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State Department's Inspector General Accused of Blocking Embarrassing Investigations; College Student Tasered

Aired September 18, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, his their job is to keep them honest. But the State Department's inspector general is now accused of blocking investigations that could embarrass the Bush administration. Democrats and the White House are in a tug of war over fraud allegations.

A college student gets zapped with a taser and arrested while nagging a visiting senator. He's out of jail, but the fallout only just beginning.

And is Hillary Clinton too soft on the war in Iraq?

Is Barack Obama tough enough to be president?

I'll ask the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," the comedian Bill Maher -- he's standing by live.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A senior State Department official whose job it is to help clean up corruption is now accused of covering up instead.

Is he playing politics?

There are new allegations of fraud and they're involving the building of a half a billion dollar U.S. embassy in Baghdad. They're at the heart of a huge new battle involving Congressional Democrats and the Bush administration.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

He's watching the story -- Ed, there are enormous ramifications.

What's going on?


As the State Department's inspector general, Howard Krongard, is supposed to be promoting honesty in government. But Democrats now raising questions about whether he was covering up problems at the world's biggest embassy. And that's ratcheting up those already tense relations between the White House and Congress.


HENRY (voice-over): The new U.S. embassy in Iraq comes with a soaring price tag -- nearly $600 million, and mounting allegations, too. Democrat Henry Waxman is probing there the State Department's inspector general blocked fraud investigations to protect the White House from embarrassment over the embassy's construction, including charges of security lapses at the embassy in Baghdad and allegations that an unnamed security firm was illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We'll, of course, provide an answer to Congressman Waxman. I can't provide any further answer -- an any more detailed answer than that without our guys having had a chance to take a look at that.

HENRY: White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino also wouldn't comment on the latest charges, but was ready to push back at the mounting Democratic investigation.

DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Since July 25th, we have made an additional 140,000 pages of documents available to the Congress. Over 100 people have testified or been interviewed.

HENRY: But the president has blocked key White House documents from being turned over, especially memos that may shed light on former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's role in the U.S. attorneys' controversy. Democrats are trying to use the president's push for quick confirmation of attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey as leverage to get these documents.

PERINO: These very senators are the ones who said that we need to have Justice Department leadership. They have a person in front of them now that, by any reading of the reaction, everyone agrees that he would be a good attorney general. He should not be held hostage to politics.


HENRY: Now, Senator Patrick Leahy is also looking to get documents related to controversial issues like domestic surveillance, alleged torture of terror suspects, as well. The Democrats, though, unlikely to get those documents out of the White House. And it's going to be hard for the Democrats to hold up the nomination of Mukasey over this issue, in part because Democrats have already had nice things to say about the nominee. And, secondly, if they try to block him, that sort of obstruction could really backfire on them politically -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ed.

Thanks very much.

Ed Henry.

He's our man at the White House. As some Western leaders raise the stakes in the nuclear stand-off with Iran, there's a warning of war. A former U.S. commander offering some very conciliatory remarks, though, saying the United States can live with a nuclear armed Iran.

Is that falling, though, on deaf ears?

An Iranian general, at the same time, has some very tough warnings for the United States and the military forces nearby in Iraq.

Let's go back to Brian Todd.

He's watching this story -- are there some cross signals going on here, Brian?

What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from what we know, the remarks are completely separate, unrelated. Nonetheless, these are extraordinary comments from two men who have led very powerful military forces in the Middle East.


TODD (voice-over): First, a British newspaper reports Pentagon planners have drawn up a list of 2,000 potential targets in Iran. Listen to what comes next. General Mohammed Hassan Koussechi, a regional commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, says American forces are "equally our targets". The Iranian general also tells his government's news agency American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are "within our shooting range."

GUY BEN-ARI, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think he was describing the Shahab-3 missile capability that's at their disposal.

TODD: A ballistic missile with a range of about 1,200 miles. A top Iranian official tells us this isn't a threat, just a response to the alleged Pentagon plan.

On that report, Pentagon officials say they don't deal with hypotheticals.

While the Iranian commander talked tough, American General John Abizaid, who led U.S. forces in the Middle East until early this year, said this about the Iranian nuclear threat.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID (RET.), FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran. Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union. We've lived with a nuclear China. We're living with nuclear other powers, as well.

TODD: General Abizaid said America should try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but said either way, the U.S. could deter the regime from using them.

Analysts say the remarks from the two generals remind them of the cold war.

BEN-ARI: We're -- we're back to this dialogue of deterrence, where each side is doing its utmost to make clear to the other side exactly how high a price it will extract in the case of a military confrontation.


TODD: But one important difference here. According to one analyst, even without a nuclear weapon yet, Iran is proving you don't have to be a superpower to engage in a high level stand-off or wage a proxy war against a superpower -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd.

Thanks very much.

Brian is watching this story.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty.

He's in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: They have a new regulation, Wolf, if you want to buy a gun in the State of Maryland. "The Washington Post" reports the state is now requiring potential gun buyers to sign a waiver that releases their mental health records to the Maryland state police. It would apply to people who have been ordered into treatment by a court, as well as to those who have checked into a state psychiatric hospital for a period of at least 30 days.

The rule is a response to the Virginia Tech shootings, in which the gun dealers never knew that a court had earlier found the killer was mentally ill. Maryland police say they're trying to keep people who the law says can't by a gun from buying one.

But critics say they're worried about the gun buyers' privacy. The NRA says the new regulations will inundate law enforcement with records they have to review -- aw -- while mental health experts are skeptical that this new database will be used only for background checks for guns.

So here's the question -- what kinds of restrictions should there be on gun purchases?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

I don't know how you could oppose a law that would try to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally ill, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well...

CAFFERTY: But I guess the NRA is going to do it.

BLITZER: I suspect you'll get some e-mail on this question, Jack. Now, Whoopi Goldberg -- she's going to be, I take it, your featured guest tomorrow night on The Cafferty File special?

CAFFERTY: Well, she's one of them, yes. She -- yes.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about that.

CAFFERTY: Well, Whoopi is an old buddy of mine. I -- the first time I interviewed Whoopi Goldberg was probably 25 years ago, when she was first getting her career off the ground.

She's a big fan of THE SITUATION ROOM. She told me yesterday she watches us almost every day. She used to watch "AMERICAN MORNING" when I was doing that show. She likes, I guess, some of the kind of things that I do. And I reached out to her and said, hey, I've got this book. I sent her a copy. She read it. She liked it. And I said why don't you come on the show and yak with me?

Well, then she said I'd be delighted. So we taped it yesterday here in the Time Warner Center.


CAFFERTY: And I think you'll enjoy it. She's a classy lady.

BLITZER: A special edition of The Cafferty File -- a one hour special tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

I can't wait to see it, Jack.

CAFFERTY: We look forward to it.

Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, campus police -- they're getting tough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't do anything. Don't taser me, bro. Don't taser me. I didn't do anything. Owwww! Owwww! Owwww!


BLITZER: Did they get too tough when they tasered this college student?

The fallout today. It's only just beginning.

Is the cold war all over again -- is it the cold war all over again, that is?

America's intelligence chief warning of stepped up spying by Russia and China. Plus, from the presidency to the war in Iraq -- no one says it quite like Bill Maher. He's standing by to join us live in a few minutes.

Stick around.



BLITZER: There are disturbing, new allegations today about the radiation detectors which are supposed to help guard America's ports.

Did government officials help contractors through a series of dry runs designed to test these machines?

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

She's watching this story for us -- do these machines, first of all, Jeanne, work?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're talking about is a new generation of machines. The government is poised to spend $1.2 billion on new radiation detection portals.

The question is, are they any better than what we have now?


MESERVE (voice-over): Government testing on the new machines was biased, according to the Government Accountability Office, and did not provide an objective and rigorous assessment on whether the expensive machines work well enough to buy them.

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: If we're talking about catastrophic problems for this country, I would hope that we get it right. Remember, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. The terrorist only has to be right once. Now, that's not nuclear science, that's just common sense.

Don't you agree with me?

MESERVE: The portals now in use can't tell the difference between a nuclear bomb and kitty litter. The new portals are supposed to identify nuclear and radiological material, as well as detect it. But GAO says contractors were given data about the materials that machines would screen for and could readjust their systems before the real tests.


MESERVE: The Department of Homeland Security says contractors were not directly involved in the testing and promises the machines will be subjected to a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation.

(END VIDEO TAPE) MESERVE: DHS has formed an independent review panel to assess the testing of the new machines. But Congressman John Dingell calls that an end run. He wants the tests done again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve watching this very important story.

Thanks, Jeanne, very much.

America's intelligence chief today asked Congress for more authority to eavesdrop and collect information, warning of stepped up spying by both Russia and China.

Let's go straight to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

It sounds like the bad, old days at the height of the cold war -- Kelli.


You know, the nation's top intelligence official warned Congress not to look at the threat to the U.S. too narrowly. He says that there's a lot more threatening our country than just terrorism.


ARENA (voice-over): As if Al Qaeda and Iraq weren't enough, let's add our cold war adversaries back into the mix. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell says Russia and China are aggressively spying on the United States, threatening national security. In his words, "Their efforts are approaching cold war level."

PETER ZEIHAN, STRATFOR.COM: Both in the case of Russia and China, you've got increasing capability married to an increasing desire for their own political purposes to get information from the United States.

ARENA: So what's China after?

Well, experts say technology for its businesses and military. Dozens of Chinese nationals have been charged of passing secrets while living in the United States; most recently, former defense engineer, Chi Mak. The FBI even went so far as to place ads in Chinese language newspapers asking for tips on so-called "subversive elements."

RUDY GUERIN, FORMER FBI COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE: It's not just New York and Los Angeles. It's everywhere. It's all 50 states. And wherever the research and development is, that's where you'll find the threat.

ARENA: As for Russia, experts say it wants to regain superpower status. To do that, they say its president, a former KGB operative, is focusing mightily on rebuilding the country's intelligence arm.

ZEIHAN: They believe that they're dealing with state survival.

ARENA: Experts say the war on terror has shifted resources away from counterintelligence and we're paying the price. The most recent espionage report to Congress states that spying has eroded the U.S. military's advantage and undercut the U.S. economy.


ARENA: Well, Wolf, we did reach out to the Russian embassy for comment. But calls there were not returned. A Chinese embassy spokesman says allegations of spying are totally groundless -- back to you.

BLITZER: But they never acknowledged they spy.

ARENA: That's correct.

BLITZER: Nobody spies, basically. But they all do.

Thanks very much, Kelli, for that.

Up ahead, the case against O.J. Simpson has just taken another step forward. Charges filed formally only a few moments ago. We're going to give you complete details. That's coming up next.

Also, we're going to spend some "Real Time With Bill Maher". He's going to join us to talk about the war in Iraq, politics, a lot more.

All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There are new developments and new details emerging about the alleged armed robbery that has O.J. Simpson sitting in a Las Vegas jail right now. He's facing arraignment tomorrow on charges that could send him to prison for years.

Let's get right to Ed Lavandera.

He's on the screen for us in Vegas -- all right, what has just happened?

Ed, update our viewers.


Well, prosecutors here in Las Vegas have filed formal charges against O.J. Simpson and three other men -- Walter Alexander, Clarence Stewart and a new name we haven't heard yet, Michael McClinton. And there is a quite a bit of a change, and I think this will -- and we'll be able to analyze this more in the hours ahead, but I think that the intensity and the seriousness of these charges have just gone up quite a bit.

A lot of it remains the same. But there are 11 counts that these four men have been charged with. Two of those accounts now include first degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon. We had not heard any of the kidnapping charges in the initial information that we were getting from the courts here in Las Vegas. Those obviously much more serious felony charges and very serious charges at this point.

I just did a quick read-through of the formal complaint. And in that complaint, there's been a lot of talk about how many guns were used in --or police believe how many guns were used. They say throughout the complaint, they say possession of one or more guns. Whether or not it was two, the way it's being couched right now, it's possession of one or more in the situation.

And, also, one other thing that was being made a lot of throughout this complaint is that police are talking a lot about the conspiring and these men getting together before all of this and hammering out the details and hammering how exactly this sting operation, as O.J. Simpson told the Associated Press over on Friday, how this was going down. So a lot of that -- a lot of -- about that being made out in this criminal complaint, as well.

BLITZER: All right, Ed.

I just want to recap for our viewers, because the formal charges now filed. And as you point out, conspiracy to commit a crime, conspiracy to commit kidnapping. That's new. Conspiracy to commit robbery and first degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon. The kidnapping charge -- the conspiracy to commit kidnapping, earlier we never heard about the notion of any kidnapping. We heard that they went in and allegedly took the memorabilia and other stuff that was being sold at that hotel in Vegas.

Are there any specifics?

What are they saying about kidnapping, because that's new?

LAVANDERA: Right. And in that section in the complaint, there are very quick briefs under each one of these counts. But under that section, under the kidnapping charges, they're saying essentially these two victims in -- they're describing the alleged victims in this case, the two men, the collectors that were in that room on Thursday, that they were held against their will and their movement was constricted. The complaint also says that one of the men tried to call 9/11 and was not allowed to do so. And those seem -- that seems to be what they're hanging these kidnapping charges on.

BLITZER: And so that would be a new element.

And walk us through the process -- tomorrow, O.J. Will actually face the judge. O.J. Simpson goes before the judge to determine whether he should be released on bail.

Is that right?

LAVANDERA: Right. It's kind of a two-pronged process that will happen tomorrow morning. Part of this will be the reading of the formal charges -- that O.J. Simpson has until tomorrow morning to be able to hear formally what are these charges that he will be facing. The other aspect of this will be the bail issue. And, of course, O.J. Simpson's attorney has been saying that they will fight this vigorously. And they're trying to get at least O.J. Simpson out of jail while this legal process continues to move forward.

However, O.J. Simpson has also seen two of these defendants, Walter Alexander and Clarence Stuart, who have been arrested in recent days, being able to come in, post bond and then leave.

Now, what that means in terms of whether or not these two men are cooperating, perhaps more so than others, with investigators, we haven't been able to hear that from investigators and prosecutors at this point. But while O.J. Simpson sits in jail without bail, two of these other men have gone in and come out already.

BLITZER: What about the third man who has now been arrested in connection with these allegations?

Is that individual sitting in jail or has he also been released?

LAVANDERA: We're trying to nail that down, as well. We have heard that his name -- his name had been surfacing for several days now. We knew that he had been -- he was being interviewed by authorities. But where exactly he stands through the process of being arrested and booked into jail and whether or not he's been allowed, we're trying to nail that down now.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you.

Ed Lavandera is on the scene in Las Vegas.

We'll watch this story.

Thank you, Ed.

Up next, is Hillary Rodham Clinton tough enough on Iraq?

Is Barack Obama tough enough to be president?

We'll have some tough questions for the comedian, Bill Maher. He's the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on our sister network, HBO. He's standing by live.

Also, the college student begged campus police not to taser him. They zapped him anyway. Now, there's fallout.

Stick around.



BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, stocks surging on Wall Street today, as the Federal Reserve takes dramatic action to stem fallout from the mortgage meltdown. The Fed cut a key interest rate by half a percentage point. The Dow soared more than 300 points on the news.

Also, Blackwater security contractors are still working in Iraq despite threats by Baghdad to shut them down after a shootout that killed Iraqi civilians. The State Department saying Blackwater is under contract with the U.S. government and that it's investigating the incident.

Senator Larry Craig -- he's back on Capitol Hill for the first time since that airport bathroom sex sting that prompted his intention to resign. The Idaho Republican tells CNN he's there to work. But that doesn't mean he won't step down as planned at the end of this month, even as he tries to overturn his conviction.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Nobody ever accused the comedian Bill Maher, of pulling a punch, especially when it comes to politicians.

Joining us now is the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher".

That would be Bill Maher.

Bill, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": It's always a situation every day, isn't it, Wolf?

BLITZER: It's funny how these things develop.

Let's talk about the war in Iraq, first of all, because the Democrats got the majority, in large part, I think it's fair to say, because they promised they were going to end this war and bring the troops home. That's clearly not happening right now and there's a lot of frustration out there as a result of that.

What do you think?

MAHER: Well, they just don't have the votes. That's true. The -- I guess we need another election to turn out more of the people who are basically keeping this war going.

It's tough for the Democrats to explain that one to the American people, but that's the truth.

BLITZER: Is there more that they could be doing, should be doing?

MAHER: Yes, I guess there is.

But, you know, what can you do with a situation where there's one man who stubbornly has the power and will not relinquish it?

And he's such a liar, you know?

I think that -- if he would just be straight with the American people instead of saying things like the people who are attacking us in Iraq are the same people who attacked us on 9/11 -- what a blatant lie. Or every day, every month since January, we've killed over 1, 500 terrorists and other extremists.

Who is a terrorist?

Who are extremists?

Who are the enemy?

What do these terms mean?

Would they even be the enemy if we weren't in their country?


MAHER: Not to mention all the...

BLITZER: You listened closely to General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Both are career professionals -- a career military officer, a career diplomat. They made the case, effectively for President Bush, that the U.S. should continue this strategy.

MAHER: Wait a second. He put the words in their mouth. That wasn't the Petraeus report.

BLITZER: But they say those words were their own.

MAHER: Well, it was a White House written report. We know that. Bush has an interesting little scam going. He also quoted in his speech on Thursday night, Maliki. And he said basically that the Iraqi leadership is asking us to stay. So in other words, he puts words into his stooges' mouths. And then, he quotes them.

It's the same thing that ...

BLITZER: Let me point out. General Petraeus who has been a military officer for more than 30 years, the first thing he basically said out of his mouth, last week, is I didn't show this testimony to anyone. I wrote it myself. I didn't have it vetted by the chain of command. Not by the White House. Not by anyone at the Pentagon. Not by anyone in Congress. Don't you believe him when he says that?

MAHER: No. I'm sorry, I don't. That report was -- I called it the Enron surge report because they manipulated the statistics the same way Enron did. It didn't count. Violence didn't count if it was a car bomb. It didn't count if it was Sunni on Sunni violence. It didn't count if you were shot in the back of the head, instead of the front of the head. That's utter nonsense.

They manipulated that report. Every independent report that came out about the surge contradicted what David Petraeus said. It said that the violence has not gone down. It just moved to different areas. It was never a case, Wolf, that we were wondering whether if we put 20,000 or 30,000 troops in a certain area, violence would go down. Of course, violence would go down in that area.

But violence in the country didn't go down. And even Baghdad residents said, no. Violence is as bad as it ever was. Is from a reason why 93 percent of the Sunnis in that country think it's OK to attack Americans? And want us dead? Fifty percent of Shiites want ...

BLITZER: Here's one thing the Democrats could do in some anti- war critics say they should do. Just stop funding the operation over there. Use the power of the purse. They have the majority in the House and the Senate. Just stop funding the war.

MAHER: Yes. I agree whole-heartedly. Stop funding the war. Make the case to the American people, that if we stop funding the war, it's a different thing than abandoning the troops. This is always where the Democrats fall down. They are afraid to make the counterargument. And that is the counterargument. And it can be made.

BLITZER: Here's what Senator Clinton, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner said on AMERICAN MORNING this morning. When asked about the ad, that raised questions about General Petraeus, they called him "General Betray Us," you remember the ad. Here's what she responded when asked about it.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I certainly speak for myself. And I am a very strong admirer of General Petraeus. His record of service for our country. The dedication he has brought to a very difficult job that many of us think does not have a military solution.


BLITZER: So, would you agree with her on that?

MAHER: Of course. The Republicans who attacked that ad, it was very convenient it gave them something to divert from the issue, which is that the war is a total mess. And it allowed them to excite their fake outrage base once again.

But basically, they did it on a big lie, as they usually do. Hillary, in the hearings, said the report, the Petraeus report required a willing suspension of disbelief. She didn't attack him personally. And, of course, they turned it around and said, how dare you attack him personally?

That's exactly the opposite of what she did. Hillary Clinton is a little too careful to attack a general personally.

BLITZER: Well, you attack him personally. You just did on our show. You said you don't believe him when he said he never cleared his testimony with anyone in Washington.

MAHER: Call me a cynic, Wolf. Look, I understand that he's doing an impossible job over there. And I have no doubt that he actually does more before 9:00 a.m. than I do all day or perhaps all year. Yes. I admire anybody who is in the war zone. But that doesn't mean that he is not performing a political function for the White House. Now, you can read into that what you will. But I'm sorry. Just because he's wearing a uniform, I can't not see what I see, which is that the man is doing a political job for George Bush.

BLITZER: Is Barack Obama ready to be president of the United States?

MAHER: Ell, I think he could be a good president, yes. Look, when you're in your 40s, as everyone like myself who is in my 50s will tell you, you're probably too young and green for anything. I only really got my seasoning in the last couple of years. But I think he could be president. He certainly would be better than the president that we have.

BLITZER: Who do you like among the republican candidates? Who would be the best candidate among the Republicans?

MAHER: Ron Paul.

BLITZER: I knew -- I suspected you were going to say that, I told our producers.

MAHER: Well, the other ones -- the other ones all sound alike. You know, they all come from the part of the party -- they're all appealing to the part of the party, the base, that wants this war in Iraq to keep going. I asked this of Chuck Hagel on our show on Friday night. I don't understand the strategy. I guess I do, you have to get the nomination first. But how does a Republican who is supporting this war to the degree they're all supporting the war, then turn around after he gets the nomination, and wins a general election in a country that is overwhelmingly against this war?

That's a pretty tough one.

BLITZER: You know, we were watching the Emmys the other night. You were nominated for an Emmy. And you had a clip that was shown to the viewers. I want to play that little clip. And then, we're going to talk about it. Listen to this.


ANNOUNCER: "Real Time with Bill Maher." Scott Carter (ph), David Feldman (ph), Fran Jacobsmeier (ph), Jay Yarrow (ph), Chris Kelly (ph), Danny Martin, Danny Vermont (ph). And Bill Maher.


BLITZER: You know, he's back. Larry Craig. He came back to Congress today. He showed up for a Republican strategy meeting. Still saying his intent is to resign. But it's not 100 percent. What do you think he should do?

MAHER: I'd love to see him stay. I'd love to see him stay and run for president. I'd love him to take what's left of that party down with him. When I say down with him, I don't mean any pun.

BLITZER: What about O.J. Simpson? Do you think he could get a fair trial if this does go before a jury, given the notoriety?

MAHER: That was very disappointing, Wolf. First, he kills his wife. Now, this. I begin to think he's something of a scofflaw. But O.J. is someone who has benefited from not getting a fair trial.

BLITZER: But does he have a case when he says, that was all my stuff, that had been stolen from me including some photos and some sports memorabilia. Does he have a case when he says, I was trying to retrieve stuff that had been taken illegally away from me?

MAHER: I'm sure he does. But from what I hear, what I heard last night, at least, on LARRY KING, and now, on your show, is that he had a gun or somebody with him had a gun. You think a guy in his position, with the baggage he brings, the reputation he has, leave the gun at home, maybe. When you hear "gun" and "O.J.," the first thing you think is, oh. Couldn't find the knife, huh?

BLITZER: Bill Maher. You have material for a few more seasons on "Real Time with Bill Maher" on our sister network, HBO. Thanks for coming to THE SITUATION ROOM and I hope you'll come back.

MAHER: Always a pleasure. Glad there's always a situation for us to talk about.

BLITZER: There will never -- We will never have a situation, where there will not be a situation, Bill, thanks very much.


BLITZER: And zapped in Florida. That's a situation also. There's new fallout after a student gets tasered by police at a John Kerry speech. We're going to tell you what the reaction is among students. And if anything has happened to the police officers who were involved.

Also, another recall involving e. coli. Critics now saying not enough is being done to keep dangerous food off our tables. You can decide for yourself. All that coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A University of Florida student tasered in that video. Everyone seems to be talking about it. He's now out of jail. And the campus police officers who zapped him are on leave. There's also an investigation into the incident, which has some students outraged. Let's go right to CNN's John Zarrella. He is joining us on the campus in Gainesville, Florida, University of Florida. Great school over there. So tell our viewers what's the fallout from the incident. A lot of us saw it yesterday. But today, the fallout has been significant.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, 21-year-old Andrew Meyer, has certainly caused a stir here on the university campus, ever since last night, when during a forum with Senator John Kerry, he was questioning the senator. He was told his time was up. He persisted to question the senator. Police came in. They subdued him, tried to remove him. And at that point, he was tasered. Now today, he was released from jail this afternoon at the County Jail.

But Meyer had nothing to say today, unlike all that he had to say last night to the senator. Now, about 100 students, then, showed up today, at the Alumni Hall here at the university campus, and they staged a sit-in. They were protesting what they claim was an attack on free speech. And also, an attack on Meyer saying, it was unjust. Some of the students saying they just couldn't believe what they saw.


SHEALLAH PALMER, WITNESS: I didn't sign up to go see a Kerry speech and end up seeing some guy tasered and shaking in the back of the room.


ZARRELLA: Now, not all of the students tended to agree with what those protesters were saying.


SCOTT MARKOWITZ, WITNESS: I thought he got what he had coming to him.

ZARRELLA: You don't think police did anything wrong then?

MARKOWITZ: No. If it was me, I would have tasered him long before they did.


ZARRELLA: University president, Bernie Madchen, says that the two police officers involved in the tasering, have been put on paid administrative leave. He has also asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate, to look into whether excessive force was used. He also said for the time being, certainly in light of Virginia Tech, they're not going to suspend the use of tasers here. They want to make sure that all the students on campus are safe. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Zarrella, thanks very much. John is watching this story. The protest on the University of Florida campus was organized online, where students are rapidly spreading down videos of the incident. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. What are the students saying, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you look at social networking site Facebook today, you'll see that the story is spreading like wildfire. Students inviting others to join that campus protest tonight. But along with this a vigorous debate about whether these campus police officers went too far. See the comments posted on Andrew Meyer's own profile. You'll see there's a fair amount of support. There are also the people that are saying, I was in the room. And I saw this. And this student's behavior was just way out of line. Whatever the situation, this video is really reverberating online, multiple angles from the multiple cameras that were in the room.

Take a look at one of these photos from the campus protests earlier. This student's position is "The Truth is on YouTube." The video also on Andrew Meyer's own personal Web site. It's a place where you see the student's writings, the videos and comedy skits that he himself appears in. And it's a Web site, Wolf, that's more than doubled in traffic just since lunch time.

BLITZER: Probably going to continue to go up as a result of all of this. Abbi, thanks.

More than half of all law enforcement agencies in the United States have tasers in their arsenals. And about 20 percent of them give them to every officer on their force. The device has two probes, check it out, that can shoot as far as 21 feet, delivering up to 15,000 volts of electricity, that can penetrate clothing up to two inches thick. Take a look at these recent taser incidents, including the one at the University of Florida. You can see the charge is enough to completely incapacitate the target.

Still ahead, lots more. Coming up here, Jack Cafferty. He wants to know what kind of restrictions should be on gun purchases. Jack with your e-mail. "The Cafferty File." That's coming pup.

Plus, the salad that could kill you. We're going to show you what you need to know about the recall, the latest recall. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A popular salad mix tainted with potentially deadly e. coli, now being recalled. It was sold in at least nine U.S. states and Canada, just one year after a similar crisis involving spinach killed three people. Let's go to our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff. He's watching this for us in New York. Allan, how can this happen again?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's pretty much luck that Canadian authorities found the e. coli in a Dole salad mix they randomly tested. Because while there have been oversight improvements since last year, our fruits and vegetables are still subject to contamination.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): After the e. cColi outbreak last year, from contaminated spinach California growers created a leafy greens marketing agreement, providing sanitary guidelines. Virtually all farmers have signed on. And state auditors inspect the fields. But some experts say it's not enough to protect consumers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The basic problem with California's leafy green marketing initiative is, it's a voluntary initiative. The panel that runs it, basically, has representatives from the industry. And there's only a single sort of consumer representative on that.

CHERNOFF: Indeed, in late August, Metz Fresh of California recalled 68,000 pounds of bag spinach, after routine testing conducted by the company confirmed the presence of salmonella. Consumers Union says the Food and Drug Administration has to take more responsibility. The FDA has created a new position. Assistant commissioner for food protection. He maintains even if the FDA were given a big increase in budget and staff to police the food supply, there still could be no assurance of complete safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be very difficult to push the risk to zero. Guarantee that every lettuce leaf, every spinach leaf, is never going to have a contaminant on it. That's more than we can promise.

CHERNOFF: Canada has more than doubled inspection of leafy greens since last year. A random inspection of five bags of Dole Hearts Delight salad, uncovered the e. coli. But Canada is still looking at only a fraction of one percent of all the greens imported and grown in the country. Indeed, inspectors there did not detect the Metz spinach salmonella a few weeks ago.


CHERNOFF (on camera): One encouraging fact, that two recent recalls came as the result of testing, rather than a response of anyone becoming ill. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Allen Chernoff, with the latest on that. Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: No shortage of hazardous stuff out there, is there, Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm afraid to eat anything almost.

CAFFERTY: Yeah. The question this hour is what kind of restrictions should there be on gun purchases? State of Maryland thinking about denying gun purchases to people who have a history of mental illness.

Matt in San Diego writes, "The requirements ought to be a waiting period and a background check, including mental health and criminal background. The bigger issue, though, is what we need as a more unified system for checking these things and licensing people to buy guns rather than expecting it to happen at the point of sale. Similar to how the DMV issues licenses and maintains databases on drivers. No one expects a car dealer to test their customers' driving ability when they buy a car."

Frederic writes from Apache Junction, Arizona. Bustling little community out there in the Desert Southwest. "No restrictions on gun buying because anyone can drive to those states where guns are sold through the newspaper, such as Arizona."

Kris in Olympia, Washington. "Come on, Jack. Of course the NRA is going to oppose these restrictions. Without mentally handicapped gun owners, the NRA wouldn't exist."

Howard in Ohio writes, "It's simple, Jack. You need as much time getting gun educated as you do to get a driver's license."

And Alan writes, "Jack, I thought the free market premise was that if I have the money to buy something, then it's good for everyone. After all, we as a nation have sold guns to bin Laden, Noriega, the Sunnis, the Shias, Saddam and a never-ending list of criminals. I fail to see the free market rationale for prohibiting sales to someone who merely had a bad month."

Please join us tomorrow night at 8:00 on CNN, Eastern Time. We're going to do a one-hour special of "The Cafferty File," talking about just how ugly it's getting there which is a play on the title of my new book, in case you can't figure that out.

You can go to or you can send us your I- Reports and you can also mail us at We'll use some of the I-Reports and read some of your e-mails, talk to some interesting guests. And we invite you to hang out with us for an hour.


BLITZER: We will be there 8:00 p.m. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM Wednesday night. Tomorrow night. A special "Cafferty File." But you're not leaving yet, Jack because we have another hour coming up at 7:00 p.m.

CAFFERTY: And I wouldn't want to miss it for the world.

BLITZER: You're not going to miss it. You're stuck with me. We're here together, Jack. Stand by.

Still ahead. He served every president since Harry Truman. He's still on the job. We're going to show you what a 60-year career got him. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press. Pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow. In Iraq, a man sits near an oil spill burning on the Tigris River. The spill flowed on the river for more than 150 miles.

In the West Bank, an Israeli soldier fires his gun from inside an army vehicle.

In Turkey, a senior officer adjusts a soldier's helmet before a ceremony for Turkey's president.

And in Haiti, check it out, a girl naps as she waits for class to start. Haiti is trying to improve its literacy rate, the worst in the Americas. Some of these hour's "Hot Shots", pictures often worth a thousand words.

He's battled Nazis, communists and the mob. And he has no plans to give up his life-long battle against crime and injustice. At the age of 85, 85, this federal prosecutor is still going strong. Let's go back to Brianna Keilar. He is watching a truly fascinating story, inspiring story, Brianna, for all f us.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure is, Wolf. And Jack Keeney may not ring a bell for some folks. But it certainly does for dozens of presidents and attorneys general, who have worked with this many that many describe as the heart and soul of the Justice Department.


KEILAR (voice-over): Jack Keeney first started walking these halls when Harry Truman was president. And he hasn't stopped since.

JACK KEENEY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I like what I'm doing. And I don't have a real desire to retire.

KEILAR: Now deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's criminal division, Keeney is the longest-serving government prosecutor in U.S. history. He's served 10 presidents and 26 attorneys general. There's a federal building with his name on it. And when the 85-year-old was honored Monday night, it was standing room only.

KEENEY: And we have enough judges here to declare every statue on the books unconstitutional.

KEILAR: At his side, his former boss, Janet Reno.

JANET RENO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Jack Keeney is one of the finest public servants I have ever met. And he stands for all that is right and good about government service.

KEILAR: Sixty years Keeney has served his country, beginning long before he came to Washington. The son of a railroad worker from Pennsylvania became a prisoner of war in World War II, after his crew bailed out of their B-17 over Nazi Germany. After the war, the G.I. Bill put Keeney through college and then law school. As a young government prosecutor in the 1960s, one of his targets was the mob.

KEENEY: I had the so-called Las Vegas beat. And we were trying to prove the skimming of gambling proceeds.

KEILAR: Keeney also spent his early years battling the leadership of the U.S. Communist Party. Looking back, he said in an interview in 1996 those were the only prosecutions that gave him second thoughts.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR (on camera): In more recent years, Keeney has battled crime and injustice of all kinds. But the people who have worked with him are most struck by his character. Telling stories about how Keeney stopped by or just called them up to offer support, when the going got tough at Justice. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a story. Thanks very much, Brianna Keilar for that. We're back here in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now. Kitty is sitting in.