Return to Transcripts main page


Israeli Raid Sparks Protests; BP's Next Move?

Aired May 31, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: A deadly commando raid on aid ships sparks an international crisis, as Israel tries to explain why its forces opened fire on activists bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Also, BP's next move. With the top kill operation deemed a failure, and the Gulf disaster in its 42nd day, what is the company going to do now to stop the flow of oil?

And religious tension at Fort Hood -- almost seven months after a Muslim officer allegedly massacred 13 people, concerns about new tension now and harassment of more than 100 Muslim soldiers stationed there.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Israel is facing strong international condemnation over a deadly clash between its forces and activists bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza by boat. Israeli commandos stormed the flotilla of six vessels, as you can see in the video from the Israeli Defense Forces and from the Turkish news agency DHA. Now, both of them edited those videos, their own sources.

Five of the boats were boarded without incident. But Israel claims that activists on the sixth vessel attacked the soldiers, who opened fire, killing nine people. Now, Israel says seven soldiers were wounded.

Our CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, begins our coverage from this hour from Israel.

Ben, give us a sense of what you're hearing on the ground.


Well, we're in Ashdod. And this is the port to which Israel has brought the six ships of the Free Gaza Movement and the hundreds of protesters who were on those ships. Now, they're currently in a detention center that was set up several days ago for exactly that purpose.

And what we understand from the Israeli authorities are that, at this point, about 25 of those activists are now on their way to be deported. About 50 are not giving their identities, and, therefore, they're being held in a special area. Another 15 have gone to the nearby Be'er Sheva prison, where they're being held, because they apparently resisted the attempts of the Israelis to subdue those ships.

Now, of course, this has -- this incident has sparked a diplomatic firestorm. Israeli -- the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was called in. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv. Across Europe, in Egypt and in Jordan, the Israeli ambassadors were called in to hear protests from these governments.

So, the Israelis may have miscalculated. This really has whipped up a storm, and they're trying very hard to put it out. But, at this point, it seems to be raging across the region -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Ben.

And, obviously, that storm as well, taking place here in Washington, D.C. The crisis prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short his trip to Canada and cancel a meeting tomorrow that was scheduled with President Obama.

Now, Netanyahu told reporters that the Israeli forces were defending themselves from the activists.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: (INAUDIBLE) take all your cargo, put it in our (INAUDIBLE) and we will just ferret out if there are any war materials, and the rest will go through.

We succeeded doing this peacefully with five of the six ships. The sixth ship, the largest, which had hundreds of people on it, not only did not cooperate in this effort peacefully; they deliberately attacked the first soldiers that came on the ship. They were mobbed.

There were clubbed. They were beaten, stabbed. There was even a report of gunfire. And our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed.


MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, outrage is especially sharp in Turkey, which is among the few Middle East countries remotely friendly with Israel.

Our CNN's Ivan Watson is in Istanbul, and that is the scene where some of those violent protests are going on.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger at Israel in the streets of Istanbul, and anguish as reports emerged of activists dying aboard the international aid convoy as it steamed towards Gaza. NESLIHAN AKBULUT, PROTESTER: There are people who are killed. There are injured people. But we don't know about their future yet. So, that's why people are angry. And there are people in Gaza, for years, they are under -- their borders are closed. So, that's why we feel totally helpless now. And this is anger.

WATSON: Just last week, the scene was very different, when this ship from the so-called freedom flotilla departed from Istanbul, a celebration for activists determined to break Israel's three-year blockade of Gaza by bringing in 10,000 tons of what they described as humanitarian aid.

The Turkish government says it had checked to make sure it was only that, and no weapons. One of the biggest organizers was a Turkish Islamist charity organization, which goes by the acronym IHH. Organizers said they expected a confrontation with Israel, but they didn't anticipate it would be so bloody. IHH officials say their last communication with the convoy was at 5:00 a.m. local time, as Israeli commandos stormed the vessel.

(on camera): This is an angry protest by a fringe Islamist political group. The danger, though, is that this will have a broader ripple effect among Turks who are not ordinarily passionate about the Gaza Strip or about Israel. This could have broader implications that will severely impact relations between Israel and its only Muslim ally in the Middle East.

(voice-over): The Turkish government quickly condemned the raid, saying the Israelis broke international law by boarding unarmed civilian ships in international waters, and then shutting off all communications with hundreds of passengers.

BULENT ARINC, TURKISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): This bloody operation will be remembered as a dark stain in the history of humanity. Israel has again, against international law, been seriously blocking the news, preventing the dissemination of information, not only to Turkey, but to the world.

WATSON: Shattered glass after protesters tried to storm the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, before being pushed back by riot police. Turkey has canceled joint military exercises with Israel, and at least 15,000 Israelis canceled their trips to Turkish coastal resorts, one of the few places in the region where Israelis had been welcomed.

Israel's relationship with Turkey has been on the rocks for more than a year, since Turkey angrily denounced Israeli's 2008 military offensive into Gaza. Israel successfully stopped the seaborne convoy of activists, but, in doing so, it may have done irreparable harm to Israel's vital alliance with the Turks.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.


MALVEAUX: The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session to discuss the deadly raid and the White House says that it is working -- and I'm quoting here -- "to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy."

Well, for more, we bring in our national security contributor, Fran Townsend, CNN and foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty.

And I just want to talk about some of the highlights, the points here that we're going to touch on, obviously a lot people watching what's going on.

Jill, you first.

President Obama has two very important allies to deal with, Israel, and now Turkey that has been very, very critical of what has happened. How does he negotiate that? Why is that important?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's extremely complex. It's really a can of worms, because the -- Turkey really is a major ally of the United States, and they are very angry.

I talked to the ambassador from Turkey today, and he said relations with Israel are dramatically hurt. They want the United States to do something. But what does the United States do? Because let's look at the big situation.

You have this push by the United States at the United Nations for sanctions on Iran. And Turkey is a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. wants the vote of Turkey. But, after this, what do you do? Do you give them something? Do you support them? Do you support them in their anger against Israel?

That's the problem. And then also, just one quick thing. They have -- remember that Turkey and Brazil went to Iran...


DOUGHERTY: ... tried to get that deal on nuclear fuel. And the U.S. basically said, you were used, and it's not a good deal.

MALVEAUX: Well, Fran, obviously, Turkey is aware of this blockade. Why would they sponsor this voyage?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's what's very interesting, Suzanne.

We have seen -- as Jill points out, Turkey has increased, strengthened its relationship with Iran. Clearly, the blockade is not a secret, that Israel has been boarding ships and enforcing this blockade for some time. And while it's been controversial, Turkey had to know when those ships left, those six ships, what was going to happen.

The interesting thing that we don't know the answer to was, as the ships were coming, it was no secret to Israel they were on their way and going to test the blockage. Did Israel reach out to Turkey? Was there a dialogue with the Turks to get their assistance to try and stop this confrontation from happening?

But let's be honest, Suzanne. Clearly, the blockade was an intentional provocation of Israeli Defense Forces. I mean, imagine for a moment if you had videotape of a U.S. Navy SEAL being thrown by civilians off the side of a ship.

We would be surprised if not everybody on that ship was killed as a result of that. And so this is really -- you have to question what the motivation was here. This was not just about getting aid to Palestinians.

MALVEAUX: How do we -- how do you respond, though, to the criticism? Because it's not just from Palestinians and other world actors, but also from those inside of Israel as well.

I'm quoting here. This is This is an editorial from Gideon Levy, who says that this action plan, Israel's plan, "dragged us to the shores of stupidity and wrongdoing. Again, we will be portrayed not only as the ones that have blocked assistance, but also as fools who do everything to even further undermine our own standing. If that was one of the goals of the peace flotilla's organizers, they won big yesterday."

Did they completely lose out on the P.R., the relations here, the perception of this?

TOWNSEND: I think, to your point, Suzanne, the perception is drastically hurting Israel. And what's going to be most important is to get the facts out, to have it be very publicly transparent, about what happened, what this provocation was, and what happened on that ship before the guns were fired.

MALVEAUX: Jill, why was this blockade set up in the first place?

DOUGHERTY: Essentially to stop weapons from being taken into Gaza, and to be used against Israel.

But, you know, that's -- that will be an interesting question to look at, because, is it legal? A lot of the world doesn't believe that it's a legal blockade. And the United States never makes it clear what it really believes about that blockade.

One other thing that's important is, there are, according to the State Department, up to nine Americans who were in that flotilla. They were not apparently injured or killed, but they were in that flotilla, including we are told by the Free Palestine Movement that former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck was among them. So, this is going to get more complicated.

MALVEAUX: Sure. We have got to leave it there, Fran. I'm sorry. We ran out of time here.


MALVEAUX: But Jill, Fran, thank you so much. Our other top story: It has been seen by many as the last best hope, but the top kill operation failed to stop the Gulf oil disaster. So, what is BP's next move? We're going to ask the experts.

Also, as the environmental nightmare unfolds, we're up close with researchers in the heart of the disaster zone.

Plus, they have been busier than ever since the Times Square bomb plot. We're going to ride along with the New York City bomb squad. For them, every day is business as usual -- or, rather, unusual.


MALVEAUX: BP will make a new effort to stem the flow of oil from that leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico this week after deciding over the weekend that the closely watched top kill operation was not working.

Now, that is raising fear that the massive flow of crude may continue for weeks, if not months. I want to talk about what's next with Steven Wereley -- he's an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University -- and, of course, our CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

And, Chad, you know, jump in. Feel free at any -- any point here to ask your own questions. But I want to start off with you, Professor.

We have seen the latest animation here, this latest strategy about trying to put this cap on the leak, the pipe here. When you take a look at the video that was provided by BP, what do you see? Do you see a plan, a scenario that you think is likely going to work?

STEVEN WERELEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, PURDUE UNIVERSITY: There's -- it's possible that it could work, but there's a couple of points of concern.

One is that this riser, this benefit-over riser pipe -- it's roughly 200 yards long -- is providing considerable resistance to the oil flow. So, cutting this off is actually going to increase the oil flow, although temporarily.

But it will allow, let's say, a clean access point where BP can come in and fasten on this alternate riser tube to siphon off the oil.

MALVEAUX: When you take a look at this picture, do you see anything that can go terribly wrong? What's the worst-case scenario?

WERELEY: Well, I think the worst-case scenario is, they cut off the riser pipe, and the flow increases somewhat. BP says 20 percent, but it could be higher or lower than 20 percent.

And then, if the operation to put on the flexible coupling to the new riser, if that operation isn't successful, then we have got now an increased flow into the Gulf of Mexico until August. That's the worst case. MALVEAUX: Chad, jump in.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Professor, people may not know your name, but they probably know your research, because, two weeks ago, you said that 5,000 barrels a day coming out is not even close, and you went much higher than that.

And now we know that it really was much higher than that. When we cut this pipe off, literally, it could be like a fire hose coming out. And you think they can get that containment dome, you know, the one that failed -- that didn't work at all -- this -- now we're calling it a cap, whatever, semantics -- could it possibly get blown away and not even be able to mounted on to the top of that riser?

WERELEY: I think it's possible that the operation to connect up the new riser, the -- this containment -- this cap, to connect up the new cap to the cutoff riser pipe, it's possible that that would fail. And then we would be stuck with a -- a larger leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

MYERS: Do we know how much oil literally is below this into this reservoir? How much could potentially come out?

WERELEY: I'm not sure that -- I guess the historical point of view, the historical data point that we have is the -- the top oil blowout from the -- in the '70s that ran for 10 months, until it exhausted itself.

MALVEAUX: And, you know, Professor, we spent all last week watching this -- this top kill method here. They were trying to obviously put all that mud in to try to basically block it there. BP said it had a 60 to 70 percent chance of working. Why did that fail?

WERELEY: Well, if you ask me, the reason that it failed is that the mud -- the flow rate that BP was trying to fight against was considerably larger than that -- the flow rate that the -- that they based their calculations on how much mud would be needed, that they had been assuming this 5,000-barrel-per-day number.

And, just recently, the flow rate technical group, which I'm part of, came out with a number that's considerably higher than that. In fact, we have only a preliminary number. And, you know, we know that the number is in excess of 12,000 barrels a day.

MALVEAUX: I hate to put you on the spot here, but can you give us a sense of -- even a figure, some sort of percentage, of whether or not you think this new method, putting this cap on, what is -- what is the likelihood that this is going to be successful?

WERELEY: Well, I guess, you know, as a mechanical engineer, when I look at the -- the design here, the design of the operation, it seems reasonably likely to be successful.

So, I don't want to put a number on it. But I would say, you know, I have a good feeling about it. I would think that it's likely to -- to be successful. The one problem that I would think -- the one problem that I see here is that they are going to be using a flexible coupling between the new riser pipe that they're connecting to this cap and the existing riser pipe on top of the blowout preventer.

And so they aren't -- even BP admits that they aren't going to be collecting all of the -- the -- all of -- they're not going to capture all of the leak. So, you know...


MALVEAUX: Professor Wereley, thanks so much for your time.

WERELEY: Go ahead.

MALVEAUX: Chad, if you're all set, then we're just going to have to leave it there.

MYERS: All set.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Professor. Obviously, we will be keeping a close eye on this, as you will, and we appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

WERELEY: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Weeks after the devastating explosion of the Deep Horizon oil rig, some troubling new insights are coming to light. Was the rig having problems long before the disaster in the Gulf? Our CNN's Brian Todd investigates.

And you have your ticket to fly, but you could get bumped -- later, some pending changes that might make you raise your hand when the airline asks for volunteers.

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



MALVEAUX: Well, we have more on the Gulf oil disaster, including new details of the leaking well. It turns out it had trouble in March and possibly long before.

Also, the environmental nightmare up close -- our CNN's Carol Costello tours Louisiana's Grand Isle.

Plus, a 16-hour shift unlike any other. We ride along with the New York City bomb squad.


MALVEAUX: More now on the Gulf oil disaster.

Our CNN's Carol Costello has been on a boat tour with environmentalists off the Louisiana coast, and she just got back.

Carol, obviously, you got to see close up, front row there. What did you actually take away from this?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just how sad it could be if this thing really does come ashore, you know, a black tide, as they like it call it.

We went to a little tiny island about five miles offshore from Grand Isle, Louisiana. And there was oil on the beach there, but the -- the better news is there were workers there cleaning up the oil. They were actually picking up big chunks of sand-covered oil and putting it in bags. And they were also using these absorbent towels to actually soak up the water from the rocks.

BP seems to be ratcheting up its efforts to clean up this stuff onshore and also to stop the oil before it comes on shore. In fact, this is their latest thing. Let me show you. Let's go to the pictures, as they like to say.

This is a floating hotel that you're about to see. This thing houses literally thousands of people, and it's on a barge, and each unit that you see there, they have 12 beds in them, they have bathrooms inside. They have clean-up facilities, of course. And workers will actually live on these barges, and BP will be able to take these barges wherever they need to go, to clean up oil. And the best part, Suzanne, BP actually talked with us about it on camera.


DENNIS LINK, BP: A lot about flexibility, you know, if we don't need the staff at this particular location, we could easily put it to a different location on the waterway.


COSTELLO: And I say it's surprising that a BP official came out and talked to us because they haven't really been talking about their efforts to clean the oil up on shore. Everybody we've run into said, oh, we can't talk about it. We could just watch them work. But this time, they are talking about it. They want the public to finally know from their own mouths what exactly they're doing to get this oil off the shores of Louisiana. And you know, Suzanne, I was wondering, you know, when I got to New Orleans, I know you're from New Orleans, and I know you're a good Louisiana gal, and I was just wondering what you thought about all this. Because, again, Louisiana is going through a terrible situation.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, Carol, it really is difficult, because my parents go to New Orleans all the time. They're trying to help with the school system to make sure that the schools are safe and that they're healthy, and now you have this whole oil spill. And my cousins, who still live there, who are there now, I mean, they just feel like, you know, this is just another black mark. This is just something else that is kind of taking away from our culture and our heritage. And so it's -- there's a sense of real sadness, you know, when you see -- see what's happening out there.

And they're already, you know, really challenged by a lot from Katrina. So, they're trying to do the best that they can. And they appreciate everything, you know, when you see people like yourself out there, who are pointing out this is what's happening, this is what they're doing. They're heartened by that. So, in that sense, I'm so glad you're out there. So thank you, Carol. Appreciate it.

COSTELLO: Yes. A lot of people tell us that, you know, the best thing is most of the clean-up workers I saw today, Suzanne, were locals, were contracted out by BP and not making very much money. And as you know, the weather is brutal at this time of year. It's very hot and is humid, but they're out there for hours at a time, trying to clean up what they see.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you so much, Carol. I really appreciate it.

I want to go to our CNN senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, who I understand has some information he has just learned about President Obama and the Gulf disaster. Ed, what do we know?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne. We got some new information like tomorrow the president is going to be meeting with the co chairs of his oil spill commission. You remember former Democratic senator, Bob Graham, Bill Riley, the former EPA chief, the environmental protection agency in the first bush administration. This is the first time we'll see publicly the president meeting with the bipartisan co chairs of this new commission. You remember, he basically created this earlier this month by executive order. They have the charge of the next six months.

They have to come up with a report about how to fix government regulations, how to better work and oversee the oil industry, and how to prevent future oil spills of this magnitude. A big, heavy task for these co chairs. And I think the president in coming out tomorrow, we're told he'll make public remarks after this private meeting. Clearly, the White House still very concerned about all. All this is playing out in the Gulf region. The president's response to criticism, about it being slow, et cetera. They're still trying to jump ahead of all of this, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Ed, thank you so much for that late- breaking news.

As options shrink for stopping the flow of oil and the Gulf of Mexico, there is now new evidence that is coming to light about what might have led to such a massive disaster. And it dates back much earlier than originally believed.

And later, they were the team that diffused the Times Square bomb. An exclusive look inside the NYPD bomb squad. Stay with us. You're in SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: We're learning that the well now spewing all that oil into the Gulf of Mexico had experienced trouble before. Our CNN's Brian Todd is investigating that part of the story. Brian, obviously, when people hear that, they're going to get really, really frustrated and really angry. What do we know about their history?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, right now we're picking up kind of an electronic trail that keeps winding back as investigators dig up a history of problems at this drilling site.


TODD (voice-over): Newly released documents show BP was having problems controlling this well, back in March, and possibly earlier. An e-mail from a BP official to the Minerals Management Service on March 10th says, "we are in the midst of a well control situation." The BP e-mail says they have a stuck pipe, and we are bringing out equipment to begin operations to sever the drill pipe, plug back the well and bypass.

The next day, engineers were supposed to do a routine test to make sure the blow out preventer worked, but in a follow-up e-mail, the BP official asks for a delay in that test, with the give and take of the well and hole behavior, we would feel much more comfortable getting at least one of the two plugs set in order to fully secure the well prior to testing the BOPs. We asked a professor at the Tulane Energy Institute what it meant for BP to ask for a delay in that test.

PROF. ERIC SMITH, TULANE ENERGY INSTITUTE: I think it is significant that she asked MMS for this waiver, if you will. Although, I think in -- from my perspective, it would make a lot of sense that if she was having a well control problem, probably a kick, incipient, a blow out if you will or a gas bubble in the system, that she would say, I don't want to remove my main line of defense until I've made other arrangements.

TODD: According to the e-mail exchange, MMS first refused BP's request to delay the blowout preventer test. The BP official fired back, she had major concerns, indicating the seriousness of the well problem. The MMS finally granted a delay. I asked a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which released these documents what he thought about that.

VOICE OF REP. BART STUPAK, (D) MICHIGAN: They should have at least stopped operations, stabilized the well, so why didn't they get the well under control, and do a top review to make sure that everything is proper?

TODD: BP exec, Bob Dudley, addressed that on ABC's "This Week."

BOB DUDLEY, BP MANAGING DIRECTOR: There were issues of well control, signs out there, and there are strict procedures that are written to the rig owners to walk through well control.


TODD (on-camera): Now, the rig owner is Transocean. Contacted by CNN, a representative for Transocean said everything having to do with that well, including the design, construction and completion of it, was the responsibility of BP, as the operator. Now, the "New York Times," which first reported the story, says BP's documents indicate concern over the well casing almost a year ago. The "Times" cites an internal report from June of last year, BP engineer, Mark Haffely (ph), saying the metal they wanted to use for the casing might collapse under high pressure.

According to the "Times," Haffely wrote in the report that it could be a worse-case scenario, but, quote, "I've seen it happen, so I know it can occur." Contacted by CNN, neither BP nor the interior department which oversees MMS would comment on any of these documents, citing the ongoing investigation -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, BP is also coming under scrutiny for the overall design of this well, is that right?

TODD: They are coming under some very tough scrutiny right now. The drilling in Louisiana, these hearings in Louisiana, that BP engineer Mark Haffely (ph) testified that he had made several changes to what he calls the casing designs of the well to address problems with the cement there, problems with the leaking of drill fluid. The cementing was done by Halliburton. Halliburton says look, BP kept changing the designs of the well on us. So, again, there's more finger-pointing going on between everybody in the situation.

MALVEAUX: OK. Brian, thank you so much. This is a very intense report.

Every shift carries the potential for disaster. We are riding with the New York City bomb squad. Busier than ever in the wake of that failed Times Square attack.

Plus, a congressional candidate with a very famous name following in his grandfather's footsteps.


MALVEAUX: Thirty days ago, when an SUV was discovered in Times Square packed with explosives, no one knew when or if this make-shift bomb might go off, including the New York bomb squad that went in to defuse it. In part one of a two-part report, our CNN Susan Candiotti gets unprecedented access to the team for whom this heart-stopping job is all in a day's work.




CANDIOTTI: And that's you.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): A month after it happened, the video is still riveting of that now unforgettable night in Times Square.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we go. This is us trying to get the gun lock right into our contact vehicle. It's extremely heavy. At that point, we didn't know how much explosives was actually in there.

CANDIOTTI: This is the NYPD bomb squad. These technicians spent at least ten hours painstakingly picking apart a bungled bomb-maker's handy work. A team that included remained veteran bomb tech Raymond Claire, Detective Patrick Luskala (ph), Sergeant John Ryan, and Detective Greg Abbate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to keep your wits about you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They heard some loud popping bangs inside the vehicle. They had seen some smoke coming from the vehicle, and that's basically all we had to go on at that points.

CANDIOTTI: Detective Luskala operated the robot that quickly moved in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can fire different weapons off it, and we broke the windows in that vehicle to get a good look inside.

CANDIOTTI: Protected by a bomb suit, Detective Claire was the first who stuck his hands inside of suspect Faisal Shahzad's SUV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went around the driver's side and I removed the blue windbreaker, and then I could see more -- definitely it was a gas container, two gas containers. And I could see wires, and what I believed to be a clock. And I notified John, Sergeant, I believed we had a bomb in the truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really didn't stand back and say holy cow, this is a bomb, you know, that could blow up at any second.

CANDIOTTI: After 13 years as a bomb tech, Detective Claire admitted his eyes opened wider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the first time that I went down on a vehicle and I saw lots in wires and gas and propane, and I identified it as a bomb. That will look (ph) twice.

CANDIOTTI: They won't talk about the accused Times Square bomber, but there is an underlying determination to stop anyone who wants to do harm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people are bad people. They've come to my city to try and harm innocent people, and I'm going to stop it.

CANDIOTTI: Stopping them is what the bomb squad lives and breathes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get juiced up every time that call comes. So, I was get juiced up and ready to go.

CANDIOTTI: Tomorrow, a more normal day, on call, and on the run. And you think those bomb suits are easy to move around in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to put it over you.

CANDIOTTI: Think twice.

I don't see how you possibly can.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: Be sure to tune in tomorrow for part two of Susanne's exclusive report on the NYPD bomb squad and a true inside look at that 85-pound bomb suit.

It has been almost seven months since the deadly shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, allegedly by a major who follows Islam. As he prepares for his first court appearance, we look at the fallout from Muslim soldiers at the army base.

And his name is not familiar, but his lineage is. A president's grandson enters the arena of national politics. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan is preparing for its biggest push yet against the Taliban. It's a high stakes mission in a war with few alternatives left. Our CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Within weeks, 20,000 U.S., Afghan and coalition forces will have poured into the Kandahar region of Southern Afghanistan, a longtime Taliban stronghold. The mission, establish security for the people, improve local government, and push the Taliban out. It's the biggest battle yet in General Stanley McChrystal's counterinsurgency war plan. U.S. forces have already struck Taliban targets in the area, but McChrystal is now trying to make it look like a more gentle war.

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. COMMANDER, AFGHANISTAN: We're not using the term operation or major operations because that often brings to mind in people's psyche the idea of a d-day and an h-hour and an attack.

STARR: That's plan "A" in McChrystal's war to protect and help Afghans regain their country from insurgents, but what if it doesn't work and Stephen Biddle is an occasional adviser to General McChrystal.

A lot of people say plan B is to make plan A work.

STEPHEN BIDDLE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, in a sense, that's right. I mean, obviously, there are always alternatives. Just in this case, the alternatives aren't very attractive.

STARR: One alternative, Biddle says the training of Afghan forces could be accelerated. BIDDLE: There aren't a lot of options other than that, though. Do you make troops on patrol walk faster?

STARR: No one expects the insurgents to cut and run. They haven't in nearby Marjah where U.S. are using a similar strategy and have been fighting for months. Marjah was supposed to give the U.S. momentum to move on into Kandahar as the next target. But McChrystal recently called the Marjah campaign a quote, "bleeding ulcer," unquote.

MAJ. GEN NICK CARTER, CMDR. REGIONAL COMMAND SOUTH, ISAF: So when General McChrystal referred to Marjah as a bleeding ulcer, he was talking about the perception of the outside world. And, of course, in the same way, it's important that Afghan perceptions go in the right direction. It's important that the outside world also has the right perceptions.

STARR (on-camera): The clock is ticking. By the end of the year, General McChrystal says he'll know whether the plan's working.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


MALVEAUX: Major Nidal Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree last November will make his first courtroom appearance tomorrow morning. Military procedure is similar to a civilian grand jury. Hasan, who is wheelchair bound from gunshot wounds that he sustained in the incident will arrive under heavy security from a nearby civilian jail. That's where he's being held. Tuesday's hearing will be very technical. Few details of the actual shooting spree are likely to come out.

Well, his mother grew into a young adulthood at the White House, and her father became the only U.S. president to resign. President Nixon's grandson is running for Congress. You're in SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at hot shots. Check out this amazing photo in downtown Guatemala City, Guatemala. Tropical storm "Agatha" causes a massive sinkhole to open up. At least 115 people have died after the tropical storm battered Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador over the weekend.

In India, Hindu man smokes say hand-rolled cigar known as a bide.

In China, a woman eats while sitting in a chair to Beijing alley.

And in Switzerland, members of the Swiss Air Force perform near a ski resort. They are hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

What goes around comes around. A former president's grandson is running for Congress in New York. Our CNN's Mary Snow joins us now, and tells us who this Chris Cox guy is. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. He's the grandson of Richard Nixon. And he's putting his family name to the test in a New York district where a Democratic incumbent faces re-election.


CHRIS COX, (R) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for congress.

SNOW (voice-over): Chris Cox doesn't use his middle name when he introduces himself to voters, but it's the name that sparks the most interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your grandfather was --

COX: Yes, was President Nixon.


COX: Thank you.

SNOW: A 31-year-old Christopher Nixon Cox is son of Tricia Nixon and grandson of the 37th president. He was born five years after his grandfather resigned in disgrace following the Watergate scandal.


SNOW: Cox says his had grandfather didn't really discuss the scandal, he doesn't see his family's controversial political past hurting him.

COX: Some of the stuff you learn from that is that you can come back from anything. And I think one of the great things about my grandfather was he did write nine books after presidency. His advice on foreign affairs were sought after by presidents from Ronald Reagan to George Bush to Bill Clinton. And I think that shows that, you know, he still had a lot to offer the world and made the most of that.

How are you? Very nice to meet you.

SNOW: This is Cox's first political race. He faces a crowded Republican primary field with the stiffest competition --

RANDY ALTSCHULER, (R) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: If you win brook haven and you do very solid everywhere else, then you can win the election.

SNOW: Coming from self-made millionaire, Randy Altschuler, who is also running on the conservative ticket. While he didn't take any direct swings at his challenger, he is playing up his very different family history.

ALTSCHULER: I had to work my way through college. I was sort of a cook and a security guard. And everything I've achieved, I've achieved on my own and that's because this country gives you that opportunity.

SNOW: Cox is looking past to primary, setting his sights on Democratic incumbent congressman, Tim Bishop, who served four terms, trying to paint him as a liberal tied to Nancy Pelosi.

COX: I want to be the congressman that represents Suffolk county values not legal (ph) San Francisco values.

SNOW: But Bishop fires back trying to paint Cox as a Manhattan elitist saying he only recently moved to the Tony Hamptons full time so he could run for Congress. The Nixons have had a summer home there for decades.

REP. TIM BISHOP, (D) NEW YORK: He's a person that has vacationed in the first Congressional district, but I think people are going to learn that the first Congressional district is more than a place you come to on weekends to play golf or to play tennis.

SNOW: Some political observers see Cox's family roots potentially helping him in the Republican primary but possibly hurting him in a general election against a Democrat.


SNOW (on-camera): I should point out Cox's father is the chairman of the state Republican Party -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Mary, thank you so much. I'm Suzanne Malveaux here in the SITUATION ROOM. More news coming up on CNN.