Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

9/11 Allegations Against Saudi Arabia; More U.S. Blood After Koran Burnings; Ohio School Shooting; Super Tuesday; DC Metro Obama Ad Controversy; Blunt Amendment Rejected by Senate

Aired March 1, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: Topics from the candidates' chances (ph) on top issues to how this year's election will affect you. That's this coming Tuesday.

And to our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, disturbing new allegation that a key United States ally may have played a role in the 9/11 attacks. A former United States senator who had access to top secret information is unleashing new concerns about the government of Saudi Arabia.

Plus, tornado survivors reveal how they kicked and crawled their way out of their flattened homes. More heartbreak, and new storm dangers on the horizon right now.

And a billboard starring Washington, D.C. -- staring Washington, D.C. commuters, I should say, in the face, telling President Obama to go where you know where, and how a Democrat is calling it indecent and says the billboard has to go.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Certainly been the source of whispers and fears for a decade since the 9/11 attacks, but now an outright allegations by a former United States senator who says the Saudi government provided critical assistance to carry out Osama Bin Laden's terror plot. Brian Todd has been investigating the story for us.

It's pretty shocking story, but explain what new developments have just occurred, that we've just learned about it in recent days.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have new court documents from a lawsuit against the Saudi government. In these documents, former Senator Bob Graham, who led the Senate's investigation into 9/11, gives jarring detail on alleged contacts between one man who he says was a Saudi government agent and two of the hijackers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): New allegations that those who carried out the worst act of terrorism on American soil got help from an American ally. Former senator, Bob Graham, who led a Senate investigation into the September 11th attacks, says a man who he believes was an agent of the Saudi government gave money and other help to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Graham identifies that man as Omar al-Bayoumi who lived in California and the two hijackers he allegedly helped as Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar.

In a court document filed in recent days, part of a lawsuit by families of 9/11 victims against the Saudi government, Graham says when the two hijackers traveled to San Diego, al-Bayoumi held a dinner in their honor, helped them find an apartment, fronted the initial payments for that apartment, and provided them continuing financial assistance going forward. Nearly nine years ago, al-Bayoumi said this about allegations that he was involved with the plotters.

OMAR AL-BAYOUMI, AUGUST 3, 2003, (through translator): The Saudi also investigates me. They didn't find any evident to connect me to this.

TODD: Senator Graham says at the time he was allegedly helping the hijackers, al-Bayoumi had an unusual number of telephone conversations with Saudi government officials. A lawyer for 9/11 victim's families in this case says Graham's statements raises other questions.

STEPHEN COZEN, ATTORNEY FOR 9/11 VICTIM'S FAMILIES: To what extent has the kingdom of Saudi Arabia through its dominated and controlled charities, banks, and other NGOs funded terrorism both with al Qaeda as well as other international terrorist organizations for the purpose of attacking western interests.

TODD (on-camera): An attorney representing the Saudi government in this case said he couldn't comment on Senator Graham's statements, because the case is still pending. We couldn't get comment from anyone at the Saudi embassy, but a consultant familiar with the embassy's positions on this told us that the commissions and the Saudi government have said all there is to say on the subject.

(voice-over) The 9/11 commission said it found no evidence that the Saudi government or any senior government officials funded al Qaeda. I asked analyst, Peter Bergen, about al-Bayoumi's alleged aid to the hijackers.

Could that translate to top members of the Saudi government knowing anything about this?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think so. And at the end of the day, Brian, you know, it fails the common sense test. Al Qaeda's main goal is to overthrow the Saudi government. The Saudi government is unlikely to be financing a group that is basically entrusted (ph) in, you know, ending the Saudi royal monarchy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (on-camera): Bergen also says the Saudi's top leaders also would not have backed such a horrific attack against their strongest ally -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's part of a massive lawsuit underway right now against the Saudi government as you point out.

TODD: That's right. This has been eight years in the works, at least. It seeks billions of dollars from the Saudi government. This firm not only represents 9/11 victims' families but also insurance companies that paid out billions of dollars, airlines, other commercial entities.

The Saudis were successfully let out of this lawsuit. This firm is now trying to bring them back in. The Saudis are fighting it, and that's where we are at this point. So, it's a critical juncture in the lawsuit. Saudi is still finding (ph) to get out of it.

BLITZER: Now senator -- former senator, Bob Graham, is the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but former senator Bob Kerry of Nebraska, who's going to be running again, he's also gave a deposition in this lawsuit.

TODD: He gave an affidavit saying, essentially, there are a lot more questions that need to be answered about this, about the Saudi's charities and other things, and we have to say we did try to get both Senators Kerry and Graham to speak to us. Senator Kerry was campaigning in Nebraska. He couldn't do it. Senator Graham is out of the country right now.

BLITZER: And any reaction, any additional statement from the government of Saudi Arabia or the embassy here in Washington? Over the years, they flatly denied this.

TODD: They have flatly denied involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and they point to the 9/11 commission report, but for this, the Saudi embassy flat out nothing. It's kind of their custom to not really weigh in on these things when you ask them, but nothing today from them. We did speak with someone connected to their position on this, though.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very, very much. Brian Todd reporting for us.

Now, we want to go inside Iran for a rare live report from a nation that's considered dangerous by so many leaders around the world. CNN's Ivan Watson is in the capital of Tehran right now. Ivan is joining us. Ivan, when I was in North Korea, I had government minders with me all of the time.

I was restricted where I could go, with whom I could deal, who I could interview. First of all, before we get to some substance, give us some of the restrictions that you're facing now, the first time in three years that someone representing CNN has been allowed inside Iran? IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has never been an easy country to work in as an American journalist, Wolf. But compared to the last time I was here seven years ago, it has gotten a bit tougher. We were told we were not allow to bring in a satellite phone if we came here. It would be confiscated.

And, we were also told we can only report on the Iranian parliamentary elections to take place in the couple of hours, no other topics, whatsoever. To be fair, Iranian-stayed journalists, when they go to the U.S., they're confined within a certain number of miles to the city of New York. They're not allowed to leave beyond that.

So, there's a bit of a tit for tat here, but it has gone a little bit further. This time, CNN has been told it must work with a foreign media guide agency with an assigned translator as well. People have been great on the streets. There's no friction or tension whatsoever with ordinary Iranians. They're terribly friendly and terribly hospitable.

Our first night here, within our first 15 minutes of filming some campaign posters on Tuesday night, a Basij militia officer detained us. And we were held in a police station for three hours, but check this out. Today, I went to the bazaar, bumped into the same guy, and he greeted me warmly.

He kissed me on both cheeks and gave me his phone number if I ever have a problem. That just shows you some of the contradictions in this very complicated country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the reason that they've given you a visa and our crew to get come in is to cover these parliamentary elections. Talk a little about what we expect from these elections, because remember, back in 2009, they had elections that resulted in a lot of violence and a lot of dead people.

WATSON: That's right. And, you know, some of the candidates running for office, one of them who I talked to today, he said this election is much, much more important because, exactly because of what happened as a result of that 2009 presidential election when you had street protests, you had opposition candidates accusing the government of rigging the elections, and then, a pretty brutal crackdown on the opposition that has prevented members of the former green movement, opposition movement from even participating in this election.

Now, the government here is urging Iranians to come out on mass to vote on Friday. And one of the arguments is that all the disturbances and the controversy of 2009 was, in fact, a western plot.

That is what one parliament member told me today, and that is why Iranians have to prove to western adversaries that they are united behind the system here that's been in place ever since 1979 Islamic revolution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson is on the scene for us in Tehran. We'll check back with you tomorrow, Ivan. Thank you very, very much. BLITZER: Two more American soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan today. It's the third attack on western forces since U.S. troops mistakenly burned Korans, sparking protests and violence across Afghanistan. A local official says one of the two men involved in today's shooting was an Afghan army soldier.

It's another chilling piece of new evidence of anti-American anger despite an apology for the Koran burnings by the president of the United States, President Obama, himself. And in a new interview, the president is defending the apology, claiming it calmed things down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reason that it was important is to save lives and to make sure our troops who are there right now are not placed in further danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it has improved it?

OBAMA: It calmed things down. We're not out of the woods yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is looking at the attacks on U.S. troops. Chris, can Americans, it's a blunt question, trust these Afghan forces that the U.S., the NATO allies have been trying to educate, to train, to beef up, to support, but now we see Afghan soldiers taking guns and shooting U.S. military officers in the back of their heads as they work inside government ministries.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, short answer, maybe. You know, I've been on some of those joint patrols in Afghanistan, and I have seen them work together fairly well with my own eyes.

But a recent study for the U.S. military really appealed back the curtain, so to speak, on how a lot of the Afghan forces see U.S. troops as self-serving profane bullies. And it also showed what American troops think of their Afghan partners, as treacherous, drug- abusing thieves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): They're supposed to be partners, but Afghan soldiers and government workers have murdered six American troops in less than a week, yet, Pentagon officials say the relationship is still good.

GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We will not let recent events allow us to lose sight of the progress we are making.

LAWRENCE: But in the last five years, Afghan forces have attacked NATO troops nearly 200 times, killing at least 70 coalition troops and wounding more than 100. An army report declassified last year found that American troops think Afghan forces are dangerous and unstable. And many Afghan soldiers and police demonstrated a general loathing of U.S. soldiers.

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It might because you're an American, you're fighting the Taliban, but it also might be because you object to them selling drugs. It might be because they feel that you insulted them in public.

LAWRENCE: The Taliban have instigated some of the current violence. In a Fox News debate, Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, questioned why the U.S. would talk to them.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The right course for America is not to negotiate with the Taliban while the Taliban are killing our soldiers. The right course is to recognize they're the enemy of the United States.

LAWRENCE: When the Taliban open a political office in Qatar, some took it as a sign U.S. military pressure had forced them to the negotiating table, but they use the Koran burning to win support, even among some Afghan soldiers and police.

COL. DAVID LAMM (RET), U.S. ARMY: This incident was almost placed right in their lapse to gain some strategic leverage.

LAWRENCE: Col. David Lamm worked on Afghanistan for years. He says encouraging attacks on NATO troops is part of a larger Taliban strategy.

LAMM: The key is those actions on the ground are deliberately being instigated to sway opinion in the west, to sway opinion in capitals, in particular, the capitals that contribute coalition partners to the effort in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (on-camera): Remember, the leaders of a lot of those NATO nations are going to be meeting in Chicago in just a couple of months to sort of chart the way forward in Afghanistan, but Taliban would obviously like to put a lot of previous on some of those countries withdraw some of their support from the coalition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Chris, thank you.

American and British and pro-democracy activists accuse of stoking anti-government protest in Egypt have now gotten out of the country. The workers had been barred from leaving Egypt, but their travel ban was lifted yesterday. They are still facing fraud charges. The son of the transportation secretary, Ray Lahood, is one of the Americans charged, but fortunately, the Americans are now out of Egypt on their way home.

One second, his house was standing, the next was rubble, and he was trapped inside. We're hearing remarkable stories from survivors of the Midwest tornado.

Plus, he's been called a hero in the Ohio school shooting. Stand by to hear directly from the coach who may have saved so many students' lives.

And a free speech fight over an ad that tells President Obama where he can go, and it's not the White House. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new setback for Republicans today in the election year fight over insurance coverage for birth control. The Senate rejected a measure that would have overridden President Obama's controversial attempt at a compromise on this very sensitive issue. Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan. Kate, what happened today?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's an important issue, and it was an important vote. The Senate defeated this measure today, Wolf, but it's very clear that this issue is not going away. And frankly, what may matter more than the final tally that we saw in the Senate is the way both sides are using this issue to their political advantage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Depending on who you talk to on Capitol Hill, the latest battle is about two very different issues. For Democrats, it's about women's access to contraception. For Republicans, religious freedom.

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL, (D ) WASHINGTON: Every step of the way, it seems as if there is an assault on women's reproductive choice and having access to healthcare.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: This is tyranny. It is the political bullying of a religious group in the views of the president's allies unpopular religious beliefs. And so, for political reasons, the religious groups who differ with this are being pushed around.

BOLDUAN: In the spotlight, a GOP measure aimed at overturning President Obama's controversial contraception rule. Sponsored by Republican senator, Roy Blunt, the move would allow employers to opt out of some health coverage requirements if they object because of religious beliefs or moral convictions.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: The government's moving in a direction that would force some Americans to violate their religious beliefs. This is wrong, and we want to stop it.

BOLDUAN: And especially in an election year the debate is as much about political messages as it is about policy.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNETT, (D) COLORADO: It would allow any employer to deny any health service to any American for virtually any reason. Not just for religious objections.

BOLDUAN: Democrats view a fight over contraception and women's right as a political win, hoping to galvanize women voters. At the same time, Republicans know fighting for religious liberty and against government overreached is popular among their conservative base. And this is not only a political fight in Congress. It's become a defining issue in the presidential race.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My gut reaction would be always. My gut reaction would be, you stand for the First Amendment, you stand for freedom of religion, you stand for the First Amendment right.

ROMNEY: I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen in a Barack Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (on-camera): And as the president's deputy campaign manager said in the SITUATION ROOM just last hour, the Obama campaign thinks it's in a good position on this one, and that Republicans, in their view, have overplayed their hand as this could hurt them with women voters, but back on Capitol Hill, Republicans insist they'll continue pushing this issue.

How Speaker John Boehner, though, Wolf, just today, he would not say how or when the House, which is were all eyes are now, would move on a similar measure as was defeated in the Senate. So, that's a big question --

BLITZER: And I suspect it will be a huge issue months ahead no matter who the Republican nominee turns out to be against President Obama. So, we'll be watching that closely. Kate, thanks very much.

After wins in Arizona, Michigan, and Wyoming, Mitt Romney is hoping conservatives will rally around him in the critical primaries on Super Tuesday. That's this coming Tuesday. But not everyone thinks the fueling of the base is necessarily the best strategy. Let's talk about this and more with "TIME" magazine columnist, Joe Klein, who's joining us from our sister publication.

Joe, you got a really strong column in the new issue of "TIME" magazine. You make an excellent point that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both of them, even as they were seeking their parties respective nominations, they were reaching out to the middle, to independents, to moderates, crossover voters, if you will, unlike Mitt Romney right now, who's just simply appealing to the base. Explain what you have in mind.

JOE KLEIN, TIME COLUMNIST: Well, you know, it struck me. Last week was an important week in the Romney campaign and a real milestone. For the first time, we heard Mitt Romney said that there was something he wouldn't do to get the nomination. He said he wouldn't set his hair on fire by, you know, criticizing Barack Obama in the kind of outrageous and insidious ways that some of his opponents have.

That was the first time, during the course of this campaign, that Romney has really taken a first stand to the left of the rest of his opponents. And you know, when you're running as Romney is, as a moderate, as someone who claims to be electable, meaning that he can win moderate votes, independent voters, you have to give them something, too, or else you don't have any credibility with them.

And as you said, Wolf, Bill Clinton gained credibility with moderates over welfare reform, and George W. Bush did the same when he positive (ph) himself as a compassionate conservative. Mitt Romney is in the unfortunate position of not having very much credibility with the Republican base and also not having very much credibility with the moderates or independents he's going to need to win the general election.

BLITZER: Look at these poll numbers. These are the daily tracking poll numbers from new Gallup organization. Registered Republicans a week ago, Romney was at 27 percent, Santorum was at 34 percent, but look at how it's flipped over the past week.

Romney is now among registered Republicans at 35 percent, Santorum 24 percent, that's 11-point spread right there. Gingrich and Ron Paul behind. What's going on here?

KLEIN: Well, you know, it's the weekly yo-yo, right? Wolf, you know, next week, if Romney doesn't win Ohio and if Santorum does and has a good day down in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Newt Gingrich wins Georgia, we may see, you know, the yo-yo move back in the other direction.

Although, there is a sense, as this goes on that, you know, Romney becomes more and more likely to become the nominee if an unloved one as the weeks go by.

BLITZER: Some call him right now a weak frontrunner in the Republican race for the nomination. Joe Klein, thanks very much. Joe Klein of "TIME" magazine.

KLEIN: It's good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Joe.

The tornado was coming, and a man told his wife and kids to run to safety, but he wound up trapped. He tells us how he clawed his way out of the ruins of his home.

And Mitt Romney leaves some Super Tuesday voters guessing. We're going to explain what's going on. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The life in Tibera (ph) is a normal life like any other life. People wake up, go look for job, kids play. It's only outsiders that when they come and they think that people live in complete sadness. There's wealth in Tibera (ph) so great and so -- I mean, there comes a special richness. This is the place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The death toll climbs to 13. Almost 200 people have been hurt after those monster storms that left parts of the northwest and southeast in totters. Now, some in the region are bracing for yet another round of storms. Forecasters warn a new storm is forming right now over the mid Mississippi River Valley that could put Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama at risk.

Meanwhile, those who survive the Mayhem are combing through the wreckage, desperately trying to put their pieces back together. CNN's Soledad O'Brien is in Harrisburg, Illinois, ground zero, for the devastating storms where more harrowing survival stories are pouring in.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the story is really in this debris field. When you see all this stuff basically pushed against, it's another house it's leaning against. What you're seeing is a home that's been picked off its foundation and blown into another home, the homes where they were lifted off the foundation.

That's where the largest number of deaths occurred, and here, a large number of injuries. This goes back, I should point out, this debris field, for hundreds of yards. People who had to pull themselves, drag themselves, climb their way out of this, many injuries reported from this particular area.

And some of the stories of people who were able to survive or who lost loved ones are absolutely harrowing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: And this is just street. We're really pretty much on your property.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Point out to me where your house is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was right there.

O'BRIEN: This right here. So, this is pretty much the driveway up to the house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That used to be the garage right there, that used to be the house. The closet there was the front bedroom. A bathroom was in between that, and the back bedroom was on the other side of that, and I was in that bathroom when it hit.

O'BRIEN: When it hit, you're in the bathroom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: So, you heard the warnings?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife got up and said there were warnings, and then, she came back in again and said the sirens went off. I was preparing to go to work. And I said get my daughter and my two grandsons in the utility room in the center part of the house, and she did. And I said I'll be there in just a minute and before I could ever get out of the bathroom it had hit. Everything collapsed and had me for 10 or 15 minutes pinned in the bathroom and they were pinned in the utility room.

O'BRIEN: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kicked and kicked until I got the door open. And then I crawled out and crawled -- I was barefooted, had a pair of shorts on, no shirt. Just crawled out over the stuff, made it out to some concrete, I was looking toward the utility room hollering help, hollering for my wife, hollering for my daughter, just trying to get anybody to answer me.

O'BRIEN: How is everything in your family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're fine now.

O'BRIEN: Oh thank God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Your grandsons I understand were a little bit injured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the 3-year-old is fine, a little shaken up. The 5-year-old has a concussion and some head trauma, and they took him to (INAUDIBLE) and kept him overnight for observation.

O'BRIEN: Well thank goodness. So you today, I just saw you discover that there's a bucket of sort of belongings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, these are some of my grandchildren -- of course like I said he's 3 years old now. But that was one of them that was involved in it and that's my three daughters. And these are some of my other grandchildren, thank God, that was not involved in it.

O'BRIEN: So today you're just going to clean out and try to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just trying to find anything to hold on to.

(END VIDEOPTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So Wolf, then the focus today is on the cleanup, grieving for those who lost people, but also cleaning up and trying to figure out how to move forward. They're here picking up pictures, picking up whatever items they can salvage, furniture in some cases, and then putting them in the trucks that they have now driven in so they can really start getting their lives back in order -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Soledad O'Brien on scene for us, what a heartbreaking story. Another area hit hard by the storm, a popular tourist destination, Branson, Missouri. Our Jim Spellman is there with a closer look at the damage said to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the Legends in Concert Theater here in Branson, Missouri. Theaters just like this are the heart of the economy here. The entire roof was blown off of this theater. Crews already out trying to get the roof back on, electricity restored and get this theater back on its feet.

What was it like Jennie when that storm rolled through here?

JENNIE HORTON, THEATER MANAGER: It was pretty scary. I've never seen anything like it. Once we got in the car and started driving back to the theater, it was just a surreal experience.

SPELLMAN: How important is it to get the theater back on its feet as quick as possible.

HORTON: It's very important to us. We're normally open during this time. We've been in the market for 15 years, people expect to see us here.

SPELLMAN: The show must go on?

HORTON: The show must go on.

(MUSIC)

SPELLMAN: That was Justin Clark. Justin plays Elwood Blues (ph) of the Blues Brothers --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

SPELLMAN: (INAUDIBLE) normally you'd be getting ready for the show right now?

JUSTIN CLARK, PERFORMER: Yes, normally we'd be in here putting on our costumes and stuff. I have got the blues suit here ready to rock and roll, but it's going to be a little while before we do a show in here, so sooner the better, but you know we're trying to knock it out and get everything ready. We're devastated about what happened here, but we're also encouraged with how Branson is reaching out really to help us out. All the theaters that weren't damaged at all have just come together.

(MUSIC)

CLARK: It's amazing how much they have reached out to help us out.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on a mission from God.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Sad, sad story, we'll stay on top of those tornadoes. The new storm system developing right now, stay with CNN for complete coverage.

A federal judge is apologizing for an e-mail he sent out about President Obama, just ahead why he is now admitting it was quote, "inappropriate and stupid".

And the teacher everyone is calling a hero after that deadly Ohio school shooting, up next his heart-wrenching message to the families of those who died.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Turning now to that horrific Ohio school shooting, where just a little while ago the alleged gunman, T.J. Lane was officially charged on six overall counts including three counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of three students. Chardon High School staff, parents and students were encouraged to return today for visits and counseling before classes officially resume tomorrow.

And an emotional message from the heroic teacher we've been all waiting to hear from. Frank Hall chased the gunman out of the building just moments after the shooting began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK HALL, CHARDON HIGH SCHOOL ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH: To the victims and their families I want to say that I'm sorry. My thoughts and prayers are still with you. To the families of Danny, Demetrius, and Russell, I want you to know I was with them. I prayed with them. I wiped their tears, and I know God was with them. I don't know why this happened.

I only wish I could have done more. I'm not a hero. I'm just a football coach and study hall teacher. The law enforcement, first responders that came to our aid that day they are the heroes. To the chief, sheriff, Mr. Brigant (ph), Mr. Fetchit (ph) thank you for the training that we received. We all wished that we never had to use it, but we used it and it worked.

To the teachers and support staff that carried this training out, that went above and beyond that put their kids before themselves, I thank you. You're the best America has to offer. I'm here to tell you that tomorrow our schools will be open. Our teachers will be there. Our administration will be there. Our parents and community, but more importantly our children will be there. I can't tell you how great these children are, how great these kids are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What a sad, sad day. We wish all the students and the parents, the teachers the best when they return to school tomorrow.

NASA's in trouble over a major security lapse, there's a computer the agency can't find contains some key codes. What they control. We'll have details.

And are you using a password that's so common you're making a hacker's job easy? We're going to tell you what it is and how you need to change it and change it very, very quickly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New information just coming into THE SITUATIONROOM out of the state of Maryland right now. Lisa Sylvester has the story for us -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. It is official. Same-sex marriage will be legal in the state of Maryland next January. Governor Martin O'Malley (ph) has just signed the bill into law. Maryland will join six other states and the District of Columbia that already issue same-sex marriage licenses. Five states allow civil unions that provide rights similar to marriage.

And NASA says 48 computers were lost or stolen in a recent two- year span. One of the computers contained codes used to command and control the International Space Station. A Congressional report finds that NASA lags far behind other agencies in protecting data on laptops.

And Montana's chief federal judge is in hot water for sending a racist e-mail aimed at President Obama. A local newspaper reports that the e-mail contained a joke about the president's mother. The judge is apologizing for the e-mail, calling it inappropriate and stupid. But some liberal advocacy groups still want him to step down. He was appointed by President Bush back in 2001.

Is your password the word "password" with a capital P, and a number one at the end? Well if so you're not alone and the hackers know it. A security services firm found that easily guessable or entirely blank passwords are the most common vulnerability leading to a security breach. Experts say to make your password something long and use symbols to make it more complex.

And they were airplanes. They are not just for bored (ph) students anymore. (INAUDIBLE) It's the new world record for a paper airplane. It flew -- look at that -- 226 feet. It was designed by a producer at KRON (ph) in California, who's a so-called paper airplane guy. And knowing that he didn't have the arm strength to break the old record himself, he wisely recruited a former college quarterback. Look at that thing go, Wolf. That was 226 feet. Guy is pretty proud of himself there.

BLITZER: He should be. That's amazing. Good work indeed. Congratulations to the team out there and that quarterback. Look at that arm --

SYLVESTER: I know. I know.

(CROSSTALK)

SYLVESTER: It looks like he's throwing a football, but it's actually the airplane (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up there, get up there, get up there, get up there.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Thanks, Lisa. A free speech fight over an ad that tells President Obama where he can go and it's not the White House, plus Tiger Woods getting rather testy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that in the book? Is it in the book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a beauty. You know that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's a final sprint to Super Tuesday and today Mitt Romney is hunting for wins out West. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with Romney right now. Jim, we told our viewers a little while ago about the Senate rejecting a Republican measure on birth control coverage. Romney spoke about that earlier today. What's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf and just to set up why he's coming out West, where we are in Seattle right now, you know Mitt Romney needs to win as many delegates as possible out West. He is expected to lose those southern states that are going to vote on Super Tuesday, so he was in North Dakota and Idaho earlier today, he's coming to Washington state right?

This state has its caucuses on Saturday, but getting back to that Blunt amendment, just to let you know Mitt Romney was asked about that issue every step along the way out on the campaign trail earlier today, and just to refresh our viewers on all of this yesterday he was asked about the Blunt amendment which would have basically exempted employers from contraception rules in the president's health care law, said he opposed it, then he went back and said I didn't understand the question and now he says he backs it.

But listen to how Mitt Romney answered the question in North Dakota earlier today. To put it simply he wasn't very blunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm in favorite of the Blunt amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you elaborate? What happened to --

ROMNEY: (INAUDIBLE) yes, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So there you go. He said he could elaborate, but then he opted not to elaborate, perhaps because perhaps because the Romney campaign wants to get back on message and so that's why we heard Mitt Romney talking about three issues that are pretty important out here to Westerners and that is guns, God and gas prices.

He was hitting the president on all three of those issues. But I think the big "D" might be most important right now and that is delegates. Listen to how Mitt Romney talked about how important it is to win the state of Idaho just to pick up states -- or excuse me -- delegates in Idaho when he was at an event in Idaho Falls earlier this afternoon. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I want you to know that I don't need a lot. I just need you to go out and vote. I want to make sure we win. We win solidly in Idaho. That I get the delegates I need from Idaho to go on and get the nomination. Will you do that for me?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, Mitt Romney is on his way to Washington state as I said, so is Rick Santorum. He has two events here in the state later on this evening. Wolf, Rick Santorum could win Washington state and as for this overall battle for delegates there is a Rick Santorum campaign conference call going on right now, surrogates on that conference call talking about what's happening in Michigan right now.

The Republican Party in Michigan has decided earlier today to go ahead and allocate those delegates as a win for Mitt Romney. Now, 16 to 14 delegates coming out of that state instead of 15-15, a tie that we thought we had coming out of Michigan yesterday. The Santorum campaign put out a statement earlier this afternoon calling it political thuggery -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on that front as well, Jim Acosta in Seattle, Washington, the Washington election on Saturday. Here in the Washington, D.C. area, commuters are getting a tough and some say outrageous dose of politics in a billboard that tells President Obama to go you know where. Our Lisa Sylvester is joining us, she had details -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf. Well this ad was meant to get your attention. It's at the Clarendon Metro Station outside of Washington, D.C., a single ad that's stirring up lots of controversy. And it raises the question, free speech or inflammatory speech? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Walk by this ad at a Metro station in the Washington, D.C. area and something will certainly catch your eye. This line "go to hell, Barack" it definitely caught the eye of riders, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's tasteless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's kind of terrible. It only contributes to the political discourse and partisanship of the country.

SYLVESTER: The ad is promoting a new DVD documentary called "Sick and Sicker" that rips the Obama health care plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not the best health care system in the world. We're in the middle of the pack and we're heading down.

SYLVESTER: It's produced by Logan Darrow Clements who makes no apology for the inflammatory ad.

LOGAN DARROW CLEMENTS, DIRECTOR, "SICK AND SICKER": When you use strong language you're expressing not only disagreement but the degree of disagreement. I very strongly disagree with socialized medicine.

SYLVESTER: It's not just Metro riders who are offended by the billboard. So is Virginia Congressman Jim Moran.

REP. JIM MORAN (R), VIRGINIA: On private property I think you should have much more discretion as to what you want to show. But the taxpayers at the federal, state and local level are paying for this facility. And to have it host an ad that tells the president of the United States to go to hell in their language, I think that's inappropriate. I think it's offensive. It's profane.

SYLVESTE (on camera): Representative Moran has asked the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority to take down the ad immediately. But the Metro Authority says no, citing the First Amendment.

(voice-over): In a statement saying quote, "WMATA advertising has been ruled by the courts as a public forum protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and we may not decline ads based on their political content. WMATA does not endorse the advertising on our system, and the ads do not reflect the position of the Authority." We asked CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin his take on the issue. He says the ad may be disturbing but it is well within free speech rights.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The Metro is on very solid ground here. It is possible that activists may use this controversy as an opportunity to push the envelope further in terms of what's permissible. But I don't have any doubt that this expression, even with the word "hell" is clearly protected by the First Amendment, and the Metro would have no right to take it down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Jeffrey Toobin says if the ad had nudity or used language that was truly vulgar then it would be easier for Metro to take the ad down. But the use of the word "hell" he says may make many people uncomfortable but it's not enough to warrant censorship so the ad will stay up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. Here's a question. Did Tiger Woods almost give up golf to become a Navy SEAL? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new book claims Tiger Woods wanted to become a Navy SEAL. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Tiger Woods eyes you with the same intensity he normally reserves for a golf ball, maybe you ought to duck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day.

MOOS: A look as steely as a Navy SEAL with a target in his sights, which we mention only because Tiger got testy when asked if he really considered giving up golf at the height of his career to become a Navy SEAL based on excerpts from the soon-to-be published book by Tiger's former swing coach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specifically in regards to being a Navy SEAL, was that something you were considering?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've already talked about everything.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the book. Yes, I've already commented on everything, Alex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I must have missed you answering that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I've already commented on the book, is that in the book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I don't know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it in the book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen the book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Let's move on, Brian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a beauty. You know that? MOOS: But there's beauty in imaging Tiger Woods wielding a gun rather than a golf club, submerging himself rather than his ball in a water trap. This is as close as we'll ever come to putting Tiger in a tank. He visited Army bases and the Navy SEALs. A SEAL spokesman told CNN "I can confirm in 2006 he fired weapons at one of our ranges."

Tiger's coach wrote "As incredible as it seemed, Tiger was seriously considering becoming a Navy SEAL. After finding out that the Navy SEAL age limit is 28, I asked Tiger about his being too old to join. It's not a problem, he said. They're making a special age exemption for me." So did he really consider giving up golf for the SEALs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just trying to find out if that's true or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

MOOS: Then came a four-second silent stare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day.

MOOS: Translation according to one online poster, "I am going to get my putter and shove it up your" -- anyway, we haven't seen Tiger stare this long --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger --

MOOS: -- since that weird Nike commercial he did right after the sex scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you learn anything?

MOOS: We learned from a Navy SEAL spokesman that Tiger's visits were "informational. We never construed his visits as a desire to become an SEAL."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine that he actually did become a Navy SEAL and that he was the guy who went and put a bullet in Osama bin Laden's head.

MOOS: That would have been a hole in one even Tiger never contemplated. Instead of dodging divots he might have been dodging explosions, a Tiger eyeing his prey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.