Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Pakistan in Crisis; Interview With Benazir Bhutto

Aired November 05, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thank you, Jack.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Pakistan in crisis -- thousands of people arrested in a violent crackdown, as the country's president tries to strengthen his own grip on power. Coming up, my exclusive interview with his rival, the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who says she could be arrested at any time.

Also, waterboarding -- the controversial interrogation technique used on terror suspects.

Is it torture?

I'll ask a man who taught U.S. Special Forces how to do it and was even waterboarded himself.

And Oprah Winfrey says it may be the most devastating thing that ever happened to her. The talk show host speaking out now about the abuse scandal at the girls school she founded.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Pakistan turmoil right now -- Washington nervously watching and putting pressure on Pervez Musharraf, as he violently cracks down on civil unrest. He's declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution and indefinitely postponed parliamentary elections.

Among the latest developments happening right now, thousands of people -- including many lawyers and journalists -- are being detained by police, with many jails reported to be overflowing. Most media have been blacked out, except for the state-run channels. And the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has called General Musharraf in the last few hours to voice U.S. opposition to his actions.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, is in the Middle East.

She's watching all of this unfold -- Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today the first signs of resistance to martial law in Pakistan.


VERJEE (voice-over): Showdown on the streets of Pakistan since Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule on Saturday. Police using brutal force against protesters, spraying tear gas, beating and dragging away bloodied lawsuit, opposition leaders and human rights activists. The media silenced.

The crackdown is a wake up call for Washington.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible.

VERJEE: The U.S. is calling off defense talks with Pakistan in protest. The U.S. ambassador, meeting with Musharraf, with a message from the secretary of state -- cooperating on terror is not a replacement for democracy.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe that the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path and then to hold elections.

VERJEE: The Bush administration says it will review the $1 billion a year in U.S. aid sent to Pakistan, but not at the expense of its number one priority.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We are mindful not to do anything that would undermine ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.

VERJEE: Most of U.S. aid goes to fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban and Pakistan. The rest goes to winning the hearts and minds of those who have not fallen prey to extremism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't, for example, cut off all aid. That would hurt us even more than it would hurt them, because, quite honestly, the United States is dependent on Pakistan, as imperfect as it is.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I would send Vice President Cheney, who is a buddy of Musharraf's, go to Pakistan and say to him unless you seriously go after Al Qaeda, unless you restore your constitution, bring back the Supreme Court and have elections in January, we're going to cut off your aid.

VERJEE: For the U. S, there are few good options. Privately, officials worry if Musharraf can't weather the storm, his successors may not be as helpful in the war on terror. And if he goes and Pakistan implodes, its nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda. They know, too, if the U.S. sticks by the dictator until the bitter end -- like it did with the shah of Iran -- it could lose Pakistan if there's a revolution.


VERJEE: So the U.S. is signaling it will criticize Musharraf, but continue to stand by him -- hoping that his move doesn't put him out of a job or the U.S. out of a critical ally -- Wolf. BLITZER: Zain Verjee on the scene for us in nearby Dubai.

The crisis in Pakistan a major concern for the U.S., not only because of the implications for the war on terror, but also fear of what could happen to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's watching this critically important part of the story -- Jamie, what are you picking up?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, insecurity in any nuclear country is a cause for concern. But in the case of Pakistan, it's not so much the threat that there would be a use of nuclear weapons, but the potential spread of nuclear weapons.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Pakistan joined the nuclear club in 1998 -- with underground tests culminating an arms race set off decades earlier by archrival India. Now, experts say, Pakistan's secret nuclear arsenal is believed to number as many as 50 bombs.

(on camera): How much do we have to worry about Pakistan's nuclear weapons?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: Right now, not very much. I mean the worry is what's going to will happen in the future.

MCINTYRE: Physicist David Albright, a former nuclear arms inspector, says for now, Pakistan's nukes are firmly in control of its military and the warheads are stored unassembled, separate from the missiles that carry them. But if military control should break down, Albright says insiders may not be able to resist selling off technology for hard cash.

ALBRIGHT: Pakistan, unfortunately, built its nuclear weapons program on the illicit procurement of items from developed countries. It's a culture that's based -- that has greed in it, dishonesty. And, in fact, the nuclear weapons program still depends on going out and buying items illegally from other countries.

MCINTYRE: The other big danger from a U.S. perspective is that a new regime could use its nukes as a threat to undermine U.S. goals and intimidate others in the region.

ALBRIGHT: Whenever there's instability in Pakistan, I'm very worried. Because you could have a new government take over that has -- that is very hostile to the United States and then it would have nuclear weapons.


MCINTYRE: In his autobiography, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf insisted that when he took over, Pakistan was on its way to a Taliban-style Islamic government. And he also says he's the one that instituted firmer controls over the nuclear weapons. And that may explain why there's some concern here that if there's a change of government, even one that's more democratic, it's uncertain what it might bring -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie, thank you.

Jamie is watching this incredibly critically important part of the story.

Many opposition leaders among those detained already in Pakistan, but so far -- so far, the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, has not been arrested, although she says, she can't rule out that happening. I spoke to her just a little while ago about the crisis. That interview -- an exclusive interview -- that's coming up, later this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We now know the identity of the Iraqi defector who claimed -- whose claims bolstered the Bush administration's justifications for going to war in Iraq. His code name was always "Curveball," but the real "Curveball" was the tale he told about biological weapons that simply didn't exist.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's watching this story about "Curveball".

What are you picking up -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, by most accounts, this is a man who was an Iraqi defector, who was once a chemical engineer. But beyond that, his story bottoms out.


TODD (voice-over): A name and face placed on the flawed case for war -- the Iraqi defector, known by his code name "Curveball," who told Western intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

CBS' "60 Minutes" identifies him as Rafid Ahmed Alwan and obtained this video of what the program says is him dancing at a 1993 wedding. "60 Minutes" and the new book, "Curveball," by Bob Drogin, give details on his fabrications.

BOB DROGIN, AUTHOR, "CURVEBALL": He was a con man, but the CIA and the other intelligence agencies conned themselves because they never checked the information that he gave them.

TODD: False information -- like a mobile Iraqi biological weapons unit that didn't exist.

Then Secretary of State Colin Powell even referred to "Curveball" when presenting evidence for war at the U.N.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: He actually was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died from exposure to biological agents.

DROGIN: The accident never occurred. The 12 people didn't die. The trucks never existed.

TODD: According to Drogin, "Curveball" had already been fired from his job at this complex outside Baghdad by the time the alleged accident occurred. He then worked as a taxi driver and...

DROGIN: He worked for a graphic arts studio and he got into trouble. He swapped out the lenses in the cameras and sold them on the black market.

TODD: Curveball eventually made his way to Germany, where he offered up his fabricated story to German intelligence. But the CIA never interviewed him firsthand before the war. The Germans refused to the U.S. agency access, but passed along his information.

The CIA wouldn't comment on the new reporting on "Curveball".

CNN national security adviser, John McLaughlin, deputy CIA director at that time, says contrary to Drogin's claim, the agency did check "Curveball's" information.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: At the time, analysts judged this reporting to be credible based on consultations with three other foreign intelligence services.


TODD: McLaughlin stressed the agency later did its own investigation, interviewed "Curveball" firsthand at that time, found out the information was bad and reported that to outside commissions.

The reason "Curveball" told these lies to German intelligence, according to Drogin and "60 Minutes," he simply wanted asylum there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So he simply made it up.

All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File.

That's a pretty shocking story, that whole "Curveball" story -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: What a name, huh?

The way things turned out...


CAFFERTY: sure was.

Memories of the cold war, perhaps. The United States and China are saying they plan to set up a military hotline between Washington and Beijing to avoid misunderstandings during times of crisis. That would be a good idea.

The announcement comes during the secretary of defense, Robert Gates', visit to China. Gates said he and the Chinese defense minister agreed to set up the dedicated 24-hour phone line. But his Chinese counterpart seems more reserved, saying they ordered the technical work to be stepped up, but didn't say when the line night start working.

The hotline is viewed as a positive step in military relations between the two countries. It's also a symbol of how China's improving military is seen as an ever more serious factor in the Asia-Pacific region. A 2001 collision of the U.S. reconnaissance plane with a Chinese interceptor off Southern China led to a freeze in contacts between the two countries. The U.S. has also been concerned over China's successful anti-satellite testing earlier this year.

Meanwhile, China points out the U.S. is the main arms supplier for Taiwan.

China's military budget grew 18 percent this year. It now totals $45 billion. Some say that figure would be even higher if the weapons' purchases for China were included. That, of course, is a drop in the bucket compared to our defense budget -- $620 billion -- but theirs is growing -- fast.

Here's the question -- is a military hotline between Washington and Beijing something you would consider to be a good idea?

E-mail or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

This note to our viewers. Today marks a special programming switch for all of us here at CNN. From now on, we're on the air at 4:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., Eastern -- three solid hours -- for all the news important to you.

Lou Dobbs moves to 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Waterboarding of detainees -- is it torture?

I'll ask a counter-terrorism expert who's done it.

Plus, alleged abuse at Oprah Winfrey's school -- the talk show host speaking out for the first time and explaining why she's devastated.

Also, this -- baby Jihadists -- children as young as 15 recruited for terror in the U.K.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Controversy raging right now over so-called waterboarding and whether that coercive interrogation technique is actually torture. One man who is an undisputed expert in it says waterboarding is torture without a doubt -- and he's undergone it himself.

And joining us now, Malcolm Nance, a counter-terrorism analyst who served the U.S. intelligence community for a long time.

Malcolm, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: All right, you've actually -- as part of your training -- been waterboarded. Explain what that means to the average person watching right now.

NANCE: That's correct. I can only tell you the procedure that was performed on me. But what it is, is it's a simulation training that's done for a captive environment. And as part of that, as part of the instructor staff, you're required to go through the entire process.

BLITZER: Because the Navy won't say whether or not they do waterboarding, is that right?

NANCE: That's right.

BLITZER: This -- all right, so tell us what happens, because you've waterboarded as part of a training exercises and been waterboarded yourself. You have observed this on many occasions.

What happens to the suspect who's being questioned?

NANCE: Of course, I can't go into the complete details of this, but I can tell you that it's a very professional procedure. It's done very quickly. A person is brought to a position where they are unable to move. And then, of course, the procedure is carried out with a large volume of water.

BLITZER: And you're lying there. You're strapped in. You've got a cloth over your face.

What does it feel like when all of a sudden you're -- this water is coming upon you?

NANCE: And this is this is one of the things that needed to be cleared up. It is not a simulation of drowning. It's a process where your throat, your sino-nasal passages, your esophagus, your trachea is overflowed with water and it starts to enter your lungs, and, of course, you go through the actual drowning process.

BLITZER: And it feels like you're dying?

NANCE: Well, you are technically dying because, of course, your respiratory system is being degraded over a period of time. But it's very controlled. And, of course, that's the intent.

BLITZER: Most people who are trained to endure waterboarding, within, what, seconds, they say, enough. I'm ready to -- I'm ready to cooperate, is that right?

NANCE: Well, it depends on the individual, of course. Some of the more attuned special operations people who know how to swim can maintain their breath for long periods of time and tend to hold out a little longer. However, it really is one of those processes which overloads all of your senses.

BLITZER: Do you believe it's torture?

NANCE: I believe it's torture, especially if we're going to -- we're considering using this as a tool to make noncompliant people, who may or may not be innocent. We don't know -- whether they're terror suspects or not -- perform the way that we want them to perform.

BLITZER: I've been told it's only been used on a handful of occasions by the CIA with very high -- very important suspects, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the information was very valuable.

Is that what you've heard, as well?

NANCE: Well, that's what's been reported out in the public, for the most part.

But the question is, is that what we do?

Are we a nation that actually performs these things?

Was the information as critical and was the information actually valid?

BLITZER: Here's what the president says, without confirming or denying that the U.S. engages in waterboarding, he says this.

Listen to this.


BUSH: If a captured terrorist says information about a plot against our homeland, we need to know what he knows. Last year, Congress passed a law that allows the CIA to continue this vital program. The procedures used in this program are safe, they are lawful and they are necessary.


BLITZER: He was referring to what they call enhanced interrogation techniques -- without confirming or denying that waterboarding among those so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

Is the information that is received -- based on your years of experience in this area -- reliable?

NANCE: Well, I don't think that any information that's taken under distress and duress -- especially extreme stress and duress like the waterboard puts you under -- is reliable. I mean you will say anything, you will do anything to get the procedure to stop. And over time, like a person like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, he's an al Qaeda suspect. He is going it learn to build up some resistance to this. And you don't know whether he's telling the truth, a half truth or a lie or all of them.

BLITZER: Is there, though, an occasion when you suspect that there's a high value terror suspect who has operational plans designed to kill Americans, where it may be justified, you know, to do whatever is necessary to get that information?

NANCE: Well, doing whatever is necessary is really a question about our laws and what we are going to do within those laws. I have never been put in that situation and I'm not sure whether that situation -- whether it occurs at some point -- is going to be valid.

BLITZER: So, basically, what you're saying, if it were up to you, you'd bar waterboarding as an interrogation technique.

NANCE: I'd bar waterboarding because there are better techniques.

BLITZER: Malcolm Nance, thanks very much for coming in.

NANCE: My pleasure.

BLITZER: A dire warning about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and the spiraling crisis unfolding right now. The former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, warning that control of the weapons may be weakening. She tells me why in an interview. That's coming up.

Also, Stephen Colbert makes a very real announcement about his mock campaign for president.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitor some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you may have noticed on your way to work today, it's costing more to fill up. The average cost of a gallon of gas is at $2.69, according to the nationwide Lundberg Survey. That is 78 cents higher than it was a year ago. Analysts cite soaring crude oil prices and warn if they don't go down, gas could soon top three bucks a gallon. From L. A. to New York, Hollywood film and TV writers are on strike. And that means you'll see reruns when you turn on Jay Leno and David Letterman tonight. Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" will also air reruns. The writers want a larger share of residuals from DVDs and shows downloaded on the Internet. Marathon talks failed to produce an agreement yesterday.

Even though Stephen Colbert's show will be in reruns tonight, he will not be hitting the campaign trail. Today, he announced he has dropped his White House spokesman bid. This decision follows a vote by the South Carolina Democratic Executive Council to keep the comedian and author off the state's primary ballot. In a statement, Colbert says he is shocked and saddened, and he says he's going off the air until he can talk about it without crying. And, of course, until his writers come back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Now his book is number one on the "New York Times" best- sellers list.

He got a lot of free publicity as a result of that.

Good for Stephen Colbert.

All right, Carol, thank you.

We're following the breaking news in the crisis in Pakistan. A state of emergency there now three days old. Coming up, my interview with the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. She's just returned from exile. She's now in Karachi. You're going to find out who she says is now in charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Plus, Oprah Winfrey devastated -- the talk show host speaking out now for the first time about allegations of abuse at her $40 million girls school.

And baby jihadists -- find out why the British intelligence agency MI5 is warning of kid terrorists.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, it's the U.S. Navy to the rescue. Somali pirates have now freed the crew of a third ship they hijacked off Somalia's coast. The hostages were held captive for six months. Crews on two other boats were set free yesterday.

And the Air Force now suspending all non-mission critical F-15 flights. That's after one fighter jets crashed southwest of St. Louis, injuring the pilot. The Air Force says a possible structural failure may be to blame.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Pakistan under martial law, in a state of emergency right now, as President Pervez Musharraf violently cracks down on opponents. President Bush is following developments closely. He talked about the crisis just a short time ago, over at the White House, where he was meeting with Turkey's prime minister.


BUSH: Previous to his decision, we made it clear that these emergency measures were -- you know, would undermine democracy. Having said that, I did remind the prime minister that President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals.


BLITZER: I talked about the crisis just a little while ago with the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who recently returned to Pakistan after a long exile.


BLITZER: So, what do you think the United States should do right now? You know the U.S. provides Pakistan with billions of dollars in military assistance. It has since 9/11. What do you want the U.S. to do to under score its concern, its opposition to this declaration of national emergency?

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would like Washington to very clearly tell General Musharraf that it's important for him to restore the constitution, to retire as chief of army staff and to hold the elections as scheduled that they're completed by January 16, 2008, which was the original date and that these elections must be held under an independent election commission so that they're fair, free and impartial. What happens in Pakistan will affect the lives of the people of Pakistan, but I'm afraid since Pakistan is a nuclear arms country, it is facing a threat from a radicalization and terrorists. What happens in Pakistan is also going to impact the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Well, I believe the U.S. and others, Britain have made those points to President Musharraf, but he seems determined to move forward with the suspension of these constitutional laws in Pakistan. If he were to completely reject the specific steps you're calling on him to do, what then should the U.S. do?

BHUTTO: Well, the United States must impress upon him to assess this. I can't imagine how General Musharraf can defy the international community. After all, Pakistan's economy and Pakistan's armed forces lean heavily on the support that they get from the international community. So I feel that a firm message must go out to him.

I know that there are reports circulating that people in the armed forces are also unhappy with the developing situation. Their jobs should be fighting terrorism, not to be involved in politics. And the extra constitutional measure has mired them more deeply into the political crisis that we are facing.

I believe that the international community must make itself very clear that if Pakistan is to continue receiving its support and assistance, it must move on to the part of democracy by reviving the constitution, by removing the army from direct politics, by General Musharraf resigning as chief of army staff, and elections being held on time; elections that are free and fair and reflect the will of the people.

BLITZER: Do you believe President Musharraf is in firm control of the military and the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan?

BHUTTO: General Musharraf says that he is in firm control of the nuclear arsenal and the army is a very disciplined army. But we have been facing chaos, growing chaos for some time. We recently had the Islamabad. Our armed forces are heavily engaged in the tribal areas. We keep reading about casualties that they are suffering and the bomb blast incidences are spreading throughout the country so this is straining the social fabric of the country. The armed sources are part of the public and this will have an impact on them, too. We need to maintain Pakistan's stability. If there is no stability, then I'm afraid the controls could weaken.

BLITZER: Are you afraid, prime minister, that you are about to become arrested among so many of the other political opposition figures in Pakistan who have now been arrested?

BHUTTO: I hope General Musharraf won't take that step, but I can't rule it out. I plan to go to Islamabad and I'm having a meeting of other opposition groups and we're planning a peaceful protest on November 9th, if General Musharraf doesn't come on television before that to announce that elections will be called on November 15th to be held by January 15th. So, I hope he won't take that measure, but I have to join my people in demanding the restoration of our constitution and the restoration of our civil liberties as well as the release of the arrested lawyers and civil society activists.

BLITZER: You know, of course, under these emergency new regulations that these kinds of demonstrations, protests are not allowed and you immediately could be picked up and arrested on the streets of Islamabad, if you participate in that demonstration.

BHUTTO: Well, Wolf, we have to take some risks in life. We, in the party, have the first phase we told our lawyers that you all go out and under the banner of the bar association have peaceful meetings. And if that doesn't have an impact, then we have to take part ourselves and I'm a political leader. I just can't let my people go out and protest without doing it myself. I would like General Musharraf to come and defuse the situation. I don't want to see the protests on the streets. I don't want to see this pressure on the streets. I want them to defuse the situation. I want them to come on television and say, please, people of Pakistan, rest assured, the constitution is being restored on such and such date. I'm stepping aside as army chief on such and such date and I'm calling for the elections on such and such date. And I think if he does that and releases the political prisoners, it will help pacify the situation. What's needed is the pacification of the situation.


BLITZER: My interview with Benazir Bhutto just a little while ago in Karachi.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's been watching some compelling video taken by protesters on the ground in Pakistan; the video coming into CNN. What are we seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're just starting to get video from inside these protests. The first one posted here online amongst a selection posted by a student in Islamabad. He is scared. He didn't want to give his name. We've been messaging with him online today. These pictures from inside is that university. He said this is the first working day since emergency rule started. He's seen large protests and small gatherings, as well. Some broken up by police and he told us online just how important the Internet is to him. He says no news media. They're not getting any television news there, so he is posting information online, getting it online, as well.

We at CNN are starting to get a trickle of images into, our I-reporters there on the ground. This picture here from a protester at a university in Lahore. The I-reporter tells us, again we're not giving his name, the I-reporter telling us that this protest was in response to faculty members being arrested yesterday. We're asking for these pictures from on the ground, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be getting a lot more of those pictures. Abbi, thank you. Abbi Tatton reporting.

Oprah Winfrey speaking out now about the scandal and the heart break.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life.

BLITZER: The talk show host talking to the news media now about what is being done at her girls' school in the wake of that abuse scandal.

And find out why one leading feminist is accusing Hillary Clinton of playing what she calls a victim, trying to have it both ways.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: This morning an emotional Oprah Winfrey told reporters she's "shaken to the core," after allegations of abuse at her girl's school in South Africa. Kareen Wynter is following this story for us. She's joining us from Los Angeles.

Quite an emotional news conference she had. Update our viewers, Kareen, on what she had to say.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Emotional, indeed. Winfrey even said she cried for about half hour after hearing about this. Still Winfrey did praise some of the students at her academy for not only speaking out but standing up for themselves.


WINFREY: This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life.

WYNTER: Oprah Winfrey addressed allegations of abuse at her $40 million private girls' school speaking to reporters in South Africa by satellite from Chicago.

WINFREY: I don't think that as a school we fail the girls because there are still many people at the school who are caring and dedicated and want the best for all the girls. I think that there are systems within the school that failed the girls.

WYNTER: In South Africa, a woman who worked as a dorm parent at Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls was charged with 13 count of verbal abuse, assault and indecent assault. 27-year-old Tiny Virginia Makopo is accused of assaulting and verbally abusing seven young women. Police say one girl told them Makopo grabbed her by the throat and threw her against a wall. Most of the victims are 13 or 14 years old.

WINFREY: Knowing what I know now, the screening process was inadequate, although, I do know that for every person that is hired at the school, there is both a criminal and a civil background check.

WYNTER: Makopo pleaded not guilty to the charges. She was released on bail and barred from having contact with anyone at the school. Winfrey says the head mistress will be replaced and teachers are taking over for dorm parents, while the hiring process gets an overhaul.

WINFREY: I feel that the girls were placed in an atmosphere where they were taught to be fearful and they were taught to literally be silenced and, so, when you remove the systems and put in a different kind of leadership, all of that will change.

WYNTER: Winfrey has also promised to equip each of the students with cell phones, programmed with a direct number to the talk show host in Chicago.

WINFREY: It is one of my goals in life to put child abusers, whether they be in my home, whether they be in my workplace, or in this case in the academy, to put them where they belong. That is behind bars.

WYNTER: Meanwhile, rather than celebrating a near year in operation, the star find herself managing a crisis at the project she called her life-long dream. She opened its doors to some of South Africa's poorest children in January.


She's out on bail now, Wolf, but Makopo will be back in court the middle of December. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Kareen Wynter reporting.

The only female candidate for president is getting more heat today. Is she using her gender to deflect critics? Carol Costello has been looking into this story and she's joining us here. What are you finding?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About the woman card, Wolf. Some feminists say if Clinton wants to play with the big boys, she ought to act like one, consistently. They say one minute she's the strong woman willing to lead, the next she's the woman under attack, a victim.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Are you ready to take back America?

COSTELLO: The woman card. It's a card some say Hillary Clinton can't help but play.

ELEANOR SMEAL, FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION: It's obvious that there is a gender factor in this race. There's, there's no question that her being a woman makes a difference.

COSTELLO: So why not play to her base, women. Her opponents, though, say it's just another example of Hillary Clinton trying to have it both ways.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every single one of us should be held to the same standard. That standard should apply to every one of us, including me and including Senator Clinton.

COSTELLO: Unless the standard he is talking about eludes you. Kate Michelman, a feminist who advises on Edwards' campaign, blogged on the internet, do you remember that commercial?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've come a long way baby to get to where you got to today.

CLINTON: We'll try to make a difference.

COSTELLO: Not nearly far enough, says Michelman, when you consider Hillary Clinton's playbook. "When she's challenged," says Michelman," Clinton is quick to raise the white flag. She then calls debate among her peers piling on. Meaning the boys are ganging up on me." That's Michelman says Clinton portrayed her less than stellar performance in Tuesday's debate. SEN. CHRIS DODD: You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON: No, I didn't, Chris but the point is ...

COSTELLO: The piling on term ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton ...

COSTELLO: Came into play on Clinton's campaign website and was further defined at Wellesley.

CLINTON: In so many ways this all women's college prepared me to compete in the all boys' club of presidential politics.

COSTELLO: It made not only Edwards fume, but Barack Obama, too.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't come out and say, look, I'm being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the stage.

COSTELLO: Now, after blistering criticism, Clinton seems to be singing a different tune.

CLINTON: I don't think they piled on me the other night because I'm a woman, I think they piled on because I'm winning.

COSTELLO: Whether she's playing the woman card or not, Clinton is clearly talking a language that women understand. She has more than 50 percent of the female democratic vote in most polls.


COSTELLO: But Michelman says that lead will surely disappear because most women in the end believe we should not use our gender as a shield when the questions get too hot. Wolf.

BLITZER: The story's not going away, Carol.


BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Terrorists recruiting children to kill right now. We have new details of a very disturbing war ending that is coming in from the head of Britain's spy agency, MI-5.

Also, coming up at the top of the hour, we'll have more on Hillary Clinton. She's taking a hilt in the polls. We'll show you what's slowing her momentum.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Child terrorists. The British agency, MI-5, is sounding the alarm over increasing efforts by extremists to recruit young people to kill. CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton is outside MI-5 headquarters in London. Paula.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the newspapers here call them baby jihadis, a new breed of young terrorists, some as young as 15. The Britain spy service say now pose more and more of a threat to national security.

British authorities were blunt after terrorists set off a bomb at Glasgow's airport this past summer. They never heard of the suspects or had any clue of the kind of plot that was unfolding. Now, the head of Britain security service, MI-5, warns the more they learn, the more anxious they become about the terror threat.

Jonathan Evans claims in a speech, "There remains a steady flow of new recruits to the extremist cause." Something he calls an uncomfortable truth. "At least 2,000 people in Britain today pose a direct threat to national security," he says, "more than originally thought and they're getting younger and younger." He warns, "right now terrorists are methodically recruiting children, radicalizing, indoctrinating and grooming young vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism." That's what most worries Scotland Yards top anti- terror cult.

PETER CLARKE, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: Of all the things I've seen over the past few years, one of the most worry is the speed and apparent ease with which young men can be turned into suicidal terrorists.

NEWTON: That is the profile of school boys like Mohammad, convicted this year of trying to train as a terrorist. He was recruited on the Internet, planned to go to Pakistan for terrorist training and wrote a letter to his worried parents saying others would rejoice at the decision of their son. It's something MI-5 admits it's beginning to come to grips with, but it's just not able to cover every potential threat.

BOB AYERS, SECURITY ANALYST: You can't have it both ways. If you have better intelligence that allows you with greater precision to find the terrorists, then where is the subsequent action to roll those terrorists up?

NEWTON: This was a candid speech by a secretive spy service that now says its intelligence just isn't enough to fight extremists, especially those young recruits that now seem so easily manipulated. Wolf.


BLITZER: Paula Newton outside MI-5 headquarters in London. Thank you.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's not outside MI-5 headquarters in London, but you're in New York.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am indeed. Interesting line in Paula's report about that young boy. She said he planned to go to Pakistan for terrorist training.

BLITZER: A lot of them have, as you know.

CAFFERTY: Yeah I understand. They still are. That's where our good friend Pervez Musharraf has taken about between $7 billion and $10 billion of our money supposedly to mount a big counterterrorism operation. Turns out that is not where the money has gone. The question this hour, does a military hotline between Washington and Beijing a good idea?

Dave in Brooklyn writes, "It will be a waste of time and money. If we call, the Chinese probably won't even answer. They will be laughing too hard. They have nothing to fear from us. Bush sold the United States to China, lock, stock and barrel."

Francois in Quebec, "Why not cut out the middleman, establish a hotline between Wal-Mart and China?"

David in Virginia, "Regarding China link, keep your friends close and enemies closer. You have to know how to talk to know how they stand. Didn't we have a direct line to Moscow during the Cold War? Has anything changed?"

Joe in Gloucester, Mass., "Of course a U.S.-China hotline is a good idea. More communication is always a better alternative to none, but it frightens me that the Chinese envision a coming event that we will need to call them in order to cancel."

Ben writes from New Jersey, "Of course, it is a good idea, you idiot. What a stupid question. Don't you have anything intelligent to say?" Ben, that's hurtful.

Ralph in Alabama, "Hey, Jack, the hotline might be a good idea, but our phone would be imported from China, made with lead paint and child labor, theirs would be stolen technology from AT&T."

Dan writes from Brooklyn, "A hotline to Beijing would work fine until the first time President Bush used it to order sweet and sour pork with a side of fried rice."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, where we post more of them online, along with video clips of the Cafferty File. Wolf.

BLITZER: Don't go anywhere, we're on for three straight hours as of today, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yeah I forgot.

BLITZER: Stand by.

Conservatives eying a third party. Is the nation ready to dump the red and the blue? Lou Dobbs ready to speak with us live about that.

Also, trouble for Fred Thompson after a fund-raiser had some of his criminal past revealed.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: One year from Election Day THE SITUATION ROOM runs three straight hours from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. eastern. Lou is coming up in an hour at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

He's joining us now live, though. Lou, let's talk about Governor Spitzer and New York state. The whole issue of drivers' license, illegal immigrants. It's a huge issue in New York, but do you see it moving nationally?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: It was absolutely nationally. Subject of Tim Russert's question, as you know, that democratic debate last week. He fumbled response on the part of Senator Hillary Clinton, equally sort of obtuse and confusing follow-up from Senator Obama. This is now a national issue. Senator Chris Dodd establishing some separation from other candidates on the issue. The correct position, in my judgment and in the judgment of most Americans. I think it's a huge issue that is now moving front and center in the presidential politics.

BLITZER: Now, everybody knows you're fiercely independent and either support the democrats or the republicans. What do you see happening as far as the third party emerging in the presidential contest next year?

DOBBS: I believe firmly and, as I travel around the country, Wolf, my feeling is validated by those I talk with who say they are not excited about either one of these candidates. They under that both of these political parties are opposite wings of the same bird and the American people are getting the bird that corporate America and special interest groups are dominating both parties. They the middle class in this country and those who aspire to it, working men and women and their families are not being represented in Washington, D.C. and the joke is over and I think 2008 could see some tremendous surprises in terms of who steps forward to seek the presidency.

BLITZER: I just want to alert Lou's fans out there, they'll have to wait an hour to get his program. A lot more on this coming up, Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, I had no idea what an easy time you had. A whole hour still here at CNN New York before going on the air. This is the lap of luxury.

BLITZER: Your show is going to be even better, you have an extra hour to prepare. Stand by.