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Obama: "We Have Your Back," Israel; Fears of War in Iran?; John McCain Calls for Military Action in Syria; Hawaii Station Drops Limbaugh; Tornado Aftermath; NFL Players Paid for Injuring Others?

Aired March 5, 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: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a key U.S. senator, John McCain, the first to publicly call for the United States to take direct military action in Syria. Why he says time is running out.

Plus, the heroic neighbor and the sole survivor in a desperate effort to save an entire family of five, including a baby, from those vicious Midwest tornadoes. Now he's haunted by one question -- did they die because of him?

And NFL players allegedly paid to hurt -- to hurt their rivals on the football field. The latest on a stunning secret bounty program exposed.

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.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"We have your back," President Obama's direct words to the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, assuring him the United States and Israel stand together in the face of a mounting nuclear threat from Iran. The critical issue was front and center for both leaders in talks over at the White House today.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is over at the White House.

Our Ivan Watson is in Istanbul, monitoring what's going on. He's just back from Iran -- Jessica, first to you.

How did it go at the White House today?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a senior administration official says the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu was wide-ranging and productive. The total meeting lasted more than three hours, both in the Oval Office and then a lunch with each of their respective delegations. And you would expect an official here to say that it was productive. But the sense one gets, Wolf, is this meeting was not intended, necessarily, to make decisions, but to make clear for each leader, to the other, where each nation stands on the all-important decision where they are when it comes to monumental choices about Iran's nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): With the world audience watching every move, the U.S. president and Israeli prime minister emphasized common ground.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bond between our two countries is unbreakable.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We are you and you are us. We're together.

YELLIN: But when it comes to halting Iran's nuclear program, the differences are clear. The president pushing for more time before considering a military strike.

First, at the AIPAC conference.

OBAMA: The international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists.

YELLIN: Then in the Oval Office.

OBAMA: We believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue.

YELLIN: The Israeli prime minister says he'll decide when that window closes.

NETANYAHU: When it comes to Israel's security, Israel has the right -- the sovereign right to make its own decisions. I believe that's why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself.

YELLIN: The Israeli prime minister and his supporters say they feel a heightened sense of urgency because of Israel's history, small size and limited ability to inflict harm on Iran's nuclear installations. But if he's seeking assurances...

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER ADVISOR TO SIX SECRETARIES OF STATE: I suspect that the president, unwilling to give the prime minister an iron-clad guarantee that he'll strike, is going to try to reassure him that, at the end of the day, if it -- if that becomes necessary, then Barack Obama will act.

YELLIN: Still, perhaps to soothe Israel's fears, the president has sharpened his public language on Iran.

OBAMA: I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I will take no options off the table. And I mean what I say.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That includes all elements of American power.

YELLIN: When these meetings wrap up, expect the leaders' public statements to emphasize unity, because...

MILLER: It's too big to fail on this one. I mean no one is looking for a fight. No one can afford a fight. The two have to send an unmistakable signal to the Iranians, to the Chinese, to the Russians, to the Europeans and each of their respective political establishments that they're standing shoulder to shoulder on this one.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, as you well know, this all comes in the middle of a presidential election year here in the US. And both the president and his top administration officials are emphasizing that, what they call, quote, "loose talk of war by elected officials, presidential candidates and pundits" is only helping Iran.

Why?

They say because it is helping to drive up oil prices and Iran relies on that oil and all the money that's coming from those high oil prices to fund its nuclear program -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

Thanks very much.

Jessica Yellin at the White House.

Let's bring in CNN's Ivan Watson right now.

He's joining us from Istanbul in Turkey, but he's just spent the last several days in Iran -- Ivan, in Iran -- and you were there and you saw what's going on -- do people seem to be very worried about the possibility of war?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, Wolf, compared to previous visits, say, 2003 and 2005, no Iranians came up to me and said, I'm afraid we're going to get bombed. And that's the question I was getting nearly 10 years ago, eight years ago, at other times where, in Washington, politicians were beating the war drums when it came to Iran. Ordinary people didn't seem to think that it was possible the U.S. would bomb there.

But the government was very actively and effectively using American and Israeli threats to try to motivate people to vote in last Friday's parliamentary elections. It was running a constant stream of propaganda, an enormous public relations campaign, arguing that the U.S. does not want you to vote and, thus, it is your patriotic duty to rush to the polls and participate in this election, while not really offering a political platform to speak of, aside from the threat from the US.

So the Iranian regime has been very effective at using these threats to try to mobilize people. And it's very interesting, there is a spokesman for that opposition Green Movement that was crushed after posing a real threat to the legitimacy of the Iranian government just three years ago. And that spokesman wrote in an op-ed piece just a few days ago that there are hardline circles within the regime there that would view a Western attack on Iran as a blessing because it would give the regime, the Iranian flag, patriotism, to wrap themselves around and to bring, perhaps, portions of Iranian society that do not support the regime to come and support them in the face of a foreign threat and active aggression -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan, based on your eyewitness observations, anecdotally, do these international sanctions on Iran seem to be making a difference as far as the day to day lives of Iranians?

WATSON: There's no question, Wolf, that there is increased economic hardship in Iran. And that has come, really, within the course of the last few months. With the Iranian currency dropping, losing half of its value against the U.S. dollar, and the Iranian regime trying to put in place mechanisms to stop black market trade of Iranian currency in the streets of Iranian cities and towns. That is driving up import prices. People involved in -- in doing things like importing jeans from Turkey here across the border to Iran, they are seeing that the prices have gone up so much that they're on the verge of losing their businesses. That's what one businessman told me.

Whether or not that's a direct result of sanctions or a bad economic policy is not clear -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson on the scene for us.

Glad he's out safe and sound from Iran.

Let's turn to the bloodshed in Syria right now, where the government troops are said to be ramping up raids and arrests all across the country. At least eight people have been reportedly killed today and hundreds of civilians have been detained.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, the first public call for U.S. air strikes in the region from a prominent U.S. senator. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the powerful Armed Services Committee, says the crisis has reached, in his words, "a decisive moment."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Time is running out. Assad's forces are on the march. Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary. But at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power. Therefore, at the request of the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army and local coordinating committees inside the country, the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through air strikes on Assad's forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator McCain says the ultimate goal of the air strikes should be to establish safe havens for opposition forces, as well as the delivery of humanitarian and military aid.

So what would this type of action require of the Pentagon?

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, with more -- you're getting reaction over there, Barbara, to what Senator McCain is now proposing.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Look, the Obama administration is maintaining its position. Senior officials tell us that they are not looking at military action right now. They know what Senator McCain has said. He's very respected on this matter.

But the facts are these. If the U.S. wants to go in, it would require manned aircraft, manned fighters and bomber aircraft, putting U.S. pilots into Syrian airspace. Very risky business.

The Syrians have a very capable air defense system. That's surface to air missiles, radars, command, control installations. You have to take that out. You have to bomb your way in.

Senator McCain very well aware of this. And it could take days or weeks to do it. And while that air campaign would be going on, the question, of course, is, what would Syrian forces be doing on the ground?

How would they already be on the move?

Again, Syrian civilians -- the feeling is it could just lead to a further rise in violence.

But it's a very tough situation because Syrian civilians clearly suffering, their suffering is growing by the day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Obama administration officials keep saying that Syria is not Libya. A very different situation. We heard that from the NATO secretary-general, when he was here in THE SITUATION ROOM last week, as well.

We're also hearing, Barbara, that the United States is seeing direct evidence, new evidence that Iran is becoming increasingly involved in the Syrian crackdown by the Syrian president, Bashar al- Assad.

What is this information?

STARR: Well, and that complicates all of this, doesn't it?

U.S. officials say they do have the intelligence that shows Iran is increasingly involved, sending in money, training, equipment. Specifically, they say they are seeing evidence of computer-based tracking tools so that the Syrian regime is getting this from Iran and better able to track down the communications of the opposition forces and, therefore, able to target them more precisely.

Some of this has been going on for months. But officials are telling us they are seeing growing involvement by Iran. Underscores the ultimate dilemma here. Iran is not going to let Syria go quietly. It's an important ally for the Iranian regime. They want to hold onto it. They are not about to give up on the Assad regime. That's the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara.

Thank you.

Barbara is at the Pentagon.

Just months after the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a key American al Qaeda figure in Yemen, President Obama's administration is defending the controversial to kill him. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, says targeting U.S. citizens with alleged terrorist ties overseas is lawful, at least in certain circumstances. Among them -- and I'm quoting the attorney general right now -- "if the U.S. government has determined after a thorough and careful review that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States."

Civil liberties groups have slammed the decision, since it denies such U.S. citizens their judicial rights.

Only seconds to react before being sucked almost 50 feet into the sky...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had already grabbed the little girl. And she had the car seat. And I told her just run. Run for the house. And I just saw death right there. I knew we were done at that moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Just ahead, a neighbor's heroic, but failed attempt to save an entire family from those devastating tornadoes.

Plus, Mitt Romney brings out the big guns in the final push before Super Tuesday.

Will former First Lady Barbara Bush help him seal the deal?

And the NFL engulfed in a major scandal right now. Ahead, the secret bounty program that paid players to injure -- injure their opponents.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Rush Limbaugh's comments have now cost him a radio station in Hawaii. KPUA is dropping Limbaugh for his personal attack on a 30- year-old woman who testified on Capitol Hill in favor of providing contraception. It helps plans (ph). The radio talk show host called her a slut and a prostitute.

The station said Limbaugh's comments crossed the line, a line of decency and that his delivery was degrading. Limbaugh has also lost several advertisers in the uproar over his comments.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That story is not going to be over for a while either. Super Tuesday might finally bring some clarity to that messy Republican primary race or not. Mitt Romney could be able to wind this thing down with a strong showing in tomorrow's ten contests for starters. He's picking up endorsements from influential conservatives assign the party maybe is ready now rally around him.

Today, former Bush attorney general, John Ashcroft, through his support for Romney -- pardon me -- House majority leader, Eric Cantor, Oklahoma senator, Tom Coburn, both fiscal conservatives are backing Romney as well. Romney is also back on top now in the national polls. But to capitalize on all this momentum, he has to deliver tomorrow.

The biggest prize is Ohio where Romney is neck-in-neck with Rick Santorum -- how that's possible, I have no idea -- after trailing him at one point by double digits. A Romney win in Ohio would help consolidate his support among working-class voters in the Roscoe. However, a Santorum win there could mean the whole race will drag on longer.

Also at play tomorrow, a couple of southern states. If Romney would manage to win in Tennessee or Georgia or both, that would be huge. Newt Gingrich taking the future of his campaign on Georgia, that's his home state, he'll probably win that. As for Ron Paul, he acknowledges his chances are slim, but he seems to be in this for the long haul.

Meanwhile, top Republicans are spreading the message that a long nomination battle will weaken their chances of defeating President Obama come November. But as we've seen since the first contest back in January, Republican voters are capable of surprising everybody, even themselves.

Here's the question, will Super Tuesday clarify the GOP situation or further confuse things? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Big night tomorrow night. You'll be up late.

BLITZER: I'll be up very, very late, ten contests. We'll have extensive coverage, of course.

Super Tuesday's big prize is Ohio. After trailing Rick Santorum in the state, Mitt Romney has seen a surge over the past several days. Is it enough, though, to carry him to victory in Ohio? Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is covering the Romney campaign. He's in Zanesville, Ohio right now. Jim, what's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the big question is whether or not all of this momentum that is swinging in Mitt Romney's direction will be enough to put him over the top and put the rest of his rivals away in this GOP field, but for now here in Ohio, it's shaping up to be a buckeye nail biter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope that I get the support of people here in Ohio tomorrow. I believe if I do, I can get the nomination.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the day before Super Tuesday, Team Romney is out to seal the deal, and the closing argument is on the troubled economy. The candidate said he can fix it.

ROMNEY: I understand why jobs come and why they go. Other people in this race have debated about the economy.

ACOSTA: The candidate's wife said, she can feel it.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And that is my grandfather started working in a coal mine when he was six years old in Wales.

ACOSTA: In a clear sign it's gaining momentum, the Romney campaign has racked up more endorsements. House majority leader, Eric Cantor, former attorney general, John Ashcroft, Oklahoma senator, Tom Coburn.

VOICE OF BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: That is the best man to lead the country for the next four years.

ACOSTA: And it's running robo calls in Ohio from former first lady, Barbara Bush.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Give credit to Governor Romney and what he's been able to put together, an enormous amount of money. But this race isn't going to be won or lost in the fall on money.

ACOSTA: But Rick Santorum is warning Republicans to slow down.

SANTORUM: That's why I ask the people of Ohio to think hard and look deep. Look into the eyes of the candidate.

ACOSTA: His campaign is hitting the individual mandate of Romney's healthcare law as the prototype for the president's plan. Santorum aides blasted out this "USA Today" column Romney write three years ago, entitled "Mr. President, What's the Rush?" It states, "There's a better way. The lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it. No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts."

A radio ad from a pack raising money for Santorum features a George Soros impersonator saying Romney should be on the Democratic ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not too much difference between these two. Obama/Romney, 2012. I love it.

ACOSTA: It's a subject that concerns even Romney supporters like this woman who pressed the candidate on the issue at a town hall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need an emphatic yes from you that you will repeal Obamacare.

ROMNEY: Why would I not?

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: $2.50 a gallon, Newt Gingrich is your candidate.

ACOSTA: Newt Gingrich is also focused on the economy with his promise to lower gas prices to $2.50 a gallon told CNN Romney cannot be trusted.

GINGRICH: He can't close the deal, and he can't close the deal in part because people inherently don't trust what he's saying and think that he isn't always very candid --

ACOSTA: But republicans we found in Ohio seemed resigned to Romney as their nominee and plan to vote accordingly.

BRIAN STAPLETON, OHIO PRIMARY VOTER: I wish Christie was out there. I think if he was out there, I'd be all over voting for him. But as it is, I'm going to vote for Romney.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on-camera): The Romney campaign is confident it will win the Lion's share of delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday, and it is starting to send a warning to Congress, start getting in line. A message from Romney advisers spoken to many of us, reporters, over the weekend, who do you want on the ticket? Us or Rick Santorum? -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, thanks very much. Jim is going to be busy tomorrow. All of us will be busy tomorrow. Back on Super Tuesday tomorrow at 12:00 noon eastern, CNN's political team and I will host the CNN election roundtable. It's a live insider chat about the big day's implications for the presidential race. That's CNN.com/RoundTable, noon eastern tomorrow. Join us.

Backlash and fury in New York from Muslim students who say the government has been spying on them. Is the government surveillance program going too far? Both sides of the argument, that's coming up.

And a heartbreaking story from Indiana. You will hear from the man who tried to save an entire family from a deadly tornado.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON MILLER, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I called them over to my house and they died. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our look at this unbelievable video captured by a CNN iReporter in Indiana as just one of those horrifying tornadoes ripped through the area on Friday. In all, 39 people were killed across five states. One of the most recent victims, a baby initially found alive in a muddy field. She was taken off of life support yesterday, the last in her family to die.

CNN national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, caught up with a horrific neighbor who desperately tried to save all of them. What a story, Susan. Share it with our viewers.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure as it's heartbreaking. You know, Wolf, the debris that you see now is all that's left after a twister wiped out a family of five, including a toddler named Angel. She was found in a bloody field that you see -- or the muddy field that you see over my shoulder along with her and her brother and sister.

This has been very hard on this community, and especially on the young man who tried to save Angel and her family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILLER: Life isn't ever going to be the same. It's never going to be the same for me again.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): How could life be the same for Jason Miller after being the sole survivor of a tornado, a twister that that sucked up sky-high and killed the family of five he was trying to protect, including 14-month-old Angel, her two-year-old brother and two-month-old sister. When he spotted the tornado outside, he had seconds to react.

MILLER: I had already grabbed the little girl and she had the car seat. I told her, run, run for the house. And I just saw death right there. I knew we were done at that moment.

CANDIOTTI: You saw death?

MILLER: I mean, at that moment, I knew it was over.

CANDIOTTI (on-camera): Jason Miller convinced the Babcock family of five to get out of their smaller trailer and hunker down with him in his double-wide. So, they crouched down in the floor in the center of the trailer as the tornado got closer and closer.

MILLER: And Angel was sitting there. I put my arm kind of over Angel and got her to get down, you know? I was like, the house got grabbed, you know, it was just like a strong wrench on the house, and it started to turn, and all of the sudden, it just popped loose and it was just -- it was amazing. Unbelievable.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): The house got sucked into the air and so did Miller. He blacked out. MILLER: I actually did open my eyes and came to while I was in the air at one point, and I don't know how high we were, but we did fly up over a saw mill, about 300 or 400 yards when I landed. When I opened my eyes, the only thing I could see were debris -- pieces of wood churning around me, and I remember looking down thinking -- that's at least 50 feet, I don't know how I'm going to get down.

CANDIOTTI: He landed in a gravel yard at a saw mill about 100 yards away next to a field. People started looking for survivors.

ANDREW LANHAM, RESCUER: The man and woman was laying right here behind the saw mill. And all three of the kids was found right in this area.

CANDIOTTI: Right in the muddy field. And one of the babies was still in a car seat, a baby seat?

LANHAM: Yes. I don't know what to say, you know? It's devastating.

CANDIOTTI: Also devastating for Jason Miller, who keeps thinking about the Babcocks and their children. He wonders if he could have done more.

MILLER: I called them over to get killed in my house and there's part of me that at first, it's just very hard to -- to not think this is kind of my fault.

CANDIOTTI: You know it isn't.

MILLER: It doesn't matter what I know. It just matters that I called them over to my house and they died. You get sucked up in a house with six people 50 feet in the air, ripped apart, break your back and your arm and your ribs, five people that you're holding hands with die. Life can't ever be the same again after that. It's too much.

CANDIOTTI: Jason is suffering from a lot of broken bones. Eventually, they will heal. Healing emotionally will be much tougher -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: What a heart-breaking story, only one story but such a heartbreaking one. Susan thanks so much for bringing it to our viewers.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is in Kentucky, which is not only dealing with tornado damage, but also snow.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, heavy equipment continues to come in and out of here, the town of West Liberty (ph). There have been some government workers and some business owners that have been allowed to come back in today, but still residents have not. One of the reasons is we've got three inches of snow last night, that has stopped but it's still covering up a lot of the debris, very dangerous debris to begin with. Now nails and sharp objects like glass and sharp metal covered up and slick, making the recovery even more dangerous.

We're on the corner of Main. Look at this church. It's the Methodist church. It's over 100 years old and just got clobbered in the storm. The pastor of this church was in the basement when the storm went through. He managed to survive. He's actually staying at the hotel I'm staying at. We talked last night. He said hey, I can't get in there. Can you go check on the parsonage? The building next to the church, which fared a little bit better. It's just beyond that rubble. I did earlier and I ran into a friend of his that was working on the roof, who happened to come face-to-face with the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were panicked. I was really praying for us and I realized I was being selfish and I just started praying for everybody, you know and I don't think -- I don't know if that helped or not but I did my best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: That man is anything but selfish. Not many selfish people here, I'll tell you that, Wolf. Everyone is trying to get together and make this thing happen. Even with the snow coming in last night, just another obstacle that they have to overcome but they're getting through it. It's a slow, slow recovery but they're making some progress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rob Marciano thanks very, very much.

A major decision today that impacts an American citizen in prison in Iran and sentenced to death for spying, also an earthquake hits California this morning. It was captured by a TV station. You'll see it. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including a new attack linked to the burning of the Korans in Afghanistan. What happened here, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials in Afghanistan are denying a Taliban claim that 12 American soldiers were killed in a suicide attack at Bagram air field. The Taliban called the bombing revenge for the burning of Korans. An interior ministry spokesman said two civilians were killed in the attack. The Taliban frequently exaggerates battlefield losses against U.S. and NATO troops.

Iran's Supreme Court has cancelled the death sentence for an American accused of spying but now Amir Hibachi's (ph) case is headed to a lower court for review. Both his family and the U.S. government deny the allegations. The 28-year-old former Marine was arrested in August while visiting his grandmother and other relatives.

And the San Francisco Bay area got a rude awakening this morning. A magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck about 5:30 this morning. The epicenter was four miles north of Berkeley. Seismologists say the quake occurred along the Hayward (ph) fault which is considered overdue for a major tremor. The quake struck as a television anchor was on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe we're feeling an earthquake right now, in fact a pretty big earthquake. The studio is shaking. We just want to take a moment here to let you know. We have the seismograph right now and you can see it right there. We just had an earthquake in the bay area and looking at this it appears sizable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does. See the red mark there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: Yes, you can tell they're prepared. They have got the seismograph. They can go right to it, so they're kind of used to that in the San Francisco area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As they should be, good reporters. Thanks very much for that Lisa.

Angry protests in New York and calls for the police commissioner to step down after reports that New York police spied on Muslim students. We'll have the update.

And the NFL rocked by a huge scandal over a so-called bounty program that paid football players to take out their rivals. We're going to have details of a confidential NFL memo. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now to a surprising twist to a controversial Muslim surveillance program used by New York City police. It has already outraged Islamic students but now some other Muslims are coming out in support of the program. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with more -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today defenders of the NYPD surveillance program held a rally outside police headquarters and some Muslim-American leaders are saying that the police should be thanked.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): As pressure points on the NYPD over its surveillance of Muslims, Republican Congressman Peter King, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security came to its defense.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The NYPD is not spying. The NYPD is carrying out effective surveillance. If they were not doing what they were doing to me they would be negligent and they would be remiss in their duties.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE) SNOW: But some Muslim-American protesters are calling on the police commissioner to step down. Anger at the NYPD comes following the leaking of a 60-page report documenting surveillance of University Muslim Student Associations in the northeast.

ZOHRA AHMED, FORDHAM LAW STUDENT: The revelation that there's been surveillance is infuriating but I sort of suspected it.

SNOW: Zohra Ahmed is a Muslim-American law student. She says the surveillance program will backfire.

M. ZUHDI JASSER, AMER. ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY: I think that to profile people is not only illegal and immoral, it alienates an entire community and makes us all unsafe. The Muslim communities in New York can't trust the NYPD and that's a cause for concern.

SNOW: But not all Muslim-Americans agree. Zuhdi Jasser narrated a controversial film called "The Third Jihad", warning of Islamic terrorism and testified at Muslim radicalization hearings held by King.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not here to criticize the NYPD, but rather to thank them for doing a lot of the work that we, as Muslims, should be doing which is monitoring extremism.

SNOW: The surveillance program is also pitting the NYPD against New Jersey officials. Governor Chris Christie claims the NYPD did not share information about its surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, something the NYPD disputes.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is the New York Police Department. I know they think their jurisdiction is the world.

SNOW: In a speech this weekend, Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the NYPD's action saying its undercover investigations begin with leads adding -- "the police department will not apologize for our lawful efforts to protect New York. And we will not change our methods to satisfy those who would impugn them without understanding them."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: That answer isn't easing any tension. Over the weekend, New Jersey officials met with leaders of Muslim organizations. Those groups want the state to investigate the NYPD surveillance program. That's something that New York's attorney general has declined to do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you. Meanwhile, a major scandal over the National Football League over a bounty program that paid players for hurting their opponents, just ahead we have details of a secret NFL memo and what might happen next.

Plus, a Rhode Island politician is catching a lot of heat for a very bizarre TV appearance with his 5-year-old son. This is video you don't want to miss. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Amazingly popular American sport is now caught up in a major scandal. An NFL coach is accused of paying players extra money to injure their opponents, injure their opponents. Now the so-called bounties could cost him and the teams he's worked for. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with more. Brian, I've got say as an NFL fan, this is truly shocking what has been going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf, and it's going to get even worse. It seems to be really exploding today. NFL.com reporting citing a league source that the central figure in this scandal, former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams met with NFL security officials today after reports emerged this weekend that he might have been involved in similar practices with other teams that he had coached. The NFL's investigation was very extensive and the league hasn't even doled out punishment yet.

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TODD (voice-over): It's wildly popular and recession-proof, in no small measure because of its violence. Now the NFL has got a major scandal on its hands at a time when it's enforcing new rules on concussion injuries. According to a league investigation, the New Orleans Saints had a bounty program that paid players for injuring opponents. As many as 27 players were involved, the NFL says, were paid $1,500 for a knockout that took an opposing player out of a game, $1,000 for a so-called "cart off" when a player had to be carried from the field.

PETER KING, SENIOR WRITER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: I think it's going to be a huge scandal and it will involve multiple suspensions, some of them a half a season or more in length, involving coaches, players, and also heavy sanctions towards one of the league's growing exciting franchises, the New Orleans Saints.

TODD: "Sports Illustrated" senior writer Peter King says he's seen a confidential NFL memo sent to all 32 teams, part of the investigation. King says the memo details some of the bounties including one in the 2010 NFC Championship game between the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings who had 40-year-old quarterback Brett Favre under center.

PETER KING: The NFL has named a player, linebacker Jonathan Vilma (ph), a star defensive player for the Saints that before this game he offered $10,000 in cash, according to the NFL, to anyone on the field that day for the Saints who would put Brett Favre out of the game.

TODD: Favre took several vicious hits in that game. Left the game temporarily, but finished. We could not reach Jonathan Vilma (ph) for comment. The Saints issued a statement saying the team is cooperating with the NFL's probe. The bounty program was administered by then Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, who's now with the St. Louis Rams. Williams issue a statement to the "New Orleans Times Picayune" (ph) taking full responsibility saying "it was a terrible mistake and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it."

(on camera): This may be only the beginning. "The Washington Post" reports that the Washington Redskins had a similar bounty system when Gregg Williams was their defensive coordinator in the mid 2000's. "The Post" reports the NFL will also investigate the Redskins.

(voice-over): I spoke with Cynthia Boren of "The Post".

CYNTHIA BOREN, WASHINGTOON POST: They will investigate the Redskins. There are some allegations about the Titans when Gregg Williams was with Tennessee. I'd be surprised if they didn't look into that.

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TODD: Contacted by CNN the Redskins would not comment on "The Post" report. Joe Gibbs (ph) who was the Redskins' head coach when Williams was defensive coordinator has said he had no knowledge of a Redskins bounty program. One former Redskin, cornerback Fred Smoot (ph) who played under Williams told a radio program that Gregg Williams quote, "never put a dime into the money pot, that the players did it themselves" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's shocking, I got to tell you, but getting back to the Saints, was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints Sean Payton (ph) directly involved or knew about the bounty program?

TODD: The NFL says Payton (ph) did not directly participate, was not involved in administering the program, but knew about the allegations and failed to stop it. Peter King also says Mickey Loomis, the Saints general manager had been told at least once to stop this program and did not do it. You're going to see a lot of sanctions here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this story is not going away. By the way, John King is going to be speaking with a player who used to play under the coach, the assistant coach Gregg Williams. That's coming up for our North American viewers on "JOHN KING USA" right at the top of the hour.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is will Super Tuesday which is tomorrow, clarify the GOP situation further or confuse things further? Nate in Indiana "I'm not expecting any epiphanies from Super Tuesday. Each of the camps has enough of a revenue stream to carry on operations and they believe too deeply in their own arguments about why the other candidates are not acceptable."

Jerome in Louisville, Kentucky, "if Romney wins Ohio, it's over. If Romney doesn't win Ohio, it's still over. Romney will be the nominee." Michael in Alabama, "I feel tomorrow's primaries will do nothing but further lengthen the campaigns and cause more division. Gingrich could win Georgia, Santorum could win Ohio, and Ron Paul could actually win somewhere. Romney better get ready for a long drawn-out fight all the way to the convention."

Charles writes "it's obvious there's no candidate that can defeat Obama in the general election. The growing endorsements amount to let's cut our losses, let Romney take the loss without our party losing it all. The Republicans need to take back their party from the Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh before they try to take back the country."

Jeff writes "nope, not one of them will drop out no matter what the results are. This clown show is far from over." Charles in Michigan "Things will stay confused. Republicans have a choice between a person who keeps his money in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands or a person who wants to be Pope of the United States. However, we may finally get rid of Newt."

And David in Las Vegas writes "with the choices the GOP has at the moment, Super Tuesday means the media will interrupt the ending of my favorite TV shows with useless updates about candidates we don't want." If you would like to read more about this, you go to my blog, CNN.COM/CAFFERTYFILE or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Rhode Island politician's 5-year-old son is campaigning -- I should say -- for his dad, but their bizarre TV appearance has a lot of people talking.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) economics for 5-yer-olds. (INAUDIBLE)

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BLITZER: Politician's appearance with his son is getting a lot of attention. Here's Jeanne Moos.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kids on TV, they scratch, they sigh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the reality is --

MOOS: They love to make faces. But that isn't why this interview by FOX's Neil Cavuto was pronounced creepiest thing ever by the blog Mediaite. It wasn't what the kid did. It was his dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your friends saying when they see you on TV?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I don't know right now.

MOOS (on camera): Did you notice the dad's lips moving sort of like a bad ventriloquist? (voice-over): The boy is 5-year-old Hudson Hinckley who did a cute political commercial for his dad, a Republican from Rhode Island running for the U.S. Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is national debt when I was born. And this is the national debt what it is now. Yuck.

MOOS: But when they were interviewed by Cavuto --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hudson, are you worried about our debt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you worried about paying back the money?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No.

MOOS: But what do you expect, the kid is 5. The creepy part, the part that made Mediaite's writer want to go wash my eyes out was watching the dad when Hudson was asked what he wants to be when he grows up.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to be in the war and save the country.

MOOS: When we showed the clip, everyone had a theory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's already told him what to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like they're both reading from the same script or teleprompter.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to be a good senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reminds me of like a stage mom, like they rehearsed it and then they see their kids on stage and they're like say exactly what I told you to say.

MOOS (on camera): Why were you mouthing the words that he said?

BARRY HINCKLEY (R), RHODE ISLAND SENATE CANDIDATE: Well I'm not sure. You know I was -- you know obviously, we were both a bit nervous because it was the first time we did national TV. That's all. There was no conspiracy theory. There were no cue cards.

MOOS (voice-over): A psychologist told CNN this type of repetition can happen when someone is anxious about how a child or a spouse is being perceived. Some suggested it might be a verbal tic, the involuntary tic of echoing.

B. HINCKLEY: God, no. I've done hundreds of interviews myself. It was just the first time I've ever worked with a 5-year-old live, so obviously it didn't go as planned but live and learn.

MOOS: And if it all feels a little bit like a ventriloquist act, say Maxwell and Hugo. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll tell them it wasn't my fault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sort of dummy do you think I am?

MOOS: At least Hudson and Barry survived the interview unlike Hugo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

MOOS: But read my lips, no more interviews together.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is real dad.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to be a good senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?

MOOS: -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Good for him. Good senator. We need some good senators.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Don't forget all of our Super Tuesday coverage tomorrow. For now I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.