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The Situation Room

Saddam Hussein on Trial; Interview With Ramsey Clark

Aired December 06, 2005 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive at one place at the same time.
Happening now, it's 1:00 a.m. in Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein, on trial for his life, hears accusations of terrible tortures and then tells the judge, "go to hell."

Should the former dictator be on trial? I'll ask one of his lawyers. The always controversial Ramsey Clark, he'll join us.

In New York, it's 5:00 p.m. as well. Residents of the South Bronx get some subsidized heating oil courtesy of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Is he turning on the spigot to stick to it President Bush?

And in Massachusetts, a child is on life support after a brutal beating. Doctors say she will never recover. Her stepfather is waging a legal fight to keep her alive. Is that because he could face murder charges if she dies?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Turning now to the fight for Iraq, a verbal broadside at home, and a bloody bombing in Baghdad. Countering criticism of the war, the vice president, Dick Cheney, vows that the U.S. military will stay in Iraq but suggests tactics will change to limit the vulnerability of American troops. He says the Iraqi military is growing more capable of providing security with every day.

Little evidence, though, of that today in Baghdad, where two suicide bombers attacked a police academy, killing at least 36 police officers and recruits and wounding dozens more. The U.S. military says one blast was set off outside a classroom, the other in a bunker where people had fled for shelter.

Let's begin our coverage this hour in Baghdad. Another dramatic day also involving the trial of Saddam Hussein. Still fearing for their lives, sobbing witnesses testified about brutal beatings, cruel tortures and killings. But it was the defendant who was acting like the injured party, complaining about his treatment and at one point telling the judge, "go to hell."

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, was in the courtroom. He's joining us now live once again from Baghdad. Nic, what was it like today?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a full day. Five witnesses appearing behind a curtain in the court. Only the judge and the prosecution lawyers could see them. The defendants and defense lawyers could not. Five of them all giving testament against Saddam Hussein and the seven co-defendants, some of it very damming.

Witness A, the first woman to testify against Saddam Hussein, talked about being taken from her home, taken to an interrogation facility. She described that she was forced to take her clothes off, had her legs raised by the captors, had handcuffs -- handcuffed behind her, and then she was beaten with cables.

Saddam Hussein, at moments, seemed impassive and at moments arguing intensively with the judge.


SADDAM HUSSEIN, FMR. IRAQI DICTATOR (through translator): These days we spend with this shirt and underwear, and there's no room for us to smoke or swim or walk two steps outside of the cell. That is causing us discomfort.


ROBERTSON: He went on to say, "I will not be in a court where there is not justice." "And you can all go to hell, you agents of America," he said. Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad. We'll check back with you soon, Nic. Thank you very much. What a day it's been there.

And what's to be gained by putting Saddam Hussein on trial to begin with? I'll speak with a controversial member of his legal defense team, former United States attorney general, Ramsey Clark. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll have some of that this hour, much more 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Word today on an apparent kidnapping of yet another American in Iraq. A video from an Islamic militant group aired on Al-Jazeera says what the group says is the hostage, along with a passport. The group is demanding the release of detainees in Iraq.

President Bush today was asked if there's anything he can do about it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, of course, don't pay ransom for any hostages. What we will do, of course, is use our intelligence gathering to see if we can't help locate them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The president is due to make a major speech on Iraq once again tomorrow. Today was the vice president's turn. He defended what he called steady progress in the war.

Let's get some more specifics. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by. What do today's comments by the president in this less formal setting suggest about the tone, the substance of what he's going to tell us tomorrow?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the way the president responded to Democratic chairman Howard Dean was quite telling. Dean, of course, as we've been reporting, said the White House is repeating the mistakes of Vietnam, and that, "The idea we are going to win the war is plain wrong."

And that was a direct challenge to the new White House script, which you were also reporting earlier on, which is to talk up victory, to say over and over that the U.S. will win in Iraq because they now believe here at the White House that that is what Americans want to hear.

The president not only called Howard Dean political, but also called him pessimistic, and that was what was telling about sort of the White House strategy, the rhetoric on Iraq right now. It's essentially sort of a political warfare, if you will, psychological warfare over trying to get the hearts and minds of the American people to keep supporting the war in Iraq. And that is telling in terms of what the president will be talking about tomorrow.

It is, of course, the second in a series of speeches on Iraq leading up to elections there. The focus tomorrow will be on political developments, economic developments, specifically. And just like last week, when the president didn't use the "M" word, but suggested, perhaps, the U.S. did make mistakes in training Iraqi forces, he will make a similar statement tomorrow about reconstruction and helping the Iraqis build up their economy, saying the approach at the beginning was different -- was incorrect, I should say, and they've had to change. Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash at the White House. Dana, thanks very much.

Tomorrow the president will be addressing the Council on Foreign Relations right here in Washington.

Turning now to a stunning verdict in a terrorism case that's been continuing for some time in Florida.

Let's go straight to CNN's John Zarrella in Miami for details. John, this is a stunner.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. It was not a good day at all for the federal government in court in Tampa today. A federal jury has acquitted Sami Al-Arian of eight of the 17 charges against him, and they are deadlocked on the others. They have also acquitted or were deadlocked on charges against three co-defendants.

In essence, Al-Arian and his co-defendants were accused of running an organization, setting up a charitable organization that raised money -- they were fundraising -- and funneling that money to the Middle East to the Islamic Jihad, and the moneys that were used by the Islamic Jihad then to fund terrorist activities, suicide bombings in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Now, Al-Arian has always maintained obviously, clearly, that he was innocent. He said that the moneys were being used in orphanages and for charitable organizations in the Middle East.

Now Al-Arian, the question, of course, is what happens now? The federal courts say that he will remain in jail until a decision is made by the federal government on whether to retry him on the other charges that he was not found guilty on.

And at the same time, Wolf, this is a serious setback for the Patriot Act, because many of -- the way the mechanisms that were used to gather information against Al-Arian were from the expanded powers given to law enforcement -- search and surveillance powers given to law enforcement from the Patriot Act. So clearly a major setback today for the government and use of the Patriot Act. Wolf.

BLITZER: Very briefly, John, how long before the U.S. attorney decides whether or not to recharge him?

ZARRELLA: Not clear at this point, Wolf. All we have been told so far is that he will remain behind bars, as will the other co-defendants, until the decision is made on retrying on those charges. And with all the time the government has spent on this case -- it began in the early 1990s up until 2003, when the indictment was brought, and now, up to this point -- it would seem very likely that with so much at stake they would certainly try to retry him. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much. John Zarrella reporting on this stunning story today.

The Bush administration has been put on the defensive by reports of secret prisons for terror suspects in Europe. And now one former suspect is suing a former CIA director.

Let's turn to David Ensor. David?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the suit asks the defendant -- defendants, actually -- to apologize for what they did, to pay damages of up to $75,000. So it's a serious matter, this lawsuit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ENSOR (voice over): The American Civil Liberties Union lawyers say their client, Lebanese-born German Khalid el-Masri, was abducted by the CIA off the streets of Macedonia, beaten, drugged, and flown to Afghanistan, where he was subjected to torture.

ANTHONY ROMERO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU: Forcibly kidnapping foreign citizens, holding them without access to a lawyer, and brutalizing them is not only illegal but also immoral. That is precisely, however, what the U.S. government did to our client.

ENSOR: El-Masri was eventually freed, and U.S. officials privately admitted to Germany that he was captured by mistake. He was recently turned away trying to enter the U.S., so he spoke from Germany by video link through a translator.

KHALID EL-MASRI, PLAINTIFF (through translator): When the door was closed, I was beaten from all sides. I was hit from all sides. I then was humiliated.

ENSOR: The lawsuit is against George Tenet, the then-director of the CIA, and private air charter companies. Both the CIA and a spokesman for Tenet had no comment.

The lawsuit comes as Secretary of State Rice faces a barrage of questions in Europe about news stories saying the CIA ran secret prisons for al Qaeda prisoners -- some of them in Europe -- and questions in Germany about El-Masri.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I did say to the chancellor that when and if mistakes are made we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them.


ENSOR: But the ACLU lawsuit is an attempt to challenge the whole policy of extraordinary rendition under which scores of terror suspects have been grabbed, moved to another country and then interrogated by the U.S. or by others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David Ensor reporting. David, thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty is off this week. He'll be back next week.

Up ahead, Ramsey Clark poses a controversial question: Should Saddam Hussein have been put on trial at all? The former United States attorney general is defending Saddam Hussein. He'll be here with a behind-the-scenes account of Saddam Hussein's defense. Stand by for that.

And we'll also have another rare glimpse inside a normally closed proceeding, inside the Supreme Court. You'll listen in on today's arguments on a law that requires universities to accept military recruiters or forfeit federal funding. And will an 11-year-old girl on life support live or die? Her feeding tube could be removed. Her stepfather is fighting to save her, but some say it's because if she dies he'll be accused of killing her.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Can colleges that accept federal funding bar military recruiters from their campuses? That issue was hotly debated today before the United States Supreme Court.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, was in the courtroom today. He heard the arguments. He's joining us now live from the Pentagon. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the issue here is whether colleges and universities can discriminate against military recruiters because they say the recruiters discriminate against homosexuals.


MCINTYRE (voice over): The schools argue the threat of losing federal funds violates their freedom of speech since the military demands the exact same treatment as employers who don't discriminate against gays. But in oral argument before the Supreme Court, the government countered that nothing in the law prevents schools from voicing their objections, so long as military recruiters get equal access to students.

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: When it's, say, a job fair and all the employers are there, but then they jeer? Just the school organizes a line jeering the -- both the recruiters and the applicants? That's equal access?

PAUL CLEMENT, SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think that would be equal access. I think you have to draw a practical line here between...

KENNEDY: I'm surprised you...

CLEMENT: ... between access and allowing the speech. But I think you have to be...

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You're not going to be an Army recruiter, are you?


MCINTYRE: The justices seemed skeptical of the colleges' assertion that hosting and fully supporting recruiters on campus amounted to a tacit endorsement of the military's anti-gay policy.

JOSHUA ROSENKRANTZ, ATTORNEY FOR LAW SCHOOLS: The law schools are disseminating a message that they believe it is immoral to abet discrimination

JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: But they can say that to every student who enters the room

ROSENKRANTZ: And when they do it, Your Honor, the answer of the students is, we don't believe you. We read your message as being that there are two tiers. There's...

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The reason they don't believe you is because you're willing to take the money. What you're saying is, this is a message we believe in strongly, but we don't believe in it to the tune of $100 million.


MCINTYRE: The schools argue that withholding funds from the entire institution, when maybe only one part is not complying, is heavy-handed and unfair. But the military says that it's doing a job during war time, and it shouldn't be penalized for adhering to a policy that, after all, was mandated by Congress. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie. Thanks very much. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

From that, we'll move on to a very bizarre story in Massachusetts with similarities to the Terri Schiavo right-to-life case: a legal battle over whether or not to remove the feeding tube that's keeping an 11-year-old alive. But there's a disturbing twist to this case.

Let's bring in our Brian Todd to explain. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a couple of disturbing twists, actually, with this child's stepfather having the most to gain and lose depending on how the proceedings turn out.


TODD (voice over): Jason Strickland is fighting desperately to keep his stepdaughter alive and has taken the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

EDWARD J. MCDONOUGH, JASON STRICKLAND'S ATTORNEY: The question is whether or not and how an 11-year-old child will die. And there's no question that withdrawing a feeding tube and withdrawing water, you're going to have an awful death by starvation.

TODD: Strickland's attorneys say he has no ulterior motive. But a source close to the case tells CNN, if Strickland's stepdaughter, 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre, is taken off life support, Strickland could be charged with her murder.

According to a police report relayed to CNN by officials at the district court in Westfield, Massachusetts, police believe Strickland and his wife, Haleigh Poutre's adopted stepmother, Holli Strickland, delivered the blows that put Haleigh in a vegetative state. Police say Haleigh was the victim of an ongoing pattern of abuse and that when she was admitted to a western Massachusetts hospital back in September, her injuries included cuts, burns, shearing of her brain stem, and a subdural hematoma, a clot in the brain caused by a severe blow to the head.

Massachusetts Department of Social Services now has custody of Haleigh and wants to take her off life support. A juvenile court agreed. But Jason Strickland's attorneys are now fighting that ruling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Strickland, as the stepfather, has information about the child's upbringing, her religious faith, the fact that she received the religious sacraments. And none of that was included in the hearing.


TODD: State supreme court officials tell CNN the court should rule within a matter of weeks on whether to support the lower court's ruling to cut off the child's life support.

Police have booked Jason Strickland on five counts of assault and battery. He maintained his innocence all along. Jason Strickland has petitioned separately to become a formal guardian of the child. Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the stepmother, Brian?

TODD: The stepmother, it's a tragic story. Holli Strickland her name. She was found dead, along with her grandmother, some days after Haleigh Poutre was admitted to the hospital. We are told that the deaths are being investigated as a murder-suicide.

BLITZER: What a story. Thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, a poor neighborhood in New York gets a big discount on heating oil from a big critic of President Bush. What's Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez up to?

And a controversial critic of the war in Iraq turns her story into a book. I'll speak with antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan. You can hear that interview 7:00 p.m. Eastern here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: He's come to the defense of some of the world's worst rogues. Now he's on the defense team for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Earlier, I spoke with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark in Baghdad, and I asked him whether Saddam Hussein should be on trial at all.


RAMSEY CLARK, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: First, you've got to tell me whether you're going to have a legal court. He should not be on trial in an illegal court. He should not be on trial in a court that's not absolutely independent, where the judges are impartial and where the procedure is fair and due process is accorded. And under those circumstances, I think a trial would be appropriate. It could be appropriate for other national leaders. And I personally believe that the attack on Iraq -- I personally believe the attack on Iraq was a war of aggression. I don't think there's any real doubt about it. And a war of aggression was found by the Nuremberg judgment to be supreme international crime. It's clearly a violation of Article 2.4 of the U.N. Charter, trying to keep peace. You can't threaten or assault the territory or integrity of another country, or invade it. And here we are, and we're paying a heavy price for it. And the Iraqis are paying about 100 times greater price than we're paying in life, the lives of human beings, men, women and children, in their case.

BLITZER: Last year you issued an indictment -- you wrote an indictment calling on a trial for President Bush for war crimes. Do you believe President Bush should be charged with war crimes and should be on trial?

CLARK: Well, I think President Bush should face impeachment proceedings, because there's absolutely no doubt that a war of aggression is a high crime and misdemeanor, aside from the fact whether he really believed that there were weapons of mass destruction, he really believed that Iraq was a threat. And I don't see how any informed person could ever believe that Iraq -- Iraq was a threat. After 10 years of sanctions that killed 1.5 million of their people, after the Gulf War, and we claimed to have annihilated 80 percent of their military materiel and the inspection -- U.N. inspection claimed to get 90 percent of the rest, leaves you 2 percent of what they had in the beginning. The country was brought to its knees. It was a helpless country when we struck it with Shock and Awe. And Shock and Awe is a synonym for terrorism.

BLITZER: I was going to say, you have spent some time with Saddam Hussein over the past few days. You have met him several times over the last years. What's he like right now, when you sit privately with him?

CLARK: He's calm. He's not too calm in the courtroom, always, because he gets agitated. But he's reflective. He's very much like he was in the few meetings I had with him in the past. I first met with him in 1990, just before the Gulf War, after the invasion of Kuwait, when he was calling people from around the world to see how he could get out of Kuwait without getting clobbered.

And in all the meetings that I had with him -- and there may have been four or five altogether over the years, none of which I asked for, with one exception -- that was for media purposes -- but he was calm, thoughtful, reflective. And that's the way he is now. He's thinner. He's lost weight. He says he has just lost six kilos, but it looks like twice that to me.

BLITZER: But you feel that he's stable mentally, that he is as alert as he was on the previous meetings that you had with him when he was the president of Iraq?

CLARK: Yes, I think his demeanor is remarkably similar. I mean, I don't know if they show it on the cameras, because I don't see the tapings. But if you see the way he walks in, it is very much like the way he would walk into a room when you would meet with him before. As you see the way he sits and thinks and gesticulates, which is usually fairly limited, at least in -- outside of the courtroom contacts, very similar.

BLITZER: I read a piece in today's "New York Times" about you, and it highlighted some of the other clients, some of the other individuals you have defended over the years, including Moammar Gadhafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor of Liberia, David Koresh, Lyndon LaRouche, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, Saddam Hussein right now.

What attracts you to these kinds of individuals?

CLARK: Well, let me say first that I don't think it is accurate entirely. I never represented Moammar Gadhafi. I sued the United States government and the British government for 340 families that had members of their families that lost their lives in the surprise attack on Tripoli and Benghazi, airplanes coming in the middle of the night and bombing the city and killing a bunch of civilians.

But I didn't represent him. I actually inquired as to whether his -- he lost a stepdaughter who was in his home because we tried to assassinate him with our bombs. But he wouldn't join -- he wouldn't authorize the joining of his stepdaughter -- I think that's what they called her -- in the lawsuit. That's the only time I ever met him.


BLITZER: But, in general, what attracts you to these individuals some would consider marginal, let's say, or rogue -- rogue leaders?

CLARK: Well, let me -- I don't know if I'm attracted to them or they're attracted to me. I don't initiate these things, except when I can see that there's mistreatment and I know them. I can think of two times that that's happened. But I'm a lawyer. And I believe in human rights. And I believe you have to reach out to people who have been demonized, and where there's international tension and friction, and try to show that there are people that will stand up for the rights of others. I believe with Benito Juarez, that respect for the rights of others is peace.

You clobber other people, and they will try to clobber you.


BLITZER: Ramsey Clark speaking with me earlier from Baghdad.

Outburst and open defiance from Saddam Hussein. Coming up, we will speak about a dramatic day in court, part two of my interview with Ramsey Clark. That comes up when THE SITUATION ROOM continues or resumes at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, later today, much more of my interview with Ramsey Clark.

Still to come, a surprising discovery shedding some new light on one the worst ocean disasters ever -- what researchers say they have now learned about the sinking of the Titanic. And it is not quite burning bridges, but it's a surefire way to get rid of one. We will show you what is going on.


BLITZER: It is a season of holiday parties over at the White House -- the president right now entertaining American Jews celebrating Hanukkah, getting to celebrate Hanukkah -- the president speaking out about Hanukkah right now, joined by cadets, Jewish cadets, from West Point. Let's listen in.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rabbi Skoff, thank you very much for sharing it with us.

I also want to thank Rabbi Barry Gelman for his prayer and thank him for his deep compassion. As he mentioned, he is the rabbi from United Orthodox Synagogues in Houston, whose members did so much to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

I want to thank the West Point Jewish Cadet Choir for being here with us this evening.

Our nation is grateful to the American troops of all faiths who are serving our country around the world and who are away from their families this holiday.

The word Hanukkah and the Hebrew word for education both come from the same root word that means "to dedicate." And earlier today I met with some of the leaders from our nation's Jewish day schools.

As educators who dedicate themselves to teaching the faith and to teaching, they are fulfilling the true lesson of Hanukkah every day of the year. Just as the Maccabees reclaimed their holy temple, these teachers help ensure that Jewish traditions are passed from generation to generation.

Tonight, as we prepare to light the candles, we are grateful for our freedoms as Americans, especially the freedom to worship.

We are grateful that freedom is spreading to still new regions of the world. And we pray that those who still live in the darkness of tyranny will someday see the light of freedom. And now I invite Rabbi Skoff and his daughter and family to join me for the symbolic lighting of the White House Menorah.

The honor is yours.

RABBI JOSHUA SKOFF: Mr. President and Mrs. Bush, my children want to thank you, because they have always been told that they were lucky because Hanukkah is eight days long.

But, this year, we're doing something even better for them. We have done some calculating. Today is the 6th of the month, and Hanukkah doesn't end until the 31st, which means my children are experiencing for the first time in their life the 25 days of Hanukkah.


SKOFF: So, we light these candles, we recite this prayer because of the importance of these days, because, as you know, holiday spirit is not created overnight.

And the meaning of a holiday is not understood overnight, but it takes time to prepare and understand the spirit. So, since Hanukkah speaks of freedom, we know that freedom also is not understood overnight, but it takes time to prepare. And, so, we celebrate these moments leading up to the holiday and we hope that people will continue to learn the importance of freedom around the world.

We're going to recite the prayer. First, I'm going to light the candle. We will recite in Hebrew first. (SPEAKING IN HEBREW)

Blessed art thou, the lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has kept us in life, who has sustained us, who has enabled us to reach what we hope and pray will be a joyous season in the life of humanity.


BLITZER: And so, they have started celebrating Hanukkah at the White House. They will be celebrating Christmas over the next several days, lots of parties going on, right now, a separation of Hanukkah. They have invited, the president and the first lady, members of the American Jewish community to come over to the White House, the first of several parties that are going to be going on over the next several days.

Let's head down to CNN Center in Atlanta and Zain Verjee. She's taking a closer look at other stories making news. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. A military plane loaded with Iranian journalists slammed into an apartment block in Tehran while trying to make an emergency landing. Authorities say all...

(CROSSTALK) ZAHN: Zain, I'm going to stop you for a second, because your microphone is not on. So, we are going to get -- we are going to get Zain all hooked up.

But, in the meantime, let's go to Lou Dobbs in New York for a quick check what's coming up on his program at the top of the hour. First Lou and then Zain.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Wolf.

Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, the White House trying to explore widening splits in the Democratic Party over the war in Iraq. We are live at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Also, tonight, the fight over military recruiting on university campuses at the Supreme Court -- we will be explaining tonight why banning military recruiters could cost universities a lot of money.

And I will have an exclusive interview with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. We will be talking about his push to end the U.N.'s culture of corruption and incompetence -- all of that and a great deal more coming right up. We hope you will join us -- now back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. We certainly will.

Let's go back to Atlanta and Zain Verjee. I guess your microphone is on this time, Zain, isn't it?

VERJEE: It's -- it was fine for the past two hours. And, as soon as I opened my mouth, it dropped.

BLITZER: That helped.

VERJEE: So, I will go again, though.

A military plane loaded with Iranian journalists slammed into an apartment block in Tehran while trying to make an emergency landing. Authorities say all 94 people aboard the C-130 transport plane were killed, along with at least 21 people on the ground. State-run radio is reporting that some 90 people were injured.

Say goodbye to a 76-year-old bridge in South Carolina. A 326-foot section of the Grace Memorial Bridge crumbled into the water today. The narrow, rickety span is one of two old bridges being demolished. They have been replaced by an eight-lane bridge across the Cooper River, linking Charleston to Mount Pleasant.

A Titanic discovery -- researchers say the fabled luxury liner may have sunk faster than previously thought. They used to think that the ship just broke into two pieces. But now they found two other missing pieces of the Titanic, parts of the hull or -- on the -- which is the bottom section of the ship. The explorer Robert Ballard, who found the shipwreck 20 years ago, recalls -- calls the latest discovery no big deal. He says, look, it hit an iceberg and sank. Get over it. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks very much.

The online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia is under fire right now. The site allows anyone to add and edit entries. It made news last week when one entry falsely implicated the prominent journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. in the Kennedy assassinations. In response, the Web site is now taking some action, but will the changes do the trick?

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has the story. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Got to be honest with you, Wolf. It doesn't seem like much of a change. You have got to register now to create an entry, but anyone can still edit the some 850,000 entries in English alone that already up there.

I want to give an idea of how Wikipedia works and what it is. We haven't heard a lot of this. It is an online encyclopedia. The idea is that anyone out there can add to and take away from an entry, getting it down to its purist form. It runs on the honor system, essentially, and it taps into people's knowledge of things.

Now, you can search for entries. So, we did a little fun search today and looked up Wolf Blitzer. And guess what? You have got an entry. And we took a look at it to see if it was accurate.

Well, we found some mistakes. First of all, Blitzer, whose first name was his maternal great-grandfather's name, is incorrect. It is, in fact, as you know, Wolf, your grandfather's name. And it says you grew up in Syracuse. And, if you're a watcher of THE SITUATION ROOM, you sure know that is not accurate. You grew up in Buffalo.

Now, if you want to take a look at this and how it is edited, I will show you. I don't expect you to be able to read this. It is incredibly complicated. But I will go in, Wolf, after the show and make a change. One of the things that was accurate, however, is one of your famous quotes, that being "I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM."

BLITZER: A good quote, indeed.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jacki, very much. Thanks for fixing those errors, not very significant. But people from Buffalo, Syracuse, they may have a difference of opinion.

Up next, he's providing oil to poor American neighborhoods at a deep discount. Is it an act of charity by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, or is he trying to show up his bitter rival, President Bush? We will have details. Her son's death in Iraq turned her into a leader of the anti-war movement. Now she has come out with a new book. I will speak with Cindy Sheehan when we return in THE SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Some are calling it a very slick move -- millions of gallons of oil at steep discounts to poor communities. But because of the man behind the gift, some are saying that oil and generosity do not necessarily mix.

Let's get details. Mary Snow is standing by in New York. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's because the man behind the giving is Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, whose policies have often clashed with the Bush administration.


SNOW (voice-over): It was an oil delivery Citgo didn't want the cameras to miss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it, guys?

SNOW: The head of Citgo's U.S. arm of the Venezuelan-run oil company joined U.S. Congressman Jose Serrano to open the spigot on home heating oil at a 40 percent discount. With fanfare and flags waving, leaders thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for promising eight million gallons of the oil to low-income families in Serrano's New York district, which he describes as the poorest in the nation.

REP. JOSE SERRANO (D), NEW YORK: There are some people that are saying that President Chavez is doing this to score points with the poor in America. Well, then I welcome every major corporation in this country to score points in my district with the poor.

SNOW: But at this point, Serrano says no other corporations have stepped up. That leaves Chavez in the spotlight, not just in the Bronx, but in Massachusetts, where a similar deal was announced last month. Some say it's a move by the Venezuelan leader to embarrass the Bush administration, which has been highly critical of Chavez, who has vowed a new socialism.

PATRICK ESTERUELAS, EURASIA GROUP: He's beginning to penetrate the U.S. market, essentially attacking at the heart of the enemy, so to speak.

SNOW: But officials from Venezuela insist the move to provide heating oil is not about presidents, but people.

BERNARDO ALVAREZ, VENEZUELAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: Low-income people in the U.S. is exactly the same as low-income people in Venezuela. SNOW: Among those targeted, Patrice McGleese, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her husband and three children. She says she has been paying attention to Hugo Chavez's moves, especially since he visited the South Bronx in September. She says, in the end, politics don't matter.

PATRICE MCGLEESE, RESIDENT OF SOUTH BRONX: I know people firsthand that are going to benefit at the end of all this. The rent won't have to go up.


SNOW: And a spokesman for the company Citgo says the company plans to expand this problem, but couldn't say by how much. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you very much. Mary Snow in New York.

This year saw a costly and chaotic hurricane season, but could the worst weather still be yet to come? Some forecasters see more huge hurricanes ahead for next year.

CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers is joining us from the CNN Center in -- in Atlanta with more on this. What are we picking up?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, we still have Hurricane Epsilon behind me. The hurricane season is not even over yet, really, because there's still a storm out there.

And Dr. Gray, though, already out with his 2006 forecast -- the forecast for this year was very high, and we had 26 storms -- next year, 17, he says, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes.

One big thing, though, that came out of his conference today, he says no credible evidence is available or likely to become available that will directly associate global warming with changes in the global hurricane frequency or intensity. So, at least for right now, he's not buying the global warming making all this. So, certainly, if we have 17 named storms next year, the average is only 9.6. So, that's well above normal.

BLITZER: All right, we will wait and hope for the best. Thanks, Chad, very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Among the many challenges small businesses face, competing with their larger counterparts.

Let's check in with our Ali Velshi in New York for the "Bottom Line". Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I got an interesting story, Wolf. I talked to a fellow named Eric Poses. He invented a board game named "Loaded Questions". He didn't realize he was going to be up against some pretty big guns when he went to sell this board game. He has got some advice for other small business owners.


ERIC POSES, INVENTOR, "LOADED QUESTIONS": When I got into this business nine years ago, everyone told me there was no chance I could compete. Hasbro and Mattel and these big companies simply dominate the shelves at the big retailers. And, for the most part, that's true.

I looked at Target and Wal-Mart and Toys R' Us as the big three retailers out there. And, when I first started, I thought, OK, well, I don't necessarily have chance with these guys yet. But maybe there are some non-traditional outlets out there that would carry board games. And "Loaded Questions" was actually one of the first games in Borders and Barnes & Noble.

So, you have to be confident in your product. You cannot waiver in your idea about this product that's going to become your life. For me, "Loaded Questions" is my night and day. It's 24 hours. And it kind of has to be that way. And you have to enjoy it, for the most part.


VELSHI: And that's what we hear from small business owners and big business owners all over the place. It's a 24-hour job. Maybe that makes it a little easier, the advice from Eric. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good advice. Thanks, Ali, very much.

Up next, shades of 1969, as defenders of the war in Iraq take on the news media. Our Bruce Morton takes a closer look at the tactics then and now.


BLITZER: The Bush administration stepping up to the response -- to the response of criticism in the war in Iraq. And that includes the media coverage.

It reminds our national correspondent, Bruce Morton, of something that he used to see all the time -- Bruce.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an administration attacking the press, good heavens.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact.

MORTON (voice-over): It is not a new tactic. Back during the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon used his vice president, Spiro Agnew, as an attack missile. Agnew to some anti-war demonstrators:


SPIRO AGNEW, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't know the San Diego Zoo granted paroles.


MORTON: Agnew blasted the press after a Nixon speech on Vietnam in 1969. His words at (INAUDIBLE) were subject to instant analysis and querulous criticism.


AGNEW: And it pours out of the television set and the radio in a daily torrent, assailing our ears so incessantly that we no longer register shock at the irresponsibility and the thoughtlessness behind the statements.


MORTON: And in a later speech, he denounced the newbies as nattering nabobs of negativism, a memorable phrase.

Agnew had good writers. William Safire, later a "New York Times" columnist, wrote the nabobs line. And Patrick Buchanan, later a conservative presidential candidate, worked in the Nixon White House and sometimes wrote for Agnew.

And Nixon loved it. "He took everything critical as a personal blast at him," Safire later wrote. "When he read a byline, the writer came to life in his mind, grinning evilly at him.

Agnew didn't do as well ad-libbing. He once called a "Baltimore Sun" reporter the "fat Jap." Critics, including that reporter, said that was racist. Agnew defended it as locker room humor."


MORTON: And attacks on the press go back much further.

Even Thomas Jefferson, normally a defender of the free press, once complained as president, "Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper". Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bruce, thanks very much, Bruce Morton.

And we will be back, 7:00 p.m., one hour from now, more of THE SITUATION ROOM.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starting right now. here's Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.