Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

New Dangers for American Ships in Persian Gulf; British Teacher Sent to Jail Over Teddy Bear

Aired November 29, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, new dangers for American ships in the Persian Gulf. Iran's Revolutionary Guard, labeled a top supporter of terrorism by the U.S. government, is now in charge of Iranian naval operations there.

Would they dare attack the U.S. Navy?

We're watching this story.

She allowed a Teddy bear to be named Mohammed. Now a British teacher has been found guilty of insulting religion and sentenced to jail. We're going to tell you where.

And as the campaign turns nastier, I'll speak with the politician who himself stumbled when his nasty moment was spread all over the Internet. But wait until you hear what the former U.S. senator, George Allen, is now saying about the Internet.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


There is an ominous new threat to American ships in the Persian Gulf. It's posed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard -- linked to terrorism by the U.S. government. These militants may now have all the resources of Iran's navy directly behind them.

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

She's watching this story for us.

How serious is this -- Barbara?


Well, just listen to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


STARR (voice-over): Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most radical wing of its military, is now taking charge of Iran's naval operations in the strategic waters of the Persian Gulf. That news was disclosed by Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to the Army War College.

ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: They've got two navies. One is IRGC led and the other is the Iranian Navy. And, essentially, to give the entire Gulf to the IRGC over the next four or five years -- that's a big deal, because I think part of the leading edge challenge with Iran is the IRGC.

STARR: The U.S. has labeled Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization and levied sanctions for its involvement in Iran's nuclear program, as well as smuggling weapons into Iraq and Afghanistan. Mullen has reason to worry. Near these sensitive Iraqi oil terminals, IRGC troops are occupying a sunken barge, using it as an observation post. One fifth of the world's oil supply passes through the narrow strait and Iran's ability to shut down the passage is improving.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: But you would need anti- ship cruise missiles and maybe some quiet diesel submarines, maybe undersea mines -- the sorts of things that a paramilitary organization like the Revolutionary Guard might well be able to handle.

STARR: U.S. concerns date back to March, when the IRGC seized 15 British Marines and sailors who were conducting routine shipment inspections. Now, when the U.S. Navy or other coalition troops board merchant ships, an armed helicopter flies overhead and a heavily armed patrol boat is nearby.


STARR: Wolf, Senior U.S. military commanders privately are making it crystal clear -- they have plenty of military muscle power to keep the strait open, if it comes to that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Get out of Afghanistan -- that's at the heart of the latest message attributed to Osama bin Laden. It calls on Europeans to abandon the fight in Afghanistan and accuses NATO troops of purposely killing women and children in Afghanistan. The audio tape was aired today by Al Jazeera. In it, the speaker repeats a claim of sole responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. He says the Taliban, which allowed Al Qaeda to operate from inside Afghanistan, had no knowledge of the plot.

President Bush today demanded that Congressional Democrats approve Iraq war funding without strings and without delay. He says the U.S. military has been waiting for the money for months and could soon face harm as a result.

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

He's watching this for us -- so what's behind this very stern warning we heard one hour ago, Ed, from the president? ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's frustration, Wolf. The president ripping into Democrats for dragging their feet on this budget, essentially declaring that American lives now are at risk because the Pentagon is trying to stop what he called "another day of destruction right here in America" -- a terror attack.

Democrats have been push planning, as you know, that would give the president about $50 billion in war funding, but with a catch -- that he would have to agree to bring most U.S. troops home from Iraq by December 2008. Mr. Bush said it's time to give him the money without strings, saying Defense Secretary Robert Gates can only shift money around Pentagon accounts for so long and soon he's going to have to start laying off civilian employees at the Pentagon and freezing contracts.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department. The warning has been laid out for the United States Congress to hear.


HENRY: Now, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid fired back that if the president really wants to get the money to the troops, he should sign a bill giving them funds with a timetable to come home, redeclaring "Bush Republicans have indefinitely committed our military to a civil war that has taken a tremendous toll on our troops" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.

Thank you.

Ed watching this story.

A major foe of the United States may have some problems in his own backyard. Tens of thousands marching through Venezuela's capital today to oppose a referendum that would eliminate term limits for the president, Hugo Chavez, and help him establish a socialist state.

BLITZER: Harris Whitbeck is joining us now live in Caracas -- describe the scene, Harris, for us.

What happened today?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, organizers say that the rally that was organized today beat all of their expectations. Tens of thousands people were out on the streets. They gathered around Avenida Bolivar, which is a traditional rallying point here in the Venezuelan capital.

Opponents to President Chavez's says attempts to change the country's constitution say that it would give him, basically, too much power. It would allow him to re-elect himself indefinitely. It would give him control over the country's central bank and allow him, basically, free reign in running Venezuela's economic policies.

Chavez says that he needs those reforms in order to steer Venezuela toward full socialism. His opponents say he is steering Venezuela toward full totalitarianism.

Now tomorrow, Chavez's supporters will also be out on the streets. These closing rallies by both supporters and the opposition are seen by many as really shows of force between the two camps. Some say that the difference between the yes vote and the no vote is so close that it is really hard to call how that referendum will come down next Sunday.

But everybody agrees that much is at stake here. President Chavez himself has called this referendum the most important one since he came to office back in 1999 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Harris Whitbeck in Caracas for us, watching this important story.

Thank you.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty.

He's in New York with The Cafferty File -- you know, Venezuela is a member of OPEC, a major oil exporting country. It brings in a lot of cash for Hugo Chavez and his friends.

CAFFERTY: Well, apparently he likes the gravy train and doesn't want to leave office. But not everybody in Venezuela thinks it's a good idea to have that -- whatever he is -- in power indefinitely.

Let's hope the people who are protesting prevail, although that's doubtful.

Listen to this -- a record 10.3 immigrants have come into the United States in the last seven years and more than half of those are here illegally. It means more than five million illegal aliens have entered the United States in the last seven years.

We now have the highest level of immigrants living in the country since the 1920s. An analysis of Census data done by a group called the Center for Immigration Studies -- a non-partisan, non-profit organization, they say -- they advocate reduced immigration. Their analysis showed this. There are now nearly 38 million immigrants living in the United States. That means about one in eight people here is an immigrant. About 30 percent of all immigrants and their children are uninsured -- 30 percent compared to 13 percent of people born here.

Thirty-one percent of the immigrants over 25 years old -- both legal and illegal -- have not completed high school. That compares with about 8 percent of U.S. citizens. And about one third of immigrant families gets some sort of public or government assistance, mostly food stamps and Medicaid. Guess who pays for that?

It's quickly becoming evident that immigration will be probably the top issue -- if not the number two issue -- to the Iraq War. But it's right up there in the upcoming election next year. It is huge. Hillary Clinton learned firsthand what a polarizing issue giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens is. And last night we saw Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney squabbling like a couple of kids in a school yard over illegal immigration.

Here's our question this hour -- when it comes to immigration, are there any of the presidential candidates in either party who are saying what you want to hear?

E-mail us at or go to

I was listening last night and Duncan Hunter was talking about how the fence that he supervised the building at between Tijuana and San Diego reduced illegal immigration into that part of the United States by 90 percent. So securing the borders, doing it right, does have some sort of positive effect on all of this, apparently.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by.

Thank you very much.

Jack will have your e-mail coming up.

Young students name a Teddy bear Mohammed, leaving their British school teacher facing jail time and whipping. Now a court in Sudan has actually sentenced her. We're going to tell you what happened.

Also, former Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia -- he's going to join us with his take on the CNN/YouTube presidential debate. He had his own YouTube moment, as many of you recall.

Plus, basketball's Bobby Knight caught on tape in an angry confrontation with a neighbor. We're going to show you what happened this time.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: She allowed a toy Teddy bear to be named Mohammed and now a British teacher has been convicted of insulting religion and actually sentenced to jail. It happened in Sudan.

Carol Costello has been looking into this story for us -- Carol, what are you learning?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, as you said, it could have been a whole lot worse. The British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, could have served six months in prison, 40 lashes and a fine -- all over a Teddy bear named Mohammed. Instead, she will serve 15 days in prison and she'll be deported from Sudan back to her native Britain.

Now, Gibbons was in court today under heavy security. There were three vans full of police officers to protect her. But in the end, there was no trouble.

This case enraged a lot of people. Gibbons taught elementary school kids in Sudan. The 7-year-olds were asked by Miss. Gibbons to name a Teddy bear and they named it Mohammed, after the Prophet. This made religious conservatives very angry, who said it promoted religious hatred.

But the judges decided to lessen Gibbons' charge to insulting Islam, and that's why she was given a lesser sentence.

Her attorney says he will appeal, but others in Sudan say it's best she leave the country because it's just dangerous for her there now. As for her school, administrators and students will miss her. Wolf, they say she was a really great teacher.

BLITZER: So the big losers out of this are those little kids who were studying with her. But 15 days a lot better than six months.

Am I right?

COSTELLO: She gets time served. So, she's served four days already. She'll get 11 days.

BLITZER: It will be a horrible 11 day experience for her, but at least she gets out. Let's hope she gets out. And it could have been, as you say, a whole lot worse.

He's an anti-torture watchdog that documented abuses in his own country and posted them on YouTube for the whole world to see, but now, he's off line.

Our Middle East correspondent, Aneesh Raman, has been looking into this. Parts of Aneesh's report may be disturbing.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of Egypt's most prominent activists tonight says he has been silenced -- not by his government, but by YouTube.


RAMAN (voice-over): It is cramped, cluttered and for 33-year-old Waeb Abbas, the perfect office. His is one of Egypt's best known blogs -- popular, in large part, because of frequent postings about police abuse on his YouTube account.

But that account has now been suspended -- an account he's had since 2004 and used early this year to grab global attention by posting among his many torture videos this. It is a brutal site. On the floor, 21-year-old Imad Kabir (ph). He is being sodomized by police with a stick. Waeb put the video on his blog and overnight Egypt was talking about police brutality.

WAEL ABBAS, EGYPTIAN BLOGGER: This is the first time the Egyptian people saw something like that. I think they saw that people are really in pain and agony and being tortured and being beaten and being sodomized. And it was a shock to the Egyptian people.

RAMAN: And the Egyptian government is slowly responding. To the joy of the abused man, fin early November, two police officers involved in the incident were sentenced to three years in prison. But now YouTube -- owned by Google -- has shut down Waeb's main avenue for challenging what he says is a government's repeated abuse.

ABBAS: With what they are doing now, they are helping tyrants. They are helping torturers. They are helping dictatorships. This -- this is not really helping people who are fighting for democracy in Third World countries. We thought that YouTube was our ally and it helped show the truth in countries like Burma. But with what they did now, it doesn't seem like that anymore.


RAMAN: A YouTube spokesperson tells us that while they don't comment on specific cases, repeated complaints about offensive videos do lead to some accounts being disabled. But for Waeb, the fight is far from over -- Wolf.

BLITZER: U.S. Raman reporting from Cairo.

Thank you.

It's called the fair tax.

But is it really fair and will it save you money?

Details of what some presidential candidates have in mind. That's coming up.

Also, Bobby Knight caught with a gun on tape. We're going to tell you what this argument is all about.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee clearly touched a nerve at last night's YouTube debate when he pledged to abolish the current tax system.

Listen to this.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first thing that I would get rid of would be the Internal Revenue Service. We have... (APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: ...(INAUDIBLE) a $10 billion a year.


HUCKABEE: ...which -- I'm not being facetious. If we enacted the fair tax, one of the most researched ways to revive our economic future, we would get rid of the IRS.


BLITZER: So what exactly is the so-called fair tax that Huckabee is endorsing?

And, more importantly, will it make your taxes easier and save you money?

CNN's Ali Velshi is looking into that -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm with all those people who find the yearly tax ritual frustrating. But it is not clear that the fair tax, endorsed by Mike Huckabee, would save most of us much money. The fair tax is basically a consumption tax. It means you pay tax on what you spend, not what you earn. Consumption taxes reward people who save money and it penalizes people who spend much.

Now, this would be a 23 percent tax on everything you buy. Promoters like Huckabee talk about how you get 100 percent of your salary paid to you.

Now, that is a myth. What's true is that all federal taxes would go away -- income tax, the alternative minimum tax, gift taxes, estate taxes, capital gains taxes -- even Medicare and Social Security premiums would disappear. But you'd still have to pay all of your state and local taxes and property taxes. And, by the way, everything will be taxed -- including things like rent and health care.

Anyone who can disguise themselves as a business will pay no federal taxes. Which means, for instance, a $40,000 car for an individual is a $28,000 car for a business. And that could give birth to all sorts of schemes to avoid paying taxes. Which leads me, Wolf to myth number two about the fair tax, that the IRS is going away. While the name IRS could disappear, the federal government is still going to have a tax collection and enforcement department, which is pretty much what most people think the IRS is anyway.

Wolf, the appeal of a simpler tax system is clear. What's less clear is who wins and who loses with this specific fair tax -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good material, Ali, for a debate in this campaign.

Thank you.

The IRS, as Ali just mentioned -- at least the name could go away. But it's one of the government's most disliked agencies, according to a lot of polls. It's also one of the oldest. Its roots go back to the Civil War, when President Lincoln enacted an income tax to help fund the military. Back in 1913, the 16th Amendment to the constitution was ratified, authorizing Congress to levy an income tax and the first 1040 form appeared that year. Get this -- it was only four pages long.

Last year, more than 136 million tax returns were filed, with more than 1.3 million of them audited.

As the campaign gets nastier, Fred Thompson comes out with a negative video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But would you say it's negative? Because it's their own words.


BLITZER: Thompson, co-chairman and former Senator George Allen sticking up for his man. I'll ask him about his own nasty campaign moment. That's coming up.

Also, legendary basketball coach and legendary hot head Bobby Knight involved in another nasty moment also caught on tape.

And could working the grave shift -- the graveyard shift, that is, increase the odds that you'll go to an early grave?

A new report says working the overnight shift may be very bad for your health. We're going to you why.

Much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, reports of injuries and damage coming in from the Caribbean island of Martinique -- scene of magnitude 7.4 earthquake. It was so strong, it threw off quake computers in this country, which mistakenly read the energy as a series of earthquakes in Northern California. We're watching this story for you.

Also, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, bluntly laying out the stakes of the new Middle East peace talks. He's warning of what he calls "a South African style struggle" -- referring to the apartheid era. And Olmert goes on to say that failure to negotiate a two state solution would mean -- and I'm quoting now -- the end -- "the state of Israel is finished." That's a direct quote from Ehud Olmert. That's what he says the stakes are in these negotiations.

And the embattled Pakistani prime minister, Pervez Musharraf, is sworn in for a new five-year term -- this time as a civilian. He stepped down as army chief yesterday. And hours after his oath, he promised to lift the state of emergency by December 16th. I'm Wolf Blitzer.


He's been in the White House for almost seven years, but you'd never know it if you listen to the Republican presidential candidates who want to take over his job. President Bush all but unmentionable at last night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate.

Carol Costello is standing by. She is joining us.

Why was the president of the United States, himself a Republican, his name hardly mentioned by these candidates last night?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's kind of strange, isn't it?

It sure seems like Bush has become a four letter word you don't want to mention if you're a Republican running for office. They've taken to talking about him in code -- not daring to say Bush, but not shy about promoting his agenda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Once upon a time, when President Bush's approval ratings hovered around 70 percent, Republican candidates clamored for Bush to be by their side. But with Bush's plunge in popularity, Republicans running for president have tried to make the leader of their party invisible.

Take Wednesday's YouTube debate.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There is actually a Republican president of the United States. And he was almost never mentioned.

COSTELLO: The Bush moniker uttered just four times in two hours. But make no mistake, try as they might the biggest presence on that debate stage weren't the eight Republican hopefuls, but Bush.

Kathleen Jamieson co-wrote "unSpun."

KATHLEEN JAMIESON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: The Republican candidate for president is running on an issue agenda largely framed by the Bush presidency.

COSTELLO: And even though they won't readily admit it, most of these candidates agree with the Bush agenda.

For example, President Bush cut taxes. Congressman Duncan Hunter voted for him.

But who does he credit? REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I came in with Ronald Reagan in 1980 to cut taxes and I probably voted for more tax cuts than anybody here.

COSTELLO: And that strategy played out all night long. Mitt Romney never mentions President Bush's name, but his policy on torture and waterboarding sure sounds Bushesque.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States does not torture.

ROMNEY: I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use.

BUSH: I cannot describe the specific methods used.

COSTELLO: Senator John McCain is walking the tightrope, too -- criticizing not President Bush for a poor strategy in Iraq, but former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, my friends, I'm the only one on this stage -- I'm the only one on this stage that said the Rumsfeld strategy was failing and was doomed to failure.

COSTELLO: So why not take on an unpopular president head on?

JAMIESON: It would just simply be foolish.

COSTELLO: Because most Republican who vote in the primaries support many of the president's policies.

JAMIESON: It also would be perceived to be unloyal to do that and most importantly in tactical terms, to hand the democrats a talking point that could be used against the republicans in the general election.

COSTELLO: But you can switch that around. Some say there is a danger of not overtly criticizing Bush. According to the publisher of Daily Cause, a progressive website, if democrats remind voters the republican platform and Bush's policies are one in the same, victory will be assured in the general election.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very interesting, Carol. Thanks very much. Carol Costello reporting for us.

There were some nasty moments in last night's republican presidential debate. It was seen here on CNN, including a surprisingly negative video from Fred Thompson. Some critics say has been coming up short.


BLITZER: Joining us now the former senator from Virginia, the former governor as well, George Allen. He now supports former Senator Fred Thompson. Thanks very much for coming in, Senator.

GEORGE ALLEN, THOMPSON CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRMAN: Good to be with you, Wolf. I'm proud to be co-chairman for Fred Thompson.

BLITZER: We are going to talk about Fred Thompson's campaign. Some suggested that there were huge expectations for him at the start. He's not lived up to those expectations. After last night's debate, Mark Halperin wrote this on, "failed in his efforts to challenge mojo charged Huckabee. Better than he's been but not better than the others and thus not good enough."

ALLEN: Well, I think on the issues that republicans care about while some were spatting back and forth, Romney and Giuliani and so forth, what you saw was issues that people care about in the republican primaries such as stopping illegal immigration, cutting taxes for all Americans, protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect their families, strong national defense, securing our borders. Fred Thompson stood far above all of them.

Frank Luntz is a fellow who did an analysis after the debate or during the debate. He said to me, he said Fred Thompson just did great on the illegal immigration issue which is one that's a very big issue for primary voters whether in South Carolina or in Iowa.

BLITZER: The immigration issue was big, very big at that debate last night. Everybody had a chance, all the republican candidates to post their own little You Tube video. Fred Thompson did. He posted one but was really negative against several of the other candidates, including Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.

ALLEN: Why do you say it is negative? It is their own words.

BLITZER: That's considered a negative quote attack ad. And on that same level, it got some less than positive responses. What was the theory behind that?

ALLEN: Well, the point is, Fred is a consistent conservative. He is proud of this record. He has been on the side of tax payers and the side of working people, the side of making sure that we do not reward illegal behavior.

BLITZER: A lot of the other candidates did in their You Tube videos. He decided instead of promoting himself to go after two of the other front-runners.

ALLEN: The point is Fred is proud of his record. Now others may have to bob and weave and dodge and try to distort their past records or run away from their records or have more than one position on any particular issue. Fred Thompson is a man you can trust. When he says this is what my position is now, it's backed up by ...

BLITZER: By implications Senator, is he suggesting that Mike Huckabee is not a man you can trust, Mitt Romney is not a man you can trust?

ALLEN: Well, I think what you look at is on some of these issues, they have to explain their issues or they ran away from it or they or tried to hide from their record. Mitt Romney had to explain, all right, why did he made the statements about how adamantly pro- choice he was, or his position on illegal immigration. Governor Huckabee, who is a friend of mine, has had a stand that they ought to give in state tuition discounts to illegal immigrants. And that's something that's something contrary to what Fred Thompson believes is you should not reward illegal behavior with benefits or amnesty.

BLITZER: The children of illegal immigrants and have grown up in the states and should not be punished because their parents committed a crime.

ALLEN: Well, the point of the matter is what if somebody moved into from another state, why should a citizen, a child, you can say the child's illegal immigrant or not but why should that child get the in-state tuition break or discount or scholarship when a student from another state of the United States that's legal does not get the same benefit?

BLITZER: I think it is fair to say nobody appreciates and understands the intersection in recent of the Internet and politics better than you, given what happened to you at the -- when you were running the last time around, that so-called "Macaca Moment." Give us a little sense. We saw the You Tube debate last night. How much has this changed politics, the fact that people can get these videos, post them online and people see what's happening?

ALLEN: I think it is great. Because I think the internet and ultimately the internet, I look at the internet as the greatest invention since the Guttenberg Press for the dissemination of information and ideas. When Martin Luther nailed those 95 theses at the church in Wittenberg, if there wasn't a printing press, no one would have ...

BLITZER: So even though that incident hurt your political campaign, you were defeated as a result of that, at least in part, you still think that it is ...

ALLEN: Well, that was a mistake on my part.

BLITZER: You still think it is great ...

ALLEN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: The way that politics has evolved now and people are posting all these videos online.

ALLEN: Well, it is like any other median. The fact that there was a printing press, the fact that the television came around and cable and satellite and all the rest; that's all great. The more the people are informed and have access to information and ideas, the better because after all, in our country, in our representative democracy, the owners of the government are the people.

There was a fellow from TV Marti interviewing me last night after the debate and I said wouldn't it be great if you had this in Cuba. In our country you had folks from Alabama and California and Texas asking questions of people, gentlemen that wanted to serve in the highest office in the land. That's great.

BLITZER: I couldn't help but think you were in St. Petersburg last night as a supporter of Fred Thompson. A year earlier a lot of people would have thought, you know, Senator George Allen probably is going to be a presidential candidate. Did it run through your mind as you were watching these republican candidates, you know, I should have been up there as well?

ALLEN: No. What I was trying to do is I was -- we had in our own situation room, with the Thompson campaign blogging and making play by play comments and Fred Thompson is a person I have known since the days I was in the senate. He and I share the same philosophy of trusting free people and free enterprise. And he's one who I'm very comfortable in and enthusiastic and in endorsing because I think he is type of strong leader who has guided by principle foundations.

BLITZER: Is there a political comeback for George Allen?

ALLEN: I have not decided. My political efforts are helping Fred Thompson. I'm also presidential scholar for the Reagan ranch which is perfect in that I give speeches at colleges. I was in college at UVA when I became involved in organized politics for Ronald Reagan in 1976 and so we need to inspire and motivate a new generation of leaders. I want to help out whichever way I can. But Susan and I have not decided whether we will run again or not. But we get a lot of nice encouragement. But most importantly, we want to make sure Fred Thompson is our next president.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Allen, does not sound like a no to me. We will see what happens down the road. Thanks for coming in.

ALLEN: My pleasure, Wolf.


BLITZER: A new study suggests that most Americans don't think much of the news media's coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. The Harvard University survey interviewed street 1200 adults back in September. It found that 64 percent of those polled do not trust coverage of the campaign. 88 percent think coverage focuses in on trivial issues. 61 percent consider election coverage to be politically biased; 40 percent liberal, 21 percent conservative and 84 percent believe coverage has too much influence on U.S. voting choices.

Caught on tape. Classic Bobby Knight. This time the basketball legend in an angry confrontation with a neighbor. Find out why this time he's also got a gun. Plus, new evidence that the so-called graveyard shift, all night working all night, can actually kill you.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: If you use a computer, this is information you need to know right now. Millions of computers attack by hackers using so- called botnets to turn your PC into a crime base without you knowing anything about it.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent Kelli Arena. She is here with the details. How prevalent is this? What is the FBI saying?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it is very prevalent. This latest operation the FBI conducted turned up more than 2 million computers that were infected by botnets and resulted in about $20 million in losses. Private groups estimate that up to a quarter of all personal computers connected to the internet have been infected. The FBI's working with authorities not only here in the United States but around the globe to track down these bot herders, as they are called. Because this is a global problem.

BLITZER: What exactly is a botnet?

ARENA: In simple language, it is a virus. It's a virus that if you click on an attachment or if you download some software to watch a movie, for example, then you can -- your computer can become infected. Once the virus is in it, it will communicate back to a central location like a chat room. Your computer basically is turned into a zombie and that will do whatever the bot controller tells it to do, Wolf.

BLITZER: What can they tell it to do?

ARENA: Well, depends on the botnet. They all have very different functions. For example, one of the things they do is introduce spy where to monitor your key strokes and steal your passwords, your credit card numbers, other financial or personal information. A bot master can have thousands of computers all log on to a website at once causing the site to crash. That's called a denial of service attack. Or they can go to a site that gets money for each person that clicks on it. Another thing a botmaster can do is direct all of those computers to send spam all at once to millions of computers all at once.

BLITZER: You are scaring me already. What do I do about this? How do we stop this?

ARENA: We spoke to several experts. They say number one, don't click on attachments that you are unfamiliar with. Don't do that. Also, keep your anti-virus software up to date and run it. You can also install firewall software on your computer to help defect information that's coming in or out of your computer. Never download software you cannot be absolutely sure is virus-free. Get it from the store. Make sure it is sealed. And use that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Really useful information. Kelli, thanks very much. Scaring me but very useful information.

Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, I want to ask our audience this question. What would it be like to live next door to basketball coach Bobby Knight? Let's say you had a problem with him. Let's say he was hunting too close to your property and he would not stop even after a bird shot from his gun landed on your roof. Let's say Bobby Knight, famous for his temper, was holding a gun. Well Knights neighbor in Texas wanted you to know what that's like. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked you to move down. I'm going to call the police.

BOBBY KNIGHT: You swore and cussed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's exactly what I said. I'm asking you now to move down so the pellets don't land on my house again.

KNIGHT: You ask me politely and I will be glad to do it. You ask us politely. You can film whatever up want to film. I don't care.


COSTELLO: That was Bobby Knight, the man famous for throwing chairs across the basketball court and cursing more than once but there you have it. He wants people to be polite to him now.

More trouble for Rodney King. Police in Rialto, California say he was shot several times last night. He was grazed by gunshots, receiving superficial wounds. Police say after he was shot he rode his bicycle from San Bernardino to his home in Rialto before calling authorities. There's no word on possible suspects. King's 1991 beating by police officers sparked widespread riots in Los Angeles and other cities.

There's evidence that working the graveyard shift could send you to an early grave. Next month, the Cancer Arm of the World Health Organization will add overnight shift work to the list of probable carcinogens. That's the word from the Associated Press. The concept is based on research that finds higher rates of breast and prostate cancer among people whose workday starts after dark. Scientists suspect that overnight work is dangerous because it disrupts the circadian rhythm and that would be the body's biological clock. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's going to scare a lot of people working overnight shifts.

COSTELLO: I'm just glad I'm off it now.

BLITZER: You worked overnight for a while, as I remember. All right, Carol. Thanks very much.

An armed stand-off at a luxury hotel. Police moving into battle a coup attempt at the heart of a major capital. We will show you what happened.

And he's has been making a come-from-behind charge. How far will it carry him? My interview with republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, that's coming up.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A nation gripped by live TV images of a tense stand-off at a luxury hotel. Holed up inside, rebel military leaders accused of trying to overthrow the government. CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's got the dramatic individual video, the whole story. What happened, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it happened in the Philippines and this is very dramatic stuff. A high-stakes jail break and coup attempt right in downtown Manila and it culminated with the president calling in the S.W.A.T. team.


FOREMAN: An armored personnel carrier slams into the front of one of the fanciest hotels in Manila. Holed up inside, military officers and their supporters who had marched out of a courtroom where they were on trial for a 2003 mutiny attempt. Eyewitness Peter Parcel runs into one of the renegades in the hotel kitchen.

PETER PARCEL, EYEWITNESS: I realized I said you were one of the coup. He said yes, go, go, go. And so I left because he had an M-16 in his hand. I wasn't going to argue with that.

FOREMAN: The fugitives call in the media, accuse the government of corruption and demand the overthrow of the president. But instead of masses of their supporters swarming in, assault teams come knocking. First, gunfire.

PARCEL: Gunfire, started shooting through the windows.

FOREMAN: Then a battering ram. Then soldiers rush in. Tear gas fills the lobby still crowded with hotel guests and journalists and finally the rebels surrender.

ANTONIO TRILLANES, PHILIPPINE SENATOR ON TRIAL: We will not be without conscious if some of you will get hurt or get killed in the crossfire.

FOREMAN: As the mutineers are taken into custody, the president dismisses their complaints about her government and says that the men will now face additional charges.

SADANANO DHUME, ASIA SOCIETY: It is like a soap opera. In the Philippines every few years, some irate brigadier general or colonel decides he will save the country and depose the government. And there's a great level of cultural tolerance for it, which is the surprising thing. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: No deaths reported but the president announced a curfew overnight and stay tuned. During the siege one of the rebels told hotel guest Peter Parcel, if we don't succeed with this attempt we will succeed with the next one. I guess you get a refund on the room and see what happens.

BLITZER: That's an unusual thing. You stay at the Peninsula Hotel in Manila and that's what happens. Not exactly a welcomed development.

FOREMAN: A different kind of room service.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Tom, for that.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. Ever been to Manila, Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, sir, I have not. How about you? I'm sure you have been.

BLITZER: I went there when I was the White House correspondent. Bill Clinton went there. So I covered his trip there.

CAFFERTY: Remember when the squirrel Ferdinand and his squirrelier wife ran that place? All the shoes?

All right. The question this hour, Wolf, when it comes to immigration are any of the presidential candidates saying what you want to hear? Not many people are given the candidates much credit on this.

Dominick writes from Maryland, "Even though I'm a registered democrat, the candidate who makes the most sense to me regarding immigration is Duncan Hunter. Enforcement of immigration law is not racist, it is sensible and respectful."

Barbara in Studio City, California, "No! This is what I want to hear: We're going to find and jail employers who hire illegal immigrations, no ifs ands or buts. Illegal immigration will stop instantly."

David in San Antonio, "None of the candidates are saying what I want to hear. It's very distressing. None of them are capable of doing what is right for the taxpayers of this country. All of them are indebted to corporations, seeking the illegal immigrant votes, or both."

Jay in Tampa writes, "I'm sick and tired of standing in line at super Wal-Mart with illegal parents buying 8 gallons of milk for their 7 children with my tax dollars while I struggle to pay the bills. I am checking out with one gallon of milk and paying with a credit card. What's wrong with this picture and is anyone in our government ever going to do anything about it?"

Ali in Minot, North Dakota, "Yes Jack, one candidate did say what I wanted to hear. Joe Biden said he would get with the President of Mexico to hammer out a workable solution. He also said Mexico is a wealthy country in its own right, and that he would put pressure on that government to take care of its own people. I haven't heard that from any of the top three candidates. I think Biden has been overshadowed by the media. Give him more air time." I just did.

And Tom in New York writes, "Most politicians say what I want to hear on the campaign trail. Problem is, once they're elected they all seem to head down a different trail." Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We have the roundtable coming up in the next hour as well.

The father of a murdered football star speaking out. Sean Taylor's dad talks exclusively to CNN about his son's shocking death. We will go live to Miami.

Also, Rudy Giuliani called on to explain some questionable expenses from his time as mayor and we are going to show you how he handled it.

Plus, republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He's quickly gaining ground in the polls. Is he ready for the top tier? Is he already in the top tier? I will ask him. He will join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here is a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Kosovo, a U.S. soldier serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission holds the American flag.

In Romania, a child isn't too happy about getting a vaccine. Officials say there was an outbreak H5N1 avian flu virus at a nearby farm.

In Venezuela, supporters of President Hugo Chavez set up an inflatable figure of him. Thousands protested and constitutional reforms he supports that the country votes on the whole issue on Sunday.

And in Montana, a miniature dachshund stays just above the snow.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the good, the bad and the ugly. We are seeing all of that in the republican presidential race with a major contest only five weeks away. Did the clashes in our CNN You Tube debate reset this race? One of the candidates, Mike Huckabee, earned a lot of attention in our debate, especially with his bold idea for your taxes. Just get rid of the IRS, he says. Mike Huckabee is here. And Rudy Giuliani facing some tough questions from some trips to the Hamptons as mayor. Did he bill New York City offices for security and travel costs? You're going to find out what the records show.

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