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THE SITUATION ROOM

Iran Flaunts Big Nuclear Advances; Terrorist Group Merger

Aired February 15, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Iran's president flaunts a big step forward in the country's nuclear program. This hour, growing fears an atomic bomb could be next.

Plus, news concerns that Iran might attack Jewish targets in the U.S.

Also, a new focus in the investigation of Whitney Houston's death. Authorities want to know who prescribed the medication found in the hotel room where she died.

And an international fugitive caught after almost 20 years on the run after his son apparently had too many drinks and his daughter-in- law got scared.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos are straight ahead. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley, and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

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CROWLEY: Right now, Iran may be a big step closer to making a nightmare scenario for the west come true, but the Iran government insists the new advances in its nuclear program off war piece purposes, but many world leaders are skeptical and even more determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We want to go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, even today, as Iran unveiled new limits of its nuclear program, it kept claiming it was for medical and research purposes, but is it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on hand to unveil what he says is a big step in its nuclear program, loading the first nuclear fuel rod made in Iran. The announcement came with lots of pageantry on Iranian state television. The stage Ahmadinejad spoke on adorned with images of nuclear scientists killed by unknown assailants, and a defiant Ahmadinejad flanked by what looks like a centrifuge to sending Iran's plans. PRES. MAMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): Any nation would dare approach to try to get access to this know-how. They started immediately to put pressures, to impose sanctions, to make threats.

STARR: Iran says it's also getting a new generation of advanced centrifuges, and it will produce yellowcake. All critical steps for Iran's ability to make a tone nuclear fuel, but how significance is it all? The state department doesn't seem to be too worried.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We, frankly, don't see a lot new here. This is not big news. In fact, it seems to have been hyped.

STARR: But experts disagree.

JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: It's definitely a technical achievement to be able to make fuel rods for this reactor. It's not easy to do. Many people didn't think Iran can do it, so they definitely have something to crow about.

STARR: The announcement may be Tehran's latest negotiating ploy for concessions against crippling sanctions. But it still leaves the U.S. closely watching for any signs Iran has crossed the so-called red line into making a nuclear weapon.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: A clear indicator would be enrichment of uranium to a 90 percent level would be a good indicator of their seriousness.

STARR: But its own account, Iran isn't there yet, but other potential signs are being watched.

CIRINCIONE: They would have to kick out inspectors, turned their facilities over to making bombs, and we'd have time to take action.

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STARR (on-camera): So, if Iran was to make that decision to go for weapons grade nuclear fuel, the estimate is, it could them another six months to make enough of it, and after that, about another year and a half to be able to put it on a warhead and put it on top of a missile. All very worrisome developments that you can bet U.S. and Israeli intelligence, Candy, are going to keep watching.

CROWLEY: Barbara Starr, thanks very much, in the Pentagon today for us.

Most Americans don't want the U.S. to take military action to force Iran to shut down its nuclear program. Our new CNN/ORC poll shows 60 percent of the public supports diplomatic or economic action against Iran, 22 percent favor no action at all, only 17 percent think the U.S. should use military force.

There's another reason U.S. officials are worried about Iran right now. There are growing concerns that Iran or its surrogates might launch attacks against Jewish targets here in the U.S. Our Brian Todd is looking into that.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, at least one group that's been targeted in the past by the Iranians in other countries is aware of this possible threat and taking its own measures.

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TODD (voice-over): Will Jewish facilities have a police presence at their curbs for the foreseeable future? Jewish leaders tell us they're boosting their security and for good reason. With talk of a possible Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, there's new concern about how Iran might retaliate, maybe by using its proxies like the terrorist group, Hezbollah.

What's Iran's capability of doing damage inside the United States?

FRANK CILLUFFO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: You know, that's actually very difficult to give you a clear, concrete answer to, but we do know that Hezbollah does have its footprints, and they have a role and have had a presence in the United States in the broader Americas.

TODD: Frank Cilluffo, former homeland security aide to President Bush says there are also criminal enterprises in the U.S. which Iran could tap into to carry out an attack.

(on-camera) Experts say synagogues, Jewish community centers and schools are soft targets. This joint Homeland Security and FBI bulletin sent last week to law enforcement agencies says that violent extremist groups have long advocated attacking places like this, but it also says as of last week, there was no specific threat to Jewish organizations inside the United States stemming from those recent tensions with Iran.

(voice-over) A homeland security official says there's been no change in that assessment since then, but I asked one woman about the threat as kids were let out at the synagogue.

Places like this are, sometimes, considered soft targets. Are you concerned about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I am, because I work in the community, and I worry as not only as an individual, but also as a Jewish woman.

TODD: Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, says her agency is monitoring the Hezbollah threat.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are reaching out to, particularly, the Jewish community across the country who have been the intended targets in the past.

TODD: Iran has proven it can launch deadly strikes on foreign soil, bombing Jewish targets in Argentina, assassinating a former Iranian prime minister in Paris. U.S. officials say with their backs against the wall, the Iranians may, again, make a bold stroke like their alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. But former CIA officer, Reuel Gerecht, who tracked Iranian operations says that episode shows the regime can also bungle these plots.

REUEL MARC GERECHT, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Even when the Iranians have succeeded in the past with terrorist strikes (ph), and they have often succeeded, I don't know of a one where we haven't recognized them.

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TODD (on-camera): Gerecht says the Iranians may have sleeper cells inside the U.S., but he says it might take them a while to get those cells operational to carry out an attack. He says, for that reason, if Iran is attacked, look for there to be some lag time between that and a possible retaliatory strike -- Candy.

CROWLEY: But there is some way that more immediately the U.S. could strike against U.S. interests at least?

TODD: That's right. Iran could do that. Reuel Gerecht says that in the more -- in the immediate right after an attack, they can try to close the Strait of Hormuz, choking off U.S. oil supplies from the Gulf. He said that would, of course, provoke a pretty nasty confrontation with U.S. military, but it is a way they could hit back right away, and they're right there. They can do that.

CROWLEY: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

We also have new information about another global threat. CNN has obtained a U.S. intelligence bulletin about the merger of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab with al Qaeda. It says the move could further radicalize al-Shabaab sympathizers and encourage them to adapt al Qaeda's focus on attacking the west. But the bulletin also says the merger could reduce Al Ashabab support within the Somali community here in the United States.

We want to bring in CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She serves on the CIA and Homeland Security advisory board. So, Fran, so we have these new FBI alerts.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

CROWLEY: many pages long. Can you translate them for us? Is this get worried or is this just, you know, hey, for a lack of a better word CYA on the part of government officials.

TOWNSEND: Well, I think, let's start with the al-Shabaab/al- Qaeda one. Those in the intelligence and law enforcement communities would say to you we've known that they've been working together, al- Shabaab/al-Qaeda, for some time now. And so, this wasn't really any news other than they made an announcement about it.

And if you look closely at the wording of the alert that went out to state and local authorities, there was some snickering about, well, it could radicalize people, and it could turn them away. And so, it doesn't really tell (ph) state and local officials very much. On Iran, on the other hand, look, there is a good deal of chest beating by Ahmadinejad today in this announcement, and you have to take that with some skepticism.

Let's remember, Saddam Hussein also beat his chest about a WMD program that had turned out had (INAUDIBLE) for years and misled, frankly, U.S. intelligence. And so, I think we have to be skeptical about the facts. The truth of what Ahmadinejad was saying today. But that said, we've seen a more radical approach by Iran.

The fact that they've gone from what they need for a civilian nuclear program which is about 3.5 percent enriched uranium to 20 percent is concerning if that's true. Of course, that's not the 90 percent that you need for weapons grades, but it certainly is a far step on that path. And, we've seen bombings just in the last -- over the last week in Georgia, in India, and Thailand. It's not yet been proven that that's directly tied, but that's got to be a concern if it turns out that they are.

And we've mentioned in Brian's report the plot inside the U.S. against the Saudi ambassador, that's a step beyond what we have seen in the past from Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah. And so, I think the Iran threat is one that you've got to take seriously, especially if you're a Jewish community here in the United States.

CROWLEY: Fran, you've already suggested we should take that photo-op from Ahmadinejad, at least skeptically, because we thought before there were nuclear weaponry -- there was nuclear arsenal in Iraq that turned out not to be the case. But, you know, then why do it? Let's assume it's not really what he says it is, what Ahmadinejad says it is. Why would he do it? Is it for internal consumption? Is he pounding his chest for, you know, world purposes? Why would he do it?

TOWNSEND: I mean, I think he does it. I think he does it for both audiences. First, we know that there's a tremendous amount of Iranian pride in the nuclear program. That's why you see the pictures of the Iran nuclear scientist who've died. And there's a real sense of pride in that program. So, it's partly for that. And it's also, remember, the sanctions, the increasing effect of the sanctions in Iran by the international community have had a very crippling strong effect. \\

And it's only going to get worse as Iran's oil supply has cut off from its customer's around the world when that kicks in. And so, I think it's both. He's looking to increase his leverage in international negotiations, and he's also looking to maintain a certain level of national pride among Iranians in the program and what they've achieved.

CROWLEY: And finally, Fran, if you had to look at it, is Iran any more dangerous to U.S. security interests today than two months ago or three months ago?

TOWNSEND: Well, look, I think as they feel increasing pressure of sanctions and the international community, and when you see their willingness to sort of consider however botched it was, an attack on U.S. soil against foreign diplomat, you've got to see them getting increasingly desperate.

And I am pretty concerned that these bombings in Georgia, India, and Thailand are an indication of increasing Iranian aggression and willingness to take desperate steps. So, I think they are a greater threat today.

CROWLEY: Fran Townsend, thank you so much, our CNN national security contributor. We should mention that Fran and many other former national security officials support the U.S. state department dropping the terror designation for the Iranian opposition group, MEK. The European Union has already dropped that group from its list.

New details on the Whitney Houston death investigation. Now, her medical records are in the spotlight. That's not all. We're live in Los Angeles.

Plus, the Mormon church issues an apology for what it calls, quote, "a serious breach of protocol." We'll explain.

And good news for President Obama, but not everyone's buying it. We'll explain in the SITUATION ROOM.

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CROWLEY: Jack is back with here the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Candy. Rick Santorum insists he can win the swing states, but he lost a third-Senate term in his own Pennsylvania, a swing state, by a whopping 18-point margin, a stunning defeat for a two-term incumbent senator. Santorum lost almost every part of the state, too, almost every demographic group, including blue collar workers.

Supporters say Santorum lost the 2006 race due to a tough political climate for Republicans. President Bush was unpopular, so was the Iraq war, but there was a lot more to Santorum's loss than that. He lost by a landslide. If Mitt Romney want to defeat Rick Santorum, who is the current flavor of the month in the polls, all he has to do is read some of this stuff allowed at his campaign stops.

In 2006, Santorum faced charges of hypocrisy for living in Virginia with his family while he's a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and allowing a Pennsylvania school to pay for his kids' online education. He blamed radical feminists for forcing women to work. He questioned the need for two working parent households. Try explaining that to Americans struggling in this economy to make ends meet.

Overall, his political image changed from a fiscal conservative to someone opposed to abortion and gay marriage. Santorum has compared homosexuality to incest and polygamy, and suggested that Boston (ph) liberals were to blame for the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Can you spell wacko?

Santorum also inserted himself into the Terri Schiavo case. That was the one where some of the members of the federal government thought it was their job, not the families, to decide if a brain- damaged woman should have her feeding tube removed. It was a disgrace.

Here's the question, does Rick Santorum have electability issues if he lost his Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat by 18 points? Here's a clue, you bet your fern, he does. You can comment on this on my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's" Facebook page -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Bet my fern, ok?

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Yes. If you have a fern, better.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Thanks, Jack. We'll see you later in the hour.

The investigation to Whitney Houston's stunning death is taking a somewhat unusual turn as authorities were determined who prescribed the medication found in the hotel room where she died. CNN entertainment correspondent, Kareen Wynter, is in Los Angeles with the very latest -- Kareen.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy. You know, it's been four days, four days, since Whitney Houston died, and new details regarding the investigation into her death are coming to light. Los Angeles County coroner's office confirms, Candy, that they have issued subpoenas for the singer's medical records as well as prescriptions.

Now, investigators are also contacting pharmacies where the prescriptions were filled. Several doctors and pharmacies in California and other states, Candy, have been contacted, according to the coroner's office. And officials say these doctors have been, quote, "cooperative." We've also confirmed that all prescriptions found in the room of the upscale Beverly Hilton hotel where Houston died last weekend were under the singer's name.

Candy, we should also mention that the coroner's office also said that it does not appear that Houston, who had a very public battle with drug addiction during her career was, quote, "doctor shopping." And Candy, CNN has confirmed that Houston visited a doctor in Beverly Hills just four days before she died.

The doctor, an ENT, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, he's treated her for throat and vocal problems for several years as well as many other well-known singers, Candy, who've had vocal issues as well -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Hey, Kareen, Houston's funeral takes place this Saturday. I understand the pastor for that funeral is speaking out?

WYNTER: That's right. Gospel singer, Marvin Winans, who knew Houston quite well, and he actually officiated her 1992 marriage to Bobby Brown. Well, he will give the eulogy at the funeral. And yesterday, Winans, who is the brother of gospel singer, CeCe Winans was asked what it meant to give the eulogy to the popular singer, Candy. Here's what he said.

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WYNTER: Tell me your reaction to hearing that -- to being asked to do the honor.

MARVIN WINANS, GOSPEL SINGER: Well, you know, when I heard that Whitney was gone, I have to say I wasn't surprised, because that's just how close our families were, as you probably heard. When she was here in November, she was at church. I did not know that that was the last time I would see her.

But that was a frequent thing. I mean, whenever she was in town, she would come. Whenever she did concerts, she would call, and we would get together. So, I would much rather have Whitney here.

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WYNTER: By the way, Candy, it was actually at the request of Houston's mother, Cissy, that Winans give the eulogy. So, he's clearly someone the family has deep respect for and feels extremely close to -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Kareen Wynter, thank you so much.

You are now looking at live pictures outside the Houston family church in Newark, New Jersey where that private invitation only funeral will be held. We're just learning Whitney Houston's godmother, the legendary Aretha Franklin, has been asked to perform.

We also now know that Houston's cousin, singer, Dionne Warwick, is in New Jersey with the family, helping plan the arrangements.

Please tune in to CNN for special live coverage of that funeral starting Saturday morning at 11:00 eastern with our Piers Morgan, Soledad O'Brien, and Don Lemon.

Over to Syria now where the constant bombardment isn't the only concern. Now, new details on a pipeline explosion that blanked into the city of Homs with thick black smoke.

Plus, looking for answers about the controversial Mississippi pardon. Our Ed Lavandera chases after, and we mean chases after, former governor, Haley Barbour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Governor, Ed Lavandera with CNN. Can we talk to you real quick?

HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: Let me go get my instructions first then we'll talk. LAVANDERA: Can you come out and talk to us here in a second?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: President Obama on the move today to try to sell voters on his economic agenda. At the same time, his poll numbers are on the rise. His approval rating is up to 50 percent for the first time in eight months, at least, according to our new survey, but many Americans still are hurting, even in the shadow of the lock company he showcased and praised today. Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, traveled with the president to Wisconsin.

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DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Long before U.S. jobs flew overseas for cheaper labor, this community in Milwaukee was alive with manufacturing plants and the residual prosperity that came with made in America, but much of that boom is boarded up. This is where President Obama sees opportunity.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're selling products directly to customers in China, stamped with those words "Made in America."

LOTHIAN: The president has touted Master Lock as an example of in-sourcing, in other words outsourcing in reverse.

OBAMA: The CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home.

LOTHIAN: A 100 jobs from China have returned to this plant on 32nd street. It's not like the good old days when the company ran this unforgettable Super Bowl ad, but the president says it symbolizes a positive trend.

OBAMA: We've got to seize this moment of opportunity. We can't let it slip away. We've got an opportunity to create new American jobs and American manufacturing.

LOTHIAN: But in-sourcing has yet to benefit many people living just around the corner like Maurice Dates.

MAURICE DATES, NEIGHBOR: We need jobs, you know? Jobs are our most focused, because some hard-working man is still out here that's still trying, and you know, there's so much we have to -- at that time, you know, it's hard for us to raise our children with the jobs surrounding us?

LOTHIAN: It's a desperate situation for some who stood in long lines at a job fair this week in Milwaukee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to be employed.

LOTHIAN: There's a lot of pressure on the president to deliver on his economic promises.

OBAMA: If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition.

LOTHIAN: Republicans use every opportunity to give him a failing grade.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: The president's policies are not helping our economy.

LOTHIAN: But a new CNN/ORC poll shows that while most Americans are pessimistic about how the country is doing, the number of those who think things are going well is on the rise, up 10 points from December, 15 points from the month before.

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LOTHIAN (on-camera): The president today talked about the need to provide tax incentives, to keep U.S. companies from sending jobs overseas, to try to entice some of those companies already there to come back, and then, to help pay for that move -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Hey, Dan, just curious. You know, sometimes when you're on the campaign trail, you don't even need to look at the new poll numbers to know whether someone's had, you know, a bad look at them or a good one. Is there anything different about the president now out? And honestly, this is the first time in, what, six months or something, that he's had poll ratings with 50 percent overall approval?

LOTHIAN: That's right. Well, it's not something that they're talking about publicly, but you can certainly see the president today in his remarks feeling a bit more upbeat, it appeared, as he was delivering his remarks here. It was almost like a call and answer session at different points with the audience here, felt very much like a campaign event.

So, this is certainly good news for the president who's seeing those poll numbers, those low poll numbers now for quite sometime, for the past eight months, and now, his approval rating at 50 percent.

CROWLEY: Dan, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

President and Mrs. Obama, apparently, felt like celebrating when they went out for an intimate Valentines date dinner. It was just intimate as you can get when you're president and first lady. We just got the photo of their outing last night at a Washington area restaurant called Vermilion. It looks as though the president may have had a martini while, perhaps, Mrs. Obama sip white wine. He attended earlier in the day he had special Valentines Day dinner plans.

Mississippi Supreme Court is deciding whether scores of pardons granted by former governor, Haley Barbour, can be challenged. Barbour hasn't said much about those controversial pardons since he granted them in his final days in office. So CNN's Ed Lavandera tried to catch up with Barbour to ask him about the roughly 200 people he pardoned, including four murderers.

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ED LAVANDERA, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Since Haley Barbour won't come to us, we thought we would go to him. We found the former Mississippi governor giving a speech at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

LAVANDERA: How about it, Governor? Ed Lavandera with CNN.

FORMER Mississippi GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR: Hey, Ed, how are you doing?

LAVANDERA: Can we talk to you real quick?

BARBOUR: Let me go get my instructions first, and then we'll talk --

(CROSSTALK)

LAVANDERA: Can you talk to us here in a second?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): He wouldn't give us a second and walked right inside the building, but not before showing us what he thought of the questions.

LAVANDERA: Governor, can you talk to us about the pardons?

BARBOUR: (Inaudible) business right here.

LAVANDERA: All right. We'll wait for you out here, then.

BARBOUR: Got to stay where it's cold (ph).

LAVANDERA: He just told me to stay where I'm cold.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): We waited. Barbour didn't come back. We went inside to find him giving his speech. The theme, ironically enough, was how government needs to do a better job of explaining its actions.

BARBOUR: But, you know, I learned a great lesson about government when we did the census in 1970, and that is that the government is not a very good communicator, that the government doesn't do a very good job at getting things across. So I've been trying all of my career to do a better job.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But Governor Barbour wasn't in the mood to practice what he just preached.

LAVANDERA: Governor, can we get a few minutes to talk about the pardons with you?

BARBOUR: Not really. When the Supreme Court rules, then it will be time to talk. I'm not so presumptuous as to predict -- I'm not so presumptuous to predict what the Supreme Court is going to do. But when they rule, then we can talk.

(CROSSTALK)

LAVANDERA: -- the families want to hear -- the families want to hear from you. Why won't you talk to them?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The governor walked away again. So we waited outside to give him one last chance. This time he surrounded himself with security to keep us away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to move back, please. (Inaudible) go over there so he can come out.

LAVANDERA: Governor, we can talk this out in five minutes, Governor. Governor, can we get just five minutes?

BARBOUR: When the Supreme Court rules, then we can.

LAVANDERA: But why can't you talk to these families who want to hear from you, who you have refused to meet with? Do you regret pardoning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The door slammed before I could finish asking if he regretted pardoning Harry Bostick (ph) a repeat DUI offender. Bostick (ph) was in jail, suspected of a fourth DUI after a crash that ended in the death of 18-year-old Charity Smith (ph). The question remains unanswered still -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Lexington, Virginia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: A serious breech of protocol -- that's what the Mormon Church is calling a mistake that they're apologizing for. We'll explain next.

Plus a surprise move by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but some people are very suspicious. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Fiery pipeline blasts are rocking Syria. Our Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN REPORTER: Candy, the thick smoke is said to be suffocating residents, while the endless shelling has reportedly left another 25 people dead just today. The U.N. could vote as early as tomorrow on a resolution formally condemning the bloodshed in its strongest statement yet against the crackdown.

Meantime, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sets a February 26th vote for a new constitution, allowing for a multiparty system. Protesters are rejecting the move, calling it nothing more than, quote, "window dressing."

New signs former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could face jail. Prosecutors have asked a court to sentence him to five years behind bars if he's found guilty on corruption charges for allegedly bribing a British lawyer. Berlusconi faces a separate trial on charges he hired an underage prostitute. He resigned from office in November amid a grave financial crisis.

Here in the U.S., Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has tapped to chair this summer's Democratic National Convention. He'll oversee the daily schedule while party leaders and delegates gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September. Between now and then he'll likely also be a case surrogate for President Obama in his reelection campaign.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

SNOW: Mark it here: for the first time ever, the heavy metal band Megadeath makes our political ticker. Founder and lead singer Dave Mustaine is endorsing Rick Santorum for president. He says he was impressed by Santorum's decision to leave the campaign trail to be with his sick daughter and how he's avoided attack ads against his rivals.

Mustaine says he's previously supported Newt Gingrich, but became disillusioned. I don't know, it could be some interesting music tributes there on the campaign trail.

CROWLEY: Indeed, that's for sure. Thanks, Mary Snow, very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

CROWLEY: Whitney Houston's death certificate has just been released. So we want to go back to California. And CNN's Kareen Wynter with details.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN REPORTER: Well, Candy, we just got a copy of Whitney Houston's death certificate. It's in our hands right now, and the really big headline out of this, Candy, is that the cause of death is listed as deferred. What does that mean? Well, coroners have not identified what killed the singer. They're waiting for toxicology results to come back.

And just to give you an idea, Candy, in any given case, not just one that involves a big star like Whitney Houston, when you're waiting on toxicology results, it usually takes between six to eight weeks, but speaking to my sources, they said that it seems as if perhaps this may have had some sort of rush on it, that it may have been expedited.

So with that said we could get this back much sooner. Again, no definitive timeline on when those results will come back. But at that point, coroners will be able to make that final, final determination. And everyone here basically, Los Angeles, all my colleagues as well as myself, we've been in contact with the coroner's office all week long. And they tell us what's tricky here is that when it comes to toxicology results, you know, sometimes when there's a substance that shows up in someone's system, you've got to retest it if there's a spike, for example, given in that -- with that particular drug, Candy.

So this is not a situation where they want to say, oh, maybe it could be this, they have to be absolutely sure, definitive, and that's what they're waiting for and that's why they're taking their time. So, again, this coming in from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the death certificate cause of death listed as deferred. Candy?

CROWLEY: Kareen, thank you very much.

A suspected international fugitive managed to hide for two decades until his daughter-in-law reportedly ratted him out. Stand by for details of a fascinating family drama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: An international fugitive nabbed after almost 20 years on the run, and police say it was his daughter-in-law who exposed his mysterious double life here in the U.S. We want to bring in our Mary Snow with the details.

SNOW: Candy, you know, this was a case that seemed might never be solved. And that's until police got a tip that prompted them do online research and reached out to federal agents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW (voice-over): This was Edward Maher in 1993, wanted for an armored car robbery in the U.K. This is Edward Maher arrested in Ozark, Missouri, last week. The fugitive nicknamed Fast Eddie captured the imagination of Great Britain. A U.K newspaper recently wrote there was little chance of finding him after 20 years on the lam.

Accused of stealing 1 million British pounds during a bank delivery, it was believed Maher fled to the U.S. to meet up with wife and son. The case went cold until police say his double life was exposed in the small town of Ozark, Missouri. He went by the name Michael, and was working as a cable installer.

LEE KING, SON OF EDWARD MAHER: My dad is one of the nicest guys you'll meet. He's only ever done what's good for us. There's no way that he would do this by choice. He wouldn't just do it to do it. He doesn't -- he doesn't commit crimes. I mean, he's the one that gets me out of trouble.

SNOW (voice-over): Lee King told station KSPR that his family moved around a lot and was told it was because of his father's job, but police say it was King's wife, Maher's daughter-in-law, who tipped them off about a potential international fugitive. She also told them she felt threatened.

Enter police officer David Overcast.

DAVID OVERCAST, POLICE OFFICER: When I was talking with her, she told me about where this Michael Maher, was the name he was using, lived. I remembered Michael Maher. I'd dealt with him before. I remember him having an English accent.

SNOW (voice-over): The officer says he went online, because he says the woman was so emotional that he believed her and looked up Fast Eddie Maher.

OVERCAST: I thought, wow, there is a Fast Eddie Maher.

(LAUGHTER)

OVERCAST: But, you know, what's the chances of this being my guy?

SNOW (voice-over): He went to the FBI. Immigration agents got involved. On February 8th, Maher was arrested on suspicion of immigration violations and gun charges. A criminal complaint states Maher's wife led officers to several weapons in their home and a storage facility.

It also states that Maher told them he used his brother's name Michael and obtained false identification in the U.S. in order to conceal his true identity because he was wanted for a crime that he committed in England.

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SNOW: Now Maher is being held without bond. We reached out to the public defender representing him, but he didn't immediately return our calls. Also a woman who answered the phone at the Maher home said the family had no comment at this time.

And as for what happens next, the U.S. attorney's office say they have started talking with U.K. authorities. There's no word yet, though, on a formal extradition -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Wow. That's an amazing story. Mary Snow, thank you very much.

The Mormon church is on damage control after an embarrassing discovery involving Holocaust victims, who were baptized as Mormons after they died. Our Brian Todd is here with new information.

BRIAN TODD, CNN REPORTER: It's kind of a bizarre story, Candy. Mormon leaders are apologizing for what they call a serious breach of protocol. The parents of the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were baptized by the church posthumously as Mormons. That occurred at temples in Utah and Arizona.

This stems from a practice within the Mormon church. Mormons believe their deceased ancestors who never had the opportunity to be baptized can have that done by proxy, but church members are only supposed to request that those baptisms -- those baptisms for their own relatives, and that involves a detailed genealogy search.

Sometimes, though, members submit a name not connected to their family, and it gets through, and that's apparently what happened in this case.

Wiesenthal's father actually died in combat in World War I; his mother died at a concentration camp in 1942. This practice that was done with his parents violates a 1995 agreement, in which the Mormon church vowed to stop the baptism of Holocaust victims.

Jewish leaders outraged that the program is still going on, saying that it's sacrilegious for Mormons to suggest that Jews on their own were not worthy enough to receive God's eternal blessing.

A spokesman for the Mormon Church said, quote, "We sincerely regret the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of those names." That spokesman said they have suspended that person's ability to access genealogy records,

Candy, an embarrassing episode for the Mormon church. They meant well, apparently, but it just kind of exploded on them.

CROWLEY: Right. And Simon Wiesenthal isn't the only Jewish leader who was caught up in this.

TODD: That's right. The Mormon Church has acknowledged that three relatives of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel were entered into the church's genealogy broker-dealer, but they were never referred for baptism.

Wiesel has said Mitt Romney should to speak to his own church and tell them to stop the proxy baptism of Jews. Romney, of course, is a -- is a Mormon figure, a Mormon leader and now, of course, we've dragged politics into this --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: -- part of the political --

TODD: It may have been inevitable, considering the year and the climate that we're in, but an unfortunate episode here for the Mormon Church.

CROWLEY: Brian Todd, thank you.

Jack is asking you, does Rick Santorum have electability issues? Your answers are next.

Plus he is the hottest basketball player in the world, but just a few days ago, no one knew who he was. Jeannie Moos has her own -- and this won't surprise you -- pun-filled take on Jeremy Lin.

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CROWLEY: Now look who is here. It is time to check back with Jack. Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, HOST, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Thank you, Candy. Question this hour, does Rick Santorum have electability issues if he lost his U.S. Pennsylvania Senate seat by 18 points? Yes, he does.

Carol writes, "Rick Santorum has no appeal for intelligent women. He'll never get my vote. I'm a religious person but I don't have any faith in Bible-thumping politicians. The photo of him with the pastors laying hands on him was just plain creepy. And his views on women are ignorant and insulting."

M writes, "An empty cab arrived and Rick Santorum got out."

Terri on Facebook, "He has electability issues because he's not running in the 17th century. His stance on women is positively archaic, from healthcare to the military to working to birth control and beyond. Pennsylvania said the same thing America says: no."

S in Virginia writes, "The electability factor will weigh on 'can the new guy have a chance at making my existing conditions better?' The economy will decide who wins more so than the candidate's social stances. The majority of those Americans who are displaced and see little future for their retirements will be the driving force to determine who the next president is."

Vic writes, "It depends. Did you like the Crusades?"

Ken writes, "Nixon was vice president of the United States, went out of office, ran for governor of California, lost, then the next time he ran for office, he ended up President of the United States."

And Gord in New Jersey writes "Yes, as the standard better in the GOP's war against modern women, Rick Santorum is the epitome of 'Father Knows Best' paternalism. Behind that cherubic smile is a 14th century mind still struggling to come to grips with the Reformation."

If you want to read more of this enlightening diatribe, you go to my blog CNN.com/CaffertyFile or to our posts on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.

I believe he may have electability issues.

CROWLEY: Your guys do not hold back. I will say that.

CAFFERTY: They're great. I've got better writers than Leno.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thanks.

CAFFERTY: All right.

CROWLEY: A new NBA star is grabbing headlines all over the globe. The "New York Post" calls it thrill-Lin. Get it? And that's the only pun on Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin's name. Jeanne Moos is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Here's a look at this hour's top shots.

In Sri Lanka police used a water cannon against demonstrators protecting an increase in fuel prices.

In Oman men perform a ritual dance to celebrate a cycling race.

In Malaysia, wildlife officials display confiscated tiger skins from poachers.

And in India priests offered prayers on the banks of the Ganges River.

Hot shots -- pictures coming in from around the world.

Jeremy Lin is taking the NBA by storm. He is scoring points at a record pace and turning the Knicks into winners. But it's the Lin- vasion or Lin-trusion of puns about his name that caught the attention of CNN's Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): In less than two weeks, he went from frugally sleeping under the covers on a teammate's couch to the cover of "Sports Illustrated." And the three letters of his last name have become everyone's favorite word game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Lin-explicable --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lin-sanity

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My symptoms? Lin-somnia and Lin-testinal blockage.

MOOS (voice-over): Winning has become Linning. Headline writers are finding it thrill-Lin, inciting divine Lintervention. Shots like this with half a second left in the game sure look divine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lin for the win. He's got it.

MOOS (voice-over): Rhymes trip off the lips of announcers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lin to the rim.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeremy Lin, cut by two teams, came off the bench and made the hapless New York Knicks winners. Now Lin-sanity is inspiring songs.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

MOOS (voice-over): And to top it off, Lin comes across as a really nice guy, a team player.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe this is happening to you?

JEREMY LIN, NEW YORK KNICKS PLAYER: No.

MOOS (voice-over): He has an economics degree from Harvard and did a parody video telling kids how to get into the Ivy League school.

LIN: Step one: get glasses. If you already have glasses, get bigger glasses.

MOOS (voice-over): After Lin was seen doing a multi-step handshake that includes cupping the eyes to signify thick, nerdy glasses, a few folks started Linning, just like those Tebowing photo ops but focusing on the eyes.

MOOS: And if all the Lin word play and the puns are driving you nuts, too bad. They're spreading like Lin-fluenza.

MOOS (voice-over): If you have trouble making up your own, there's the Jeremy Lin word generator, Lin plus insult, Lin-sult. Lin plus indestructible, Lindestructible. Lin plus ninja, Linja. Lin himself came up with one.

LIN: Super Lintendo. I played (inaudible).

MOOS (voice-over): Director Spike Lee got positively giddy reciting poetry slamming Lin nicknames to "The Wall Street Journal."

SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR: Jeremy, I move so fast I must be on Rita- Lin. Jeremy, stop Asian profile-Lin.

MOOS (voice-over): Stephen Colbert offered Lin an endorsement deal --

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": -- of premium Lin- oleum tile.

MOOS (voice-over): But Lin prefers the basketball court, where he's become an Lin-derella story, kissed not by a prince --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) are we going to get a stop (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, Lint, New York. Get it?

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CROWLEY: I think this is now a little bit over the lin. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Candy Crowley in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.