Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Capt. Richard Phillips Arrives Home. Obama Attends the Summit of the Americas.; Dealing with Afghan IEDs.

Aired April 17, 2009 - 16:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Deborah Feyerick is on the scene for us in Burlington.

It was a nice moment, indeed, I must say. At some point, Deb, I assume he'll tell the story of what happened. This was not necessarily the right moment right now to go into details about the ordeal -- those days he was stuck on those -- on that lifeboat, a captive of those young pirates.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I did ask him to describe it. He said it was indescribable. Frankly, Wolf, the first time he ever gets a chance to describe what happened during that time may actually be in a courtroom. Because, remember, they are -- the U.S. is bringing one of the Somali pirates, a teenager, 16-years-old, back to the United States to be tried in the Southern District of New York.

Again, this is a big problem on the seas in the Gulf of Aden. The number of piracies are going up and up. And the number of pirates who are trying to get control of freighters that are simply shipping cargo -- again, remember the area where this all happened, that is the quickest route between Asia and Europe. And that's why you have so much commerce there.

But the number of pirate attacks has escalated. The U.S. knows it's a problem. Others know it's a problem. And so they're trying to figure out ways to combat that.

So that may be when the captain first tells his story. But, again, bits and pieces.

What did he think when that first shot shattered the window of that lifeboat and he realized that maybe a rescue was underway?

Those Navy SEALs, he thanked them. He said they're the ones who are the real heroes. He just didn't take any credit for what he had done staying alive for those five days at sea in very hostile conditions. He just said they're the ones. And he thanked everybody and anybody who was involved with his rescue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He -- and they're now going to go to their -- their home in Underhill, Vermont. You're in Burlington right now.

About how far of a drive is that, do you know, Deb?

FEYERICK: It's not very far. It's about a 10 minute drive. We are told that they're going to have a very low key supper -- chicken pot pie, some homemade brownies and some of his favorite beer. So they're keeping it pretty small, but there -- there were a group of people here who actually did come to welcome him home and they cheered when he arrived. And, you know, he said I'm not the hero.

So it was really -- a really moving moment.

BLITZER: Yes. All the genuine heroes always say that, that they're not heroes. And he is a genuine hero by anyone's definition. I'll play a little clip of what he just said.


CAPTAIN RICHARD PHILLIPS, FORMER PIRATE HOSTAGE: Thank you for coming out here. I just have a few things to say. I don't have much. I just want to thank you for your prayers and support of my family while I was gone. I really appreciate that. I wasn't here to do it and a lot of people who I won't mention really did that.

I am just a bit part in this story. I'm a small part. I'm a seaman doing the best he can, like all the other seamen out there.

The first people I want to thank are the SEALs. They're the superheroes. They're the Titans. They're impossible men doing an impossible job. And they did the impossible with me. And I just want to let you know that they -- they are out there. They're just -- they're everyday people. We will not recognize and I will not divulge, but they did an excellent job and they saved me.

They're at the point of the sword every day doing an impossible job, which we cannot comprehend.


BLITZER: I love that New England accent, Deb, that he has.

Clearly, he feels very comfortable back home. He just went -- he arrived after what you told us was an 18-hour flight, two refuelings on that private Maersk jet from Kenya, is that right?

FEYERICK: Exactly. And on board that plane, two FBI agents. It was a very long flight. It stopped two teams. Pretty good odds that those FBI agents were debriefing him on that flight, trying to get as much information as they possibly could. Because remember, it's the FBI who helps build a case against the pirates.

So that's -- again, the conversations that may have taken place on the plane. It's probably not so much of a coincidence that they were on board.

BLITZER: All right, Deb, stand by, because I want to get back to you.

This is a really nice story.

That American captain, Captain Phillips, as you now see, he is on U.S. soil. He's been reunited with his family. And his sole surviving captor, by the way, may soon be joining him here in the United States in what would be an extremely rare case. The accused pirate may be put on trial here in the United States, something none of us has ever seen in our lifetime.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has been looking at this story for us -- all right, Jeanne, explain.

What are you picking up?

MESERVE: Well, Wolf, maritime law experts can't recall a U.S. prosecution of a pirate. The last one may have occurred before the First World War. Even though no American lawyer currently alive has any experience in this kind of case, experts say the U.S. has what it needs.


MESERVE (voice-over): The lone surviving Somali pirate was recently moved from the USS Boxer to the USNS Walter Diehl, a refueling ship. U.S. Defense officials say he will be helicoptered off the Diehl to the U.S. base in Djibouti early next week, where he is expected to be handed over to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Sources say he is likely to be flown directly to New York to avoid the possibility of his claiming asylum or asserting other legal rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They put the person on the plane and just start flying. And as many times as it's required to refuel without landing and/or switch pilots, that's what they can do.

MESERVE: Because this act of piracy involved U.S. citizens and a U.S. ship and took place in international waters, experts say the U.S. has clear jurisdiction. International and U.S. laws on both piracy and hostage taking could be used by prosecutors. The FBI has been collecting evidence, but the strongest element in the U.S. government case is likely to be the firsthand accounts of eyewitness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One is the shipmate who got into a scuffle with this young man and reportedly stabbed him in the hand. And the other, of course, is the captain, who was detained at sea in a small life raft by this individual and his confederates.


MESERVE: If there is a conviction, the maximum penalty is life in prison. The exact age of the pirate is unknown. But because he is young and because no one died, experts say prosecutors are likely to request a lesser penalty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jeanne Meserve, for that fascinating legal ramifications.

The administration's anti-piracy group -- the new group that has been formed -- is holding its first meeting.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, because they're taking steps to try to make sure this doesn't happen again.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they've got one goal -- to find a way to stop pirate attacks on American ships. This is just the first of what I'm told will be many meetings over the next few months.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Friday's first meeting of an anti-piracy group brought together the departments of State, Justice, Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security. Several ideas already on the table -- find and freeze the pirates' assets so they don't have the money to buy more boats and weapons; work with Somali's African neighbors and strengthen the weak Somali government, possibly with a combination of money and training.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The solution to Somali piracy includes improved Somali capacity to police their own territory.

LAWRENCE: Defense officials say the Pentagon is investigating a number of options, from limited strikes against the pirates' land bases to encouraging nations to put more patrol ships at sea. The Defense secretary wants to quickly buy and build more Littoral Combat Ships, which are smaller, faster and can operate in shallow waters.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You don't necessarily need a billion dollar ship to chase down a bunch of teenage pirates. The size of the ship, in such cases, is less important than having Navy SEALs on board.

LAWRENCE: Some have suggested companies pay for armed security teams on board their ships.

ADM. KEVIN COSGROVE (RET.): I wouldn't rule this out. But higher costs are not likely to appeal to shipping companies.

LAWRENCE: Retired Admiral Kevin Cosgrove says consumers would have to bear that cost. Some ships have used barbed wire and fire hoses to ward off pirates, but Cosgrove says this won't be enough to defeat them all.

COSGROVE: He's manning a fire hose and the guy on the other end is manning an AK-47.

Does anybody want to man that fire hose with him?


LAWRENCE: Obviously, a tough rhetorical question, but the -- we're already starting to see some international cooperation on this crisis. France has offered to train a battalion of Somali troops. And next week, the U.S. is sending its top Africa envoy to an international conference on Somalia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if it pays off.

You know, stand by, Chris.

I want you and our viewers to take a look at this picture. This is Captain Richard Phillips. Only moments ago, he raised his left arm. And if you look closely on the wrist -- there it is -- you can see the scars left. He was tied up during the ordeal with the pirates on that little lifeboat. And you can still see the scars left from where his hands were tied, presumably behind his back.

But we just wanted to show our viewers a reminder of what he was going through. And, you know, he wasted no time, Chris, in thanking the men and women of the United States military for -- for saving his life. And he's really grateful to them, as all of us are. It's quite an ordeal.

LAWRENCE: Exactly, Wolf. And, you know, you look at those scars, you think back to when he tried to escape and jump off the boat. And we know that the pirates then tied him up after that. You know, he could have been tied in that position for, you know, more than a day. And, obviously, they wanted to make sure that he would not try to jump off that boat again.

We know that when the military -- when the SEALs gone on board to check him, they had to untie him before they were able to take him off.

BLITZER: Yes. Those bruises around his wrist over there -- the scars, they will heal and he'll do just fine.

Chris, thanks very much for that.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File.

A happy, a happy story -- Jack.


President Obama is being criticized for his decision to release those Bush-era memos about CIA interrogation techniques.

You know, the ones that authorized torture.

Conservatives say releasing them damages our national security by telling terrorists what we do. Michael Hayden, who led the CIA under President Bush, says CIA officers will now be more timid and our allies will be less likely to share sensitive intelligence.

Human rights groups, on the other hand, they're not happy about the president doing this either, that the president promised the CIA that officers who conducted these interrogations will not be prosecuted if they used techniques that were authorized at the time -- the old just following orders.

The president insists there's nothing to gain by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.

I don't know that I agree with that statement, but he's the president and I'm not.

Here's the question -- is the release of the Bush-era interrogation memos a mistake?

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

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Remember, we're waiting to hear from President Obama. He's expected to speak momentarily over at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. He's expected to talk about a significant new overture from Cuba -- at least potentially he's going to respond to what we heard earlier in the day from Raul Castro, the president of Cuba.

And the former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, stepping back into the spotlight. We have details of her speech to a sellout crowd -- emotional at times, light-hearted at others.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is benefit to you with Alaska's strategic location on the globe. And, finally, yes, you can see Russia from Alaska.




BLITZER: The President of the United States getting ready to speak over at the Summit of the Americas and to deliver a formal response to Raul Castro, the president of Cuba, who made some remarks earlier in the day, saying everything is on the table in terms of U.S./Cuban relations, including human rights and political prisoners.

We're going to hear what the president is about to say to the Castro government.

That's coming up.

Stand by.

In the meantime, let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

This relationship between the United States and Cuba, it seems to be changing pretty quickly.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sixty years and then boom -- it seems to be changing in a nanosecond, Wolf. And I think much of the focus at this summit could well be sidetracked by our relationship with Cuba. And I think that's something that the administration is a little worried about.

We learned that the president of the United States called the president of Brazil last night. And while we're not clear what they discussed, the implication is that the president wanted to make sure that the agenda stayed as the agenda and it's not all about Cuba.

BLITZER: Because he's getting some pressure from America's friends in the Western Hemisphere, that maybe it's time to lift sanctions and the trade embargo against Cuba.

BORGER: That's right. And the administration has said while it's eased some restrictions on travel and money, for example, the administration doesn't seem to be ready to do that at this point. So that's clearly going to be a bone of contention.

BLITZER: It's certainly the message you heard from Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, yesterday.

All right. We're standing by to hear from the president. Once he starts speaking in Trinidad and Tobago, we'll go there live.

Over the next few days, the president will face some tough U.S. critics -- some for the first time. Among them, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He just visited China, Iran and Cuba and declares the U.S. is no longer a world powerhouse.

Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega -- he's the Sandinista leader who battled the U.S.-sponsored Contras during the 1980s.

Evo Morales of Bolivia is the only president to have expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

And President Obama met with Brazil's Luiz Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva over at the G20 Summit in London. Luiz Da Silva, by the way, recently blamed what he calls "white, blue-eyed bankers" for the global economic crisis.

They've now gathered in Trinidad and Tobago for this U.S. Summit of the Americas.

U.S. military officials say it's the number one threat American forces are facing in Afghanistan -- Improvised explosive devices. IED attacks are soaring from just over 300 in 2004 to more than 3,000 last year.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been investigating in Afghanistan and she has more.



BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These combat engineers in Afghanistan are building barracks for the thousands of troops headed this way. But first, they have to learn how to stay alive.

SGT. MAJOR DAVID PUGH: So if this is the pressure plate right here...

STARR: And that means avoiding roadside bombs.

Command Sergeant Major David Pugh (ph) runs this IED course. He says the bombs are getting bigger and more deadly.

PUGH: Where IEDs are the number one threat in this theater.

STARR: Snows are just beginning to melt in the mountain passes into Southern Afghanistan, where the fighting has increased. Insurgents have a new tactic against these Marines -- explode a small IED to draw the Marines into a fight and then unleash an ambush barrage of mortars, rockets and machine gunfire.

IED detection gear like these rollers are having problems detecting certain pressure plate mines, which are set off when a vehicle rolls over them. Troops have found so-called plastic mines, with little metal content that electronics can readily detect. At this forward operating base, everyone is on guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting a little bit more tense. We've been receiving indirect fire the last couple -- I'd say the last five nights or so.

STARR: Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway is talking to the troops across Southern Afghanistan.

GEN. JAMES CONWAY: The vast majority of our casualties are coming as a result of IEDs, not force on force.

STARR: He wants to modify these mine-resistant vehicles, used in Iraq, to withstand Afghanistan's tough terrain. But this veteran of Iraq combat knows for his Marines, there's no magic answer.

CONWAY: I don't want to sound cold-hearted about this, but there's a mission here that the nation has to accomplish. Ground troops coming in contact with enemy ground forces are going to result in casualties.

STARR: It's the reality of the war in Afghanistan for the four star commandant and the young Marines who gather to listen to him.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.


BLITZER: And remember, we're standing by to hear from President Barack Obama in Trinidad and Tobago at the Summit of the Americas. He's going to be responding to Cuba's latest statements on a potential thaw in U.S./Cuban relations.

Also, if you missed it, we're going to play for you what Captain Richard Phillips said upon returning to Vermont just a little while ago -- an emotional statement thanking everyone for his safe return. You'll hear Captain Richard Phillips. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.

And Sarah Palin -- she's speaking candidly and emotionally about her son's birth and Down Syndrome. Her speech over at an anti- abortion fundraiser -- is it a step toward the next race for the White House?

Plus, the overnight British singing sensation, Susan Boyle -- she just taped an interview with our own Larry King and she sang for Larry. You're going to hear her sing right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Remember, we're waiting to hear from President Barack Obama, momentarily, we're told, in Trinidad and Tobago at the Summit of the Americas. He's going to be responding to the latest statements from the Cuban president, Raul Castro, about a possible thaw in U.S./Cuban relations. We'll take the president's remarks live once he starts speaking.

In the meantime, let's check in with Fredricka Whitfield.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, lots of news going on today.

WHITFIELD: There sure is.

Thanks a lot, Wolf.

Well, villagers are in a state of shock in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan, hit by two moderate earthquakes early this morning. More than 20 people died and some 200 mud and brick homes came tumbling down. The first quake, at a magnitude of 5.5, rocked the area at 2:00 a.m. A second struck two hours later, measuring 5.1. The Afghan Army has been sent in to help.

Police in Boston are hunting for a suspected serial criminal who picks and chooses his victims from Craigslist. Over the past week, there has been a killing and two armed robberies. All were women who routinely placed ads on the popular online bulletin board in Metro Boston. The most recent was yesterday in Warwick, Rhode Island.


CHIEF STEPHEN MCCARTNEY, WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND POLICE: A preliminary investigation suggests that the assailant was responding to an advertisement that was posted by the victim on Craigslist. Warwick police detectives are actively investigating this case to include the possibility that this incident may be related to similar crimes occurring in the Boston area.


WHITFIELD: A 26-year-old woman who also advertised on Craigslist was found bound and fatally shot Tuesday night in a Boston hotel.

A 26-year-old woman is charged with trespassing after she was caught allegedly peering into the home of Britney Spears. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department says security personnel on the grounds found Miranda Tozier-Robbins lurking around the pop singer's windows. The statement also said that Tozier-Robbins was wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying backpack containing video equipment.

No word on where Spears was during the incident -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Fred.

We'll get back to you.

A bright star during the presidential election, she says she's now ready to restart her engine -- what Sarah Palin is hinting at and what choked her up while speaking in front of a crowd last night. Our Candy Crowley is there.

Plus, she shot into the spotlight when she opened her mouth. The world is smitten with a new singing sensation. And now you're about to hear what Britain's Susan Boyle is revealing to Larry King. She's also singing for Larry. We're going to play it for you.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, the Environmental Protection Agency targets six heat-trapping gases it says pollute the air and could harm your health. The results of a newly released review could give the EPA new muscle to raise clean air standards.

Wall Street wrapped up another winning week -- the Dow gaining almost 6 points, to close at 8131. Experts say it's more evidence the economy is getting its footing again.

But does it mean we're out of the woods?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


She wasn't the headliner, but she was a hit -- a huge hit. The former Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, speaking last night at an anti-abortion fundraiser and growing emotional as she bluntly discussed her disabled son and obliquely talked about her own political future. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley was there.

Candy? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Juno, Alaska is a long way from Evansville, Indiana, but this was a cause and constituency Sarah Palin couldn't ignore.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA: Thank you so much!

CROWLEY (voice-over): She came.

PALIN: Thank you Indiana!

CROWLEY: She spoke.

PALIN: It is great to be in Indiana. The crossroads of America!

CROWLEY: She rocked the house. Officials at the Vanderbrook County Indiana right to life banquet didn't think there was much chance Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would accept their invitation to the group's biggest fund-raiser, but she did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We immediately sold out before actually it was released to the public.

PALIN: This isn't free --

CROWLEY: She talked about stimulus money, the beauty of Alaska, her days on the campaign trail and to this room full of abortion opponents about her 1-year-old son Trigg, a downs syndrome child.

PALIN: I had to call upon my faith and ask that my heart be filled up. I tell you, the moment that he was born, I knew for sure that my prayer was answered. And my heart overflowed with joy!

CROWLEY: The anti-abortion movement is a core constituency in the Republican Party and the speech was Governor Palin's first this year in the lower 48. It does have people talking about her 2012 intentions and parsing her words.

PALIN: I have a feeling that I'm going to leave here with new energy and with inspiration, and I will restart my engine!

CROWLEY: Personally, professionally, it's been a rough road for the governor since the republican ticket was defeated in November. Her relationship with Levi Johnson, father of her grandchild is the stuff of soap operas. Her dealings with state lawmakers are not much better. Legislative battles have been bitter. Democrats and a few republicans complained the Indiana trip shows the governor is more interested in her national ambitions than in state business.

PALIN: Which is ironic because these are the same critics who would love to see me outside the state forever, permanently, you know? Outside the governor's office anyway.

CROWLEY: 2012 is political light years away. It's not likely anyone, including Sarah Palin, has decided whether to run for president, but she has set up a political action committee. She took the trek from Alaska to Indiana for a pretty well covered mini show. At the very least, she is laying down a marker.


CROWLEY: Governor Palin left Evansville and headed back to Alaska for the final days of the state legislative session, but she literally gets thousands of invitations, we're told, so it's a pretty certain bet that sooner or later she'll be back in the lower 48. Wolf?

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. Let's bring in our CNN political contributors, the democratic strategist James Carville and the republican strategist Ed Rollins. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Certainly sounded, James -- and you're a political strategist. It sounded when she said she was getting ready to restart her engine as if she's looking ahead towards maybe 2012.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think there's any doubt about it. She has a pact, she's got a cool constituency in the Republican Party. Boy, the press, we in the press, we love her. She's really a compelling person. I think that something has to happen where she wouldn't run. I would fully expect her to be a candidate in 2012.

BLITZER: Ed, what do you think?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think she turns on people more than anybody else that's out there right now. For the first time in my lifetime, I've been a republican almost 40 years, there is no front-runner for our party. She's as close to one, and I think that she's got a lot of steps to take and a lot of things she has to do, first and foremost she has to get reelected in two years or make that choice but I think she's an exciting person and that audience last night which had 3,000 people there, certainly loved her and they're all going to go out and champion for her.

BLITZER: I want to play this extended clip of what she said, Ed, and listen to this, James, you as well. When she spoke about her youngest son Trig when she got the news that there was a problem. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA: When my amniocentesis results came back showing what they called abnormalities, oh, dear God, I knew I had instantly an understanding for that fleeting moment why someone would believe it could seem possible to change those circumstances, just make it all go away and get some normalcy back in life. Just take care of it because at the time only my doctor knew the results. Todd didn't even know. No one would know. But I had just enough faith to know that trying to change the circumstances wasn't any answer. And friends, here tonight, that faith was built on what I hear from you, Vanderburgh right to life.


BLITZER: That's a powerful statement that clearly is going to play to that base Ed of the Republican Party.

ROLLINS: Well, you know, intellectually you can be pro-life but when you really have a child in your womb and there's a deformity there, to go through with the decision to have that child shows what great love and how truly you believe that. So I think it was a very powerful sharing of her true feelings and I think that does nothing but enhances her among that important base of our party.

BLITZER: I assume you agree.

CARVILLE: Yeah, I think she breathes every word of it. I'm not hardly a Sarah Palin fan but I think she's very religious. I think she's very committed and I think it came through in that. I don't doubt, I would be stunned, I don't think this is any kind of a political setting or anything. I think this is genuinely the way that this woman feels, and I've always thought that. Her own mother-in-law said the same thing. She is, and I think it came through.

BLITZER: What you see, is basically what you get.

CARVILLE: On that issue. I only speak to that issue.

BLITZER: This is really only the second time since the election, since her defeat with John McCain she came to the national governor's association convention in Miami shortly after the convention, now she's come back for this event. She's carefully selecting which venues James she wants to participate in.

CARVILLE: She is. This makes a lot of sense. I can't speak to how genuine she is on other issues. But I do have the sense and I think Ed does to that on this she's a genuinely devout person that believes in a decision she made. I don't -- I can't --

BLITZER: Politically speaking, Ed, do you think it was smart for her to select this group, this antiabortion group in Indiana to make this public appearance?

ROLLINS: I think this group better than anything else. I think walking away from her home state right in the closing sessions of the legislature would have to be something very significant and something where she could really connect to an audience. It wasn't like just going to New York and doing a fundraiser, it was obviously something she was very committed to. So the biggest problem she has is Alaska is a long ways from Iowa and New Hampshire. And every time she comes to the lower 48 she's going to get second guessed back home.

BLITZER: Yeah, that's a good point. I want both of you to stand by because we have much more to talk about including the president of the United States. He's getting ready to speak at the summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. We're going to take you through (INAUDIBLE) live, he's expected to respond directly to the Cuban President Raul Castro. There's fast-moving developments in the U.S. Cuban relationship unfolding right now.

Also we'll talk about those so-called torture memos from the Bush administration. They've been released, should some of those involve being nervous about possible prosecution? James Carville and Ed Rollins they're here, we'll discuss that and more.

And the American ship captain held by Somali pirates he's back in the United States now. He's with his family. He's very grateful. It was a joyful homecoming. Some of you have seen it live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up we're going to play his remarks, what he said in Burlington, Vermont, once he got off that plane.


BLITZER: Waiting to hear from the president of the United States. We'll go there as soon as he starts speaking. He's expected to respond to Raul Castro. The latest overture is going back and forth between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Stand by for that.

Images of hooded detainees we've seen this before but secret memos just released are giving America and the world a whole new look at some interrogation tactics okayed by the Bush administration. Techniques some consider torture and now there's new fallout from the decision to make the documents public. We asked CNN's Brian Todd to take a closer look at these unfolding developments. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the images presented in these memos are still reverberating. For example, the sanction of waterboarding where Bush administration lawyers outline how to pour water on a suspect's face to create the sensation of drowning, rules which according to the memos released were often broken by using larger volumes of water than allowed. Sleep deprivation where a suspect is shackled standing up sometimes for almost 11 days straight, all designed to get information from terror suspects. But now the release of these memos is turning into one of President Obama's most scrutinized moves.


TODD (voice-over): Much of the push back comes from those who served on President Bush's security team, who say his successor is tying his own hands in the future fight against terror. Former CIA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey write in the "Wall Street Journal", "The release of the opinions on interrogations will invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past. And that we came to sorely regret on September 11." They and former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend, a CNN analyst, also argue that methods like cramped confinement for a limited time used against al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah worked in locating the 9/11 mastermind.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: The use and technique led to the ultimate capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. So there is an argument to be made that in limited circumstances these techniques can be effective in preventing terrorist attacks.

TODD: But techniques that were not as harsh have worked just as well says a former army lawyer who's now a human rights advocate.

BRIG. GE. JAMES P. CULLEN (RET.), HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: We got the top guy in al Qaeda and Mesopotamia by using techniques that army military intelligence used in accordance with the manual and we got excellent information.

TODD: Another key question moving forward, consequences for those involved in the use of these techniques. The Obama administration says CIA officials won't be prosecuted. But what about Bush administration lawyers who wrote that methods like stress positions and sleep deprivation were legal, like top Justice Department officials Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: We need to know the facts, but we don't need a witch hunt. I don't think that's appropriate for the people who are working in the agency. I also don't think it's something that Barack Obama needs in his presidency right now.


TODD: Still Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman John Conyers, democrats who head the judiciary committees in congress are both calling for independent commissions outside congress to investigate the drafting of these memos. When we pressed them, aides to Leahy and Conyers would not say whether they would want Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury specifically called before those commissions. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian, there's still very much the possibility that officials elsewhere around the world, especially in Spain could not only investigate but charge some of these Bush administration officials.

TODD: That is possible. A Spanish judge just today went against recommendations of prosecutors and kept alive an investigation into whether Jay Bybee, also former attorney general Alberto Gonzales and other Bush administration officials broke international law when writing some of these interrogation guidelines. So those possibilities still technically exist.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that. Let's get back to our CNN political contributors, the democratic strategist James Carville, the republican strategist Ed Rollins. Do you think the president may have made a mistake in releasing these Bush administration documents?

CARVILLE: I don't think so. What struck me about the whole thing is how crude it was. It aided the legal opinions. I never was much of a lawyer but they didn't seem like much to me. You know, these are all like putting an insect in a cell, waterboarding we put Japanese to death, that's torture. The whole thing, like they can't think of something else? I would think by this time the CIA would have more creative ways to get information than that, but what do I know?

BLITZER: A lot of this stuff, as you know, Ed, was pretty much out there in the news media and in the public domain, but it's different once the U.S. government formally releases the actual documents, the legal opinions.

ROLLINS: I have two thoughts. The first thought being it's against our law. It's against our constitution, it's against international treaties that we signed. Torture is not something we're supposed to use though it separates us from everybody else. In the weeks and days after 9/11 when we had 3,000 Americans murdered obviously you do things because you're scared. As you had more time to think about it the practices should not have been used.

My concern today is obviously there are people in the CIA including Leon Panetta that argued against the release and I think to a certain extent this is now this president's team. These CIA guys are his team, Leon Panetta is his man and so I think to a certain extent they have to be very careful how they move forward here and certainly by not bringing anybody or letting anybody be charged here I think is very important.

BLITZER: And he did make that decision, the president of the United States, that no one would be prosecuted. None of the CIA officers who actually implemented these techniques.

CARVILLE: And no one would have been convicted. No jury in America would have convicted these guys for something that they did. The only thing that struck me is we get all of this -- sloppy lawyering and sloppy intelligence. I mean it looks like they didn't have some kind of truth serum or something? I don't know. And now? We did this -- everybody knew that we were doing it. And this just confirmed what everyone knew. This is not a very glorious chapter in our history. But you know what, we're a great country and we'll get over this too.

BLITZER: The United States has gotten over a lot worse.

CARVILLE: A lot worse, yes.

ROLLINS: We still haven't caught the 6'6" man running around with the kidney machine with all the torture and all the rest of it that obviously has got to be our target.

CARVILLE: Hopefully we get him. It just seemed very -- very -- not very creative and not very smart to me.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much. We're going to be gathering more on this important story coming up in the next hour. Fran Townsend, she's going to be joining us. She's the former homeland security adviser to President Bush. She's our CNN national security contributor. We'll get her thoughts on this uproar as well.

He was the youngest modern-day governor of one of the country's biggest states. Could he also be the oldest? Jerry brown is known as being unconventional, a familiar face and his possible return to the governor's office. That's still ahead.

The U.S. ship captain taken hostage by pirates, he's now back home in Vermont. You're going to hear what he says why he insists he's no hero -- he really is. We're going to play his full remarks. That's coming up and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Looking at these live pictures, they're introducing various leaders over at the summit of the Americas in port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. Eventually they'll be introducing the president of the United States. Then there will be some speakers who will make comments, including the president. He's going to be responding to Raul Castro's statement of earlier in the day. An official U.S. response from President Obama on a possible thaw in U.S./Cuban relations. We'll go there live, once President Obama starts speaking.

In the meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again for "The Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY: The question this hour, is the release of the Bush-era interrogation memos a mistake? Chris in the Bronx writes, "Obama did the right thing. America has always enjoyed a moral high ground to get things done around the world. I reject the claim the CIA will now be timid following the release of the memos. The president left the CIA alone, so they can continue to do their great work."

Jason in Virginia writes, "As soon as you can explain what good will come of releasing the memos, go ahead and release them. For the time being, I will consider it a betrayal of our national security apparatus and the obvious necessary confidence in which it must operate. No matter that some believe that mistakes were made we have to have some secrets to protect our sources and our methods of gaining intelligence information."

Karl in San Francisco writes, "No, the mistake is not prosecuting Bush, Cheney, Hayden, Gonzales and maybe Rumsfeld and Ashcroft or at least appointing a totally independent prosecutor to look into it. Until we correct the course of the past, we're just another third- world country that tortures people, and the rest of the civilized world knows it." Candy in Oregon writes, "Jack absolutely it's a mistake. There are some things we just simply do not need to know. Might as well supply a blue-print to the terrorists. Believe me when I say my husband would have preferred a little waterboarding instead of the horrendous torture he underwent in Hanoi. He was there over six years. Where were the ACLU and all the bleeding hearts then?"

L. writes, "No, I need to know what my country did on my behalf in all issues, let's here it." And Annie in Atlanta says, "No, the only mistake going forward would be not prosecuting and imprisoning everyone involved." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there. We post hundreds every hour for each of these questions that we ask. Wolf?

BLITZER: I know you do, Jack. Thanks very much. Stand by.

He's hailed as a hero. He insists he's not a hero. The American ship captain, Richard Phillips, he's back safely on U.S. soil. He's now talking about his ordeal. We're going to show you the emotional homecoming.

And look who is singing for CNN, Susan Boyle, the new internat situation and overnight British star. She belts one out for our own Larry King. You'll hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Obama has just been introduced over at the Summit of the Americas over in Trinidad and Tobago. All the countries of the western hemisphere with the exception of Cuba, they've been invited to the Summit of the Americas. Very soon the president will be speaking and he'll be speaking about U.S./Cuban relations, responding to Raul Castro, the president of Cuba. We'll see if there's a thaw in U.S./Cuban relations. We'll have the president's remarks, that's coming up live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to want to stick around and see that.

A 47-year-old woman who went from unknown to world famous in just a matter of days says she just sang what she felt. Susan Boyle shot up to stardom when she performed on the hit reality show, "Britain's Got Talent." Her rendition of the song "I Dreamed a Dream" blew people away around the world. Boyle who lives alone with her cat is now a hit on the internet and she's making daily television appearances around the world. The singing sensation spoke to our own Larry King about her big moment.


LARRY KING: How did you select that song from "Les Mis"? Why did you sing that song?

SUSAN BOYLE, STAR OF "BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT": I sang that song because it fitted in with the circumstances at the particular time. That was the way I was feeling at the time. It summed up what I was aiming for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to say, Susan, I was very touched by the very flattering remarks you made about me in the newspapers this weekend which did not go unnoticed. As you chose me instead of Simon as your potential suitor and I would like to extend an invitation to you to have dinner with me in London, Susan.

BOYLE: I accept.

KING: Susan, will you sing just a little for us?

BOYLE: Every night in my dreams I see you I feel you. That is how I know you so long. Far across the distance a space is between us that is how I know you go on.

KING: Pierce, analyze that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing! Well, that was just absolutely stunning. To sing that with no musical backing is unbelievable. You have the voice of an angel, Susan.


BLITZER: She certainly does. And you're going to hear and see a lot more of Susan Boyle later tonight, how she's handling the fame on CNN's "Larry King Live," 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight. You're going to want to watch Larry tonight. Watch him every night, but especially tonight. Susan Boyle, she's a hit.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, President Obama on Cuba's new effort to try to break a half century of silence. We're standing by to hear from President Obama. He's getting ready to comment on President Raul Castro's invitation. Stand by. You'll see it live here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a humbling homecoming, the sea captain rescued from pirates now back home with his family in Vermont. And he's insisting he's not a hero.