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THE SITUATION ROOM

Acclaimed Photojournalist Killed In Libya; Potential Candidates on Birther Issue; WikiLeaks Suspect Moved To New Prison

Aired April 20, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, an award-winning photojournalist killed in Libya. We're learning more about the attack that claimed his life and left another photographer seriously wounded.

Also, the soldier suspected of passing U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks is moved to a new military prison, but controversy over his treatment is following him, and CNN is investigating.

Plus, President Obama joins Facebook's founder for a town hall meeting as new questions are raised about the company and your privacy. Is Facebook tracking what you write to your friends?

Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos are straight ahead.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

He gains fame as a photojournalist and earned an academy award nomination as a documentary filmmaker. His work took him to warzones from Liberia to Afghanistan, but it's the conflict in Libya that's now claimed the life of Tim Hetherington. He was among a group of photographers hit by a rocket propelled grenade in the embattled city of Misrata. Photographer (ph), Chris Hondros who took these pictures today in Misrata was seriously injured.

You can see how close they were to the fighting. Hetherington posted his last Twitter entry yesterday. It read, "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Gadhafi forces. No sign of NATO." CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us now live from the Libyan capital with more. Fred, what are you picking up there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. We're getting some new information from a couple of sources from inside Misrata that we've been able to contact. It appears as though this incident happened today on the western fringe of the city of Misrata. There's one main street that's really very embattled going through that town. It's called Tripoli Street. Western fringe of that, which is one of the frontline areas is where this group that actually consisted of four photojournalists went.

They were then hit by a rocket propelled grenade. There's also some accounts that say was actually a mortar shell, but most account said it was a rocket propelled grenade. Tim Hetherington was killed. He was pronounced dead at one of the few hospitals that are still functioning there in Misrata. Two of the others were severely wounded and are in critical condition, remain in critical condition.

One of the others was only slightly wounded, and they remain in that clinic there in Misrata which is, of course, in a difficult situation of itself which is very short on medication, very short on medical facilities as such. So, it's a really very difficult place and a very bad place to get wounded at this point in time -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Frederik Pleitgen, thank you so much following this story for us. We now want to bring in our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, you interviewed Hetherington not that long ago. What can you tell us about him?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, this was a lovely, lovely man who really did devote his life to covering warzones, Candy. Every time you read about someone you know getting killed in a warzone, you know, your heart just stops, but when I read this today, it was just staggering because Tim had worked, of course, with Sebastian Junger to make that film, "Restrepo," the Oscar- nominated documentary about the war in Afghanistan.

And when we sat down to talk to him about Afghanistan, he was full of reminiscing about it, but he was also very candid about what he saw there and what happened. So, I'd like you to have a listen to some of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM HETHERINGTON, PHOTOJOURNALIST: It was also an incredibly violent place when we first went to Afghanistan in 2007. You know, I think both of us thought that we would get have a pretty quiet assignment, you know, walk around the mountains, you know, (INAUDIBLE) nothing really compared as to the amount of fighting there. I mean, this is a time when the world was very much focused on Iraq.

When we go there, we realized, wow, the Afghan was (ph) out of control. So, even when we left the Korengal from time to time, you know, completely absorbed into that world. And -- we really were like on planet Korengal for a couple of years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And you know, he's talking about a place in Afghanistan called the Korengal Valley, but of course, to the U.S. troops who served in that place, it became known as the valley of death. Very tough words to say today as Tim's friends and family around the world really mourn his passing, but he survived the valley of death with the U.S. troops who served there and went to Libya and, basically, you know, I think, by any measure was killed in action.

Everybody should know that Tim was a very cautious man. He knew the risks he was taking. He was very careful, and yet, he was so committed to telling the story. CROWLEY: I want to keep talking to you, but I want to show our viewers some of the pictures taken in these final moments. Chris Hondros who, as we understand, was critically wounded in the same accident that took the life -- so, what I want to talk to you about here is in general, do they go armed? What help them at this point?

(CROSSTALK)

STARR: This is the issue in urban conflict, isn't it? You have reporters, journalists, videographers on the ground, unarmed. There's no frontline. You can be walking down the street in Misrata. A few years ago in Baghdad, in Kabul, violence can erupt, and you really don't know necessarily what is happening around you. You know, I think reporter who go to warzones all say, I'm careful. I take all the precautions. I'm so careful about what I do, but of course, it can all sort of evaporate in an instant, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, it's very uncertain. Hang with me a little bit here, Barbara. Just into the SITUATION ROOM. A statement from the White House on the death of journalist, Tim Hetherington. Press Secretary Jake Carney says, quote, "We were saddened to learn of the death of film director and photographer, Tim Hetherington, while working in Misrata, and we are deeply concerned about the well-being of other journalists who were wounded alongside him. Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders and give a voice to those who would not, otherwise, be heard."

"The Libyan government and all governments across the world must take steps to protect journalists doing this vital work. The United States will work to do everything possible to assist those who were injured in getting the care they need. Our thoughts are with these brave journalists and their loved ones." Those sort get you choked up. Let me ask you, though, about that last thing that they just said which is doing anything possible to get them to care.

STARR: To be honest, we don't know, but this is what so many of -- Tim and the other journalists, friends and families are worried about at this hour. The medical facilities in Misrata by all accounts are seriously stretched. NATO says Gadhafi's forces are shelling Misrata. Even today with no, indiscriminately, with no distinction between civilians and rebel forces. Be that as it may. These people are seriously wounded.

They are in a warzone where there is not good medical care for anyone even Libyan civilians. How to get them out of there, how to get them to medical care is something that has everyone very concerned right now, and we will be following that story to see if any arrangements are being made to try and get them out of Libya.

CROWLEY: And we will have you back on as soon as you know. Thanks so much, Barbara Starr.

CNN's Reza Sayah is in the Libyan capital of Benghazi right now. Reza, I know you've been talking to rebel leaders about the death of Tim Hetherington. What are they telling you? REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. When news hit, I spoke to a rebel spokesperson, and he was visibly upset, and I think that's the case with most opposition officials and opposition supporters here in Benghazi. Over the past couple of months, this opposition has created a very close working relationship with international and western journalists. It's their view that maybe this uprising would not have happened without the work of international and western journalists.

Obviously, the journalists are here, only doing their work, but you can see the appreciation on the part of the rebels and that's perhaps why they're deeply saddened. And I think also without creating the impression that they're trying to exploit this situation. They also see this as an opportunity to once again link the Gadhafi regime to what they call atrocities and justify the removal of Col. Gadhafi.

It's still not clear exactly what happened and how Tim Hetherington passed away. If, indeed, it was regime loyalists firing the fatal round, but as far as the rebel is concerned, it was. Here's what a rebel spokesperson had to tell us earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, it is a calamity. It is very sad. The fact of the matter remains that that man has conducted a war against everybody. He has spared no one, civilians, journalists, doctors, children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAYAH: This is obviously devastating news for Tim Hetherington's family, devastating news for the families of the other journalists. This is a story that's going to get a lot of attention in the U.S. The White House is already delivered a statement, but it's the opposition's view that there are many, many more Libyans dying every day than western journalists, and they say it's important for the world to keep that in mind.

And I think, Candy, this is an incident that in the coming days and weeks they're going to point to as a reason why the international community needs to step up its efforts and especially in places like Misrata.

CROWLEY: Certainly, Reza, it lays bare the chaos that is Misrata right now. So dangerous not just for journalists who are there voluntarily, we should say, but for the citizens who live there. Thank you so much. We appreciate it tonight.

Tim Hetherington's work led him to many of the world's most dangerous places. In October, he told CNN's Becky Anderson how he managed to stay calm when surrounded by chaos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HETHERINGTON: When I'm working in a very pressured situation, I can almost flip the off-switch and go into default of filming. And later on, I come to and it shocks me what I've done. And that's just something I've been able to do and that's, perhaps, why I continue -- why I realize that I'm good at what I do. But it does have the side that it is very dangerous.

I remember being in the Korengal and fire fights and realizing guy said to me last filming close range and he said, do you see the traces between our heads? And I hadn't. And you know, later on, I saw the trees (ph) behind me. I realized we were very exposed. I'm in default. That can be a funny thing later to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Tim Hetherington was 41 years old, killed today in Libya.

Controversy over the treatment of a controversial detainee as he's moved to a notorious military prison. CNN is investigating the case of Private Bradley Manning.

Also, why some air traffic controllers will soon be out of the tower and into the cockpit.

And while Donald Trump is fanning the flames of the so-called birther controversy, other Republicans are backing away. We go inside birther politics and the GOP.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Jack Cafferty is thinking about Donald Trump's possible run for president.

I can't wait to hear what you've been thinking, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think he's going to run, but he hasn't told us that yet. And in the meantime, we're going to ask the question is Donald Trump playing us.

It's a question that Christopher Byron asks in an opinion piece on CNN.com. If Trump is playing us, wouldn't be the first time, would it? Byron wonders if this billionaire real estate developer turned reality TV star is serious about running for president or if he's up to something else.

And his guess is choice B. He may be right. After all, the Donald has done this before, although, he hasn't gotten this far into it the last couple of times, flirting (ph) the idea of running for president. And he's always bowed out before the race really heated up.

This go-around, he has created a lot of drama around the possible run using flashy quotes like "Barack Obama has been the worst president ever." And latching on to causes like the birther movement and appearing regularly on cable news channels to share his ideas on how to save the world. He said he'll announce whether or not he's actually running for president before June. Possibly, on the finale of his reality show "Celebrity Apprentice," and now, we're getting to the meat of this thing. See, May is a ratings month in television. The Donald, no doubt, figures he might spike the ratings for his TV show if he announces his intention there. He's no dummy, after all. Trump's possible presidential run classic Trump.

He's perpetually happy to front -- jump in front of any TV camera that surround and spout his opinions. And whether you agree with him or not, you've got to hand him this. He is arguably one of the best self-promoters ever. As Chris Byron's piece points out, Trump has been holding off on renewing his contract with NBC for the "Apprentice" franchise.

Driving up his ratings with a possibility of a big announcement like a presidential bid could be Trump's way of getting the upper hand in any future contract negotiation. However, if -- however it turns out, Byron suggests that Trump is taking the country for a ride.

The question is this. Is Donald Trump playing us for suckers? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post comment on my blog. You know, the media is partly to blame in this. We jump at these things because it's a good story. We - we're suckers for a good story.

CROWLEY: We are. And he's a good salesman. There is no doubt about that.

CAFFERTY: Oh.

CROWLEY: Talk to you later, Jack.

CAFFERTY: OK, Candy.

CROWLEY: Donald Trump is not the only potential presidential candidate who has questioned President Obama's birth place. There are several others including Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, but Bachmann appears to be changing her tune. The Minnesota Republican was shown a copy of the president's certificate of live birth on ABC's "Good Morning, America" today. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certificate right here. It's certified. It's got a certification number. It's got the registrar of the state signed. It's got a seal on it, and it says this copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: Well, then, that should settle it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it's over.

BACHMANN: That's what should settle it. I take the president at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, joins us now. So, she seems like, I guess, to have backed away. It's unclear to me whether she had followed the story all that closely since that certification live birth has been out there for some time now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

CROWLEY: What do the Republican strategists thinking at this point?

BORGER: First of all, I don't think it was -- "I take the president at his word" is not a full-throated backing away. It was sort of somewhere in the middle there. And if you talk to Republicans strategists, particularly those for running campaigns for the presidency, they were saying to me today that look, this is a total distraction.

This is not the issue we, Republicans, need to be talking about right now. We've gotten some headway on the spending issues, on the deficit issues. We need to be talking about jobs. Where are they? We need to be talking about the economy. How is it going? And instead, we're talking about the birther issue largely because of Donald Trump who has raised it again as and you Jack were pointing out, which is all about his presidential campaign or his ratings.

Take your pick. And instead, the process is being hijacked by him. And they -- they don't like that fact because they think Republicans are, therefore, not talking to all of America. They're just talking to themselves.

CROWLEY: It's funny how raising your TV ratings and running for president can look so similar.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Or your speech fees depending on which candidate, right?

CROWLEY: Exactly. Is this a conversation, the birther conversation, that's actually even taking place in Republican circle?

BORGER: Well, essentially only in Republican circles. You know, I was talking to one Republican strategist who said and this is a quote, "Anybody who believes the president wasn't born in this country is already voting for Republicans." And so, the point is if you want to talk to other voters, you know, the president for the next 18 months does not have a primary. For the next 18 months, he will be talking to independent voters.

Those are the people he needs in order to win the presidency. And so, the worry is that Republicans are having a conversation among themselves. When you ask independent voters as we did in a poll in March at CNN, 73 percent of independent voters say they believe the president was born in this country. So, therefore, you've got to presume you're not talking to them when you're having this birther conversation, and that's ultimately self-defeating for Republicans. Sure in a primary, you want those voters, the base to vote for you, but in a general election, it's just that issue is not going to help you.

CROWLEY: I think they understand that. Republican circles. Gloria Borger.

BORGER: They ought to if they don't, right?

CROWLEY: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The army private at the center of the WikiLeaks scandal moved to a new military prison. Find out why some are questioning the timing of that move and the Pentagon's motives.

And hear why the FAA wants to put air traffic controllers in the cockpit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Just in to CNN. A warning from NATO that may signal an escalation of its mission in Libya. CNN's pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is back with details. What's happening?

STARR: This just coming out now, Candy. NATO has posted a warning on its website advising civilians in Libya over the next few days to avoid any military areas, avoid facilities, military installations, anyplace where Gadhafi's forces may be. We want to read you a portion of the warning. It says, from NATO, quote, "In the next few days, we will maintain the pressure on regime frontline troops to show NATO is resolute in its determination to protect civilians. We will continue to strike at regime forces as long as they continue to attack their own people."

That coming, Candy, just in the last minutes from a top NATO commander saying in the next few days, they're going to maintain the pressure on Gadhafi's forces. You do not have to read too far between the lines. Attacks are now likely to escalate.

CROWLEY: This strikes me that this is not just a response to what's happening on the ground, but a political response as well because NATO has taken some heat.

STARR: NATO is under tremendous pressure from really from its members, from Libyan civilians, from the rebel forces who are begging for help. We've seen what has happened in Misrata today, of course, with these journalists being killed and so many Libyan civilians. Air power alone won't do it, but NATO putting its marker down that it is going to step it up.

CROWLEY: Just one last thing, if they're putting this warning out, one assumes that Gadhafi's people also -- are they also going to --

STARR: This is now a question of military tactics and strategy. The idea here is, first and foremost, to get civilians out of the way so these air strikes can happen, but make month mistake. NATO has been conducting aerial surveillance around the clock over Libya. They know where Gadhafi's forces are. They know where his equipment is. If he starts moving things, they are going to be able to follow him.

CROWLEY: Barbara Starr and always moving story in Libya these days, thank you so much.

STARR: Sure.

CROWLEY: From a marine brig to Ft. Leavenworth. Why is this soldier and WikiLeaks suspect being moved? We're investigating the controversy over his treatment.

Also, amid the uproar over air traffic controllers sleeping on the job, a program designed to help them do their job better.

Plus, how Facebook may be profiting from what you and your families write to each other. A new controversy over your privacy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The U.S. soldier suspected of passing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks has arrived in a new military prison, but controversy over his treatment is following him.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with details.

Brian, the latest on Private Manning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, just a short time ago, Army Private Bradley Manning arrived at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His incarceration at a marine brig not far from Washington had, by most accounts, become just too much to bear for everyone involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): For U.S. military officials, Army Private Bradley Manning has been the subject of one PR nightmare after another. Now, they've moved the prime WikiLeaks suspect to a different facility at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, far from the political debates of Washington over his alleged leaks and his treatment in the marine brig where he was held for months.

JEH CHARLES JOHNSON, GENERAL COUNSEL, DEFENSE DEPT.: Manning will be tempted to interpret today's action as a criticism of the pretrial facility at Quantico. That is not the case.

TODD: Instead, the Pentagon says the move is for Manning's own good.

LT. COL. DAWN HILTON, FORT LEAVENWORTH CORRECTIONAL FACILITY: He'll receive the mental health, physical health, and emotional health that he needs to go through this judicial process.

TODD: Manning is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of sensitive government files and passing them to WikiLeaks including blunt diplomatic cables. U.S. officials have said Manning has blood on his hands, but Manning has some complaints of his own. In a recent memo to military officials, Manning claimed he was being mistreated, held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, harassed by guards, unnecessarily put on suicide watch, and forced to remain naked in his cell.

TODD (on-camera): In one letter, Manning complained that after he told his handlers at Quantico sarcastically that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waist band of his underwear. They used that as an excuse to take his clothes away from him during the periods when he slept.

TODD (voice-over): A defense department official tells CNN, it was only for a few nights that Manning's clothes were kept from him while he slept and that he always had a blanket. The official says he was not in solitary confinement. The Pentagon says Manning's mental competency is still being assessed even though he's been in custody for nearly a year.

P.J. Crowley who is then the state department's spokesman said the Pentagon's handling of his imprisonment was counterproductive and stupid. He resigned shortly thereafter. I spoke with Crowley today.

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Any time you have to explain why a guy standing naked in a jail cell, you have a policy that needs to be desperately reviewed, and the Pentagon has now done that.

TODD: I asked former marine judge, Gary Solis, how it all might shake out now.

The controversy over his treatment, now the movement to Leavenworth, overall, how this all of this affect his trial do you think?

PROF. GARY SOLIS, FORMER MARINE JUDGE: If they had to go before a military judge and give reasons for what they did, I think that the reasons are probably there. Therefore, I think that it will not peak the outcome of his trial on the merits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But Solis says military officials still probably shouldn't have made Manning's circumstances in detention quite so harsh.

Manning faces multiple charges in this case, including providing aid to the enemy. Prosecutors say they won't recommend the death penalty, but technically, that's up to the commander overseeing that case to make that call -- Candy.

CROWLEY: And military officials are pointing out that the conditions in Leavenworth are very different from they were in the brig here.

TODD: That's right. They took specific pains to point that out. They say that he's going to be housed at Leavenworth with other pretrial inmates, that he's going to be able to interact with them. That seems to be a change from the conditions that he had in the brig in Quantico. They say that he's going to have three to four hours of recreation time a day.

So on the one hand they're saying that his treatment at Quantico wasn't bad, that it was all legal and above board. On the other hand, they're changing this. Yes, they're changing things pretty radically at Leavenworth.

CROWLEY: Right. Thanks so much, Brian.

TODD: Sure.

CROWLEY: Appreciate that.

Stories of sleeping on the job have put an unflattering spotlight on air-traffic controllers, but the vast majority of them do their job well. And now the FAA is trying to help them do it even better by putting some of them in the cockpit. CNN's Jeanne Meserve has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The spate of incidents involving air-traffic controllers has raised questions about their competency and professionalism.

By coincidence, an old program is about to be revived that may help them do a better job.

(voice-over) Countless times a day, air-traffic controllers and pilots converse, but do they really understand what one another is saying?

DEREK BITTMAN, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Sometimes, you know, we have been told by pilots that "I can't do that." And you know, we may or may not understand why they can't.

MESERVE: In hopes of cultivating better understanding, starting in the coming weeks, air-traffic controllers will be able to fly in a cockpit to see exactly how their communications impact a working flight crew, particularly during takeoffs and landings.

PAUL RINALDI, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: It really is so valuable for air traffic controllers to see at that critical point of flight that teamwork that's happening and why we really shouldn't give them a different instruction that they're not expecting.

MESERVE: Rinaldi did the cockpit familiarization training before 9/11. After the terror attacks, the program was suspended, because cockpit security became a paramount concern. As a result, about one- third of the nation's 15,000 controllers have never had the cockpit experience.

The Transportation Security Administration has now given the green light to its revival, and the head of the Federal Aviation Administration is embracing it.

RANDY BABBIT, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: I was a professional air pilot myself and had controllers onboard. It gave a great understanding. It's a two-way dialogue, and it helps both parties understand some of the work environment the other is operating in.

MESERVE (on camera): The program is voluntary, and it doesn't cost a thing. Because the cockpit jump seat wouldn't ordinarily generate revenue, controllers can sit in it for free. But the payoff, former participants say, is significant.

Candy, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Thanks, Jeanne.

A legal crisis in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE ROYCE LAMBERTH, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: There is a war between the executive and the legislative branches of government. Judiciary's caught in the middle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Hear how that's leading to a troubling shortage of judges in federal courtrooms across America.

Plus, you know those ads that keep popping up on your Facebook page? Privacy watchdog groups say you should be concerned. Find out why, next.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A big problem in federal courthouses across America. There are far more cases than are judges to hear them. And in some states the backup has reached a critical point. CNN's Dan Lothian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arizona Chief Federal Judge John Roll was on a mission to get a judicial emergency declared in his district. Too many cases, not enough judges.

Judge Roslyn Silver witnessed his dogged efforts to head off delays and dismissals.

JUDGE ROSLYN SILVER, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR ARIZONA: John was an example of somebody who was rigorous in his -- in understanding his responsibilities and duties. LOTHIAN: On January 8, the 63-year-old judge had gone to meet with Representative Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent gathering in Tucson to talk about the crisis when he was killed in the cross fire.

(on camera) So when you saw what happened, I mean, it was stunning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A stunning tragedy.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): D.C. Federal Judge Royce Lamberth had worked with Roll to find on out-of-state judges from as far as away as New York to try criminal cases in Tucson and Phoenix.

LAMBERTH: People should be concerned that there aren't enough judges to decide the cases, and as long as these vacancies exist, their cases are going to be delayed.

LOTHIAN: Border states are burdened with vacancies and a heavy immigration caseload. U.S. District Court Judge Royal Furgeson in Texas says it's overwhelming.

JUDGE ROYAL FURGESON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS: You have judges handling eight times the number of criminal cases that are normally registered in other courts across the nation. That's a staggering document.

LOTHIAN: (on camera) It's hard to give it that kind of attention, you have such a heavy caseload.

FURGESON: It can't be done. And so those judges are having to improvise, and no judge likes to -- to -- to come up with shortcuts.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Judges and other experts CNN interviewed over several weeks describe a dire situation caused by a massive nominee logjam on Capitol Hill.

LAMBERTH: There is a war between the executive and the legislative branches of government. Judiciary's caught in the middle.

LOTHIAN: And what's worse, said White House counsel Bob Bauer in a rare Q&A session, is the lack of urgency.

BOB BAUER, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Republicans as well as Democrats increasingly acknowledge, some privately, some publicly, that we are witnessing something profoundly troubling.

LOTHIAN: There are 92 vacancies in the 852 federal districts and appeals court judgeships across the country.

LAMBERTH: I had some hope that when President Obama came along things could change. It's gotten worse, really.

LOTHIAN (on camera): Is this as bad as you've seen it?

LAMBERTH: This is as bad as I've seen it. LOTHIAN: Compared to the first two years of his predecessors, President Obama has been slow to fill those vacancies. Only 58 percent of his nominations have been confirmed, compared to Bill Clinton's 90 percent and George W. Bush's 77 percent.

(voice-over) The White House blames two two-time consuming Supreme Court vacancies, an intense vetting process, and Republican delay tactics. Judicial expert Russell Wheeler says there's enough blame to go around. Republicans, Democrats, interest groups.

RUSSELL WHEELER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: You can just go down the list of organizations and lobby about the courts and other matters. And -- I can't believe that the situation has been quite as -- as confrontational if it weren't for the president.

LOTHIAN: Sources say congressional leaders have reached a truce of sorts, agreeing to avoid procedural maneuvers that cause unnecessary delays.

And in Arizona, after Judge Roll's untimely death, Judge Silver became chief judge. She picked up his work and was granted a judicial emergency, allowing more time for criminal cases to go to trial.

SILVER: We are -- are dealing with a crisis. We -- do our best not to think about it and let the sadness overcome us. We have continued to try cases and handle sentencings and handle pleas. But -- so we'll make it; we'll do it.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: A new Facebook privacy controversy. Is the site tracking and analyzing what you and your friends write to target you with ads?

Plus, he seems to be everywhere these days as he weighs a White House run. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look at the Trump-a-thon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A different kind of town hall meeting today for President Obama. It was held at Facebook headquarters in California's Silicon Valley. Moderated by founder Mark Zuckerberg. And social networking did take a back seat to hard issues including the budget.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next one is from Facebook employee Leo Abraham. Leo, where are you from?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, Leo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. I'm originally from San Jose, California. My question is, the 2012 budget plan proposed by Paul Ryan has been praised by many in the media as bold or brave. Do you see this as a time that calls for boldness, and do you think that your -- the plan you outlined last week demonstrates sufficient boldness? Or is this just a media creation?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, it's a great question. Look, here's what I would say. The -- the Republican budget that was put forward, I would say, is fairly radical. I wouldn't call it particularly courageous.

He actually wants to further reduce taxes for the wealthy, further reduce taxes for corporations, not pay for those, and in order to make his numbers work, cut 70 percent out of our clean energy budget, cut 25 percent out of our education budget, cut transportation budgets by a third. I guess you could call that bold. I would call it short-sighted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: About social networking, CNN's Mary Snow has details of a Facebook privacy controversy. What's this one about, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, this is about those ads that pop up on your Facebook page. You may list a hobby, and the ad is targeted towards you, targeted towards the things that you like.

Now, as Facebook looks to attract more advertisers, some privacy watchdog groups are raising concerns, saying many people don't know how closely they're being watched.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS MCCANN, PRESIDENT, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM: So this is our Mother's Day contest.

SNOW (voice-over): Sharing a story about your mother may not seem like it has anything to do with selling flowers. But Chris McCann, the president of 1-800-Flowers.com, says it's a way to reach customers through Facebook.

MCCANN: So if we can get involved in the conversation, get involved in the relationship, it builds a bigger bond with our brand, which therefore helps sales.

SNOW: What he considers pay dirt: getting customers to share with Facebook friends that they like the store, which he says helped double the number of fans around Valentine's Day. And then there are targeted ads.

(on camera) Hypothetically let's say a 30-year-old woman gets engaged. What might your company do with that information?

MCCANN: Sure. So for a 30-year-old woman gets engaged, and she lets that be known publicly on Facebook, well, then we might start serving her up ads about wedding flowers.

SNOW: That kind of information posted can be profitable for both Facebook and advertisers. But some privacy watchdog groups are raising a red flag. Jeff Chester is the director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

JEFF CHESTER, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DIGITAL DEMOCRACY: Facebook operates sort of like a digital Wizard of Oz. You really don't know as it's collecting all the data about you and your friends who exactly is behind that curtain. Is that Mark Zuckerberg collecting all the data? What are they -- what are they doing with it?

SNOW: Facebook says ads are based around what people add to their profiles and in a statement said, "Advertising on Facebook is better because it's social and based on interests you choose to share. We don't share and never sell personally identifiable information to advertisers."

Long-term technology writer in Silicon Valley who explored Facebook's ad business for MIT's "Technology Review" says the ad part of the social networking company is only growing.

ROBERT HOF, FREELANCE TECHNOLOGY WRITER: By all estimates, it did a couple of billion dollars in advertising last year and may double that this year. So -- it's...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Robert Hof, you just saw there, as the Facebook last foray into public ads in 2007 backfired because of privacy concerns before the company changed its practices. Now the company says its focus on interests people express, and that it's different from other ads that are focused on Web sites you might be looking at -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Mary Snow.

Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail. He wants to know, is Donald Trump playing us for suckers?

Then Jeanne Moos takes on Trump and his possible presidential campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A BP spokesperson confirms to CNN the company has filed suit against the maker of the blowout preventer, Cameron International. The blowout preventer is the device that many say malfunctioned. BP is claiming that negligence helped cause the oil spill in the Gulf, which began a year ago today.

Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Candy, the question this hour: "Is Donald Trump playing us for suckers?" We've got some pretty good e- mail.

Carol in Massachusetts: "I believe he's playing the Republicans and making the wacky right look even wackier. He's creating a caricature that eclipses even Palin and Bachmann, but the Tea Party's buying it. Plus, he loves the spotlight to build his over-the-top brand. So he's winning on all fronts."

Rich in Texas says, "I don't know I would ever vote for him, but I do like the fact that he brings up all the issues we Americans are concerned with: jobs, oil prices, China's overwhelming trade advantages. He's changing what the news is talking about, and that's good."

Chuck in Maryland: "Of course not. He's just the only person smart enough to realize that the answer to climate change is to get the right person to tell it not to."

Bonnie in New Jersey: "I don't think he's being any different than he ever was: loud brash and arrogant. I hope he runs and splits the Republicans. I'm not so thrilled with the Democrats, but at least the middle-class person might stand a chance with them. The Republicans no longer even try to pretend they care about us."

Tim in Texas: "Not me. I'm boycotting NBC till they pull his program off the air. This country has too much going on right now for this megalomaniac to disrupt the political process and speciously attack the president of the United States so that his B-list reality show will get higher ratings."

Randy writes, "No, the media is playing us for suckers. Donald Trump is a circus bear riding a small bicycle with literally a helmet on, and the media is following it as if it was a serious news story. If you put out enough crazies, Jeb Bush won't look so bad. That's the plan."

And Amy in New York writes, "Whether you agree with his politics or not, I do not think that America could ever be led by a person who is blind to the total absurdity of what's on top of his head."

If you want to read more of these highly complimentary e-mails, go to my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile. He is good fodder for what it is I do here, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you, Jack.

This just in to CNN: another death of a photographer, a news person, in Libya, in Misrata. This is being confirmed by Getty, and they are confirming the death of one of their staff photographer, Chris Hondros.

He died of injuries that he sustained when he was in Misrata covering this as part of a documentary unit, bringing this death toll of these two documentarians, these two photographers, to two, in a tragic event today in the very besieged town of Misrata.

Up next, it's a Trump-a-thon. The real-estate mogul is appearing on a lot of TV shows these days. See why those interviews have his critics talking and laughing.

And EPA chief Lisa Jackson, does she think an oil spill like last year's could happen again? That's at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Here's a look at today's "Hot Shots."

In Russia, huge missile launchers roll by during a parade rehearsal.

In Japan, a single cherry blossom tree blooms in the middle of wreckage from last month's tsunami and earthquake.

In England, guardsmen march in unison during the changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace.

And in Germany, a baby rhino stands in her pen at an animal park.

"Hot Shots," pictures from around the world.

Donald Trump is a frequent guest on TV news program these days, now that he's considering running for president. And that's giving his critics plenty to talk about. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't let the dainty wave fool you. This has become a Trump-a-thon. Long and getting tougher with labor pains from belaboring the birth certificate issue.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: ... send investigators to Hawaii and you said, quote, "You cannot believe what they're finding." What have they found? What have they found?

DONALD TRUMP, REAL-ESTATE MOGUL: That's none of your business right now We're going to see what happens.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Have they found anything?

TRUMP: We're going to see what happens.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When?

TRUMP: George. Next question, George.

MOOS: We're going to see what happens when Chris Matthews counts Donald Trump's other favorite phrase.

TRUMP: Excuse me.

Excuse me.

Excuse me. You brought this up. Excuse me. If he wasn't born -- excuse me. That's another -- excuse me.

MOOS: For the record, in one interview, there were...

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, MSNBC'S "HARDBALL": Eighteen "excuse mes." MOOS: Excuse us for yet another Trump hair joke.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, COMEDIAN: Donald gets home at night, he sits down, and all of a sudden, the hair goes, "How we doing today? Who shall we marry next?"

MOOS: Though he's riding high in Republican polls, Trump is getting pulverized by some conservatives like radio host Mark Levin.

MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Does this guy sound stupid or what?

MOOS (on camera): Critics keep comparing Trump to other people.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: He is now NBC's Charlie Sheen.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Trump is the Al Sharpton of the Republican Party,: provocateur and clown.

MOOS: But there's one name Donald Trump was called that we're pretty sure he's never heard himself called before.

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: He's what's called a blatherskite.

MOOS: It's an actual, real dictionary word.

WILL: That was a word my grandmother was fond of. That's someone who blathers promiscuously.

MOOS (voice-over): Lately, everyone's making jokes about how Trump's already measuring the drapes in the White House, because he offered to build a new wing to replace a tent they have to use for big events.

TRUMP: Instead of a canvas tent, we will build one of the great ballrooms the world.

MOOS: Says he called former Obama adviser David Axelrod and offered up to $100 million to build something as ritzy as Trump's Florida estate.

TRUMP: He said, "Wow, that's interesting." I never heard from him. And that's the problem with our country.

MOOS (on camera): The Donald Trump-a-thon possible presidential run reminds us of an old liberal sitcom.

KRAUTHAMMER: Then there's Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): And then there's Maude. And then there's Maude. That old compromisin', enterprisin', anything but tranquilizing, right on Maude.

MOOS: Anything but tranquilizing, right on Trump. TRUMP: Excuse me.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

TRUMP: Excuse me.

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.