gunshots but they didn't know how many people and they didn't know anyone was hit at all. At that time there was a lot of speculation going about. But with the amount of police officers there, you could definitely tell that this was no average thing, like we would normally see around here.
BLITZER: Todd, thanks very much for joining us, appreciate it. Once again, we have no clue why this guy went into this shopping mall, started killing people, eight people dead. He then killed himself. Five others he shot, two of them now in critical condition, unclear the condition of the three others suffering from gunshot wounds. He had a rifle in that shopping mall. What a nightmare.
The Pacific Northwest is waiting for waters to recede to see what's left from storms that caused major flooding. Much of the region now under a state of emergency. Several people there are dead and thousands of others have no power. In Washington State alone some 300 people have been rescued so far.
CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is on the scene for us in Washington State. So, what's the latest, Thelma? How is this situation unfolding?
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you things are getting a little bit better at least as far as the weather is concerned. The sun is peeking out and the forecasters say that the weather is expected to be dry through the weekend and in neighborhoods like this, if you take a look behind me where they have experienced two landslides in this one area alone. Residents are saying this is exactly the break that they've needed.
GUTIERREZ: This is what residents in western Washington woke up to. Digging out of the mud, a massive clean up effort. This is Barbara Bull's driveway in Washington. Her neighbor's yard came crashing down on her driveway forcing her brand-new car into the living room. She was on the phone at the time.
BARBARA BULL, RESIDENT: We talked only about a minute and a half when this huge explosion was and I said, oh, Jack, I said there's a bomb in my house. Hang on and I went to my window and here's my car sticking in the door and I ran back and I said, please call 911.
GUTIERREZ: Further south in Lewis County, the damage was devastating. Towns looked like islands and streets, rivers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have never in my whole life seen the water come up this high.
GUTIERREZ: The Coast Guard and National Guard airlifted residents to safety.
GOV. CHRIS GREGOIRE, WASHINGTON: The largest aerial search and rescue operation is ongoing and it's the largest in a decade.
GUTIERREZ: Landslides interrupted Amtrak service and on I-5, the main corridor between Portland and Seattle, a 20-mile stretch of highway was under ten feet of water.
GREGOIRE: We have got an economy that is suffering mightily because of the shut down of the freeway.
GUTIERREZ: 20 major roads are still closed in this area and 50,000 people are without utilities. Wolf, back it you.
BLITZER: Thelma, thank you. Good luck to all the folks out there.
Our viewers sending in new pictures from the massive flooding in the Midwest. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She has some of them. What are you seeing, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, images from viewers that are stranded in their homes have been sent in to CNN's I-report. Take a look at this. Imagine cleaning up after this. This is Centralia, Washington where John and Tori Quillen live. This is their neighborhood there. They said yesterday they saw the water rushing up like a river past their house and they said it was brown and mercury and I just spoke to John who is now trying to clear up. He says the water has receded such that he could make it out to his car. That's his VW Beetle right there. But he said they got off lightly compared to people down the road. Look at the rescue efforts under way. Tessa Buswell sends these pictures in a father, a high schoolteacher who was helping people out rescuing people from a shopping center. Send the pictures into CNN.com/ireport. Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.
Turning now to air travel and its risks, sometimes those risks are scary before you even get off the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop, stop.
BLITZER: That's the sound of an aircraft controller narrowly averting a collision on the runway over in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in July. Congressional investigators say several factors could lead to a catastrophic runway collision here in the United States. The Government Accountability Office today issued a report citing those factors and among them are operational difficulties with newly installed runway safety technology, failure by the Federal Aviation Administration to revise the national runway safety plan since 2002 and air traffic controller fatigue. Lots of problems out there. Air traffic controllers say the Federal Aviation Administration is cutting costs in ways they say would cost lives. Are you at greater risk when you fly? The FAA would not agree to give us an on camera interview for this story but it does say we're in the safest period in aviation history. Here's CNN's Susan Roesgen.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Passengers on a plane flying towards Chicago recently never knew they had been seconds away from a disaster. On November 14, an air traffic controller at a busy regional control center made a mistake sending a Midwest Airlines jet into the path of a United Express jet. But on the Midwest jet, the computer alert system in the cockpit warned the pilots, stopping a possible mid air collision.
BOB RICHARDS, FORMER AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: It said pull up, pull up and of course the aircraft pulled up just before we could go to the altitude of the other aircraft.
ROESGEN: Bob Richards spent 22 years as an air traffic controller at Chicago's O'Hare Airport before he retired this year and he's come out with a book called, "Secrets from the Tower," his account of why air traffic controllers are fed up.
RICHARDS: Controllers have nothing to gain at this point but retirement.
ROESGEN: A record number of air traffic controllers, 828, retired last year. To fill the gap, some air traffic controllers at the busiest airports like O'Hare are working longer shifts and six day weeks. Bryon Zilonis is a leader for the Air Traffic Controllers' Union in the Great Lakes area. He says it takes years to train new controllers who can handle the high demands of the job.
BRYON ZILONIS, CONTROLLERS UNION: An air traffic controller is not hired on day one. It took me five years to become an air traffic controller from the day I walked into the control room to the day I became a full performance double controller. It was about 18 months before I was even allowed to talk to an airplane.
ROESGEN: The union says fewer controllers means potentially more close calls in the air and they say fewer eyes on the sky adds to the growing number of flight delays. The Federal Aviation Administration told CNN in emails that control tower staffing varies but that staffing today is determined by actual traffic and need. The FAA also says that 1800 new controllers were hired last year but only 40 are fully trained and actually working full time. Bob Richards says that's not enough controllers and it's only going to get worse with all the retirements.
RICHARDS: They don't need that stress anymore. They've had enough.
ROESGEN: And when they leave, the fear is they'll leave too many planes flying too close for comfort.
ROESGEN: The air traffic controllers are pushing for a new bill in Congress that could force the FAA to negotiate a new contract with them, one that they say would give them better pay and better hours. Susan Roesgen, CNN, Chicago.
BLITZER: A Philadelphia couple is accused of living the high life on someone else's dime. Coming up, there's a book connection to this modern day Bonnie and Clyde story.
Later, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee fighting to send off connections between him and a killer.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A young couple is facing more charges today after turning themselves into the police, Philadelphia police department. CNN's Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. All right. So what happened? How did they pull this off?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an amazing story, Wolf. I mean this a couple who had it all, glamorous good looks, great education, supportive parents and now they're dubbed the new Bonnie and Clyde. Police say they found fake licenses, credit cards and thousands of dollars in their posh apartment and this very interesting book.
COSTELLO: Dubbed the modern day Bonnie and Clyde, they've become infamous for, well being well versed in the art of cheating. Philadelphia police say Jocelyn Kirsch and her boyfriend Edward Anderton stole their neighbor's identities living the life of luxury, traveling the world on their neighbor's credit cards and tucked away in their $3,000 a month condo was this book by Jessica Dorfman Jones, "The Art of Cheating," a nasty little book for tricky little schemers and their hapless victims.
JESSICA DORFMAN JONES, AUTHOR, "THE ART OF CHEATING": Either they were the biggest boneheads who have ever lived and they thought that they could find a criminal manifesto in the humor section or they just thought that it was funny.
COSTELLO: Jones' book, "The Art of Cheating," is a parody, a joke aimed at people who crave self help books with chapters like falsifying insurance claims. The good news about insurance fraud she writes is that you can get away with it or sleeping your way to the top, how to work less, achieve more. But these sediments seem to be what Kirsch and Anderton lived by. They alleged bilked their neighbors out of $100,000 despite educations that could get them high paying jobs.
DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: I mean just to buy a book like this is just a bit of a wink, wink, ha, ha, isn't this funny for us, nobody knows and you know we're living it up.
COSTELLO: Imagine them reading chapter three in Jones' book, forging handwriting. It says, "You can decide how much you want to make, what kind of patsy you want to target and how much time you'll spend doing it. Your days are your own, and you're your own boss." It's a paragraph that perfectly parodies a sense of entitlement and psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz says it most likely describes what apparently motivated Kirsch and Anderton.
SALTZ: The American dream was supposed to be you know if you worked really hard, you could achieve something. Now the American dream is sort of you can have fame and fortune and the question of whether you really have to work hard for it enough is up for debate.
COSTELLO: Now the author once again Ms. Jones told me this is not a how to book. It's a joke.
BLITZER: A joke, all right. Thanks very much, Carol Costello, with that story, an interesting story indeed.
I want to apologize for a typographic error we had earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM dealing with the breaking news we were following out of Omaha, Nebraska. We inadvertently typed Obama, Nebraska and that was obviously a mistake. We apologize for that.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty File. Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wolf. The question this hour, President Bush is actually going to lay out the details of this tomorrow. Should the federal government bail out homeowners who are facing foreclosure because of rising interest rates?
Ed writes from Berlin, New Jersey, "I guess I'm old fashioned. I bought a home, had a mortgage; first thing I did was get a second job. I had only one TV, no luxuries. These new guys bought a bigger home than they needed, sports cars, wined and dines, and now want help. Nobody helped me and nobody should help them either."
Edward in Maryland writes, "I see no problem bailing out homeowners who actually live in their homes and face foreclosure. We should not bail out investors who were buying the homes for resale or to flip them."
Karen writes, "Yes, the government should help bail out exorbitant variable interest rates! It would be the first thing that this administration has done for the working middle class in the last six years!"
Todd in Connecticut, "The government should not bail out homeowners who took adjustable rate mortgages. You have to know what you're buying before you but it. But, if the government is going to help them out, I have some private student loans that are crippling my bank account. Can Mr. Bush help out with that?"
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