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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Egyptian Activist Wael Ghonim; Dueling Debt Plans
Aired April 15, 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: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."
In Libya, a Roman ruin at a preserved site remains undamaged despite the fighting taking place in that country.
In Myanmar, also known as Burma, young people celebrate the Myanmar new year by splashing water on each other. In India, a bride sits next to her new husband during a wedding ceremony. And in Japan, the sun sets over a landscape littered with debris after the earthquake and tsunami in March.
"Hot Shots," pictures from the around the world.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: a brutal crackdown, perhaps more ruthless than anyone imagined. We're looking at new charges Syria is torturing children.
Also, he was at the forefront of the revolution in Egypt. Is he happy with where the country is now? My interview with the Google executive, the Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And a chilling twist in a suspected serial killing spree. The mother of one victim says the killer taunted her using her daughter's own cell phone.
Breaking news and political headlines all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They're weapons so brutal they have been banned by much of the world, but now there are disturbing new charges by the group Human Rights Watch that Moammar Gadhafi's forces are firing cluster munitions on residential of the Western Libya city of Misrata. The group calls the alleged use of cluster munitions appalling.
A Libyan government spokesman reached by CNN calls the charge completely untrue. Nevertheless, Misrata has been under brutal attack for weeks in what some Western leaders describe as a medieval siege.
The suffering in Misrata was very much on the minds of thousands of people who demonstrated today in the rebel-held city -- the rebel city of Benghazi. CNN's Reza Sayah is there.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A very energized crowd here at this demonstration in the opposition capital of Benghazi, the demonstration to show support and solidarity for the rebel fighters on the front line and the people of Western Libya, places that are still firmly in the control of the regime, places like the capital of Tripoli, Misrata, where there's been fierce fighting over the past several weeks.
For the most part, these rebels still optimistic that things are going to go their way, but you're starting to see some impatience, some frustration growing with the international community. It was, of course, a little more than a month ago when the international community got involved in this conflict in Libya, first with U.N. Resolution 1973, then shortly thereafter with the no-fly zone.
The opposition calling for the world to help save civilian lives, but all along they have made it clear they want the ouster of Colonel Gadhafi. Of course Colonel Gadhafi is still clinging to power, and that's why the opposition is getting frustrated, calling on NATO to do more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, they did not do anything, NATO. They should do more than that, more than that, more than that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want more support from friends, from United States of America, more power, more support to our people.
SAYAH: Some leaders of Western powers, like U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have signaled the possibility of doing more to help the rebels, but it's not clear what they plan to do, who's going to back them, and how their plans will fit in with the stated mission of U.N. Resolution 1973, which says nothing about regime change.
Reza Sayah, CNN, Benghazi, Libya.
COOPER: And Reza Sayah is joining us now live from Benghazi.
Reza, what are you hearing from the front lines? Are the rebel forces having any chance of success right now? Or are they basically holding just what they have?
SAYAH: Well, Wolf, today they claimed that they have recaptured the key oil town of Brega. But there's a couple things to keep in mind.
First off, oftentimes the rebels inflate their claims, so it's important to independently verify this. And we're working to do that. And second of all, Brega has already changed hands several times. Three weeks ago, the rebels had this town. And not only did they have Brega. They had three towns west of Brega as well. And just like that in several days they lost it to regime forces. In fact they lost about 250 miles of territory to regime forces.
So it shows you how reversible these gains are, how fluid the situation is. If they do have this town, it's certainly a significant get. It's a key oil town that both sides covet. But certainly this is no indication that all of a sudden these rebel forces have the capacity, the capability to go ahead and take on a professional army, like the Gadhafi forces. They're still outgunned, outmatched, and they're heavily reliant on these NATO airstrikes that oftentimes clear the way for them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And you have heard the report now that Human Rights Watch, the organization, is alleging, is claiming that the Libyan forces loyal to Gadhafi are using cluster munitions against civilian pockets in Misrata, the western side of the country. What are you hearing about -- what's the latest as far as the battle for Misrata is concerned?
SAYAH: Well, the regime is coming out and vehemently denying this, but it's going to be interesting to see how the international community, how NATO, how the Obama administration reacts to this development.
Once again, "The New York Times" and Human Rights Watch reporting that the Gadhafi regime using these banned cluster bombs. These are munitions that are launched in the air, and while in the air they release clusters of bombs, smaller explosives that land and disintegrate to molten metal on contact. They were originally designed to take out runways to prevent aircraft from landing and taking off.
Obviously, when you use them in urban areas like Misrata, they pose a grave danger for civilians. So it's going to be interesting to see how the international community reacts, and I think the opposition is going to point to developments like this in calling for NATO to step up its efforts.
BLITZER: Reza Sayah on the ground for us in Benghazi, thank you.
NATO foreign ministers were discussing the Libyan crisis at a meeting in Berlin, Germany, today. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was there. She was questioned on a story CNN reported yesterday about new information from U.S. officials that Iran is now helping Syria crack down on protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We do not see any evidence yet that Iran instigated such protests, but we do see activities by Iran to try to take advantage of these uprisings. They are trying to exploit unrest. They are trying to advance their agenda in neighboring countries. They continue to try to undermine peace and stability.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Anti-government protesters filled the streets of cities across Syria once again today, and although these demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there are some very disturbing allegations that the Syrian regime is stooping to a new level of brutality against children.
CNN's Brian Todd has been investigating these reports for us.
Brian, what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one watchdog group says the human rights situation in Syria is growing almost by the hour. The human rights crisis they say is growing almost by the hour.
These new accounts, some of the most disturbing we have heard, seem to bear that out.
TODD (voice-over): New reports of an escalated level of brutality by the Syrian regime, the alleged beating and torture of children. The watchdog group Human Rights Watch interviewed people who have been detained during recent protests. Some of them ages 16 and 17 described to the group what Syrian security forces did to them.
TOM PORTEOUS, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Electrocution with cattle prods, beatings, being hung, being stuffed into tiny cells, was really standing room only, being deprived of food and drink and sleep.
TODD (on camera): These are 16- and 17-year-olds telling you that that's how they were treated?
PORTEOUS: Yes, indeed.
TODD (voice-over): Tom Porteous of Human Rights Watch says the group reviewed footage and got accounts about another child, described as a 12-year-old who had also allegedly been rounded up.
(on camera): What were you told and shown about how this child was tortured?
PORTEOUS: Well, the treatment that the child apparently had received was very much consistent with treatment of others that we have managed to document through direct testimony. And that is, you know, severe beatings on the back, on the arms, on the face.
TODD (voice-over): Human Rights Watch says they don't have in their possession the actual video they reviewed of the youngest children who were allegedly beaten. They gave us video of others who they say had.
CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of these pictures or the accounts from the Syrian children.
(on camera): We called and e-mailed Syria's embassy here in Washington and its mission at the U.N. We could get no response to the Human Rights Watch report. We also couldn't reach Syrian authorities in the region for comment. CNN and other news organizations have tried but have been unable to get inside Syria to report independently on the current protests.
(voice-over): Syrian state TV says President Bashar al-Assad would release all those detained in recent incidents who had not committed criminal acts. U.S. officials who were hopeful that Assad would be a reformer are now calling for an end to the arrests and express dismay at the reports of torture.
I spoke about that with analyst Andrew Tabler, who spent eight years in Syria.
(on camera): What kind of a box does this Human Rights Watch report put the Obama administration in right now with Syria?
ANDREW TABLER, FELLOW, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: The Obama administration is in a fix. Until now, Syria policy has been based on getting Israel/Syria peace talks going, and then managing these other issues. Human rights was always last. Now it's to the top of the list.
TODD: Tabler points out this entire Syrian pro-democracy movement actually began with a group of children, some kids ages 10 to 14 he says who wrote graffiti on a wall saying Bashar Assad had to go. He says they were taken away by Syrian authorities. Their parents were not told where they were and then they were eventually released -- Wolf. .
BLITZER: What other accounts, Brian, of mistreatment among these children are you getting?
TODD: One teenager told the group that Syrian security forces tried to force him to sign a confession. When he asked what the paper was, he said they squeezed his tongue with something that felt like pliers and started pulling it.
He says when he refused to sign that paper, the interrogators took a hammer and started beating his toes with it. He said they hit him over the face with a Kalashnikov rifle. Again, we have tried relentlessly to get comment on this from Syrian authorities here and in the Middle East. We have not been able to do that.
BLITZER: And I just want to reiterate for weeks we at CNN, we have been asking the Syrian government for visas so that we could go in and report accurately on what's going on. They have repeatedly rejected all of CNN and a lot of other news organizations' requests to let us come in and see what is going on.
TODD: There are other news organizations that are there and maybe from the region, but certainly not CNN and all lot of other Western news organizations not allowed in right now. BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
He's the Internet executive who helped lead the revolution in Egypt. Wael Ghonim is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about what's happening in Egypt right now. This interview, you will want to see it. It's coming up.
The House approves a budget calling for huge changes to Medicare. Will the vote come back to haunt the Republican Party?
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BLITZER: All right, we're getting NEW information about what's next for the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
He's been hospitalized in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh since Tuesday. Now the country's justice minister tells CNN Mubarak will be transferred to a military hospital when his health improves.
BLITZER: Wael Ghonim was at the forefront of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The former Internet executive was detained in the early days of the uprising, only to reemerge and take a leading role. He's been very active on Twitter. He's a blogger.
Wael Ghonim is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Thanks very much for coming in.
WAEL GHONIM, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: Thanks.
BLITZER: A lot of us were inspired by what we heard from you. You were arrested by the Mubarak regime. You came out. You inspired a lot of people in Egypt. Are you confident that the situation in Egypt today is moving in the right direction?
I remember telling CNN before that when I was asked about what's going to happen in the next few months, and I said, personally, I don't care much about the details, but I trust the Egyptians.
The dignity is back, and we're going through a big wave of self- correction. There are definitely mistakes and issues that we're facing throughout the time, but overall I'm very optimistic and I think we're moving towards the right direction.
BLITZER: I was in Cairo a few weeks ago with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. And you probably remember she walked through Tahrir Square. I walked around with her at that time.
I had huge expectations. I was very upbeat, but a lot of Egyptians when I was in Cairo, they were nervous. They were telling me this is going to be a long, long process and there could be a lot of setbacks in the short run.
GHONIM: Well, you know, like what happened in 30 years can't be recovered in a couple of weeks, right? Like, it's going to take time. What we need to make sure is, it's going in the right path, as you have just asked me.
And the second is that the people are still -- you know, the people's voices are still heard, and there is freedom in expressing the different views and people are able to unite and ask for -- have demands. And this is going on.
BLITZER: At one point, the Egyptians were saying to me, sort of whispering in my ear they were nervous of the Muslim Brotherhood, may be more organized, may be better prepared politically if there are in fact elections than a lot of the pro-democracy movements, the younger people, people like you. Are you worried about the Muslim Brotherhood?
GHONIM: Not at all.
GHONIM: I think number one is the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the, you know, movements in Egypt, but there are other movements and there are independent people who can actually get into the Parliament.
BLITZER: As well-organized?
GHONIM: So, again, like the whole thing about organization, we have seen -- has anyone ever expected what would happen in Tahrir? No. And it was not organized. It was not planned. So I think we still have time. I'm taking the optimistic view.
The second is actually they are -- I have friends from the Muslim Brotherhood movement. I know what they are calling for, and I think at the end of the day, they are not as Mubarak has demonized them for ages. And basically...
BLITZER: Because he basically suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood would do to Egypt what Hezbollah did to Lebanon or Hamas has done to the Palestinians.
Is that an accurate assessment?
GHONIM: I don't think it -- I don't think so. Look at what they are saying. Like, the Muslim Brotherhood have been communicating with the public in sort of like a very positive way, saying that they're not going to nominate a president among -- from within themselves. They will support one of the nominees. They will not go for complete power.
And actually it is our rule. As young people, we're not -- some people mistake, because we're not anymore on TV, that we're not working. Actually we're working on setting up, you know, something that protects the revolution. What we want to make sure is there is no one single voice that will control the country again.
BLITZER: Here's what really worries me. And maybe you even know this blogger, Maikel Nabil.
He was arrested by the Egyptian military post-Mubarak, sentenced to three years because he was blogging criticism of the Egyptian military. That's worrisome to me. I don't know about you. Do you know him, by the way?
GHONIM: No, I don't know him. But I have actually read his blog after his arrest.
His case -- basically, my position and a lot of activists' positions is that we're not supportive of military courts for civilians. Probably, it was happening as part of -- when the regime collapsed, there was no there was no civilian courts or there were no police to take the order, but it's time now to fix that. That's one thing.
BLITZER: Get him out of jail.
GHONIM: The second thing is, if Maikel is guilty, he should actually be -- he should go through the normal court. It's more than just the criticism of the army. He insulted the minister of defense. Or he was basically, you know, criticizing...
BLITZER: But, in a democracy, if you insult the minister of defense, that doesn't mean you go to jail. We insult ministers in the United States all the time.
GHONIM: Well, according to the Egypt law, the civilian Egyptian law, actually, you can take someone to court for that.
However, my position is that he should not have gone to jail. It's one of the mistakes that we are experiencing now. However, the big image, the big image is not as bad. And I think like the media wants to pick up on the stories that are very -- that are very controversial.
BLITZER: One final question, because I follow you on Twitter, as thousands of people do @Ghonim.
Let me read to you a recent tweet that you wrote. "What is happening in Syria is a crime, but the world's silence is a bigger crime. Civilians, including kids, are tortured, killed by regime."
Elaborate. GHONIM: Well, actually, it's not just Syria.
I think that this whole thing about interests vs. values in the new world, where when your interests does not go with the values that you are actually preaching for or the values of the people that you represent, and you take the side of the interest, it really hurts me.
Looking at the people in different countries in the Arab region dying by their own -- being killed by their own people, and then looking at the -- they're not getting enough attention. Egypt got a lot of attention at the time of the revolution from the international community, I think mainly because the role Egypt plays in the world and, you know, in the region.
I think it's time now to every -- any dictator who is killing his own people should be accountable. You know, there should be sanctions put on his regime. There should be very strong moves towards preventing them from doing that.
At the end of the day, I'm not saying change the government. It's the Syrian people's problem to solve, but don't kill the people. I don't know if you have seen -- there are videos today of the army people stepping up on...
BLITZER: We have seen them.
GHONIM: Yes, people stepping on the normal people.
BLITZER: It's a horrible situation. And I'm grateful to you for speaking out on it across the board.
And thanks for the work that you have done.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM as well.
BLITZER: And you can find out what Wael Ghonim's take on Egypt's future is, more specifically on the economic future of Egypt. Right now, go to Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom, a Web extra here -- more of my interview with Wael Ghonim.
Disturbing new developments in the case of those alleged serial killings on Long Island, calls made from one of the victim's cell phones after she disappeared. We have got new information about the caller.
And critics call it the birther pill -- we're going to -- bill, the birther bill, I should say. Details of some controversial new legislation approved by lawmakers in Arizona.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWS BREAK)
BLITZER: If Donald Trump does decide to run for president, one man will be very significant in making him go forward. You're going to meet that man.
Plus, what's old is new again on Capitol Hill, the new constitutional push for term limits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they want to try and see what I have got hidden in my bikini, they are welcome to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Airline passengers acting out, totally frustrated with security pat-downs, is that a telltale sign of a threat? In a CNN exclusive, we have the list of what TSA officers are looking for.
BLITZER: Along strict party lines, the House of Representatives did pass Paul Ryan's budget proposals today, including dramatic reforms of Medicare.
Let's discuss it, our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville, and the Republican strategist, the former press secretary for Newt Gingrich, Tony Blankley.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
It was a pretty decisive, lopsided vote, but strictly along party lines.
Tony, how worried are you that the Democrats will use these proposed changes in Medicare to damage, to hurt the Republicans, whether the presidential candidate or others, come next -- come November of 2012?
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's a potential risk for the Republicans. It's also a he potential risk for the Democrats if they are seen a year and a half from now not to have dealt with the problem, to have supported taxes. That's what the next year and a half of politics and policy is going to play out. But there's no doubt that this is a dangerous time for the American public, and it's a dangerous time for the politicians, too, and it should be.
BLITZER: What about that, James? How much of a problem, potentially, is this going to be for the Republicans? CARVILLE: It's a big, potential problem for the Republicans. You know what? In some ways, if we're attacking their health-care plan or they're attacking Obama's plan, that's a good thing. We're not having the silliness we're seeing in Arizona. It's not but April out there. I can't believe what they'll be doing by August when the heat sets in.
But this is not a -- people, "Oh, it's so -- say it's divided, it's partisan. But at least they're arguing about something significant and big that really matters to people."
I think we should sit back and say, hey, let's -- let's have it out on this. Let's have a big argument, a big debate and talk about what they want to do and what the president wants to do and let people decide this thing in November. That's not a bad thing. That's actually a good thing.
BLITZER: Yes. Tony.
BLANKLEY: Yes, you know, it's interesting. The president and the leadership of the Republicans have cut two deals. One in the lame duck, and one in this last week on the fiscal '11 budget. That suggests to me that neither side is completely confident that their positions, pure, are going to sustain through a year and a half, and so they're hedging by -- by negotiating.
And I agree with James. This town needs to negotiate and get some decisions made, hopefully.
BLITZER: When Democrats, though, use tough language like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the incoming chair of the Democratic Party, calling these reforms for Medicare a death trap for seniors. Is that over the top, James?
CARVILLE: Well, I don't know. They talked about death panels and socialism.
BLITZER: When the Republicans accused the Democrats of death panels you thought that was over the top.
CARVILLE: Honestly, I would call a pretty -- a pretty wide strike zone here. They're arguing about policy. They're not arguing about, you know, personal characteristics or anything like that. And, you know, I think there's some things in this bill that, frankly, I don't think seniors are going to be able to pay for. I seriously doubt that this is going to do anything about cost, and I think that that's a legitimate point to make. I really do. I think it would adversely impact the health care of seniors. That's my belief.
I'm sure that Congressman Ryan or Tony believe the president's plan would hurt the health care of seniors, too. We can have the argument.
BLANKLEY: I agree with James we should have a pretty wide strike zone on rhetoric. Both of us have played that game pretty aggressively. I think when you question the other party's patriotism, that gets pretty close to the line.
BLITZER: Here's what David Brooks, the columnist in "The New York Times," wrote today, predicting that Obama's going to easily win re-election. He said, "What's going to happen is this. We're going to raise the debt ceiling in a way that fudges the issues. Then we're going to have an election featuring these rival viewpoints, and Obama will win easily. It doesn't take a genius to see that Obama is very likely to be re-elected."
All right, Tony. Go ahead and respond to that.
BLANKLEY: I disagree with David. I think you would have to be a genius to be able to predict the election before you have the candidates and a year and a half before the election.
Today's Gallup poll has the president at 41 percent approval. That ties his lowest level from last November. Two-thirds of the country thinks we're going down the wrong track.
Now any incumbent president is probably the most formidable force in the country. But in the spring of '91, Herbert Walker Bush was the favorite, but James had a man in the wings who had something to say about that.
BLITZER: Fair point.
BLANKLEY: And, of course, in 1979 Jimmy Carter was still the favorite, and I was working for a man named Reagan who had something to say about it.
BLITZER: I remember at that time, James, and at the Carter White House, an incumbent president, first-term president, they were high- fiving each other when they heard that a movie star, an actor from California was going to be the Republican nominee. They thought they had a lock.
CARVILLE: Yes. I was in Louisiana, so I don't know. No one has a lock, and I think Tony is right to point out before anyone fits (ph). However, I'm leading with the Republicans. They're very, very panicky about their field. It doesn't look like they're fielding much of a field over there, and I think it's probably behind what David Brooks was saying in his column this morning. I don't know if it's so much a test of President Obama's strength right now as it is the weakness of the Republican field. But I'd ask Tony about that.
BLITZER: Hold that thought, Tony, because we've got to go. But the next time, we'll continue this conversation. We've got a long time before the election, so we've got a lot to discuss. Thanks. Thanks, James Carville and Tony Blankley.
The mother of one of the victims of that alleged serial killer on Long Island says a man claiming to be the killer called her family from her daughter's cell phone. Details, that's coming up.
And have you ever been singled out by airport security? We've got a special report on what kind of behavior screeners are looking for. It's probably not what you think.
BLITZER: There's a disturbing new twist in the case of those suspected serial killings in Long Island. The mother of one of the victims says a man claiming to be her daughter's killer taunted a family member on the phone. And that's not even the sickest detail that's coming in.
Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has been chasing down the story for us.
Susan, you spoke to this woman, the mother. What did she tell you?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, months ago the mother of victim Melissa Barthelemy told me about these disturbing, taunting phone calls made by a man she believed to be the person who killed her daughter.
The calls were made to the mother's teenage daughter, and they were made over the course of July/August 2009 shortly after Melissa disappeared. There were seven calls in and all, and the creepiest thing about all is that the calls were supposedly made from the victim's own cell phone.
Now, in the seventh and final call, the mother is now revealing that the man she believed to be the killer admitted to killing Melissa. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNN BARTHELEMY, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: She was totally distraught. I mean, 15 years old. Her sister was her best friend. They spoke every day or they texted each other every day. Amanda went down to New York City for visits in the summer. They would go school clothes shopping. They went and got pedicures and manicures. They were just best friends. And to hear that about your sister, I mean, she was just distraught.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: And in fact, he said that he killed her.
Now, here's the direct quote: "Do you think you'll ever see her again? You won't. I killed her."
Now, all of this was logged in a journal, and it was turned over to the police. And in graphic detail, this man also said what he did sexually to Melissa, and all of this, again, was said to the 15-year- old teenage sister of the victim.
Now, the police tried to trace some of these phone calls, but apparently, this man was able to stay one step ahead of them. He kept the calls very short, and they were unable to trace them successfully.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE COHEN, BARTHELEMY'S ATTORNEY: So the caller seemed to have an understanding of how long it took to triangulate, and the caller made sure that he called from very busy areas -- Madison Square Garden, Times Square, the Port Authority -- so that the cameras and the Web cams that out there would be able -- would look down into a crowded field. And at any given time there were at least dozens of people who were talking on a cell phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Now, Wolf, this family lives in Buffalo. They're still very, very fearful, particularly for the teenage daughter who took these phone calls. They are worried that the killer is still out there, that he might come after her, and her mother doesn't let this teenaged daughter out of her sight.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Susan. Thanks very much. I hope they find this killer soon. Thank you.
So what kind of behaviors catch the eyes of TSA experts at airports? CNN's Jeanne Meserve coming up with an exclusive report.
And President Obama speaking candidly into a microphone he didn't know was gone. Details of what he said. That's coming at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA." shipping
BLITZER: Why are some people seeing a lot of airport security? In many cases it could be their behavior, but not necessarily the kind of behavior you might think. Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, she's got an exclusive report for us.
What are you finding out?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN has obtained a list of about 70 indicators that TSA behavior detection officers use to identify people who might pose a threat to aviation. Because of the sensitive nature of the information, we are going to reveal just one.
MESERVE (voice-over): If you get upset at airport security, you might want to watch how you show it, because behavior detection officers deployed at the nation's airports to ferret out security threats are on the lookout for, among other things, anyone who displays arrogance and verbally expresses contempt for the screening process, according to information obtained by CNN.
Civil liberties groups say it is absurd that the exercise of free speech should be considered suspicious. MICHAEL GERMAN, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: If you complain about the government, that's justification for the government doing more intensive scrutiny of your behavior. I mean, it seems, you know, just so anti-American.
MESERVE: Terrorism experts also question whether it's useful. They say terrorists using try to blend in, keep a low profile, because they don't want to address attention to their activities. Challenging airport security would have precisely the opposite effect.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This idea that a terrorist would be very arrogant, express contempt for airport procedures, that doesn't make any sense to me from a common-sense point of view and also from the record of what is known about behaviors of al Qaeda terrorists.
MESERVE: But the immigration agent who stopped the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker from entering the U.S. did use arrogant to describe Mohammad al-Qatani.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Upon establishing eye contact, he exhibited body language that appeared arrogant.
MESERVE: The TSA used that interaction and others to design its program.
When new, more intimate pat-down procedures were instituted last year, checkpoint protests became something of an art form.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they want to try and see what I've got hidden in any bikini, they're welcome to.
MESERVE: But the TSA says no single behavior on its list would, by itself, ever be enough to draw increased security scrutiny. A behavior detection officer would only select a passenger for closer examination if they showed several indicators of stress, fear or deception.
MESERVE: Civil liberties groups have worried that behavior detection officers are racially profiling. Well, we can tell you that, on the list we saw, none of the indicators referred to or even suggest race, ethnicity or religion.
The ACLU still is not satisfied, although it has not seen the list. It believes some of the behaviors on it are so common that they could be used to single out people of certain backgrounds, Wolf.
BLITZER: How big is this entire program?
MESERVE: Well, it's a favorite, and it's growing. Right now there are about 3,000 of these behavior detection officers at 161 airports. The president has said he'd like to add another 175, and they want to spend $1.2 billion on the program over the next five years. BLITZER: A lot of European countries, they have these kinds of behavior specialists. The Israelis, I know, do, as well.
MESERVE: This one is different from the Israelis'. Another story, another day.
BLITZER: All right. We'll talk about that. Thanks very much.
He's the man trying to get Donald Trump to run for president. Some people compare him to a pit bull. We're going to go one on one with him.
And is it an idea whose time has finally come? Details of a new push for congressional term limits.
BLITZER: He still hasn't said whether he's running for president, but he's far from your typical candidate and the man behind this fledgling campaign is far from your typical political operative.
CNN's Mary Snow spoke to him about Trump's ambitions. Mary is joining us now, live.
What did you find out, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's a novice to presidential politics, tells us his nickname is "Pit Bull," and is an avid fan of mixed martial arts fighting. He works down the hall from Donald Trump and is working to draft his boss for a presidential run.
SNOW (voice-over): Brooklyn-born attorney Michael Cohen says if Donald Trump were to run for president, it would be no conventional campaign, starting with him. His official title: special council to Donald Trump. He's more used to sealing business deals, from real estate to mixed martial arts.
MICHAEL COHEN, ATTORNEY: They say I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull, that I am his -- I'm his right-hand man. I mean, there's -- I've been called many different things around here. What I am is I'm a loyal employee. I like the man a lot. I respect him a lot.
SNOW: He likes him so much most of his time is spent trying to convince his boss to run for president.
Cohen and a Trump friend co-founded the Web site Should Trump Run? He says he believes the 800,000 plus people who visited the site are driving Trump's interest in running, along with letters like these, some even with dollar bills attached.
COHEN: "My brother and I would like to be part of your election campaign." SNOW: Cohen is not a complete stranger to politics. He's run for city council, but he has no experience in a presidential campaign. Now he's taking a crash course. In Iowa it was Caucuses 101.
Cohen cites Trump's business ability as the reason why he wants his boss to run against President Obama, whom he supported, and he points to the lagging economy and the looming deficit as his turning point.
(on camera) Given all these issues, why are you making the birther issue an issue?
COHEN: I'm certainly not making it. There's 25 percent...
SNOW: Donald Trump is.
COHEN: NO, I don't think so.
SNOW: He brought it up.
COHEN: No, he didn't.
SNOW (voice-over): Obama's 2008 presidential campaign released a copy of the birth certificate, but several news organizations have since seen the original. Cohen told us he believes Obama is hiding something, but just talking about it has gained Trump a lot of attention and criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, who questioned Trump's seriousness about running. Cohen insists he is.
SNOW: Any attention on Donald Trump, Wolf, will again be turned up tomorrow. He's scheduled to speak at a Tea Party rally in Boca Raton, Florid, as one of several tax-day rallies that are taking place across the country.
BLITZER: What about all the commotion out there, that he simply is seeking publicity, if you will, in order to generate ratings for his TV snow?
SNOW: Yes, you know, Michael Cohen kind of shrugged it off and said he doesn't need publicity. This comes after Donald Trump said he's going to make an announcement about when he'll announce his decision, and that's going to come on the season finale.
And I asked Michael Cohen about that: why do that? And he pretty much said, you know, why not? And he compared it to, he said, another form of social media, but he said, you know, this one will reach millions.
BLITZER: Sure he'll have a huge crowd in Boca Raton, Florida, tomorrow. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.
BLITZER: A new proposal to impose term limits on members of the House and Senate. We're going to give you the detail. A new report says the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be using a weapon banned by much of the world against his own people. More on that coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."
BLITZER: An old idea getting new life on Capitol Hill, that would be term limits for members of Congress.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester is here with more on what is going on -- Lisa.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, Congress has debated the issue of term limits before, but it's never really gone anywhere. But the mood of the country is different now. Congress's approval rating is in the teens, and there is the Tea Party movement out there, pushing to cap the amount of time an elected official can stay in office.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): President Truman reportedly once said congressional term limits would, quote, "help cure senility and seniority, both terrible legislative diseases."
This week 11 Republican senators, many of them members of the Tea Party Caucus, introduced an amendment to the Constitution that would limit U.S. representatives to three terms in office and senators to two terms. They say Washington has become too reliant on special interests and not beholden enough to the people who elected them.
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I think the problem is people go there and start liking the trappings of power and the office, rather than trying to accomplish what they originally came to Washington to do. And term limits does away with a lot of that temptation and distraction.
SYLVESTER: Incumbents are re-elected again and again, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. More than 90 percent of House representatives and more than 80 percent of senators are routinely sent back to Washington.
But Norm Ornstein, who works for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, fiercely opposes term limits. He says they're unnecessary. If voters want the career politicians out of office and to replace them with citizen representatives, they can. And they don't need a constitutional amendment.
Take a look at the last election, which swept new faces into Washington, a wave of anti-incumbency. Thirty-four House freshmen and three newly-minted senators have never held elective office. And Ornstein says experience matters in Washington.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You can end up repeating the mistakes of the past, because you don't know them or learning from what you've done in the past and try to make adjustments so that policies might work this next time.
Institutional memory and an understanding of what you've done before is a necessary context if you're going to keep from reinventing the wheel and making it a square one every time.
SYLVESTER: You know, but there is a lot of public support for congressional term limits, and it might just have a little something to do with Congress's approval rating of just 18 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll.
But changing the U.S. Constitution isn't easy. It would require a two-thirds majority vote in Congress, and then it would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's very, very difficult, although, as we all know, there was a congressional amendment that gave term limits for a president of the United States. So it's possible, but in this particular case, I sense this isn't going anywhere any time soon, despite all the talk right now. What are you hearing?
SYLVESTER: Well, you know, Wolf, when you consider how partisan things are on Capitol Hill, it would be very difficult, I think, to get the two-thirds votes that are required, and then you have to go to the states to get the 3/4 ratification from the states. That is a really uphill climb.
So I don't think it's likely to happen, but then again, you know, this is Washington, Wolf, and you can't -- never can count anything out.
BLITZER: Yes. In my experience in Washington, all these freshmen who come into the House and the Senate, they talk about term limits. Then they begin to get a little Potomac fever, and they say, maybe, maybe not. So I suspect we're going to see a lot more of that, as we always do.
SYLVESTER: Yes. And Wolf, I should mention one other thing. An interesting question when you ask them will they run for office again, will they term limit themselves, a lot of them don't want to term limit themselves.
BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.
That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.