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Anthrax Probe Closing; Professors Face "Domestic Terrorism"; Fear of Russian Nukes in Cuba; Outrage Over Nuclear Sub Leak

Aired August 04, 2008 - 17:00   ET


BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, case nearly closed -- the suspect scientist is dead, but investigators believe they now have the definitive evidence linking him to those deadly anthrax attacks.

Also, attacks of a different kind -- university professors targeted with firebombs. Why their research may have prompted what police called domestic terrorism.

And warming relations between Moscow and Havana raising some concerns right here in Washington.

How likely is a new Cuban missile crisis?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Right now, we're learning new information about the case against the scientist suspected in the 2001 anthrax attacks. He killed himself as investigators were closing in. But those who knew him insist the government has it all wrong again.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is working this story for us -- all right, Jeanne, what are your sources telling you?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after 75 searches and 9,100 interviews, the seven year long anthrax case may be declared closed in the next 24 hours.


MESERVE (voice-over): Government officials are not yet laying out the specifics of their case against Bruce Ivins, the Fort Detrick anthrax researcher who took his life last week. But sources who would not be identified because the investigation is ongoing say DNA evidence links the strain of anthrax used in the 2001 attacks to a flask in Ivins' office.

Another source knowledgeable about the investigation confirms that Ivins bought pre-stamped envelopes like those used to mail the deadly pathogen and computers that Ivins may have used were removed from a Frederick, Maryland library last week. Meanwhile, an audiotape of a court hearing last month in which a social worker seeks a protective worker against Ivins raises more questions about his mental health. Jean Duley had treated Ivins in group therapy.


JEAN DULEY, IVINS' THERAPIST: He plots and actually tried to carry out revenge killings. He has been forensically diagnosed by several top psychiatrists as a sociopathic homicidal killer.


MESERVE: CNN has not been able to confirm those diagnoses. But a former prosecutor believes given what is already known, the government has a strong case.

ANDREW MCBRIDE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think there's enough there right now to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. I mean they've traced the particular strain of anthrax to a beaker that was in his desk area that he used. That's pretty powerful circumstantial evidence that he was involved.

MESERVE: Ivan's attorney says his client is innocent. And many people who knew Ivins believe the same. They aren't convinced Ivins had the know-how, the motivation or the personality to commit the crimes.

JEFFREY ADAMOVICZ, FORMER IVINS COLLEAGUE: All of us that know him are really, really interested in seeing what there is, in terms of evidence to support these allegations, because simply all of us that know him don't believe that it's true.


MESERVE: Ivan's suicide and the botched case against another researcher, Steven Hatfield, is putting the government under considerable pressure to lay out its complete case. That could happen later this week, after the anthrax victims and their families are briefed.

Already, some push back from Ivins' lawyer. Paul Kemp said today that there is absolutely no proof that Ivins was ever in Princeton, New Jersey, where the anthrax letters are believed to have been mailed. In fact, says Kemp, there is no proof Ivins even left Frederick, Maryland on the dates in question -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We all remember, Jeanne, the envelopes -- the letters that were written -- the very distinguished -- the very, very clear penmanship, the handwriting that was on those letters.

Is there evidence linking Ivins' handwriting to the handwriting on those letters?

MESERVE: Officials are saying very little right now about the evidence in that case. We asked the question and didn't get answer. But I'll remind you that they were keyed in on that, on that handwriting question, immediately after the attacks.

That's why they publicized -- put out the pictures of those envelopes, hoping that somebody would recognize the handwriting. The thought generally is that whoever sent those letters probably went to great pains to disguise their handwriting so it would not be recognized -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne.

We'll stand by and get the information when you get it.

Anthrax, by the way, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. It's most common in livestock, but any warm-blooded species is vulnerable. You can't see, taste or smell the spores of the anthrax bacteria. They can enter the body by being inhaled, eaten or just through the skin. But inhalation is the most fatal.

Five of the 11 people who inhaled the spores back in the 2001 letter attacks died.

There's only one vaccine against anthrax licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Meanwhile, university researchers firebombed, apparently over their work on lab animals. Someone targeted them with what police call a Molotov cocktail on steroids.

CNN's Dan Simon is in San Francisco working this story for us -- Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two attacks just this past weekend. Fifty investigators are on the case, including some from the FBI. Police say the attacks are nothing short of domestic terrorism.


SIMON (voice-over): He uses mice to study brain functions and eyesight. The scientist who lives here now a victim in a series of attacks against California researchers who experiment on animals.

PROF. DAVID FELDHEIM, U.C. SANTA CRUZ: An accident could have killed somebody. I mean I don't know if they intended to kill anybody, but they could have very easily.

SIMON: On Saturday morning, U.C. Santa Cruz Professor David Feldheim had to drop a ladder and escape a smoke-filled house with his wife and two young children. He injured both of his feet in the process. Police say a large firebomb was thrown on the family's front porch.

CAPT. STEVE CLARK, SANTA CRUZ POLICE: Well, obviously, these are serious felonies. We have four counts of attempted homicide -- just in the one case involving the family inside their home.

SIMON: But one animal rights group actually defended the attack.

Listen to the spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office.

JERRY VLASAK, NORTH AMERICAN ANIMAL LIBERATION PRESS OFFICE: I think the suffering and abuse of animals in laboratories is a lot more severe than some kids having to climb down a ladder because there was a little smoke in their house. I mean, listen, if their father is willing to risk his family by continuing to torture animals knowing the consequences of his actions, then, you know, listen he's not -- I don't think he's treating his family as well as he could.

SIMON: So far, no one has taken responsibility. But it's a sentiment that police fear could produce more attacks. Investigators describe the fire device as a Molotov cocktail on steroids -- a similar one used just a few minutes earlier on this car belonging to another researcher. No one was inside.

The bombings come just a few days after police obtained threatening animal rights pamphlets. They were left at a Santa Cruz copy shop and they contain the names and home addresses of U.C. Santa Cruz scientists.


SIMON: And police are offering security to the 13 researchers whose names appeared in those pamphlets.

Now, what happened at U.C. Santa Cruz went beyond what we've seen at other universities. At U.C. Berkley, for example, protesters have been scrawling graffiti and breaking the windows of researchers' homes. Clearly, the most dangerous attacks happened this past weekend, though no one was seriously hurt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon is working the story for us in San Francisco.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Barack Obama changing his tune on offshore drilling. In a reversal, Obama says now that he would be willing to compromise on his position against offshore drilling if it's part of a more comprehensive energy strategy that could lead to lower gas prices.

Obama praised a Senate bipartisan energy plan that combines alternative energy, nuclear energy and drilling. Obama insists his position on this is nothing new and that he won't settle for a plan that would suggest drilling is the only answer to our energy needs.

But the fact of the matter is this. Obama has been against offshore drilling ever since John McCain made his own reversal on the issue in June, suggesting that we do away with the federal ban. In June, Obama told Florida voters he intended to keep the moratorium in place to protect the coastline. As recently as last Thursday, Obama called McCain's proposal "a strategy designed to get politicians through an election."

Polls show most Americans support an increase in offshore oil drilling, 69 percent to 30 percent, although the public is split on whether that drilling would lead to lower gas prices next year.

Meanwhile, another flip-flop from Obama on energy matters came today when he proposed the government sell 70 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He said this could help lower gas prices in the short-term. But in the past, Obama was against tapping the Strategic Reserve. His campaign says he reconsidered because "Americans are suffering."

So here's the question: Why has Barack Obama changed his tune when it comes to offshore drilling?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Some of the stories we're working on this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Russia cozying up to Cuba once again and it's raising fresh concern over a possible new missile crisis.

Japan's foreign minister outraged when he learned about a nuclear accident by a U.S. submarine. He learned about it right here on CNN.

And the drastic steps China is taking to prevent terrorists from targeting the Olympics.

And a deadly climbing disaster on the world's second highest peak. Two men lived to tell the tale.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Echoes of the Cuban missile crisis -- get this, there's now concern here in Washington over Cuba's ties with Moscow and the possibility of Russian nuclear weapons just miles from U.S. shores.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.

She has the latest -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Russia wants its Old Glory and possibly its guns back in Cuba.


VERJEE (voice-over): Cold war allies could be warming up to each other again. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he wants to "restore our position in Cuba and other countries."

Just last week, an anonymous Russian source indicated Russia could base nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba.

That unconfirmed report prompted a stern warning from the U.S. military.

NORTON SCHWARTZ, AIR FORCE CHIEF OF STAFF NOMINEE: We should engage the Russians not to pursue that approach. And if they did, I think we should stand strong and indicate that that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America.

VERJEE: The Soviet Union crossed a red line in 1962. The revelation of its missiles in Cuba almost triggered nuclear war.

Now Russia is angry over U.S. plans for missile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland. Russia may once again want its military back on the turf of its old communist ally. Cuba is just 90 miles away from U.S. shores.

The State Department wouldn't respond to Putin's comments, but says Russia is wasting its time.

GONZALO GALLEGOS, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: That is a country that continues to oppress its citizens, that continues to squeeze them for all the resources that it can to maintain the regime there. We don't see dealing with the Cuban government as particularly productive.

VERJEE: Russian ties with Cuba were thick during the cold war. Moscow propped up the Fidel Castro regime with oil, arms, food. That dried up when the Soviet Union collapsed. Cuba now gets help from Venezuela and China.


VERJEE: Russian leaders traveled recently to Cuba to meet with Raul Castro, to talk to him about cooperation on energy, mining, health care -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee at the State Department.

And as Zain just reported, this is all triggering memories of the Cuban missile crisis. Back in the summer of 1962, the Soviet Union was deploying nuclear missiles to Cuba, which was seeking military support after the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. In October of that year, President Kennedy ordered a quarantine or a blockade of all ships bound for Cuba. And for several days, it appeared the U.S. and Russia were on the brink of nuclear war. The crisis was averted when Russia agreed to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Cuba in exchange for the U.S. pulling its missiles from Turkey.

A CNN exclusive you heard about right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Friday. A U.S. attack submarine leaked a very tiny amount of radioactive water as it cruised around the world, creating an uproar in Japan, one of the ports of call for the USS Houston.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, and our Pentagon producer Mike Mount, they broke that story for us in THE SITUATION ROOM. And there is intriguing developments on how the Japanese government, especially the prime minister, Jamie, learned about this, this really, really contentious issue.


Japan's foreign minister, Masahiko Komura, said he saw our report Saturday morning. That's Friday night here in the United States when we were reporting it. He immediately contacted the Japanese ministry.

The U.S. Navy says it was careful to notify the Japanese government before, confirming the details to CNN on Friday.

What CNN had learned is that for months, perhaps longer, the USS Houston, a fast-attack submarine based in Guam, had been leaking a small amount of radioactive water -- the level of radiation so small, it's barely measurable and poses no risk to humans.

But our report that the sub had docked in Sasebo, Japan for a week, and, in fact, that after it was informed on Friday, there was no announcement from the Japanese government, sparked protests in Japan, which is particularly sensitive about allowing nuclear-powered warships into its port. The foreign minister called the dollar "inadmissible," he said. And U.S. Navy officials say they think it's just a matter that Japanese officials simply didn't think it was such a big deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When did they discover this leak, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it wasn't until the Houston went into dry dock in Hawaii last month. It was also in Guam during its travels. That's where it's based. And the problem is there's this leaky pressure valve. It seems to date back to at least March sometime. But the fact is, we were pressing Navy officials today and they can't say exactly how long the submarine was dripping these tiny amounts of irradiated water.

The last time the ship was in for routine maintenance was 2004.

And, you know, this all couldn't come at a worse time for the U.S. Navy, who wants to reassure the Japanese there's no hazard from American nuclear ships.

The USS George Washington is set to become the first nuclear- powered aircraft carrier based in Japan. Its arrival was delayed by that big $70 million fire on board. And that also required the U.S. Navy to assure the Japanese that safety was not an issue and that both of the ships' commanders were fired because of that -- that blaze onboard the aircraft carrier.

BLITZER: But as of now, Jamie, the Japanese are still going to let the George Washington be permanently stationed there?

MCINTYRE: Yes, they are. And, you know, we have another submarine -- the U.S. has another submarine that's in port there. One of the things the Japanese do is they measure the water around these submarines for any trace of radioactivity. They haven't found any. They didn't find any when the Houston was there, either.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre and Mike Mount, his producer, doing some excellent reporting for us, as they always do. Guys, thanks very much.

Barack Obama and John McCain battling over energy on the campaign trail. But will they come together in the U.S. Senate? Details of a potential compromise that could put them both in a tough spot.

And what's a Winglet? A Winglet -- W-I-N-G-L-E-T. Details of Toyota's answer to the Segway. We'll explain.


BLITZER: Carol Costello is off today.

Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Betty?


Listen to this. Iran is facing more U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program. The country didn't meet a weekend deadline to respond to incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. And the State Department says the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, they agree there is no choice but to pursue more punitive measures against Tehran.

A massive manhunt is underway for one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists. Take a look. Kenyan police say Fazul Abdullah Mohammed managed to escape a police raid over the weekend. U.S. officials say he is a senior Al Qaeda operative who was the architect of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings that killed 225 people in Kenya and Tanzania.

Well, the jury is deliberating in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II. Salim Hamdan faces a life sentence if convicted of conspiring of supporting terrorism. Prosecutors say the driver for Osama bin Laden helped plan and execute terror attacks, including the September 11th hijackings. Hamden's attorneys say he never joined Al Qaeda and had no part in planning attacks.

Well, a public health group says if you're looking for healthy meals for your children a top restaurant chains, you don't have many options. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says nearly every kids meals at places like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell or Chick Fillet are too high in calories. The Center says milk, fruits and vegetables should be the sides, instead of fries and soda.

And this next story, Wolf, sounds like you could find it on one of those menus. Toyota is making its own version of a Segway. But you may not see it here for a while. Here it is -- the motorized stand up and ride Winglet, as it's called, can go about as fast as pedestrians, but slower than the Segway, which reaches up to 12-and-a-half miles per hour. Now, Toyota will test the Winglet in Japan for user feedback over the next year.

So, I'll have one Winglet to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. If they sold those in Buffalo, they could call them Buffalo wings.

NGUYEN: I like it.

BLITZER: Which would be excellent.

All right, Betty, thanks very much.

John McCain issues a challenge to Barack Obama, while Obama says McCain is simply part of the energy problem. The candidates in their own words, plus the energy protest inside Congress.

Also, 11 climbers killed in an ice avalanche on the world's second tallest mountain. It's called K2. There are survivors. Their amazing rescue coming up.

And details of the accident that has an Oscar-winning actor in serious condition right now.


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

Happening now, soaring energy costs and how the candidates want to save you money. Barack Obama lays out his energy plan, including tapping reserves; while John McCain calls on Congress to OK offshore oil drilling right now -- the candidates raw and unfiltered, coming up.

And we're just receiving an update from the National Hurricane Center. A tropical storm is taking direct aim at the Gulf Coast. Urgent preparations underway as Edouard gains speed.

And taking a closer look at a recipe -- one ingredient could do a whole lot more than spice up your salad, it could poison you. How a British chef made the mistake.

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

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are vowing to continue their protest.

Dozens of Congressmen and Congresswomen are giving impromptu energy speeches in the House chamber, which is closed for the summer recess. They're demanding that the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, hold votes on domestic offshore oil drilling, opposed by most Democrats. Republican Mike Pence of Indiana say 40 Republican members are committed to rotate in shifts throughout the week.

We're going to hear directly from Senator Barack Obama and John McCain in just a moment. They're speaking raw and unfiltered on energy. That's coming up. But a possible compromise, meanwhile, is brewing in the Senate.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is joining us now for details -- and, Kate, what's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you said it. The House Republican energy protest continues. But there is a hint of compromise in the air. And it's catching the attention of the presidential candidates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's history because what has happened is that the Congress has not lived up to its responsibility to you.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Republicans back on the House floor demanding a vote on drilling. But on the campaign trail, as harshly as they've battled over energy policy, Barack Obama and John McCain may be finding some common ground in a proposed Congressional compromise.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It does include a limited amount of new offshore drilling. And while I still don't believe that's a particularly meaningful short-term or long-term solution, what I said is I'm willing to consider it if it's necessary to actually pass a comprehensive plan.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Republican and Democrat joining together -- and a very vital part of that is nuclear power and offshore drilling.

BOLDUAN: The proposal, designed to break a Congressional deadlock, comes from five Democratic and five Republican senators calling themselves The Gang of 10.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: The Senate does work in a bipartisan fashion when it comes to addressing crisis matters.

BOLDUAN: Some key compromises include expanded drilling opportunities off the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, which pleases Republicans, but no drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a concession to the Democrats. The proposal would also repeal a tax break for oil companies that Democrats have long called for, as well as put billions toward producing more alternative fuel vehicles, in part paid for by the oil and gas industry.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: We believe that it is critically important that any plans be balanced.

BOLDUAN: But political analysts say for the candidates, supporting a compromise carries a risk.

JOHN MERCURIO, POLITICAL ANALYST, "THE HOTLINE": I think for Obama, as you say, the problem is, is drilling. And it's alienating environmental activists. For McCain, the problem is alienating anti- tax advocates, who are already sort of frustrated with him on some levels.


BOLDUAN: And despite the talk of compromise, there -- both sides here remain skeptical of how serious the other side is about actually making a deal. But one thing is for certain, Wolf, we'll be hearing a lot more about this compromise when Congress returns in September.

BLITZER: We'll see if the Congress can actually do something and make a compromise on this sensitive front. Thanks, Kate, very much. Kate's up on the hill for us.

As you saw in her report, energy is certainly topic number one, at least on this day out on the campaign trail. Here's more of what Senator McCain in his own words is saying, challenging Barack Obama. Also, Senator Obama saying McCain is part of the energy problem.


MCCAIN: As a lot of Americans know, the Congress, doing nothing, decided to go on a five-week recess. Without addressing the energy challenge that's affecting Americans every single day. In their ability to go to work, in their ability to do their jobs, and their ability to keep inflation down, as they're trying to do here at the national label company. And they need a Congress that will act.

Congress should come back into session. Congress should come back into session and I'm willing to come off the campaign trail.

I call on Senator Obama to call on Congress to come back into town and come back to work, come off their recess, come off their vacation and address this energy challenge to America, and don't leave until we do, Republican and Democrat joining together.

And a very vital part of that is nuclear power, and another vital part of that is offshore drilling. We have to drill here, and drill now. Not wait and see whether there's areas to explore, not wait and see whether there's a package that needs to be put together, but drill here and drill now. Let's start working for the American people and not for ourselves.

So I hope that Senator Obama will call on Congress and the leaders, Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi, call Congress back into session. Let's get this energy crisis solved. Americans have been able to solve every challenge that's faced us, and let's move forward and put America first.

Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Despite all this, here we are in another election still talking about our oil addiction, still more dependent than ever. Why is that?

You won't hear me say this too often, but I could not agree more with the explanation that Senator McCain offered a few weeks ago. He said, and I quote, our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been 30 years in the making, and was caused by the failures of politicians in Washington to think long term about the future of the country.

Now, what Senator McCain neglected to mention is during those 30 years, he was in Washington for 26 of them. And in all that time he did limit to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He voted against fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy, against clean biofuels, against solar power, against wind power, against an energy bill that while far from perfect represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country.

So when Senator McCain talks about the failures of politicians in Washington to do anything about our energy crisis, it's important to remember that he's been part of that failure. And now after years of inaction, in the face of public frustration over rising gas prices, the only energy proposal he's really promoting is more offshore drilling, a position he recently adopted that's become the centerpiece of his plan, and one that will not make a real dent in current gas prices or meet the long-term challenge of energy independence.

Understand, George Bush's own energy department has said that if we opened up new areas to offshore drilling today, we wouldn't see a single drop of oil for seven years. Seven years. Senator McCain knows that, which is why he admitted that his plan would only provide "psychological relief to consumers." I know that's what you've been looking for is psychological relief when you're pumping gas in your car.

He also knows that if we opened up and drilled every single square inch of our land and our shores, we would still find only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, 3 percent for a country that uses 25 percent of the world's oil. Even Texas oilman Boone Pickens, and Boone's not a Democrat, who's calling for major new investments in alternative energy, has said, "This is one emergency we can't drill our way out of." That's Boone Pickens, an oil man, made his money drilling.


BLITZER: And as Senator Obama points out, T. Boone Pickens says he has a solution to solve the energy crisis. But who's going to pick up the $1 trillion tab. T. Boone Pickens, he's going to be a guest on "Larry King Live" tonight right here on CNN, 9:00 p.m. eastern. I think you'll want to see this interview.

The United Nations is turning up the heat on diplomacy, literally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like more than being hot.

BLITZER: We'll explain what the world body is doing in the fight against global warming.

An avalanche takes a disastrous toll in the world's second highest mountain peak. One survivor said it was whiteout conditions as mountaineers struggled to stay alive on K2. And the gulf coast braces for tropical storm Edouard. What forecasters are predicting for coastal communities and for the oil rigs at sea.

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


BLITZER: Disaster on the world's second highest mountain. 11 climbers killed in an ice avalanche on K2. That's near the Pakistan/China border. But the two men did survive the tragedy. And they've been air lifted out.

Brian Todd is looking into this story.

Brian, first of all, what happened and what's their condition?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the condition of the two Dutch climbers, they seem to be OK. One of them may be getting treated for frostbite. He may not be quite out of danger yet.

We're going to take a look at where these climbers got stuck. This is an area of K2 known as the bottle neck. It's near the top, right about there. It is also called the dead zone. It's called that because the air is so cold, it is at such high altitude that you're not supposed to stop there. You're supposed to go right through the summit and when you come back down you should keep on going. But it seems where Mother Nature pinned these climbers right down.


TODD: It's only second to Everest in height and experts say more technically challenging to climb. The section of K2 where about a dozen climbers died after an ice avalanche is known as the dead zone because it's so cold and there is so little oxygen that it's difficult to survive for very long.

Chris Warner's been there. He's tried to reach the summit of K2 three times and made it once. Warner says judging by initial reports, the avalanche occurred at one of the most treacherous points of the climb.

CHRIS WARNER, CLIMBED K2 IN 2007: You pass underneath this section of glacier. This glacier here is 500 feet thick. It's just a piece of ice precariously placed there. It's constantly cabbing off, you know constantly dropping sections of ice down onto the bottle neck.

TODD: Warner knows from another mountain what it's like to be caught in an ice avalanche.

WARNER: When it hit me, I never knew it was coming. Suddenly I was in like being caught in a ten-foot-tall wave and it just carried my body down.

TODD: If the climbers survived the avalanche but lost their ropes in the slide, they would have had to traverse vertical ice faces with no protection. And Warner's picture showed the breathtaking drop-off below those treacherous passes.

WARNER: If you started to tumble down this slope, it's going to be blunt force trauma that will kill you. Your body would tumble down the south face here falling a distance of almost nine and a half to 10,000 feet.


TODD: The six survivors seem to be all accounted for but they're still at high altitude level at base camps, at least some of them are. We believe that the rescue operation will continue to try to get them on Tuesday. That's tomorrow. And it's probably into Tuesday right now. That operation may begin very soon.

Weather here is crucial. Take a look at this. Winds near the summit reach 25 to 50 miles per hour this time of year. One report says the winds tomorrow, on Tuesday, could get up to about 60 miles an hour. The temperature also deadly, between 5 and 13 degrees below zero. The weather can change in an instant, Wolf. Very unpredictable, very dangerous to get the climbers off the mountain right now.

BLITZER: Helicopters can't get up to those heights.

TODD: No. At least one of the climbers is Italian that needed help down the mountain. One report says he's at a base camp 19,000 feet above sea level. The choppers can only get up to about 16,000 feet. Just to air lift the guys off the mountain they have to get them further down. It's tough because this one Italian climber seems to be fairly badly injured.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks. You'll keep us up to speed.

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Tropical storm Edouard moves toward the gulf coast where warnings are up from Louisiana to Texas but it's not expected to cause any major problems to the oil rigs.

Let's go to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. He's working this story for us.

Chad, what's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I think the price of oil actually went down today on a day where a tropical storm is right in the middle of it. I mean this is the thick of where the oil drillers are, where the pumpers are.

And some of these things, Wolf, they aren't even attached to the ground. It's too deep, not like a big concrete pillar that goes all the way down. They're on motors. The motors uses a GPS, like literally like boat motors, big ones, but that keeps that tropical floating platform there in one place. If you run a tropical storm over the top of it, you have a threat that maybe the wind is stronger than your motor can push against. Right now that does not look likely. It does look likely though either from about Galveston, Northford, maybe to Beaumont, Port Arthur. That's the cone of uncertainty that I'm thinking right now.

You can begin to see the storm. There's the eye. Not really so much yet, 45 miles per hour. Not a hurricane but it could gather strength tonight and if it does, it would obviously probably make landfall sometime tomorrow from south of Galveston all the way up here. This is still where the cone is at this point. We'll still watch it.

This next map, this is that same area. Every dot that you see there in the water, that's a platform. That's something to do with oil here, right through the Gulf of Mexico. It has a long way to traverse all the way across these little bit of precarious oil platforms, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm impressed though by the resiliency of those oil platforms in the face of this weather. All right. Chad, we'll check back with you.

An apparent terrorist plot in China, only days before the Olympic Games are set to begin. How police are trying to keep it safe, some extreme security measures. We have details.

And the Oscar winner Morgan Freeman in the hospital right now after a serious accident. How it happened, and how he's doing.

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


BLITZER: With just days to go before the Olympic Games, a deadly attack on Chinese police. 16 killed in what authorities believe was a terrorist plot in a western city of Kashi. The attackers crashed a truck into a group of officers then threw explosives into the barracks. It's the kind of incident Chinese officials fear most during the Olympic Games.

CNN's John Vause is joining us now live in Beijing. He's watching all of the security measures that are in place.

John, what do we know?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Olympic Games has never seen security like this. This city is locked down with critics calling it fortress Beijing.


VAUSE: With antiaircraft missiles around the international stadium, heavily armed police roaming the airport, and with metal detectors and bag checks in the subway, it doesn't look like much of a party in Beijing. More like a police state in overdraft. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chinese are clearly hyper focused and hyper worried about security. This is something that they've been working on for at least three or four years by now.

VAUSE: More than anything else, the Chinese say they're worried about terrorism with state media reporting last month an anti- terrorism force, almost 100,000 strong, seen here during a recent exercise, was placed on high alert.

Police have now set up checkpoints on many roads into Beijing. Vehicles are being stopped and then searched. They're looking for any possible threat. Both Interpol and the U.S. State Department say there is cause for concern, especially from Muslim separatists in the northwest of the country with possible links to al Qaeda.

Beijing will make full preparations for biological attacks like anthrax. We've even made antibiotics and vaccine says this government official. At the same time, thousands of foreigners like Sabrina who works for a private charity and asked not to reveal her full name, had been kicked out of the country in a pre-Olympic visa crackdown.

SABRINA, VOLUNTEER: I think the thing is, a lot of these have been here before but they never really looked at them.

VAUSE: The authorities want to ensure protesters from groups like Darfur and free Tibet don't make it into China in the first place. And if they do, they'll be closely watched. Security analysts say China has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on video surveillance and facial recognition technology. Beijing is wired, and will stay that way after the games.


VAUSE: Now security is so tight that on Monday the chief division for the Australian team, John Koch, was actually not allowed into the Olympic village. Apparently, it was a mix-up, he was kept out for a couple of hours. These guys are jumping on everything that looks slightly out of the ordinary.

BLITZER: John Vause will be watching all of this over the next couple of weeks. John, thanks very much for that report.

The Oscar-winning actor, Morgan Freeman is in a hospital right now after a late night car accident.

CNN's A.J. Hammer is following this story for us.

What is his condition right now, A.J.?

A.J. HAMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, hospital officials in Memphis tell CNN "The Dark Knight" star is in serious condition and he's being treated for these injuries sustained in a car crash that happened late last night.

According to CNN's Memphis affiliate WMC, the 71-year-old actor and a female passenger were traveling eastbound on Highway 32 in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi when the car went off the edge of the road and it flipped over several of times before landing in a ditch. Emergency workers had to use the Jaws of Life to remove Freeman and the passenger from the vehicle before airlifting by helicopter to the Memphis Regional Medical Center, which is approximately 90 miles away. Even though it was clearly a serious incident, Freeman was reportedly lucid and conscious and he was joking at the time when the rescue team found him.

Freeman's attorney tells CNN that the actor is in significant pain from several injuries, including those to his arm and shoulder for which he'll have surgery later today.

Morgan Freeman won an Oscar for his role in the 2004 film "Million-Dollar Baby." He's a Memphis native. He owns a home in Charleston, Mississippi, as well as a blues club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Wolf. We wish him, of course, a speedy recovery in this serious accident.

BLITZER: We certainly do, both of them in fact. A.J., thanks very much for that report.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "the Cafferty File."


CAFFERTY: There was a passenger in the car with him, did he say?


CAFFERTY: Do we know anything about the condition about the passenger?

BLITZER: I don't.

CAFFERTY: I wonder if they're all right.

OK. The question this hour, why has Barack Obama changed his tune when it comes to offshore drilling?

Thomas writes from Connecticut: "I don't understand all this talk that Obama's changed his position. He's kept his same position which is against off-shore drilling. The only difference is that he does not want to stop a bipartisan compromise that includes steps to make America more energy independent from being passed in Congress. I think that's very presidential. He can either settle or achieve nothing."

Diane write: "Both Obama and McCain have shifted ground on this and other issues. Can you spell P-A-N-D-E-R? By continually changing to appease an unhappy electorate, Obama will triangulate himself right out of the Oval Office."

Bryan in North Carolina: "I think too much emphasis is placed on flip flopping. Apparently, only the general public is allowed to adjust their view on subjects when they are presented with addition information or the situation changes. Let's try to focus on whether the view he is espouses is good or bad for the country, not if it matches something he said last year when he was a state senator."

Bruce writes: "Senator Obama hasn't just changed his tune, he's rewriting the entire musical score. Just stay tuned."

Kay writes: "This race has deteriorated into a man who is listening and getting hammered for listening and a man who is talking with disdain for the man who is listening. Offshore drilling increases will not impact the next five years of oil speculation. As an upper income bracket Republican, I'd rather pay for a few social programs with Obama than pay big oil on the back end with no foreseeable end to the war in Iraq. America needs to go down a new path."

And Amitola at Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania: "Jack, he changed his mind and is willing to compromise to allow big oil to get their way and plunder our shorelines because Dick Cheney called him up and asked him nicely."

If you didn't see your e-mail go to my blog and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf?

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack, thank you.

A recipe from a celebrity chef that could kill you. He recommended a toxic ingredient. Plus, the former President Bill Clinton is now speaking out candidly about his regrets over his wife's campaign.

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


BLITZER: There's more evidence coming in on the U.S. military stretched pretty thin right now.

Let's go to over to the Pentagon. Our correspondent Barbara Starr is watching the story.

What are we learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the U.S. Marine Corps has just confirmed to CNN they are extending about 1,200 marines in Afghanistan, extending their tour of duty by another 30 days. Now those marines from California will not get home until the end of November. They had already extended about 2,000 other marines. It is the latest indication, Wolf, of how desperate the Pentagon is to get more troops to Afghanistan. This will bridge the gap until they can get more troops freed up.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, stay on top of the story for us. Appreciate it.

Imagine working in 77-degree heat. It's happening over at the United Nations right now. Our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth explains.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.N. chief is turning up the heat, not on global villains but on his own staff; the aim, to help reduce global warming.


ROTH: It can be hot at the top, but that's the way the United Nations secretary-general wants it. Ban Ki-Moon is raising the thermostat at U.N. headquarters to promote the fight against global warming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hot, like being more than hot.

ROTH: Can you work?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all a mental state.

ROTH: Temperatures have been raised from 72 to 77 degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's a little stuffy, but it's for a good cause.

ROTH: Bringing the heat in an aging structure already riddled with ventilation and asbestos problems.

JIM MCKIERNAN, FOREMAN MANAGER: The building was bought in 1950/51 and we're doing the best job we can.

ROTH: The air conditioning runs on steam power. Reductions in steam use will cut carbon emissions. Critics have said for years the U.N. building is full of hot air, but diplomats were, what do you expect, comfortable?

NICHOLAS RIVIERE, FRENCH COUNSELOR: A little air conditioning is fine but too much is unhealthy.

R.M. MARTY NATALEGAWA, INDONESIAN AMB. TO THE U.N.: In Indonesia, we have tropical climate. If anything it's the climate is a bit warm, it will be have-to-our advantage.

KAREN PIERCE, DEPUTY BRITISH AMBASSADOR: I have no difficulty talking to someone in a T-shirt about diplomacy, but I would be a little bit worried if it were the British mission going to talk to people in T-shirts.

ROTH (voice-over): Parts of the U.N. already feel a little stickier.

(on camera): While the secretary-general says it's now time for casualty attire, down here in the steam engine room, it feels like it's 100 degrees. But this is the way it's going to be. I'm telling CNN right now, this is the last time you're going to see me in a suit at the United Nations.

Mr. Secretary, they say clothes make the man. Do you feel diplomacy is less effective when you shed the tie and the suit and the jacket?

BAN KI-MOON, SECERETARY GENERAL-U.N.: You can, first of all, feel very much comfortable, even in conducting diplomacy, I think this is good.

ROTH: And journalists are changing attire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel good. I do feel good. I like to give you one of these.

ROTH: No thank you. For the men with the suits, this is very difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think just take off your jacket.

ROTH: Well, thank you. I never thought you'd ask.


ROTH (on camera): Other staff members who didn't want to be interviewed on camera are complaining about the heat. The U.N. chief says it'll be extended, this Cool U.N. program, if it's rated a success -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Richard Roth. Thank you.

And to our viewer's, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.