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THE SITUATION ROOM

Nuclear Crisis Worsening in Japan; Interview With General Carter Ham

Aired March 25, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

Happening now: pivotal developments in the air and on the ground in Libya, as NATO prepares to take command of the no-fly zone. I will talk to the American currently in charge of the overall mission, General Carter Ham. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, Moammar Gadhafi now under investigation for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. We will have details.

And signs of a leak at that crippled Japanese nuclear power plant, the radioactive material that experts fear is seeping out, more dangerous than just uranium, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following all the fast-changing developments involving Libya this hour. Among them, the Pentagon says coalition fighter tanks took out seven Libyan tanks that were threatening civilians in Ajdabiya. Also, the U.S. ambassador to Libya says members of Gadhafi's regime are reaching out to possible mediators to get a message out.

The ambassador suggests that may be a sign of desperation.

And President Obama talked about the situation by phone with congressional leaders earlier this afternoon. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner says the president needs to provide more clarity on the objective in Libya and the exact nature of the U.S. role.

Just a little while ago, I spoke to the American currently in charge of enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, General Carter Ham. He's head of the U.S. military's Africa Command. He says NATO is already in charge of enforcing the arms embargo against Libya, will take over enforcement of the no-fly zone, he says, this weekend, and he says NATO agreed in principle to protect civilians starting in the next few days.

Here's more of my interview with General Ham. He joined us from Stuttgart, Germany.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Are you arming the rebels?

GEN. CARTER HAM, COMMANDER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: No.

BLITZER: Why not?

HAM: First of all, there's a -- I have no authority to do that. Again, our mission is not to support the opposition forces. Our opposition is to prevent civilian casualties. Now, there's a linkage there. Those who are causing civilian casualties are regime forces. So when we destroy or degrade the capability of regime forces, then certainly we are doing that and there is some benefit to the opposition.

But we do not operate in direct support of the -- of the opposition forces.

BLITZER: It makes it sound like the U.S. and its partners are neutral in this civil war that's going on in Libya.

Is that -- is that right?

HAM: Our mission is dictated by the U.N. Security Council resolution. So the agreement of -- of the Security Council is decide -- has given us three -- these three missions. And I think, appropriately, at least to me, the most important of those is -- is to protect civilians. And that's where we're putting our effort, on that, not on supporting one party or the other.

BLITZER: If these rebels, the opposition, are being -- and civilians, for that matter -- are being attacked by Libyan snipers, what do you do about that?

HAM: It's the toughest problem that we have. Again, if we have -- we have some very precise weapons systems, not just U. S. , but all of the contributing nations. But we -- we must necessarily be very conscious of -- of causing further civilian casualties.

So when we see regime forces attacking civilians, we -- we -- we evaluate that very carefully. And if we can interdict and if we can act against that threat without causing further harm to other civilians, then we will and we have acted with some great effect.

It's -- but it is a very -- it is the most difficult target set we have, when we see these regime forces in built-up areas, both in armored vehicles and sniper positions, as you cite. It is a tough, tough challenge for us.

BLITZER: If you had actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of Gadhafi, would you go ahead and either kill him or arrest him?

HAM: I -- I would not. I -- I do not have that as a mission. I don't spend any time thinking about -- about where he is. I don't expend any of my intelligence collection assets doing that. It's not part of my mission set.

BLITZER: Do you have the capability to jam Libyan state television and radio broadcasts?

HAM: Well, without getting into a lot of detail, we have pretty significant jamming capability and broadcast capability. And we are using that.

BLITZER: But they're still on the air.

HAM: Well, you -- as I say, we have a capability and we're using it. That doesn't mean that we can or should necessarily mean that we can do that 24 hours, seven days a week. But we do have a capability and we are employing it.

BLITZER: Well, one capability would simply to be to use air power to knock out their towers.

That's not -- that hasn't been your mission, is that what you're saying?

HAM: No. I'm saying we -- we look at -- we look at assets that -- that facilitate the regime's command and control. And if we can target those and destroy those without causing civilian casualties, then we will do that. And we have done that.

But -- but we always -- we always are very precise and always -- always very conscious about civilian casualties.

BLITZER: Because I raised the question because some argue that those broadcasts endanger civilians in Libya right now, the way Gadhafi's state propaganda machine is using those broadcasts.

HAM: I think as a -- as an extension of the regime's command and control, I would asses those as legitimate -- legitimate targets. And we have a variety of means to try to disrupt them.

BLITZER: What kind of liaison officer or officers do you have with the opposition?

HAM: None.

BLITZER: Why not?

HAM: Again, it's -- it's not our mission. It -- our mission is -- is to protect civilians and the president has been quite clear that there will not be U.S. military boots on the ground.

BLITZER: No boots on the ground. But there are civilians, U.S. diplomats and others, who are in liaison with the opposition.

HAM: There is contact. I'm not aware of anyone who is on the ground with them.

BLITZER: Well, the president himself said that he was naming someone to be a liaison to the opposition. When I was in Paris the other day with the secretary of State, she met with out of opposition leaders herself. So there is a dialogue, but what you're saying is not a military dialogue, with the opposition. HAM: That's correct.

BLITZER: So what's next, General?

Give me your bottom line assessment right now.

How long is this operation in Libya going to take before you can declare mission accomplished?

HAM: Well, I think -- again, I think we have accomplished quite a bit already. We are -- we will continue until such time as the mission transitions. We will continue to do all we can to protect civilians. That means we attack those regime forces that threaten civilians. We attack his command and control systems that -- that -- that direct those forces and the -- and then we also attack his ability to sustain threats against civilians, whether that's ammunition or fuel or transportation systems, as well. And we will continue to execute the no-fly zone.

So we'll continue in that -- in -- in that way, as we have. And we are learning more every day. Our targeting is getting more precise and -- and more effective. But at some point -- and I expect this to be in the very near future -- we will transition this mission of protect civilians to NATO and we'll do it, though it is a very complex transition, we'll make that transition happen without any loss of momentum in the execution of the mission.

BLITZER: And, finally, General, senior officers surrounding Gadhafi, do you see evidence they are defecting?

HAM: Well, I think there's -- there's some indication that I would tell you, frankly, is mostly through the -- the media reporting, that there's at least some wavering. I don't think -- I don't see how they could be in the position and at -- and at least not question their ability to continue to exert control. His command and control systems, his forces, certainly there's no air force left. And all those systems that he used to repress the country have been significantly degraded.

So I have got to believe that, in the minds of some of those inner circle people, there are some questions that are arising as to whether or not this is, in fact, the best course of action for them.

BLITZER: This is my last question, General. And it's an opportunity for you. CNN is seen live around the world, including in Libya. And officers -- your military to military -- the officers surrounding Gadhafi might be watching right now. Gadhafi might be watching. His sons might be watching.

Look into the camera.

What would you say to them right now, officer to officer?

HAM: I would say comply with the will of the international community, as outlined in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Cease attacking civilians. Withdraw your arms and your -- and your troops from areas in which they are -- they are attacking civilians. Serve the people of Libya and not serve this illegitimate regime.

BLITZER: General Ham, thanks very much for joining us.

Good luck to you and all the men and women you command.

HAM: Thank you very much, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, well, let's talk about what we just heard with our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence and our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

I know you're getting more details, Chris, over at the Pentagon on what exactly we should expect to see in the next few days. Walk us through this process.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I was speaking with a coalition official, and he told me that, basically, the handover to NATO shouldn't take more than 48 hours.

He said what's going to happen is, the air operation center is more than likely going to be based in Turkey. That commander will then report up to Naples, where a Canadian general will be running the overall day-to-day operation.

But he said what's got to happen is, the coalition commanders have got to brief their NATO counterparts, tell them what's been going on, what they have at their disposal, and what needs to happen going forward. And then that new NATO command would need about that 48 hours to get those briefings and to write their own set of orders.

BLITZER: When General Ham says, Dan -- and you speak to White House officials all the time -- that he's not authorized to go after Gadhafi, he's not authorized to arm the rebels, he's not authorized even to talk to the rebels for that matter, the president of the United States repeatedly says the U.S. strategy, the U.S. policy is to get rid of Gadhafi, regime change, if you will.

How are they explaining that contradiction right there?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

Well, the mission of enforcing that no-fly zone is separate from what the objective is of this administration. As you correctly point out, the president and other senior-level officials in the administration have said that it is their desire to see Gadhafi leave.

The question is, how will that happen? And today Jay Carney at the briefing told me that, listen, we don't have a crystal ball and we can't predict what the future will bring. But what they hope to do, aside from going after him, which the administration has made it clear to lawmakers in a meeting today they have no plans to try and assassinate him -- what they hope to do is to really put pressure on Gadhafi himself or put pressure on those around him, so they in turn will coax him very strongly to leave, essentially isolate him.

But it will be interesting if that indeed can happen, because, as we know, Gadhafi has dug his heels in and has no plans of leaving anytime soon.

BLITZER: It must be so frustrating for the military, Chris -- and you're talking to them all the time over at the Pentagon and elsewhere -- because they remember, the no-fly zone, the sanctions, all of that effort was in business for 12 years against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but he survived for 12 years from 1991 until 2003.

Do they see themselves being told you have got to fight with one arm tied behind your back right now?

LAWRENCE: Well, they certainly -- everybody I have talked to is certainly hoping it doesn't come anywhere near that.

It's interesting, though, Wolf. Yesterday, I believe White House spokesman Jay Carney said he saw the U.S. role as one of support and assist. But the message we're getting from the battlefield today is that, while, yes, U.S. military has pretty much handed off this -- the whole no-fly mission, the simple mission of patrolling the skies, the actual mission of striking targets on the ground, more than half of those sorties are still being flown by U.S. jets.

In fact, they pounded just today more of his tanks and more of his forces are on the ground. They're even talking about bringing in possibly helicopters, drones, planes that can fly at low altitudes and at night. Those would be specifically designed to go after ground forces. So, while in one sense you're hearing, oh, we're pulling back into a support role, the attacking role seems to be very much in play here.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence over at the Pentagon, Dan Lothian at the White House, guys, thanks very much. And I suspect we will be hearing a lot more from the American president in the next few days about what's going on in Libya.

As we -- we also want to check in with our reporters on the ground, including Reza Sayah. He's in Benghazi right now. He's talking to the rebels about their next move. We're also going to Syria, the latest Arab country rocked by unrest, details of deadly protests, dozens of people reported killed today.

And ominous new developments over at that crippled nuclear power plant in Japan. Is it leaking something even more dangerous than uranium?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Anger and -- Arab anger and frustration, I should say, are boiling over beyond Libya.

In Syria, noisy anti-government protests followed Friday prayers in Damascus. Dozens of people are reported dead in similar protests in the southern city of Daraa. State television showed images of demonstrations in support of President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has promised reforms.

In Yemen, thousands of people protested in the capital against the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in what organizers dubbed a day of departure. But here too state television showed pro-government demonstrations.

Meanwhile, we're following reports of major, major military action today in the Libyan town of Ajdabiya.

CNN's Reza Sayah is tracking the situation from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi for us.

So, what are you hearing from rebel forces, Reza?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of activity in this key city widely viewed as the dividing line between the eastern front controlled by the opposition forces and the western front mostly controlled by Gadhafi forces.

Rebel fighters over the past several days have tried to get in this key city. They have been repelled by tank units, Gadhafi forces there stationed at the gates of the city. Today, they got a little help from the British air force. A British military official telling CNN that British jets targeted and destroyed several tanks that had taken aim at the city.

This could -- this could help the rebel forces in their effort to enter the city. Also in Ajdabiya over the past 24 hours, a lot of disturbing witness accounts of tactics allegedly used by Gadhafi loyalists to terrorize and sometimes kill civilians, one witness telling CNN as he was exiting the city he saw bodies in the streets, people afraid to recover these bodies.

Another witness telling CNN Gadhafi loyalists and soldiers going house to house, going inside, taking young men, suspected rebel fighters. It's these types of stories, Wolf, that are having the opposition call out for the international community to step up its efforts to come in with more help.

BLITZER: Reza, you heard General Carter Ham, the U.S. commander of this operation, until at least NATO takes full command, say that the U.S. and NATO, the coalition, they're not going to arm the rebels. They're not even going to talk directly to the rebels military to military. There won't even be a military liaison officer to them.

When they hear that, how do they respond? And I know you spoke to a lot of them today after Friday prayers in Benghazi.

SAYAH: Well, that's going to be very disappointing to the opposition and its leadership. They're well aware that this operation will be led by the coalition, by NATO right now.

But they're not clear on what it means. They're not clear on whether it's going to continue to be aggressive, whether there will be a de-escalation of the intensity. What is important to know is their stated goal is to continue to wage war with the Gadhafi forces. And what they say they need is better, more powerful weapons to take on the Gadhafi military.

And some opposition supporters, not the leadership, not opposition officials, but some supporters are also saying, give us troops on the ground. They say, we don't want an occupation. We don't want an invasion. We just want foreign soldiers to come here, help us with toppling the regime, and then they can leave.

That certainly doesn't square with what we're hearing from NATO officials and heads of Western states that are involved in the operation. So, Wolf, it's going to be very interesting to see how things move forward.

BLITZER: Because what I'm hearing is the only arms they're getting, the only ammunition, spare parts are from other Arab countries who may be supporting these rebels, but not from the U.S. or the coalition partners or NATO for that matter. I wonder what -- if you have any indication of the flow of weapons coming into the rebels from the outside, what it is.

SAYAH: Well, there are some rumors that weapons are coming in from the east, the Egyptian/Libyan border. But we have not verified that.

And one thing we can tell you, that there's no indication here that these rebel fighters now have new weapons, powerful weapons. It's still the same old Kalashnikov. So, if they're coming in, they haven't ended up in the hands of these rebel fighters. And the fact that they're still calling for them perhaps is an indication that those rumors aren't true, Wolf.

BLITZER: Reza Sayah in Benghazi for us -- thank, Reza, very much.

Another American automaker feeling the impact of the disaster Japan -- details of what Ford is now telling its dealers. Stand by.

And we're just finding out which school scored a commencement address from the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Reactor three has been the biggest worry at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant for two weeks. Now authorities admit one of their fears could soon be realized. We're going to tell you why.

And you don't have to be a nuclear physicist to understand why this poses such a threat. We will translate the terrifying details into English.

And Gadhafi has never shied away from publicity, but he might want to steer clear of The Hague for a while. We will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The war in Libya, the civil war in Libya, now the U.S., NATO allies, others are deeply involved in what's going on. And we have just learned some breaking news.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. He has got the latest for us.

Dan, the president of the United States, what's going on?

LOTHIAN: That's right, Wolf.

We're hearing now here at the White House that the president on Monday at 7:30 at National Defense University will be making an address to the nation about the mission in Libya.

You know this has been something that this administration has been criticized about, he president not coming out and providing enough clarity to the American people about why the U.S. is involved in Libya and what the exit strategy will be, what is the cost of the mission, and of course what is this new role now that the U.S. will be engaged in this phase two of the mission in Libya. So now we're hearing from the White House again that the president will indeed be speaking to the nation at 7:30 p.m. on Monday evening.

BLITZER: He's been under a lot of pressure to explain, exactly, the nature of the U.S. mission. I know he spent an hour, what, in the White House Situation Room meeting with congressional leaders, speaking with them on the phone, answering their questions today about what's going on?

LOTHIAN: That's right. The president did spend about an hour with these lawmakers. Some of them were inside the Situation Room. Others were joining the meeting by phone.

And, of course, the big concern is that they feel that they have not been properly consulted. The White House has laid out a time line saying that -- dating back to February 28, that security -- intelligence officials have been briefing House members. There have been a number of other briefings.

But what these lawmakers are saying, there's a difference between a briefing, being informed about the situation, and then being consulted, a chance to get some questions asked and perhaps even have their ideas implemented.

Today the president did take some questions, but still some lawmakers don't believe that the president has done enough to fully inform them about the mission in Libya, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thanks very much.

On Tuesday the secretary of state will be in London meeting with all the allies about what's going on on Libya. And on Wednesday, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs will be briefing members of Congress behind closed doors. Watch CNN all of next week, indeed all of this weekend for continuing coverage. We'll, of course, have live coverage of the president's address to the nation Monday night, 7:30 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Other news we're following including important news in Japan. An ominous development. There's growing concern that the containment vessel inside one of the reactors at that crippled nuclear power plant may be leaking. And this reactor isn't fueled just by uranium, but by a much more dangerous mix of uranium and plutonium.

More now from CNN's Martin Savidge in Tokyo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Japanese government said today three workers contaminated while trying to lay a new power cable in the building housing crippled reactor No. 3 had been standing in water 10,000 times the radiation normally found there.

At a news conference, the deputy director of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that could indicate the reactor may have a leak. Two f the employees actually had water splash on exposed skin. They were taken to the hospital for treatment. Today all three were moved to a special radiological institute for observation.

The incident raises concerns of possible lax safety procedures at the Fukushima facility.

(on camera) We attempted to ask officials at TEPCO, the operators of the nuclear plant, three basic questions. One, why didn't they know the radiation levels were high before the men went in? Two, why weren't they wearing proper protective suits? And three, why didn't they leave when radiation alarms sounded?

(voice-over) The TEPCO official would only say he didn't know or that they were still investigating.

Also Friday authorities began quietly expanding the voluntary evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi site by another ten kilometers, or more than six miles. They deny it was because of the possible leak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: And as that evacuation area continues to grow, so does the list of products that are being banned now that are coming from those prefectures around the damaged nuclear facility. Farmers in the area, because that's some of the most productive farmland in the country, are very worried about their livelihoods. The government says, "Look, we'll reimburse you, but it could be for quite some time." Because some of the half life of the radiation coming from that plant, Wolf, goes on for 30 years.

BLITZER: Yes. This is very worrisome stuff. Marty Savidge in Tokyo. Thank you.

Let's get some more now on this disturbing development. CNN's Chad Myers is here to explain what's going on inside this reactor. It's a little complex. But it's very significant, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is significant. And we will know more in a few hours, because the officials took the water that the men were standing in, and they took it for testing.

Why do we care? We don't care how much radiation. We care what isotopes are in the water, because then the DNA, basically, of that water will tell officials where the water came from. Is there or was there -- I guess it's still there, a break in the reactor core somewhere?

Now there are also many, many pipes that go from the core all the way over to the turbine room. And the turbine room, down in the basement, is where these men were. So maybe there's just a leak in a pipe somewhere.

But Wolf, it doesn't really matter where the leak is. If the power -- if the radiation in that water was in contact with core water or was partly core water for a while before it was either pushed out of a valve or something, we have a problem. There's a much bigger problem still going on here.

Now, another possibility that they talked about today was that the water may have, when they used those fire engines, and they tried to just push water into these spent fuel rod pools up here after the rods were used, they take them out and they put them there to cool down for years or two. And then when they were spraying that water in, that water may have come out and then gone down. Just kind of like splashed out. Still in contact with the radiator rods, and so that radiation could be from there.

We will know all of this. All this speculation will be over in a couple of hours when they tell us where that water came from.

BLITZER: We'll be watching closely with -- together with you, Chad. Thank you.

We're going back to Libya in just a moment. The government was trying to show CNN's Nic Robertson one thing, but he found something entirely different. Stand by.

And at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA," why some lawmakers briefed on Libya today by President Obama, why they say they are still not happy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are very few moments in our lives...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Libya's government tries to keep journalists under tight control all of the time, but sometimes showing reporters what it wants them to see isn't necessarily all that easy. I spoke about that with CNN's Nic Robertson about one government-sponsored trip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now from Tripoli, Nic Robertson on the scene for us.

Nic, the Libyan government took you on another tour today. What did you see?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting, Wolf. What they took us to see wasn't the most interesting part of the journey. They took us to a farm on the eastern outskirts of the city to show us civilian casualties. They couldn't find any civilian casualties there. It appeared that a missile or a rocket or something had hit the farmland around the farmhouses. No serious casualties there.

But on the way there, it was very interesting, because we passed a couple of government military complexes here. Both of them had smoke coming out of them. One of them we could see in and see damaged and destroyed buildings. We saw a radar installation on the sea front, just along from one of those bases. This radar installation controlled surface-to-air missiles. The radar itself was completely destroyed.

But we also saw that Gadhafi still has some of his air-defense capability and is hiding it. We saw -- we saw anti-aircraft guns covered in camouflage, hidden behind a sand dune, dug in at the side of the road, right on the seafront where coalition aircraft would fly over. And outside another military base, underneath trees, a portable surface-to-air missile system being hidden, hiding it underneath the tree.

So clearly, Gadhafi is still maintaining some capability to try and shoot at coalition aircraft flying over here, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Nic, what do you know about these reports that Gadhafi is now arming so-called volunteers to go ahead and fight the rebels, as opposed to regular military men?

ROBERTSON: What -- what Gadhafi has been doing is -- is giving weapons to tribes, tribes that are loyal to him. Some of these tribes, al Alafa (ph), for example, heavily contributes to the military in the country. But it's been handing out weapons to civilians in their sort of home villages, if you will.

And it seems that what he's embarking on doing here is potentially arming all the tribes that would be loyal to him. So if the army somehow gets beaten down, beaten back, fails him in some way, then he can call on the tribes to pull them into the fight, to fight the rebels, if they were trying to advance on the capitol. Whatever the scenario is that he envisions -- envisages could happen. But this would be a fail safe for him if the army can't hold the land that he wants them to hold, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nic, be careful over there. Nic Robertson in Tripoli, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: While rebels fight for their country, Libyan civilians are paying the price for this war for freedom. Many would welcome liberty. Others just want a chance to go back home.

And could Libya's leader face possible war crimes trials? One prosecutor has an eye on Moammar Gadhafi.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Coalition war planes could be heard all over the Libyan town of Ajdabiya today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SOUND OF WAR PLANE FLYING OVERHEAD)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There was also fierce fighting on the ground. And as rebel and government forces battle for control, residents are fleeing to the countryside where conditions are harsh. CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us now from Benghazi with more.

Arwa, tell us what you saw today.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's really quite heartbreaking. We met a little boy, 12 years old. His name is Mahmoud. And we were speaking with his father about what they had experienced. And then we asked him if he was scared. And he said yes, in a perfectly normal voice, but then all of the sudden, he cradled his head in his arm, and he was trying to hide the fact that he was crying. He was that traumatized by what he had gone through, his father said.

This particular family had fled Ajdabiya three days ago because of the intense fighting. They were telling us about how Gadhafi's forces were indiscriminately firing their weapons, firing tanks at civilians, at their residences as they were driving up. They described streets strewn with bodies that no one was able to recover, because anyone who approached them would get shot at.

This entire area outside of Ajdabiya is scattered with various campsites that families have set up. They've been living like this, some for two weeks, some for just a day. Some arriving at this very moment. They have no water, no electricity. These tents are very basic. Some of them were even just made out of tree branches and shrubs that had been munched (ph) together.

People telling us, though, that they don't want to leave this area, Wolf. They don't want to, say, go to Benghazi and set up a temporary housing with family, because they believe every night when they go to sleep that somehow, when they wake up the next morning, Gadhafi's forces will have been defeated, Ajdabiya will be saved, and they'll be able to go back home, Wolf.

BLITZER: So they're confident that, in the end, whether it takes a few more days, a few more weeks, months, in the end they will succeed. Gadhafi will be defeated?

DAMON: They're confident in that, Wolf. And they're also clinging to that. Because at the end of the day, psychologically speaking, they have to. They've been through so much already. And they do realize that, if somehow this entire effort by the opposition to topple Gadhafi fails and he does regain control over the country, that massacre everyone has been warning about could become a reality once again. And that's why they're toughing it out in these conditions.

And plus, they don't want to move that far away from their homes, from Ajdabiya. They want to be able to rush right back in the minute that they feel that it's safe. But it is been terrifying for these residents in there.

We were speaking with a woman who was telling us about how her neighbors, the young men living in the house next door, were taken out by Gadhafi's forces. They disappeared. No one knows where they went.

A number of residents telling us how Gadhafi's troops were parading up and down the streets, encouraging residents to come out, promising them that they would be safe, and then firing on them.

And then, of course, there's a very disturbing story that we only hear in whispers, because of the cultural taboos. And that is of women being raped. And so everybody really out there waiting, hoping, braving the harsh weather. It's incredibly cool here at night, because they do want to be able to go home. And they do so hope it's going to be soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's hope for the best. Arwa, thanks very much for your excellent reporting.

Like all of our reporters, she's doing a fabulous, important job.

Moammar Gadhafi showed he'll go to great length to keep power in Libya. Now one prosecutor says he has certainly crossed the line and should pay the price.

And imagine watching a tornado pass over your house. A twister that touched down in Pennsylvania caught on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TYLER TUBBS, TORNADO EYEWITNESS: We got a twister! Do you see that twister? Do you see that twister? Oh my God!

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BLITZER: Moammar Gadhafi is the subject of an international investigation looking into war crimes. Lisa Sylvester is here. She's got the details -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.N. Security Council referred the Libya case to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and I spoke to the court's chief prosecutor this afternoon. He told me right now, they have enough evidence to present a strong case that crimes against humanity were committed in the first days of the Libyan conflict.

The question, though, is whether or not charges will be brought against Moammar Gadhafi and his sons.

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SYLVESTER (voice-over): This video, purportedly taken on February 15, shows protesters gathered in Libya. Then sirens. And shots being fired. It's another of a string of videos posted on sites like YouTube, videos that cannot be verified by CNN but that have attracted the attention of human rights groups.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, ICC PROSECUTOR: I am the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

SYLVESTER: The International Criminal Court is now investigating if Moammar Gadhafi and his Libyan regime have committed war crimes. The court's chief prosecutor tells CNN he is focusing on seven specific incidents.

MORENO-OCAMPO (via phone): I am 100 percent sure that there will be enough evidence to present strong case on the investigation very soon. We have to be confident that we have a strong case. The issue now is how to link this with authorities. Who will organize this? Who gave the instructions to commit that? That is our current investigation focus.

SYLVESTER: Senator John McCain, ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has come out saying any charges are warranted.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: His forces have tried to repress the anti-Gadhafi rebels with the worst, most outrageous levels of brutality and committing these crimes against his own people have -- certainly there's ample evidence that he has committed war crimes.

SYLVESTER: Under Article 7 of the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, torture and rape as part of a "widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most importantly, a war crime has to be a serious crime against civilians with intent. That is that the perpetrator knew or had reason to know that his actions would have such a terrible impact on the civilian population.

SYLVESTER: It's not just the Libyan regime that is under investigation. The International Criminal Court is also looking at the actions of the rebels. If rebel forces deliberately target civilians, they could also face criminal charges.

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SYLVESTER: Now, the chief prosecutor will address the U.N. Security Council on May 4. The prosecutor will present his case later to three international court judges who then any -- will then issue any warrants. But it will likely end up being the Security Council member states that actually act on those warrants and to detain and bring those individuals before the court, Wolf.

Blitzer: All right. We'll see what happens. Lisa, thank you.

A young man, an unlikely star on the Internet because of a tornado all caught on videotape.

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TUBBS: Tornado Boy.

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BLITZER: A powerful storm spawned a tornado and a new Internet sensation. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's amateur video of a tornado with a twist.

TUBBS: Do you see that twister? Do you see that twister?

MOOS: And the twist is the narrator.

TUBBS: You can just call me the Tornado Boy.

MOOS: Seems like a pretty low-key teenager, right?

TUBBS: This is a tornado. Oh, my God! If you could see that! Oh, my God!

MOOS: Fifteen-year-old Tyler Tubbs was talking to his mom on the phone at his home in Hempfield, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh.

TUBBS: It's right above us, mom. It is humongous. It's hailing golf balls. MOOS: You'd be excited, too. After all...

TUBBS: We don't get tornadoes here.

MOOS: But there it was, captured on various home videos. What Tyler Tubbs managed to capture was the fear.

TUBBS: Oh, my God! It landed! Oh, my God! Tornado, tornado!

MOOS: The tape ends as Tyler raced for the finished basement.

Next thing you know he's fodder for YouTube critics, making fun of his accent, calling him a sissy, a drama queen.

(on camera) But before you go calling Tyler Tubbs a sissy, look at all the damage that tornado caused.

(voice-over) Dozens of homes in Westmoreland County were damaged. Some were completely destroyed.

To those who call him wimpy, Tyler says...

TUBBS: They didn't see it. They didn't see what I saw.

MOOS: The twister did not damage Tyler's house. His video was on its way to becoming an Internet hit.

TUBBS: Oh, my God.

MOOS: Of course, it's been remixed.

TUBBS: This is a tornado, guys. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Did you see that twister?

MOOS (on camera): Now Tornado Boy is being compared to another exuberant observer of natural phenomena.

PAUL VASQUEZ, SHOT VIDEO OF DOUBLE RAINBOW: Oh, wow!

MOOS: Double Rainbow Guy.

VASQUEZ: Oh, my God, oh, my God!

TUBBS: Oh, my God! If you could see that! Oh, my God!

VASQUEZ: It's so bright.

TUBBS: It's coming down hard.

VASQUEZ: What does this mean?

TUBBS: Do you see that? Do you see that?

MOOS: At least Tornado Boy didn't cry as Rainbow Guy did.

VASQUEZ: It's so beautiful. MOOS (on camera): I can only imagine if you actually saw a double tornado.

TUBBS: Oh, boy.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN...

TUBBS: Oh, my God! It landed! Oh, my God! Tornado, tornado!

MOOS: ... New York.

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BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.