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Alleged Plot to Bomb New York Target; Bombs Hidden in Body Cavities; Stars Demand Polanski's Release; Ex-Wife Stole Kids, Husband Arrested

Aired September 29, 2009 - 17:00   ET



To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, he's charged with plotting to use homemade weapons of mass destruction against a target in New York City -- a terror suspect appears in federal court.

His Japanese ex-wife abducted their children and fled from Tennessee to their home -- to her homeland. An American man sits in a Japanese jail right now for going around the world to try to grab those kids back.

And some of the biggest names in the movie business go to bat for the filmmaker, Roman Polanski, arrested three decades after a child sex charge.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


He's accused of planning to use store bought chemicals to bomb a target in New York City. Prosecutors allege an international plot with direct links to Al Qaeda. The suspect was in court today.

And CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us now with the latest details -- Deb, how did it go?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Najibullah Zazi is considered one of the key players in a conspiracy that authorities believe could be the biggest in the U.S. since 9/11.


FEYERICK: (voice-over): Twenty-four-year-old terror suspect, Najibullah Zazi, his hands and feet unshackled, appeared relaxed at his arraignment in federal court. And through his lawyer, he pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to use weapons of mass destruction. Zazi, who is being held as a flight risk, is accused of buying hydrogen peroxide and other industrial strength chemicals with the intention to build bombs like those used to target London's subways and buses in 2005. Zazi was arrested in Denver 10 days ago. Federal authorities allege that when he traveled to Pakistan last year, he received detailed bomb making instructions at an Al Qaeda camp. Zazi maintains he went to Pakistan to see his wife. J. MICHAEL DOWLING, NAJIBULLAH ZAZI'S ATTORNEY: What I've seen so far is that Mr. Zazi traveled to Pakistan, which is not illegal; that Mr. Zazi purchased certain products that contain chemicals that allegedly could be used to make a bomb. That -- those acts were not illegal.

FEYERICK: Zazi stayed for one night in this building in the Queens area of New York, where federal investigators later found several backpacks. Backpacks were used in the mass transit attacks in London and also Madrid. But two men living in the apartment, Naiz Khan and his uncle, say the backpacks had been given away free by a store and they planned to send them to relatives in Pakistan.

Investigators believe Zazi was preparing to act. Several days before driving to New York on September 9th, Zazi checked into a Denver hotel room and allegedly tried to heat bomb making components. As he did so, Zazi repeatedly tried contacting an unknown individual, saying he needed answers urgently on the right mix of ingredients.

DOWLING: The government will have to produce someone else. They don't necessarily have to indict him, but they'd better come up with someone else or the conspiracy charge fails.

FEYERICK: Prosecutors say much of the evidence is classified and so defense lawyers and court personnel will have to be screened to obtain security clearances.


FEYERICK: And authorities are looking for other people. Now, because of translation issues, the international nature of this alleged plot and "voluminous discovery," the judge designated this case complex, waiving certain speedy trial deadlines. And the U.S. Marshals sectioned off a row of seats for Zazi's family. No one showed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Deb, for that.

Here's a question -- will suicide bombers be able to pass through airport security with bombs hidden inside their bodies?

A recent assassination attempt is causing some alarm out there.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

What are you learning -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're getting new information on this brazen attack in Saudi Arabia -- information on a possibly new tactic that could prove deadly and difficult to counter.


TODD: (voice-over): Saudi authorities say a wanted Saudi militant, Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Asiri, was able to get next to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a top security official, at his palace in Jeddah one day last month. According to Saudi officials, Asiri had told the prince that he and other militants wanted to turn themselves in. Prince Nayef invited Asiri to his palace and when Asiri stood next to the prince, he blew himself up. The prince was slightly injured.

How was the terrorist able to elude security and get a bomb so close to his target?

A U.S. official tells CNN it's the understanding from the Saudis that Asiri hid an explosive inside a body cavity. Other guidance from inside the Saudi government is less clear about the mode of attack.

The group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility.

Could this be a new Al Qaeda tactic that could be used against other targets that America has to defend against?

STEPHEN MCHALE, FORMER TSA OFFICIAL: I don't think it's going to be a tactic that's going to bring down a building or -- or perhaps even an airplane. This is likely to be a fairly small amount of explosives. It -- it's more likely to be used in this kind of assassination attack.

TODD: Can explosives inside the body be detected?

So-called back scatter technology can scan the entire body and see through clothing. We profiled these devices previously and spoke to the manufacturer about their capability to detect metal and non- metal objects.

PETER KANT, RAPISCAN SYSTEMS: Regular weapons -- guns, knives, box cutters and the like, but also un -- unusual types of weapons -- explosives, liquid explosives, gels.

TODD: But experts say this technology is unlikely to detect anything inside a body cavity.


TODD: Other kinds of scans do have that capability. Customs officials have, for some years, used x-ray technology at airports and border checkpoints to screen people who might be trying to smuggle drugs inside body cavities. But that's in very limited use. Former TSA official Stephen McHale says it's only used as a layer when officials have strong suspicions about people. And he says it's unlikely to be given wider use at airports because of logistical and privacy concerns -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Still, as far as assassinations are concerned, this could be...

TODD: It could work.

BLITZER: ...deadly.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Brian, very much.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Sarah Palin, you may recall, found that being governor of Alaska was just too difficult and so she quit halfway through her first term. But she's managed to write her memoir in just four months, which is truly amazing by any literary standards that I'm familiar with.

The title of Mrs. Palin's book, which is due out a scant four months after the book deal was announced, is "Going Rogue: An American Life." The publisher, Harper, is moving up the release date of the 400 page tome to November 17th so it can be on the bookshelves in time for Christmas.

Harper says, "Governor Palin has been unbelievably conscientious and hands[on at every stage, investing herself deeply and passionately in this project."

What they don't say is that she wrote the book. She did spend several weeks with a collaborator, if you will, in San Diego after she quit the governor's job in Alaska.

The publisher is expecting big things out of this book. They ordered a first printing of 1.5 million copies. That's a lot. The former vice presidential nominee was roundly criticized during the campaign for being inexperienced. And toward the end, even John McCain's aides complained that Palin wasn't sticking to the campaign's plans and had, in fact, become a diva.

Since the election, Palin's been the subject of several ethics probes in Alaska, given speeches here in the U.S. and overseas, and, of course, has had her family drama sprayed all over the media.

The thing I'm most interested in is whether she will go on "The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" when the book comes out and do an interview to promote it. I can't wait.

Here's the question -- what would you like to read about in Sarah Palin's memoir?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

You know, I wrote a couple of books, Wolf. It took me at least a year for each one.


CAFFERTY: And they weren't 400 pages long, either.

BLITZER: Yes. And, you know, and, as you say, 1.5 million copies, the publisher, the first printing.

CAFFERTY: Yes. BLITZER: You know, that's a lot of cop -- that's a lot of books.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. That's -- that will debut right at the top of "The Times" times best-seller list...


CAFFERTY: ...assuming they get, you know, pre-orders to go along with that size first printing. So she'll make some money.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jack, thank you.

CAFFERTY: Not from me she won't, but she'll make some money.

BLITZER: But from some people.

New developments in a Hollywood sex scandal spanning three decades. The director, Roman Polanski, wanted for having sex for a 13-year-old girl, now making new moves to fight extradition to the United States.

Could charges against him actually be dropped?

Also, the mother violated a court order and took their kids away, but it's the father who's now facing years in prison -- an international custody controversy now boiling over.

And Congress tells Amtrak let guns on board or we could stop funding you -- a weapons uproar hits the rails.


BLITZER: Roman Polanski has filed a motion asking Swiss authorities to release him. The Academy Award winning director was arrested in Zurich last weekend in connection with a case that started in Los Angeles 32 years ago. In February 1977, Polanski did a photo shoot with a 13-year-old aspiring actress. After a second photo shoot in March, Polanski took the girl to the home of actor, Jack Nicholson, where Polanski drugged and raped her. Polanski was arrested the next day and released a day later on $2,500 bond.

That summer, the director pleaded guilty to illegal sex with a minor and in December he began 42 days of mental evaluations in prison. He was released in February 1978 and was expected to be sentenced for time served. But Polanski, suspecting the judge would send him to jail, fled to France, where he's lived in exile for three decades with an American fugitive warrant hanging over his head.

He was arrested when he arrived in Switzerland on Saturday to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. Polanski is getting some high profile support from some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

CNN entertainment correspondent, Kareen Wynter, is working that part of the story for us -- Kareen.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's now a growing petition circulating not just here in Hollywood, but also within the international film community. You have directors like Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen -- they're pushing for Polanski's immediate release.

Now, some may wonder how Polanski has remained a Hollywood insider while living as an American outlaw.


WYNTER: (voice-over): When filmmaker Roman Polanski was arrested Sunday in Switzerland, he was on his way to accept an award at the Zurich Film Festival for lifetime achievement.

OTTO WEISSER, SWISS FILMMAKER: He was supposed to speak about his work, his career and his outstanding films.

WYNTER: Polanski remains one of the most celebrated directors in the world and in Hollywood, despite the fact that he hasn't set foot there in more than 30 years.

DEBRA WINGER, JURY PRESIDENT, ZURICH FILM FESTIVAL: We stand by and await his release and his next master work.

WYNTER: Polanski's industry peers speak his name in reverence.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS, "DEATH AND THE MAIDEN": He is very, very strong because he's a European director. It's in the tradition of the auteur.

WYNTER: It's a reputation he's earned, despite his 1977 guilty plea on a charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. He fled the U.S. and settled in France. To hear Hollywood talk, the case is ancient history.

WINGER: We hope today this latest order will be dropped. It is based on a three decade old case that is all but dead.

MATTHEW BELLONI, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": I think if Hollywood really starts to look at itself and judge the -- the personal character of a lot -- a lot of the artists in the community, there would be a lot of empty seats at the Oscars. It is something that the industry is just willing to look the other way on.

WYNTER: The industry began looking Polanski's way in 1968, with his Oscar-winning hit, "Rosemary's Baby." As his star rose, the world got to know Polanski, the son of Polish Jews who escaped Nazis, whose mother died in a concentration camp.

BEN KINGSLEY, ACTOR, "DEATH AND THE MAIDEN": Roman was one of those poor little children who had to hide in the -- in the latrine.

WYNTER: And became the object of national sympathy when his wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson family in 1969. His next big movie, 1947's "Chinatown." It was nominated for 11 Oscars and won one, giving Hollywood its heroic tag line -- tragic survivor moves on. After the rape case, he continued to work around the world on films like "Tess" and "Death and The Maiden." In 2002, Polanski rocketed back onto the public stage with "The Pianist," the Holocaust film won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and three Oscars in 2003, including best actor and best director for an absent Polanski.

ADRIEN BRODY, ACTOR, "THE PIANIST": I'm happy that Roman is getting the recognition that he deserves and the film is getting the recognition.

WYNTER: And it wasn't just Hollywood that seems willing to forgive and forget. In 2003, his victim, Samantha Geimer, told Larry King...


SAMANTHA GEIMER, POLANSKI VICTIM: I never even asked for him to be put in jail.



WYNTER: Geimer's attorney tells CNN they won't be commenting until, "The situation in Switzerland steadies itself" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kareen Wynter reporting for us.

Let's get some more now on this high profile case.

We're joined by our legal analysts, Lisa Bloom and Jeffrey Toobin -- Lisa, why now, all of a sudden, this -- this arrest has occurred?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I say why not now?

The man is a convicted child rapist. He got five of six felony counts dismissed pursuant to a plea bargain and skipped out because he thought he might get more than a few days at jail at his sentencing.

Why shouldn't he be brought to justice now?

Now, the DA's office says they've been trying to bring him to justice for a number of years. He always slipped away one way or another. This time it was advertised in advance where he would be. He was in a country that had an extradition treaty with the US, so they got him. And I say good for them.

BLITZER: He's been a frequent visitor over the years to Switzerland, Jeffrey.

So the question, I guess, is why the D.A. moving now?

They could have moved over these past three decades.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the answer appears to be is that because the Zurich Film Festival was the specific time and place where there was -- they knew he'd be there -- that's when he moved. He does have this house in Switzerland, but apparently they didn't have the resources to identify precisely when he would be at the house. Here, they knew precisely when he would be in Switzerland and that's when they moved in.

BLITZER: No statute of limit -- limitations, Lisa, right, involving this case?

BLOOM: Right, because he's already been convicted. The statute of limitations runs from the time of the act to the time that he's charged. He's already been convicted. You know, there's no presumption of innocence here. We don't need to retry the whole case. The victim would not have to testify again. It's simply a matter of sentencing. On the eve of his sentence, he skipped out. He's been a fugitive for 30 years. We simply sink -- seek to bring him back now and have a sentence imposed on this man.

BLITZER: But the argument that his supporters make, Jeffrey -- and you've heard it -- that the judge in the sentencing was not going to go along with the agreement, was going to send him to jail even though they had worked out an agreement where he would serve basically time served, meaning no jail.

TOOBIN: Well, that's the argument that his lawyers made when they tried to have the case thrown out last year. They were just in court last year on this subject. And the judge actually seemed fairly receptive. He was interested in the argument that -- that the judge in the original case, who's now dead, was biased and acted inappropriately.

But the thing that the judge said was, I am not going to resolve this case until you show up -- you, Roman Polanski, show up in my courtroom. This isn't like Hollywood, where you can just send your people to deal with it. You've got to show up and deal with your own case. And Polanski didn't show up, so he remained a fugitive. Now he's paying the price.

BLITZER: And one of the arguments, Lisa, that his attorneys were making when they tried to get all these charges dropped was, look, the D.A. has never really sought the extradition, they never took any steps. And -- and some are now saying that that goaded the D.A. to finally take this step, to seek this extradition.

BLOOM: Well, that may be the case. The district attorney's office says that it has notified Interpol years ago and been trying to get Roman Polanski to come back to the US.

But I think this is really shifting the focus. You know, the defense, for years, tried to blame the victim. That didn't seem to go anywhere. Then they tried to blame the DA's office and the judge, who's now deceased and can't defend himself. And the judge, by the way, his alleged misconduct is that maybe he was going to impose a sentence that was excessively harsh. He never got to do that because Polanski fled.

So the defense consistently has tried to blame everyone else, tried to point the figure -- finger everywhere else. You know, we'll see if, ultimately, that is successful.

The bottom line is he's a child rapist who skipped out on his sentence and now we seek to bring him back.

BLITZER: The fact, though, Jeffrey, that the victim in this case says, you know what, she forgives him, doesn't think he -- he belongs in jail, what, if any, impact does that have on the prosecution?

TOOBIN: You know, this case, like all cases, is brought in the name of the people. It's "The People of California v. Roman Polanski."

Rape is a crime not just against an individual victim, but also against the society. So, yes, it's a factor that a judge might take into consideration. But it is not her decision whether this case proceeds, whether he goes to prison. This is a matter for the legal system, not for the victim. Her views should certainly be heard, but that's not the only factor to be considered.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by...

BLOOM: Jeff is absolutely...

BLITZER: Hold it. Lisa, make your quick point, because I want to tell our viewers something.

BLOOM: Jeff is right. And it's important to point out that she has never recanted her story. In her heart, she's decided to forgive and move on. But she's never changed her story and he's never denied any of her allegations of raping, drugging and sodomizing her.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because there's another legal case I want both of you to weigh in an -- weigh in on, as well. It's a -- it's a case making headlines around the world -- a Tennessee father arrested in Japan for trying to get back his children. A U.S. court has given him custody, a ruling Tokyo sees as worthless.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's going on?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a dramatic government move -- listen to this. The National Highway Traffic Administration is so concerned about a potential hazard with some Toyota and Lexus vehicles, that it is jumping ahead of the carmakers' pending recall, advising people to take immediate action.

All right. So here's the problem. We want you to take a look at the picture right here. The accelerator is stuck under the floor mat. And that's what's blamed for an accident that killed four people in San Diego last month. Now, the Lexus they were riding in hit 120 miles an hour before it crashed and burned because the driver was unable to stop the car. So if you own any vehicles listed here -- you see all of them right there on the screen -- the government says you should immediately remove the driver's side floor mat and contact Toyota or Lexus for more information.

Also, we want to tell you about this. A magnitude 8.3 earthquake -- that's huge -- slammed into the Samoan Islands earlier today, triggering a tsunami that has wiped out at least one village. There are no immediate reports of fatalities. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did issue a general alert, though, for the South Pacific region, indicating a tsunami wave could be destructive along some coastlines. A tsunami watch that was issued earlier for Hawaii has now been cancelled.

And Palestinians are calling on the United Nations to punish Israel following the release of a scathing report accusing the country of war crimes during its military offensive in Gaza last winter. That report, authored by South African judge Richard Goldstone, was formally submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council today and calls on Israel to be held accountable. Israel calls the report flawed and biased -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Betty, thanks very much.

His ex-wife abducted their kids and took them from Tennessee to her homeland.


CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE, FATHER: I said what do you mean, don't worry?

They didn't -- they weren't at school. Oh, don't worry, they're here. I said, they're what?

They're what?

They're in Japan?


BLITZER: A heartbroken dad traveled around the world after them and now sits in a Japanese jail.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, they refused to get the swine flu vaccine and that could wind up costing some health care workers their jobs -- a growing controversy pitting public health against private concerns.

Also, "Going Rogue" -- Sarah Palin taps the criticism she faced as a vice presidential candidate for the title of her new book.

What secrets will she reveal?

And a drop in consumer confidence pushed stocks down slightly on Wall Street. All three major indices lost ground, but none more than half of 1 percent. I'm Wolf Blitzer.


His Japanese ex-wife is a fugitive who abducted their children from their home in Tennessee and took them to her homeland. Now an American man sits in a Japanese jail for traveling around the world to grab them back.

Let's go to CNN's Betty Nguyen.

She's got more on these -- on this story -- Betty, tell us what's going on.

NGUYEN: It's quite a story, Wolf. OK, here's how it goes. Christopher Savoie took matters into his own hands. He flew to Japan and took his children from their mother as they were all walking to school. But I want to give you a look at exactly what sparked this international custody battle.


NGUYEN: (voice-over): ...laws in the State of Tennessee, where he lives, Christopher Savoie should be spending his days playing baseball with his kids, 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca.

SAVOIE: And next week I won't be playing ball with them. I won't be playing catch with them. I just won't. That week will never happen again.

NGUYEN: His kids won't be here because Savoie's Japanese ex- wife, Noriko, in violation of a court order, abducted them. Savoie says he only found out the children were gone when they didn't show up for school.

SAVOIE: And I got very concerned, and I -- I kept calling and calling. The schools kept calling, nobody could get through to her.

NGUYEN: Finally he called his father-in-law in Japan who told him not to worry.

SAVOIE: I said what do you mean don't worry? They weren't at school. Oh, don't worry, they are here. I said they are what? They are what? They are in Japan?

NGUYEN: Christopher Savoie feared this might happen and applied for a restraining order after his wife e-mailed them that she was on the edge of a cliff saying, quote, I'm having more difficulty saying here. It's very hard watching kids become American and losing their Japanese identity. Japan does not recognize U.S. law in child custody cases. In fact, the U.S. state department says they know of no case in which Japanese courts have ordered a child once taken to Japan to be returned to a parent in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NGUYEN: All right. So as he tried to grab his children back, police actually arrested Savoie just a short while later as he was just outside the steps on the doors of the U.S. consulate. Because he was not inside the consulate he was not safe. Therefore, he was able to be picked up by Japanese police, so now a father who is in the United States would have been totally within his rights could face five years in a Japanese jail for abducting minors -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Wow. Thanks very much for that background. Let's assess what's going on with our CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom and Jeffrey Toobin. They are still back with us. Lisa, what options does this father now have?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, unfortunately, he went about this the wrong way. My understanding is when he was in Japan he grabbed the children away from the mother as they were walking down the street, forced them into the car and that constitutes a kidnapping in Japan. Japan unlike many other countries is not a significant try to the 1980 Hague convention on international parental abductions what. That means is they are not necessarily going to agree with our interpretation of the law. They are not going to return Japanese- American children to the United States. I think his only remedy at this point are probably diplomatic. I don't think he's going to serve five years in prison. I think this is an issue that can be resolved. Japan is an alley but, unfortunately, this is a very difficult situation for him legally. He doesn't have a lot of rights in Japan.

BLITZER: And in terms of U.S. law, Jeffrey, she broke U.S. law, right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: She did, but she's in Japan now and it's very hard to see how that will be enforced. I wish I had a better idea for how to resolve this heartbreaking case in an appropriate way, but, you know, the child abductions are hard even with American allies. There have been cases in Brazil and Saudi Arabia, and once the children are overseas it's very hard to get them back, and the laws of the country where the children are prevail, and -- and he doesn't have much -- I don't expect he'll serve a long prison sentence as Lisa said but I don't think he's going to get his children back either.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, as long as she stays in Japan with her two kids there's no way Japan would extradite her back to the United States?

TOOBIN: I don't see how they would do that under any circumstances. I think she's got a lot of protections for better or worse from Japanese law, so I think as long as long as the kids stay in Japan they are likely to stay with their mother even though she clearly violated American law to get them there.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Lisa?

BLOOM: And the real sad thing, the cautionary tale here is the Tennessee court was warned about all of this by the father who wanted to get a restraining order continued and the court denied that. He wanted an order keeping the children in the u.s., preventing her from taking him out of the country and the court didn't take him seriously and denied that and everything he feared came to pass so at least in the future hopefully courts will take those kinds of threats more seriously and keep American children in the U.S. so we don't have these kinds of problems.

BLITZER: Some of these tormenting, heartbreaking cases, a lot of them, Jeffrey, the most heartbreaking occur between the United States and an alley like Japan or Brazil, as you point out, not necessarily the United States and China or Cuba, let's say. Isn't there some sort of international treaty obligation that could ease some of this personal pain?

TOOBIN: Well, Japan is not part of the one treaty that could actually have some legal effect, but, you know, it is true the fact that our relations -- the American government's relations with the Japanese government is close. It's hoped they could work out a diplomatic settlement, certainly one that would keep him out of prison for a long time, but as for whether he could get his kids back to Tennessee, I think even a diplomatic attempt is probably not likely to succeed.

BLITZER: You hear these heartbreaking stories, Lisa, all the time and people are just asking, you know, why does this happen?

BLOOM: Well, it shouldn't happen, and we have come as a nation to see that parental child abductions happen frequently. It's a real problem, and international child abductions are a serious crime under the 1980 Hague convention which many countries are a significant try to as we are so hopefully that will cut them down. The problem though is when a country is not a signatory like Japan. The children go with one parent and the other parent is cut off after divorce, very different than our sense of having joint custody, so when there's an international relationship and it breaks up by way of divorce and one party takes the kid back to that country and they have a different culture, different attitudes and different laws you get into this very difficult situation. As I said the only resolution potentially is diplomatic.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much. A heartbreaking story indeed. Lisa Bloom and Jeffrey Toobin.

Texting while driving, it's a growing cause of horrific accidents. Is it time for federal authorities to crack down? I'll ask the head of the National Transportation Safety Board.

And train passengers may soon be allowed to pack heat in their baggage, but a new gun measure is raising fresh concerns about your security.

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


BLITZER: Amid a growing number of deadly road accidents, the Obama administration tomorrow convenes a summit on distracted driving. Senator Chuck Schumer will use the occasion to push his bill to ban all texting while operating a vehicle. Are tough new measures really needed?

And joining us now, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the NTSB, Debby Hersman. She is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: A lot of focus right now on texting while driving or flying or conductors on a train or whatever. What can be done about this?

HERSMAN: Well, the safety board's made a number of recommendations requiring folks to either look at or prohibit texting or talking on cell phones while operating a vehicle. We think it's very important that no matter whether you're a locomotive engineer, whether you're a young driver just learning how to drive or whether you're driving a bus full of passengers that you be focused on the task at hand.

BLITZER: Let me be precise. Should there be a federal law, and you work with the federal government obviously, a federal law that bans any texting while driving?

HERSMAN: The safety board has made recommendations based on the accidents that we've investigated and what we've seen so we've made recommendations in specific areas. It's certainly up to the federal government and the state governments which we know have passed a lot of laws addressing texting and using cell phones while driving.

BLITZER: But the laws are different all over the country. Can you drive from one state to another state and have very different laws, from one city to another city and have very different laws. Should there be a uniform law throughout the United States?

HERSMAN: Well, the safety board has made a recommendation based on our accident investigations and our focus has really been on certain areas. I think that this is such an important issue that I've actually put out a policy at my -- at my agency at the safety board prohibiting all of our employees from either texting or talking on a cell phone regardless of whether or not it's hands-free or hand-held while they are driving.

BLITZER: Is there a difference in safety when you have a blue tooth as opposed to holding up the telephone to your year?

HERSMAN: Well, we've looked at a lot of studies, and, unfortunately, one of the things we know is whether you're texting or whether you're talking there is a cognitive distraction there, and I think that the challenge is that people really need to be focused on the task at hand. We lose 40,000 people every year on the nation's highways in accidents, some of them due to distracted driving, and if we're going to ask people to change their driving habits, I thought we should start with our staff. BLITZER: So basically I'm hearing the recommendation of the NTSB would be to all these communities out there, local, state, federal government, just ban it.

HERSMAN: Well, we haven't made that recommendation yet, but we're certainly looking at the issue very closely. We've recommended bus drivers carrying passengers, locomotive engineers and young novice drivers not be using wireless devices while driving.

BLITZER: There was a dramatic PSA, public service announcement, on the dangers of texting that came out in the United Kingdom. I'm going to play a little clip of that. I'm sure you've seen it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really funny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me get his number.


HERSMAN: That's powerful, powerful public service announcement. There's a time that we see those kinds of PSAs here in the United States warning young people, older people of the dangers of texting while driving?

HERSMAN: Well, I don't know about you, Wolf, but when I saw, that it certainly made me scared and realized that, you know, I wouldn't want to be in that situation. How quickly it can happen and so we think that this is actually the kind of message. We've made a recommendation actually to do public service announcements, and we think this is exactly the kind of thing that's effective, and I think that parents watching this video with their teenaged drivers will probably help change some behavior or at least some expectations about behavior behind the wheel.

BLITZER: That's an excellent point. Quickly on trains. How safe are trains and subways in the United States right now because there's been some accidents lately that have caused deaths.

HERSMAN: Yes, and trains are very safe, you know, kind of as a mode of transportation. We see very few accidents that are fatal every year, but, unfortunately, when we do, it's an obligation of safety board to find out what happened to make recommendations so it won't happen again. This week we made some urgent recommendations to metro as well as the federal transit administration and the federal railroad administration to look at systems to make sure that they were safe.

BLITZER: What's the most important thing they need to do?

HERSMAN: Well, we found in the metro accident that there was --

BLITZER: Here in Washington?

HERSMAN: Yes, there was a ninth fatal accident here on the metro here in Washington. We found there was a problem with the train control system and basically one component in the train control unit was talking to another component bypassing the track so it was really communicating a false signal. We want to make sure that's not happening anywhere else.

BLITZER: You've got an important job. Good luck, Debby.

HERSMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: They don't want to make health care workers told to get the swine flu vaccine or risk losing their jobs. Some now question their liberty. What's going on?

And CNN is the worldwide leader in news, but guess what, now there's an ap for that. We're going to show you the new CNN Apple iPhone application. It's very cool.


BLITZER: Train passengers may soon be packing heat in the baggage compartment at least, but a new gun measure is causing controversy and security concerns. Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, are we about to see guns on trains?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We could, Wolf, though this measure would still have to clear a few hurdles.


KEILAR: The Capital Limited leaves Washington, D.C. every afternoon on its way to Chicago. Like all Amtrak trains, passengers can't bring a gun on board, but that could change. The Senate voted to allow Amtrak passengers to carry firearms in their checked luggage, the way airline passengers do. If Amtrak doesn't comply within six months, Congress would yank its federal funding. Why is it difficult to provide the proper security?

CHIEF JOHN O'CONNOR, AMTRAK POLICE: This is not an airline.

KEILAR: Amtrak police chief John O'Connor says allowing guns on trains, even in checked luggage, could be a threat to public safety.

O'CONNOR: We don't go Point A to Point B. We're on the ground sometime for a very long time. The more you expose the weapons on the ground, the more vulnerable they are to being stolen or used in a way that they were not intended.

KEILAR: Under the proposal, a passenger would have to declare his or her firearm. It must be unloaded and locked in a secure container. The head of the national rifle association says the change would be a victory for law-abiding gun owners.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Well, 90 million people in this country own firearms and they travel. They move. They go on vacation. They go on hunting trips, and it's a normal part of everyday life to travel with your possessions, a firearm being one of them.

KEILAR: But Amtrak officials say there's no system in place to screen firearms that would be brought aboard on the same platform as passengers, and they say luggage cars aren't equipped to store them securely.


KEILAR: The Senate passed this as an add-on to its transportation bill, and when the House passed its transportation bill, it did not include this add-on so there's an open question of whether it will survive as the House and the Senate hash out their differences, but what we do know, Wolf, is despite large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate, when it comes to gun issues, both the House and the Senate fall squarely on the side of gun rights.

BLITZER: It's a very popular issue on Capitol Hill, especially in the Senate, and among a lot of members of the House as well?

KEILAR: And certainly the House has passed one measure this year that landed on President Obama's desk to sign that was on the side of gun rights.

BLITZER: Thanks Brianna Keilar for working that story.

Let's get to Abbi Tatton right now because she's got some important information we want to share with you about a new CNN application for your iPhone.

Abbi, explain to our viewers in the United States and around the world what's going on.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This is a new iPhone and that just launched today. This is an I-report that you can watch on the app that we just got in from the American Samoa. What you're looking at here is a line of cars moving slowly to higher ground, up a mountain because they had been advised by police to get to higher ground in the hour after this earthquake. 8.0 magnitude earthquake was felt on the island and then after tsunami warnings had been issued. Chen said that soon after they were warning them to go to higher ground they said they could go back to lower ground. He's hearing from relatives in upper parts that they have suffered damage from five-foot waves.

This is all on the CNN iPhone app and we have made it much easier for you to submit your iPhone and. You can record a video, you can record an image and send it to you, we are constantly going through this information and putting it on the air. So this becomes a news gathering device for you. The iPhone is on the app store, $1.99 along with all the live stream video you can get on CNN.

BLITZER: We're getting information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now that all the watches in the pacific have now been canceled. That's good news. Public health versus private health concerns, some workers who deal with patients are fighting mandatory swine flu vaccinations. Mary Snow is covering the controversy for us.

What's the latest, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New York is preparing to get its first doses as swine flu vaccinations next week. New York is the only state right now mandating that it's roughly 500,000 health care workers get the vaccine and there's some backlash.


SNOW: The liberty these health care workers are seeking is the freedom to opt out of a mandatory H1N1 vaccine. New York State says they must get the shots as a condition of employment and it's enough for this physical therapist and mother of three to consider leaving the state calling the requirement a violation of her rights.

BRENDA DELOZIER, PHYSICAL THERAPIST: It's not just one step, it's one of many steps towards controlling the American people.

SNOW: Julie Hinderliter, a registered nurse, says she can't afford to lose her job, but doesn't want the swine flu shot.

JULIE HINDERLITER, REGISTERED NURSE: There's no reason to force us to take a vaccine that's full of all kinds of ingredients that we don't want to put in our bodies.

SNOW: Among concerns, some health care workers point to the deaths blamed on a swine flu vaccine in 1976. We asked the state health commissioner Dr. Richard Daines about that.

DR. RICHARD DAINES, NY STATE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: To look back at one isolated incident 33 years ago, it would be like saying a plane crashed 33 years ago and I will never fly again. I suppose even an ordinary passenger could say that, but health care workers, in our professions we're kind of like the pilots and the flight attendants and the crew, and if we don't believe in this modern scientific enterprise, how can we persuade patients to believe in it.

SNOW: Daines says the healthcare workers are already required to get other shots such as measles and rubella and that patient's rights come first. One expert in infectious diseases says the vaccine is safe and he thinks New York's mandatory program is a good one.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Voluntary programs have been only half successful, only about half the health care workers across the country, including many my own institution, have come forward to be vaccinated.

SNOW: So will health care workers outside of New York also be mandated to get swine flu vaccines? That question was put to Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Our sense is that this particular season in the midst of a pandemic is not the time at the federal level where we would start a new mandate along those lines.


SNOW: While Dr. Frieden says he's not considering a federal mandate for health care workers this year, he does want health care workers to get the H1N1 vaccine -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Mary.

A public insurance option was defeated not once but twice in a critical Senate vote just hours ago, a defeat for the left. So what happens next?


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: What would you like to read about in Sarah Palin's memoir, which is coming out, I think November 17.

B. in Maine writes: "I betcha she had someone write it for her. Betcha it was someone who speaks English and puts sentences together and was an English major. Let's hope she makes a mint of money from all the ignorant conservatives out there and the she retires forever and ever Amen."

Jim writes: "If I wanted to even spend one minute of my life reading something shallow, trite, self serving, poorly written and generally useless, I'd get a transcript from any new program on Fox."

Nancy says: "Mr. Cafferty, do you suppose Sarah Palin is much more intelligent that you are? Perhaps that's why she wrote her memoirs in less time than you. She probably didn't need all the help that you did in getting published."

John writes: "Going Rogue: An American Life, I think someone but an extra f in the title."

Brett in Denver writes: "I would like to know what it's like for a 1950s librarian secretary type to live in the 21st century. I get the impression she's having a hard time of it."

Sue in Los Angeles: "How she felt about the biased treatment from the media, especially Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. What she thought about McCain and how he ran the campaign. How she felt about "SNL's" portrayal of her and how she felt about the constant flow of lies regarding her family."

Isaac writes: "I just can't wait to color the pretty pictures,"

And Matthew in Orange, California writes: "I'd like to read 75 percent off, a sticker that will be on the cover of the book by January."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others.