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Passenger Planes Avoid Close Call; Hayden Faces Capitol Hill Outrage Over Destroyed Tapes

Aired December 12, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, U.S. passenger planes just seconds from disaster. We have new details and chilling audio tape from the latest near collision. You're going to want to hear what happened.

Also, the head of the CIA faces new outrage up on Capitol Hill over those terror interrogation tapes that showed waterboarding. And there are new questions about their destruction.

Was it illegal?

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is pulling in millions in contributions, but he's still mired in the polls.

How will he use all that cash to try to turn his campaign around? I'll ask him.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Thousands of planes are crisscrossing the country at any given moment. Take a look at this. Look at this. This is real time, what's going on, this display of planes in the air right now over the United States. U.S. air space is more crowded than ever and the number of near disasters is on the rise. This is part of the reason air traffic controllers are sounding the alarm.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now live from Reagan National Airport here in Washington -- Brian, what are you hearing about the latest near collision?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first let me tell -- show you this sequence right behind me that illustrate this. Take a look here. This is the sequence of planes coming in to land here at Reagan National Airport. Experts say this represents the most dangerous part of your flight -- the periods of landing and takeoff.

Well, there are recent indications of just how dangerous those sequences have become.


TODD (voice-over): Sunday at New York's Kennedy Airport -- a 747 cargo plane and an American Eagle commuter jet both approaching -- set to land on perpendicular runways. The 747 has to abort. It's a close call when air traffic controllers have to warn the American Eagle plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eagle 73, heavy 747 off to the right on a missed approach 13 left. Eva 632 climb and maintain 2,000 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Climb 2,000 feet. Eva 632.

TODD: The Eagle pilot makes a quick bank to get out of the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eagle 73, you're clear to land. You're clear to land. Just caution wake turbulence.

TODD: The planes came as close as half mile from each other. We asked the head of the air traffic controller's union how long would it have taken for them to collide from that distance.


TODD: An FAA official tells us this was not a near miss -- called a runway incursion -- and was not a dangerous situation -- drawing this reaction from the air traffic controllers.

FORREY: For anyone to say that that's not an unsafe situation needs to have their head examined.

TODD: December 2nd -- Baltimore/Washington Airport. The FAA says it was an incursion when a departing plane flew about 300 feet right over a landing jet on runways that crossed. That was controller error. Controllers say they're overworked, under staffed, stressed out. They want an urgent meeting with the FAA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.

TODD: Serious runway incursions went down this year, but the government says the overall number went up, averaging more than one a day. Controllers and the National Transportation Safety Board warn of a catastrophe if the FAA doesn't act faster. The NTSB says the FAA has to install runway warning lights at all airports, telling pilots the landing strips occupied and audio and radar systems that warn crews directly, bypassing controllers.

MARK V. ROSENKER, NTSB CHAIRMAN: There are systems out there. They've been testing for a number of years. And we believe it's time for a decision and time for deployment.


TODD: Now, the FAA was unable to go on camera with us, but an agency official said in response to that criticism from the NTSB, they are moving as fast as they can with the new technology and they simply cannot deploy it widely before they are sure that it works right.

Now, in response to the controllers' criticism here, the FAA says it has hired 1,800 new controllers over the past year and is going to hire more than 10,000 over the next decade -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian.

Thanks very much.

Brian Todd over at Reagan National.

It's day two on Capitol Hill for the CIA director, General Michael Hayden. He was drilled today by the House Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers are angry the CIA destroyed videotapes of harsh terror interrogations, including waterboarding, without telling them. Hayden wasn't in charge at the CIA at the time and lawmakers say they'll also be calling his predecessors, George Tenet and Porter Goss, to testify. Today's hearing was once again behind closed doors, but Hayden offered some details of his testimony afterward.


GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR: One particular theme that we discussed was how we, as an agency, keep the Committee fully and currently informed about all of the sensitive activities that we have underway. And I think it's fair to say that particularly at the time of the destruction, we could have done an awful lot better in keeping the committee alerted and informed as to that activity.


BLITZER: So here's the question right now -- did the CIA break any laws by destroying those videotapes?

Let's turn to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena

She's watching this story for us -- there are serious implications -- legal implications, other implications, Kelli, about what has happened.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've already seen a rush by lawyers to get courts to preserve evidence regarding detainees that are being held at Guantanamo Bay. Now, as for cases that have already gone to trial, legal experts say that it's difficult to dissect, but definitely worth looking into.


ARENA (voice-over): There was a lot of talk behind closed doors, but still much the public and Congress do not know about the destruction of those videotapes.

REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We've got to take a look at exactly what they were doing from a legal framework and whether any laws were broken.

ARENA: Legal experts say one of the first things to look at is the trial of al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui and the possibility the government made false statements to the judge.

Ed MacMahon represented Moussaoui at the time.

EDWARD MACMAHON, FORMER MOUSSAOUI ATTORNEY: The judge asked them to say under oath were the interrogations recorded in any format. And the answer was no.

ARENA: While the information remains classified, Moussaoui's lawyers have asked for access to Al Qaeda detainees. Sources close to the case say that included Abu Zubaydah, whose interrogation was recorded on the tapes that were destroyed.

Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison. His current lawyers have asked to have the case sent back to district court for further investigation.

Mark Biros is a former federal prosecutor.

MARK BIROS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The government is under an obligation to maintain and preserve all evidence relevant to a particular proceeding when the proceeding is going on. And the destruction of that evidence constitutes a serious breach of its obligation.

ARENA: Jose Padilla, who was recently convicted of being part of a terrorist support cell, also asked for access to Zubaydah, but was denied. He'll be sentenced next month.

BIROS: How, if at all, did the destruction of that tape affect his particular case -- that's the critical issue.

ARENA: CIA Director Michael Hayden told the CIA workforce that before the tapes were destroyed, it was determined that they were not relevant to any judicial inquiries.


ARENA: But even if no laws were broken, legal experts say that the CIA's credibility is shot and that will complicate future cases before very skeptical judges -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, thanks very much.

This story, I suspect, only just beginning.

Let's go back to Jack.

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

CAFFERTY: In the beginning, it was a juggernaut. The caucuses and primaries -- well, those were seen as little more than an inconvenience on the road to Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman president of the United States.

But something bad is happening on the yellow brick road. At one time, Clinton had a six point lead over Barack Obama in Iowa. Today, Obama is ahead by three points. In New Hampshire, Clinton had a 19 point lead earlier this fall. As of today, that's all gone. In fact, Barack Obama is statistically tied with her, according to a new CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.

It's hard it tell exactly when things began to unravel. But it seemed from the very beginning that Hillary was more focused on being elected president than on doing the things necessary to secure her party's nomination. And when somebody asked a mundane question about driver's licenses for illegal aliens, reality slammed into her like an oncoming truck. In fact, she got run over that night.

And if the poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire aren't enough to keep her and Bubba awake at night, consider this. In virtually every hypothetical match-up against the leading Republican candidates, it's not Hillary finishing first among the Democrats -- it's John Edwards.

So here's the question -- if you were running Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, what would you advise?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to or you can post a comment on my blog if you so desire -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Love the blog, Jack.

Thanks very much.

Jack will be with us shortly again.

The Republican candidates go head-to-head in the final debate before the Iowa caucus.


FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want to give me a minute to answer that?


THOMPSON: Well, then I'm not going to answer it.


BLITZER: The rules were strict. The candidates still got in a few jabs -- mostly at the moderator. That story plus my one-on-one interview with Ron Paul. That's coming up next.

Also, three serious bombings in Iraq today leaving dozens of people dead, dozens more injured. We have a CNN team on the ground with the latest.

And later, an American teenager killed. Police say her father did it because she rebelled against her religious upbringing.

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


BLITZER: Questions on the major issues, ranging from global warming to taxes. All were fielded by the nine candidates appearing in today's Republican presidential debate.

Our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is out in Johnstown.

She covered this debate for us. I guess the question a lot of people want to know, who were the winners, who were the losers?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to say that there are any winners or losers in this debate, Wolf. You know, this was the last time Republican candidates will share the stage here in Iowa before the votes in just three weeks. And they -- really, it was hard to find major differences -- if you're a Republican voter trying to make this decision -- between the candidates on the issues that they care about. On those bread and butter issues for Republicans, they pretty much agree to shrink federal spending, to shrink the government and on issues like health care -- that that should be part of the private sector, not part of the federal government.

And on the issue of taxes, there, again, for the most part, obviously, they agree that taxes should be lowered.

Mitt Romney said something quite interesting, Wolf. And he said that he is somebody who doesn't really necessarily care is wealthy people -- or care about what wealthy people are taxed as. He tried to focus on the middle class, instead -- essentially, trying to hone in on that populist message that Mike Huckabee is doing so well with here in Iowa.

But that elicited perhaps the only really feisty exchange, between Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.

Take a listen.


FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My goal is to get in the Mitt Romney situation, where I don't have to worry about taxes anymore.


THOMPSON: But 5 percent...


THOMPSON: You know, 5 percent -- well, you know, you're getting to be a pretty good actor.

ROMNEY: Excellent (ph).


BASH: Now, they did talk about other major issues like global warming and education. Education was, perhaps, Wolf, the other issue where you did see a little bit of tension between the two frontrunners here in Iowa. Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney talking about the fact that each of them said that they had the best record on education when they were governor of their respective states -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It seemed, Dana, to a lot of us that these candidates were anxious to go at it, to criticize each other, but the format, in effect, didn't allow it.

Was that what this was all about?

BASH: Absolutely. From the very beginning, the moderator made clear that she was going to take off the table the two biggest issues that Iowa voters say they care about -- Iraq and immigration. And you can see the frustration among the Republican candidates that they didn't get to talk about these issues, particularly go after each other, if you will, on these issues, because these are the things that really define the candidates. In fact, Tom Tancredo tried to go after the frontrunner here in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, and he was stopped by the moderator.

Take a listen.


REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're leading the pack now and congratulations to you, governor. But I have to ask you -- no, no, no. I'm pointing right over there.


TANCREDO: Right over there.



TANCREDO: No, just a minute. I just...


TANCREDO: You know, laughter does not...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got to keep...

TANCREDO: Laughter does not count. I have to ask him a question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to keep moving.

TANCREDO: And the question is, how are you going to convince America that you have, in fact, changed your mind...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Paul...

TANCREDO: ...on the issues of immigration from when you were a governor?


BASH: Now, at one point, Wolf, there was almost an all out revolt here when the moderator said that everybody should raise their hand on what they think about global warming. Fred Thompson absolutely refused and everybody pretty much followed. There was certainly some frustration, to say the least, with this format. But we knew that there was some frustration going into this and it certainly was borne out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, COMM.

Dana Bash is on the scene for us out in Iowa.

He's considered a lower tier candidate, but is he?

Fresh off today's debate, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas says he's still confident he can pull it out in Iowa next month.


BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

BLITZER: Were you -- first of all, were you happy with what happened over these nearly 90 minutes of the debate?

PAUL: Well, I was satisfied. I wasn't super happy or disappointed. It was pretty routine. It was a little more subdued. But I had a fair amount of time and I got to make some points. And I was pleased that I got to bring up the subject of monetary policy, which, to me, is very important. It's being totally ignored and we're in the midst of a dollar crisis.

So I was very pleased that I was able to do that.

BLITZER: We were monitoring the debate, all hour-and-a-half or so, with a focus group of 21 undecided Republicans. And they had a little meter to show us if they liked what they were hearing, if they didn't like what they were hearing.

I'm going to put up on the screen and play this excerpt of what you want when you were talking about what you would do in your first year as commander-in-chief.

And watch -- watch this. If you can't see it, I'll explain to you what happened.


PAUL: The commander-in-chief could end the war. We could bring our troops home. That would be a major event. It would be very valuable. We could be diplomatically -- we could become diplomatically credible once again around the world. Right now, today, we're not. Even our allies resent what we do. We would -- we would have no more preemptive war. We would threaten nobody. We would not threaten Iran.


BLITZER: All right. On that, these 21 Republicans, you should know, Congressman, if you weren't watching the line go down, they didn't like what they were hearing right then. I suspect some Democrats might have liked very much what you were saying. But this is a consistent problem you've had had in this Republican contest.

PAUL: Well, you know, the whole thing is if this would have been Clinton's war, they would have gone in the other direction, because we ran against Clinton's interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia. So I would say that they're loyal to the party and loyal to the president.

I'm loyal to the constitution and nonintervention and to the founders. And it's just a bad policy and they have to realize that we lost last year's election over this war.

We don't need to be starting wars. And I would say the country is on my side. Seventy percent of the American people -- and a lot of Republicans -- agree with me on this. And that really -- your statement reflects the views of 21 people, but it really doesn't discourage me because I'm very, very confident of the correctness of my position.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, also, at another point when you were talking about lifting the embargo against Fidel Castro's Cuba, the line also went down.

Are you surprised by that?

PAUL: Not entirely. But, again, that's a narrow analysis. But all of those in there probably would be arguing for free trade. And their free trade is supporting NAFTA and CAFTA and the World Trade Organization and putting on sanctions. That's not free trade. We're out here in farm country and there's a lot of farming in this country. And what we need is free trade. We need to be selling farm products to Cuba. I mean we're way behind the curve. We do much better when we trade and talk with people. We achieve a lot more in peace than we do at war.

Sanctions are a form of war. And it's very threatening. And we do not achieve that -- it goes against the grain. It goes against what the founders strongly advised -- stay out of the entangling alliances, free trade, talk with people and travel.

BLITZER: The latest Mason-Dixon poll has you in Iowa at only 2 percent. In our national poll, the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, you're at 6 percent. Yet you're raising incredible sums of money, Congressman Paul. You told me the last time you think you might raise in this last quarter of the year -- these last three months -- maybe as much as $14 million, which is an enormous sum.

How do you explain that?

What's going on here?

PAUL: The message is being well received. The people in this country are disgusted. We have Republicans, Democrats, Independents, people who have been turned off and new people coming in. We almost have $12 million for this quarter, which was our goal. We have December 16th coming up, a special day. Those organizers claim it's going to be bigger than November 5th. We could have $5 million on that very day.

So we're going to be way ahead of the plan. This tells us...

BLITZER: What are you going to do all that money?

PAUL: Well, we're buying television and we're doing the campaign. We're probably under the radar screen. But believe me, we're going to get our vote out and we just may well surprise a lot of people, because we're not sitting on our hands. We're doing the things necessary to translate Internet support and the money we have into getting real votes.

BLITZER: And very quickly, if you don't get the nomination, what is the chance that you will run as an Independent, third party candidate?

PAUL: Pretty slim. I have no intention, no plans. The system is biased against third parties and Independent runs. It isn't a very democratic process. If you run as an Independent, you can't get into the debates. It's hard to get on ballots. So I'd like to see the promotion of democracy here in this country. We deserve a little bit of an improvement here.

BLITZER: Ron Paul, I hear you.

Thanks very much, Congressman, for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: A teenager killed -- was it because she refused to honor her family's faith?

Now her brother and father are charged. We're going to have details of a truly shocking case.

Plus, a fact check on this afternoon's Republican presidential debate. We're keeping them honest.

Stay with us.



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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Ike Turner has died. The musician died today at his home in suburban San Diego. There's no immediate word on the cause of death. Turner's role as a rock pioneer was overshadowed by his image as a man who abused his former wife and musical partner, Tina Turner. Ike Turner was 76 years old.

Authorities are investigating a woman's claim that some off duty New Jersey state troopers sexually assaulted her. She says a group of men attacked her early Friday a home in Ewing Township. At this point, no charges have been filed, but seven troopers have been suspended without -- with pay, rather.

Olga has now weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression, but it's causing devastation in the Dominican Republic. Olga has killed at least seven people there and one person in Puerto Rico and is forcing thousands to leave their homes. The heavy rain is expected to produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. At least seven towns in the Dominican Republic are completely flooded.

And a major landslide in Oregon still causing big problems. A highway blocked by yesterday's landslide has been cleared of a soupy mixture of gravel, mud and trees. But the highway, U.S. Route 30, remains closed because water is still rushing across the pavement. No one was injured by this mudslide, but it destroy destroyed two homes, struck others and covered an area about three football fields long.

It is a mess -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A true mess.

Carol, thanks very much.

The horrors of war are haunting some veterans to their graves.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As my family was preparing for our 2005 Thanksgiving meal, our son Timothy was laying on the floor of my shop office slowly bleeding to death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


BLITZER: Distraught and angry families demanding answers and action, as U.S. troops suicides skyrocket.

Plus, dozens of people killed in a series of deadly car bombings. We'll explain why it may -- repeat may -- be a sign of things to come.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, assassination again in Lebanon. The Lebanese Army Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj was killed in an explosion in a Christian suburb of Beirut today. Al-Hajj was believed to be next in line to command Lebanon's army if its current commander was elected president. We're watching this story.

A rough start for renewed middle East peace negotiations in Jerusalem. The Palestinians complained about an Israeli construction plant in East Jerusalem. Israel complained about rocket fire coming in from Gaza. Today's contentious talks were the first since last month's Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

And the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, says efforts to tighten U.S. borders so far have not reduced the threat of terrorism. Chertoff says that during the Bush administration's final year, his department plans to complete 670 miles of fence along the southwest border.

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

At least 41 people were killed, more than 150 people were wounded by a series of car bombs in the southern Iraqi city of Amarah, possibly an ominous sign of what may lie in store as this region, the southern part of the country, develops and British forces pull out. CNN's Harris Whitbeck is in Baghdad with the latest. Harris.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three bombs in the crowded marketplace all timed to go off within minutes of each other. The first, seemingly designed to draw a crowd and then a second blast as the crowd stood by inspecting the damage of the first. As people fled the second bomb, a third one went off. Survivors seemed shocked. An ambulance has rushed the wounded to area hospitals which were overwhelmed.

Amarah, a provincial capital in southeastern Iraq, had largely escaped the recent violence in the country. The British military had withdrawn from the entire province last April, leaving responsibility for security in the hand of Iraqi forces.

Immediately after the blast, the government fired Amarah's chief of police and sent a team from Baghdad to inspect the damage.

More and more, the Iraqi government will have to deal with future incidents like this one on its own. British troops are expected to hand over control of the neighboring southern province of Basra within days. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visiting Basra earlier this week said the timing is right.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Maybe of you have been trading Iraqi security forces and many of you trained up the armed forces and some training the police. There are now 30,000 police and armed forces trained because of our work and the work of other people. As a result of that, we can move to provincial Iraqi control over the next few weeks.


WHITBECK: With the handover in Basra, the British will have return control of all three provinces they once held back to the Iraqi government. But the explosions in Amarah indicate that security in the south remains elusive. Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Baghdad.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, tens of thousands of American veterans are coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health concerns in some cases so severe they lead to suicide and now there's growing pressure on the federal government to do something about this.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's joining us live. Give us some perspective, how big of a problem, Barbara, is this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we learned today on Capitol Hill it is, indeed, a growing problem as anguished parents try to make sure their soldier son is remembered for more than just how he died.


MIKE BOWMAN, FATHER OF SPEC. TIM BOWMAN: Our veterans deserve better. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

STARR: Emotion for Mike and Kim Bowman, parents of 23-year-old army specialist Tim Bowman, an Illinois national guardsman who completed a combat tour in Iraq came home and killed himself.

BOWMAN: As my family was preparing for our 2005 Thanksgiving meal, our son Timothy was lying on the floor of the shop office slowly bleeding to death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

STARR: The Bowmans say there is a crisis in mental care for vets.

BOWMAN: When these veterans come home, they find an understaffed, underfunded, under equipped VA mental system that has so many challenges to get through it that many just give up trying.

STARR: The Department of Veterans Affairs says more than 100,000 of the 750,000 veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan have come to the VA with a mental health condition and that the VA is doing the best it can. Congressional members aren't convinced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing about it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it didn't reach these people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then find a more effective way. Don't keep telling us you're doing things when they're not effective.

STARR: Funding for mental health services is up. A new VA national wide suicide prevention hotline has received 9,000 calls since July, but is it all enough to help troubled, young vets?

BOWMAN: Why isn't the VA sitting there when they get off the bus when they are coming home from Iraq? Don't make it so that the soldier has to go to the VA. Make the VA go to the soldier.

STARR: The Bowmans want their son remembered as more than a statistic.

KIM BOWMAN, MOTHER OF SPEC. TIM BOWMAN: Tim will never be recognized for what he was, which is an excellent soldier. People who always look at the suicide aspect of it.

BOWMAN: We don't blame anybody. There is, if we blame anything, it would be the system.


STARR: Certainly every suicide is a tragedy. More than 140 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their own lives but the VA says that's not a suicide rate all that different than the civilian population, Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, thanks very much.

Many troops returning home from Iraq face serious mental health issues. The Pentagon requires screening for all upon their return home and, again, six months later. A study released last month finds a stunning increase in mental health problems in that second screening. Take a look at this, post-traumatic stress disorder up 40%, depression more than double, overall mental health concerns about 60%, and a four-fold increase in issues of interpersonal conflict.

Meanwhile, a top military leader in Lebanon is dead, the victim of an apparent assassination bombing. Our Beirut bureau chief, Brent Sadler, has the story.


BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: A car packed with explosives was triggered to detonate and kill one of Lebanon's top army generals, throwing the country into deeper uncertainty and political turmoil. The head of military operations was traveling in a four-wheel drive vehicle with a body guard when it was tossed into the air by a fireball of hot metal and thick smoke. Anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians were quick to blame Syria for the attack and near political paralysis overshadowing the country. MARWAN HAMADEH, TELECOMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: It's obvious that the vacuum is required. This vacuum would serve the Syrian /Iranian access.

SADLER: There's a political vacuum from the post of president down. There's no head of state; a deadlocked parliament that has failed to convene to electing new president eight times. And the western-backed government is not recognized by mostly Muslim Shiites and many divided Christians.

By striking at the heart of the army, the bombers have attacked the one institution most closely associated with the Lebanese presidency, especially now as the army's chief of staff is poised to rise to power.

But only if the pro-Syrian political camp here led by Hezbollah agrees to amend the constitution. A move the anti-Syrian camp claims it has tried but failed to achieve because of concealed Syrian duress.

The assassinated general, Francois al-Hajj, was at the forefront of a month-long battle to crush al Qaeda-inspired Islamic militants at the Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon. The campaign won for the army and its most senior commander, presidential hopeful General Michel Suleiman, the widespread praise of a grateful, but still bitterly divided nation that's been plagued by unsolved murders.

PIERRE DACCACHE, INDEPENDENT LEBANESE MP: So many enemies and nobody is trying to help Lebanon.

SADLER: Is Syria one of those enemies?

DACCACHE: I don't want, I don't want to incriminate somebody you see, unless I have proof for that.

SADLER: As renewed grief, horror and condemnation spread through the country, fears of total chaos have been reignited by this attack on the army. A symbol of hope for many Lebanese who crave for political stability and long-lasting security. Brent Sadler, CNN, Beirut.


BLITZER: The death of a teenage girl triggering international outrage right now. Her father is charged. Police are investigating whether or not it could have been a choice of her clothing. We're going to come up with that story coming up shortly.

Also, a culture clash touched off by a long-awaited film about Afghanistan. We'll have an update for you on that, as well.

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


BLITZER: A really sad story. A teenager dead, her father accused of killing her. Did a Muslim daughter's defiance over traditional headwear actually cost her her life? Carol is here. She's watching the story for us. It's coming out of Canada. What happened?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is a terrible story. What happened was a vibrant, well-liked, smart and rebellious girl is dead. Allegedly killed by her father, over what? This murder took place in a Toronto suburb and many suspect the girl's murder was over her refusal to wear a hijab.


COSTELLO: Friends say Aqsa Parvez was caught between two worlds; one of religious modesty required of her family's Muslim faith and the other secular freedom and teenage desire to rebel. Was it this clash of two worlds that led to her death, allegedly at the hands of her father?

SHAHINA SIDDIQUI, ISLAMIC SOCIAL SERVICES ASSN./CANADA: The family that was not coping very well. A family that did not have the help and support that it need and that it led to such a tragedy.

COSTELLO: Parvez who was 16 and loved her long hair, loved fashion. She posted glamorous-looking photos of herself on a social networking website. According to her friends, she would leave home dressed in her hijab or head scarf and change her clothes when she got to school. Her family wasn't fooled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were really strict with religion I heard so when they found out she wasn't dressing religiously, they got angry.

COSTELLO: Friends says Parvez told them she was afraid of her family. On Monday, according to police, her 57-year-old father, Muhammad Parvez, called 911 to say he'd killed his daughter. He is now charged with murder. Police say his son, 26-year-old Waqas Parvez, tried to mislead them about what happened. He's charged with obstruction. Some Muslims say it's total speculation that Parvez killed his daughter because she refused to wear the hijab.

SIDDIQUI: There is zero tolerance in Islam and zero tolerance for family violence. If he used and it's a big if, if he used this as a pretext that, oh, she was not dressing properly, it doesn't make sense and it has a, you know, foundation to stand on. We need to reject that kind of rationale.

COSTELLO: CTV is reporting Muhammad Parvez's lawyer says there is more to the story and police tell me they're pursuing other possible motives for the killing, as well. But others expect Parvez was killed precisely because she rebelled.

TAREK FATAH, MUSLIM CANADIAN CONGRESS: This is a wake-up call for the Muslim community and it is a wake-up call for all who repeat five times a day that any woman whose head is not covered is a sexual object.


COSTELLO: The Muslim community in Canada is condemning this death. By the way the father, Muhammad Parvez, was in court this morning. He's now in jail. If you're wondering about the girl's mother, so are police. She's being questioned, although it's unclear whether she had anything to do with this, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a tragic story this is. Our heart goes out. It's a sad story.

COSTELLO: You're a teenage girl. You're trying to fit in and into western culture, it's difficult.

BLITZER: Very difficult and, obviously, very, very potentially very dangerous. Thanks very much, Carol, for that story.

Recently the movie version of the best-selling novel "The Kite Runner" set in Afghanistan was poised for release. It was stopped because of the content of a key scene and its potential repercussions against the actors and their families. Will we ever see the movie?

Our entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter has an update. Kareen.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. In just a matter of days, audiences will be able to judge for themselves whether the hype surrounding the highly anticipated film "The Kite Runner" was legitimate or all just a bunch of hot air.


WYNTER: A delayed release date, controversial child rape scene, even actors fearing for their lives. Just a few things a film adaptation of the best-selling book "The Kite Runner" had to deal with.

SHAUN TOUB, ACTOR, "THE KITE RUNNER": You know what they say, controversy is good, bring it on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to the boy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban took him.

WYNTER: The movie opens in theaters on Friday, six weeks behind schedule.

KHALED HOSSEINI, AUTHOR, "THE KITE RUNNER": The studio made all the right decisions, proactively took steps to be responsible to delay the release of the film until children and their guardians were safe.

WYNTER: The two lead child actors in the movie played best friends living in Kabul, Afghanistan until their friendship is rocked when one is raped by a childhood bully. A brief, but pivotal scene some critics call disturbing. The boy who plays a rape victim and his family told CNN in September that not only were they uninformed of the rape scene before accepting the role but they became concerned about the possible backlash. The cultural implications of a boy from Afghanistan being raped could result in violence against the actors and their families. Paramount Studios eventually moved them from Afghanistan to the United Arab Emerates.

MARC FOSTER, DIRECTOR, "THE KITE RUNNER": They're safe and well and in a very good spirit and basically we're still working for their visas to come to America.

HOSSEINI: People will see the film and see the overall message and see this is a friend about friendship and love and forgiveness and no, it's not at all about all of these things that have been reported.

WYNTER: Hosseini and others are also taking up the plight of Afghans.

HOSSEINI: Please consider supporting the important work of Afghanistan Relief Organization.

WYNTER: He did this public service announcement. Paramount also donated 500 laptops to the Afghanistan Relief Organization. Celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie signed authentic Afghan kites and auctioned them off on e-Bay. It's just the kind of social action all involved hope will overshadow previous headlines.


WYNTER: "The Kite Runner" will be released in 20 countries over the next six months and of course, there will be many more premiers where the entire cast, including the two boys, will be on hand. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Kareen, thanks very much, Kareen Wynter reporting for us from L.A.

Severe winter weather, hundreds of thousands of people still without power, but we have a unique view you won't find anywhere else. That's coming up. Our CNN I-reporters are documenting it all.

Plus, republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, you're going to find out why he's now apologizing to his rival, Mitt Romney. Our interview with Mike Huckabee, that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Across the central plains and the Midwest, crews working around the clock to repair power lines snapped by a massive ice storm that is being blamed for 27 deaths. For many, could be as long as a week before power is restored. Now, I-reports are being sent in to CNN. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton joining us with more on that. It's pretty dramatic weather out there.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we've been getting them in for days from across this region. People looking out, just a blanket of ice. Marilyn Ferguson here. This is the view from her back door. She said that she's heard that the roads cleared out there. She is in Versailles, Illinois, tiny town, 650 people. She says she hasn't even ventured out. Her driveway is so treacherous, she doesn't even want to go and get the mail. Now we're going to Frank Keller in St. Joseph, Missouri. He says he did go out this morning, one of the hundreds of thousands of people who didn't have power yesterday. He's got it back now. He's saying he wandered for a mile before he found anyone in his area that did have power.

And as the cleanup begins here, look at this picture, these pictures here sent in from Jefferson City, Missouri. Darin Garnett says that these telephone poles have been down since Monday. Utility crews just getting out to them now., Wolf, for all those pictures.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

Let's go back to Jack for the Cafferty file in New York. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you were running Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, what would you advise?

Paul in Nashville would advise this, "To secure her party's nomination, Senator Clinton must develop and communication with contagious enthusiasm her vision for America's future rather than her current implied vision of a return to America's past."

Diane in Las Vegas, Nevada, "From the start, I would have advised her to answer the questions. Hillary did not and does not answer most questions directly. She seems to be too focused on what everyone else will think about her answer, instead of what she truly believes. She needs to start talking from her heart on what she believes and quit being so worried about what she thinks we all want to hear."

Connie in Dallas writes, "If I were running Hillary's campaign, I'd lock the entire media into a rocket and send them to the moon. You are the most cynical and sadistic bunch. Your sense of entitlement over American politics is sickening."

Jeff writes, "If I was Hillary's adviser, I'd bluntly tell her to throw in the towel and step down. The last thing America needs is a continuation of the Bush/Clinton dynasty. We need new blood in the presidency like Obama."

Erin in Deering, New Hampshire, "My advice, return to showing voters how she's the better candidate. My mind's made up, but others need to see her warmth and intelligence as I have, not her mudslinging. There's enough baseless anti-Hillary sentiment without her creating problems on her own. On the issues, she wins, plain and simple."

Tim writes from Manahawkin, New Jersey, "Get a new campaign manager. Maybe Karl Rove is available." Wolf?

BLITZER: I don't think he's going to go work for her though. All right. Thanks very much, Jack, for that.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is saying his comments about the Mormon faith were taken out of context. He has, though, apologized to Mitt Romney. I'll ask Mike Huckabee about it. Our one-on-one interview, that's coming up. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show that begins in one hour, 7:00 p.m. eastern. I want to talk to him first about this republican debate a little bit. And I'm going to play a little clip for you, what Rudy Giuliani said about the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA. Take a listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the reality is, NAFTA has been a good thing. I was concerned about NAFTA and I became convinced watching it that it's actually helped us.


BLITZER: You're chuckling, Lou. Tell me why.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Because it's absurd it cost a million jobs in this country. Manufacturing wages have actually declined in Mexico. It's been devastating to agriculture in Mexico. The treaty needs to be reworked. Rudy Giuliani is in a faith-based free trade area is a peculiar role for him. It's laughable.

BLITZER: Did any of these candidates in your mind stand out today?

DOBBS: You know, honestly, no. The reality is you have a PBS moderator to keep them from talking about the two most important subjects to American voters, that is war in Iraq and illegal immigration of border security. I mean they did about as well as you could do in that situation. But, I don't think anybody stood out, particularly.

BLITZER: Lou will have a lot more on this coming up in one hour. We'll see you then, Lou. Thanks you very much.

DOBBS: Looking forward to it, thanks Wolf.

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

Happening now, republicans can go back on the attack after a relatively tame debate in Iowa. Did any of the candidates give a breakout performance? We're going to hear from undecided voters and the best political team on television.

Plus, the republican leader in Iowa right now, Mike Huckabee on Mormons, Jesus and the devil. He speaks out about the remarks that forced him to tell Mitt Romney he's sorry. Mike Huckabee's interview with me, that's coming up.

It's now a dead heat in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton's lead is history in our brand-new poll. Barack Obama is breathing down her neck, not only in Iowa, but now in New Hampshire, as well.

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