Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
New Warning: Cell Phones May Cause Cancer; Syria: Amnesty for Arrested Protesters; Another Hotel Sex Attack Alleged; Hotel Maids at Risk of Rape?; Weiner: 'This Is A Prank --A Distraction'; Number of Missing Drops in Joplin; Plunging Home Values; Sarah Palin's Cat-and- Mouse Game; Osama bin Laden's Black Money Trail
Aired May 31, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching me.
And now to Wolf Blitzer, who is standing by outside THE SITUATION ROOM outside of the Washington, DC bureau now -- Wolf, take it away.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.
We're watching very several major developments unfold here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to be transparent with our viewers right now here in the United States and around the world.
There's been a power outage here in the nation's capital, at least part of the District of Columbia. That's why we're reporting from outside.
But there are major developments involving cell phones -- information you need to know from the World Health Organization about the possible danger of cell phone use and cancer. Stand by, Elizabeth Cohen has a full report.
We're also watching bin Laden and the black money trail -- new information coming in on money and bin Laden. Stand by for that, as well.
And we'll also have the latest on Anthony Weiner, the congressman from New York. Our own Dana Bash is following up on this story.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with major developments involving cell phone use and you -- information that you need to know right now. The World Health Organization now, for the first time, has raised a serious possibility of a link between cell phone use and cancer.
Here's our report.
BLITZER: Joining us now, our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen -- Elizabeth, this World Health Organization report, what did it conclude?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the WHO concluded that cell phones are a possible carcinogen for humans. And, Wolf, this is a really big deal. They've never -- we've never had a group this large, this prestigious, say that there might be a link between cell phones and cancer.
And I want to give you, Wolf, sort of a feeling for what category this is. This now puts cell phones into a category with several other things. The WHO says that, for example, lead is a possible carcinogen, that engine exhaust is also and so is chloroform. So that gives us an idea for how seriously they're taking this.
BLITZER: So should we all be freaking out, because we all use cell phones?
COHEN: Right. Well, one of the things that I'm worried about is that people are going to hear me and they are going to freak out and think their cell phones are toxic and shouldn't be using them. And that's not the conclusion that experts want people to come from.
One cell phone conversation is not going to give you cancer. This risk is something that is accumulated over a period of, you know, months and years of using your cell phone over and over again. So that is -- that is not the conclusion. You shouldn't freak out.
First of all, if you spend a lot of time with a cell phone next to your head, you know, that's -- that's done. It's over. And so -- but don't drop your phone right now. It's not going to kill you.
BLITZER: So moving forward, what do we do?
COHEN: Right. And that's the other reason not to freak out, Wolf, is that there is something you can do. And I'm happy to say that, because often there's not anything you can do about medical problems. But, you know, this time there is.
What you can do is not do this -- holding a cell phone to your head. The radiation is going into your head.
So, the solution to that is to use this, is to use a headset. That way you plug the headset into your phone and then you can hold your phone at a distance so that the radiation gets emitted into the air instead of into your head. It won't keep the radiation from you entirely, but it reduces it by a huge amount.
BLITZER: I use one of those Bluetooth wi -- you know, earpieces.
Is that safe?
COHEN: Oh, absolutely. That reduces the radiation by a huge amount, as well. There's sort of been a discussion about which is better, a wired headset or a Bluetooth.
But the bottom line is that using either a Bluetooth or a wired earpiece, both are way better than holding the phone to your head. BLITZER: So what does all this mean for the -- the cell phone companies out there?
COHEN: You know, Wolf, I think it's going to be interesting. I think it's possible that the FTC -- FCC may tell cell phone companies, you know what, look at what the World Health Organization says, can you figure out a way to make your cell phones emit less radiation?
Now, we did get in touch with the folks who make cell phones, with their industry group. And this is what they had to say. They say that: "This classification from the World Health Organization does not mean that cell phones cause cancer. The WHO finding is based on limited evidence."
So that's the response from the cell phone industry.
BLITZER: The bottom line, if you have a cell phone, best that you put it on speaker, if you can do that if, if you don't have a headset or something like that, which is obviously so much better.
COHEN: Right. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, thanks very much.
COHEN: There is something we can do, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. We -- we're all going to try to do it.
All right, Elizabeth.
Thanks very much.
The worst thing you can do is just hold it up to your ear all of the time.
Good advice from Elizabeth Cohen.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Now to the uprising in Syria. Dramatic new developments, including a reversal today by the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian leader now saying he'll grant amnesty to protesters arrested for various alleged crimes -- the same protesters Syrian officials had been calling terrorists.
CNN's Arwa Damon is covering all the unrest for us throughout the Middle East and North Africa. She's joining us now live from Beirut. Potentially a significant development, but a lot people are taking it with a huge grain of salt -- Arwa.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
There most certainly is a lot of skepticism surrounding this so- called amnesty that was initially announced on state-owned television. And then there was an elaboration of the announcement on the state- owned Syrian Arab News Agency. This is not necessarily an amnesty as one would understand the world in the sense that it is not a blanket pardon.
What it is, according to a decree that was published on the Syrian state Arab News Agency is more of a reduction in individual's prison terms. Those who had received a life sentence, for example, would be imprisoned for 20 years. Those who had received the death sentence would see that reduced to serving out a life sentence.
Many people, though, are saying that this is merely a superficial move, that it falls into the same pattern that we have been seeing from the Syrian regime, where, on the one hand, they do appear to be making concessions; but on the other hand, they do continue to employ the same brutal tactics -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is there any sense that what Bashar al-Assad is doing is going to make, really, any impact on the protesters?
They seem so determined to try to get their way.
DAMON: They are determined, Wolf. And as each day goes by, they grow even more determined. What we have been seeing since the onset is that this was an uprising that initially did begin in asking for reforms and then has now ended up in asking for the removal of the Assad regime. At this point, activists are grieving at this so-called amnesty, saying that this is just a move to try to temporarily appease them, perhaps a move for the Assad regime to buy itself some more time.
Activists are adamant at this stage that there are only two possible outcomes for this uprising in Syria. One is that their demands are met and that is that the Assad regime step down. The other they are telling us is that Assad will simply have to militarily crush the entire opposition. Activists repeatedly speaking of how this is not a regime that they believe is capable of reform.
So they continue to point to the fact that, on the one hand, the regime does continue to promise reforms. Remember, Bashar al-Assad did lift the emergency law over a month ago. But at the same time, that has not led to any sort of different behavior when it comes to how the regime is continuing to deal with these demonstrators.
Remember, too, that the regime continues to call the demonstrators terrorists, saying that it is simply targeting armed groups fueled by outside forces that are intent on destabilizing it -- Wolf. BLITZER: Arwa -- Arwa Damon in Beirut reporting for us.
We want to remind our viewers, the Syrian regime does not allow international journalists to report from within Syria. We're doing the best we can under the circumstances.
Later here in THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll get a full briefing from Professor Fouad Ajami of the John Hopkins University. Much more on this story coming up.
Meanwhile, another international financial figure now stands accused of sexually assaulting a luxury hotel maid.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick is working the story for us -- Deborah, we're told that Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, who is the chairman of the Egyptian salt company, the former head of the Egyptian bank in Egypt, is now under arrest. Police say he sexually abused a staffer at the Pierre Hotel in New York. The woman came into his room to drop off tissues he had requested.
And this comes two weeks after the former head of the International Monetary Fund was accused of trying to rape a hotel maid in New York, as well.
Let's bring in Deborah Feyerick -- what specific information, in addition to that, Deborah, do you have?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, what is so startling about this is just how quickly it has happened again after the incident involving the head of the IMF -- the former head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
But as you mentioned, this man, the guest who was staying at the Pierre Hotel, a five star hotel right near the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, well, he called down to housekeeping, apparently, asking for a box of tissues.
Well, when the housekeeper arrived, she handed him the box of tissues. It's not clear why she specifically entered the room. But according to police, that's when Mr. Omar closed the door behind her and the alleged sexual molestation occurred.
Now, the incident was reported to a manager who was on duty, this happening Sunday evening. However, we are told that, in fact, the night manager said that the woman would have to report it the following day, which she did. And that's when police were called.
All of that under investigation, because clearly, if there was any sort of forensic evidence, it could have been compromised because of the time delay. Six hours is when the incident allegedly happened. Police did not arrive until 11:00 the next morning. All of that under the investigation.
The Pierre Hotel says it supports the investigation, it is doing what it can to help.
But again, this happening so closely after the late -- after the last incident.
Mr. Omar is scheduled to be arraigned later tonight. The charges against him expected to include sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment, as well as forcible touching and harassment.
So a lot to digest there with all of this happening.
And why now?, is always the question, especially with all the press that Mr. Strauss-Kahn received -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we know why it was -- they waited to report this incident, you say, 24 hours?
FEYERICK: Well, it seems to be that the night manager on duty simply just put it in the log and said that the woman was to come back the next day. She's a 44-year-old woman. That's what she did. She followed instructions.
We are told also by the Pierre Hotel that that manager who gave those instructions, well, he has been suspended -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick on the scene for us.
Let's bring in Mary Snow in New York right now -- Mary, the union representing these hotel workers is asking for more security.
What's going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And the union also citing that lapse in the reporting time, now asking for more training -- more training for employees in terms of what to do when an incident like this is reported.
But also what the union has asked the Pierre Hotel to equip workers with an electronic device, so if you push it -- you can carry it with you and you push it, it would alert security right away.
And a spokeswoman for the Pierre says that the hotel is looking to buy these kinds of devices for their workers.
A state lawmaker has also suggested that all hotel employees in New York be equipped with this. And the hotel industry group saying that's something that they're looking into. And a number of security and safety measures are being under consideration.
But, you know, Wolf, it all raises the question of how common are these kinds of incidents?
And we spoke earlier today with Anthony Roman. He is a security consultant to the hotels.
And here's what he told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY ROMAN, ANTHONY ROMAN & ASSOCIATES: Approximately a dozen a year are reported to us. And they were --
FEYERICK: From across the country?
ROMAN: From across the United States. And they range from exposing one's self -- a guest exposing themself to the maid to touching to propositioning. The sexual assault itself is a reasonably rare report, approximately twice a year, in our estimation. However, we believe that's severely underreported.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: And he says he believes it's severely underreported because, he says, a lot of the hotel housekeepers are immigrant, hard workers and afraid to come forward. And he believes that's one of the reasons why they don't come forward.
And we spoke to a former hotel worker who was a hotel housekeeper and is now a union organizer. And she told us, you know, she really wasn't so surprised, unfortunately, by these reported incidents and that while she had been working at a hotel for more than a decade, she said that she and her -- and other workers felt, you know, that they really couldn't come forward and report these kinds of incidents -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow with the latest on this case and a trend that seems to be developing.
Thanks very much.
Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York is trying to downplay the controversy over a lewd photo briefly posted on his Twitter account.
But his refusal to answer certain sensitive questions may be adding fuel to the flap.
Dana Bash is standing by on Capitol Hill.
Also, home prices that were on the rebound take a turn for the worse. We're taking a closer look at what's driving them down.
And find out why charges have been re-filed against the alleged conspirators behind the 9/11 attacks.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's coming up now, Wolf, on 10 years since we went to war in Afghanistan. The stated purpose at the time, you'll recall, was to get Osama bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda who had attacked us on 9/11. Bin Laden is dead now and we're still fighting and dying in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll recently went past the benchmark of 1,500.
In a speech of September 2009, President Obama announced that he would begin the withdraw of troops in July 2011. Well a year and a half has passed since the speech, July is almost here and now we are all waiting to hear his plan.
The pressure is mounting from some unlikely places. House Democrats are becoming more vocal on Afghanistan, they're pushing for an accelerated withdrawal plan; and according to Politco.com, they want the president to go after a settlement with all interested parties in order to speed up the process, that includes the Taliban.
Well, according to a new Gallup poll, only 37 percent of military members approve of the job that President Obama is doing. That compares to 48 percent of nonmilitary Americans who approve of the Obama performance in office.
We're still in Iraq. We were told we would be in Libya for a matter of couple of days, remember? That was more than two months ago.
Afghanistan has never been conquered. The Russians gave up after seven years, everybody else who's ever tried eventually has been forced to leave with their tails between their legs.
The Karzai government is a joke, it's ineffective, it's corrupt. The schools in Afghanistan openly teach young children how to hate the United States. The population of the country can't read, but they teach their kids how to hate our guts.
Here's the question then: When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, how much is enough?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Pesky prank or something more? Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York has now hired an attorney after a lewd photo briefly appeared on his Twitter account. He says the account was hacked and that someone sent the photo to a 21-year-old college student under his name, and he says the media have better things to do with its time.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I'm going to return to working on the things I care about. You know, I've participated in this story a couple days now, given comments on it. This is a distraction, and I'm not going to let it distract me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But he may have a tough time getting the media to back away.
Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is standing by. He's joining us from New York live right now.
Jeffrey, I guess some of the issues fueling this controversy is his refusal to answer certain questions. How much of a problem is that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think, frankly, the whole thing is a pretty minor problem. Regardless of who did this, I think the old saying, "Don't make a federal case out of it," is probably the best advice to all parties.
I don't know what happened here, but this is a fairly small tempest, as far as I can tell.
BLITZER: Some people are saying if your Twitter account was hacked by someone sending lewd photos, the least you could do is notify Capitol Hill Police or New York City Police that you've got a problem to make sure it doesn't happen again. He didn't -- apparently, he didn't do either of those things.
TOOBIN: He didn't do those things, but frankly, there is no obligation on a public figure or even a private figure to seek out an investigation of a single possible hack, a possible prank.
I mean, you know, Anthony Weiner is looking at this as a politician as well as a potential victim or perpetrator of something wrong, and I think, at this point, all he wants is to make this thing go away, an investigation would simply extend it further.
I can't imagine anyone bringing charges under any circumstances whether Weiner sent this, whether someone else sent it. It just seems like it was a funny story at first for him, he's no longer seeing the humor in it. I think he wants to make it go away. So an investigation would just extend it.
BLITZER: Is it a crime -- a crime, Jeffrey, for someone to break into your private Twitter account, hack it, and send out a lewd photo? Would that be -- is there anything against -- involving the law on an issue like that?
TOOBIN: You know, I think that is an interesting legal question at the frontier of social media and criminal law that has not really been settled at all. I don't believe there has ever been a prosecution, but it may fit within some definitions of wire fraud, which is a fairly commonly prosecuted crime.
If the government were to prosecute someone for basically stealing someone's Twitter identity, I am certain they would take a more dramatic case than this, someone who did it multiple times to multiple victims. I cannot imagine any agency of the federal government opening a full investigation over a single lewd but not obscene tweet. It's just something that federal prosecutors with the full range of American crimes would get involved in. It's just simply too small potatoes.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.
Later in THE SITUATION ROOM, by the way, our own Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent, is going to have new information. Stand by for her report.
Meanwhile, a tour bus veers off I-95 in Virginia and flips over. Now four passengers are dead, dozens more are injured. You're going to find out what investigators think caused this tragic accident.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Obama makes his pick for the next head of the Commerce Department.
CNN's Brooke Baldwin is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What is going on, Brooke?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's begin with that.
President Obama has nominated John Bryson as his new Commerce secretary. The former CEO of utility giant Edison International could have a tough time, though, getting confirmed. Republicans have threatened to hold up confirmation until President Obama sends free trade agreements with South Korea, with Columbia, and Panama to Congress for that ratification. The White House has said it wants lawmakers to extend funding for jobs retraining first.
And Ratko Mladic is now in the Netherlands to face war crime charges at The Hague. He was extradited from Serbia today after losing his appeal. The former fugitive and Bosnian Serb commander is accused of atrocities in Bosnia's civil war including the Srebrenica massacre in which thousands Bosnian Muslim men and boys, some 8,000, were killed.
And look at these pictures, this is tough to look at here. Investigators blame driver fatigue for the deadly crash of a tour bus on busy I-95, this is Caroline County in Virginia, today. Four passengers were killed when the Sky Express bus just veered off the road. You see it's overturned. Dozens of riders are hospitalized with injuries. Police say charges against the driver are pending.
Wolf, back out to you, outside of the Situation Room in Washington.
BLITZER: Yes, we lost power and a big chunk of Washington, D.C. That's where we are broadcasting right now from outside. Hopefully, that power will be coming back. We don't know why power has gone down in major chunks of the nation's capital, but we're working on the story, Brooke. Thank you very much.
We're also getting new numbers on the number of people missing after the tornado that ravaged Joplin, Missouri. Let's get some more from CNN's Casey Wian in Joplin -- Casey.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, coming to you from Los Angeles, Wolf, right now back from Joplin, Missouri. And there is good news for the battered residents of that community today.
The Missouri Department of Public Safety saying that the number of unaccounted for people has now been reduced to 10. Now, if you'll remember, that number started out as high as 1,500 in the days after the tornado. Just Thursday of last week, there was still over 200 people identified as missing. They have now got that number down to 10. So that is some welcome news for the residents of that community.
The death toll, however, still stands at around 140 people. There are 146 sets of human remains that they have found. They don't know because of the severity of that tornado and the damage that it did to those bodies, whether some of those remains may in fact be duplicate.
I want to report that a search-and-rescue operation continues to be underway there. It's kind of amazing that after this tornado struck this community and leveled about a third of the structures in the community, they are still going through that rubble you're seeing and searching for potential victims.
They have gone through most of the community five times now and they are preparing to conduct a sixth go around with dogs and volunteers trying to find whom -- whoever may be buried under that rubble. Seven thousand people volunteered, officially have registered to volunteer in Joplin, Wolf, and they think there are probably thousands more who have not registered. Lots of people from around the country helping out there.
BLITZER: That always happens. A lot of volunteers, a lot of good people out there.
Thanks for that update.
Casey Wian, reporting.
Imagine if your home lost as much as 70 percent of its value in five years. It's a reality for some homeowners. We're taking a closer look right now into this story. We're looking at a second drop in home prices right now across the United States. Why is this going on?
And we're on the trail of what's known as the terrorist banking system that helped keep Osama bin Laden in business.
Much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: If you're trying to sell your home or thinking about it, brace yourself. A widely watched index shows home prices right now in this country have fallen back down to their lowest levels since the housing market collapsed. Gains made in recent years have now been wiped out in major parts of the country.
There is a silver lining to this economic setback. There are some remarkable deals out there for homebuyers.
Our own Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this story for us.
But if you're a homeowner and you've seen the value of your property plummet, you're very nervous.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That is not good news.
In fact, Wolf, many people out there might have thought the housing market was rebounding, that it was recovering. And if you thought that, well, guess again. That's not the case.
In fact, we've got new data that has come out that suggests otherwise. That, in fact, suggests that we are in what's called a double dip.
So you'll recall it was back in 2000 the market was just skyrocketing, prices were going up, and everybody was happy. They felt that they were feeling very house rich.
Well, now fast forward. Then you had 2006. You had the bubble burst. And now what we're seeing is we saw a little bit of a recovery, but now it's come back down again. And that's what people are calling as the double dip, and it's a real big concern.
There's new data from the S&P Case-Shiller, their 20-city index, that shows in the first quarter of this year, housing prices fell more than four percent nationwide. There are some cities -- Washington, D.C., is an exception -- where values have been sustained, but there are also other places. And one place in particular, Arizona. I want to talk a little bit about a neighborhood.
It is just north of Phoenix, El Mirage, Arizona. Homes there have lost values of 60 to 70 percent. So a house that was selling at about $200,000 back in 2006, that house is now selling for about $70,000. And that is according to Arizona realtor John Greer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GREER, ARIZONA REALTOR: This is a short sale property, which means that the owner owes more on the property than what the house is worth, what it will sell for. This house, the list price is $70,000. It probably was worth 60 percent, possibly 70 percent more than that during the peak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: You know, and that is a real concern. And another thing, Wolf, is that there are so many bank-owned properties. There are more than 800,000 bank-owned properties out there, and they just have a glut of these foreclosed properties. And that doesn't look very good in terms of the market around, at least in the short term.
BLITZER: And I know you've been speaking to experts. So how do we turn things around?
SYLVESTER: You know, they say that a lot of this is tied to the job market, and that's part of the problem, is when you have people who are unemployed, they lose their jobs, they are not able to pay for their house, and what they say is it's going to take time. You've got to get people back to work, you've got to get lenders lending again. That's a really key point also -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Here in D.C., in the D.C. metropolitan area, we're basically sheltered a little bit from this. But in other parts of the country like Florida, California, Arizona --
SYLVESTER: Nevada is another one. Yes, those places have been hit hard. Really, really hard.
BLITZER: Yes, really hard.
Lisa, thanks very much.
Sarah Palin's bus tour may be leaving her possible rivals for the Republican presidential nomination way, way behind, at least in the media dust. Stand by for our "Strategy Session."
And will the death of a 13-year-old boy be a turning point in Syria's revolution?
BLITZER: Sarah Palin is playing hard to get, keeping the media guessing about her mystery bus tour, where it will stop next as she makes her way to various American historic sites. Palin's bus is sparking lots of buzz about a possible White House run.
CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here with me in Washington.
What's she trying to do here, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think she's very much trying to re-brand herself, Wolf. If you look at the poll ratings, she has a 61 percent unfavorable rating among Independent voters, 59 percent overall. She does much better with Republicans.
But if you want to go out there and have an impact on policy, you have to prove to the Republican Party and to voters that you can beat Barack Obama and that you're worth listening to. And I think -- there are people I have spoken with, Republican strategists, who say she has been too relentlessly negative and that she really ought not give voice to people's resentment, but ought to talk about what's good in America, and that's what we hear her doing on this tour. So I think it's a little bit of redoing of the brand of Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: Improving the brand for her own personal fortune, shall we say?
BORGER: Could be.
BLITZER: She's been making millions of dollars since giving up the governorship of Alaska. Or improving her brand to get ready for a run for the Republican nomination?
BORGER: Well, we don't know, do we? Because she's keeping us guessing.
I've been talking to Republican strategists who say there's absolutely no sign in the early states that she is hiring the requisite staff you would need. But if you talk to people who are close to Sarah Palin, they will tell you that she believes, since she said this herself, that this would be kind of a spontaneous thing, that she wouldn't need to run a conventional campaign, that people would come out of the woodwork to help her and support her. So she says the conventional ways we judge these things don't count when it comes to Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: Well, she may be right, because she does have, what, 100 percent name recognition?
BORGER: She does.
BLITZER: Unlike almost all of the other Republican candidates.
BORGER: She does. But the problem is, a lot of that is unfavorable. And Republicans, more than anything else, want to beat Barack Obama, and you're not going to win a Republican primary contest when people think you're unelectable.
So being electable is the key thing here. And in many ways, I think if Sarah Palin were to get in, the beneficiary of Sarah Palin getting in would be Mitt Romney. And the reason for that is it would freeze the rest of the field, Republicans would start looking towards a candidate they thought could beat Barack Obama, and he could be the last guy standing out there.
BLITZER: Because a lot of Republicans have said to me, as much as they like Sarah Palin, they think she's dynamic and she has got great ideas, she could turn out to be like a Sharron Angle was in Nevada, who lost to Harry Reid, a Tea Party favorite, or Christine O'Donnell, in Delaware, who lost to Chris Coons, who was a mainstream Democrat. She might be able to get the Republican nomination, but these Republicans are concerned there's no way she could win on Election Day.
BORGER: Right. And you have to judge this state by state. In an early state like Iowa, for example, where there are a bunch of Evangelical Christians who participate in the Iowa caucuses, Sarah Palin may have a pretty good shot. But if you go to a state like New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney looks very good, she could have a much more difficult time. So you have to work your way through the primary process.
The question I have about Sarah Palin is, how will she wear? The more you see of her, will you like her more, or will you like her less?
You know, one of the things that we've seen in the Republican field is that other people have been getting more attention. Donald Trump got an awful lot of attention. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, getting a lot of attention now. So, for the moment, she takes up all of the oxygen, but we'll see what happens when the tour is over, Wolf.
BLITZER: You've heard that one scenario unfold, how she becomes president of the United States. And I'll walk you through it briefly.
BLITZER: She wins Iowa. She does well in New Hampshire, doesn't win, but she wins South Carolina.
BORGER: Nevada. Yes.
BLITZER: She goes on and gets the Republican nomination. Then a third party candidate like Michael Bloomberg decides to run, they split up a lot of that vote, no one gets the 270 electoral votes. It goes to the House of Representatives, where there is a clear Republican majority.
BORGER: For Sarah Palin, right?
BLITZER: For Sarah Palin. And the Republicans control the House of Representatives. And if no one gets 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives decides who is the next president.
BORGER: You know, we can spin out all these scenarios all we want, and believe me, we love spinning out these scenarios. But I think first thing, first, Sarah Palin has to declare whether indeed she is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. And so far, she has been telling people on this tour, you know, I haven't decided yet. This is her version of a family vacation, except there's a bigger bus than an RV most families would take.
BLITZER: It's a really nice bus.
BORGER: Not as nice as the CNN Election Express.
BLITZER: We have a lovely bus also. Thank you.
This programming note -- CNN's New Hampshire presidential debate, now less than two weeks away. Please join us Monday night, June 13th, as the Republican hopefuls square off on the issues. This debate, only here on CNN.
Pressure right now is mounting on President Obama to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. He promised a withdrawal will begin in July. What's going on? When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, how much is enough?
You're telling Jack Cafferty what you think.
And a young boy is detained by Syrian authorities, but it's what happened next that is turning him into the face of Syria's uprising and causing other children to say enough is enough.
BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, how much is enough?
Mark writes from Oklahoma City, "We went way past enough a long time ago. When will these nation-building idiot leaders of ours ever realize we cannot force democracy on a culture that doesn't even comprehend the concept? Six thousand Americans lost in that region of the world. For what?"
Gary writes from Michigan, "Of all the ideological wars we've gotten ourselves into since Korea, none has been worth one American life or one life of those homes of the countries of the people we have fought in. Ideology and promoting our way of life on those who don't wish it will always end in failure because there is never any definition of winning."
Jim writes from Reno, Nevada, "Afghanistan played willing host to the vermin that launched the 9/11 attacks. If we leave prematurely, al Qaeda will return to Afghan safe havens. When Afghanistan has the ability and political will to fight the terrorists and defeat them, or at least keep them in hiding, then we can leave."
Lori in Pennsylvania says,, "Wasn't getting bin Laden the whole point of Afghanistan? Now that we have done that, isn't it time to bring the troops home?"
"The money we'd save could be put toward bringing down our deficit. It could also be used to help those hard hit by natural disasters in places like Joplin, Missouri, and elsewhere over the last few months. Whatever action the government takes, it needs to be done only to benefit the United States."
Annie writes from Georgia, "It's time you and the media tell it like it is. It will be enough when the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about says it's enough and not a moment before. And as long as there is money to be made, it will never be enough. Greed is the name of the game, no matter the cost." M.D. writes, "It hasn't been enough for years. If you conquer it, what are you going to do with it? At times we don't even seem capable of running our own county. Let the Afghan people work their own way into this century."
If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you.
It's one of the mysteries of Osama bin Laden's year in hiding. How did he fund this terror network without revealing his location? We're investigating a secretive system of exchanging cash in Pakistan.
And a startling admission that some anti-government protesters in Egypt were forced to endure what are called virginity checks.
BLITZER: Almost a full month after the death of Osama bin Laden, we are now learning more about how he was able to secretly finance his terrorist network during a decade in hiding.
Our senior international correspondent Stan Grant investigates a very old and a very shady way of exchanging cash in Pakistan.
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're on the trail of something that's been branded "terrorist banking." It doesn't take long for people to get nervous.
We're outside the uncomfortably named but unconnected Osama Money Exchange. These men don't want us here. We can't say they're hiding anything. But according to those who know, if you want to trace the black money trail, this is the type of place to start.
(on camera): This is the sort of place where these transactions are carried out?
ATTIQ-UR-REHMAN, PAKISTANI ACADEMIC: We can say this type of place, because I told you --
GRANT (voice-over): Attiq-ur-Rehman is a Pakistani academic who tracks the workings of al Qaeda. He zeroed in on Osama bin Laden's financing. Bankrolling his terror network, he says, ran into the tens of millions of dollars each year.
How to do it? Something called Hawala Banking, a centuries-old system of transferring cash.
Money is pledged in one location and collected immediately from a broker, or hawaladar, sometimes in completely different countries. All that's needed is the secret code. A fee is collected at both ends.
REHMAN: Because this business is totally based on their reputation, their good will.
GRANT (on camera): And trust, yes? Trust. So, it's quick? Money can be moved --
REHMAN: Reliable. Reliable.
REHMAN: Swifter. And left --
GRANT: But also open to corruption.
GRANT (voice-over): Rehman says some transactions can run into the millions of dollars. Governments simply cannot trace the money. It thrives in third world countries where ordinary people prefer this simple, traditional system.
So do terrorists.
REHMAN: The terrorists all over the world, they prefer this system.
GRANT (on camera): They prefer this system?
REHMAN: They prefer this system all over the world. Wherever they are working, wherever they are, they prefer this system.
GRANT: So, we can't stop them. There is no way that use this system --
REHMAN: We can't stop them, but we can take action against the people who are operating the system.
GRANT (voice-over): That is what Pakistan is trying to do. The government has set up legitimate Hawala transfers, incorporating it into their regulated banking.
Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has made it his mission to go after the black money trail. They've made arrests and set up a special task force to crack down on the brokers. But he says it's a battle they can't win alone.
MALIK, REHMAN: My appeal to the international community, that please, help us in identifying those people worldwide who are dealing with Hawala. Because there's the other end. We can handle this in, but we need the help from the other end.
GRANT: Hawala runs on trust, and criminals and terrorists have their own code. They won't give up their secrets easily.
(on camera): We're now being told to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not allowed.
GRANT: They don't want us to film -- we're not allowed to film here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not allowed here.
GRANT: OK. We're about to leave. This is clearly a sensitive area and a sensitive subject, so --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GRANT: -- we're going to leave right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GRANT: Thank you. Thank you.
(voice-over): Stan Grant, CNN, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.