Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
CNN Inside Syria Refuge Camp; Campaigns Launch New Attacks; One Image Exposing Iran's Secret Nukes?; Facebook Prepares to Go Public; Manhunt Underway for Missing FBI Agent
Aired May 14, 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, Syrian refugees tell CNN they feel forsaken by the world. Our Anderson Cooper is inside camps along the Syrian border, getting a firsthand look right now at conditions and hero -- hearing horror stories of slaughter and oppression.
And there may be new evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon.
Could one image blow the lid off of Tehran's secret program?
And fishermen on a stranded boat wave for help, but a nearby ship never stops. Now the sole survivor is suing, saying a popular cruise line let his companions die.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we -- we begin with new reports today of appalling violence and deaths in Syria. You see the videos on the news or on YouTube, but it doesn't necessarily tell the full story of a desperate uprising against a brutal regime. And it's a story that needs to be told.
So CNN is taking you as close as possible to the front lines, to the refugee camps along the Syrian border, where tens of thousands of people have now run for their lives. And now, they're sharing their stories.
Anderson Cooper is joining us now from the border, the Syria- Turkey border. Also, Fouad Ajami, the Middle East scholar, is joining us, as well -- Anderson, what have you seen so far that has really surprised you, because we know you've been reporting on the Syria story now for more than a year?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's one thing to report on it from a distance, it's another thing to -- to meet people in -- in their tent homes and hear their stories, hear what they -- the atrocities that they have witnessed, to learn about the loved ones that -- that they've lost. I mean you go to these refugee camps -- and, Wolf, as you know, there's some 23,000 Syrians living in refugee camps along the Turkish border. There's more in Lebanon. There's -- there's more in Iraq. In the entire region, about 70,000 in total.
But -- but I haven't met anybody who has not lost a loved one, you know?
And it's a question of how many people have you lost?
You know, you meet one person who has lost one son. And then in the next tent, they've lost two sons and another son has been arrested and they're not sure if that person is alive or dead.
So, you know, the very personal nature of this conflict -- and overwhelmingly, the refugees we're seeing are -- are Sunni Muslims who, you know, have a long history of grievances against the -- the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who's favored Alawites, even though Sunnis are -- are the majority population.
But the, you know, the -- the other thing that really impresses you, and I think it's something that Professor Ajami told me about, is just the attempt to maintain dignity and the attempt to maintain graciousness. And, you know, they offer you tea and they offer you coffee. They try to kind of recreate their lives in these tent camps.
But as you know, refugee camps are -- are really miserable places, no matter how well run they are. These are people whose lives have been destroyed and whose lives are now in limbo.
BLITZER: Fouad, do they see light at the end of the tunnel?
Are they upbeat?
Are they depressed?
What's your impression?
FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTE: Well, I think, Wolf, I think what you -- what you have to realize is that these camps -- in these camps, there are brilliant readers of the world situation, because they're un-illusioned. They've been taught by tragedy. They've been taught by what the powers say but don't do.
You walk around that be -- and because there is a camera with us, I mean I would come around -- I came around with a note pad. I was on my own.
This is very different. These people are drawn to the camera.
On the one hand, they are tired of the journalists, they are tired of people visiting them. They don't think rescue is -- is coming. But nevertheless, the camera is there and they want to tell you of their grief.
Are they disease -- are they disillusioned? Absolutely.
Are they disappointed in American power, in -- particularly, in the main, because they know that -- that the U.S. could change the balance of power on the ground?
They're disappointed that the Arabs have not ridden to the rescue. Absolutely.
And I think what you learn and what you see is that these people understand that they're on their own. And when they tell you, when someone with limited education says, we have been forsaken by the world -- and they continue to believe, they continue to hope that if people see what they have gone through, if people hear their stories and their grief, then maybe the world will listen.
BLITZER: Anderson, have you seen any indication that these refugees are themselves getting ready to take up arms to go back into Syria, potentially, and start fighting?
COOPER: Well, there -- there's no doubt that is already happening, Wolf, and has been happening for quite some time. The Turkish re--- the Turkish government, which actually doesn't even call them refugees -- basically, it calls them guests, invited guests -- has an open border policy. So they allow these refugees to move back and forth.
So you do have young men who are in these camps for a time. They rest up and then they go back into Syria. They fight with -- with various groups, and most likely the -- the so-called Free Syrian Army. And then they come back and try to kind of regroup.
There's no doubt that -- that is already happening and will continue to happen.
The thing that they say to you -- and we come across people who -- just today, I was talking to a young man who had just been back to his hometown with the -- the Free Syrian Army. You know, they're stunned at what little attention their -- their -- their plight has gotten and kind of the hollow promises. You know, they've heard about weapons coming in. They've heard about support from Qatar and -- and from Saudi Arabia. They've heard about communications support from the United States.
They -- they haven't really seen that on the ground. And -- they're kind of -- they question you about where is the world?
Why are people watching this happen?
And it's not as if -- and, you know, one of the things they say to you is -- is it's not as if the world doesn't know what is happening. We've all been watching this now, in slow motion, and sometimes in very fast motion -- for the last 14, 15 months. We've seen the -- the videos when reporters haven't been allowed in that have been uploaded into to YouTube of people being shot for protesting, for raising their voices. And they know that the world has seen this. They -- they're wondering where the world is right now.
BLITZER: And -- and when you speak to them, Fouad, and I know you speak to these refugees and you spoke to them in Arabic, obviously. And you men -- you might mention, well, it's not just the United States. I mean the United States is not necessarily the major problem. You have Russia and China threatening to use their veto power at the U.N. Security Council to block any resolution that would authorize the use of force, a no-fly zone or a no-drive zone.
Do they understand that it's Russia and China, presumably, that's standing in the way of that kind of action which we saw in Libya?
AJAMI: Well, to be honest with you, Wolf, I think they understand that, but I think they think it's irrelevant. And they are absolutely right.
They think that the position of Russia and China really is of no consequence to -- to the outcome on the ground. They understand if the democracies, if NATO decides to intervene, then the balance of force on the ground will change.
And they understand, also, that the Syrian Army is a joke. People tell you that the Syrian Army, they call it Jaish Abu-Shahaitai (ph) in Arabic, an army in slippers, that this army would collapse if NATO was to come to the rescue, if airpower was to be used.
They understand that America is reluctant. They know that President Obama is facing a reelection campaign. They know his priorities. They don't think he's a friend of theirs.
So, really, no time is wasted on the Russians and the Chinese. The time, the anxiety, the questioning has to do, will NATO come and a kind of growing conviction that the cavalry is not coming.
BLITZER: Fouad Ajami, thanks very much.
Anderson, we know you're going to be reporting live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, later tonight, "A.C. 360."
We'll look forward to your reports from the border between Syria and Turkey.
Guys, thanks very much.
Be careful over there.
Here in the United States, a rocky day on Wall Street. The Dow plummeting 125 points amid concerns over worsening political and economic instability in Europe and new fears about the safety of the U.S. banking sector in the wake of JPMorgan Chase stunning trading loss.
Jack Cafferty is joining us now with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: JPMorgan's $2 billion trading loss highlights what could be a huge Wall Street problem for President Obama, as he campaigns for a second term.
Nearly four years after the financial crisis, very little appears to have changed on Wall Street. These guys continue still manage to play fast and loose with whatever rules there are. And in the process, they risk huge losses.
JPMorgan's CEO, Jamie Dimon, was on "Meet the Press" yesterday doing damage control, or trying.
There have already been several high level resignations at the company. Dimon acknowledges the $2 billion loss was due to a series of massive bets placed through something called credit default swaps, which is what nearly brought the country to its knees in 2008.
In other words, what happened to JPMorgan, one of the largest banks in the world, is exactly the kind of thing that the president's financial law was supposed to stop. But it did not.
Working in the president's favor, he can paint his opponent, Mitt Romney, as a big business guy who would cut financial regulations.
But the voters are likely to hold up the president against his record and ask, how could this happen again?
In light of the mess at JPMorgan, it will be nearly impossible for Obama to run as a president who got tough on Wall Street.
Critics of the president say the White House should have pushed for stronger legislation and that financial reform took a back seat to the health care and stimulus bills. They say the president had a historic chance to bring real reform to Wall Street in 2008, since there was such intense public anger toward the banks back then. Administration officials argue President Obama pushed for the toughest financial reform law that he could get through the Congress.
The question is this, how big is President Obama's Wall Street problem?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.
BLITZER: He's going to raise a few million dollars from his pals on Wall Street tonight, where you are, Jack, in New York. So he may have a problem with Wall Street, but he's still getting some money from some of those big -- big guys on Wall Street.
CAFFERTY: Well, and the hypocrisy of all of it is, of course, they talk about we've got to regulate Wall Street and then they go to Wall Street with their hand out. I mean it's -- it's a joke.
BLITZER: It's not the first time it's happened and won't be the last.
Jack, thank you .
The Obama camp is reviving a familiar attack against Mitt Romney and his record on job creation.
Can the Democrats make it stick?
And one picture may be exposing Iran's nuclear secrets. I'll ask the former U.S. ambassador, Dennis Ross, for his take on this potential
Evidence. He was President Obama's point man on Iran at the NSC.
And a cruise ship passes by a stranded fishing boat.
Was it an oversight or a deadly act of negligence?
BLITZER: The Obama and Romney campaigns are hurling new attacks at one another, the president's team focusing in on Romney's record on jobs when he was CEO of the financial firm, Bain Capital.
Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta.
He's got more.
It sounds familiar, this latest line of attack.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sounds familiar because it is familiar, Wolf.
It was only a matter of time before the Obama campaign brought up Bain Capital in their race against Mitt Romney. Not only does Republican rivals use this issue during the primaries, every time Mitt Romney has run for office, he has had to defend himself and his time with this company.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD, COURTESY OBAMA FOR AMERICA)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): It's the chapter in Mitt Romney's life he's never fully closed, his time at the investment firm he founded, Bain Capital.
This new Obama campaign ad, up in swing states, features former steelworkers from a factory that went belly-up under Bain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD, COURTESY OBAMA FOR AMERICA)
JACK COBB, STEELWORKER 31 YEARS: They're like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: The Romney campaign cried foul, noting the GOP contender left Bain in 1999, two years before the plant in the ad closed.
But on a conference call with reporters, Obama campaign officials argued it's fair game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He set this in motion. It was his structure that was put in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Romney has been down this road before. Back in the primaries, a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC released a 30 minute attack ad called ""King of Bain"."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD, COURTESY WINNING OUR FUTURE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says he's for small businesses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he isn't. He -- he's not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to be on the hit list.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: GOP rivals seized on Bain to portray Romney as a heartless corporate raider, buying and selling companies after sucking them dry.
GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a real difference between a venture capitalist and a vulture capitalist.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the time, Romney pointed to his business success stories like helping launch the official supply chain, Staples.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think any time a job is lost, it's a tragedy.
ACOSTA: They are attacks he's fought since his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy.
ROMNEY: The cynical old style politics prove he's been in Washington too long.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Necessary it was, you know, it's just one way. (INAUDIBLE) come here.
ACOSTA: Hours after the Obama-Bain (ph) ad was released, the Romney campaign responded with its own spot, featuring a different steel plant that's up and running after an investment from Bain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But SDI almost never got started when others shied away, Mitt Romney's private sector leadership team stepped.
ACOSTA: Republicans accuse the president of hypocrisy, airing the ad on the same day he's to attend a fundraiser hosted by the wealthy investment firm executive, Tony James. And when a current top Bain manager, Jonathan Lavine, is a big Obama donor. The GOP has its own offense of this week, hitting the president on the national debt.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why today, I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.
ACOSTA: A new Republican web video and conference call noted the debt steady rise under the Obama White House.
ACOSTA (on-camera): And Mitt Romney will carry that message with him to Iowa where he will hammer the president on the deficit once again. That will be tomorrow. As for Bain, the Romney campaign's new ad is careful not to use the company's Bain. It doesn't appear word Bain anywhere in that spot, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Another Republican matter, I don't know if you notice, but I think you did. Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate, the only one besides Romney still in the race. He issued a statement that he's basically saying he's no longer going to use any resources to campaign in states where there are still primaries.
ACOSTA: Right. And this is not a big surprise. He's been dialing down his campaign in recent weeks, but what is interesting about that statement, Wolf, is he's still talking about having a presence at these state Republican Party conventions that are still happening around the country where delegates are being allocated.
He's still making a play for delegates because he wants to have a strong voice at the Republican convention later this summer, not only because he wants to have that voice this summer, but because there's a chance he may run again in 2016 if Mitt Romney is not successful. There is talk of that or to set the table for Rand Paul who, a lot of people say, may run as well.
BLITZER: That's much more likely given Ron Paul's age.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: And by our account right now, Romney has 945 delegates. He needs 1,144. He probably will get that within this month.
ACOSTA: He's very close.
BLITZER: Probably will. Ron Paul, by our count, has 99 delegates. Thanks very much.
ACOSTA: You bet.
BLITZER: A desperate manhunt under way for a missing FBI agent believed to be carrying a gun. Just ahead, we'll have the latest on why he could be on the run. Also this, the most popular baby names for 2011 are now in, Ava, Noah, they have just made the top five, followed by Olivia and Jayden, number four. Can you guess which names made the top three? We're going to tell you right here on the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A manhunt underway for a missing FBI agent. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. Mary, what's going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, authorities say the man was last seen by his family Thursday is suicidal and could be carrying a gun. He's a special agent for the Los Angeles division and is said to have worked on national security type cases, including counterterrorism. Police say there's no evidence of foul play, but they're concerned for his well-being.
A security official says at least 49 decapitated dismembered bodies found strewn along a highway in Northern Mexico is not an attack against the civilian population. The remains were discovered yesterday not far from a written message appearing to refer to a major drug cartel. The area has become a brutal battleground for drug cartels in recent years.
The family of a 24-year-old Master's student battling a debilitating flesh-eating bacteria in a Georgia Hospital is calling her survival miraculous. The woman who has already lost leg and part of her abdomen contracted the bacteria after a fall that severely cut and later infected her calf. She may also lose her fingers. A blog post says doctors are hoping to eventually be strong enough for prosthetics.
And get your pencils ready. The most popular baby names for 2011 are in. Now, according to the Social Security Administration, Sophia now leads the pack for the girls, bumping Isabella to the number two spot this year, while Eva is number three.
As for the boys, Jacob tops the list for the 13th year in a row, followed by Mason, which owes its boost to the popular Kardashian baby of the same names, and in third, always a classic, William. We didn't make the list again this year, wolf.
BLITZER: I can understand Wolf not making the list, but Mary? What happened to Mary? I thought that was such a great name.
SNOW: Thank you, but no, never makes that list. Maybe next year.
BLITZER: When I grew up, everybody. By the way, you're number 112. Guess what number Wolf is.
SNOW: I would say 115?
BLITZER: No. It's not even anywhere on the charts at all, not surprised. All right. Thanks very much, Mary. We're taking a closer look at an image that could be new evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapons program. Stand by for that.
Also, he's 28 years old today and he's about to get even richer. The Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is having a very big week as his company prepares to go public.
BLITZER: There could be more evidence today that Iran may be working on a nuclear weapons program. It's a drawing of a piece of equipment, a containment chamber that's needed to test nuclear weapons.
It's said to come from inside an Iranian military site. The image was obtained by the Associated Press and has been appearing on newspaper websites around the country, indeed, around the world.
Let's talk about it with the former assistant to President Obama on the Middle East, Dennis Ross. He's now a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Dennis, thanks very much for coming in. You've seen this drawing, what do you make of it?
DENNIS ROSS, FORMER SPECIAL ASST. TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think it is a reflection of something that has raised the IAEA interest for some time.
BLITZER: The International Atomic Energy Agency.
ROSS: Yes. now, they're the watchdog for the U.N. on insuring that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is lived up to. In the case of the IAEA, they have looked at the Iranians and they have looked at this particular site where they believe such a chamber has existed for some time, and it's raised questions in their mind about whether or not there really is a weaponization program.
Their terms of art for describing weaponization is possible military dimensions of the Iranian program. They have constantly asked the Iranians questions they've sought clarification, and they haven't been able to get it. This civil will simply sharpen the level of interest in trying to get answers to those question.
BLITZER: Why would it be significant if it is what some fear it is?
ROSS: Because this is the kind of chamber that is used basically to test explosives or ignition devices that is used only for war, it's for creating warheads.
BLITZER: So, there's no peaceful purpose for this design or this piece of a quilt, but if in fact it exists.
ROSS: It's pretty hard to find a peaceful purpose. There are some people who say it can be used for diamonds, but the truth is, this is the kind of system that if you have it, you're using it to test explosives. BLITZER: Now, this is a drawing, it's not a photo, right?
ROSS: That's correct, although, people who in fact -- who have been - who know something about these places and these sites including Ollie Heideman (ph) who is someone who worked for 27 years for the IAEA believes that this is a very close rendition of what the chamber will look like.
BLITZER: There's been some suspicion that the Iranians have been going into some of these sites, quote, "cleaning them up" in advance of IAEA inspectors maybe coming back in. What do you know about this?
ROSS: Well, I don't know more than anybody else. I've seen all these public reports. There's a lot of suspicion, including from the director general of the IAEA, Amano, who has made it very clear that he, too, is concern that there maybe an effort to sanitize these areas.
A chamber like this if there had been such experiments run would lead residue when in fact there could be contaminated territory or ground. So, in fact, I would suspect, if IAEA inspectors get access to partial (ph) which is a site where there's the suspicion, they would probably want to take soil samples. And I think this is an area where there's -- as I said, in acute level of interest.
BLITZER: Because the drawing if you are, came from an official of a country that's involved in this IAEA monitoring. And you know, a lot of people are suspicious, given the WMD misinformation, the bad intelligence that came from some informant in Germany, if you will, about WMDs in Iraq that turned out to be bogus, how concerned should all of us be that maybe this information is bogus as well?
ROSS: Well given the legacy of Iraq, obviously once you would have a certain degree of skepticism. That said this is not only one country that's focused on Iran. This is the IAEA, which is an international body. As I said, it's the watch dog agency for the U.N. when it comes to enforcement of nuclear nonproliferation treaty. And the fact of the matter is they have an acute suspicion about this. They have been probing around for a long time seeking answers to questions and they haven't gotten them. You know Iran claims that it has a nuclear program that is built on peaceful intent.
BLITZER: Only peaceful --
ROSS: Only peaceful --
BLITZER: That's what the Ayatollah has said.
ROSS: That's correct and the IAEA says we're not in the position to validate that that's the case. If you would answer the questions about the possible military dimensions of your program, we'd be in a better position. They want access to these kinds of sites, they want access to people, they want access to documents and they have not -- they have been basically denied access to all of those.
BLITZER: Later this month another round of talks will take place in Baghdad of all places; the Iranians are willing to talk with IAEA and other western diplomats in Baghdad. Is anything going to come of this you think?
ROSS: Well two points. The first is the IAEA specialists are in fact meeting with the Iranians this week and then the next round of negotiations will be in Baghdad. You know I don't know that you should identify the next meeting as the make or break point for this, but I think you should look at it as a point at which discussions begin to get focused on the real substance of the issues, if they're confidence building measures you begin to take a hard look at defining those. And also I do think that if these are going to be serious negotiations, they should be ongoing. They shouldn't meet just once a month.
BLITZER: Dennis Ross thanks very much for coming in. We'll stay in close touch.
ROSS: My pleasure.
BLITZER: We have new information about who will take the stand now that John Edwards' lawyers have begun presenting their side of the story, their case. We'll also have the latest from the former presidential candidate's trial. Stand by for that. And a popular cruise line sued by a boater who says he and his companions were ignored by the ship and left to die.
BLITZER: We have new information just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now about who will testify in defense of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. His lawyers started presenting their case today. Let's go to our senior correspondent Joe Johns, he's on the scene for us in Greensboro, North Carolina. What happened today, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf we're hearing that Cate Edwards, the daughter of John Edwards who's been here throughout the trial may testify here in Greensboro as early as tomorrow. Also hearing that there is no decision yet made on whether John Edwards himself will even testify. All of this as we're also told this trial could start wrapping up by the end of the week.
JOHNS (voice-over): Side stepping at least for now all the stories of sex, lies and politics and the speculation about whether John Edwards or Rielle Hunter, his mistress and the mother of his young daughter Quinn could take the stand, the Edwards' defense team now making its case quickly trying to refocus the trial on the charges of campaign law violations at the center of the case. The first witness for the defense was Laura Haggard (ph), a former chief financial officer for the Edwards' president campaign in 2008 who was in charge of telling the Federal Election Commission how the campaign got its money and where the money went.
Haggard (ph) said she did not believe hundreds of thousands of dollars from Edwards' benefactors that was used by his fixers (ph) and his mistress to cover up the affair was a campaign contribution. Therefore she said it didn't have to be disclosed to the FEC. Haggard's (ph) testimony was also intended to help Edwards out of the sixth and final count of his indictment charging that he caused false statements to be filed in the FEC reports. Haggard (ph) took full responsibility for the reports and said Edwards never had anything to do with them.
STEVEN FRIEDLAND, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: A big issue here is whether John Edwards had criminal intent. If the chief financial officer did not view these as campaign contributions, a clear inference is that John Edwards would have no reason to either. That's a big emphasis for the defense.
JOHNS: Also on the stand was Harrison Hickman (ph), a well-known pollster, political consultant and friend of John Edwards. He said he talked to Fred Baron (ph), the late trial lawyer who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars helping Edwards. Hickman (ph) said Baron was quote "persnickety about making sure his campaign donations were legal, but that he considered the money Edwards personal and a gift as opposed to a campaign donation.
JOHNS: The defense wanted to put a former Federal Elections commissioner on the stand who has questioned the government's take in the case, but the judge decided late today that she wasn't going to allow most of that testimony, so it was a step forward for the defense today, also a step backward -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see if it wraps up by the end of the week. Thanks very much for that, Joe Johns on the scene.
Facebook goes public with its stock this week and investors are clamoring (ph) to get in on the action. Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg is about to get even richer and he's only 28 years old. Today is his birthday, by the way. CNN's Silicon Valley correspondent Dan Simon is taking an in-depth look at the young man who helped change the way the world communicates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gosh, OK. I'm glad this isn't live.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was 2006; about two years after launching Facebook from his Harvard dorm, a nervous and camera shy Mark Zuckerberg --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. Can I start that a different way?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just like so not on today.
SIMON: -- sits down for a CNN interview.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mark, can you just say your name and pronounce it so nobody messes it up and they have it on tape --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. It's Mark Zuckerberg.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you like to be identified, your title?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Founder and CEO.
SIMON: Outside of Silicon Valley, he was such an unknown quantity that our producer had to ask the most basic of questions.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did the company start?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it didn't start as a company. I was a sophomore at Harvard and we needed to I guess -- I have never really been asked how the company was started before --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did Facebook start?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little embarrassed. You would think that I would have been asked that like a ton of times.
SIMON: Speaking wise, he may have been rough around the edges, but even then, it was clear Zuckerberg had a laser like focus on what he wanted Facebook to become.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We view this site as sort of an information directory. It helps you better understand what's going on around you and once you're better informed about the people around you and what's going on, you're in a better position to meet people, connect with all these people.
SIMON: Like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs before him Zuckerberg is one of those rare CEOs whose pioneering accomplishments, fame and persona make him an especially compelling figure.
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, AUTHOR, "THE FACEBOOK EFFECT": In private, I think Mark is a pretty entertaining, engaging fellow, who is funny, who's got a lot of friends.
SIMON: David Kirkpatrick is what you might call a Facebook historian, author of best-selling book "The Facebook Effect".
KIRKPATRICK: He's much more relaxed in private than he is in public. I don't think even to this day he really would like to be as much of a public figure as he is and if it were up to him he'd never be on a stage. He'd mostly just be sitting in front of a computer coding because that's what he loves to do.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you see Facebook as your dream job or a steppingstone to something else?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's definitely not a steppingstone. I don't necessarily think about what my dream job would be, but I guess this is pretty cool. I get to build what I want. That's awesome.
SIMON: It's interesting to get a glimpse of Facebook's small office back then. Notice the newspapers on the desk. It was only six years ago, but this was pre-iPhone and iPad, but one thing that hasn't really changed, Zuckerberg's attire, t-shirt and sandals, also unchanged and most important.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, an online social directory.
SIMON: His core vision for the company, to use technology to connect people to their friends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not building a company for the sake of building a company or because I think it's a good way to make a lot of money. I think that the philosophy that this company has is that you solve an important problem and then you have the ability to have a good business, but the basis of all that is solving an important problem.
SIMON: Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.
BLITZER: And there's so much interest right now in Facebook stock that the firm reportedly plans to stop taking orders for its initial public offering tomorrow. That would be two days ahead of schedule. Facebook is on track to start trading publicly on Friday, offering shares at 28 to $35 each and that puts the company's market value at an historic level, just shy of $100 billion.
Three fishermen stranded at sea, desperate to be saved by a passing cruise ship but allegedly ignored. Now the sole survivor of the ordeal is taking action.
And one woman's huge life changing moment, and we're not just talking about her college graduation; it's what happened after she got her diploma.
BLITZER: Three fishermen stranded at sea pleading for help from a passing cruise ship and allegedly ignored. Now the sole survivor of the horrific 28-day ordeal is taking matters into his own hands. Brian Todd is working the details for us. Brian, what's going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lawsuit was filed on his behalf just a few days ago. This complaint says Princess Cruises showed quote "a callous disregard for human life in this incident." And lawyers for the lone survivor say they've got at least two passengers from that cruise ship to back up their case.
TODD (voice-over): This is what the passengers saw, a disabled fishing boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The passengers were onboard the "Star Princess", a massive cruise liner that had come within sight of the boat. One of the passengers who spotted it, Judy Meredith (ph), described what a man on the stranded boat was doing.
JUDY MEREDITH, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: I could see him doing this with his shirt over and over and over.
TODD: Meredith and at least one other passenger Jeff Gilligan, who took this photo, say they immediately notified a crewmember on the "Star Princess" cruise ship. They say that crewmember visually confirmed the distressed boat on his own, but the cruise ship never stopped.
JEFF GILLIGAN, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: While we were on the ship, the feeling of powerlessness because we would have liked to somehow gone over there and rescued them.
TODD: The three people on that disabled boat were growing more desperate by the moment. One of them, Adrian Vasquez, is now suing Princess Cruises for neglect. He spoke with the Web site "Panama Guide" (ph).
ADRIAN VASQUEZ, RESCUED BOATER, (through translator): It was a really big boat. It was white and had the name in red.
TODD (on camera): Vasquez was on the disabled fishing boat with two companions. His complaint against Princess Cruise Lines says after they were spotted by the cruise ship passengers on March 10th, one of his companions, a 16-year-old having lost all hope died that very same day. The complaint says the other companion died five days later. Vasquez who had set off from Panama on February 24th was rescued by another fishing boat near the Galapagos Islands after having been adrift for nearly a month.
(voice-over): His lawyers say Vasquez survived by drinking rain water and eating rotting fish. Contacted by CNN, Princess Cruises issued a statement saying it suspects this was a case of "unfortunate miscommunication", that after the crewmember was alerted by passengers, "regretfully the captain of the 'Star Princess' was never notified of the passenger's concern" and if he had been, he would have had the opportunity to respond. I spoke with an attorney for Vasquez.
(on camera): The Princess Cruise Line statement says the captain was never notified. What does that mean as far as you're concerned?
ROBERT DICKMAN, ATTORNEY FOR RESCUED BOATER: Well the fact that the captain wasn't notified is an admission gross negligence on their part. The captain should have been told what ever any crewmember was today about this distressed vessel. There's a rule in admiralty you must go up your chain of command.
TODD: That attorney Robert Dickman says he believes the cruise ship may not have stopped, one reason for that maybe because it was scheduled to make a port of call in Punta Reinous (ph), Costa Rica the next day on March 11th and he says if the ship had stopped to help and maybe missed that scheduled docking, it would have lost a lot of money in concessions. A spokeswoman for Princess Cruises says that assertion is quote "absolutely false" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But by law that ship must stop and help a distressed ship --
TODD: Right, if it's aware of the situation. Yes, there's a U.N. charter saying that ship captains have to render assistance to what they say any person found at sea in danger of being lost has to rescue a person in distress as long as it doesn't endanger their own vessel. Now again the contention by the cruise ship line is the captain had no knowledge of this, but again the lawyer --
BLITZER: But somebody else just below the captain knew what was going on --
TODD: The lawyers are contending that someone below him knew --
BLITZER: They could have sent out a little boat --
BLITZER: -- and rescued those three individuals very quickly, brought them over to the ship and three people would have been alive instead of just one.
TODD: Well that's right. The lawyers for that plaintiff say that somewhere it got lost and somebody dropped the ball here and they're holding the cruise ship --
BLITZER: So are they ready to make at least a financial statement with this individual and the relatives of those who died?
TODD: That's not clear yet. This lawsuit was just filed and I kept asking them repeatedly what damages they might be seeking and they said that's not been determined yet. So this is really just getting started this --
BLITZER: Yes, I suppose there is going to be a financial statement, settlement at some point --
BLITZER: Thanks Brian. A major newspaper is calling for Cuba to free the jailed American Alan Gross. The "San Francisco Chronicle" is now picking up on our exclusive interview with Alan Gross and the response we received from top Cuban and U.S. officials. The newspaper says the Castro regime deserves some credit for letting Gross use his weekly phone call to contact me, but the "Chronicle Editorial" today goes on to say this about Gross' conviction and 15-year jail sentence.
"Every country has a right to uphold on its sovereignty. Havana certainly had a right to sanction Gross for misusing a tourist visa to transport laptops and other devices. Even still Cuba's use of Gross as a pawn for the crime of trying to put Cubans on to the Internet shows how truly vulnerable Castro's hold on Cuba must be." We'll stay on top of this story for you.
Let's check back with Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is how big is President Obama's Wall Street problem, which was brought into sharp focus last week by the $2 billion in losses sustained by JPMorgan Chase.
Ken in Atlantic City writes "Obama doesn't have a Wall Street problem. Obama is owned by Wall Street and does exactly what they want. Obama has a Main Street problem. Where is the hope and change for Main Street?"
Mel in Houston says "Not as big as it should be. Wall Street knows both parties have been bought and paid for. They're not worried. No one has been charged with a crime in this great meltdown of 2008. The Street's only fear is of the future. What will a second term bring?"
Mark in Houston "It's a bigger problem for the Republicans than for the president. The stated goal of the Republican Party is to limit President Obama to one term. In doing so they have zero concern about doing what was needed to have prevented the JPMorgan mess."
Charles in Michigan writes "Wall Street isn't the president's problem. It is the nation's problem. Until banking, insurance and investment companies are totally separated and regulated, the same shady practices will continue. This will eventually destroy the country."
Greg in Washington says "Huge, Jack, I won't vote for him or any other Democrat this fall. They had a unique opportunity to enact some meaningful legislation to reign in these big banks and other financial institutions and stem the bitter anger that resulted from the crisis. I have thrown in the towel."
And Paul in Hawaii "Maybe, Jack, you should make up your mind. If the banks make $2 billion, the liberals say the banks are making too much money and they need to be regulated by the government, if they lose $2 billion the liberals say the banks are losing too much money and they need to be regulated by the government." If you want to read more about this go to the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
BLITZER: All right Jack, thank you. A college graduation turns into much more than a life changing moment for one woman. Up next, you won't want to miss the huge surprise she got only seconds after getting her diploma. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Uganda says it has captured a top lieutenant from African warlord Joseph Kony's army. Now the White House is congratulating Uganda on the capture and calling for other members of Kony's army to surrender saying this. Let me read a line of the White House statement to you.
"The United States regional governments and the African Union in calling on abductees and remaining members of the LRA -- so-called Lord's Resistance Army -- to depart the ranks of the LRA and peacefully surrender." Kony, as you know, is wanted on war crime charges for alleged violence against children. He was made famous or shall we say infamous by the popular video "Kony 2012". We'll stay on top of this story for you as well.
Huge life changing moments like graduating from college or getting engaged don't come around every day let alone on the same day, but for one woman they did. In fact both occurred almost at the same time. Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sara (INAUDIBLE).
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congratulations, Sara, you're about to graduate. Congratulations, you're also about to get engaged. Note the guy intercepting her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I've got a question for you.
SAM MILLER, PROPOSED AT GRADUATION: Her look said what are you doing here and the only thing I could come up with was I've got a question for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I nodded my head because I don't think any words were coming out of my mouth.
MOOS: You might as well brace for a lot of kissing. Sara Cooper (ph) was graduating from American University, planning to become a social studies teacher. Her boyfriend of four years, Sam Miller, had graduated with a degree in public communications the day before.
(on camera): Now both families wanted them to finish their educations before getting married.
(voice-over): So approximately two seconds after Sara got her diploma, Sam proposed.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MILLER: A long story short, I didn't want to wait a second longer and so I didn't.
MOOS (on camera): Checklist cap, gown, ring.
(voice-over): Even amid all the hugging Sam had the presence of mind to remove her graduation cap. The president of American University deems even members of both families were in on the engagement conspiracy, but it was jaw dropping for some who weren't. Sara had warned Sam against pulling something like this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't do it in front of everybody, please, like I am not -- I am not a major attention person, like that's more him.
MILLER: You were a great sport.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.
MILLER: You are welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a ring out of it, SO --
MOOS: They will probably wait two years to get married but they weren't waiting to smooch.
MILLER: Those were the best three kisses of my entire life.
MOOS (on camera): I counted four.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He always says I never -- he always has to steal kisses from me, so --
MILLER: She never kisses me enough.
MOOS (voice-over): She is now. They went from a commencement march --
MOOS: -- to the wedding march --
MOOS: -- in one ceremony. Now that's graduating.
MOOS: Jeanne Moss, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Very nice, congratulations and many, many wonderful years together.
Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.