Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Bin Laden Raid Backup Plan?; Al Qaeda's New Top Dog?

Aired May 10, 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: Happening now: A backup plan for the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound is revealed. Among the new details just emerging, Navy SEALs planned to fight Pakistani forces on their way out of the compound, if necessary.

Also, al Qaeda's number two, possibly, possibly poised to become number one. But is Ayman al-Zawahiri ready and can he fill bin Laden's shoes?

And Libyan rebels right underneath Moammar Gadhafi's nose. We uncover an underground anti-government movement in Tripoli fighting fiercely and covertly.

We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It was a near flawless mission that will likely be studied for years to come, but the raid, the raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound could have turned out very, very differently.

And now we're learning new details that military planners and Navy SEALs had multiple, complex and very dramatic contingencies in place that could have resulted in a much different outcome.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.

Barbara, what are you finding out?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what if it had all started to go wrong?

A U.S. official tells us -- quote -- "No firepower option was off the table to help the SEALs get out of there."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): As President Obama tensely monitored the Navy SEALs' lightning assault on Osama bin Laden's compound, there was another secret plan in place, what to do if it all started to go wrong, a possibility the president told CBS' "60 Minutes" was on his mind.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My biggest concern was, if I'm sending those guys in and Murphy's Law applies and something happens, can we still get our guys out? STARR: U.S. officials tell CNN there were plans in place to send in more troops, weapons and airpower if the SEALs were confronted with overwhelming opposition from either inside the compound or Pakistani forces responding to the mini-American invasion.

CNN has learned, during the 38-minute raid, some commandos positioned themselves outside the compound walls, to keep Pakistanis away. Administration sources say the SEALs were prepared to defend themselves and their mission. That could have meant shooting Pakistani forces, if necessary.

Top U.S. officials gathered at the White House, were prepared to call their Pakistani counterparts to intercede if a firefight broke out. It never came to that.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: This was a complete surprise to them. And in circumstances of surprise, people take a little while to get themselves organized.

STARR: There may be more to it. Pentagon and CIA officials will not comment on any effort to monitor and disrupt Pakistani military communications and radar, rendering this ally blind.

MCLAUGHLIN: I would have to just guess that, in addition to whatever steps we took to suppress Pakistani knowledge of this, that they simply couldn't get themselves organized in time to respond in an effective way.

STARR: There was a major glitch when one helicopter landed on the compound wall. One of the backup helicopters was called in. It was the helicopter actually carrying an emergency medical team that would have landed had the SEALs been wounded.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And what would have happened if Osama bin Laden had surrendered or been taken alive by the SEALs?

Well, the plan was to take him to the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan and begin to interrogate him immediately. But, of course, bin Laden was killed and they wound up taking his body to the Carl Vinson, where they buried him at sea -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good report, Barbara. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, we're learning more and more about some of the other people besides Osama bin Laden who called that compound home, including family and close aides.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Abbottabad and he takes us inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When bin Laden died here, it wasn't in the company of dozens of bodyguards, but among children, his three wives and son and the two couriers who made his secret world possible.

The Navy SEALs found him on the third floor, but in the sun house outside, shown in these exclusive pictures, they shot one courier dead, the courier's wife also killed. Inside, they shot the courier's brother on the stairs, bin Laden's son Khalid shot dead a floor higher.

But left behind were the children who on this white board learned to read and the three wives who once tended to the food and kitchen and corridor. U.S. officials say they were 29-year-old Yemeni Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah and two Saudis, likely Khairiah Sabar and Siham Sabar.

Siham gave birth to bin Laden's son, Khalid, among the three men killed there, along with the two courier brothers, one a Kuwaiti, who locally used the aliases Arshad and Tariq Khan. In Pakistani custody are also eight or nine children, one said to be bin Laden's 12-year- old daughter.

(on camera): Well, Pakistani officials say that all the children inside the compound were bin Laden's and that U.S. SEALs took away another man, not bin Laden, alive, which the U.S. categorically denies.

U.S. officials, though, do want to talk to the wives from inside the house as the race begins to capitalize on the intelligence gleaned from inside the compound.

(voice-over): Locals who never believed bin Laden was here have even less faith in the authorities to investigate.

ABDUL SAMAT, NEIGHBOR (through translator): I think, from here, 15, 20 people have been arrested. Police and law enforcement just took these people away for no reason. They should demolish the house for now. It's a big problem for us. We can't go out or on our roofs. I think it's all a drama and bin Laden was never here.

WALSH: But the net is being cast wide as the U.S. tries to close in on bin Laden's successors using the information from inside the house and the people left in it.

(on camera): The last time we saw bin Laden and his deputy al- Zawahiri together, they were walking together in the hills very much like this on a videotape. And we're about 15 minutes' drive away from the bin Laden compound here. And you have to wonder whether or not that urgent American hunt for al-Zawahiri is happening now in the hills around Abbottabad.

(voice-over): The killing of the world's most wanted man has, rather than end al Qaeda by itself, hastened the wider hunt for what's left of his network across the globe.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Abbottabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, let's get some more on the political implications on bin Laden's death.

Joining us now, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. She is in Washington.

And, Gloria, the latest polling shows that the president continues to get a small bump in his overall job approval numbers. Here's the question. Has the bin Laden mission changed how people in the United States see the president?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you look at that, Wolf, his job approval is at 52 percent. That's only up three points. But, on foreign policy, that's up eight points, on the war in Afghanistan, up 10 points.

What's really important for Barack Obama, though, Wolf, are questions about his presidential leadership. And in those areas, he's really gone up considerably, the areas of, is he a good commander in chief, is he decisive, is he able to handle a crisis? Particularly independent voters in this NBC poll, Wolf, give him an awful lot of credit on those leadership skills, which, when you're running for president, and Republicans are portraying you as weak and indecisive, it's generally a good idea to be able to combat that, which he can now do.

BLITZER: But in this new poll, all the numbers are not necessarily all that great for the president, are they?

BORGER: No. Well, there's the good news and then there's the bad news, right?

And the bad news is that the popularity number is only up to 52 percent. But also, again, Wolf, it's the economy, as it always is. Disapproval of Barack Obama's handling of the economy, 58 percent, that may be an all-time high. Economy on wrong track, 50 percent. And what that means, Wolf, is that these independent voters that Barack Obama has to get, he really hasn't gotten them on the issues that hit close to home.

They still don't feel an economic recovery. They're worried about those gasoline prices. And so he has to prove himself on the domestic policy stage. Ironically, he's done it on the foreign policy arena, but not so much at home. And that's what presidential elections tend to be about, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know, based on your latest reporting, you're getting some special insight on how Republicans are planning on taking advantage of those numbers.

BORGER: Right. Well, it -- this is interesting, because I talked to somebody who deals with a lot of Senate candidates, Republican Senate candidates for office and another person who is an adviser to a Republican presidential campaign.

And they both said the same thing. They're saying to their candidates, look, give the president credit for getting Osama bin Laden. You have to do that. The American public is giving him credit for getting Osama bin Laden.

But then pivot -- and pivot very quickly -- to the economy and gasoline prices and the question of health care, and take them right back to the domestic policy concerns that were front and center during the midterm elections. That's where they think they can -- they can win the presidential, and that's where they think they can maybe get control of the Senate next time around, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we have still some time to go before any of that happens.

BORGER: Yes, we do.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Gloria, for that report.

BORGER: You bet.

BLITZER: With the death of bin Laden, there is now a new focus on al Qaeda's number-two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Will he be the terror network's new leader? Can he fill bin Laden's shoes?

Also, the Libyan rebels, they're operating inside Tripoli, right under Moammar Gadhafi's nose. Now those underground fighters are telling their stories to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. He's standing by live.

Plus, executives from Google and Apple get drilled by members of Congress over your privacy.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is thinking about U.S.-Pakistani relations right now. Jack is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: We now know that the United States had some contingency plans in place for military action against Pakistani forces if they had tried to interfere in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound last week that resulted in his killing.

It's just another indication that, despite the billions of dollars in aid that we have given Pakistan over the last decade to help combat terrorism, we didn't fully trust their commitment to finding bin Laden or any other high-profile terrorists who might be living and plotting and scheming inside Pakistan's borders.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan is deeply strained now. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has warned the United States that his country's military will respond to any future U.S. raid. Gilani said in a speech yesterday -- quote -- "Any attack against Pakistan's strategic assets, whether overt or covert, will find a matching response" -- unquote -- fighting words.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is now questioning the U.S.- Pakistani relationship and the amount of aid we send them, $20 billion over the last eight years. She says that relationship makes less and less sense -- her words.

But two other top leaders from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators John Kerry, Democrat from Massachusetts, Dick Lugar, Republican from Indiana, they are defending the continuing U.S. aid to Pakistan. See, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, a lot of them. So, trying to figure out what to do about our relationship with that country ain't so easy. The question, though, is this. Should the United States continue raids to capture or kill terrorists inside Pakistan?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a good question, Jack. Thanks very, very much.

Meanwhile, a fresh wave of NATO airstrikes on the Libya capital, Tripoli. At least three rounds of explosions echoed across Tripoli overnight. A Libyan government spokesman says warplanes hit several buildings in the capital.

Now some rebels who are living right under Moammar Gadhafi's nose in the Libyan capital are talking to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.

Frederik Pleitgen has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Tripoli Gadhafi supporters show international media, the Libyan capital they claim is a Gadhafi stronghold.

But there's more here than meets the eye. We managed to meet a group of rebels in a secret location in Tripoli. They wore masks, fearful of getting caught by Gadhafi security forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are the youth of the 17th of February in Tripoli. We declare our support to the free Libyan people, also declare our full and total support to the Transition National Council and only believe in it, and no one else, as our legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

PLEITGEN: The men provided us with amateur video, which we cannot independently verify, but which they say shows Gadhafi's soldiers firing live ammunition at protesters in the early days of the conflict. One of them tells me he was detained and tortured by government forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I didn't even know where the blows were coming from when they beat me. I was deprived of sleep, even food and drink.

PLEITGEN: Others did not survive. In one of the clips, a young man is seen dead with a gaping head wound. The rebels say the body is 20-year-old Hisham Mohammed Ben-Nissur (ph), a policeman. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court recently said there is credible evidence that Gadhafi's forces committed crimes against humanity. He says he will ask for arrest warrants for three individuals he did not name.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court: In all the incidents to be presented to the judges, the victims who were shot at by the security forces were unarmed civilians. And in all these incidents, there is no evidence of any attack against the security forces.

PLEITGEN: Officials for Gadhafi's government say the International Criminal Court's investigation is one-sided, and they deny allegations of crimes against humanity.

The rebels tell us many in Tripoli oppose Gadhafi, but most are afraid because the crackdown continues, with armed militias patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints. Currently, they say, all they can do is secretly distribute pamphlets, spray anti-Gadhafi slogans on walls and every now and again attack pro-Gadhafi checkpoints.

(on camera): The men here say right now Gadhafi is using bullets and other live ammunition to suppress the demonstrations here in Tripoli. But they say they are confident in the end they will prevail and Gadhafi will fall.

(voice-over): These young men are still a long way from achieving that goal, but the fact that they still manage to agitate in this alleged Gadhafi stronghold shows that, while the opposition here might be weak, it is still alive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Frederik Pleitgen is joining us live here in Munich right now.

I'm glad you're out of there. How long were you in Tripoli?

PLEITGEN: I was there a little over a month in total, so it was -- yes, it was quite a long actually.

BLITZER: Because we didn't know -- and this was exclusive reporting on your part -- that there really was an underground in the Libyan capital right under Gadhafi's nose. How did you get to them? This must have been incredibly dangerous for you.

PLEITGEN: It was very dangerous because -- oh, it wasn't dangerous, but it was more a difficult thing to do, because what the government there tries to do is they try to obviously repress the opposition with a lot of violence and they try to keep journalists locked up in one specific hotel.

And so what you have to do is you have to try to sneak away from the government minders and then you have to find these guys. And we found them by chance. We sort of won their trust. And then they took us to their neighborhood. And the interesting thing about it, Wolf, is that they had their neighborhood essentially under control, because one of the things that we got the impression is that the security forces there have completely lost any sort of contact to the population. So you have these people, they patrol their neighborhoods. They look around there. They wait and see, make sure there's no security forces around that could catch us while we try to get in there.

So, they managed to get us into a safe house. We conducted the interviews with them. And they said that their opposition movement is still very strong. However, right now, they have to remain underground simply because it's so dangerous because Gadhafi has armed gangs on the street who randomly shoot people. Not even the police can do anything against it.

It's very difficult to verify these things, but these people say that they are willing to fight to the death.

BLITZER: So then after you basically managed to sneak out of the hotel, find these -- the underground, if you will, the opponents to Gadhafi and you talk to them, you win their trust, then you get back. You know what would have happened to you if the Libyan authorities of Gadhafi would have found you?

PLEITGEN: Yes. That was one of the things we were very concerned about, that they might try to question us, they might try to find out...

BLITZER: Question? No, they would have gone a lot further than just questions.

PLEITGEN: Well, yes, question and with very difficult methods, with very dangerous methods, obviously.

BLITZER: Yes.

PLEITGEN: Yes. That was one of the things we were very worried about, that they would try to find out from us who these people are and where these people are. So, certainly, yes, that was one of the reasons why we decided to release the report after our crew actually got out of there, to get us out of that imminent danger of them trying to take us in and trying to question us.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, I'm glad you're out of Libya right now and here in lovely Munich, Germany.

PLEITGEN: Yes.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen is based in Berlin.

I'm taking you out for a beer afterwards.

PLEITGEN: Please do so, yes.

BLITZER: Just thank God you made it out of there.

One of our courageous young journalists, Fred Pleitgen, reporting from Libya -- amazing report, indeed.

Osama bin Laden, he is out of the picture right now, as all our viewers here in Germany and the United States and around the world know. But who's busy taking over al Qaeda right now? We will talk about bin Laden's number two, the doctor, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

And the best way to appreciate the tragedy of the flooding along the Mississippi River is from the air. CNN's John King just returned from a helicopter flight over the disaster zone. He's standing by to join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The death of Osama bin Laden comes in the middle of historic changes sweeping the Arab world. Some longtime dictators have fallen to pro-democracy movements, while others are using violence to cling to power, often brutal, brutal measures.

We want to talk about that with two special guest. "The New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof is joining us. And Professor Fouad Ajami, he's director of the Middle East studies program of the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Guys, thanks very much.

Fouad Ajami, first to you. All of the demonstrations we saw in North Africa, in the Middle East, you didn't hear a whole lot of people chanting for Osama bin Laden. They were chanting for democracy and reform. But here's the question. The death of bin Laden, how will this impact what is called the Arab -- the Arab spring?

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, look, bin Laden, by the time he died, he had really become truly irrelevant, particularly for younger Arabs.

And we have talked before, Wolf, that he was more popular, Osama bin Laden, in the Af-Pak theater among Afghans, among Pakistanis. Among Arabs, I think, in many -- except for the most extreme of the Arabs, they had kind of wearied of him. And to the extent that the Arab spring is the great story of our time, the great story of 2011, I think you will find al Qaeda on the margins of the concerns of young Arabs, concerned with freedom, with bread, with opportunities and with trying to bring an end to these tyrannies in the Arab world, in Syria, in Libya, and beyond.

BLITZER: Certainly, when I was in Egypt recently, I didn't see any strong love for bin Laden.

Did you, Nick, when you were there, you were covering the demonstrations in Tahrir Square? NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No. And that has really changed. Say, in 2001, 2002, 2003, bin Laden was a real presence to some degree in some Middle Eastern countries, but -- especially those like Yemen, for example.

But, over the time, he really has become marginalized. And I think the real impact of his death now is not so much in the Arab world, but rather in Pakistan, where there is a real risk now of a rupture in relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan, where, alternatively, there is some real opportunity now for political space and for some kind of a deal toward peace in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Can the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, Professor Ajami, can he really emerge as the new al Qaeda leader in the footsteps, shall we say, of bin Laden?

AJAMI: Well, look, Wolf, I have been an Ayman al-Zawahiri fanatic and a buff and a watcher for a very long time. I picked up his trail very early.

On October 6, 1981, many years ago, right after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, a young doctor, an aristocrat, the son of one of the great Cairo families, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was picked up by the police and he was tortured. And under torture, Ayman al-Zawahiri gave up a friend. He broke under torture and has lived with the shame ever since and with the pain of this of this ever since.

Can he pick up the pieces? I think he can because he's a very talented man. He's a very dangerous man. And to the extent that we have a public enemy number one, it used to be Osama bin Laden. We have to take Ayman Zawahiri seriously.

BLITZER: This is what I'm hearing, Nick. And I want to know if you're hearing anything along these line, but I suspect you probably are as well.

The U.S. is really going to go after, not only Ayman al-Zawahiri, but Mullah Mohammed Omar, the former leader of the Taliban -- he's hiding out someplace in Pakistan -- Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But they're going to do it differently than bin Laden, none of this need to do DNA matches or get the body. They are going to try to just drop a big bomb and kill these guys once and for all.

How will that play, if in fact the U.S. does do that? We know, last week, they were close to getting Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. They just missed.

KRISTOF: Yes, I think it will depend a lot where it happens.

In the Yemen, we don't really have an alternative of going in and mounting raids. And I think we are likely to do it with drone strikes and I think we're also probably less concerned with intelligence. Now, if we got intelligence right now about Zawahiri is, and he was in Pakistan somewhere, I think there is still a reasonable chance we would go in with commandos and try to get everything that is there, because of those potential linkages that we do want to wrap up.

I'm not as convinced that Zawahiri as Fouad will be able to inherit power as successfully. He does have a reputation for being a little more querulous, certainly less charismatic. And he just doesn't command the presence of the sheik, as people used to refer to bin Laden. So, I think it's going to be a tough transition for him.

BLITZER: If the U.S. were to send more commandos in, Fouad Ajami, into Pakistan, the Pakistani government says, that's it. They -- they would see that as a huge, huge blow on their sovereignty, which raises, at least in my mind, the thought if the U.S. had information where Ayman al Zawahiri or any of these other guys are, they'd use a Predator zone and a Hellfire missile or some other -- some other -- some other bomb that wouldn't require the U.S. commandos to go in. But give me your thought.

AJAMI: Well, we have no choice but to pursue these guys. And one thing about Pakistan. I have some numbers for you, Wolf, which should be very interesting. Six out of every 10 Pakistanis view the U.S. as an enemy. We are -- we are less popular, if you will, than India, in Pakistan.

Only 11 percent of Pakistanis think the U.S. is a partner. Only 8 percent of Pakistanis express any confidence in President Obama, the lowest of 22 nations surveyed.

Forty-eight percent of educated Pakistanis don't believe that we give Pakistan any aid. Forty-eight percent. Twenty-five percent of Pakistanis, only 25 percent, think that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan is bad for Pakistan.

So we need the Pakistanis; we don't trust them. They need us; they don't trust us. And we have to work across this mutual distrust. These are very, very crucial allies. We need them, and we require their help for the Afghan project to succeed, but there you have these great animosities between the U.S. and Pakistan.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, as I always point out, 100 nuclear warheads...

AJAMI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... in the Pakistani arsenal, at least. That's hovering over all of these conversations.

Fouad Ajami, thanks very much for coming in.

Nick Kristoff, thanks as usual.

To our viewers who don't follow Nick on Twitter, @NickKristoff, you should follow him in addition to reading his columns in the "New York Times."

Much more coverage coming up. We'll stay on top of the bin Laden fallout. Also, what's happening in a Mississippi town. It's next in line after a slow-moving disaster. Our own John King is there. Stand by. He flew over in a helicopter. His report coming up.

Plus, Google and Apple executives in the hot seat up on Capitol Hill as lawmakers ask them about your privacy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Among the rising Mississippi River, cities and towns are waiting for floodwaters to crest, in some cases, near record levels. CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, is in one of those towns in Mississippi right now. He's joining us.

John, I understand you flew over. You saw the devastation. Tell our viewers what you saw.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a heartbreaking day here. On the one hand, no one in this community has died because of the flooding. Remember, they had the tornadoes not that far away recently. No one has died, but the devastation is astounding.

And in this community, the Tunica area, we're showing you some aerial photos now. That area there, that is called the cutoff. It is right along the lake in town. People who have lived here for 40 and 50 years say they have seen a few inches of water, maybe a foot of water before. We were on streets, Wolf, with 15 and 20 feet of water below us.

This is from above on a chopper, the Desoto County sheriff taking us up in the helicopter. It's devastating. There are, again, 330 homes here. We are told only 25 of those homeowners had flood insurance.

We also went on a boat ride right through this same area. I think we can show you that, as well. The fire chief of Tunica took us through. And you look at all these houses. That is the main street heading into the community right there. We are on 10 feet of water right there. You could reach out and touch the streetlights, the bulbs, as we went through here. As we went deeper in toward the lake, the water was as high as 30 feet at some points to the road below.

Wolf, these are wooden homes. They're very modest homes. They're owned by retirees. They're owned by blue-collar families who work in the farming industry here, in the casino industry in this area. They are devastated. Again, 330 homes, they are destroyed. Twenty-five people had flood insurance.

We were at a shelter today where people were staying at a Red Cross shelter. FEMA was there, state officials there. People beginning to grumble and complain, because while we were able to go in there on a boat, Wolf, it is illegal. The residents were being told they must not go back to their homes.

We are in Tunica. The flooding here, the river is cresting here in the hours ahead. They have a problem here, Wolf. There's one part of levee they're a bit worried about, but they think they will be relatively OK in this part of the state. They are worried down the Mississippi as this moves down towards Vicksburg, toward the southern part of the state and then into Louisiana, they could have even more severe flooding.

It is when you look at it from above, those areas right there, that's park land. Those are trails. People ride their horses there. You don't know it from above until one of the locals tell you. Again, people who have lived here for 40 and 50 years, who deal with flooding every year, say they have never, Wolf, seen anything like this.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story indeed. John's going to have much more coming up at the top of the hour on JOHN KING USA. John, we certainly will be watching. Thank you.

Meanwhile, CNN's Jim Acosta has more on the flooding -- Jim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I want to show you just how fast the floodwaters from the Mississippi River are moving right now. It's pretty dramatic stuff. And we've got some animations here to show you just how fast that water is moving.

First of all, we want to give you an explainer as to why there is so much water in the Mississippi River right now. Take a look at the Mississippi River basin. That Mississippi River drainage basin covers a huge chunk of the United States. Obviously, as we know, over big parts of the upper Midwest, there were record snow falls. All of that water, obviously, is now flowing in the Mississippi River and heading downriver towards the Gulf of Mexico. And authorities note it is moving fast. The National Weather Service has a pretty stark example as to how fast that water is moving.

Take a look at this flooding animation. We want to show you the National Weather Service is warning that that water, in some parts around Memphis is moving at 2 million cubic feet per second. How fast is that? Take a look at this.

Basically, it could fill a football field -- that's 100 yards long, obviously -- 44 feet high -- that's as tall as a four-story building -- in just one second. In just the amount of time we've been talking right now, a football field could fill up 44 feet high. That's how fast it's moving. That is why people need to get out of the way if those floodwaters are heading toward their community.

And we want to give you some historical perspective as to how much water we're talking about here. The last time the river crested at 48 feet, which is what it did overnight last night in Memphis, was back in 1937. The river crested at 48.7 feet. And how much water are we talking about there? Well, at that time, it flooded a record 20 million acres of land. That is a lot of land.

How much land is that? Well, basically, it's equivalent to the state of Virginia, a little less than the acreage in the state of Virginia. So we're talking about an eye-popping dramatic volume of water moving into the Mississippi River basin right now and flooding various states, up and down that river basin.

So a dramatic example, when you take a look at that animation and the volume of water we're talking about here, as to why people in those flood-ravaged areas need to take caution and be careful because this water is moving fast -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very, very much. We're going to stay on top of this story for our viewers.

Most of us don't go anywhere these days without our cell phones, so companies know, basically, where we are at all times. And now Congress is asking Google and Apple what they do with all that information.

And from Hollywood to the governor's mansion, this couple has seen it all, but they'll face the future on their own. We'll tell you what's going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A major marital breakup in California. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's true, Wolf. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver are terminating their marriage, at least temporarily. The couple announced today they are amicably separating but offered no word on whether they would divorce. The decision comes just two weeks after they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and four months after Schwarzenegger ended his time as California's governor. They have four children ages 14 to 21.

Microsoft hopes a blockbuster deal will give it an edge over rivals Google and Apple. It's buying Internet phone provider Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. The acquisition is Microsoft's biggest ever. Analysts say the price is high but that plans to integrate Skype's technology with other products could pay dividends in the future.

And the new duke and duchess of Cambridge, they are taking a belated honeymoon. Prince William and his bride are asking to have their privacy respected after their wedding was watched by an estimated 2 billion people. The royal family won't say where they went, but British newspapers report the couple are on a private island in the Seychelles. The newlyweds are no strangers to the Indian Ocean island chain. They actually spent a week back there in August of 2007. So best of luck to them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Best of luck indeed. Hope they have a great, great honeymoon and wonderful life. Thanks, Lisa.

Smart phones, they track your every single move. Now tech executives are summoned to Capitol Hill for a grilling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Mr. -- Mr. Chairman, I'll be brief. I want to let you know the weather app that you have on your phone sends me a location of all the meetings you attend. So just be forewarned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That makes me very frightened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Executives from Google and Apple tried to answer a simple question on Capitol Hill today. What do our smart phones know about us? The controversy deals with smart phones' ability to track and save locations. CNN's Kate Bolduan reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you're looking at isn't a typical Google map. It's an app tracking my movement in real time.

(on camera) We are driving right past the Capitol building on 1st Street. We're going to head over towards one of the monuments to see if Google tracks us along the way.

And to our right is the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 1:22 p.m.

(voice-over) From Capitol Hill to the White House, time-stamped location information, thanks to just a BlackBerry. The privacy risks of this technology have put devices like iPhones, BlackBerries and Androids in the Congressional spotlight.

JESSICA RICH, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: We believe that consumers really have no idea of the layers of sharing that go on behind the scenes.

BOLDUAN: Two of the world's largest brands, Apple and Google, questioned about recent controversies the companies were collecting and storing location information about users without consent.

GUY "BUD" TRIBBLE, APPLE INC.: Apple does not track users' locations. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Does this data indicate anything about your location or doesn't it?

TRIBBLE: Senator, the data that's stored in the database is the location of as many wi-fi hot spots and cell -- cell-phone towers as we can have. That data does not actually contain in our databases any customer information at all. It's completely anonymous.

FRANKEN: Consumers are hearing this a lot from both Apple and Google. And I think it's confusing.

BOLDUAN: The companies say they need the location information to better serve customers trying to find a local coffee shop or gas station. Google and Apple assured lawmakers they weren't abusing the information and only track user data if authorized. But lawmakers don't seem convinced as they look to strengthen federal regulation protecting consumer privacy online and on mobile devices.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: All I can say is that I have not yet heard a model here today that is convincing to me that it adequately protects -- protects both the Internet itself and the privacy interests.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now, a handful of online privacy bills have been introduced this session pushing for reforms ranging from more transparency in the information that companies collect to an opt-out option that would prevent companies from tracking your online behavior -- your online behavior at all, if you so choose. So this issue, Wolf, is far from settled.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right. Thanks very much for that, Kate. Kate's up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour: "Should the United States continue raids to capture or kill terrorists inside Pakistan?"

Terry writes from Virginia, "The U.S. government should defend and protect us against terrorism and threats of terrorism throughout the world. And if that means more raids in Pakistan, so be it. If Pakistan doesn't like it, then perhaps its leaders should reconsider giving safe harbor to terrorists."

Greg in Ontario says, "Pakistan is playing us for fools. The west pays them billions in aid, and they take the No. 1 and probably the top five terrorists in the world and hide them. That in itself is an act of war. Pakistan should become as isolated as Iran. All economic immigration, et cetera, should be cut off until they once again prove themselves worthy of trust."

Joe writes, "Of course. What we should not do is keep a large number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Dennis in North Carolina: "We should continue to hunt and kill terrorists in any country that harbors them without giving it a second thought."

Jim says, "Absolutely. If the Pakistanis aren't going to do their job with the amount of U.S. money they're getting, then we should be allowed to go in and get known terrorist leaders when they're found. We need to concentrate now on Ayman al-Zawahiri now that bin Laden is dead. We need to keep taking out their leaders as they emerge and gather intelligence where we can. But I'm against any further wars and think we need to begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan ASAP." Tim in New York writes, "If Pakistan considers an attack on bin Laden as, quote, "an attack against Pakistan's 'strategic assets,' unquote, then we've got a real problem. They're a lot better armed than al Qaeda. And that statement alone makes it obvious what side they're on. I'm not wise enough to know whether we should or shouldn't continue such operations. But I'll tell you this. I wouldn't be foolish enough to continue paying them when they've made their position clear."

And Bob in Kansas City writes, "You bet, Jack. Terminate with extreme prejudice whenever and wherever found. They deserve the same due process as those who became their victims."

If you want to read more on the subject, you can find it on my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you back here tomorrow.

Rising water posing a threat along the Mississippi River. CNN's John King gets an up close look. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

And the hunt for bin Laden was no laughing matter, but comedians are having a field day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan is a godsend for comedians. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three wives in one hideout? To some westerners, it sounds like the set up to a joke.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": He'd been living in a compound cooped up with all of his wives for five years. When the Navy SEALs came in he said, "Just shoot me."

MOOS: The closest most Americans come to multiple wives is the HBO series "Big Love."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my night, Margene. Get out of here now.

GINNIFER GOODWIN, ACTRESS: I'm sorry. I just wanted to kiss Bill good night.

MOOS: The night he was shot, Osama bin Laden was with his youngest wife, the 29-year-old. Pictures of the other two older wives are scarce. They tend to be represented by faceless veils.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another wife who was in the compound.

MOOS (on camera): Just call him Osama been married, a total of at least five times. (voice-over) When one of the stars of the hit show "Desperate Housewives" was on "The View"...

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Maybe they should give a part to one of bin Laden's wives. Talk about a desperate housewife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real housewives of Abbottabad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The real housewives of Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: Get out of my face, Hamida!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: I'm not in your face, Haniya!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Followed by "Keeping Up with the Ahmadinejadashians!"

MOOS: Bin Laden may be gone, but comedians cling to him like a security blanket.

(on camera) When it comes to mocking Osama bin Laden's latest videos, we discovered great comedians think alike.

LETTERMAN: He appears to be watching videos of himself on TV. And -- no, wait a minute, that's me.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": Can I see that shot of me watching this footage over the weekend? Son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!

MOOS: Everyone jumped on the news that bin Laden was dyeing his beard black.

LETTERMAN: Look, he was using this "Just for Maniacs."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He uses this stuff, designed for...

STEWART: And three boxes of the "Just for Madmen."

MOOS: There's even a Web site called "What's Osama bin Watching" that lets you put in the address of any YouTube video so that Osama is watching, say, the keyboard cat or even the royal wedding.

DR. ROWAN WILLIAMS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: To join together this man and this woman.

JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": He's crying.

MOOS: There's something satisfying about watching the world's most wanted terrorist wrapped in a blankie, watching Tina Fey on "SNL."

TINA FEY, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I just hope tonight the lame stream media won't twist my words by repeating them verbatim.

MOOS: The terrorist gets Trumped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Osama, boom, you're fired.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. In the United States, North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.