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The Situation Room
Pentagon Ploy? Al Qaeda Connection; Drafting Al Gore?
Aired February 09, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, and it's happening now.
A new insurgent video -- does it show an American helicopter actually being shot down?
And, also, an inside black market look at Baghdad. We're going to show you where the weapons are being sold very, very cheap.
The al Qaeda connection -- did Pentagon officials pull an end run around the U.S. intelligence agencies and pull the wool over the nation's eyes to make the case for the war against Iraq?
There's a new Pentagon report.
And the autopsy report for Anna Nicole Smith.
Were drugs actually a factor in her death? Was there any violence?
We're going to bring you the latest developments.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Gripping new images showing a twin rotor helicopter crashing to the ground. A just released video from the insurgents' own media arm. An al Qaeda linked group says it's proof that insurgents shot down a U.S. chopper this week. Half a dozen helicopters lost in the last three weeks alone.
So what's behind the crashes?
Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as we speak, military intelligence is looking at this insurgent video frame by frame, trying to figure out if one of its helicopters was shot down.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): Insurgents claim this video shows a U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 helicopter being shot down on Wednesday in Al-Anbar Province, an incident in which all seven people on board died.
At the Pentagon, the senior operations officer cautioned against an early conclusion about what happened.
LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS: There are some eyewitness acts that cause professional aviation officers to believe that it was more likely -- most likely a mechanical malfunction.
STARR: Pilots nearby report they did not see a smoke trail from a missile or rocket and they say the helicopter was flying above the range of small arms fire.
But the video shows this -- an apparent smoke trail from possibly a surface-to-air missile. This is now what military intelligence is focusing on. This is the sixth helicopter down in three weeks. Four were brought down by enemy fire. And there are good questions about whether insurgents pose a new threat.
Military aviation experts say they do not yet see a pattern. All the incidents are different. They dismiss the notion that surface-to- air missiles coming on from Iran are responsible.
BRIG. GEN. STEPHEN MUNDT, U.S. ARMY: There is nothing they have that we don't know, that we don't understand what it does and that we don't have the right equipment to prevent it from shooting helicopters down.
STARR: Helicopters, which are large, slow targets, have extensive on board electronics designed to protect them. But in heavy combat, nothing may be enough.
MUNDT: When you get into certain conditions, it doesn't matter where you are or who you are, shoot-downs will occur.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: Wolf, one of the biggest concerns that military investigators have is that the insurgents may simply be getting more confident that they can carry out these attacks and not get caught -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a serious, serious problem.
Barbara, thank you.
Meanwhile in Iraq, weapons are simply everywhere. In just the past week, dozens of arms caches have been discovered in Baghdad. The U.S. military says troops have found more than 2,000 mortar rounds, along with rockets, explosives and small arms.
Ordinance teams are busy trying to destroy all these munitions, but there's seemingly an endless, endless supply, as our Michael Holmes finds out in the underbelly of Baghdad -- Michael.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when it comes to weapons in Iraq, let me give you an analogy. Think of how easy it is to buy, say, a cell phone, including all the paperwork and all the credit checks. Well, that's about how long it takes to get a weapon in Baghdad, thanks largely to a thriving black market.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HOLMES (voice-over): "Before we buy a weapon, we always check its quality."
In a country where unemployment is rampant, one business is booming, often literally.
"This path found me. I didn't choose it. I want to help people defend themselves."
He goes by the name of Abu Hiba. He used to go to university. He's young, smart and for two years now, a black market arms dealer in Baghdad, with no shortage of customers.
"Everyone demands -- neighborhoods, militias, Jihadi groups. Everyone demands."
He's a proud salesman and knows his wares. In this case, the heavy duty PKC machine gun. This is an effective long range weapon. It's nickname in the Army and among militias is "the reaper."
(on camera): Say I wanted to buy some grenades.
How long would it take you to get them to me?
(voice-over): "If you need three hand grenades, you can get them in two hours."
(on camera): And how much?
(voice-over): "No more than 25,000 to 30,000 Iraqi dinars, around $20."
A rocket propelled grenade launcher? Around $130. But his biggest seller is the AK-47, the weapon of choice for most Iraqis. On a busy month, maybe 50 pass through his hands and onto the streets, adding to an already unnerving level of firepower in the capital.
This, a fairly routine sound in the city.
(on camera): Iraq is a place where every household is entitled to have one AK-47 -- that's one of them there our guard is holding. You see, with all the sectarian and criminal violence, ordinary people feel that no one can adequately protect them -- not the police, not the army, not the Americans.
So, for about $400, they try to protect themselves.
(voice-over): Abu Hiba says those people are his market, not insurgents, although later he does admit to having rockets -- hardly a defensive weapon -- in his inventory. And with the new Baghdad security plan underway, Abu Hiba says many militiamen are laying low, getting rid of some of their weapons. Abu Hiba is happy. With so many weapons around, prices are low for him. He'll store them until those prices rise.
Meanwhile, he tells us that while militia members supply him, they are often supplied from places within Iran.
"What comes in from Iran is disastrous -- big trucks stacked with mortar bombs, .135 millimeter and .136 millimeter; Iranian manufactured .120 millimeter mortars stamped 2006."
it's not like there's a shortage of weapons in Iraq. During the invasion, American troops left vast armories unguarded, later to be looted. Only a couple of years ago, outdoor arms markets thrived. They were shut down and so now the market is black -- underground.
(on camera): Are you ever worried you're going to get caught?
(voice-over): "We can buy and hide weapons easily. When the Americans come in, they can't find anything and leave. I am afraid only of god."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HOLMES: It's really not about who you know, because you can know just about anyone and they're sure to know someone who knows a back market arms dealer. Like we said at the beginning, just about as easy as getting a cell phone -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Michael, thank you.
Michael Holmes in Baghdad.
The black market dealer, by the way, that Michael talks about, sells an RPG launcher for about $130. According to the Brookings Institution here in Washington, RPG attacks killed 80 American troops in Iraq.
Michael also tells us the going rate for an AK-47 is around $400. According to Brookings, small arms fire is responsible for the deaths of some 980 U.S. troops, the second leading cause of American troop fatalities.
IEDs are the biggest killers, responsible for the deaths of 1,128 American troops.
It's a holy place and a flashpoint for violence. Today, Israeli police battled Palestinian protesters at the ancient Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to the Muslims as the Haram al- Sharif or Noble Sanctuary.
The spark this time?
An Israeli project to renovate a ramp leading to the compound.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the clashes at the Al Aksa Mosque really came as no surprise to anybody. Tensions were mounting steadily all week.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Stones fly, stun grenades explode.
(VIDEO OF FIGHTING)
WEDEMAN: Prayers are cut short as a holy site becomes a battleground. Clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israeli police Friday were widely anticipated as tensions over an Israeli renovation project at one of the most sensitive spots in this ancient city erupted into violence.
Palestinian leaders claim the work threatens the structure of the complex. Israeli officials deny it and insist the renovation is necessary.
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: In many ways, it's a Catch-22. If you proceed with the restoration work, the repair work, then there's a chance that extremists will incite to violence. But, of course, if you don't do the repair work, you have a chance of a real tragedy, that people coming up to the Mount, innocent people, pilgrims, tourists, they will be hurt.
WEDEMAN: Israeli police had tried to bar all males under the age of 45 from entering the mosque compound, leaving hundreds outside the city walls to say their prayers.
"We came to pray as Muslims, as Jerusalemites. We came to practice our right to worship," says Yusef Okemer (ph), "but our right has been denied."
This may not be the third Palestinian intifada some were predicting. There were wounded on both sides, but no fatalities. But it's a reminder, nonetheless, that the conflict here is never far from the surface and that what might seem like innocuous acts can have unforeseen consequences.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WEDEMAN: Despite Friday's troubles, Israeli officials say on Sunday they may well resume the renovation work in the Old City, pending, of course, a review -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ben Wedeman in a tense Jerusalem tonight.
And, by the way, we can see in this aerial map how Jerusalem is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It's located on the edge of this line, showing where Israel and the West Bank meet. Long divided, the entire city came under Israeli rule after the 1967 Six Day War.
At the heart of the political conflict is a religious conflict, as well. The demonstrations today were at a place sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Muslims call this the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, where the Golden Dome of the Rock was built in the seventh century, followed a few years later by the Al Aksa Mosque.
Jews revere this area as the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical temples along the western side of the complex is the Western Wall. Once a retaining wall for the Temple, it's Judaism's holiest site.
Here we can see the Mugraby Gate, an access point for non-Muslims to the Mount area. It overlooks the Western Wall and the plaza beneath, where Jews gather to pray, along that wall.
The plan to replace the damaged ramp leading to the gate is the immediate source of contention. But any attempt by either side to dig, repair or build in this area has always -- always been a source of serious dispute and often of violence.
Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, you think politics is complicated here, you should check it out over there.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And those -- those emotions go back hundreds and hundreds of years and it would be nice to think there might be some way around it. I mean you do have to do maintenance on -- on sites that are heavily traveled by the public or -- or bad things will happen.
Bad things apparently happening here. Low marks all around -- that's how Americans are rating their government in the latest Harris Interactive Poll. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed called President Bush's job performance fair or poor. Vice President Cheney, a 67 percent negative rating.
When it comes to the new Congress, 45 percent give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negative marks. Fifty-two percent disapprove of the Democrats in Congress. Sixty-nine percent say the Republicans are doing a fair or poor job.
Want a couple more?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 47 percent say he's not doing such a good job. The new secretary of defense, Robert Gates, 52 percent negative.
The highest rating in this poll went to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with 46 percent approving. That's still fewer than half of the people surveyed.
So, here's the question -- what's the message when virtually every major government official has a higher negative rating than positive?
E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
Your ratings, however, Wolf, very high.
BLITZER: I'm not so sure about that. But I think the answer to that question is that people aren't very happy when they...
CAFFERTY: No. And...
BLITZER: ... when those ratings for every major government official very, very low.
CAFFERTY: Yes, I think you're absolutely right.
BLITZER: People are...
CAFFERTY: You might be onto something there.
BLITZER: Yes, I think we are.
But let's hear what our viewers have to say, as well, Jack.
And up ahead, his pre-war intelligence reports on Iraq are slammed right now in a brand new Pentagon review. The former under secretary of defense, Doug Fife, he's standing by to join us live. He'll respond to the criticism.
Also, former Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore speaking out about another possible run for the White House. We're going to have details of what he's saying today.
Plus, the medical examiner revealing what he's learned about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. We'll update you on what has happened today.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There is new information, new developments in the unexpected death of Anna Nicole Smith, including now autopsy details.
Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is standing by to give us some preliminary results.
But let's go to Susan Candiotti.
She's on the scene for us in Fort Lauderdale, where the medical examiner, just a little while ago, spoke out -- Susan, update our viewers on what we learned.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I sure will.
Well, the autopsy took about six hours and when it was done, the medical examiner said he could not yet tell exactly how Anna Nicole Smith died. He can exclude certain things. He said there were no signs of trauma or any serious injury. He did say that after she collapsed, Smith was virtually dead on arrival at the hospital despite attempts to revive her. CNN has also learned from a law enforcement source that there were prescription drugs found in the hotel room, specifically, Valium and antibiotics, but they were not in her name, they were in the name of her partner, Howard K. Stern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: We have a list of the medications which have been -- were in the room, but the list of medications doesn't mean that those medications would be found in the person. So we do not exclude any kind of contribution of medication to the death and this will have to wait the results of the toxicological study.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: And, Wolf, the results of these drug studies could take anywhere from three to five weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We also heard from the police, we have been investigating.
What was their bottom line over the at hotel, the casino, as well as in Broward County?
CANDIOTTI: The police chief says so far they have absolutely no evidence that any crime was committed. So the main focus right now will be on drugs.
However, they're not excluding any other possibility, as well.
BLITZER: So that investigation will continue, as well.
Let's bring in our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen -- we heard Susan say they found some Valium there, Valium a prescription drug, and a lot of our viewers know.
Is there any way that they can rule this in, rule this out, as a possible cause of death?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at the press conference, the medical examiner neither ruled it in or ruled it out. He said there were prescription drugs in her system. That's what they found in the autopsy. But he declined to name them when a reporter asked what those drugs were. And that was very interesting.
He said there were no illegal drugs. And so it goes on -- he then went on to say, a reporter said, "Well, are you ruling out an overdose?" -- because the -- Dr. Perper said there was no pills in her stomach.
And a reporter said, "Are you ruling out an overdose?"
And he said, "No, I am not ruing out an overdose."
So very vague. No pills in the stomach, but still not ruling out an overdose.
BLITZER: Because he said that if someone had taken a whole bunch of pills, presumably there would be a residue. Some of those pills would still be almost intact in the stomach and they didn't find that. They just found a little bit of blood from the trauma, perhaps, of the actual death.
Is there anything that stood out in this news conference from Dr. Perper, Joshua Perper, the medical examiner, in your mind?
COHEN: There were two things that stood out.
One, he said that he noticed there was something unusual with her heart. He called it an inflammatory process of the heart and he said I'm going to look into it further. It could be something, but it also could be nothing. But he really did make sure to mention that.
Another thing that's interesting is that reportedly Anna Nicole Smith had a 105 degree temperature. That is extremely high. It's unusual for an adult to have a temperature that high.
And so it makes you wonder, did she already have some illness and that's what killed or? Or perhaps she had an illness and then she took some kind of prescription medication on top of that that didn't mix well with that illness?
It's very difficult to know. But the medical examiner did say that there were prescription drugs in her system. He refused to name what they were.
BLITZER: And he said it's going to take several more weeks to come to a definitive conclusion, is that right?
BLITZER: All right, Elizabeth, thank you very much.
BLITZER: We're going to continue to watch this story.
Coming up, there were warning signs in the weeks before Anna Nicole Smith's unexpected death. We're going to hear from some people who say yes, there were warning signs.
Plus, more than seven feet of snow and it's still falling. We're going to have the latest on a very serious snow emergency.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring developments coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world. Let's go to Carol to check some other news making headlines -- hi, Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Hello to all of you.
Six men are now charged in an alleged plot to kidnap and kill a British soldier. Police arrested nine suspects on January 31st in Birmingham, England. The British news media reported the raids were in response to an alleged plot to abduct, torture and behead a British Muslim soldier. News reports said the suspects planned to broadcast the killing on the Internet.
A man who says he sent a letter bomb to a British company is under arrest. London police say he tried to appear on a radio call-in show yesterday to claim responsibility. But a BBC employee called the police and the man was arrested. He said he sent the bomb to a company in Wonkingham Tuesday. Two employees suffered minor injuries in an explosion. Police are trying to determine whether the man is linked to similar attacks.
Also, more troops, more time -- the Pentagon will extend its buildup of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan well into next year. That's according to a U.S. military official. Officials fear an already resurgent Taliban will attempt a violent spring offensive.
OK, Wolf, look at this. This is what 111 inches of snow looks like, 111 inches. That is more than nine feet. The people of Upstate New York in places like Oswego and Redfield are buried under it. It's been snowing there all week.
And guess what?
More is on the way this weekend. But I guess it looks pretty familiar to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: It is beautiful, although it's cold and it's hard to get around. But all that snow, I've got to say, it is beautiful. But we're not there, right?
COSTELLO: That's right.
You've got that right.
BLITZER: It looks pretty on television.
All right, Carol, thanks.
Carol is going to be back shortly.
Coming up, one critic calls it a devastating condemnation of his work. I'll ask the former Pentagon policy chief, Doug Fife, about a new internal Pentagon review of his pre-war intelligence assessments on Iraq. And it calls some of his actions "inappropriate." He'll have a chance to respond. And he says he's almost certainly not going to run for president again, but some of his supporters simply don't care. We'll have details of efforts to draft Al Gore.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, he was the Pentagon official in charge of assessing the threat from Iraq before the war. Now the Pentagon itself is criticizing his work. Former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Fife standing by to talk about it live right here.
Also, disturbing new video posted on the Internet. A militant group claiming it shows the downing of a U.S. helicopter Wednesday in Iraq. You see the chopper apparently struck by a projectile, then smoke appears and the helicopter goes down. CNN has not been able to authenticate this video.
And in Jerusalem, violent clashes at a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. Police using tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets trying to disperse Palestinian young people protesting construction near the Al Aksa Mosque, where thousands of worshipers were locked inside as a precaution. Local officials say 15 of their officers were hurt, 15 Palestinians arrested.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
New revelations today cutting through the fog of war that's long obscured the run-up to the Iraq invasion.
Did top Pentagon officials undercut the U.S. intelligence community to make the case for a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda?
Results are now in from the Pentagon's own in-house investigation.
CNN's Kathleen Koch is joining us with the story -- Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there has long been concern that intelligence before the Iraq War was manipulated -- was officially, purposefully manipulated to support the case for going in. Critics, though, say that a report unveiled at a Senate hearing today does, indeed, prove that case, though the former Pentagon official involved denies it.
KOCH (voice over): In prewar briefings to the defense secretary, the National Security Council, and the vice president's office, Pentagon officials insisted there was a mature, symbiotic relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, but a Pentagon inspector general's report found the intelligence community disagreed. It also disputed half of the primary conclusions reached by the office of undersecretary of defense for policy, then led by Doug Feith.
THOMAS GIMBLE, PENTAGON INSPECTOR GENERAL: The briefing did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by available intelligence.
KOCH: And the report said Feith's office left out the intelligence community's assessment. Not illegal or unauthorized, said Thomas Gimble, but inappropriate.
GIMBLE: All I can tell you is at the end of the day, when those things went forward, there was two sets of facts out there. One of them got passed over.
KOCH: Some senators were outraged.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (DD-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities by the DOD Policy Office that helped take this nation to war.
KOCH: Others defended the Pentagon taking a critical look at intelligence findings.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Because surely there's nothing wrong with a group of people in the Department of Defense going to the secretary of defense and saying that they are concerned about the CIA product.
KOCH: Feith, who is now in the private sector, defended his office's conduct.
DOUGLAS FEITH, FMR. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think the inspector general is simply wrong. It is not the job of policy people to set out the intelligence community's views and then show their variance from it. That's a ridiculous suggestion, it's completely unrealistic.
KOCH: Now, many are asking, as U.S. rhetoric against Iran heats up, could this sort of thing happen again? The inspector general today said that the current system is not perfect, but he believes that it will allow decision-makers to get the best intelligence, if, and only if, procedures are followed, Wolf, in each and every case.
BLITZER: All right, Kathleen. Thanks very much.
So, did top Pentagon officials stack the deck when it came to making the case for an Iraq-al Qaeda connection before the war? Doug Feith was the undersecretary of defense for policy, the man at the heart of this controversy.
He's joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks very much for coming in.
FEITH: Glad to be with you. BLITZER: The inspector general of the Department of Defense says your actions were "inappropriate," that you and your colleagues had a mindset to prove that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, a connection that the intelligence community simply couldn't confirm, but you still went ahead and tried to do that to build a case for the war.
FEITH: What the inspector general is criticizing is the fact that people in the Pentagon criticized the quality of the CIA intelligence. And the inspector general, I think, wrongly says that the criticism of intelligence was intelligence work. And that it was inappropriate for non-intelligence people to do that.
BLITZER: But in this case they were right and you were wrong.
FEITH: No, they were not right.
BLITZER: There was no connection that the 9/11 Commission could come up with to show that there was a connection -- a deliberate prewar operable connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
FEITH: Which nobody ever claimed. I mean, that's -- it shows how much misinformation there is, even somebody as well as informed as you is misinformed on the point.
BLITZER: Well, what was your bottom line when you wrote that report?
FEITH: The report didn't have a bottom line. What the report said...
BLITZER: But it did if you read -- based on all of the...
FEITH: No it didn't.
BLITZER: What did it say about the Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connection?
FEITH: What it said was the CIA's work was not up to quality, and it specifically said the CIA is filtering its own intelligence to suit a theory that it had that secular Ba'athists would not cooperate with religious extremists.
BLITZER: But that theory was right, right?
FEITH: Well, it's absolutely wrong. I mean, you can see it even in Iraq today.
Who are we fighting in Iraq? We're fighting a strategic alliance of Ba'athists and jihadists.
BLITZER: But what they were saying -- correct me if I'm wrong -- was that Saddam Hussein would not be involved in working with al Qaeda because al Qaeda didn't want to have anything to do with this secular Iraqi leader. FEITH: What -- what they were saying is, the CIA had intelligence, its own intelligence, that was inconsistent with its theory that there couldn't be any cooperation. And the CIA was not drawing on all of its intelligence. It was filtering its own intelligence to suit its own theory. It was a proper criticism.
BLITZER: "The Washington Post" this morning quoted from this IG report, this inspector general report, saying that the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy "... was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."
FEITH: I'm glad you raised...
BLITZER: Were you predisposed to that?
FEITH: I'm glad you raised that. "The Washington Post" got that wrong.
BLITZER: But were you predisposed to that?
FEITH: No. But "The Washington Post" got that wrong. They quoted that, and as you said, attributed it to the inspector general.
In fact, it was -- it was Senator Levin who said that. And "The Washington Post" got that and a half a dozen other quotes wrong, and the Pentagon has asked "The Washington Post" to retract it, and I am confident you will see a "Washington Post" correction.
BLITZER: Here's what...
FEITH: It's typical, by the way, of the information about this subject, it's all screwed up.
BLITZER: All right. Here's what Senator Levin said. I'm going to play a little clip for you, give you a chance to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVIN: Intelligence relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq, hen the intelligence assessments of the professional analysts of the intelligence community did not provide the desired compelling case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You want to respond?
FEITH: I mean, that's -- that's as inaccurate as almost everything that the senator has said on the subject.
BLITZER: What was the purpose of that report you were putting together on this question of a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?
FEITH: OK. It wasn't a report. It was a criticism of the CIA's work.
BLITZER: Why did you do that?
FEITH: Because the CIA was doing thinks that people in the Pentagon thought were substandard. And the CIA got angry when -- when they got criticized.
Now, as we know, the CIA did not do a flawless job, and we are in trouble in Iraq because of errors that the CIA made. We need more people in the government doing intelligent, professional criticism of intelligence and...
BLITZER: Here's -- here's the criticism, as you well know. The criticism is that you and your colleagues, whether it's the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, the vice president, Dick Cheney, his staff, Scooter Libby, all of you came to the conclusion that there should be a -- an effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and as a result, you just needed the weapons of mass destruction evidence, the al Qaeda connection, and as a result, the Congress and the American public would go along with it.
FEITH: That's -- that's just wrong. I mean, that wasn't the analysis at all.
I know that it's been described that way by critics of the war. It's just inaccurate. I mean...
BLITZER: Looking back...
FEITH: And the record shows -- some day the documents will be -- will be exposed, and that will be exposed as a false narrative.
BLITZER: Do you and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney and Scooter Libby and the president make a mistake?
FEITH: Well, I mean, in the -- lots of mistakes were made and lots of right things were done.
BLITZER: But in your analysis.
FEITH: The issue here was not that we did an analysis. The issue was we criticized the CIA's analysis.
BLITZER: But right now...
FEITH: Hang on a second.
BLITZER: ... are you ready to acknowledge...
FEITH: No, Wolf. Let me -- no...
BLITZER: ... there were no WMD.
FEITH: Wolf, you're not letting me explain the answers to the problem. BLITZER: I will. I'll let you explain. But quickly, are you ready to acknowledge there was no WMD, are you ready to acknowledge there was no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda?
FEITH: We did not find WMD stockpiles. We found WMD programs. And the Duelfer Report, as I'm sure you know, was very clear on what we found in the WMD area. Although we did not find the stockpiles, we found that he had the facilities, he had the personnel, he had the intention. So there was a WMD threat, but it wasn't the way the CIA described it.
BLITZER: What about the stockpiles? What about on the al Qaeda connection?
FEITH: On the al Qaeda connection, George Tenet on October 7, 2002, wrote an unclassified letter to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee laying out the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
BLITZER: So you believe there was a connection going in to the war?
FEITH: I believed George Tenet.
BLITZER: But now you know that was false?
FEITH: No, it wasn't -- I've never heard that that was false. That's what the...
BLITZER: To this day you believe Saddam was working with al Qaeda?
FEITH: I believe -- I believe that what George Tenet published in October of 2002 was the best information on the subject, and as far as I know, that is largely -- I mean, there may be -- there may be -- look, I've not been in the government for the last year and a half. There may be some more intelligence on that subject.
I'm telling you from the time George Tenet published his findings on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, which is that they had a relationship for 10 years and they talked about various things, bomb- making and safe haven and other issues, that -- that that was the U.S. government's best understanding of the subject. I never criticized that in public or in private.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about Senator Jay Rockefeller. He's the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he says the IG, the inspector general, may have concluded you didn't violate the law, you didn't break any law...
FEITH: What do you mean may? No, no...
BLITZER: He says you didn't break any laws.
FEITH: It was lawful and authorized and we did not mislead Congress.
BLITZER: He says your actions were "inappropriate".
BLITZER: That's the word he uses, even though you didn't break the law. He's not claiming you did break the law.
FEITH: And I disagree with him...
BLITZER: But Rockefeller is saying you may have, and he wants to hold hearings on what's called the 1947 National Security Act.
He says this, Senator Rockefeller: "Section 502 of the National Security Act of 1947 requires the heads of all departments and agencies of the U.S. government involved in intelligence actives to keep the congressional oversight committees informed."
Did you inform, whether the Armed Services committees or the Intelligence committees, of your intelligence operation at the Department of Defense?
FEITH: We didn't have an intelligence operation and we didn't do intelligence activities. Here's the heart of the issue.
BLITZER: Because the IG says these were intelligence -- these were intelligence operations.
FEITH: Wolf, let me finish a sentence. Let me finish a sentence.
BLITZER: All right.
FEITH: That's precisely what I disagree with. The inspector general said that the criticism of the CIA wasn't intelligence activity. That's preposterous.
Policy people criticize intelligence every day. Calling that criticism an intelligence activity improper for non-intelligence people to do means that policy people can't criticize intelligence.
By the way, it's an interesting thing. Senator Rockefeller and Senator Levin have severely criticized the CIA.
Now, when the policy organization criticized the CIA, that's called, by them...
FEITH: ... an inappropriate activity that only intelligence people should do. When they criticize the CIA, what is it, statesmanship?
BLITZER: I mean, these are serious -- when you were confronted by the IG, the inspector general, who -- who disagrees with you on the nature of whether or not this was intelligence or not intelligence, you made your case, but he didn't buy it.
FEITH: The inspector general, with all due respect, was in an area of opinion for which there are no legal standards, and he made an argument that is self-contradictory, doesn't hang together.
The essence of his argument was that criticism of intelligence is intelligence work. Ridiculous.
The other argument that he made was that our work was not the highest quality. How do you do that? He didn't evaluate our work and the work we were criticizing. He didn't look at the underlying intelligence.
What the inspector general did is he said the work that we did was at variance with the consensus of the intelligence community. Well, of course it was. It was a critique of the intelligence community's consensus. That's exactly what it was intended to be.
BLITZER: But I just want to be precise on this. Rockefeller says you never informed Congress of your activities. Is he right on that front? Whether or not legally you were required to do so according to the National Security...
FEITH: No. In fact, I mean, all of these activities were the subject of hearings and document requests. I mean, Congress was thoroughly informed.
What he's saying is he is calling something that was a perfectly reasonable policy project of criticizing the intelligence, he's calling that an intelligence activity, and then saying we should have informed it as an intelligence activity to Congress. And it wasn't an intelligence activity.
BLITZER: I just want to report you to and our viewers we just checked with "The Washington Post." They have issued a correction. They acknowledge what you said earlier.
FEITH: Thank you.
BLITZER: They misreported that information of the report. It wasn't in the IG's report. It was Senator Levin, an allegation that he was making against you.
FEITH: Exactly. I'm delighted that you did it.
BLITZER: It's now -- it's now posted on their Web site.
FEITH: That's emblematic, by the way, of the quality of the so- called facts on this whole subject. So I'm very glad that that's straightened out.
BLITZER: Doug Feith, thanks very much for coming in.
FEITH: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still ahead, schools confronting a new problem. Students using cell phone cameras to capture their teachers -- get this -- in embarrassing moments, then posting those pictures on the Web.
Plus, is there a draft Al Gore movement developing? We have new details of what he's saying about another White House run.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Draft Al Gore? That's what his supporters are mulling right now, as the former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate is speaking out about another possible run for the White House.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us with this story -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, you would think with eight candidates running or exploring presidential bids Democrats have enough choices for 2008. But some Democrats are asking for one more.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Al Gore said it before, and he said it again today at a news conference in London where he and entrepreneur Richard Branson announced the Virgin Earth Challenge prize.
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have plans to be a candidate again, and though I haven't made the so-called Sherman statement and completely ruled out any possibility of running at some point in the future, I don't expect to, and can't foresee circumstances in which I would.
SCHNEIDER: So what, say activists like Dylan Malone, who are trying to organize a draft Gore movement.
DYLAN MALONE, FOUNDER, ALGORE.ORG: Until he either makes the dreaded Sherman statement and clearly rules out a run or throws his hat into this ring, you know, we're proceeding on our own as grassroots activists.
SCHNEIDER: Are any veteran Gore staffers involved?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think and I have not heard that there are any Gore loyalists or Gore advisors who are behind this right now.
SCHNEIDER: The draft Gore movement refuses to die, even though Gore himself has given it little encouragement. What is driving it? Several things.
Gore has reinvented himself.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Al Gore, after the 2007 Democratic presidential race, was not very well liked by many Democratic insiders. They did not think he ran a good enough campaign. He certainly has been able to rehabilitate his image.
SCHNEIDER: Gore has become a passionate crusader with a big issue and an ardent following of liberal activists. He also benefits from doubts about whether any of the current democratic front-runners can win. Gore can win, his supporters say, he already did.
MOORE: Al Gore's a walking advertisement for what the last six or eight years could have been like had history played out a little bit differently.
SCHNEIDER: As President Bush's popularity continues to slide, more Americans could say, hey, we want a do-over -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll watch this political story as well.
Thank you, Bill.
Meantime, Democratic Senator Barack Obama, he'll be in Springfield, Illinois, tomorrow to make a major announcement regarding his presidential plans. By all accounts, he will announce he is a full-time candidate.
And a video just posted on his presidential exploratory Web site is giving us a little bit of a preview of what we can expect to hear tomorrow morning.
Jackie Schechner with more on that -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the video runs a little more than two minutes. It is posted on his Web site. He says that tomorrow begins a great journey, talks about empowering everyday voters to get involved and says that his Web site will play a big role in that.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: But more importantly, after the announcement is done, I hope that you use this Web site as a tool to organize your friends, your neighbors, and your networks.
The Web site's going to be set up so that you can build your own profile, form your own groups, plan your own events. Take campaign fund-raising into your own hands so that we can collect small donations instead of having...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHECHNER: Now, again, he's going to give a speech tomorrow morning in Springfield, Illinois, and then after that, announcing -- watch this space to see what's to come online -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you for that. We'll be watching and we'll be covering his speech tomorrow morning in Springfield, Illinois, as well. You'll see it here on CNN.
And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we're going to take you to Illinois, ahead of Senator Barack Obama's major announcement about his presidential campaign. It's a story that will have a huge impact on the race for the White House.
Plus, Jack Cafferty wants to know, what's the message when virtually every major government official has a higher negative rating than positive?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A new Harris Interactive Poll, Wolf, that indicates that virtually every major government official has a higher negative rating than positive. We asked what you thought that meant.
Cooper in Northridge, California, "The negatives are so high because we are living in a country that is so divided ideologically and it is a rare citizen or public figure that can rise above the divide."
Shirley in Los Alamitos, "The message is our elected officials have become irrelevant because of their self-service instead of the public service they were elected to perform."
Tom, "This is clearly the public's response to the negative positioning of the government by the press. I'm sure you've heard this before. In my opinion, someone can be 99 percent clean and the press will focus on the one percent negative and set it up to crucify the person. Why would anyone with above average intelligence and a modest ego ever run for office?"
Carl in Cleveland, "It means we now have a do-nothing government to represent a do-nothing people, and until the American people vote for change instead of the same old politics, we should all stop complaining and deal with the monster we've created."
H., Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, "The mismanagement of government is the fault of both parties. It's time for the people to start taking a good look at third-party candidates. Of course, one has to look hard. The mainstream media rarely shows them or lets them speak."
Peter in Desplaines, Illinois, "Jack, I guess it means we need a new government more than the Iraqis do."
And Jeanne in Worley, Idaho, "There are a lot of idiots that vote; there could be no other reasonable explanation."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, where we post more of these online -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.
Jack Cafferty will be back with us in an hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Teachers caught on tape and winding up on the Web, thanks to students armed with cell phone cameras. Our Internet reporter standing by to show you the situation online, right when we come back.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from The Associated Press.
In Seoul, South Korea, activist burn pictures of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il at an anti-North Korea rally.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, flood victims reach out for relief goods distributed by volunteers.
In Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas prays at the Grand Mosque.
And in Tokyo, a diver waves to visitors from a tank decorated for Valentine's Day.
Some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.
One California school district is now reexamining its policy on how students use technology. The decision comes after one of its high school teachers was secretly recorded with a cell phone and the video posted on YouTube.
Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner standing by with more on this trend -- Jacki.
SCHECHNER: That's right, Wolf, it is a trend.
I want to show you video from a high school in New Jersey. You're going to see a teacher yelling at his class. We've blurred out the faces, but take a quick listen to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a sound! The next sound (ph) that will come out of you, you will stand...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHECHNER: Now, there's a lot of videos like this on YouTube if you take a look around. For example, there's this one. We've blocked out the face here of a teacher arguing with his class. Another one of a teacher who appears to be throwing a cell phone.
We spoke to YouTube about this. They won't talk about specific videos, but they say they will remove content if it appears to violate their terms of service.
As for the teacher yelling in New Jersey, the board of education there says that they addressed the issue. They wouldn't provide any details, but they now do have a policy that doesn't allow electronic devices at all in the classrooms.
And, in fact, the National School Board Association tells us this is actually the case in students around the country, that a lot of the schools don't allow cell phones on campus. Other ones block access to social networking sites like YouTube from school computers.
Now, we were talking to you about a school district in California and they are reevaluating their policies. They actually do ban cell phones on campus now, but they say as technology changes, they want to update their policies and they also want to balance that update with safety and with giving kids the right to free speech, Wolf.
So it's a complicated issue, but they are dealing with it.
BLITZER: All right. It seems YouTube everywhere nowadays.
Jacki, thank you for that.
We'll be back in an hour, THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou.
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