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THE SITUATION ROOM
Washington Looks Beyond Gas Pedal Problem; Scientist Convicted in Afghan Incident; 3 U.S. Troops Killed in Pakistan
Aired February 3, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's another challenge, too. Some here simply distrust anyone who says they're looking to help orphans. They're wary of motives, so the groups have to work to gain trust, which is not always easy.
Just last week, Alphonso and his team brought in these two little brothers who left their house before the quake and now can't find their mother. The goal is to try to determine if the boys have any other family they can stay with.
It is a huge challenge and a slow process. The orphanage connected to Father Frechette and Father Alphonso Leone is expected to expand, but Haiti will almost certainly not be able to handle the numbers of orphans likely to come into the system.
Joe Johns, CNN, Port-Au-Prince.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now. As the government is drawn deeper into Toyota's problems, there are now new signs investigators are taking a much closer look at the vehicles' electronics. What's going on?
And what may be a boost for Taliban insurgents, three U.S. special operations forces are killed inside Pakistan. What were they doing there? We have new information for you.
And using just her brain waves. CNN's Brooke Baldwin moves objects and drives a vehicle. What could this mind control research mean for you? I'm Wolf Blitzer.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Federal authorities are getting more deeply involved right now with Toyota's sudden acceleration problem, even as official suggest the problem may go beyond. Beyond the gas pedal and the floor mat.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
So Brian, you've been digging. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all sorts of official involvement in Washington into this week call right at the moment. It's a sure sign your company is reeling when Washington jumps in and starts to go after you. That effort now in full swing in this town.
TODD (voice-over): It seems like everyone in Washington now is after Toyota to come clean on what is really going on with its recall. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says his department will continue to hold Toyota's feet to the fire as the automaker scrambles to replace sticking gas pedals on millions of vehicles. And LaHood plays the role of consumer advocate for Toyota owners.
RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: If you own one of these cars, take it to the dealer. If you are in doubt, take it to the dealer and have them fix it, if it's one of the ones that needs to be fixed or at least have them look at it.
TODD: But LaHood's department is going further. An official there telling CNN its highway safety arm is investigating whether electromagnetic interference might be causing Toyota's electronic throttle systems which control acceleration to break down.
LAHOOD: We are looking at the electronics. And I can't be specific, because we are looking at these complaints to see what they are, and we will work with the car manufacturers to make sure that the electronics are not the problems.
TODD (on camera): Could you tell us the nature of the complaints, though?
LAHOOD: Well, there are -- there are several different kinds of complaints, and we are just really trying to figure out how we can address them with the car manufacturers.
TODD: Another transportation official says they see no hard evidence that interference is causing Toyota's electronic to breakdown. And a Toyota official tell CNN, they believe pedals and floor mats not electronics are the issue, and that the company is addressing all safety concerns.
But the leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is also leaning on Toyota to come clean on what its officials told Congress about what they knew and when.
(on camera): There seems to be a bit of a disparity in what they've said publicly and privately, right?
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), ENERGY & COMMERCE CHAIRMAN: There seem to be inconsistencies about their statements given a timeline that does not quite fit.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Henry Waxman is referring to Toyota's public statements that it first noticed sticking pedals last October, and private statements to Congress that it was much earlier. I just clarified that with a Toyota official, who said they had noticed the pedal problem in North America in October, but had seen traces of it in Europe in March of last year.
This official said, though, that in Europe the traces were minute, and not considered a serious safety problem, Wolf. But they notice this almost a year ago.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, that's significant. Now the transportation secretary Ray LaHood, you caught up with him on The Hill today. That gaffe he had today caused quite a stir.
TODD: It actually caused Toyota's stock to go down at least temporarily this afternoon. We're going to replay the sound. This is what Secretary LaHood said during the hearing when asked about any advice he has for Toyota owners.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAHOOD: My advice is if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to Toyota dealer, because they believe they have the fix of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now those words "stop driving it" are what really got Mr. LaHood in some hot water. He quickly backtracked on that. We caught up to him in the hallway afterwards. This is how we clarified it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAHOOD: If you own one of these cars, take it to the dealer. If you are in doubt, take it to the dealer and have them fix it, if it's one of the ones that needs to be fixed or at least have them look at it. And so, what I said in there was obviously a misstatement. What I meant to say or what I thought I said was, if you own one of these cars, or if you are in doubt, take it to the dealer, and they are going to fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And definitely don't stop driving, it is what he meant to say, and he clarified that later. But, boy, Wolf, you and I were -- you were here, I was up in Capitol Hill, this caused a huge stir for about an hour and a half.
BLITZER: Yes. When I saw that, I said, wow, that is major...
BLITZER: ...major escalation of an already escalated story.
TODD: Absolutely. BLITZER: I guess the question is this, either, is there a sense that Toyota is completely dealing with this issue appropriately right now here in Washington?
TODD: I have to tell you, I don't get that sense. I asked Secretary LaHood, later, if he is confident that Toyota has completely addressed this problem of unintended acceleration in the vehicles.
He said, his response was, quote, "We have looked at their fix. They are doing all they can to make sure that the pedals will work properly. He said his department's job is not to sign off on that effort, not to bless it, but to tell them if they think it's inadequate. That was not an endorsement of how Toyota is handling the problem right now.
I think they are really closely monitoring Toyota. They have said yesterday that they think that the company really dragged its heels on the recall. There is a lot of friction now between that company and Washington.
BLITZER: And what Ray LaHood meant to say is that if you have one of these Toyotas...
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: And there's a problem, you feel there is a problem with acceleration, unintended acceleration, stop driving that car immediately and go right to the Toyota dealer.
TODD: Or at least take it to the dealership.
TODD: Don't stop driving it completely, just take it there, have them look at it.
BLITZER: If they have no problem, you can keep on driving and hope for the best.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Toyota may have a new problem on its hands right now. More than 100 complaints have been filed with the federal government alleging poor brake performance in the 2010 Prius. Toyota says similar complaints in Japan have centered around the feel of the brakes on bumpy and frozen roads. The Prius is the most popular hybrid in the United States averaging an EPA of about 50 miles per gallon. On average, 36 percent of U.S. households with a Prius buy another new Prius, an outstanding loyalty record. One in five of all Prius models are sold, by the way, in California. That is the top state for all hybrid sales here in the United States.
Let's get to Haiti right now. A protest in Port-Au-Prince, a suburb there. Hundreds of people accused local officials of profiting from donated food. They say they are being charged the equivalent of $7 for a coupon needed to get a bag of United Nation's rice. And there is growing frustration over the slow pace of relief. International aid workers say much of it is piling up at the airport and in warehouses and not getting to needy people as quickly as it should.
Meanwhile, the former President Bill Clinton is taking on a greater role in Haiti. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has asked him to lead coordination of international aid emergency response and rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Mr. Clinton was already the U.N. special envoy to Haiti. He says the challenges are indeed great, but he is vowing to do the best he can.
Good luck to the former president, President.
She was suspected of plotting terrorism. Now this once respected scientist has been convicted of trying to kill FBI agents and American soldiers. Details of her outburst in court. That's coming up.
And the Attorney General Eric Holder is firing right back at Republican criticism of his handling of the Christmas Day terror suspect. We will talk about it. We got our national security contributor Fran Townsend.
Plus, a deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Pakistan today. We are learning new details, this hour, of what happened.
BLITZER: Getting right back to Jack Cafferty for the "CAFFERTY FILE."
CAFFERTY: Imagine taking a pill, Wolf, that could help you to live to be 100 years. You could do THE SITUATION ROOM until your 98th birthday. Scientists expect the drug to be ready for testing within three years, and they claim the pill could revolutionize aging. Here's the deal.
Researchers have identified three super genes that allowed those who have them to live 100 years. Two of these genes produce good cholesterol which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, and the third gene protects against diabetes.
People born with these three genes are 20 more times more likely to reach 100 years of age, even if they are overweight, heavy smokers, have a bad diet and don't exercise. In other words, they can maintain these unhealthy lifestyles and still live for a century.
Those with these three genes in their DNA are also 80 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease. Now that scientists have identified these super genes, they are trying to develop a pill that will duplicate those genes so that anybody can live 100 years. Experts say that they'll eventually mean longer, healthier lives for millions of people. The social implications, though, of something like this are huge. We are already overpopulating the planet. Think about the costs to social security, Medicare, et cetera. All of the entitlement programs if the population began reaching the age of 100.
Here is the question, though, and that aside, "Would you choose to live to be 100?"
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. You can post comment on my blog.
You want to do this for another 50 years or so?
BLITZER: Yes, I do. I want to be in THE SITUATION ROOM when I am 98 or 99.
CAFFERTY: You do? What is wrong with you?
BLITZER: I want to just be here. I am having too much fun.
CAFFERTY: There's something wrong with you.
BLITZER: Jack, you and me, will be THE SITUATION ROOM for decades to come. That's going to be great.
The answer is yes. I want to be here, 100, maybe 120. You know, we will see.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
After a stormy trial, a U.S.-educated scientist and a mother of three was today found guilty of attempting to kill Americans. Stems from an incident in Afghanistan.
Our Mary Snow has been following the case. Mary is joining us now with more.
Quite a scene there today, Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was. And, Wolf, you know, there had been two very different stories about Aafia Siddiqui, who is from Pakistan, but have lived in the U.S. for a while. She was convicted on seven counts after being charged with trying to kill U.S. military officers and FBI agents. The U.S. attorney here in New York is praising the decision. But an official to Pakistani embassy says their government is dismayed by the verdict and confirms the Pakistan government paid for Aafia Siddiqui's legal bills.
SNOW (voice-over): With the scarf covering most of her face, Aafia Siddiqui declared, "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America," after she was convicted of charges she tried to kill Americans while she was detained in Afghanistan in 2008. It is a far cry from the life she once had in the United States, where she became a neuroscientist after studying at M.I.T. and Brandeis.
She left the U.S. in 2002 with her three children. By 2004, U.S. officials named her as having links to al Qaeda. Tina Foster who serves as the family spokesperson believes Siddiqui is being framed. Pointing to the fact that Siddiqui was in charge with terrorism.
TINA FOSTER, INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE NETWORK: This is a lot of the same type of secret, smoke and mirrors kind of evidence that the U.S. government has relied on to paint a picture of Aafia Siddiqui as a terrorist, but have not come forward with anything that would actually corroborate those types of allegations.
SNOW: But prosecutors say when Saddiqui was taken into custody in 2008, she was found with documents describing mass casualties that named New York's Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty among other landmarks. Prosecutors in the case didn't speak publicly, but former federal prosecutor Barco says that fact Saddiqui was charged with the shooting incident and not terrorism is not surprising.
ANTHONY BARKOW, FORMER U.S. PROSECUTOR: Certainly not a straightforward as a prosecution for attempted murder, for using a weapon and firing upon people in close range. That's a much easier case to prove. It's cleaner, it's more straightforward, it has fewer distractions for the jury or a judge to seize upon.
SNOW: Siddiqui testified in her own defense calling charges crazy that she tried to attack U.S. personnel who were trying to interrogate her in Afghanistan. She claimed she had been tortured and held in a secret prison. Foster believes Siddiqui, and says two of her children are still missing.
FOSTER: I think Aafia Siddiqui and her three children have become a symbol in Pakistan of the disappeared, of the missing, of those who have disappeared into secret prisons.
SNOW: But former U.S. Attorney David Kelley sees another explanation behind the mystery of Siddiqui's whereabouts between the time she left the U.S. and when she was apprehended in Afghanistan.
DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Sir Walker Lean basically fell out of touch with his family, and the next thing he know, he is up on the front lines of Afghanistan. You saw recently the folks from the Midwest who were arrested in Pakistan after kind of disappearing and going through some training and so forth in Pakistan. And she falls into the same category.
SNOW: And the Justice Department has denied all along that Saddiqui was held at Bagram or any secret prisons before her arrest in 2008. Now the 37-year-old Saddiqui faces life in prison, and Wolf, her lawyers say they expect to appeal.
BLITZER: What struck you most about this entire case, Mary?
SNOW: You know, it was very colorful, Wolf. You know, Siddiqui had several outbursts during this trial which lasted about two weeks. And at certain time, she was kicked and thrown out of the courtroom. She wanted to fire her attorneys, she testified against their advice, but, you know, prosecutors had said that she knew what she was doing.
She had been tested for her mental stability. It was deemed that she was OK to stand trial. And, you know, it was just a very bizarre atmosphere at times during this trial.
BLITZER: Guilty verdict today. All right, thanks Mary.
Mary Snow reporting for us. Let's get a little bit more on this and more other subjects with our national security contributor Fran Townsend. She joining us now from New York. She was the Homeland Security adviser to President Bush.
I assume you weren't surprised by the guilty verdict today, Fran?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I was not, Wolf. And, look, this would have been an easier charge to prove. The actual assault on the FBI agents. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the significance that Siddiqui played. She was caught for materials calling for a mass casualty events, referring to cells, materials referring to a dirty bomb. So this -- she was a significant player, and it goes well beyond the assault on what she was convicted of today.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on to Eric Holder, the attorney general. I've got his letter here, a lengthy letter he wrote to Mitch McConnell, a Senate Republican leader, defending his actions with Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day alleged bomber.
Among other things, Eric Holder writes this. He said, "I made the decision to charge Mr. Abdulmutallab with federal crimes, and to seek his detention in connection with those charges, with the knowledge of and with no objection from, all other relevant departments of the government."
He says he made that decision. You read this letter.
Does he make a convincing case?
TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I think when you read the whole letter, it really has a very defensive tone to it. And I think that's because they have been under tremendous political heat, because Abdulmutallab was given his Miranda warnings after only 15 minutes of questioning. They are trying to defend themselves by saying he is talking now, but, of course, that doesn't save them from the fact that there have been weeks have passed without his talking. In the letter, he goes on to sort of point to the prior administration charging people criminally.
I will tell, I find it a little surprising that this attorney general in this administration is looking to the prior Bush administration for any comfort or protection. And so I think the letter is frankly very defensive. BLITZER: But I don't remember, Fran, and you worked with the Bush White House, you remember those years. I don't remember a lot of critics, a lot of Republicans saying to President Bush and to his attorney, respective attorneys general, why are you trying these terrorists, these alleged terrorists that you captured in civilian court, because most of them were tried in civilian court.
The question is, why are they complaining now about Eric Holder's behavior when they didn't complain about John Ashcroft's behavior for example?
TOWNSEND: Well, I think that, Wolf, beyond the general politics of it that we always seem to see in Washington, I really think that part of this has got to do with the circumstances and the timing of the decision. I mean, frankly, I was in the Justice Department when the decision was made to try the East Africa Embassy bombers in 1998 and take them into a criminal process.
So I have seen this work before, not per se a problem. The issue here is they made this decision on about 50-minutes' worth of questioning when in theory , at least, Abdulmutallab could have had information about the whereabouts of other co-conspirators of the bomb makers, the cell, those he was working with, that they didn't take the time to get before they made that decision, and I think that's the crux of the objections.
BLITZER: And he goes out to say, Eric Holder in his letter, he says, "The way that they were dealing with the suspect was fully consistent with the long-established and publicly done policies and practices of the Department of Justice, the FBI and the United States government as a whole as implemented for many years by administrations of both parties." Eric Holder' letter.
All right, Fran, thanks very much. We'll continue this conversation in the days to come. I'm sure it's not going away.
TOWNSEND: Thank you.
BLITZER: A massive roadside bomb takes a deadly toll on U.S. troops in Pakistan. We've got late details from CNN's Reza Sayah. He's in Islamabad. Stand by.
And moving things with your mind. Is that possible? We're going to show you the amazing new technology that's harnessing what's being called brain power.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, more than 400 blacklisted candidates with suspected ties to Saddam Hussein will likely be allowed to run in next month's Iraq election. An Iraqi appeals court suspended the ban earlier today, but warned the candidates could not take office until suspected ties to the regime had been investigated. The move is expected to alleviate some of the tensions ahead of the scheduled March 7th parliamentary election.
Two Oklahoma interstates are open again after heavy fog and ice shut down the roadways. A 35-car pileup closed Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City today. And 13 cars collided in Tulsa. Fortunately, no serious injuries reported there, but police also say slick conditions were to blame in an unrelated accident that did kill one person.
Michael Jackson's physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, will turn himself into authorities as early as tomorrow. But as of now, his lawyers say there is still no word from prosecutors about a charge. An attorney for the Jackson family tells CBS that the family wants to see Murray charged with second-degree murder. Jackson died in June from an overdose of an anesthetic. Murray maintains his innocence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of that story for our viewers as well. Don't go far away.
There's another way, by the way, for you to follow what is going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. As many of you know, I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Tweeter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN. WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.
U.S. Special Operations forces are killed inside Pakistan. We're going to tell you what they were doing there, what that means for the battle against Taliban insurgents. Stand by.
And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, says attitudes have changed. What he is saying now about the military's policy on gays in ranks.
Plus, moving things with your mind. CNN's Brooke Baldwin puts her brain waves to work and shows us how it is done.
BLITZER: To our viewers here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, a monumental job in Haiti. Workers struggling to figure out which children wandering the streets are actually orphans. It's a very complicated process with potentially serious implications. Stand by.
New information about the operator of that doomed Flight 3407. CNN has learned that Colgan Air is cracking down on pilots who don't go to work because they're too tired. That after investigators accused the company of not doing enough to address the key safety issue of pilot fatigue.
And Mel Gibson caught on tape again in an unflattering moment. We're going to tell you what the actor-director did to spark this latest controversy.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In what would be a huge success for insurgents, three U.S. troops were killed today inside Pakistan. A massive explosion at their vehicle near a school at the Northwest Frontier Province. Three schoolgirls are among the dead, dozens are hurt.
CNN's Reza Sayah is joining us from Islamabad.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is extremely rare for U.S. military personnel to be killed by militants on Pakistani soil. But that is exactly what happened on Wednesday. And it is very likely this is going to be a major boost for the Pakistani Taliban.
Let's go ahead and tell you what happened.
According to the Pakistani army, a convoy driving in Northwest Pakistan was hit by a powerful roadside bomb. Among those killed, three U.S. servicemen, all of them, according to a senior Pentagon official, members of the U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Now remember the U.S. military does not have troops here in Pakistan engaged in combat, but they do have about 70 servicemen who are training Pakistani security forces. And U.S. officials say that's exactly what these men were doing. Two other U.S. servicemen were injured in this blast. One Pakistani soldier was killed. Also killed three schoolgirls, and that's part of the story that should not be overshadowed, the fact that this blast took place right next to a school packed with children. Among the injured, according to the officials, scores of schoolchildren.
The last time U.S. servicemen were killed here in Pakistan, September of 2008. That's when a powerful suicide truck bomb blew up in front of the Marriott Hotel here in Islamabad. Two U.S. military personnel killed then.
Military officials here in Pakistan say it's too early to tell if these U.S. servicemen were targeted in this attack, but if they were, this is certainly an indication of an extraordinary ability to launch coordinated attacks by the Pakistani Taliban -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Reza Sayah, our man in Islamabad.
Let's get to more on these U.S. troops in Pakistan. They're in largely secret mission there. Let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
You know, we hear about a lot of troops in Afghanistan, a lot of troops in Iraq, but troops in Pakistan, that's a pretty sensitive issue.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's a very sensitive issue, Wolf. We don't hear a lot of that. What are they doing? Well, as Reza says, their main job is to try and train the Pakistanis to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda. It's a training mission, not a combat mission.
But today's events showed just how very dangerous it s. One of the things they do besides training the Pakistanis is they try and show them how to help with economic assistance, such as troops that were at the school today.
The question is: where does it all go from here? U.S. officials say that the troops will stay there very low profile, but the U.S. troops will stay there and do this work as long as the Pakistanis want them.
BLITZER: Now, these are special operations forces. They're not wearing uniforms, I take it. They try to blend in, look as much as local guys as possible. Some of them even grow beards. It's one thing if they were targeted, the Taliban knew who they were and killed them, it's another thing if the Taliban just got lucky and they happened to have been killed in that way.
What are you hearing from your sources?
STARR: Well, you know, this is the question that the U.S. military really wants to know. You know, was this a -- you know, tragic wrong place, wrong time, or is there some indication that the U.S. forces are now specifically being targeted by the Taliban?
But, you know, Wolf, we also have some pictures to show of some of the additional victims, some very, very tragic pictures of some of the schoolchildren, the Pakistanis that were hurt in this terrible attack. Reza showed some of it, but the still pictures even more upsetting perhaps, showing some of these young schoolgirls, more than 100 of them, injured in this attack being pulled out of the wreckage, Wolf.
BLITZER: When I heard about it, the first thing that went through my mind today was this fear that if they knew in fact that these were three American Special Operations forces working in Pakistan right now, the Taliban must have gotten that information from inside sources within the Pakistani government, within the Pakistani military or their intelligence services. And if that is the case, then that raises this whole situation to another level.
STARR: Oh, absolutely. And that's why it's so critical, because this training work, getting the Pakistanis ready to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda is really at the center of President Obama's counterterrorism strategy in the region. They have to get the Pakistanis to do this work. That's the way U.S. troops can finally get out of the region some day, Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr here in THE SITUATION ROOM for us -- thanks very much. Now, go back to the Pentagon and work. Appreciate it.
Colin Powell is speaking out on gays in the military. He once opposed them serving openly. What does this former Joint Chiefs chairman think now? There's new information.
And Mel Gibson's explosive interview. We're going to show you what we can -- part of it has to be bleeped out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... after all that's been in the news about you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's check back with Lisa. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What else is going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, one person is dead and seven people wounded after two suicide blasts struck Baghdad today. The attacks mark the second time this week that terrorists have targeted Shiites pilgrimage to Karbala. More than 50 people were killed in a bombing on Monday. Additional attacks are feared when the week-long pilgrimage ends this Friday.
And former secretary of state and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Colin Powell, formally endorsed to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy today. In a statement released by Powell, his office says, quote, "In the almost 17 years since the 'don't ask, don't tell' legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." He added that the ultimate decision, though, lies with President Obama.
And actor Mel Gibson making headlines -- again -- following after a touchy interview with a Chicago television station. Gibson used an expletive at the end of the interview, not appearing to realize that his mike was still hot.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: What are you referring to specifically?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Referring to the, you know, drinking problems, referring to what has been called the anti-Semitic rant, all those things.
GIBSON: Yes, that's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what I'm talking about.
GIBSON: OK. So, that's almost four years ago, dude. I mean, I've moved on, I guess you haven't. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm just -- I'm just wondering if you think that the public has moved on and will perceive you in the same light.
GIBSON: Well, I certainly hope so, you know? It is a while back. And you know, I've done all of the necessary mea culpas. So, let's move on, dude. Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Edge of Darkness" opens today and it is good to see you back in the saddle and doing what you do best. Thanks a lot for joining us, Mel. Take care.
GIBSON: Bye-bye. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Oh. Well, Gibson later told the reporter that when he used the expletive, he was talking to the publicist who had been making faces at him off-camera -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Enough said. All right. We'll leave it alone. Thanks very much for that, Lisa.
By the way, remember, there's another way for you to follow what's going in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN, WolfBlitzerCNN -- all one word.
All right. Don't miss this one. It's coming up. It's CNN's Brooke Baldwin puts her mind to it, can she actually move things?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have this headset on which is measuring my brain waves and the second I start concentrating, this cart should move forward. Let's see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Really sounds like science fiction, but there's a new technology that harnesses brain power and can actually let you move things with your mind.
CNN's Brooke Baldwin has been checking it out.
All right. Brooke, explain -- there are a lot of skeptics out there -- explain what's going on.
BALDWIN: OK. So, Wolf, when I first heard about this story, I thought, "Yes, right," move a ball with my brain? I hope -- wait. As I found out not only is it possible, this technology could change the way we play games, compete at sports, and even relax after a hard day's work.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TANSY BROOK, NEUROSKY: So right here.
BALDWIN (voice-over): I am moving this ball with only my mind.
BROOK: Just try to relax just a little bit.
BALDWIN: No keyboard, no game controls, just pure brain power. This is brain wave technology taken to a whole new level by a Silicon Valley-based company called NeuroSky.
BROOK: It's kind of a first application of telekinesis.
BALDWIN: Engineers here have big plans to revolutionize the way people work, play and live, using just their thoughts. And it starts with this, Uncle Milton's "Star Wars Science -- Force Trainer," a new game that goes for about $100.
BROOK: Well, the goal is to get the ball to rise and control it.
BALDWIN: This headset has a sensor that reads my brain's electrical signals. It then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the game's base which lights up when I'm concentrating.
(on camera): Too much concentration. Relax my brain. That's tough.
(voice-over): And your brain waves can control bigger objects, too.
(on camera): This is what NeuroSky calls the brain race. I have this headset on, which is measuring my brain waves, and the second I start concentrating, this cart should move forward. Let's see.
OK. That is kind of cool.
(voice-over): Now, imagine a reality TV show like CBS' "Survivor" and throw in this type of technology. NeuroSky is in talks with TV producers to develop new reality shows that will do just that.
BROOK: Wouldn't it be fun to have a reality show and people could change their environments using their minds? Could you light things on fire? Could you raise a drawbridge by concentrating? Could you have to relax enough to have something to levitate to move you to the next level?
BALDWIN: But if a reality TV contestant could start a fire with his mind, what about a terrorist? James Carafano with Washington's conservative Heritage Foundation says that is not a major worry yet.
JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: For every single technology that you develop, somebody figures out a malicious use for it. We're still very limited in terms -- you know, how far away you can be, very primitive in the kinds of things you can do. So, at this point, I think we're far away from this being some kind of a neuro threat.
BALDWIN: But right now, the technology is being used to help train world class athletes like the U.S. archery team.
(on camera): How did that feel?
BRADY ELLISON, USA ARCHERY: It feels good.
BALDWIN (voice-over): Brady Ellison is one of the youngest U.S. archers to compete in the Olympics. He says a strong mental game is everything. That is exactly why he and his teammates were among the first to test brain wave technology to keep them in the zone.
ELLISON: You know, I am starting to get to where I put this headset on, it's just confirmation that I'm doing the right thing.
BALDWIN: This headband monitors the athlete's brain waves determining how focused and relaxed they are before, during and after a shot.
(on camera): How many of you have seen a concrete change in the way you have been shooting since this headset?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have.
CROWD: All of us.
BALDWIN (voice-over): NeuroSky is sharing its technology with other companies and there are unlimited possibilities for its use. For example, it might, one day, be used to keep drowsy drivers off the road.
BROOK: Say the car could detect that and do something like turn your radio or set off a little alarm warning you that you need to pull over and get some coffee.
BALDWIN: Also in the works stress relief. There will soon be an app for that. Imagine using this technology at home to see how relaxed your mind can get by watching your brain waves in color on your iPhone.
BROOK: I think it's a very fundamental desire that people have to move things with their mind, and everyone has always wanted to do that.
BALDWIN: Kind of wild, right? Well, here's yet another application with this brain wave technology. It involves your kids and their cognitive skills and their behaviors. NeuroSky is working with school programs to help kids who have a tough time focusing, specifically maybe with ADD or even autism, helping them focus. And, Wolf, they say, so far, it's working.
BLITZER: I know you're working on a part two of this new technology for tomorrow. Give us a little preview. BALDWIN: I am. And I have to tell you, actually, this second one was -- this is the fun, but the next one is just mind-blowing, because I interview this amazing woman Kathy, Wolf, she has ALS. And the only muscle that basically works is this one little muscle, her eyebrow.
And so, she allowed me to conduct this interview with her using her eyebrows. But then eventually, she'll lose that and she will be able to communicate just by using her thought, and she demonstrates that for our CNN cameras. And we'll show you that tomorrow. It's unreal.
BLITZER: I mean, it is unreal. I was skeptical, but a good report. And I'm sure this technology is only just beginning. Thanks very much.
Brooke will be back tomorrow with more.
BLITZER: An unusual rocket launch and details of what Iran is sending into space and why there are some people think there's more to it than meets the eye.
Plus, Sunday's Super Bowl commercials today. CNN's Jeanne Moos has a preview.
BLITZER: Iranian defense officials say they launched a rocket today to mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. On board -- get this -- a mouse, two turtles and worms. Iran isn't giving details of the flight except that it successfully parachuted back to earth. That's what they're saying. Officials in Iran are implying that the animals survived.
Observers think it was more about prestige and rocket research, saying there's little other value to such a mission. In fact, the U.S. first launched monkeys and mice into space but that was more than 60 years ago. The Soviets sent a dog named Laika into orbit back in 1957. She died during the mission.
An important advance came two years later when the U.S. launched a monkey named Sam. He experienced three minutes of weightlessness before his capsule safely parachuted to earth. And in 1961, a chimp name Ham experienced six minutes of weightlessness, paving the way for the first human in space Alan Shepard later that year.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File."
Jack, do you remember all those -- all those incidents?
JACK CAFFERTY, CAFFERTY FILE: Those were before my time.
BLITZER: All right.
CAFFERTY: They ought to strap a rocket to that little dinner jacket guy and fire him up and see how he makes it.
The question this hour is: would you choose to live to be 100 years old?
Ross writes from Las Vegas: "Oh, this is spectacular. Wasn't science worried about overpopulation and sustainable development? Now, we're going to keep people around longer so we can consume as much as possible over a longer period of time. I choose to go when my time comes, not when a scientist decides I should."
Rose writes from Pennsylvania: "Yes, if I knew my five children and their families would live that long as well, that my husband and our closest friends would take the pill, too. It's a terrible thing to outlive one's loved ones, especially one's children. And that maybe a severe price to pay for such longevity."
Joe writes from New York: "This planet is too populated and I can't see why in the world anyone would want to live that long. If I make it to 80, I'm calling Dr. Kevorkian."
Lew in Florida writes: "I would absolutely take the pill. That's about how long I need to live and continue to work in order to retire."
Buddy writes: "I'd take the pill and give it to my family. Due to the potential social implications mentioned in the article though, I don't want anybody else to take it."
Buck writes: "He did not drink nor smoke nor chew. His morals were not bad. Nor did he live to see 100. He only felt he had."
Bertha writes: "Years ago, I remember my dad saying, 'I don't mind dying. I just don't like the idea of not being alive.' I'm with my dad on that. I'd love to live to be 100 if I still have a good, reasonably healthy quality of life. Sure."
Gordon writes; "No, I'm crowding 90 and old age is no fun."
Mike writes: "You're damn right, I would. But you, Jack and Wolf, would have to take the pill as well because without you both, it wouldn't be as much fun. If I could make it to 200 with two pills, I'd take two."
And Kevin says: "I plan to live to 325, so, yes."
If you want to read more on "living to 100," you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
You want to live to be 100, Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, I would like. I'd take 100.
CAFFERTY: Yes, as long as you'd be in -- you know, control your faculties.
BLITZER: Yes. (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: You're healthy, you could walk around, running a little bit. You know, exercising, having good food, and, you know, being in THE SITUATION ROOM every day.
CAFFERTY: Well, there are drawbacks to everything.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty and Wolf in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: The transportation secretary recalls his statement about the Toyota recall. Details of what he said that made owners even more nervous than before.
Plus, a preview of this Sunday's Super Bowl ads. We're not going to wait for Sunday. Jeanne Moos has them today.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the "Associated Press." Pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In Singapore, a military training aircraft flies during an aerial display in an air show.
At Vatican City, acrobats perform for the Pope.
In Miami, kids participate in an event outside the Sun Life Stadium where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday.
And over at the National Zoo here in Washington, D.C., the panda lounges in the snow on his last day in this country. He'll be sent back to China tomorrow.
"Hot Shots": pictures worth a thousand words.
Super Bowl commercials are almost as popular as the game itself. CNN's Jeanne Moos has a most unusual preview.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether it's Doritos in a casket. Or a video game gone to hell called "Dante's Inferno" -- it's time for the infernal Super Bowl ads and even online previews promoting the ads. "See us in the third quarter." ETrade has even put outtakes online.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are there only girls here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about? Dennis is right behind me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Denise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: And it's Budweiser saying it was going to drop the Clydesdale horses this year, then putting on ad featuring them online -- for folks to vote to bring them back.
(on camera): Football? Who cares about football? Fifty-one percent of viewers surveyed by Nielsen said they enjoy the commercials more than they enjoy the game itself.
(voice-over): Doritos lets you make the commercial. Four thousand submissions were smacked down to six finalists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Keep your hands off my mama. Keep your hands off my Doritos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: A pastor dreamed up the one about a guy faking his own death so we could eat Doritos while watching the game.
ERWIN MCMANUS, PASTOR: We paid for 70 bags of Doritos.
MOOS: Pastor Erwin McManus says it was inspired by an actual funeral.
MCMANUS: And he wanted to be buried with a pack of cigarette and a can of beer. So they slipped it into the casket.
MOOS: Most popular amateur spots will actually air and could conceivably win a prize of $1 million or more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anti-bark collar. You want a Dorito? You got speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: An inspiring filmmaker made this on a shoestring budget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred bucks.
MOOS: Rosie the dog takes off her anti-bark collar.
Coke will feature characters from the "Simpsons." Dr. Pepper will feature KISS and mini-KISS, a tribute band made up of little people.
Sometimes little tweaks are required. CBS wouldn't allow the tag line in the ad for the "Dante's Inferno" video game.
So it was changed to "Hell awaits."
What's heavenly in terms of free exposure is having your ad rejected.
This year, CBS gave the thumbs down to a gay dating service called Mancrunch. Their hands meet in a snack bowl and soon then they're smacking on each other.
Take that, KISS.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
BLITZER: And happening now: Angry Republicans demand to know why the failed Christmas bombing suspect is suddenly singing his guts out. The Obama administration is trying to defend itself. We're checking in the facts for you.
Also this hour: the transportation secretary adds to the confusion of the Toyota recall mess. I'll talk to a congressman who says the carmaker is sending misleading messages about what went wrong.
And if the British prime minister can do it, why not President Obama? CNN's Richard Quest sets the stage for the possibility of what's called "Question Time," American style.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Up first this hour, the uproar over the administration's handling of the failed Christmas bombing suspect. The attorney general, Eric Holder, sent a letter today to his Republican critics, defending his decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in civilian court. Some GOP lawmakers are fuming that the administration leaked word yesterday that Abdulmutallab is cooperating with investigators.