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The Situation Room

Katrina Controversy; Selling Surveillance; Trial of Saddam Hussein; Harry Belafonte's Remarks

Aired January 24, 2006 - 17:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, if nothing else, this is an evolution of Palestinian democracy, from the old one party of Fatah founded by the late Yasser Arafat, which has dominated politics here for a generation, to two major parties and a lot of independents who are running for office. And after the election, some of those independents may hold the balance of power -- Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: (John) Vause reporting. Thank you, John.

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 4:00 p.m. in New Orleans. Could lives have been saved if the federal government acted before Katrina hit? Back then officials said no one could have predicted such a disaster. Now there's evidence the government knew far more than officials were letting on.

In Germantown, Maryland, where it's 5:00 p.m. as well, a girl is shot and wounded when a boy brings a gun to their daycare center. How and why did he show up with a loaded weapon in his backpack?

And the White House responds to an incredible tirade from Harry Belafonte. I'll go one-on-one with the pop star-turned-activist and ask him why he's so angry with President Bush.

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

Massive flooding, mass casualties, a city submerged. After Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, the Bush administration said such a scenario had been unimaginable. Now there's word to the contrary, and that's setting off a storm of controversy.

Let's turn to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Senator Joe Lieberman said today the administration is stalling the Senate investigation of Hurricane Katrina. But new documents have to come to light renewing questions about what the administration knew and when.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MESERVE (voice over): In the days after Katrina, with New Orleans awash, its citizens adrift, President Bush said a breach of the levees had not been anticipated and other officials called the destruction unexpected.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: That perfect storm of combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight

MESERVE: But documents just disclosed show Chertoff's own department had prepared an analysis predicting that a Category 4 storm would likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaking, leaving the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months. This, the document said, was a conservative estimate.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Among the offices receiving that memo was the White House Situation Room, which received it at 1:47 a.m. on Monday, August 29, several hours before Katrina made landfall.

What happened to that report?

MESERVE: Two days before Katrina came ashore, another document from a FEMA PowerPoint presentation predicts Katrina's impact will exceed that of Hurricane Pam. Pam, the devastating fictional storm around which a 2004 preparedness exercise was built.

Senators said it should have been a wakeup call.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Pam became Katrina. The simulation became reality. And optimism became the awful truth. We were not prepared.


MESERVE: The senators asked a panel of experts and officials if southeast Louisiana was prepared for future storms. The answer was no. And hurricane season is only 127 days away -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thank you very much.

Jeanne Meserve reporting.

The Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, passed a big hurdle today, winning the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But it was hardly unanimous. Alito survived a 10-8 vote with thumbs up from the committee's Republicans, thumbs down from the Democrats.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is a nomination that I fear threatens the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans now and in generations to come. The president is in the midst of a radical realignment of the powers of the government and its intrusiveness, its intrusiveness into the private lives of Americans. And I believe this nomination is part of that plan.



SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The most patient witness in the history of the United States Congress. The most patient witness in the history of the United States Congress. If anybody has demonstrated judicial temperament and poise and patience, it is Judge Alito. And he ought to be confirmed on that basis alone.


BLITZER: The nomination now moves to full Senate, where a vote could come by the end of this week.

The Bush administration has been bringing out its big guns, trying to make the case for the domestic surveillance program being carried out without warrants by the National Security Agency. Today it was the turn of the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

Let's turn to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the attorney general defended the legal rationale for the program, basically reiterating points made in a Justice Department white paper last week.

His audience today was a group of law students from Georgetown University. But not all of them were receptive.


ARENA (voice over): This silent demonstration at Georgetown University's law school during the attorney general's speech is just part of the very loud controversy surrounding what the administration calls it terrorist surveillance program.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: But the president is acting within his power in authorizing it. These activities are lawful.

ARENA: Gonzales says there is precedent, dating back to American Revolution for conducting surveillance without warrants during wartime. He reiterated the administration's main argument that as commander in chief, President Bush can fight the war on terror as he sees fit. An argument that is not sitting well with Democrats.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: This is something that is illegal, it's unreasonable and not fair to the American people.

ARENA: But Gonzales argues Congress gave the program the green light by passing a resolution just after the September 11 attacks authorizing military force against terrorists. The administration says it allows the president to bypass the secret court housed at the Justice Department that oversees domestic surveillance. GONZALES: The resolution means that the president's authority to use military force against those terrorist groups is at its maximum because he is acting with the express authorization of Congress.

ARENA: That's a big point of contention. Some members of Congress who voted for that resolution say warrantiless surveillance is not what they had in mind.

SPECTER: The initial claim to authority from the resolution to authorize the use of force I think is very, very thin.


ARENA: The attorney general will get a chance to try to allay congressional and other concerns next month when he testifies at Senate Judiciary hearing. But unlike today's critics, Wolf, we expect anything but silence.

BLITZER: Kelli Arena reporting for us. Those hearings start February 6.

Thank you very much

In Iraq, the trial of Saddam Hussein has hit another snag and will be delayed until next week. The court and Saddam Hussein's lawyers differ over the reasons why, but the former U.S. attorney general, Ramsey Clark, an adviser to the Saddam Hussein legal defense team, tells CNN the trial has descended into what he calls pure chaos.


RAMSEY CLARK, HUSSEIN'S DEFENSE ADVISER: What you can tell is that this court is so dysfunctional. It's so lacking in independence. And the judges are not impartial.

You don't have a Sunni Arab on this court. You've got people that avowed and people that are chosen by his avowed enemies. And you can't have a fair trial. It's impossible to have a fair trial, and that will be a tragedy.

It will mean more war because people will deeply resent the conduct of an illegal court. The court's not even functional. So what they're going to have to do is they're going to have to abandon this court.

The idea was wrong. The court was conceived illegally. And it's being -- functioning -- trying to function under pressures that destroyed its independence. And you're just -- you're just going to start over again some place, and I don't think you're going to be able to do it here.


BLITZER: Ramsey Clark speaking with our "AMERICAN MORNING" earlier today.

Let's go the Baghdad right now. CNN's Aneesh Raman is stranding by.

Aneesh, what's the fallout?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the court said earlier today it that did not convene because witnesses could not testify, that some of them were out of the country, they were returning from the Hajj pilgrimage. There are any number of issues, though, with that statement.

First, the Hajj pilgrimage was over some two weeks ago.

Secondly, why didn't the court know before today that these witnesses could not testify?

And third, why did it take four hours today for them to reach that decision?

No answers on those questions from the court. Ramsey Clark and other defense attorneys suggesting what took place was essentially a disagreement among the five-judge panel that heads this trial over how that trial should proceed.

Now, just some numbers for you, Wolf.

Since this trial began in mid October of last year, two defense attorneys have been killed, three of the five judges presiding over this court have been replaced, and four breaks have been called for.

All of this while we are still at phase one of perhaps 10 phases in this first of perhaps 12 trials Saddam Hussein could face. So legally a very long way to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And none of the judges are Sunni, Iraqi Sunnis, as Ramsey Clark just said? Is that true?

RAMAN: Yes, none that we aware of. We only know the identity right now of one who is the new chief presiding judge replacing the former one.

He's a mid-60-year-old Kurd from the town of Halabja. The others have not revealed their identity. One of the others did. He has been transferred ahead of today's session.

So there are any number of issues that Ramsey Clark has raised in addition to the other defense lawyers about representation in this trial -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Aneesh. Thank you very much.

Aneesh Raman reporting for us from Baghdad.

Let's check back with Jack in New York, "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That criminal justice system's working pretty good over there. BLITZER: You know, you've got to give them a chance, though. It takes a little while.


Married men, pay attention here. There's a psychiatrist who is "out to save marriages one husband at a time."

Scott Haltzman's the author of something called "The Secrets of Happily Married Men." It's a very short book.

That's not true.

The Brown University professor says men can make marriage work by making it their job. Haltzman says traditional marital therapy might not work for men because of the biological differences between the sexes. And instead, he suggest men should approach their marriage with the same skills that help them succeed in other parts of their life, like work or sports.

Fill in your own sports analogy here.

So here's the question: Should marriage be a job?

You can e-mail us at and we'll read some of the answers a bit later.

BLITZER: What did you say the name of that book was again?

CAFFERTY: The author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Men." It's one of the shorter books...


CAFFERTY: ... on the bookshelves.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.


BLITZER: We'll get back to you.

Jack Cafferty in New York.

Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, your cell phone records for sale on the Internet. This is a story we've been telling you a lot about. Now more cell phone companies are joining the fight to stop it.

And he says, they say. Harry Belafonte has recently unleashed some scorching criticisms against the Bush administration. Now the White House is firing right back. We'll tell you what the White House is saying and my complete interview with Harry Belafonte. That's coming up.

And it's every parent's worst nightmare. A 7-year-old girl accidentally shot at her daycare center by her 8-year-old school classmate. The girl is hurt, one parent is now facing deep legal trouble.



BLITZER: This morning in Maryland, a 7-year-old girl arrived at daycare for what was supposed to be a normal day of child's play. Yet, in a frightening twist, she left with a gunshot to her arm. Now one parent is facing serious legal trouble.

Let's get details from our Gary Nurenberg. He's joining us from Germantown, Maryland, not far away from Washington, D.C.

Gary, what happened?

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the big question all day long has been, how could an 8-year-old boy have access to a loaded handgun?

Late this afternoon, police said that boy got the handgun from a closet in his home in the apartment complex that houses the daycare center. Police said that gun belongs to his father, whom they say is a convicted felon. Tonight the fire has been rearrested on multiple charges. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NURENBERG (voice over): Police say the little boy had a handgun in his backpack at the For Kids We Care daycare center in this Germantown, Maryland, apartment complex. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, that's just shocking, you know? It's just unbelievable, absolutely. It's just insane. NURENBERG: It went off shortly before 7:00 this morning, striking a 7-year-old girl in the arm. She was carried on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance and then transferred to a helicopter for a flight to Children's Hospital in nearby Washington, D.C. Her injuries are described as serious but not life-threatening.

Police attempted to shield from helicopter cameras a young boy they were seen putting into a squad car after the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see how the parents didn't notice the kid taking the weapon out. Where were the -- where were the teachers when all this was happening?

NURENBERG: There were six children here when the shooting took place, and police say they were remarkably calm.

COMMANDER EVIE CAHALEN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: The children were calm when I went in. They were watching a television program. The daycare provider there did an excellent job of keeping the children safe and secure and calm.

NURENBERG: It is a misdemeanor under Maryland law to store or leave a loaded handgun where kids can get to it. No prison time, but up to a $1,000 fine. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NURENBERG: And in addition to that charge, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person felon. We'll see if there are additional charges.

The boy is also in police custody this evening.

Police asked us to make one thing clear to viewers. They said that many police departments around the country, Wolf, can provide locks like this one that go into a handgun through the barrel and prevent it from being functional. They say call your local police department, that they're available in many places around the country, and they say they make a big difference.

BLITZER: Good advice, Gary. What a story. Thank you very much.

Gary Nurenberg, reporting for us.

Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, the king of calypso courting controversy as an outspoken critic of the president. My interview with Harry Belafonte. I'll ask him why he calls George W. Bush the greatest terrorist in the world.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Zain in the CNN Center in Atlanta for a closer look at some other stories making news.

Hi, Zain.


Four people are dead after a fiery plane crash in California. The small private jet was landing at an airport 30 miles north of San Diego this morning when it skidded off the runway, hit a storage shed and burst into flames. The air traffic control tower was closed at the time, although the airport itself was opened. The FAA says the plane was trying to land in a tailwind.

A student pilot was able to walk away from this incident -- accident in Lantana, Florida, near Miami. Officials say that she was practicing touch-and-go landings when the two-seat Cessna just bounced and then flipped over. The pilot wasn't injured, but the plane was destroyed.

IBM is being sued in federal court, accused of not paying overtime to thousands of employees. The lawsuit on behalf of three current and former IBM employees seeks back pay, along with class action status.

We called IBM for comment on the lawsuit, but so far we haven't heard back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. We'll get back to you shortly. There's word coming out right now of a major merger in the entertainment industry.

CNN's Susan Lisovicz is joining us now with the details.

Susan, this is huge.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's huge. It is a very rich story on so many different levels, Wolf.

It had been reported, it is now confirmed out of Burbank, California, the Walt Disney Company is buying Pixar Animation Studios in all-stock deal worth an estimated $7.4 billion.

Walt Disney, of course, is a pioneer in animated films going back to "Fantasia" and "Snow White" and "101 Dalmations." But this great studio had stumbled in recent years with such bombs as "Treasure Planet" and "Lilo and Stitch."

Its successes came from its 12-year partnership with Pixar, which has never had a box office bomb. You think about the hits that Pixar has put out, everything from "Finding Nemo" to "Toy Story" to "Monsters Inc" to "The Incredibles," and this was a partnership that Disney very much wanted to preserve, could not get the deal done under Michael Eisner, the long-time CEO who was basically forced out.

He took an early retirement last year. Robert Iger came in, in the fall. He said this was a top priority for him.

Of course this is a big day not only for him, but for Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is the head of Pixar. He's also the head of Apple Computer. He'll serve on Disney's board. He'll become Disney's largest shareholder.

A big payday for Steve Jobs.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Susan. Thanks very much.

And this note to our viewers. We're expecting to speak live with Steve Jobs and Robert Iger. That's coming up later this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll get their take on this huge, huge deal.

Coming up also, half a century ago he sang about Matilda running off to Venezuela. Now Harry Belafonte has himself been in Venezuela, joining its leftist leader in tirades against President Bush. My one- on-one interview with Harry Belafonte, that's coming up.

And a psychiatrist says it's one of the secrets of happily married men, treating marriage as a job. Is he right? Jack Cafferty is going through your e-mail.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Entertainer and liberal activist Harry Belafonte has emerged as one of President Bush's harshest critics. He's been at it again, comparing the Department of Homeland Security to the Nazi Gestapo. This just weeks after calling Mr. Bush a terrorist.


BLITZER (voice over): Harry Belafonte used to be best known for this. The singer, actor, composer and producer launched a calypso music craze in the 1950s. A half a century later, though, the 78- year-old Belafonte may be best known for this...

HARRY BELAFONTE, ENTERTAINER: No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush, says, we're here to tell you, not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people, millions support your revolution.

BLITZER: Belafonte stunned many Americans with his attack on President Bush and his embrace of Venezuela's socialist leader, Hugo Chavez. But it wasn't the first time Belafonte lashed out at the Bush administration.

In 2002, he went after then secretary of state Colin Powell, a fellow native of both Harlem and Jamaica, likening him to a plantation slave.

BELAFONTE: Colin is admitted to come into the house of the master.

BLITZER: And just this weekend, Belafonte accused the Department of Homeland Security of suspending citizens rights like the "new Gestapo."

Talk like that seems to be making some Democrats nervous, including Illinois senator Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: You know, I never use Nazi analogies because I think that those were unique. And I think, you know, we have to be careful in using historical analogies like this.

BLITZER: And Senator Hillary Clinton took pains to avoid being photographed with Belafonte at a Children's Defense Fund event in New York this month.

But Belafonte is standing behind his no holds barred assault on the president.

BELAFONTE: In the dictionary, anyone who brings terror to people is an act of terrorism and a terrorist.


BLITZER: Harry Belafonte isn't giving an inch in his criticism of the Bush administration. In my one-on-one interview with Harry Belafonte, I pressed him about his red-hot remarks.


BLITZER: The "new Gestapo," you know, those are powerful words, calling an agency of the U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Security, with, what, about 300,000 federal employees, the new Gestapo, you want to take that back?

BELAFONTE: No, not really. I stand by my remarks.

I am very much aware of what this has provoked in the -- in our national community. And I welcome the opportunity for us to begin to have a dialogue that goes other than where we have been having one up until now. People feel that I talk in extremes. But if you look at what's happening to American citizens, a lot is going on in the extreme.

We have taken citizens from this country without the right to be charged, without being told what they're taken for. We have spirited them out of this country, taken them to faraway places, and reports come back with some consistency that they are being tortured, that they're not being told what they have done. And even some who have been released have come back and testified to this -- to this fact.

BLITZER: But let me -- let me interrupt for a second. Are you familiar -- and I'm sure you are, because you're an intelligent man -- what the Gestapo did to the Jews in World War II?

BELAFONTE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And you think that what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to, you know, some U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism is similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews?

BELAFONTE: Well, if you're taking people out of a country and spiriting them someplace else, and they're being tortured, and they're being charged without -- or -- or not being charged, so they don't know what it is that they have done, it may not have been directly inside the Department of Homeland Security, but the pattern, the system -- it's what the system does. It's what all these different divisions have -- have begun to reveal in their collective.

I mean, my phones are tapped. OK? My mail can be opened. They don't even need a court warrant to come and do that, as we once were -- were required to do. All of these things...

BLITZER: But -- but no one has taken you or anyone else, as far as I can tell, to an extermination camp, and by the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, even millions, decided to kill them, which is what the Nazis did.

BELAFONTE: Well, Mr. Blitzer, let me say this to you.

Perhaps, just perhaps, had the Jews of Germany and people spoken out much earlier and had resisted the tyranny that was on the horizon, perhaps we would never have had...

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Are you blaming -- are you blaming the Jews of Germany for what Hitler did to them?

BELAFONTE: No, no, no, no, no.

What I'm saying is that if an awakened citizenry -- if an awakened citizenry, begins to oppose the first inkling of the sub -- of the subversion of government, of the subversion of our democracy, then, perhaps, an early warning would have saved the world a lot of what we all experienced. I'm not accusing the Jews at all.

BLITZER: Well, I just heard you say perhaps if the Jews of Germany had done something earlier, then, that might not have happened. That's what -- what I thought you were getting at.

BELAFONTE: Well, what I was getting at really was that, if all citizens, the Jewish community, the Christian community and all else, had taken a very early aggressive stand, rather than somehow suggesting or thinking or feeling that this would have gone away, we might have found that the -- Germany would have been in a far different place than it wound up in.

BLITZER: Here's what another...

BELAFONTE: I'm just saying...

BLITZER: Let me get through some of these other points, because we don't have a whole lot of time.


BLITZER: In -- when you were in Venezuela, with Hugo Chavez, you said that Bush is the greatest terrorist, the greatest tyrant. Are you saying that President Bush is worse than Osama bin Laden?

BELAFONTE: I'm saying that he's no better.

You know, it's hard to make hyperbole stick. I obviously haven't had a chance to meet all the terrorists in the world, so I have no reason to throw around the words like the greatest or make some qualitative statement. I do believe he is a terrorist.

I do believe that what our government does has terror in the center of its agenda. When you lie to the American people, when you have misled them and you have taken our sons and daughters to foreign lands to be destroyed, and you look at tens of thousands of Arab women and children and innocent people being destroyed each day, under the -- under the -- the title of collateral damage, I think there's something very wrong...


BELAFONTE: ... with the leadership.

BLITZER: What you did say in Venezuela was that President Bush was -- and I'm quoting now -- "the greatest tyrant in the world" and "the greatest terrorist in the world."

BELAFONTE: Yes, I did say that.

BLITZER: So, you did use the word the greatest.

Here's what -- here's what you were quoted as saying in "The Raleigh News and Observer" on January 16. And -- and I will let you amend or clarify your remarks.

"When you have a president that has led us into a dishonorable war, who has killed tens of thousands, many of them our own sons and daughters, what is the difference between those who would fly airplanes into buildings killing 3,000 innocent Americans? What is the difference between that terror and other terrors?"

Now, that raises the issue of moral equivalency. Are you saying, what the Bush administration, what the president is doing, is the moral equivalent of what al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden ordered on 9/11?

BELAFONTE: I think President George W. Bush, I think Cheney, I think Rumsfeld, I think all of these people have lost any moral integrity.

I find what they are doing is hugely immoral to the American people and to others in the world.

BLITZER: And the same, or if not worse, than al Qaeda; is that what you're saying?

BELAFONTE: Well, I -- I don't want to make those kind of comparisons.

I'm not too sure all that al Qaeda has done. Al Qaeda tortures. We torture. Al Qaeda has killed innocent people. We kill innocent people. Where are the -- where do lines get blurred here?

BLITZER: Well, I -- I think the argument is -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that al Qaeda deliberately wanted to kill as many people as possible in the World Trade Center in those two buildings. They didn't care if they were executives or janitors or crooks or anybody else. They just wanted to kill as many Americans as possible.

The -- the U.S., when it goes after terrorists, there may be what's called collateral damage, but they're trying to kill enemies of the United States, those who have engaged in terror or -- or similar actions. You understand the difference?

BELAFONTE: I understand the difference.

What I don't want to get stuck with, or be guided by, is what you call collateral damage. Let's not cleanse us morally, all of a sudden that it's beyond our capacity or our means to have made a difference in what we have done to 10,000 -- or thousands and thousands of Arabs.

I'm quite sure, if you went through each and every body, you would find that somebody was a baker, somebody was a store keeper, somebody was a cab driver, somebody was a student. I don't know. You know, murder is murder. And just because you may do it under different guises does not remove the moral imperative.

We are in this war immorally and illegally. And we have no business doing what we do.

BLITZER: What about -- and -- and -- and this -- these were very, very damning words that you said a few years ago. And I wonder if you still stick by them.

When you call Colin Powell, the secretary of state at that time, or Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, now the secretary of state, plantation slaves -- it's one thing to disagree with them, but when you get involved in name-calling, with all the history of our country, plantation slaves, isn't that crossing the line?

BELAFONTE: Not at all.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of plantations in America where people are slaving away their lives. You know, one of the big problems that we have in this country is the inability to be honest and to be straightforward.

We have never had a dialogue in this country on the real issues of slavery. I don't want to get stuck there, but what I said about Colin Powell is that he serves his master well. And, in that context, I was asked to describe what that meant. And I used the metaphor of slavery and the plantation. And I stand by it.

I mean, so, Colin Powell was -- was -- was viewed to be this rather moderate, honest human being. He stood before the United Nations and lied and knew he was lying. I mean, where do we draw these lines here?

BLITZER: How -- how do you know...

BELAFONTE: Why are we blurring...

BLITZER: How do you know Colin Powell knew he was lying? He -- he says -- and he has said it many times.

BELAFONTE: Mr. -- Mr. Blitzer...

BLITZER: He says he thought he was -- he was giving accurate information, although he subsequently learned that it was not accurate.


BLITZER: But there's a difference between misspeaking and there's -- and -- and lying.

BELAFONTE: Mr. Blitzer, you have access to a lot of information.

More than once, we have discussed the fact that Colin Powell went before his president, went before others, and said, I can't say this. It is not correct. There are things about it that -- that -- that touch me deeply and disturb me.

And, all of a sudden, there he was in front of the U.N., despite this disclaimer, doing what he did. The world's at war. People are dying every day. These are human lives. Where do you draw this line of distinction?

Is it because they're over there and we're here? Is it because we sit on some righteous place, saying that we're the finest nation in the world, and -- and that all else is less than we are? That's unacceptable in 21st century society.

BLITZER: Harry Belafonte, unfortunately, we have to leave it there. We're out of time. But it was kind of you to spend a few moments with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I see you're not backing away from one word of what you said.

BELAFONTE: No, I -- I can't. Dr. King is my mentor, and I believe in truth. And that's what I'm doing.

BLITZER: Harry Belafonte, joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, thank you very much.

BELAFONTE: Thank you, Mr. Blitzer.


BLITZER: And, after my interview with Harry Belafonte, we got this response from the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan. He says this about Harry Belafonte -- quote -- "I just don't think people take his comments too seriously, when they're so ill-informed and misguided" -- that statement coming in from the White House.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program, beginning in a few minutes.

Lou, what are you working on?


Coming up at 6:00, we will have all the day's news.

Also, this program has reporting to you about the illegal alien crisis in this country for years. The federal government has done nothing, is doing nothing, and, in some cases, more than nothing. Now states are taking matters into their own hands. This month, more than 28 states have introduced more than 70 new bills aimed at illegal immigration, and it's only January. We will have the special report for you.

And, then, tonight, God and politics -- the IRS says the two shouldn't mix. The Constitution says they can't mix. So, what in God's name is going on in many churches these days when it comes to politics? We will have the special report. And, Wolf, what working men and women of this country don't need is another assault, the American auto industry in decline. And don't blame the American worker -- wrong-headed trade policies and cowardly political and business leadership also to blame. We will have that special report. We hope you will be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We certainly -- we will be with you, Lou. Thank you very much -- Lou Dobbs coming up, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, they're highly trained and highly specialized. We will show you what the Pentagon wants to do now with U.S. special forces.

And it's a story we showed you first here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- records of your cell phone calls for sale to anyone. Now there's fresh fallout. And we have the latest details.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

No sign of hard feelings today at the White House. President Bush met with Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, who, just the other day, spoke some bitterness -- spoke with some bitterness about the U.S. missile strike which killed 13 people in a remote area of Pakistan. His guest nodded in agreement, as the president declared that the two nations are still working closely to defeat terror. Aziz thanked the United States for its relief efforts after last fall's earthquake. And the president announced he will be visiting Pakistan and India in March.

The Pentagon is working on a new budget and a new military strategy. And both will get a big boost -- give a big boost, that is, to America's elite special forces.

Let's get some specific details.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has that -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you well know, the Pentagon redraws its military strategy every four years.

And, this year, the emphasis will be on special operation forces.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): To fight what the Pentagon now calls the long war against terrorism, sources say its budget will include an increase in the number of highly trained special operation troops, such as Delta Force commandos, Navy SEALs, and Army Green Berets.

If approved by Congress, the addition of thousands of elite commandos, including a new special forces branch of the U.S. Marines, will bring the number of special operation troops to its highest level since the Vietnam War. Some experts say it's long overdue.

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The time is not only now. The time should have been probably eight to 10 years ago. But, without looking in the rear-view mirror, the Department of Defense is making the -- making the right step in the right direction, to enhance and broaden the functionality and -- and the capabilities of our special operations forces.

MCINTYRE: The 15 percent boost in special operations forces, who do everything from hunt high-value targets to train allied troops, would also include an immediate increase of billions of dollars to the budget of the special operations command, officials say. But adding elite forces takes not just money, but years.

MARKS: You don't grow a special operations soldier, or Marine, or airman, or SEAL in the Navy overnight. This is an investment of time.


MCINTYRE: Sources say that the new plan, to be released next month, will put a renewed emphasis on homeland security, counterterrorism, and dealing with weapons of mass destruction, and less emphasis on fighting a conventional war, such as the one that toppled Saddam Hussein -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thank you very much -- Jamie McIntyre reporting.

A newly-launched Web site is giving American troops and veterans of the Iraq war a place to connect and share some first-hand experiences. But the Pentagon has longstanding rules on what active- duty troops are allowed to share publicly.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is joining us now. She has more on what's known as TroopNet -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are very popular, online communities where people can go and post a profile, a photo, tell people about themselves, make friends, things like Friendster or Myspace.

I'm sure you have heard of sites like that. Well, this one's called TroopNet. And the idea of behind this is, people who have been through the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have experiences that other people might not understand. So, they can go online and connect with other people, especially if they're far away from something like a VFW hall or a brick-and-mortar outfit, something where they get to, or used to be able to in the past.

So, you put up a profile, something about yourself. And you connect. You talk to other people via the Internet. Now, the Pentagon does have very specific rules about what active-duty service members can and can't post online. Those do apply here as well. But if you're not active service, Wolf, what you can is go online and read these stories -- very interesting to get this perspective.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much -- Jacki Schechner reporting.

Up next, we recently told you how your cell phone records are available for a price on the Internet. Now there's an important update to the story that you won't want to miss. We are going to tell you what is going on.

And what a difference a year makes. Kobe Bryant has rebounded from sexual assault charges on the court and, apparently, in the court of public opinion as well. We will tell you what is on going on. That's in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour of the THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Zain with a quick check of some other stories making news right now -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in Cuba today, thousands of cheering Cuban fans -- Cubans, rather, directed by Fidel Castro filed past the U.S. mission in Havana, waving signs that compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler and accusing the United States as set to free a terrorist.

At issue is the case of Luis Posada, a former CIA operative held on immigration charges in Texas. Cuba accuses Posada of masterminding several anti-Cuba attacks, including an alleged assassination plot against Mr. Castro in 2000.

Amid a killer cold wave in Europe, snow's falling, winter's freezing. And it's too cold even for the penguins. In Greece, snow fell on the Acropolis and blanketed Athens. In Vienna, it's so cold that subway tracks are cracking. The cold spell is being blamed for dozens of deaths.

And the radical Islamic group Hamas is urging the release of journalist Jill Carroll, who was recently kidnapped in Iraq. The group, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S., says -- quote -- "Hamas is against the kidnapping of innocent people."

Last week, Carroll's captors said that they would kill her unless all female prisoners in the U.S. were freed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope she's freed.

Thanks very much, Zain, for that.

He could have faced more serious charges and life in prison for the suffocation death of an Iraqi general. But a U.S. Army interrogator has been spared jail time by the U.S. military justice system.

CNN's Brian Todd has been following this story. He's joining us now live with the latest -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one human rights group calls this development shocking and says it will send a very disturbing message through the Middle East.


TODD (voice-over): Army Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer walks out of court in Fort Carson, Colorado, and thanks the military jury that has just convicted him.

CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER LEWIS WELSHOFER, U.S. ARMY: I just want to say that I have the utmost respect for the decision that panel members came to tonight. I'm sure it was very difficult on them.

TODD: Welshofer gets a reprimand, 60 days restriction to barracks, loses $6,000 in salary, gets no jail time, after his conviction for negligent homicide and negligent dereliction of charge. He had originally faced a murder charge, possibly life in prison, for the 2003 death of Iraqi General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a man Welshofer had been questioning for days.

DAVID DANZIG, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: Look, there's no question that this won't play well in Iraq. This is an insult not just to the general and to his family, but to Iraqi detainees who have been mistreated over there.

TODD: Prosecutors said Welshofer stuffed the general head first into a sleeping bag, tied him up with an electrical cord, and sat on his chest, resulting in what the death certificate said was asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression. The defense claimed Welshofer never sat on the general's chest and that he didn't suffocate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I really believe that the general died from heart failure, not suffocation.

TODD: Welshofer testified, the Iraqi general had been beaten days earlier by other American interrogators and said he himself had slapped General Mowhoush in the presence of other Iraqi detainees.

Welshofer's commanding officer testified that she authorized the use of the sleeping bag. But Welshofer's attorney says, other than that, he was given unclear guidance on interrogation tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jury may have felt that it was unfair to really hammer this warrant officer for things for which other people should bear responsibility.


TODD: Neither the prosecutor, nor other officials at Fort Carson would comment when we asked if anyone who supervised Chief Warrant Officer Welshofer would be charged. They would also not say whether Welshofer would return to his position as an interrogator.

For now, he faces no reduction in rank -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that story -- Brian Todd reporting.

Up next, should marriage be a job? It's our question of the hour. Jack Cafferty's standing by with your e-mail.


BLITZER: Now an update on a story we have been following here in the THE SITUATION ROOM. A CNN investigation revealed just how easy it is to go online, purchase a list of all your recent cell phone calls. But cell phone providers and lawmakers are now trying to tighten the noose on companies that profit from your privacy.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has the latest -- Jacki.

SCHECHNER: Wolf, you might remember, what we did is go to this Web site, plug in our producer's telephone number, give them $110.

And, within eight hours, we had the last 100 calls that were made from that cell phone. Well, now the cell phone companies are fighting back. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Cingular have all filed lawsuits against the company that runs and Web sites like it.

Sprint tells us they're still investigating and they are considering legal action. What's interesting is what's coming out of these lawsuits, transcripts of telephone calls, people now figuring out how this is happening, people pretending to represent somebody who just had throat surgery, or someone pretending to be within the company, but another department trying to get information. This is all going to be illegal if a new bill passes, Wolf. But the companies and the legislators are fighting back.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jacki, for that update. We will continue to watch the story.

Let's go to New York with Jack and "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So, I want to know who our producer was calling, I mean, the dial-a-date services or what? We didn't get into the part about who the calls were to.

BLITZER: All personal, but very good, innocent calls.


CAFFERTY: Yes, right.

The author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" says men can make marriage work if they make it their job. So, that's the question.

Should marriage be a job?

Joe writes: "My wife, Bobbi, and I have been working at our marriage for going on 50 years this June 17. And we have found it's a daily chore, this thing called happy wedlock. What we found, too, is that, in order to make it all work, you must live with your partner's worst habit."

Don't know about that.

Nick in La Grande, Oregon: "Should marriage be a job? It shouldn't, but it is sure as hell is."

Rocco in Port Orange, Florida: "Sounds like a great plan. Just don't let your wife find out you think of her as work, or the pink slips will be flying."

Pat writes from Philadelphia: "Men may just be the smartest of the sexes. Marriage (INAUDIBLE) as a job fits them perfectly, come home on time, have dinner on time, boss everyone around, and watch football. Great, but workplace rules will apply, no sexual innuendo, no inappropriate touching, no telling us how we look or what to wear, no unexcused absences, cursing, or insubordination."

Richard in West Virginia: "If it is, I would like an increase in my salary. But I'm afraid to ask the boss."

Terry in Tampa: "I can't count the number of women that I have heard tell this story. The husband asks, what is it you want from me? The wife responds, treat me as well as you treat your clients. If that means marriage is a job, it can't hurt."

And Nolanda in Irving, Texas: "It's no news to me that marriage is a job. I have been fired from it three times, and I am currently unemployed."


BLITZER: Good...


BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much. We will see back here in THE SITUATION ROOM in one hour.

We are here weekdays, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour from now. Among other things, we are going to take a closer look at Kobe Bryant a year ago and now. What is going on with Kobe Bryant?

In the meantime, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lou Dobbs picking up our coverage -- Lou.