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Tsunami Death Toll Tops 100; Double Disasters Kill Almost 200; President Obama's War Council

Aired September 30, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, deadly back to back disasters -- one powerful earthquake comes on the heels of another that triggered a killer tsunami. We have disturbing new iReports of the devastation coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Also, a top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador there -- they're firing back at allegations of a growing rift between the two of them. The journalist who reported it, Tom Ricks, he's here to respond.

A family trapped in a speeding car which they can't stop, hitting 120 miles an hour before hurling them to their death. Their frantic 911 plea and the recall resulting from their tragedy.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


At least 75 people killed, thousands possibly trapped inside collapsed buildings -- the latest massive earthquake to strike Indonesia coming just one day after an even bigger quake triggered a tsunami that's killed dozens of people, wiped out whole villages in America Samoa and Samoa.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is monitoring all the latest tsunami developments for us -- Abbi, what are we seeing in these iReports that our CNN viewers are sending us?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, there's a village in the southwestern part of American Samoa. It's called Leone. And yesterday it was flattened by the waves.

I just want to let this video from one of our iReporters play out for you. It's from Lance Faletogo, who arrived in the village just a couple of hours after those tsunami waves did. And he recorded with his video camera what was left.

Take a look.


LANCE FALETOGO: Over here. Now it's over here. You can see -- take a look at that house down there -- a lot of debris on the roads, glass (INAUDIBLE). You have a look over here, everything is just completely wiped out. Check out this house -- all wiped out.


TATTON: Twenty-two people killed on this island, a lot of them in this area around Leone. And Lance just says -- tries to describe to us how hard the cleanup is going to be. Take a look at this video here. He's showing us the road, which is, as he's saying right here, wiped out. It's just gone. This is the only way westward on this island -- the only way for vehicles to travel. And now you can see there's just a little makeshift footbridge for people to get across. An amazing cleanup effort now underway on this island -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're going through these iReports. You're going to have more for us coming up.

Abbi, thank you.

But let's go to the scene right now for more on the devastation in American Samoa.

We're joined on the phone by CNN iReporter Alden Tagorino.

Alden, thanks very much for coming in.

Tell us your eyewitness account.

What have you seen?

ALDEN TAGARINO, CNN IREPORTER, AMERICAN SAMOA: Well, when I -- I went into town like after the traffic subsided and then when the road was already passable. And that's when you see the debris everywhere and, you know, houses wiped out and, you know, trucks, buses on the road tipped over, crushed cars. There were also like boats probably like 100 meters inward. Yes, it was just -- it was just a big total mess...

BLITZER: And did you see...

TAGARINO: ...when I got here to (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Did you -- Alden, did you see death?

TAGARINO: I didn't see the deaths, but I came across a friend of mine who owns two hardware shops. He said that he has already one confirmed dead and then one of his guys are still missing. And then another friend of mine was staying at the hotel here in Pago Pago. Right after the waves subsided, he was able to save, I think, an old lady. And then after the waters subsided, he saw like four casualties right in front of the hotel.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers some pictures that you took, Alden. And I don't know if you can see us right now in American Samoa, but I'll describe -- simply a lot of devastation, crushed cars and trucks and boats. It looks like this was a devastating scene.

TAGARINO: Yes. It was -- yes, it was really devastated. And because it's -- the wave came in the harbor and was amplified by the contour of the harbor. So that's why it was like 15, 20 foot, like, the water level.

BLITZER: And -- and I know you were a volunteer in Sri Lanka when they had a massive tsunami there back in 2004. Compare what you saw in Sri Lanka to what you're seeing now in American Samoa.

TAGARINO: Yes. Back in 2005, in the tsunami in Sri Lanka, yes, this -- it's almost the same. I've seen villages there that were literally wiped out and the debris was also everywhere. You know, it also actually gave me that feeling that I was back in Sri Lanka a couple of months. And that was already like a couple of months after the tsunami. So, yes, I can -- we can really feel that the place is really devastated.

BLITZER: Alden Tagarino, good luck to you and good luck to all of our friends in Samoa and American Samoa. Devastation is intense, indeed.

Let's get to the latest now on the situation in Indonesia, where thousands of people are feared trapped after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck near the capital of West Sumatra. Seventy-five people are confirmed dead. That number almost certain to climb. One aid worker describes the scene as quite devastating, with bridges and power lines knocked out, hospitals damaged and people sleeping outside in the pitch dark.

The quake was so powerful, it was felt as far away as Singapore and Malaysia.

Let's bring in our CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers.

He's over at the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta, who's watching all of this for us.

These tsunamis -- explain the tsunamis the impact, the -- how they're created and what goes on -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They are created, Wolf, by a surge on the ocean floor of literally the ocean floor itself getting pushed up by the earthquake. This is a battle zone. There are many earthquakes in this ring of fire on a daily basis, but rarely do they get to be 8.0.

When you get an 8.0 earthquake, you get a -- in a subduction zone, which means one of the plates is heavier than the other, it's going down. The top plate is being crushed right here and watch. As this gets crushed and compressed, at some point in time, it says I'm not being compressed anymore, I have to let go again and it pops back up into place.

As it pops into place, it pops the water above it. It pops the water above it in a series of waves that go away from the center, just like throwing a big stone in the middle of the ocean. We have a brand new animation from NOAA and I'll show you this. As the earthquake occurred, the waves spread out hour by hour by hour. Now, clearly American Samoa and Samoa were hit the hardest because they were closest to the wave. They were closest to the shake because it -- think about a motor boat. If you drive a power boat down the river or down a lake, the big waves are right by the boat. By the time it gets to the shore, the waves have settled down a little bit. So by the time the wave got even to California and Baja, Mexico down here, Baja, California, they were only about six inches to a foot. Even Hawaii had a couple of waves about a foot-and-a-half.

But other than that, it's right there underneath the seismic event itself. There's Australia. There's the U.S. Wolf. All the shaking, all of the waves right there around American Samoa. And I'm certain that the number of fatalities will probably continue to climb as they pick people out, literally, of that rubble.

BLITZER: Yes, unfortunately, I'm certain of that, as well.

Excellent, excellent explanation, Chad.

Thank you very much.

MYERS: Thank you.

BLITZER: If you'd like to know more about the efforts to bring aid to the Samoan Islands and Indonesia and how you can make a difference, visit our Impact Your World page at Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Tom Friedman wrote a scary and sobering column in today's "New York Times." It was titled, "Where Did We Go?"

In it, he compares the political climate today in the United States to Israel in 1995, right before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Friedman talks about the ugly mood in Israel at that time, where right-wingers were trying to delegitimize Rabin. They questioned his authority, shouted death threats at rallies.

Friedman says the parallel to America today turned his stomach. Quoting here: "I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or the left, but something very dangerous is happening."

Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimizing Obama's presidency. Friedman's right. You don't have to look any further than protesters comparing President Obama to a Nazi or a Facebook poll asking if he should be killed.

Tom Friedman says even if you're not worried about violence against Mr. Obama, you should be worried about what's happening to American politics. He talks about a cocktail of political and technological trends that make it possible for "idiots of all political stripes" to take advantage of the system -- things like excessive money in politics, the 24/7 cable news cycle, the blogosphere and a permanent presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing back against claims that conservative rhetoric is creating a dangerous environment for the president. Party Chairman Michael Steele says of people like Tom Friedman, quoting here: "Where do these nut jobs come from?"

Well, to me, that sort of proves Friedman's whole point.

Here's the question -- are critics of President Obama crossing the line in creating a hateful and dangerous environment?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That was a very powerful column that Tom Friedman wrote.

CAFFERTY: It was a great piece.



BLITZER: He's -- it was a very, very striking...

CAFFERTY: Good column.

BLITZER: ...because I remember covering Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. I went to Jerusalem for that funeral and I remember the hatred that a tiny, but extreme right-wing element in Israel had -- religious zealots who thought they were doing the lord's work by killing Rabin. And it was a very scary time in Israel then and I guess to a certain degree, it's pretty scary right now.

CAFFERTY: I think that was the point Friedman is trying to make and I -- and I think I agree with him.


CAFFERTY: It's scary stuff.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that.

He campaigned on ending the war in Iraq.

How can President Obama fulfill that pledge?

We'll talk about that and a possible surge in Afghanistan with the journalist, Tom Ricks. He's here.

A new twist in an international custody dispute -- we'll talk to the lawyer of the Tennessee dad now jailed in Japan for trying to get his kids back.

Plus, the alleged lie that may undercut supporters of the director, Roman Polanski. A former prosecutor now is recanting, dropping a bombshell on the case.


BLITZER: While everyone has been watching what's been going on in Afghanistan, in Iran and Pakistan, there's a situation in Iraq right now that seems to be troubling, as well, maybe even very, very serious.

Let's talk with a reporter who's covered the U.S. military extensively for "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal." He's the author of very two important books, "Fiasco" and "The Gamble." He's now a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, writing for "Foreign Policy" magazine.

Tom Ricks is here.

Tom, thanks very much for coming in.

You say there is serious friction in Iraq right now between the top U.S. civilian and the top U.S. military commander and that's having a potentially poisonous impact.

TOM RICKS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN SECURITY: That's right. What you're seeing here is what we've seen in the past between Bremer and Sanchez, other top generals and top civilian officials. Nobody is in charge of our effort in that country. And so again and again, people representing different missions, different interests, clash at the top. We're seeing that again now with (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: When you say nobody is in charge, General Odierno is in charge of the military. And Ambassador Hill is in charge of the diplomats and the civilian U.S. presence there.

RICKS: Which is a violation of the basic rule that in these sorts of operations, you have to have one person in charge in order to have unity of command. We've never had that. The closest we came was with Petraeus and Crocker, the general and ambassador who were so determined to get along, that they would not let anything get between them.

Hill is new to Iraq. The military guys are saying Ambassador Hill doesn't understand Iraq. The diplomats are saying, well, you guys are looking in the rear view mirrors, you soldiers. You need to look forward and take your hands off of Iraq and let Iraq (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: So walk us through the consequences, if there is a tension between these two -- these two men. And both of them are reacting to your report and we're going to get to that shortly. But if there is this tension, how does that play out on what happens, actually, as far as the future of Iraq is concerned?

RICKS: You get friction inside the American effort. It slows us down.

You send confusing signals to the Iraqis -- what do the Americans really mean?

Do they want us to take over...

BLITZER: Because are the -- are the Iraqis hearing one thing from Odierno and another thing from Hill?

RICKS: Probably not from those guys, but from subordinates who have very different missions. The military guys are saying, look, we've been here for three or four tours. We understand Iraq. We don't want to rush to failure again. And so they're probably saying slow down to the Iraqi message, whereas the civilians, the diplomats are saying hey, it's time for the Iraqis to take over.

BLITZER: Is the situation in Iraq right now potentially on the verge ever a major setback, because for the last several months, we thought things were sort of moving in the right direction. The surge seems to have worked.

RICKS: Maybe you did. I thought the surge succeeded tactically. It improved security. I think it failed strategically. It did not lead to a political breakthrough, which it was supposed to. So my view in Iraq is not that it's been going well, but that it's been very slowly, quietly unraveling, partly because the surge never solved the basic problems. All the basic issues facing Iraq that led to a civil war there are still there.

BLITZER: Because the question I have is once the U.S. pulls out -- and within a year or so, all U.S. troops, basically combat troops, are going to be out of Iraq -- what happens?

Does the place revert back to chaos or does it move toward a stable democracy?

RICKS: First, I don't think we're going to get all the troops out. This phrase "combat troops" is nonsensical. You know there's no pacifist wing in the U.S. military. They all carry weapons. Whether it's a trainer or an adviser or a combat troop, they all vulnerable. In fact, the trainers and advisers are more vulnerable.

BLITZER: Is the situation in Iraq, I guess the question is, doomed to failure?

RICKS: I think it is slowly unraveling and I would not be surprised to see it fail, even what Americans will say is successful is not going to feel like to success to us.

BLITZER: So an Iraq in chaos, potentially maybe even aligned with Iran?

RICKS: Certainly, it will be. I think there's no question that the Iraq of the future is going to be closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.

BLITZER: So the hundreds of billions of dollars -- trillions, maybe -- spent and the thousands of U.S. troops killed and injured in -- in Iraq will have been for?

RICKS: It will be a lesson that we should have asked these questions back in the spring of 2003.

BLITZER: For naught?

RICKS: Oh, worse than naught. Iraq is, I think, the biggest mistake in the history of American policy. We're going to be paying this for years and years to come. One reason we don't have enough troops in Afghanistan right now, for example, is that they're busy in Iraq. If we hadn't gone to Iraq -- a war of choice -- we could have kept our attention on Afghanistan, which I think was the right thing to do at the time.

BLITZER: I get the -- I want you to react to the reaction from Ambassador Chris Hill and General Odierno. Chris Hill issuing this statement: "Whatever 'source' he had was obviously not someone privy to my relationship with Ray." -- Ray Odierno. "In short, Ricks is 180 degrees wrong about our relationship. I know Ray Odierno agrees with me that living and working in this place is tough enough without having to deal with this sort of thing out of Washington."

That's Chris Hill's statement.

Odierno was up on Capitol Hill testifying today. He was asked about your article and he said this.


GEN. RAY ODIERNO, U.S. COMMANDER, IRAQ: And I think our relationship is -- is good. Ambassador Hill and I work very closely together on a daily basis. As I told him, the only thing that Ambassador Hill and I disagree with every day is that he's a Red Sox fan and I'm a Yankee fan. And so besides that, we do pretty well.


BLITZER: All right.

What do you think?

RICKS: I think what strikes me is what they didn't say. Neither one says anything about what a great guy the other guy is. They insist the process is working. They don't say that this is really a -- a good relationship.

BLITZER: And so you're saying the process isn't working and you're standing by what you wrote?

RICKS: I'm saying that this is getting to be a tired line they've pedaling about the Yankees and the Red Sox, that there are serious issues and friction here and that they'd be smarter to address them than to dismiss them.

BLITZER: Tom Ricks is the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

Tom, thanks for coming in.

RICKS: You're welcome. BLITZER: Inside President Obama's war council -- what's happening as he and his top advisers try to determine what to do next in Afghanistan?

A former national security adviser tells us.

And Roman Polanski's best defense may have just disappeared -- details of what a former prosecutor is now saying that could kill the director's chance of avoiding prison.


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

WHITFIELD: Hello, again, Wolf.

Well, the first lady is in Denmark to convince Olympic officials that Chicago should be awarded the 2016 Summer Games. President Obama will join her. He's expected to leave for Copenhagen tomorrow, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to personally lobby the International Olympic Committee for a host city. Brazil's president and Spain's king are also making personal pitches for Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, respectively. The IOC votes on Friday.

The billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil is on an adventure of a lifetime. He blasted into space on board a Russian rocket today, along with a U.S.-Russian crew. Circus tycoon Guy Laliberte is headed for the International Space Station as Canada's first space tourist. That privilege did not come cheaply, however. Laliberte paid $35 million for a 12 day trip.

And a warning to women -- the more overweight you are, the more you risk health problems in senior years. A study in the medical journal "BMJ" said for every 1 point increase in body mass index, women are 12 percent less likely to have good health if they survive to age 70. The study even says for roughly every two pounds a woman gains after the age of 18, her chances of staying alive past age 70 drops 5 percent.

And Senator John McCain couldn't resist posting a Tweet when an actress on one of his favorite television shows paid a visit to Capitol Hill. "Mad Men's" January Jones was lobbying lawmakers to protect sharks yesterday. Well, after meeting with Senator McCain, the Arizona Republican Tweeted "great meeting and tour of the Capitol with January Jones, who's an advocate of sharks. I'm a huge fan of "Mad Men."

So see, Wolf, even Senator McCain gets star struck.

BLITZER: Yes. And he's Tweeting and a lot of people are. I'm on Twitter.

WHITFIELD: I know you are.

BLITZER: I know you are, as well, right?

WHITFIELD: not yet.


Why not?

WHITFIELD: Oh, I've just got so many other balls in the air.

BLITZER: All right. You're going to you're going to be there soon, I know you are -- wolfblitzercnn. That's my address on Twitter. Go to -- wolfblitzercnn all one word -- and you can read my Tweets. In fact, I think I'm going to Tweet in this next commercial break because I've got news about someone who's going to be in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. And I'll Tweet it before I let you know, but it's a big name.

New details of an American father jailed in Japan -- he's accused of snatching his children from his ex-wife after she brought them to Tokyo without permission. You're going to hear what U.S. officials are now saying about his fate. We'll also speak with his lawyer.

And a horrifying car accident leads to a massive recall of Toyota and Lexus cars -- the heart-wrenching 911 call from a frantic passenger just moments before the crash.

Stay with us.


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

Happening now, President Obama meets with his national security team over at the White House Situation Room. Their focus -- strategy in Afghanistan and a possible troop surge. Former secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, weighs in on these critical questions and President Obama's approach to answering them.

Millions of anxious Toyota and Lexus drivers -- they're waiting on more information right now about a massive recall triggered by a potentially deadly flaw in their cars' floor mat. That defect came to light after a Lexus simply went out of control. You're going to hear the emergency phone call just moments before that deadly crash.

And Wall Street ends the day in negative territory. The Dow fell 30 points, closing at 9712. Analysts say investors reacted to an unexpected drop in manufacturing.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. New information on a bitter international custody battle unfolding in Japan. An American father, Christopher Savoie, is jailed in Tokyo for allegedly trying to snatch back his two children from his ex-wife. She brought the children to her native country without telling Savoie. Now she faces arrest in the United States. Officials from the U.S. consulate in Tokyo met with Savoie today. They say they are ready to try to help him, but they add the U.S. and Japan view these types of custody disputes differently. Joining us now is CNN's Kareen Wynter. She is working the story for us.

Kareen, this is not the only such case that's under way right now.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are really more than 80 parental child abductions cases, 80 if you can believe it. There's actually a heart wrenching new documentary that highlights the fight, Wolf, a growing number of families are now facing.


WYNTER: Heartache.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a possibility of, you know, people misinterpreting our presence there.

WYNTER: Despair.

MURRAY WOOD: It's Murray. I would just like to talk to you about the children.

WYNTER: For the innocent children caught in bitter legal custody battles are often abducted by one of their own parents, taken from the U.S. to what some call a safe haven for parental child abduction, Japan.

WOOD: I was pretty hopeful.

WYNTER: Parents like Murray Wood are the subject of a new documentary "From the Shadow." Filmmaker Matt Antell follows the families on an emotional journey as they fight to return their children home from a country that doesn't recognize the rights of both the parents, a country where the parent with physical possession of a child is granted legal custody.

MATT ANTELL, CO-DIRECTOR, "FROM THE SHADOW": I described my film to several Japanese people, and they -- they are not -- they are not as shocked by it, you know, as a western person might be, and that's because they are coming from a culture where if divorce happens it's just understood that one parent will go away.

WYNTER: Japan hasn't signed Hague convention laws on child adduction. The state department is currently handling more than 80 international parental child abduction cases to Japan that involve 123 children.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: You know, the United States and Japan have an important partnership, but on this particular issue, the issue of abduction, we have different points of view.

WYNTER: And those differences forced one father to go to extremes. Christopher Savoie's wife abducted their two children and fled to Japan this year. The Tennessee dad was arrested in the country after taking them by force on their way to school.

ANTELL: I think, you know, you're overcome with emotions and, you know, it's the only viable option to having a relationship is to take them back by force. I can't blame them for making such a drastic choice.

WYNTER: Still, a choice Antell feels no parent should ever have to make.


WYNTER: This documentary was shot over a three-year period, Wolf, so it really captures the personal struggles involved here. The producers, by the way, have submitted the film to the sun dance film festival.

BLITZER: Kareen Wynter, thanks very much.

And joining us now Jeremy Morley. He's the lawyer for Christopher Savoie, the man who went to Japan to try to get his two kids. Mr. Morley, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: There's a new development in this case that we're just learning. Tell me if this is true. Christopher Savoie actually became a naturalized Japanese citizen a few years ago.

MORLEY: That's my understanding, yes, but he's an American citizen though.

BLITZER: He a dual citizen, is that what you're saying?


BLITZER: So what does that -- the fact that he's a Japanese citizen as far as Japan, the government of Japan is concerned you can how does that play into this effort by him to get his two kids back?

MORLEY: In my opinion it's utterly and totally irrelevant. The kids are, were in the possession of their mother. The kids are back in the possession of their mother, and that's the way it will stay, according to Japanese law. He has fundamentally no rights.

BLITZER: No rights as the father, the biological father of these two kids under Japanese law.

MORLEY: That's right. They don't have joint custody. They don't have shared custody. They don't have a system other than giving the child to one parent and from their perspective since the mother brought the child to Japan, she is the one in possession of the child and possession is more than 9/10 of the law. It's basically the whole thing.

BLITZER: What was he thinking, therefore, when he went to Japan and grabbed the kids and tried to get into the U.S. consulate?

MORLEY: I don't know what exactly he was thinking, but he was desperate, and I've represented dozens and dozens and dozens of American dads whose kids have been abducted to Japan, and we tried to stop this from happening in the first place, but she did take the kids there, and he knew that legally from a legal perspective, from using the Japanese court system, he basically had no chance and so he was desperate.

BLITZER: Did you know he was going to do this?

MORLEY: No, I did not.

BLITZER: He did not consult with you and say, look, I'm so desperate, I'm going over there and going to grab the kids and try to get into a U.S. diplomatic mission.

MORLEY: He did not.

BLITZER: You would have told him that would be a mistake, I would assume?

MORLEY: I would have discussed it with him and warned him but I did not discuss it with him.

BLITZER: What would you have warned him of?

MORLEY: That the only time the Japanese police get involved in these kinds of family situations is when somebody comes in from the outside and tries to change the status quo. I would have warned him that they will -- that the Japanese police may be stirred into action if a native Japanese mother starts addressing the fact that another person, even if he's the father, is trying to get some access to his own child.

BLITZER: Who would have happened if he would have made it through the door of the U.S. consulate there and would have been inside that consulate?

MORLEY: We're speculating. He went there to try to get -- to see his kids and to talk to his ex-wife about what to do with those children.

BLITZER: No, I mean, but he was clearly trying to take the two kids, he grabbed them and tried to get into the U.S. consulate, is that right?

MORLEY: I've not spoken to him since this incident began. We can't get through to him.

BLITZER: All right. So what happens now as far as he is concerned? For a moment forget about the two kids. What happens to him? MORLEY: He's facing serious criminal charges. We've found a criminal lawyer in the local city, another colleague of mine who is a family lawyer flew down to see him yesterday, and he's facing serious charges. They are claiming that although she is the one that took the children from here illegally and unlawfully, they are claiming that he is the kidnapper and he's facing up to five years in jail.

BLITZER: She allegedly broke U.S. law but never broke Japanese law.

MORLEY: She broke U.S. law.

BLITZER: And as far as the Japanese government is concerned, that's irrelevant?

MORLEY: That is irrelevant, and that's why the U.S. government has been trying for so many years to get Japan to change to at least get them to sign the Hague convention on international child abduction which they have thus far not done or to get them otherwise to return children to this country who have been stolen.

BLITZER: How many years in prison is he now facing?


BLITZER: And assuming he doesn't go to jail or he gets a reduced sentence, what are the prospects of him not getting custody or at least sharing custody with his wife?

MORLEY: Under Japanese law nil. He has no chance.

BLITZER: That's it. As far as he's concerned the next time he'll be able to see his kids when they become adults, I don't know, is that 18 or 21? What's the law in Japan?

MORLEY: I don't know, but I'm not sure offhand, but the -- the most that he will -- based on historical precedent of my clients, he may see the kids once every two months if he flies to Japan. He'll see them typically for two hours in a courtroom or perhaps in a coffee shop, in the back of a coffee shop with a guard posted at the door. That's his entire access that he can expect to these kids until they are of majority.

BLITZER: And that's assuming he gets out of jail?

MORLEY: Exactly.

BLITZER: Jeremy Morley, thanks very much for joining us.

MORLEY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: A bombshell in the case against Roman Polanski. A former prosecutor is now admitting he lied. Could that kill Polanski's chances of avoiding prison?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Director Roman Polanski now sitting in a Swiss jail and fighting extradition to the United States may have just lost his best hope of avoiding prison. The man who prosecuted him for a child sex -- child sex charge now says he lied about trying to influence the judge in the case undermining Polanski's allegations of trial misconduct. Let's bring in our legal analyst Lisa Bloom.

Lisa, thanks for coming in. David Wells who was the prosecutor in this case, he told HBO that, you know what, that -- he told HBO that he and the judge had a conversation which would have been inappropriate about the sentencing, but now he says he lied to HBO simply to make a better story. Does this make any sense to you at all?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's absolutely confounding, Wolf, that an officer of the court would either lie to HBO or he would lie now. Nobody really knows which it is, but it's clearly bad news for Roman Polanski. He's already a convicted rapist, and he's been a fugitive for 30 years. The only thing that needs to happen is he returns to the U.S. and gets sentenced. The only legal argument he has had is this alleged judicial misconduct. There were two people supposedly in that conversation, the judge who is now deceased, and this former prosecutor, David Wells, who was not the prosecutor on the case at the time, by the way. If both of them are out, then Roman Polanski does not have a witness to support his claim that there was judicial misconduct, this inappropriate conversation, and I don't see how that argument can possibly work for him anymore.

BLITZER: This is what he told the former prosecutor Marcia Clark, famous for the O.J. Simpson trial. He says this, David Wells. "I lied to HBO." He said, "I know I shouldn't have done it, but I did. The director of the documentary told me it would never air in the states. I thought it made a better story if I said I told the judge what to do." Marcia Clark posted that on the Daily Beast. That's a pretty amazing situation.

BLOOM: Well it is, and the question is why did he lie? He lied so he could be in a documentary that wouldn't even air in the U.S.? I mean was he so dazzled by the idea of being on camera that he would concoct a story like that impugning the reputation of a deceased judge?

The other possibility that's hinted at in Marcia Clark's article is that David Wells was the original prosecutor on the case. He was removed from the case. Another prosecutor was brought in, and there's a hint that maybe he had some sour grapes about that.

Also, that he wanted Roman Polanski to be prosecuted all these years later and so he was trying to stir the pot and get things moving and ultimately that may have been what happened because the defense made all these misconduct motions late last year in 2008 and early 2009, and that may have been what lit a fire under the D.A.'s office to renew look at the case and get Roman Polanski ultimately arrested and now extradited.

BLITZER: And if the whole HBO documentary was based effectively on a lie and that HBO documentary appears to have been very influential in getting this -- this legal situation back on track, it sort of simply totally complicates any hopes Roman Polanski could get some sort of deal if he were to come back to the United States.

BLOOM: That's absolutely right, Wolf, and remember, what David Wells said on the documentary is not evidence. It's not sworn testimony, so Roman Polanski can't just bring that in and roll tape and have somebody look at that. David Wells would have to testify and if he sticks to his current story that he never had that conversation, then, again, Roman Polanski just has no witnesses now to his theory of judicial misconduct, none at all.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

By the way, tomorrow we're going to go straight to the source for more on this story, the former Polanski prosecutor David Wells, he'll be joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about this bombshell in the case against Roman Polanski. David Wells will be here.

A frantic call from an out-of-control car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going north 125.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our accelerator is stuck.


BLITZER: A family stuck in a runaway Lexus, a deadly accident that led to a massive recall by Toyota and Lexus and an urgent safety warning to millions of car owners.

F-16s intercept a small plane over Indiana. The pilot unresponsive. We're going to tell you how this tense drama ended.

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


BLITZER: Many Toyota drivers are taking no chances with a potentially deadly defect in their cars. They are removing their driver's side floor mats after Toyota and federal officials warned mats in several Toyota and Lexus models could cause a catastrophic crash. CNN's Brian Todd reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going 120.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A frantic 911 call from a highway near San Diego.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going north 125.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mm-hmm. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our accelerator is stuck.

TODD: A Lexus sedan on loan to California highway patrol officer Mark Sailor is out of control at about 120 miles an hour. Sailor's brother-in-law finally cries out desperately --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Pray, pray.

TODD: Moments later the car crashes killing Sailor, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law. Preliminary reports from investigators say the accident in August could have been caused by the car's floor mat riding up on the gas pedal. A forensic mechanic demonstrates.

FORREST FAULK, FORENSIC MECHANIC: The mat has to go forward, and somehow become over the now inching it on forward, and now, a mashing down, it will inhibit the throttle from returning.

TODD: The government's traffic safety agency says it's gotten reports of more than 100 incidents where accelerators may have become stuck on some Toyota made vehicles like the Lexus in that California accident. So until the problem is fixed, Toyota is warning the drivers of nearly four million cars and trucks. Out of caution, Toyota is telling the owners and operators of the vehicles in question, take your floor mats out, leave them out indefinitely just to be safe. If for some reason you can't do that, bring your vehicle into the dealership so that the dealership can make sure they're anchored and they're the right floor mats for those particular models.

2007 to 2010 Toyota Camrys, 2005 to 2010 Avalons, 2004 to 2009 Priuses, 2005 to 2010 Tacoma trucks, 2007 to 2010 Tundras, 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS 250s and 350s and 2007 to 2010 Lexus ES350 sedans. Toyota says it will soon launch a voluntary recall of those models, the largest recall ever in North America. We asked Andrew Moore at Beltway Toyota outside Washington about other warnings.

ANDREW MOORE, BELTWAY TOYOTA: Another problem is people putting all weather floor mats on top of existing floor mats.

If they were slid and sitting on top of another floor mat that's already been anchored, the actual floor mat could slide forward, push over the top of the accelerator pedal depending on how anybody's driving.


BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, a very worrisome story.

Meanwhile critics are slamming President Obama for not acting faster on Afghanistan, the former secretary of state is defending him.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The president is not dithering, the president is doing what a president should do.

BLITZER: Madeleine Albright, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about Afghanistan, Iran and jewelry diplomacy. My interview with the former secretary of state. That's coming up later. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty right now for "the Cafferty File."


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour comes from a column Tom Freedman wrote in today's "New York Times," are critics of President Obama crossing the line by creating a hateful and dangerous environment?

Don writes, "The nut jobs have always been here. Now they have a forum. As long as legitimate media give free air time to Sarah Palin's death panels, Glen Beck's bogus racism charge and congressman who disrespect the president more will emerge. Treat them with the contempt they deserve and hopefully they will wither and die."

David in Louisiana, 'After eight years of extreme criticism of President Bush, I think it's a little hypocritical to now start complaining of criticism of President Obama."

Norma writes, "I'm glad someone is taking this seriously, I am appalled that it's taken this long to state the obvious. Sometimes acquiescence is acceptance. We as a country are all responsible if we allow this to go unchecked or look the other way. It's extremely unsettling what has transpired in such a short period of time."

Mike writes, "Jack, I don't think the critics are crossing the line at all. Liberals have had a near monopoly on protesting for the last half century and the media is simply unaccustomed seeing people from a different ideology vocalize and demonstrate their point of view. It's this fascination and general tendency of the media to highlight right wing lone wolves actions that would lead someone to believe it's only coming from one side. In reality, labor unions, intimidation tactics, environmentalist terrorism, anti-white and anti- religious violence is hardly covered in the media at all, despite being more common place than one would think."

Thomas writes, "Need we look any farther for your answer than the teacher census worker found hanging from a Kentucky tree with the word fed carved into its body? As the opposition ratchets up its rhetoric, its fringe elements are emboldened to lash out violently."

And Thomas in Texas writes, "The bigotry in America is coming to a ahead, especially here in Texas. There was anger before the election, but the hatred since as boiled over. Yes, we should be fearful."

If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog,, you might find it there. Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm sure they will. All right. Jack, thank you.

Some very frightening moments in the skies over the U.S. Midwest earlier today, fighter jets trailing a small plane whose pilot was simply not responding to controllers. The plane eventually crashed apparently killing the pilot. Let's go to CNN's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve who's been working the story for us.

Jean, what do we know?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the National Transportation Safety Board will try and determine what caused the crash, there already are suspicions.


MESERVE: The small plane went down in a field about ten miles north of Muncie, Indiana after its pilot became disoriented and unresponsive during a flight from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Norad dispatched F-16s like this to try to make contact with a plane in the air. They flew along side for more than an hour, the pilot was visible slumped over the yoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the plane came down, I don't think he was awake. If you're awake, you can bring a plane down straight, but this one here come down sideways.

MESERVE: Experts theorize a medical problem might have been the problem, perhaps hypoxia, lack of oxygen. The plane was not pressurized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Symptoms vary broadly and also from individual to individual and they can include anything from tingling, headache, drowsiness, fatigue and the extreme result would be loss of consciousness.

MESERVE: Hypoxia was the probable cause of the 1999 plane crash that killed golfer Pane Stewart and five others. A loss of cabin pressure left everyone on board unconscious. The aircraft flew halfway across the country before running out of fuel and spiraling into a South Dakota pasture. Last year another potential hypoxia tragedy was avoided. Tower tapes capture a pilot having trouble with his words and his aircraft.

PILOT: Unable to control altitude, unable to control air speed. Kalitta six, six, other than that, everything's a-OK.

MESERVE: Alert air traffic controllers diagnose the problem. Controllers direct the pilot to go to a lower altitude, he does, and recovers.


MESERVE: That episode had a happy ending, today's did not. The pilot was the only one on board the plane and he was killed. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thank you very much.