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The Situation Room
White House Issues Updated Counterterror Strategy; White House: Rumsfeld no 'Bogeyman'; Older Dads, Higher Risk?; Alberto Gonzales Interview; Max Cleland Interview; New Study Has Sobering Diagnosis for Some People Who Worked at Ground Zero
Aired September 05, 2006 - 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 to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, how safe are you, your neighbors, your family, your friends? Days before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, President Bush says the nation is safer, although not yet entirely safe. Might the country have less to fear if Osama bin Laden were caught? I'll ask the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales.
Could it be a solution to high oil and gas prices if someone could actually get to it? Trapped deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, an oil discovery so exciting some say it could be the biggest new domestic oil discovery found in a generation.
And after "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin's death, a critical question: What should you do in the unfortunate event of being stabbed by a stingray?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Almost five years ago terrorists committed acts designed to bring America to its knees. Today, less than a week before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, President Bush talked about the evil in the enemy the United States faces. In what the White House called a major speech, the president compared Osama bin Laden to none other than Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Yet, just as Hitler met an untimely end, many are wondering, why hasn't the United States caught bin Laden yet?
In a few moments I'll ask the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, that question.
First, more on the president's address.
Joining us now, our White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president clearly ratcheting up the rhetoric today in part two in his latest series of speeches on the war on terror. Nearly five years after he vowed that he would get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, the president acknowledging today in this speech that the terrorist is a major threat still all around the world, and taking the extraordinary step to take people inside the mind of the enemy, bin Laden and others, by quoting bin Laden's own words to some of his supporters, as well as quoting what the president called grisly al Qaeda manuals, training manuals, to dramatize just how dangerous the terrorist group still is.
It's a delicate balancing act for the president. On one hand, clearly this may help shake Americans out of any complacency they may feel politically. This does seem like a page ripped out of the Karl rove playbook. It worked in '02, it worked in '04, but this time it could play into the Democrats' hands.
They're charging that the administration's policies have actually made the country less safe. In his speech today, as you noted, the president said al Qaeda has been weakened, but he also seemed to elevate bin Laden a bit by comparing him to Adolf Hitler, and then saying this...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America. It is the central battlefield where the outcome of the struggle will be decided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But a new CNN Opinion Research poll suggesting maybe the American public is not buying that argument from the president. Forty-five percent of Americans saying Iraq is part of the war on terror, but 53 percent saying it's not part of the war on terror, let alone the central front -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.
And amid the talk of terror threats, there's a raging debate over how the war against terror should be fought. Today many in the U.S. Congress reacted to the president's speech. Some echoed the themes from the president's address, while others said the president is trying to tie the Iraq war to terrorism for partisan advantage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: As we approach this anniversary, there is little doubt that the president will once again resort to the politics of fear in an effort to convince the American people that the Iraq war is central to the global war on terror. Nothing is further from the truth. And I believe that the scare tactics may have worked in the elections of 2002 and 2004, but this time the American people know better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: It's very important that we in this body, in a bipartisan way, rise above the partisanship and above the partisan bickering to carry out our foremost responsibility. And that is securing our homeland, the security and the safety of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In a few moments I'll speak about that debate that's raging over the war in Iraq. The former Democratic senator Max Cleland of Georgia, he'll be joining us live. That's coming up this hour.
Meanwhile, who's afraid of Donald Rumsfeld? The White House says political enemies hope to turn the defense secretary into some type of bogeyman that American voters will recoil against this fall. And Rumsfeld's supporters are not happy about a push for a so-called no confidence vote in the Senate tomorrow.
Let's bring back our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel.
What's this vote about tomorrow in the Senate?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at its heart, Wolf, it would be about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
What Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, are planning to do is to offer up what's known as a Sense of the Senate resolution. It would be an expression of the sentiment of the Senate if it passes without actually having the force of law.
Now, according to a senior Democratic leadership aide I spoke with a short time ago, the expectation is that it will mention Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld by name, unlike that letter that Democratic leaders circulated yesterday saying that they didn't have support in the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. The Sense of the Senate will also have an expression of criticism broadly speaking about President Bush's foreign policy on Iraq.
Now, when asked about this a short time ago, the majority leader, John Boehner, House majority leader, expressed support for secretary Rumsfeld saying, "I personally like Don Rumsfeld. I think he's been the perfect person to be our defense secretary over the last five years. He knows more about the Pentagon, knows more about reforming the military than virtually anybody in the United States, and knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon and has a strong enough will to make the changes necessary to reform that operation. And that's where I am personally."
House Democrats are also talking about offering up some kind of no confidence vote, but John Boehner, the majority leader, Wolf, said he would not likely let that go to the floor -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They're using that phrase "where the bodies are buried" at the Pentagon. I know what he was suggesting, but in this context of the war in Iraq, that may not necessarily, Andrea, have been the best phrase. KOPPEL: Well, I think we'll have to leave that to John Boehner to respond to, Wolf. I think that he was speaking casually with reporters off camera and perhaps wasn't parsing every word.
BLITZER: All right, Andrea.
Thank you very much.
Andrea Koppel reporting for us.
While Rumsfeld's critics launched their verbal attacks, Rumsfeld himself could be watching it all from a hospital bed. The defense secretary is recovering after what's being called a simple elective surgery.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
Jamie, tell our viewers what happened.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Rumsfeld has been shouldering a lot of the criticism for the Iraq war. It may get his critics off his back for maybe a day as he rests up in a hospital bed from elective surgery.
He had a torn rotator cuff. Arthroscopic surgery for two hours under local anesthesia. We're told it's helping to make that much better. Rumsfeld expected to be back at work tomorrow.
He is otherwise in good health. He is a vigorous 74 years old, but as you know, Wolf, once the warranty expires, some of the parts start to go.
BLITZER: And he's expected to be out of the hospital fairly soon though, right?
MCINTYRE: Just overnight. He should be back tomorrow. In fact, he's got some interviews scheduled for later in the week to recall what happened on September 11th, and we're told he's planning to go ahead with those interviews.
BLITZER: All right. Well, we wish him a speedy recovery, the defense secretary.
Thanks very much, Jamie, for that.
Let's check in with Zain Verjee. She's taking a look at some other important stories making news.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.
Ford CEO Bill Ford is holding a live news conference this hour. The company just announced that he is stepping down as CEO. He will remain chairman -- he'll remain as chairman. Senior Boeing executive Allen Mullally will become the new chief executive officer.
Thousands of Intel employees could be getting pink slips. Intel Corporation said today it will cut more than 10,000 jobs.
It's part of a broad overhaul aimed at saving the chip maker $2 billion. The California-based company plans to cut 7,500 jobs by the end of this year and another 3,000 jobs next year. Intel recently reported a 57 percent drop in profits.
Ernesto is barely gone and here comes Florence. The sixth named storm of this year's hurricane season is churning in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the latest advisory out just minutes ago, it has top winds near 45 miles an hour.
Tropical Storm Florence is about 960 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. The National Hurricane Center warns that it could threaten land early next week. It's moving west at 12 miles an hour.
And protests erupted in Mexico City today after Mexico's top electoral court named Felipe Calderon as the country's president- elect. It voted unanimously to reject fraud allegations in July's election. Calderon plans a nationally-televised address tonight.
His opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, says he won't recognize the court's decision. He's reportedly threatening to set up a parallel government -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Zain.
Zain Verjee reporting.
Jack Cafferty's got the day off. He'll be coming back.
Up ahead, safer but not safe yet. That's the Bush administration's own assessment of the terrorism threat. And what about Osama bin Laden? Where is he? I'll ask that question to the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales.
Also, details of what's being called a major new oil discovery. Will it help ease the crunch here in the United States?
Ali Velshi standing by with details.
Plus, did Steve Irwin do the right thing when he pulled a stingray's barb out of his chest? We're going to talk about it with experts.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Officials in Queensland, Australia, are offering to hold a state funeral for "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. But the wildlife expert's family hasn't announced any plans yet.
Irwin died when he was stung in the heart by a stingray while shooting a show on the Great Barrier Reef yesterday. Irwin's producer says the attack and Irwin's final moments were captured on tape that's now being examined by authorities.
Many experts are shocked at the attack. Stingrays are a popular and generally safe attraction at aquariums throughout the country.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now live from the National Aquarium in Baltimore with more -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we came here to learn a lot more about these creatures and, indeed, we have.
This is a massive pool behind me with about 40 stingrays in it. And this is the most dangerous part of the stingray.
I'm going to ask my cameraman Dave to zero in on this.
This is the barb that was trimmed off one of these creatures in here. It -- they do that for safety, but these things grow back like a fingernail, and they come back two-pronged sometimes. This is -- this is a very dangerous part of a stingray and one of the many mysteries of this incredible creature that took one of the world's great naturalists.
TODD (voice over): Experts say of all the dangerous animals Steve Irwin came in contact with, they'd put a stingray far down on the list of those that could have killed him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not an aggressive -- really aggressive animal. And they use their barbs particularly for defense.
TODD: More than 50 of these mysterious creatures are kept at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Some have their barbs trimmed, others don't.
We're there at feeding time. Five divers stake out areas of a massive pool, then get swarmed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow!
TODD: None of them get barbed this time, but it has happened here, and diver Chuck Icoldst (ph) tells us how they avoid it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're with them, you could be on their sides, you could be in the front of them, or even underneath. But you do try to avoid staying behind them.
TODD: For a closer look at that danger zone we're taken to a special tank by curator official (ph) Rich Lerner (ph). Here they keep small pups separate from larger ones. These aren't as accustomed to human touch.
The tip of the tail isn't dangerous, but at the base, the ray has a venom-coated barb. We test the reflexes of one. (on camera): Well, he just -- he just hit me there a little bit. But that's not necessarily how they would do it, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they would -- it would be quick...
TODD: Over the top.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be really quick and it would be over the top.
TODD (voice over): Lerner and other experts say most humans who get barbed are struck in the foot or leg. If that happens, experts say, it is best to immerse yourself in hot water to break down the venom.
We asked Lerner if he'd advise trying to pull the barb out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to say. Personally, I'd probably say, you know, if you can, leave it in. You're going to probably do more damage pulling it out because of the serrations on it.
TODD: But Lerner and other experts don't fault Steve Irwin for trying to pull out that barb. They said that was probably instinct. And likely, he figured he could save himself. They say it's very likely the initial puncture, not the venom, and not the act of pulling out that barb, that killed Steve Irwin -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you.
Brian Todd reporting.
Steve Irwin's fans are coming out in force online, with photo tributes, stories and questions about his life and death pouring in.
Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, standing by with details -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the outpouring is extraordinary. And it's not showing any signs of slowing down.
Go to a community site like flickr.com, where people can post their own photos, type in "Steve Irwin" or "Crocodile Hunter," and you get pages of homemade tributes online. There is plenty of sadness still being expressed on blogs. And now with news that his footage is actually caught on film, a lot of people wondering if it will leak out online and a lot of people hoping that it doesn't.
There's also this online memorial created yesterday by a teenager in Wales named Rich Powell (ph). It's seen more than 17,000 visitors so far. Again, created yesterday, and more than 1,000 condolences posted online.
And you, too, are sending us your thoughts at CNN.com through our new I-Report system. This is an animal handler named Stephanie Bourtal Zarat in Chicago. She sent in this photograph of herself holding a crocodile named Al Capone.
She says every time she holds him she will think of Steve Irwin. She says she is deeply saddened -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jacki, we're all saddened, too. Thank you very much.
Coming up, are some fathers putting their kids at higher risk of autism? Our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, standing by with details of a new study.
Plus, the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales. We'll talk about the war on terror and just how safe Americans are. And where is Osama bin Laden? Is this a priority for the United States, finding him?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's some disturbing news for older fathers in a new study. It says men who become fathers in their 40s and beyond are much more likely to have autistic children than younger fathers.
For details, we're joined by our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Tell our viewers what this study showed, Sanjay.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an interesting study, for sure, Wolf. Could the age of a father play a role when it comes to actually having a child with autism?
There's been some early hints of this in the past, but now a more definitive study actually coming out. Two institutions playing a role, Mount Sinai in New York, also a university in London looking at lots of different people over a six-year period in the 1980s, a six- year period, trying to figure out whether or not there was actually a link between the paternal -- paternal age, father's age, and the risk of autism. And what they found there -- you can see that -- they actually looked at over 130,000 children at that time, men and women both in terms of their age, and then the draft board data at age 17 actually analyzed all this data.
Wolf, you're going to be interested to know -- you probably know this, but there's a unique identification number given to all Israeli citizens. They can track the citizens, they can track their children as well, which made this a much easier study to complete.
And what they found actually after analyzing all the data was that fathers who are 40 years or older had a six times greater risk, a greater likelihood of having a child with autism, as compared to a father who was 30 years or younger. So, 40 years or older versus 30 years or younger, compared to fathers who were age 15 to 29.
Now, very interesting study. Obviously it's hard to extrapolate a lot of information out of this. Important to note, as well, maternal age did not have an impact here. This was looking at fathers only. They looked at mothers as well, but that did not have an impact as well as the -- as far as the autism risk goes.
BLITZER: Do these doctors, these scientists have a clue why the father's age would have this effect?
GUPTA: Well, it's interesting. There's a couple of theories out there. They're not 100 percent sure. Two things to point out.
One is that I think we're getting more and more evidence that autism is genetically linked. There is a genetic component to autism. I think more than anything, that this study points to that as well.
There is something known as the Penrose theory, basically saying that as your body ages, you become less good at being able to actually stop certain mutations. We all have mutations in our body, even young people, but as we get older, we're not as good at correcting them. And if we're older when we have a child, we may be actually passing those mutations on.
BLITZER: Are these doctors suggesting that older men should not have children?
GUPTA: Not at all. Not at all. And that's an important, good question, Wolf.
First of all, a couple of things. The numbers are very small, still. Even with the older parents, the likelihood of having a child with autism is still very small.
The other thing is, more than anything, they're looking at this as evidence that there's a genetic component to this. And it might provide some fodder, some sort of baseline to actually study this a little bit more further.
BLITZER: The fact that this was a study done in Israel involving Israelis, what, if anything, should we learn about that as far as other groups of people involved?
GUPTA: Well, I think this would -- that would have to be cited as one of the limitations. It was looking at a very specific group of people, but the researchers contend that, you know, this would probably extrapolate well to other groups as well. And they're actually continuing the study. It's actually looking at a group of people in Denmark to see if the numbers match.
So I don't think we can say that this isn't going to apply to other groups as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, basically, it's a very preliminary study and there's a lot more work, Sanjay, that has to be done before we can draw any really hard and fast conclusions?
GUPTA: Yes, I think that's that -- that's true for sure. And, you know, there's been this gathering evidence for some time, Wolf.
Autism is a very controversial diagnosis, a very controversial thing in this country, around the world, but the fact that it's genetically linked, we're starting to get that more and more. I think this study adds to that evidence.
BLITZER: Sanjay, thank you very much.
GUPTA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting for us.
Coming up, might it be black gold? An oil discovery so exciting some say it could boost U.S. oil reserves by the billions.
Also, more on the debate over how to conduct the war on terror. How does the Iraq war play into the equation? And will the United States ever catch Osama bin Laden five years after 9/11? I'll speak with the former Democratic senator Max Cleland of Georgia and the U.S. attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: More now on our top story.
President Bush wants you to know that you're safer from terrorism, but not yet entirely safe. So what should the government be doing now to ensure that as we near the anniversary of 9/11?
And if Osama bin Laden were caught or killed, would Americans be safer?
BLITZER: Attorney General, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get to the issue of five years after 9/11. Is terror a bigger threat to the United States than it was five years ago, or is it a reduced threat to the United States?
ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it certainly remains the number one priority for the administration and for the Department of Justice. And it is certainly true that it remains a serious threat to the United States.
BLITZER: Is it a bigger threat today than it was five years ago?
GONZALES: I don't know how you qualify -- quantify whether or not it's a bigger threat. I think the threat, it's still there. I think it's a threat that is changing.
I think that it is changing -- I view that as a sign of success. The threat is changing because of all the measures we've taken to make America safer. And... BLITZER: I guess the question is, are Americans -- should Americans be more worried today about the lethality of weapons of mass destruction?
GONZALES: That is our nightmare scenario. And it's something that we obviously are doing everything that we can do to prevent that from happening. But...
BLITZER: But that's still -- that's still possible that they could do that five years after 9/11, that they could kill thousands, maybe tens of thousands of Americans with -- with WMD?
GONZALES: I think, you know, we've taken incredible steps working with the Congress to make America safer, to make it much more difficult for an enemy to cause that kind of harm to American citizens within this country.
But we also -- we know that we have an enemy that's very determined and they're very smart. And they are intent on causing harm to America. And so our obligation, those of us working in the government, is to try to make it as difficult as we can. I think we've made great progress in making America safer.
BLITZER: But when you say it's the nightmare scenario.
GONZALES: Sure, it is.
BLITZER: So in other words, it still exists though, you don't have to worry about that, it hasn't been eliminated, that threat?
GONZALES: No, I wouldn't say that it's been eliminated. It's something that we worry about, but we worry about lots of different kinds of threats to America and to the American people.
BLITZER: Are there more potential terrorists out there who want to kill Americans today than there were five years ago?
GONZALES: I can't answer that question. I do know that the threat remains and that, for that reason, it remains the number one priority that we protect America from another terrorist attack. You know, whether it's one or a million, you know, whether or not that results in greater danger to America, may depend on the type of attack that they want to engage in. And so our focus is trying to identify terrorist attacks before they mature and Americans are harmed.
BLITZER: Most Americans look back at five years ago, what happened on 9/11 and they immediately ask this question -- where is the most wanted man in the world? Why haven't you, the United States government, been able to find, capture or kill Osama bin Laden?
GONZALES: Well, we have spent a lot of time and a lot of effort in trying to locate Bin Laden. And it again, as the president has said many times, it's not a question of if, it's simply a question of when. We are going to capture Bin Laden. And we're working with our friends and allies around the world to try to find out where he's at. But even if we -- BLITZER: You want him more than any other criminal out there?
GONZALES: I think it's very, very important.
BLITZER: He's at your top priority?
GONZALES: I think it's very important to get Bin Laden.
BLITZER: But is he your top priority?
GONZALES: Again --
BLITZER: In terms of America's most wanted.
GONZALES: There are a lot of very important people that we want to prosecute and Bin Laden would certainly be at the top of that list. But I don't want the American people to believe that if he were captured that America would be safe. I think that would be important in our battle against terrorism, but there are others who are dangerous and would want --
BLITZER: Who is at that level of Osama bin Laden?
GONZALES: Well, I'm not going to get into specific names, but as I said, Wolf, capturing Bin Laden would be very, very important. It would be important for operational reasons. It would be important for symbolic reasons. So clearly, he would be at the top of the list.
BLITZER: Because we hear from him occasionally, more often from his number two, Ayman Al Zawahiri. They show up on these videotapes and they make these declarations. You would think that that would be your number one priority.
GONZALES: Well, there's a lot of effort that is expended by the U.S. government in trying to identify, trying to locate where Bin Laden so that we can bring him to justice.
BLITZER: Because I asked the question, I read this morning this national strategy for combating terrorism that the administration put out. And in a detailed summary, I didn't see a lot of new information in there, but there was a lot of material about the war on terrorism.
At one point though, there were a list of successes, what has been achieved over these past five years, a lengthy list. And then there's a list of what are called challenges. Some of the major challenges facing the United States right now in the war on terrorism. None of that -- in none of those challenges did I see any reference to Osama Bin Laden himself or his Deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
GONZALES: Well I want the American people to know that that still remains an objective, an important priority for the administration is to get Bin Laden and to bring Bin Laden to justice.
BLITZER: You have just come back from the region. You were in Iraq, you went to the Persian Gulf, you were in London. Do you, as the nations top law enforcement official, do you have a sense of where Osama bin Laden is right now?
GONZALES: I do. I have a sense of where he's at but I --
BLITZER: Where is that?
GONZALES: Well, in the Middle East is all I'm going to say. But we have difficult terrain that we sometimes have to work with. We have sometimes sympathetic people in the region. Sometimes there are issues relating to cooperation with governments. And so there are challenges that we have to deal with in trying to find one individual in a region of the world.
And -- but I guess what I want to reassure the American people is that we remain focused on this challenge and that there are obviously other challenges that we have to worry about, other issues that we have to worry about. But capturing Bin Laden remains an important priority for the administration.
BLITZER: You keep saying an important. It's not the most important priority in this war on terrorism? Symbolically a man who ordered the murder of 3,000 Americans and others in the World Trade Center, Pennsylvania, and here in Washington?
GONZALES: Perhaps the reason I don't say it is the number one objective, is because even if he were captured -- if we could capture him and that would win the war on terror, I think I could without qualification say that is the number one objective. But that doesn't end the fight. And so there are other challenges to this government and to our country that we also have to focus on. Because those continue and will continue even after Bin Laden is captured.
BLITZER: And just to reiterate, America remains vulnerable today?
GONZALES: I think America is safer today, but yes, it is possible because of the type of society that we have, because of the type of freedoms that we enjoy in this country, because of the type of enemy that we're dealing with. I think we're safer today but we are not yet safe.
BLITZER: Attorney General, thanks very much.
GONZALES: Thank you.
BLITZER: For another perspective on this debate concerning the war on terror, Max Cleland is joining us, he's a former democratic senator from Georgia. Joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Senator, thanks very much for coming in. Do you agree with the attorney general as far as his assessment of the importance or lack thereof, if you will, of Osama bin Laden overall in terms of the war on terror?
MAX CLELAND (D), FORMER GEORGIA SENATOR: I don't agree with a damn thing the attorney general said. It is al Qaeda, stupid. It is Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cadre that must be killed or captured, period. If we don't have high government officials in Washington who understand that, we need new high government officials. This is five years after September 11th. I went through September 11th, along with this nation. I was in Washington. I was just a couple of miles from the pentagon. I saw the smoke. I thought I was back in Vietnam.
It is al Qaeda, stupid. It is not Iraq. That is why we've got to redeploy the troops out of Iraq, recover them to this country and make sure that our national guard and our reserves take care of this country and refocus our active duty military on killing and capturing Osama bin Laden. He is the key to worldwide terrorism. If we don't get that now, we'll never get it.
Now, the thing that bothers me is that instead of going after Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cadre, they're going after Jack Murtha who after five years have looked at this situation and having more than 30 years experience in the marine corps and more than 30 years in congress, they're going after Jack Murtha and trying to take him out and strip vote him. And I'm not going to let that happen. Me and my fellow veterans are going to demonstrate in Johnstown, Pennsylvania for Jack Murtha September 30th. We invite all Americans to come. We're going to fight back this year.
BLITZER: Senator, listen to what President Bush says about al Qaeda and its current assessment of the war in Iraq. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America. It is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right he says it may not have been necessarily the central battlefield before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but today for al Qaeda, the situation in Iraq is priority number one.
CLELAND: No. No. Al Qaeda is focusing and morphing in 60 different nations, Madrid, Spain, London, England. Where did the last attack on this country originate from or attempted attack? London. Now, my problem is that five years after this attack on our country, people in Washington, the president, the vice president and the attorney general obviously, and Secretary Rumsfeld don't get it. I can't believe it. And instead of attacking Bin Laden, they attack Jack Murtha.
I'm heading up an organization called Vets For Murtha.org. Www.vetsformurtha.org. And we are fighting back this year. We're not going to let somebody like Jack Murtha who has the experience, look at the president's policy in Iraq and say that the policy in Iraq has no clothes. If Iraq was so important, why didn't they put in the 500,000 troops that General Shinseki wanted.
Why didn't they put in the 500,000 troops that Tommy Franks briefed on the first visit to Crawford, Texas about this war. No, they put in just enough troops to lose. And they've gotten 2600 kids killed. 25,000 maimed and wounded. And this is enough. It's time to redeploy the troops and refocus our energies on killing and capturing Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: Senator Cleland I want you to clarify this story that came out in recent days that you're suffering right now from post- traumatic stress disorder as a result of your injuries during the Vietnam War and more recently. But our viewers are concerned. Tell our viewers what's going on.
CLELAND: Well you know, war takes it toll. I mean it was Ernest Hemingway that said after his injuries in World War I, that "the world breaks us all, and afterward many are strong at the broken places broken places." I've been fortunate in my life to have the strength of God and the help of friends in my life to help get me stronger. But I'm working on it. It's a lifetime project for me.
My concern now is about the youngsters coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They're wounded body, mind and soul and we should take care of them. And that's one reason why I'm fighting for better counseling and more counseling under the veteran's administration for them.
BLITZER: Senator Cleland, thanks very much for joining us.
CLELAND: Thank you.
BLITZER: Check in with Zain Verjee. There's a story that's developing right now. Zain?
VERJEE: Hi, Wolf. CNN is able to confirm that Justice Anthony Kennedy had heart surgery to insert a stent. That surgery happened on Saturday. He's ok now. He's been cleared by the doctors and he's free to return to his duties at the court. Wolf?
BLITZER: Could be a major story. We wish a speedy recovery for the Supreme Court justice, Justice Anthony Kennedy. We're getting more information. Zain, we'll stay on top of this story. Justice Kennedy going through some heart surgery, having a stent put in. We'll watch this story for you.
Still to come, just after 9/11, they rushed to the World Trade Center to help in any way they could. Now it seems that may be causing some problems for workers and rescuers.
And trapped beneath the Gulf of Mexico a rare discovery. A vast pool of oil that companies hope to get to. Might it one day affect the price all of us pay at the pump? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Five years after 9/11, a new study has a sobering diagnosis for some of the people who worked at Ground Zero. It says not only did the toxic air around the site make them sick, but that some of them could be sick for the rest of their lives. Let's bring in Mary Snow. She's in New York with details. Mary? MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is the largest study of its kind. Thousands considered to be in good health before 9/11 are showing illnesses in numbers doctors call worrisome and higher than expected.
SNOW (voice-over): It's estimated that 40,000 workers inhaled the toxic cloud at Ground Zero described as a mix of pulverized concrete with the toxicity similar to powerful drain cleaners. Trillions of glass shards and asbestos. Thousands are now feeling the effects.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World Trade Center. Our patients are sick and will need ongoing health monitoring and treatment for the rest of their lives.
SNOW: Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York tracked over 9,000 workers. It found almost 70 percent of World Trade Center responders had new or worsened respiratory symptoms that developed during or after their time at the World Trade Center. Marvin Bathea (ph) for one, has difficulty breathing and displays medications he took before 9/11 and now. The prognosis is uncertain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's to be the future for these people? What will the future hold? Will they die of the illnesses that they now experience? How disabled will they be made?
SNOW: Doctors are turning their focus now towards cancer and other diseases. Dr. John Howard, appointed by the Bush administration in February as the 9/11 health czar, says he can't prove anyone's directly died as a result of 9/11 illnesses, but says six case he knows about are of particular concern.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I think an age that they died at, the autopsy findings are very suggestive and they're very worrisome to me.
SNOW: Doctors were joined by lawmakers including New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton who called for more federal help in screening and treating those workers becoming sick.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: Our government was not telling us the truth. The air was not safe to breathe, there was not adequate breathing equipment or other equipment on the pile.
SNOW: And lawmakers say that air may have affected thousands of people whose health has not been monitored.
SNOW: Now health officials say it's critical to continue monitoring people exposed to Ground Zero to trace diseases like cancer which take time to develop. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right Mary, thank you. Mary Snow reporting. Let's check in with Lou Dobbs, he's getting ready to give us a preview of what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Hi Lou, welcome back.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Wolf, thank you very much. Coming up at 6:00 p.m. eastern here, we'll be reporting on the president's efforts to make radical Islamist terrorism, not his conduct of the war in Iraq, the central issue in the midterm elections. Best selling author Brad Meltzer is among novelist, chemists and others helping the Department of Homeland Security think outside the box on terrorist threats and responses. He's among our guests here tonight.
And the Republican Party abandoning any effort to push through in the House the president and the senate's plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, best selling author accusing President Bush of dereliction of duty. He's also among our guests here tonight.
And we'll be continuing our reports on a scandal that has rained new fears about racism in our schools. Our live report tonight about the Louisiana school bus driver who ordered black students to the back of the bus. We'll have that for you and a great deal more. We hope you'll be with us. Wolf Blitzer, back to you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much Lou for that. Up ahead, a major oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. What impact will it have on the high prices all of us are paying at the pump. Ali Velshi standing by with details.
Plus, President Bush sounding a new theme as he tries to boost support for the war in Iraq. Our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield standing by with a closer look. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're learning more about what's being called a major discovery of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The question is this -- will it help ease the crunch and lower gas prices right now in the United States? Ali Velshi is in New York with details. Hi Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good to see you again. Kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies, you know you go in your backyard and it's gushing with oil. Well it's kind of like that because most of our oil does come from the Gulf of Mexico and Chevron, a group led by Chevron has found that by going farther out in the gulf and much, much deeper under the sea, we're talking about five miles below sea level here. You see on the screen it says jack, that's where they drilled. Well, they found that there could be between 3 and 15 billion barrels of oil.
That would increase the U.S.' production by about 50 percent. Now, there's a big "could be." And even if there is all that oil underground, it is deep and expensive to get out. So if oil stays at the prices that we're seeing now, well, maybe it's worth it. But if oil starts to go down, might not be worth it. Oil closed 59 cents lower, right now we're looking at $68.60. That's almost a five-month low. Wolf we'll keep our eye on it. BLITZER: Ali thank you, Ali Velshi reporting. A new study released today by the education department found two out of three white students use the internet. Contrast less than half of African- American and Latino students are using the web. With more on the digital divide, as it is being called, let's bring in our internet reporter Jacki Schechner, Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this brand new study just released online today took a look at kids ages 3 and up in grades nursery school through 12th grade. And here is what they found with regard to the use of computers specifically, that 78 percent of white students use computers at home compared to just 48 percent of Latinos and 46 percent of African-Americans.
They also found that family income played a huge role, that 37 percent of students with a family income of under $20,000. Basically the less money a parent makes, the less likely a student was to use a computer at home. Parental education also played a role.
The less education a parent had, the less likely a student was to use a computer at home. But the good news in all of this, are these light gray bars which basically says that access to computers at school is bridging that divide. You can see the numbers here, 85 percent of white students, 80 percent of Latino students and 82 percent of African-American students have access to computers at school. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thank you very much for that Jacki. Up next, why is President Bush quoting Osama bin Laden? Our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield will take a look at the administration's new theme as it tries to boost support for the war in Iraq. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. The Bush administration is using a new theme as it tries to boost support for the war in Iraq. With the president himself sounding it in his latest speech. Let's bring in our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. Jeff?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, the president's speech today is best seen as another chapter in what is becoming the central argument of an administration beleaguered by falling poll numbers about its handling of the war in Iraq and the war on terror. That it still understands better than its growing number of critics the nature of the enemy.
BUSH: We're engaged in a global war against an enemy that threatens all civilized nations.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): Those words echo what the president has said many times, but the key theme is one that has emerged only in the last week or so. Last Tuesday, it was Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recalling past indifference to great danger. DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: In the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated. Or that it was someone else's problem.
GREENFIELD: On Thursday, it was the president describing today's terrorists as he spoke to the American Legion.
BUSH: They're successors to fascists, the Nazis, the communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century.
GREENFIELD: Today the president fleshed out his argument. The world at first did not take Lenin seriously when he led a communist revolution in Russia, said Bush. It didn't take Hitler seriously when he proclaimed his intention to conquer Europe and to target Jews. As for today's menace, Bush said --
BUSH: We know what the terrorists intend to do because they've told us. And we need to take their words seriously.
GREENFIELD: Again and again today, Bush quoted al Qaeda leaders, Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, who have called for a life and death struggle against what they call infidels, and whose goal is an Islamic caliphate that stretches from Spain through the Mideast. Perhaps most significantly Bush used the words of these al Qaeda leaders to argue as he has so often before, that Iraq is the central front in the battle against terrorism. Here he quotes Bin Laden.
BUSH: He calls it a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam. He says the whole world is watching this war. And that it will end in victory and glory or misery and humiliation.
GREENFIELD: In contrast to speeches of say two years ago, the president's speech today was much less about the benefits of the spread of democracy in the Middle East, much more about accentuating the negative why leaving Iraq would give the terrorists a huge victory and vastly increase the danger at home.
If you want to put a political frame around it, the message seems to be this -- we may have made mistakes in Iraq but you can't take the risk of putting power in the hands of politicians who don't understand how high the stakes are. We'll see how that plays out in a couple of months. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jeff thank you very much. Jeff Greenfield is part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters. Remember, we're here weekday afternoons in THE SITUATION ROOM, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern, we're back in one hour, 7:00 p.m. eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Lou is in New York -- Lou.
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