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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview with Collin Powell; New Probes of Facebook Stock Mess; Hollywood and the Raid on Osama bin Laden; Historic Voting in Egypt; Catholic Church's Lawsuit; Toddler in Washing Machine
Aired May 23, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the former secretary of state, Colin Powell, reveals his support for same-sex marriage and his fears about al Qaeda's staying power. Stand by for my in-depth interview.
Allegations that the Obama administration may have disclosed secret information about the raid on Osama Bin Laden to Hollywood filmmakers.
And new investigations of Facebook's trouble debut of its stock. This hour, allegations that secrets about the company were hidden from some people and improperly revealed to others.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: Up first this hour, a CNN exclusive. An alarming assessment of al Qaeda's reach into Syria. Officials in the region opening up about the terror threat and how it could spread. I'll speak about that with the former secretary of state, Colin Powell. We'll talk in just a few moments, but right now, here's our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's reporting from Jordan.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the latest jihadist video from Syria. It has all the hallmarks of al Qaeda and includes bomb attacks and a nighttime raid against the military outposts. A senior Jordanian official tells CNN that there are nearly 1,500 al Qaeda members and sympathizers now in Syria.
Many have entered the country from Iraq and Lebanon over the past five months and are part of a growing campaign of bombings and ambushes against Syrian intelligence and military targets. In the Jordanian capital, there is growing worry.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Jordan is very stable.
STARR: In an exclusive interview with CNN while visiting Jordan, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security says she finds the whole region concerned.
NAPOLITANO: We work with a lot of these countries on border- related issues and aviation issues. It's because we want to have as early a warning sign as possible that someone affiliated with al Qaeda or any al Qaeda-type group is traveling towards the west.
STARR: While some U.S. officials say the Jordanian estimate of 1,500 al Qaeda operatives is high, one U.S. expert on jihadists in Syria agrees with Jordan's view.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From foundation --
STARR: CNN is the first news organization to bring a camera here, the underground command center of Jordan's National Center for Security and Crisis Management. The general in charge says this is where Jordan will connect the dots if there is an al Qaeda attack here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All government departments have representation within the center.
STARR: Still, the biggest al Qaeda worry for Napolitano --
NAPOLITANO: The al Qaeda that is most direct concern is the al Qaeda group in Yemen. The AQAP.
STARR: Secretary Napolitano believes U.S. security would have detected the non-metallic bomb al Qaeda in Yemen made a few weeks ago, but, she doesn't say whether she thinks foreign airports would have detected such a device.
NAPOLITANO: We think in all likelihood we would have detected it. We would have picked it up before even got to a gate.
STARR (on-camera): Of course, that device was safely brought to U.S. authority, but listen to Secretary Napolitano's words very carefully. In all likelihood, the device would have been detected. She says when it comes to al Qaeda, there are no guarantees -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thank you.
The former secretary of state, Colin Powell, is warning the world must stay on its guard against al Qaeda. I spoke with him at length about the wars, terror, the presidential race here in the United States and much more, including his brand new book. It's called "It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership." I began by asking General Powell about al Qaeda's presence in Syria and around the world.
BLITZER: All these years after 9/11, are you surprised that al Qaeda, even after the death of Bin Laden, is still out there?
GEN. COLLIN POWELL (RET.), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, this is an organization that franchised itself out a number of years ago. It isn't just Osama Bin Laden leading a single organization. These are people who have a belief in terrorism, who have some connection to Osama Bin Laden, but it's really a franchised operation.
And you can expect in the pop-up wherever they find fertile ground, whether it's in Yemen or in Syria or in other places of the world. So, I think it says to us, be on the alert. Don't think it's over. These folks are still out there, and they'll come after you again if you let them.
Keep up our intelligence work, our law enforcement work, our military activities, keep working with our friends and allies to make sure they're doing everything they can in order to make sure that this threat does not grow.
BLITZER: And in Syria, just to wrap this part of, you agree that the U.S. should not go in militarily either with a no-fly zone or no drive zone or anything along those lines at least for the time being.
POWELL: For the time being, I don't see what will be gained by. And I'm not sure it will be effective. We should not be surprised that Assad is reacting so violently to the protests against them and the demonstrations and the attacks against them. He's defending a regime and defending, frankly, his tribe (ph).
And we still don't know who we'll be supporting on the other side. There's some confusion within the rebel if I can put it that way within the anti-Assad forces. So, I think this is the time to watch very carefully and make sure that we know what we're getting into if we decide to get into anything.
BLITZER: Would you have ever imagined back in 2001 after 9/11 when you were secretary of state that U.S. troops would still be in Afghanistan, and right now, it's still 90,000 U.S. troops are there, as we speak, right now, ten years later, almost 12 years later?
POWELL: I wouldn't have expected that. I would have hoped that we would have been able to stabilize the situation and remove any al Qaeda influence. We've pretty much done that. It's down to just a few numbers, and they can find easier places to work out of than Afghanistan. So, I don't think the al Qaeda presence is (INAUDIBLE)
But I think we may have underestimated the ability of the Taliban to remain a force in being and a continuing threat to the country of Afghanistan. So, we have to do what we can in the next year or two, but ultimately, that Taliban problem is going to have to be solved by the people of Afghanistan and the leadership of Afghanistan, and the many, many Afghan soldiers and police officers that we've been training for years will continue to train.
So, they have to take on the burden, and as you've seen in recent weeks, more and more of the burden is going to them. You're in charge of your country.
At some point, we almost become an impediment to that, but at the same time, we have to be prepared even after 2014 to continue to provide them support, to do some intelligence work, maybe to keep our drones flying, but these are judgments for my replacements to get an answer to, but it isn't going to go away any time soon, but I wouldn't have thought we'd still be there in this strength at this time.
BLITZER: And the U.S. is going to be there, at least, through the end of 2014, another two and a half years, and I'll ask this question because I know among other things you're a Vietnam War veteran. What do you tell the family members of the troops who will be killed between now and the end of 2014 about why they were there?
POWELL: I think we tell them that we are so proud of your servicemen and servicewomen. They're volunteers. They understood the dangers associated with their volunteering. We're going to do everything we can to support them and make sure they come home safely, but war is a dangerous thing.
And there are people who are trying to get at them. And if you lose your loved one, we will mourn and we will do everything we can to make sure that loss was not in vain, but at the end of the day, if that country stabilizes itself, rids itself of corruption, and can become a functioning society that is at peace with others in the region, then I think you can say to the parents, your loss was not in vain.
BLITZER: Listen to this exchange, Gen. Powell, that I had with Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan this week on Mullah Mohammed Omar who was the leader of the Taliban who was totally aligned with Bin Laden and al Qaeda before 9/11 gave him sanctuary in Afghanistan. Listen to this exchange.
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BLITZER: Mullah Mohammed Omar who was in total alliance with al Qaeda and Bin Laden before 9/11, if he were to pop up some place and your troops were to find him, let's say, would they arrest him, would they kill him, or would you negotiate a deal with him?
HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: Well, we're talking of peace. We are not talking of arrests or of killing.
BLITZER: Even Mullah Mohammed Omar?
KARZAI: We are talking about peaceful Afghanistan. We are talking for stability and security for Afghanistan. And we would give all those Afghans, let me repeat, all those Afghans, whether Taliban or other groups who are not part of al Qaeda, who are not part of any terrorist network, who are not an enemy to their own country or people their welcome.
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BLITZER: Do you have a problem with welcoming Mullah Mohammed Omar back into, potentially, a government in Afghanistan. He's still on the loose?
POWELL: I must say candidly that I'm disappointed in the president's remarks. Look at all the trouble Mullah Omar has created over the last 10 years. Look at all the lives that have been loss as a result of his actions and the people who are working for him. And so, I think it's a little hard to say, yes, we welcome him back in as an Afghan.
I think he has to be brought to account for all the tragedy that has taken place over the last ten years, but ultimately, that's a matter that the Afghan people will have to deal with. I don't think they want to see the day of the Taliban return and certainly not with Mullah Omar in charge.
BLITZER: We also asked Colin Powell about Mitt Romney, the race for the White House. He disagreed with the Republican presidential candidate about a big foreign policy issue. More of my interview coming up later this hour. Stand by for that.
And you didn't hear about it, but Hollywood producers reportedly did. Why the Pentagon allegedly gave them details about the Bin Laden raid that the public didn't know about?
And big trouble for Facebook, trouble that goes far beyond its stock price.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, the Catholic Church is suing President Obama for violating the freedom of religion that's guaranteed under the U.S. constitution. In what's being called the largest legal action of its kind, 43 separate catholic institutions filed lawsuits in a dozen different federal district courts this week.
They're challenging the federal mandate in President Obama's healthcare law that requires employers to cover contraception in their employee's health plans. These catholic groups include the University of Notre Dame, the Catholic University of America, the archdiocese of both New York and Washington as well as those serving Dallas, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
The lawsuits say that the healthcare law violates the first amendment guarantee of religious liberty. The Obama administration tried to smooth things over with the church when the issue first bubbled up a while back. As a compromise, they said insurance companies would have to provide contraception for employees who wanted it, so catholic employers could avoid directly providing birth control.
But it wasn't good enough for the church and they're going to court. So far, the White House isn't commenting on these lawsuits, although, one official told "The Wall Street Journal" that they're still trying to work things out with catholic leaders, quote, "lawsuits or no lawsuits, our doors remain open," unquote. Experts are split over whether the lawsuits will succeed, but either way, it cannot be helpful for the president in an election year. For those keeping track, President Obama has managed to anger both the Black churches over his support of gay marriage and the Catholic Church over the issue of birth control.
So, here's the question. How damaging is the Catholic Church's Obamacare lawsuit for the president? Go to cnn.com/CaffertyFile, post comment on my blog, or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
Some other headlines we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM. The Florida A&M University drum major killed at a school hazing ritual died of a hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma. The alarming details of Robert Champion's death all part of the court documents just released today.
Also included, comments from one of the defendants in the case who claim Champion wanted to be hazed for respect. Thirteen people were charged in the November incident if found guilty. Some could face up to six years in prison.
Parts of Southern Florida under water after being drenched with heavy rainfall. The National Weather Services issued a flood watch for the day and Miami has already set a record getting nearly half a foot of rain the most. It's seen since 1901. Some college classes in the area have been canceled.
The former first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, is recovering from broken ribs she suffered during a fall back in March. A spokesperson says the 90-year-old Mrs. Reagan is slowly adding appointments back to her schedule slowly but has been advised against attending major events including a speech last night at the Reagan Presidential Library given by the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan.
And you know him as Prince Charles, but now, you can also call him DJ Prince Charles.
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BLITZER: His movement (INAUDIBLE) a little bit. He's grooving a little bit Prince Charles, the deejay. His royal highness tried his hand on the turntable during a visit to an organization offering employment skill workshops in Toronto. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, kicked off a four-day Canadian tour this week.
Still ahead here in the SITUATION ROOM, he endorsed President Obama four years ago, but Colin Powell now says, this time around, he's in no hurry to get behind anyone. You're going to find out why and much more of my interview with Gen. Colin Powell. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Only days after Facebook's disappointing public debut of its stock, the social network's problems appear to be mounting right now. The U.S. Senate Banking Committee is reviewing Facebook's initial public offering of what went wrong. Three investors filed a lawsuit today accusing Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and others of withholding negative information about the IPO.
At the same time, regulators are trying to determine if information about the stock offering was improperly shared with major clients of the firm, Morgan Stanley. Mary Snow is joining us now from New York. She has more on Facebook's troubles. Mary, what is the latest?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, this was a stock that held promise for ordinary investors who wanted a slice of Facebook's fortunes, and the stock today is still about 15 percent below its IPO price, and investors feel cheated.
SNOW (voice-over): When Facebook went public, it had cause to celebrate. It's the most anticipated IPO in recent years, but less than a week later, its stock price has faltered. It's facing scrutiny from regulators, and now, a lawsuit.
SAMUEL RUDMAN, ROBBINS, GALLER, RUDMAN & DOWD: To go public in this way, to botch it like this and to taint it is just really disappointing, and people just feel cheated and outraged.
SNOW: Attorney Samuel Rudman filed a class action suit not only against Facebook, but also its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and its underwriters. In response, Facebook says, "We believe the lawsuit is without merit and will defend ourselves vigorously."
The suit is based on questions first raised by Reuters about whether a Morgan Stanley analyst shared with some clients that he was cutting revenue projections before the IPO but didn't disseminate that information to everyone else. Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter is rejecting any suggestion it did anything improper.
Morgan Stanley followed the same procedures for the Facebook offering that it follows for all IPOs. These procedures are in compliance with all applicable regulations.
One former SEC chairman says there may not be anything improper because there are restrictions on what analysts can share, but he says the whole handling of Facebook's IPO, including trading glitches at the NASDAQ is a blow to investor confidence, especially on the heels of JPMorgan's $2 billion loss.
ARTHUR LEVITT, FORMER SEC CHAIRMAN: Clearly, it's a black eye for the industry and all the participants. This was a company that was supposed to be a show piece for American capitalism. Instead of that, it's become a laughingstock. That's going to pass, but it's a fact. We don't look good, and somthing should be done about it.
SNOW (on-camera): And one thing former sec chairman, Arthur Levitt, wants done is to see security laws changed. For one thing, he wants analysis information to be published on the web distributed to everyone, which he says is currently restricted under the laws that exist now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It sounds like a good idea. All right. Thanks very much for that, Mary.
Stand by for more of my interview with the former secretary of state, Colin Powell. He tells me President Obama got it right when he came out in support of same-sex marriage.
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POWELL: They are stable family as my family is, and they raise children. And so, I don't see any reason not to say that they shouldn't be able to get married.
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BLITZER: The former secretary of state, Colin Powell, making news right here in the SITUATION ROOM, revealing apparently, for the first time, that he now supports same-sex marriage. More now of my interview with the former secretary of state. We spoke about domestic politics and the presidential race.
BLITZER: I interviewed Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, not long ago, and he told me this about Russia. Listen to this.
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MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are very unfortunate developments, and if he's planning on doing more and suggests to Russia that he has things he's willing to do with them, he's not willing to tell the American people. This is to Russia that this is without question our number one geopolitical foe.
They fight every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling, indeed.
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BLITZER: He says Russia is America's number one geopolitical foe, and I pressed him on that. He stuck by it. Do you agree with Romney that Russia is America's number one geopolitical foe. POWELL: No, I don't. And I've said on several occasions to include earlier today that I don't think that's the case. Russia has cooperated with us in some areas. They were with us when we did the first Gulf War. You'll recall those days, my good friend Wolf, when we were together doing that, and on what basis would you consider them a geo-strategic foe?
Foe means enemy. Now, do we have differences of opinion with the Russians? Yes. Will they get mad at us from time to time? We get mad at them? That's part of diplomatic relations (ph). But it's a country half the size of the old Soviet Union. It's a country that is crying effects (ph) its economy and bring wealth to its people.
And so, there are areas of cooperation more so than areas of tension. And when Governor Romney said that, it was right after the president had a conversation with the leadership of the Russian federation, and he said, you know, after the election, I'll have more room to maneuver. I don't find that all that shocking.
And Mr. Romney, I think, took it to an extreme painting them as a foe. I don't think they're a foe. I don't think they've been a foe since the end of the cold war.
BLITZER: What do you think at some of these national security foreign policy advisers who surround Mitt Romney right now?
POWELL: Well, you know, ultimately, it's Mr. Romney who has responsibility for what he says. And I know most of the people around him, work with some of them, some of them worked for me, some of them are a little more extreme than I am on certain issues. I'm of the moderate view, and so I think what Mr. Romney has to do is be very careful with these kinds of statements, to make sure he's thought it through. Now if he's thought it through and really examined it and not just got a talking point for someone then you have to take him at his word. It's what he means.
BLITZER: Even though you're a Republican, you endorsed President Obama four years ago, but right now you still haven't endorsed him again. You're neutral right now. Why is that?
POWELL: I don't have any obligation to endorse anybody at this point. I'm on a book tour. And so I am in no hurry. I'm not a political figure. I'm somebody who sometimes people pay attention to what I say, and so I don't see that there's any urgency in my making a statement. I'm a voter and what I'm doing is examining not only the two candidates that have emerged, but also the positions they hold, the platforms they will present, what kind of government they're liable to have or put in place, what their implications of their policies might be say with respect to the Supreme Court or taxes or how we fix our fiscal problem, so I don't feel any -- that I'm under any obligation to make a statement at this time.
BLITZER: What's the biggest disappointment you've had over the past three and a half years?
POWELL: I wish that President Obama had been able to close Guantanamo right away and not asked the Congress' permission. We still are caught up with these trials in Guantanamo that I think would have been handled in civilian courts with the proper authority and for those individuals who could not be tried then have the Congress tell us how we handle these on a long-term basis, so I think that was a disappointment and it's as much a disappointment with the Congress as with the president.
I wish that we had gotten the unemployment rate down and I wish that the economy was growing a little bit more than it is now, and that's not just solely the responsibility of a president. It's the responsibility of a Congress that passes all of these bills that spend money and it's also the responsibility of the business. It's the business community that creates jobs. The government puts in place policies that keep it honest and keep it straight but don't constrain the business community and I don't think we've got the right relationship between our legislators, our president, and the business community. So I think the president has to work more on that and, frankly, I think that's what he'll be judged on in this election.
BLITZER: I remember you were chairman of the Joint Chiefs when you installed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the U.S. military that prevented gays from serving openly. I know you changed your attitudes over these years, but what about gay marriage? Are you with the president in supporting gay marriage?
POWELL: I have no problem with it and it was the Congress that imposed "don't ask, don't tell". It was certainly my position and my recommendation to get us out of an even worse outcome that could have occurred as you'll recall. But as I've thought about gay marriage I know a lot of friends who are individually gay, but are in partnerships with loved ones and they are stable a family as my family is and they raise children, and so I don't see any reason not to say that they shouldn't be able to get married under the laws of their state or the laws of the country however that turns out. It seems to be the laws of the state. There may be religious objections to it and I respect the fact that many denominations have different points of view with respect to gay marriage, and they can hold that in sanctity of their place of religion and not bless them or solemnize (ph) them.
But in terms of the legal matter of creating a contract between two people that's called marriage and allowing them to live together with the protection of law seems to me is the way we should be moving in this country. And so I support the president's decision, and I think most Americans increasingly understand that times have changed just like they change between gays in the military and while I was able to support removing that barrier to service. And so I hope everybody will just carefully look at this, and I understand the religious objections to it, but at the same --
POWELL: -- diversity and change and my experience with many of my gay and lesbian friends is that they form unions as strong as any other unions I've seen and raise children that are good, strong children and are either heterosexual or homosexual, lesbian, depending on themselves, not because their parents happen to be. BLITZER: You've written a really powerful book -- I read it last night -- "It Worked For Me In Life and Leadership" with a lot of excellent advice for people young, middle age, old, and the stories you tell are really powerful, but one section jumped out at me, page 217 when you write this, General Powell.
You write this "February 5, 2003, the day of the speech is as burned into my memory as my own birthday. The event will earn a prominent paragraph in my obituary." You are referring to the day you testified before the United Nations Security Council saying there were in fact weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It led to the war in Iraq as you well remember. Here is what you told the world on that day, listen.
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POWELL: My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.
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BLITZER: And in the book you go through an explanation of how you got it wrong. How the U.S. intelligence community got it wrong. Was that the biggest intelligence blunder of your professional career?
POWELL: Of my professional career, yes, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, and the reason I wrote that couple of sentences was because I get asked about this every single day, and I get accused almost every single day of having invented the intelligence. But I didn't invent the intelligence. That intelligence information and you saw the CIA director sitting right behind me while I made this presentation. That intelligence information was a national intelligence estimate that was given to the Congress four months before my speech and caused the Congress to vote overwhelmingly for the president to go to war if he found it necessary.
Our allies believed it. Our commanders believed it. The CIA believed it. The intelligence community believed it. And when it started to unravel, it was troubling to me because my presentation was the most vivid one, the most dramatic one, the one that's most remembered, but it wasn't anything that was made up by me. It was what the intelligence community believed and months later the intelligence community still stood behind the judgments they made at that time. Should they have known that some of those judgments were incorrect? That's the rhetorical question I ask in that chapter of the book.
BLITZER: It's a powerful chapter indeed and I loved your 13 lessons that you live by, that you've learned over these years and I'm not going to list all 13. People have to buy the book and read them, but give us what you think is the most important of those 13.
POWELL: The last one, the perpetual optimism is a force multiplier and you'll see it's also related to the first one which says things will look better in the morning. So always go to bed thinking that whatever problems you have they will look better in the morning. Whether they do or not is another matter, but having that positive attitude conveys an attitude throughout your organization and then you can jump to number 13, as you did, which says I did what says, perpetual optimism, always believing that things will get better. Nobody wants to be around a pessimistic leader so somebody who thinks things aren't going to get better and I think those two really bookend the -- the -- my -- my book, and the important thing is that I've tried to write it in a way that appeals to a broad audience.
I think teenagers will like it and we're putting it out in time for Father's Day and Father's Day gifts, graduation gifts. My military colleagues will like it. Business leaders will see things in there I think that relate to them even though they maybe drawn from my military experience. Most importantly, I just wanted to leave some thoughts to my fellow Americans and others who might buy the book of optimism, working with people, and remember people is what it is all about, the people you lead, the people you work with, the people you're responsible for. And you'll also notice, Wolf that all 44 chapters stand alone. There's no coherence to them, just dial (ph) anywhere you want, and the other thing I did which is very unusual for a political memoir, there's no index, you can't look yourself up.
BLITZER: I, of course, went to the index right away to look myself up. I didn't see myself, so that was the way a lot of Washingtonians read books. As you well know, they go to the index first. No index, which is good. You made me read the whole book.
General, even journalists will like this among others, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all of the work that you've done over the years.
POWELL: Thanks so much, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're being looking into a new complaint that secret information about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound may have been revealed to Hollywood filmmakers. Brian Todd has new information.
And new testimony about the Secret Service prostitution scandal, our own John King talks to the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joe Lieberman. That's ahead for our viewers in North America.
BLITZER: Did the Obama administration grant Hollywood access to the information about the killing of Osama bin Laden that was held from the American public? The question is stirring new backlash here in Washington after the release of some dramatic new information. Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. He's over at the Pentagon. He's got the latest details. What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, newly released documents show Pentagon officials making promises of inside access to Hollywood filmmakers. Now it's not clear if the filmmakers ever actually got some of the access that they were promised, but one key Republican lawmaker calls this a potentially dangerous collaboration between Washington and Hollywood.
TODD (voice-over): It's just weeks after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Two Hollywood filmmakers are in Washington to get details on the operation for their upcoming movie. According to a newly released document, a meeting between the filmmakers and top Pentagon officials brings promises of great access that critics now say could compromise national security.
A transcript of the meeting last July quotes Michael Vickers (ph), undersecretary of defense talking to Oscar winning director Katherine Bigelow (ph) and a screenwriter. They can't speak to the top commanders of the raid, Vickers tells them, but "they'll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner, a SEAL Team 6 operator and commander." Right below that the name of the Special Ops planner is mentioned, but is redacted in the documents. The screenwriter's response, "that's dynamite".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he can basically give you everything you would want or get from Admiral (INAUDIBLE) or Admiral (INAUDIBLE).
TODD: Tom Fitton heads the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. They filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding the transcript of the Pentagon meeting and other documents. Fitton says that promise from Vickers wasn't all the filmmakers got.
TOM FITTON, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL WATCH: This access is unusual. They were given access to the vault at the CIA which is their equivalent of the situation room.
TODD: Other conservatives are outraged. Republican Congressman Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, calls it a potentially dangerous collaboration between the filmmakers, the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House.
REP. PETER KING (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: This is too sensitive for the average person to even know about. Did Katherine Bigelow (ph) have a security clearance? Was she cleared to go in there?
TODD: A Pentagon spokesman tells CNN the filmmakers got no access to classified information from the Defense Department on the bin Laden raid. White House officials have said they didn't give Bigelow (ph) and the screenwriter any information on the operation that journalists didn't get.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We provided the same information to everybody and none of it was classified.
TODD: The CIA says national security is always paramount whenever it engages with Hollywood and the vault in question was empty at the time of the filmmaker's visit. CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend says it is always difficult balancing security with the pull from Hollywood and journalists.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: It is not just American citizens who you're trying to be transparent with and share information with, but your enemies are also watching.
TODD: Now we contacted representatives for director Katherine Bigelow (ph) and for that screenwriter. They would not comment specifically on the information that they got from officials in Washington, but a spokesman for Sony said the film is about the decade-long pursuit of bin Laden, that the movie has been years in the making and that it integrates the efforts not only of the Obama administration, but also of the Bush and Clinton administrations. Again, it is not clear whether the filmmakers ever met with that Special Ops commander -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There also have been complaints Brian that the release of the movie was timed to help President Obama in the re-election campaign. Is that right?
TODD: That's right. Congressman King had complained earlier that the movie was going to come out right before the November election. The movie is now scheduled to be released in December of this year and a defense source with knowledge of it says the working title is called "Zero Dark 30". Now these things can change in Hollywood though.
BLITZER: They certainly can. Thanks very much Brian Todd for that. Jack Cafferty is asking how damaging is the Catholic Church's lawsuit against the president's health care reform law? Your e-mail coming up and a unique look at an election 5,000 years in the making.
BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hotshots". In Alexandria, Egypt, women wait to enter a polling station during this, the first round of historic presidential elections, the first since the popular uprising led to the toppling of Hosni Mubarak. In another city, a woman drops her ballot in the box, 13 candidates, by the way, are on the ballot. In Cairo, a man shows his ink-stained finger after voting. Also in the Egyptian capital, former President Jimmy Carter waves as he tours polling stations. The Carter Center is helping monitor the elections.
CNN's Hala Gorani is in Cairo getting a firsthand look at the voting now underway.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this polling station in downtown Cairo, people tell me they're excited that it's their first opportunity to cast a ballot in what they hope will be a free and fair election though some have expressed concern. They say perhaps it won't be as transparent as officials here have promised. Now this is a neighborhood in downtown Cairo (INAUDIBLE) that saw some violent clashes and protests against military rule. So it's very fresh in people's minds what can go wrong in Egypt if protests get out of hand and officials and leaders do not keep their promises. Whoever is elected, this is a historic day for this country. You can see it on people's faces. They're smiling. They're telling you they are excited. There are campaign posters absolutely everywhere. Now behind me is the men's voting room, I should say one of the men's voting room. And if you turn around with me here, this is one of the female voting rooms. There are fewer voters among the females than among the men standing in line there. And one of the men told me, he had to wait in line four hours before he even got within a few yards of the door.
BLITZER: Hala Gorani reporting for us from Cairo. If no candidate, by the way, gets a majority, a second round of elections will be held in June. That's what everyone anticipates will be the case.
Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File". At least, Jack, they are letting women vote in Egypt even though they have to go into separate rooms from men, but at least they can vote.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A sign of progress, the big question of course Wolf is whether the military in Egypt will agree to relinquish power to the winner of the election. If they don't do that, then it's going to be kind of an empty exercise. We'll have to wait and see I guess.
The question this hour is how damaging is the Catholic Church's Obama care lawsuit for the president.
Chris in Florida says "Very damaging. There is nothing more sacred than our religious freedom. Imposing social values through policies onto religious institutions is just plain wrong. Right now if I am Archbishop Dolan (ph) I'm telling my parishioners all over the country that this needs to be stopped at the voting booth."
Cathy in Illinois "Not much of a liability when a vast majority of Catholics don't agree with the church's doctrine. I really think the church is grasping at straws for some type of control."
Ernie in Vermont writes "I think many of those bishops ought to be in jail for spending years and millions of church dollars covering up the crimes of pedophile priests. For them now to complain because President Obama won't let them impose their 12th Century dogma on the rest of the country is ridiculous."
Rick writes "Good one for the Catholic Church. The dismissal and mocking of religion by the president's action should be challenged. Religious persecution of Christians is rampant under the terms secularism. It is time to not turn the other cheek."
Duke says "How damaging is the Catholic Church to the progress of women's rights."
Tom writes "More damaging than the mainstream media will ever honestly report. Just wait and see."
And Cliff in New York writes "It would be damaging to the president only if the rest of the world remains as bitterly ensconced in the 14th century as the Catholic Church."
If you want to read more about this, you go to the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right Jack thank you. Up next, two people put a toddler in a washing machine and can't get him out. Stand by.
BLITZER: A typical day at the Laundromat turned to horror for one child when he became the laundry. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is scary enough watching this surveillance tape of a guy playing with a 1-year-old by putting him in a washer and then the door automatically locks and the washer turns on. The man and the woman babysitting the child panic, but imagine you are the mother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you mom?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this the baby?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is adorable.
MOOS: Sakia David is the 22-year-old mother who watched the video for the first time on the news.
SAKIA DAVID, MOTHER: I said, you can't tell me that -- I said that's my baby and that's her.
MOOS: Her being the child's babysitter who never told the mother what happened almost two weeks ago at this Camden, New Jersey Laundromat. The babysitter and an unidentified friend brought 1-year- old Samir Bush (ph) along to do the laundry while his mom was at work. After he got stuck in a machine, the pair franticly ran for help. A Laundromat employee came to the rescue, heaving aside tables and turning off power to the machine. The other guy was jumping out of his skin. The babysitter was banging the table. KONG ENG, LAUNDROMAT EMPLOYEE: And then I pull the baby out. I feel good because I saw the baby has still the life.
MOOS: Still alive and basically unharmed, the pair took the boy to the hospital. Then, returned him to mom who noticed nothing amiss. After the video went viral, police got in touch with the mother. The Camden County prosecutor's office says "this was not an intelligent choice to put the baby in the washing machine but it was not a crime." How does the mother feel?
DAVID: I'm pissed. I was mad because you shouldn't put a kid in a washer. At the same time, he was just playing around.
MOOS: As for the babysitter, mom says, she won't be babysitting anymore. Meanwhile back at washing machine number 15 --
(on camera): The owner of the Laundromat says she knows it is ridiculous but she is actually thinking of putting up signs to protect herself from liability. Do not put kids in washers.
(voice-over): This is one story you can't spin as anything but dumb.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like a hero?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MOOS: New York.
BLITZER: He is a hero. Thank God for him. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.