Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Can Oil Jump to $200 a Barrel?; Rape Case Sparks International Outrage

Aired November 19, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, two of America's staunchest foes -- the presidents of Iran and Venezuela -- they're teaming up in a so-called axis of oil -- raising the specter of a nightmare scenario -- oil costing $200 a barrel.
Also, it's been used to help send hundreds of people to prison. Now, a controversial bullet analysis method is being called unreliable. We're going to show you why it may be too late for those wrongly convicted.

Plus, a rape case that's sparking truly international outrage. The victim -- the victim sentenced to be whipped and sent to jail.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Crude oil selling for $200 a barrel -- a price that would devastate the U.S. economy, to be sure -- the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, saying it could happen if U.S. were to take military action against his ally, Iran.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's joining us now to do some reporting on this very frightening scenario.

How likely is it -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, while some observers say this is really just these two leaders doing what they do, others say all it would take to make this a reality is for the nuclear standoff with Iran to escalate to some kind of confrontation.


TODD (voice-over): Standing together against their shared enemy, the presidents of Iran and Venezuela use the level of threat, the leverage of oil.

PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): If the United States attempts the madness of invading Iran or attacking Venezuela again, the price of oil is probably going to reach $200, not just $100. TODD: That's $200 a barrel for oil -- a benchmark that would send America's economy reeling. Analysts say that's not far-fetched, if the U.S. strikes Iran over its nuclear program.

DAVID KIRSCH, PFC ENERGY: And Iranian experts will be cut off -- if not militarily damaged, then intercepted. And there will be a question mark as to whether or not Saudi Arabia will also be able to get its oil out of the region.

TODD: Analysts say without an attack, neither Iran nor Venezuela could likely drive the price toward $200 on their own, that to even start that trend, they'd each need to take a lot of their oil off the market -- at least temporarily -- an enormous risk for two faltering economies.

But Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are also going after America on another front -- calling for the oil producing cartel, OPEC, to stop pricing in U.S. dollars, which Ahmadinejad calls "a worthless piece of paper." The OPEC leaders ignored that. But analysts say they may start to pay attention if the dollar plummets further.

ANNE KORIN, INSTITUTE FOR THE ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL SECURITY: We're likely to see, in the future OPEC, take advantage of the fact that oil is a strategic commodity and that it has the power to denominate oil trades in the currency of its choice.


TODD: So if OPEC stopped trading with the dollar, analysts say it would drive the price of most goods imported into the U.S. way up -- affecting just about every American consumer. Again, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC powers are not ready to do that, but it bears watching if Iran and Venezuela continue to prod them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you spoke with a top Venezuelan official today, Brian.

Did he say categorically that Venezuela would use oil as a weapon if Iran were attacked?

TODD: I asked him that point blank. He called that "a dangerous hypothetical" and he wouldn't go there.

Venezuela can threaten to do that, but America is Venezuela's biggest oil customer and one of the only countries that can refine Venezuela's very low quality crude oil. So they're risking a lot there, too.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

President Bush's former secretary of state, Colin Powell, is downplaying the Iranian threat. In a speech in Kuwait, Powell said Iran is a long way from having nuclear weapons and that any U.S. military action there, he says, is unlikely, given the current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In just the past six months -- the past six months alone -- we've seen the value of the U.S. dollar plummet against the euro and the Japanese yen. The dollar was at its highest this year in mid-June. Then it was at 75 cents to the euro. Now it's just 68 cents to the euro. And in June, the dollar bought 123 yen. Now it buys only 110 yen.

Let's get to the number one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq now -- improvised explosive devices. But money for training to find the lethal IEDs could run out as soon as two weeks.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's watching this.

Why would this critical IED program run out of money -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, there's been discussion across Washington, from Capitol Hill to the White House, about no defense supplemental bill -- the multi-billion dollar request to keep many programs in the Pentagon running. Congress and the president unable to reach agreement today. The head of the IED Task Force, who happens to be retiring in about five days, talked to reporters, talked to CNN, as well, and said his program is about to run out of money.

Here's what Montgomery Meigs had to say.


GENERAL MONTGOMERY MEIGS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): The impact on the troops today won't be felt. They'll feel it next summer, when new capabilities that we would be able to put in the field to help them find IEDs and destroy them aren't going to show up.


STARR: And what is Meigs talking about, Wolf?

Well, without the supplemental, no money. It all runs out in two weeks. He says training the troops to find IEDs, fielding new jammers, new armor, new protective gear for the troops in Iraq -- all of it will come to a halt. And he says even if they get money right away, still, there will be some interruption.

Now, of course, there is a political element to all of this across Washington. This timing of General Meigs -- he is a retired general -- his announcement certainly is likely to help the Pentagon garner support for its case with Capitol Hill to get the money flowing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The counter-argument is the Pentagon has a huge budget.

Couldn't they just reprogram some of the hundreds of billions of dollars to this critical IED program if, in fact, the funding weren't there? STARR: Well, actually, there is a technicality that they can't. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked about some of that more broadly last week. The reprogramming -- moving money from one account to another -- is very limited. Across the board, the Pentagon says it may have to even begin laying off some civilian employees, shuttering some bases. They just say they don't have the ability to move that money around. It is gamesmanship, to be sure. But it remains to be seen which side wins.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thank you.

Me, in Bangladesh, the death toll is climbing by the hour, as more victims of last week's cyclone are discovered. At last count -- get this -- more than 3,100 people were known dead, with at least another thousand people missing. The Red Crescent Society is warning that the number of dead could reach 10,000 as crews reach the most remote corners of the country. The cyclone was the worst to hit Bangladesh in more than a decade.

Pakistan's new Supreme Court, hand-picked by embattled president, Pervez Musharraf, is clearing the way for him to serve another five- year term, dismissing legal challenges against him. With that nuclear nation in a state of emergency, Pentagon planners are looking at U.S. options for a so-called worst case scenario. The ramifications could be deadly. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, by the way, is watching this story for us -- Jamie, update our viewers on contingency planning operations.

What's going on?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, Pentagon planners get paid to think about those worst case scenarios. And in the case of Pakistan, a worst case scenario would be a stolen nuclear weapon or the entire arsenal falling into the hands of an extremist, hostile regime.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Pentagon sources tell CNN the United States does have contingency plans to intervene if it believes any of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are in danger of falling into the hands of terrorists or extremists. Unlike the U.S., Pakistan doesn't rely on sophisticated electronic safeguards and access codes to secure its stockpile of 50 to 100 nukes. Instead, Pakistan's military keeps the key components separate -- the warheads stored in one secret bunker, the fissile core or trigger in another.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I don't see any indications right now that the security of those weapons is in jeopardy. But, clearly, we are very watchful, as we should be.

MCINTYRE (on camera): Is that the nightmare scenario, I mean is that the worst case scenario?

(voice-over): What the U.S. is watching for is what worries experts like David Albright -- a former nuclear arms inspector.

What if the Pakistani military loses its grip on power and control over the nuclear arsenal?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: And the safety and the security controls on the Pakistani nuclear weapons are not that sophisticated. So, unlike Russian weapons, which a terrorist group would very unlikely be able to get to work, a Pakistani nuclear weapon may very well be workable via terrorists.

MCINTYRE: But the very secrecy Pakistan relies on to protect its arsenal is the biggest obstacle to success for the highly classified plans for U.S. commandos to secure or seize any loose nukes. Simply put, the Pentagon doesn't know for certain exactly where the components are.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: We can't send our nest teams or our 82nd Airborne in to go seize those weapons. We don't know where they are. And if we tried, we'd be overwhelmed by the Pakistan forces resisting us. It's too late, at that point, to try to get the nukes out.


MCINTYRE: Pakistan's nuclear weapons are a source of deep national pride and any incursion into Pakistan to secure them would stir up an enormous pro-nationalist resentment.

So for any plan -- any snatch operation to work, Wolf, the U.S. would probably have to have the help of the Pakistani military -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All this a nightmare scenario, indeed, Jamie.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Could this stuff get any scarier, all this stuff going on over there?

BLITZER: Yes. Well, some reports say they have 50 nuclear bombs. Some say they have 200 nuclear bombs. I think it's a closely held, obviously, classified -- piece of classified information. But no matter -- even if they just had one, that's scary.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Yes. Exactly. And apparently, what, the stuff is in Musharraf's garage?

I mean that doesn't sound like they have very sophisticated ways of protecting this.

Anyway, back here at home, the mud is beginning to fly. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ripping into each other over the weekend. And columnist Bob Novak has to be giggling like a -- like a little kid. This conservative columnist, Novak, wrote this: "Agents of Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about Obama. But he has decided -- but the campaign -- the Clinton campaign has decided not to use it."

It was a blind item. Novak didn't specify the information. No details, no attribution, no sources, no nothing.

Nevertheless, Obama, responding like the rookie to presidential politics that he is, got furious, saying that Clinton either come forward with the information or renounce these tactics. He called the column "a shameless item aimed at smearing him through innuendo and insinuation."

Clinton's campaign fired back, saying they have no idea what Novak was talking about and suggested that Obama fell for an old right-wing trick -- they're probably right: "Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others got distracted. They got thrown off their games. And we've a conservative Republican columnist stirring up trouble among the Democratic frontrunners."

It's old news that this kind of stuff happens.

It's not just the Democrats, either. The Republican race also getting nastier. Mitt Romney talking about phone calls to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire -- calling them un-American. The calls appear to be opinion polls, but then ask questions about Romney and his Mormon faith and tend to cast him in a negative light. It's called push polling.

John McCain says it's not his doing. He says it's disgraceful. It's outrageous. Rudy Giuliani says they don't support or engage in these type of tactics, but somebody is doing it -- somebody with something to win if Romney's standing in the voters' eyes goes down.

The question, then, is this -- does the mudslinging -- and it happens every time -- make you more or less interested in the presidential campaign?

Give us your thoughts, or go to

I'm surprised, frankly, Wolf, that Obama took the bait on this one, but he sure did.

BLITZER: And to quote your best-selling book, "it's getting ugly out there," Jack...

CAFFERTY: There you go.

BLITZER: ...on a lot of different fronts, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Actually, we'll be talking about this and more in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern roundtable.

Punishing the victim -- a key U.S. ally sentencing a woman to whipping and prison after she was brutally raped -- the double standard that has human rights around the world -- human rights activists outraged.

Plus, America's most dangerous cities -- are they getting a bad rap for violence?

And FBI bullet testing -- bad science may have put innocent people behind bars.

Barry Scheck is standing by to join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll take a close look at how the system could have failed so badly for, what, three decades.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: This is a horrendous story you're about to hear. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. The crime -- a gang rape. The punishment -- 200 lashes with a whip -- but not for the rapist, for the victim.

Carol Costello is watching this story with details here.

It's a Saudi case and it's outraging human rights people -- but a lot of people, not just human rights activists, all over the world.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is outraging a lot of people.

And you know what else?

I'm learning those in power don't want to talk about the case. The Saudi embassy here in D.C. saying it can't comment because the case is in the court system. But for many, that answer is a cop out.


COSTELLO (voice-over): To most Americans it's an outrage -- a rape victim violated by seven men -- not only blamed for her own attack, but sentenced to prison and 200 lashes. The 19-year-old victim, interviewed by the Human Rights Watch organization, said: "Everyone looks at me as if I was wrong. I wanted to die."

In Saudi Arabia, woman cannot travel without permission from a male relative. And that night, the Saudi victim -- without permission -- met a male friend to retrieve some photographs. Both were abducted and raped. She says: "The first man with the knife raped me. I was destroyed. The fifth and sixth ones were the most abusive. After the seventh one, I couldn't feel my body anymore." The woman's original trial took place last year. Her attackers got sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in jail, and the Saudi judge determined the victim was also to blame -- for illegally mingling.

CRISTOPH WICKET, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, SAUDI EXPERT: What this case boils down to -- and we can see it in what the judge has said to her -- is this lady should not have been where she was at the time. She somehow facilitated what happened to her. She was responsible for what happened to her.

COSTELLO: The woman's attorney, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, did appeal. And for his trouble, he's been stripped of his law license. And the judge ruled because his client spoke to the media, her sentence would double -- from 90 lashes to six months in prison. Plus, those 200 lashes with a bamboo reed. And if you're wondering what that looks like...

WILCKE: They use about a one, one-and-a-half yard long thin stick -- thin bamboo stick, usually, which you're supposed to whip the person with on the back, either publicly or non-publicly -- it depends on the judge's verdict -- in the marketplace, in front of the supermarket. That's what usually happens.

COSTELLO: Over here, the U.S. State Department would only say the situation was "astonishing."

QUESTION: Just to be clear, you're in no way condemning the sentence at all?

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I've said what I'm going to say about it.


COSTELLO: It was astonishing and certainly not the reaction groups like Human Rights Watch were hoping for. No, they wanted something a tad stronger and they wanted something like international human rights are international, indeed, and there is no exception for Saudi Arabia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you call the Saudi ambassador here in Washington, Adel Al-Jubair, who's been a frequent guest on our show...

COSTELLO: I did. I called.

BLITZER: What does he say?

COSTELLO: I didn't hear back.

BLITZER: None...

COSTELLO: The Saudi embassy just sent me that release -- "We can't talk about it because it's an ongoing case."

No response from him. But I did call twice. BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much.

What a shocking, shocking story. And, unfortunately, it happens all too often in Saudi Arabia.

It's the list they all try to avoid -- the annual tally of America's most dangerous cities. And the one at the top this year is fighting back.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is joining us now from Chicago -- so which city leads the list this year, Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you have to wait just a second, Wolf, to find out. It's a city that's not very happy. There are a lot of cities on this most dangerous list. This is the list that frightens ordinary citizens and infuriates city leaders, because it is the one list that no city wants to be on.


ROESGEN (voice-over): A big blow for a city that's tried hard to boost its image. A new report ranks Detroit the most dangerous city in the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't agree at all. I don't think anybody is in fear at all.

ROESGEN: Here are the top five most dangerous American cities, according to Congressional Quarterly Press. After Detroit is St. Louis, Missouri; Flint, Michigan, Oakland, California; and Camden, New Jersey.

Congressional Quarterly Press is a private research and publishing group that bases its list on crime data from the FBI. Critics, including the FBI and the Detroit police chief, say cities compile crime stats in different ways -- making a comparison meaningless.

CHIEF ELLA BULLY-CUMMINGS, DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's taking the data and throwing it in a box and shaking it up and making it smell different.

ROESGEN: But Congressional Quarterly says the common denominator is simply the number of crimes for every 100,000 people.

JOHN JENKINS, PUBLISHER, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY" PRESS: We're taking the information that we get from the government and we're doing a ranking that is absolutely valid.

ROESGEN: No city wants to be called dangerous. Millions of dollars are at stake in tourism and new business.

So what are the safest cities? Sugar Land, Texas -- a suburb of Houston -- is number five on the Congressional Quarterly list. Counting up, Amherst, New York; Brick Township, New Jersey; Clarkston, New York; and Mission Viejo, California.


ROESGEN: And the report's authors say that more than a dozen cities were not even included on this list, including Chicago, Wolf, because the crime data was incomplete.

If you're a reporter, you can go to Congressional Quarterly Press and get the rankings for any of the cities -- about 400 listed. If you're not a reporter, then you have to buy a book. And it sells for $49.95 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, Amherst, New York right outside my old hometown of Buffalo, New York, for those who aren't familiar. It's a lovely, lovely community.

Glad to see it's still safe -- Susan, thank you very much.

Hate crimes in the United States are on the rise. The FBI says there was more than a 7 percent increase last year, with 7,720 incidents reported. The largest increases were in crimes against Jews and gays. Crimes against Hispanics were also up, while the number of anti-black and anti-white incidents were mostly unchanged.

She says it's her one regret -- that Osama bin Laden still hasn't been captured. The White House homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, standing by to join us live. We'll talk about that and why she's leaving her job.

Plus, a drastic ban in one major American city -- we're going to show you what people there won't be able to get in at the grocery store.

Stick around.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, this week's holiday travel is already off to a bumpy start. Radio communication glitches delayed flights at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport this morning.

In the meantime, weather is the problem in the South and the Northeast. Fog delayed flights in Atlanta and rain and winds caused delays at airports in New York and Chicago.

Forecasters keeping watch on a cold front that could bring snow to the Midwest on Wednesday.

Paper or plastic -- starting tomorrow you won't hear that at large grocery stores in San Francisco. A city ordinance banning non- recyclable plastic bags takes effect. Pharmacies will also have to comply starting next summer. Officials say an estimated 180 million plastic bags handed out in San Francisco each year end up littering the streets -- clogging storm drains and hurting wildlife.

Your kids may soon have to buckle up on the school bus. The Transportation secretary is proposing new rules to allow school districts to use highway safety funds to pay for seatbelts. They would also require higher seat backs that better protect children in accidents. All new small buses would be required to include seatbelts within three years of the new rule's adoption.

And Mike Tyson will have to spend 24 hours behind bars. An Arizona judge also sentenced the former heavyweight champion to three years probation for drug possession and driving under the influence. Police pulled Tyson over in Scottsdale last December. They said they found bags of cocaine in his pocket and in his car. Following his arrest, Tyson checked himself into rehab.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Thank you, Carol.

A controversial FBI forensic test that may have put hundreds of people behind bars -- a look at the flawed science.

Plus, we'll talk about it with Barry Scheck. He's from The Innocence Project. We'll talk about the innocent people who may be serving time because of this flawed test.

And the war against skinny models -- one photographer's crusade to save young women from fashion.

Stick around.



BLITZER: A new presidential poll has just been released in Iowa and it has some surprising new numbers on the showdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Carol Costello has got the numbers for us.

What does it show?

COSTELLO: Pretty compelling stuff, Wolf.

This is an ABC News poll/"Washington Post" poll. It shows Barack Obama with 30 percent support and Hillary Clinton with 26 percent. And, of course, that's in the make or break state of Iowa. Of course, there's such a small difference between those numbers, maybe it's not -- it's not statistically significant of who is really ahead. But it's certainly close. And it shows that Obama has passed Clinton 30 percent to 26 percent.

I want to ask you what this poll asked each candidate.

It said they asked people which candidate is the most honest and trustworthy?

Thirty-one percent of respondents said Obama, 21 percent said the other or had none or no opinion, 20 percent said John Edwards, 15 percent said Clinton and 13 percent said Richardson. So I'm going to go through the rest of these numbers for you, Wolf, but very interesting.

BLITZER: Slightly ahead in Iowa. Barack Obama, I take that poll, they started doing the polling before the presidential debate Thursday night. About half of it was done before, half of it was done afterwards. But we'll take a close look at this ABC News/"Washington Post" poll in any case. Thanks very much for that, Carol.

A former Baltimore cop is behind bars for the murder of his girlfriend. His own gun was key evidence for the prosecution, but now it turns out the FBI relied on bullet analysis that's unreliable. Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is joining us now. There's apparently hundreds of cases like this, Kelli. Give us the background.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the FBI estimates that there are 2,500 cases in which faulty analysis may have been used.


ARENA: Ex-Baltimore police sergeant James Kulbicki is in jail for life. Put there with the help of a bullet. He was convicted of killing his mistress, helped by testimony from FBI scientists linking him to a bullet fragment found at the crime scene.

SUZANNE DROUET, KULBICKI'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What the prosecution told the jury was that scientific evidence could fill in the gaps in the case.

ARENA: But that forensic evidence was based on bad science.

DROUET: Now we know that the scientific evidence is, in fact, flawed.

ARENA: In other words, the bullet lied. For more than three decades, FBI scientists used what's called bullet lead analysis and provided testimony in about 2,500 cases. Bullets from crime scenes were tested for trace elements like silver, for example. And compared to bullets found in a suspect's gun or home. But the National Academy of Science called the analysis unreliable and in 2005 the FBI stopped using it. JOHN MILLER, ASSOC. DIRECTOR, FBI: The judgment in the lab is that it is not precise enough to have any real value.

ARENA: You think the FBI would alert affected defendants. It didn't. Instead it sent out what has been described as a vague letter to various legal organizations. No review of individual cases was ever conducted.

David Colapinto, with the National Whistleblower Center, has been asking for case records for more than a year to do his own review.

DAVID COLAPINTO, NATIONAL WHISTLEBLOWER CENTER: They fought every step of the way to conceal the records that are the actual case files for these bullet-led cases at the FBI lab.

ARENA: Now after a series of major media reports, the FBI says it's working on reviewing those cases and will make records available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think there are cases here where rocks have not been turned over where they should be.


ARENA: Now, unfortunately, Wolf, by the time this is all sorted out, legal experts say that many defendants will have run out of time to file appeals.

BLITZER: What a tragic story. Shocking story. All right, Kelli, thanks very much.

A renowned criminal defense attorney is spearheading a nationwide review of convictions where the FBI relied on this now discredited bullet-matching analysis. Barry Scheck is the co-director of the Innocence Project. He's joining us now from New York.

2,500 cases, they use this flawed analysis and do you have any idea, Barry, in how many of those 2,500, this was the single most important piece of physical evidence that got these men and women presumably convicted?

BARRY SCHECK, CO-DIRECTOR, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT: Well, we're going to find that out. When the FBI submitted this to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004/2005, you know, the report came back saying that this was unreliable science and literally what it was is that they would say that a bullet that found at the crime scene came from a certain box of ammunition. It was manufactured within a certain year. So there's no way of telling in these 2,500 cases when that was crucial evidence and when it wasn't. There's some cases that we've already discovered by just looking at 250 over the summer with the assistance of the ScanOps law firm in New York, we just looked at 250 cases that were reported where we knew that somebody's conviction had been affirmed and we took a look to see which ones this evidence had been crucial and began looking back and we found about six or seven that we thought were troubling and at least two, one of which you've reported on where we think the individuals are innocent. BLITZER: The shocking thing is that even after the FBI itself determined that this was not a reliable test, it was based on not good science they were told this, they didn't aggressively go out and alert criminal defense attorneys and the public to, you know what, maybe we should take a look at these 2,500 cases.

SCHECK: You know, that's true but they're doing it now. So, I'm at least grateful that the power of the press is such that the FBI has now agreed to do it and they're doing it, I think, wholeheartedly. It's going to be difficult because you have to go back and find the cases and find the testimony and review the files and try to find the individuals who may maybe 10, 20, 30 years ago were convicted and didn't do the crime and that takes a lot of work. But the Innocence Network, a whole group of innocence projects and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has formed a task force and the FBI says they're going to cooperate and I believe they will so maybe together we can go back and review these cases. It won't be easy, but there are some people that we've already identified who we think were probably wrongfully convicted.

BLITZER: What about that point that Kelli Arena made in her report that some of these cases are beyond the deadline for filing appeals, if the guy may be innocent but simply too late to file an appeal?

SCHECK: That is almost certainly true because, unfortunately, across this country there are what they call statutes of limitations or time limits on when a defendant can file a motion based on newly discovered evidence of innocence. There's only a handful of states that have no time limits. But there may be ways of going back into court and saying, look, there are equitable reasons that you ought to re-hear this case and look at it again. We've been in this business now for 15 years using DNA tests and now coming back into court in this kind of case saying it's unreliable science. Hopefully we'll get as good a hearing from the courts as we have recently in DNA testing.

BLITZER: As you know and all of our viewers I'm sure agree, even one innocent person behind bars for 10, 20, 30 years is way too many and let me thank you, Barry Scheck, for the important work you and your colleagues are doing. Thanks very much.

SCHECK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is America any closer to capturing Osama Bin Laden? The outgoing White House Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, she's standing by to join us live. We'll talk about that. We'll talk about her resignation after more than three years on the job.

Plus, republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on the rise in one key state. Can he keep the momentum going nationwide?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The president's homeland security adviser is leaving after more than four years in one of the most critical and high- profile jobs inside the White House. Fran Townsend is here in "The Situation Room." She is joining us now.

Fran Townsend, thanks for coming in.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

BLITZER: You said you were not leaving to spend more time with your family. Why are you leaving?

TOWNSEND: Well, you know, Wolf, my four-and-a-half years at the White House is the capstone to what has been a 23-year career in public service. And I've spent the last 10 of those working on terrorism cases, like the East Africa embassy bombings and the USS Cole and the millennium bombing threat. And I've worked on all those. And it really -- I decided it was time for me to take my experience and go onto the private sector.

BLITZER: Because a few months back, the White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, said you either leave now or you're with us for the duration. Whatever happened to that? Because since then, there have been several top officials, including Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, a bunch of others, who have decided to leave.

TOWNSEND: You know, it's funny. I talked to Josh about that. I never heard him say that, and Josh doesn't ever recall having said that.

BLITZER: Oh, really?

TOWNSEND: So that's become something of an urban myth. But I will tell you, the conversation with me went well before Labor Day. This has been a conversation I've had with Josh and the president over the last six to eight months.

BLITZER: And do you have a specific job you're looking for...


BLITZER: ... or plan on doing something in the private sector?

TOWNSEND: Well, look, I think that what I do, my experience is looking across the government, a complex organization, assessing vulnerability, risk and consequences. And then how do you minimize that or close the gap?

I think that's exactly what CEOs now. Like Jeff Immelt at GE, in an interview with Charlie Rose, said, it's what the financial services industries do when they talk about global risk management. So I think that my experience in the government is applicable to the private sector, and it's really a question of finding the right match.

BLITZER: I'm sure you'll have no trouble. All right, let's talk about one of your frustrations, Osama bin Laden. I know you looked very, very hard on your watch, and you're staying until the beginning of January. You haven't found him yesterday or his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. When you were here about a year or so ago, you had this notable quote, and I'm going to play it for you.


TOWNSEND: It's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I'd view that as a failure.


BLITZER: All right, so what's the latest on Osama? You say it's a success. Once you capture or kill Osama bin Laden, then it will be a success, but it hasn't happened yet.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Look, we have devoted incredible resources of all dimension, military and intelligence, all forms of intelligence, human, signals intelligence. So this is a tremendous priority.

The president gets briefed every week on the hunt for bin Laden. We are definitely closer, and we get closer every day. But this is a long-term fight.

Look at somebody like Imad Mugniyah. He's the military leader, as you know, of Hezbollah. He was responsible for the '84 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. He's still on that list, too, and we look for him every day.

BLITZER: You're looking for him, too. You are.

TOWNSEND: And the answer is, because of our resolve and our commitment, we will find these men and we will bring them to justice.

BLITZER: But is there some tangible reason why you're saying you're getting closer and closer to bin Laden, or is that just a hunch?

TOWNSEND: No, it's not a hunch. It's that our capability is better. Our human capability, our intelligence capability, our international partnerships, all of our capabilities have increased, and they give us greater fidelity in that hunt for bin Laden, Zawahiri, and people like Mugniyah.

BLITZER: And you believe he's still somewhere along that border in Pakistan, near Afghanistan, somewhere in that tribal area, as it's called?

TOWNSEND: That's right.

BLITZER: And it's that difficult to go in there and just find this guy?

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, it really is essentially an ungoverned space and always has been. It's never seen the writ of the Pakistani government. And so it's not even an easy place for the Pakistani government, much less the American government.

BLITZER: We spoke earlier with Governor Tom Kean, the co- chairman of the 9/11 Commission, who endorsed John McCain earlier today. We're going to have the full interview coming up in the next hour. But I asked him how the Bush administration was doing in terms of implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. He said you're doing better, but you've still got a long way to go. Listen to what he said.


KEAN: We still need a greater sense of urgency, and we still aren't communicating to where we ought to, some of the intelligence agencies. We still need to do more work with the first responders. We still have to do more in tamping down nuclear weapons around this world. There's a number of things we still ought to do, but I'd give them a much better grade than I would have a couple of years ago.


BLITZER: All right, but you got -- and those were serious complaints that he still has. Why is it taking so long to implement things like communicating?

TOWNSEND: Well, no question the intelligence communities are -- the intelligence agencies are communicating better. They share information. They're much more transparent. The relationship between the FBI and CIA, for example, has never been stronger.

With the first responders, we have strengthened that relationship. Look at the response to the wildfires in California or the tornado in Kansas. We are doing better. And, in fact, we have intelligence fusion centers in states now...

BLITZER: What about clamping down on nuclear weapons, which -- that's a nightmare scenario?

TOWNSEND: No question. But we have initiatives like the Proliferation Security Initiative. We have the Counterproliferation Initiative. We've entered into the Global Security Initiative with Russia. And we have more and more members of that partnership.

And so we attack this from the material side, through the transportation side, all the way to the interdiction. And so we've made tremendous progress. The president and vice president both have said...

BLITZER: But you're not there yet.

TOWNSEND: No, no. And it requires constant work and will continue to require constant work for a long time.

BLITZER: A lot of us are planning on traveling for the holiday seasons, a lot of our viewers out there, and they're worried, understandably so, around this time of the year. How worried, as the president's homeland security adviser, should we be?

TOWNSEND: Well, look, the president has tried to do everything he can do on the congestion and convenience side by making additional airspace available. And we have also done increased -- well, there will be increased screener presence.

I think people should travel. I plan to travel with my family. And I think that people should be comfortable that we're prepared.

BLITZER: But is there any credible threat out there that we should be aware of, in terms of a real terror threat?

TOWNSEND: No, there's no credible threat against the United States for the holidays.

BLITZER: That's good to know. Fran Townsend, good luck in the private sector. I'm sure we'll be seeing you before you head off and leave Washington. Are you heading back to Long Island?

TOWNSEND: Probably New York, at least.

BLITZER: New York, New York. All right, good. Fran Townsend, thanks very much.

TOWNSEND: Good to see you.

BLITZER: There's a saying you can never be too rich or too thin. But some in the fashion world they are now saying being too slender can actually kill. What a top photographer is doing to make sure the models strut the catwalk without dieting dangerously.

And the shifting political battleground in New Hampshire; Rudy Giuliani trying to overtake Mitt Romney. We'll check out the new poll numbers, see who's surging, who's falling back. Lots more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A top photographer is waging war on the fashion industry's fascination with being thin. He says it's a matter of life and death. Here's CNN's Atika Shubert.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everyone knows you've got to be slim to strut the world's fashion runways, but how thin is thin enough? This is Hila Elmalich, an Israeli model with anorexia. This video was taken just a few months ago, so weak she couldn't stand up. The man holding her is Adi Barkan, Israel's top fashion photographer. He found her at home unconscious and brought her to this hospital. She died on Wednesday, weighing less than 66 pounds. This, he says, is why the fashion industry needs to change.

ADI BARKAN, FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER: They take a skinny girl. After that we change the light and we add photo shop. She is very skinny and we're going to cut another 35 percent from the size. Who can be like the girl in the photo? Nobody.

SHUBERT: Barkan has convinced the Israeli branch of the international renowned Elite Modeling Agency to set a standard for model health, starting right from auditions. Elite Model Israel is hoping to set a new fashion trend by requiring each of these young hopeful models to prove they're all at a healthy weight. It's not just about measuring tape any more. Barkan wants agencies to use body mass index and body fat percentage to measure models' health, hoping it would be adopted worldwide.

BARKAN: You could be an amazing girl. If she's not going to pass the test, she's not going to audition.

SHUBERT: A dietician stands by to counsel aspiring models. Plenty of food to eat while they wait. But the head scout for Elite Model Worldwide says only a tiny fraction of these young women will make it, no matter how slim.

MICHAELA GODDARD QUESADA, ELITE MODEL WORLDWIDE: You do have sometimes a beautiful girl that comes to see you whose body just does not want to be slim so you tell her, go to school, become a lawyer, become a doctor, don't struggle this because your body is just happy the way it is.

SHUBERT: We went to great lengths, literally, to interview some of the models. None that we spoke to said they had an eating disorder. That doesn't mean there isn't a problem.

KSENIA STEPANOV, MODEL: Everybody that suffered from pressure like that, they keep it secret. So, you never can know about it. You can see a lot of models that are just fake and you know that and they suffer but still trying to be perfect.

SHUBERT: Perfect look and perfectly healthy? Barkan is hoping his new standards will show models and modeling agencies that can have their cake and eat it, too. Atika Shubert, CNN, Tel Aviv.


BLITZER: Voters say they hate it. So do the politicians. But who's telling the truth? Your e-mails and Jack Cafferty about whether mudslinging makes you tune in or tune out to the White House race.

Also, Mike Huckabee's surge in Iowa. We're going to show you who is behind his rise and if he can make ground outside the Hawkeye state.

Plus, Hillary Clinton borrowing a page from her husband's playbook. And we could be hearing, it's the economy, stupid, once again.

Lots more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Wolf, it's getting ugly out there. BLITZER: Because it's true!

CAFFERTY: Never pass up a chance to plug the book title.

The question this hour is does mudslinging make you more or less interested in the presidential campaign? The campaigns are getting nasty now.

James writes from Wisconsin, "Unfortunately, mudslinging is just one of those things we need to deal with in politics. Ever since television, it has only gotten worse and there's no end in sight. As voters, people made sure they are as informed as possible about the candidates. The best way to beat hateful propaganda is by creating an informed society."

Desiree writes from North Carolina, "Mudslinging makes the presidential hopefuls look like immature children. It's like watching a bunch of high school kids spread rumors about each other. Who wants that in a president? I don't."

Shawn writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico, "It's like driving by a bad car accident on the freeway. Even though it could be a horrific sight, you have to slow down and take a look anyway. That's exactly what happens to the American public. It slows down, keeps us distracted from keeping us from where we need to be."

Cameron writes from Macon, Georgia, "All of these tactics generally make me more interested in the political scene and more interested in who I do not want in office. It seems to me if someone has to resort to these low standards, then they must be out of the genuinely good ideas to help the country."

M. writes, "Mudsliging makes me more interested to pay attention to politics. As sad as that is, it is kind of like professional wrestling for intellectuals. The nastier it all is, the greater the entertainment value."

Carolyn writes from Arkansas, "The ugly turn presidential campaign rhetoric does not encourage me to support any particular candidate. I see this as childish and an attempt to reach out to an electorate they see as uninformed, uneducated and immature. It's an insult to us voters and it should be dealt with as such. I'm an adult. I'll cast my vote for an adult, if there is one." Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Happening now, shock and awe in New Hampshire. Our new presidential poll reveals which republican is on the most perilous slide in the lead off primary state. That's coming up.

Also this hour, the new Clintonnomics as it's being called. The democratic front runner warning voters against electing a president who needs on the job economic training. Who is she talking about?

And a co--chairman of the 9/11 Commission makes his presidential choice. I'll ask republican Ton Kean why he didn't go with the candidate who's perhaps the most obvious 9/11 choice.

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