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tv   CNN Tonight  CNN  December 29, 2009 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

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i think the president was right to call for immediate reviews on how this guy got on the plane and how he was able to get some explosives on the plane. so we got a while to go. >> okay. thank you so much for joining us in "the situation room." we appreciate it. i'm suzanne malveaux in "the situation room." up next, "cnn tonight." tonight -- president obama admits the anti-terror system failed. >> a systemic failure has occurred, and i consider that totally unacceptable. >> four days after the christmas airliner attack, the president promises to act quickly to fix the flaw that's nes that nearly disaster. searching for answers. we now know what the bomb looked like but investigators still don't have a key piece of the puzzle. exactly how the bomb was supposed to work. and umar farouk abdulmutallab allegedly took his orders from terrorists in yemen.
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what do we know about this new ground zero of terrorism, and how is the u.s. going to fight it? good evening and thanks for being with us. a mix of human and systemic failure, that's how president obama described the circumstances that led up to the near tragedy on christmas morning. he made the surprise statement late this afternoon from his vacation home in hawaii saying, "the intelligence community knew about umar farouk abdulmutallab weeks ago and failed to spread word that would have put him on the no-fly list." our ed henry is following that part of the story for us and will join us in just a moment from hawaii. first, though, the latest on the investigation tonight from homeland security correspondent jeanne meserve. she joins us live tonight from washington with breaking news about the cia's role in this systemic failure. hi, jeanne. >> hi, john. this information coming to us from a single, well-placed source, who tell us that someone from the cia met with the father
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of umar farouk abdulmutallab in nigeria and spoke with him and prepared a report on his concerns that his son had become radicalized and might have gone to yemen. what i'm told by my source is that a report was prepared, and it was sent on to the cia in langley, virginia. cia headquarters. but it was not disseminated to the wider intelligence community. this source says that there was other intelligence being gathered, intelligence that perhaps did not have a name attached to it but perhaps if they had, had additional information about someone, maybe someone of a certain nationality, perhaps that would have helped put the pieces together perhaps in time to stop this plot. but in fact the information, i'm told, stayed with the cia and stayed there until after the attempted attack on christmas day. we asked the white house for comment. we got a response from an administration official who did not deny or contradict in any way the specifics of that reporting. it just said that the president's statement made clear there was information held by the u.s. government in various
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places and various forms that could have and should have been assessed, analyzed and correlated with other information in a way that would have allowed us to disrupt the attempted terrorist attack before the suspect boarded an aircraft. it goes on, of course, to say how the white house is trying to correct the situation. there is a little pushback, however, from the intelligence community. an intelligence official telling us the guy father gave his son's name and passport number. that was disseminated. he said his kid might have connections to extremists to yemen. that, too, was disseminated. "i'm not aware of a magic piece of intelligence somehow withheld that would have put abdulmutallab on the no-fly list." but what my source is saying is it wasn't that specific intelligence alone but that intelligence in combination with other intelligence which might have put the picture together. john? >> and what about the sense of urgency, jeanne, that was conveyed by abdulmutallab's father? i mean, he went to the embassy not once, more than once, and also made some followup phone
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calls. what do we know about the level of contact that his father had with the u.s. embassy there? >> well, u.s. officials are saying there was one face-to-face meeting that they know of, but then there were several telephone calls. so this wasn't a one-time affair. he did go several times or rather make contact several times to express his concerns about his son and what he might be up to. and what has been noted before, this wasn't just a joe off the street. this was a very prominent citizen of nigeria who was coming in to try to sound the alarm about his son. >> jeanne meserve with the very latest for us from washington tonight. jeanne, thanks so much. the immediate reaction to this attack has been to focus on airport security. but abdulmutallab could have been stopped long before he ever set foot on an aircraft. the u.s. had issued him a visa and the u.s. had multiple reports, again from his father, a former bank official in nigeria, that abdulmutallab may have been a radical muslim. but no one in the u.s. government put those two facts together to justify an investigation that could have led to canceling his visa.
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jill dougherty has been trying to find out why. >> reporter: with information still fresh of what could have been a fresh terrorist attack, president obama is slamming security agencies afterbombing' father that his son might be with religious extremists fell through the cracks. >> it now appears weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list. there appears to be other deficiencies as well. >> reporter: state department spokesman ian kelly insists department staff did what they were supposed to do, send a cable from the embassy in nigeria outlining those warnings to the national counterterrorism center in washington, the braintrust of all federal agencies fighting terrorism. could the state department on its own have pulled the suspect's visa which allows him to visit the u.s. any time?
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no, kelly says. it's an interagency decision. but the bureaucratic finger-pointing has begun. a u.s. government official familiar with how the embassy cable was handled in washington telling cnn, the cable was a very thin report with nothing specific. just one of hundreds of reports that counterterrorism center evaluates daily. not enough reasonable suspicion to warrant putting the alleged bomber on a no-fly list or revoking his visa. but in may, british authorities did refuse the suspect a visa and put him on a watch list. a british source tells cnn, it was because he lied on a student visa application claiming he went to a bogus college. that information, however, was never passed on to u.s. authorities, he says, because it wasn't linked to terrorism. >> i think we've got to ask why wouldn't our allies have shared with us information even if it was not terrorism related.
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if this individual lied on their visa application, in their visa application process, why wouldn't they have shared that with us? because, frankly, if an individual is known to have lied to another immigration authority around the world, i'd want to know that. >> and already the state department is pointing to some possible loopholes that might allow someone to fly even with a revoked visa. information that a visa has been pulled goes into a database and that is communicated to other u.s. government agencies, but no automatic notification goes into airline databases. john? >> do people in the state department find it curious that the brits appear to have gotten it right here in revoking abdulmutallab's visa but at the same time the u.s. visa wasn't revoked? >> well, you know, they are saying it's a different deal. that at that point, you know, the brits were working on something that was really an immigration issue as opposed to a terrorism issue. so it's apples and oranges. >> jill dougherty for us tonight. jill, thanks so much. president obama has given
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his homeland security team until thursday to come up with a preliminary report on how umar farouk abdulmutallab got on board flight 253 with enough high explosive to potentially blow it out of the sky. our senior white house correspondent ed henry is covering the story for us as the president vacations in hawaii. >> reporter: faced with criticism, he's been too slow to react to the attempted terror attack, president obama interrupted his hawaiian vacation for the second straight day. this time he minced no words. >> when our government has information on a known extremist, and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. and i consider that totally unacceptable. >> reporter: taking a more aggressive posture than just 24 hours earlier, the president gave officials a thursday deadline to give him preliminary findings on the failures. calling it a nearly catastrophic
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breach of security, mr. obama had a blunt message for the intelligence community. >> pull the resources they need to keep america safe but it's also my job that our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security systems and the people in them, are working effectively and held accountable. i intend to fulfill that responsibility and insist on accountability at every level. >> reporter: the kind of demand for accountability thaft that was lacking sunday when homeland security secretary janet napolitano said something had gone wrong. >> one thing would i like to point out is that the system worked. everybody played an important role here. the passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. >> reporter: napolitano walked that back monday saying she met the system worked after the attempted attack. the top republican on the house intelligence committee pounced on that and is charging the administrati administrati administration has not kept them in the loop in the investigation. >> it's their responsibility to keep us fully and currently informed. they're not doing that.
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>> reporter: but after cnn learned congressman pete hoekstra was briefed on christmas day, his white house office acknowledged they did speak to him. he was blasted for putting out a fund-raising letter on the terrorist that vows to fight the plan to "weaken our security." he said the fund-raising appeal is part of his plan to highlight his national security credentials. he's already raised money off of it so he's happy to do it. but a sign of the democrats being a bit more aggressive than they were a couple days ago, a dnc aide said after eight years of failed leadership on national security it's, quote, shameful for republicans to be playing politics with this incident. john? >> ed, we weren't expecting the president to come out and talk today. why did he make that decision? >> in the last few moments, a senior administration has told us that some new information that basically earlier today the president got on a secure conference call with two of his
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top security aides, john brennan, head of homeland security and general jim jones, his national security adviser, and we're told on that call the president was given new information that suggested officials had not connected the dots properly before this incident. they won't get more specific. but obviously as jeanne meserve is reporting about the cia contact with the father and other information coming out, it's clear now that the president was briefed before he came out, and that prompted him to come out, that there was a lot more information kicking around and aides are saying he wanted to be transparent and tell the american people he knew more information, john. >> ed henry for us in hawaii tonight. ed, thanks. coming up, we'll have much more on the fallout of the failed attack on flight 253. we'll look at the middle eastern country of yemen and its increasing role in the war on terror. and an international custody battle that appeared to be resolved is actually far from over. we'll have the latest on the fight over 9-year-old sean goldman. nstar. big deal. i'll just use my phone. let's say we crashed. whoops, your phone's gone.
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american officials say the suspect in the failed christmas terror attack took his orders from al qaeda in yemen. an al qaeda group in yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack. and as barbara starr reports, it may have been retaliation for secret u.s. air strikes that have been going on in that country for months. >> reporter: this is the front line in the new u.s.-funded secret war against al qaeda terrorists in training camps here in yemen. al qaeda now claiming the attack against northwest airlines flight 253 was in direct retaliation.
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cnn has confirmed u.s. involvement is deepening in yemen. in recent weeks, several air strikes, an al qaeda operative eulogizes fellow fighters. and yemeni officials tell cnn, shortly after this, a man is killed is yet another raid. general petraeus sounded warnings months ago. >> that's where al qaeda has established headquarters. this is a concern. >> reporter: in recent months both general petraeus and john brennan, president obama's top counterterrorism adviser, personally warned yemeni president asaleh, that al qaeda was targeting his inner circle. a senior administration official confirms to cnn that intelligence agencies and military special praks teoperat teams are helping yemen provide intelligence, training and weapons. u.s. officials say they gave yemen intelligence on al qaeda targets but won't say if
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american warplanes or armed drones conducted the recent strikes. senator joe lieberman offered one of the few public hints. >> we have a growing presence there, and we have to, of special operations, green beret intelligence. if we don't act preemptively, yemen will be tomorrow's war. that's the danger we face. >> reporter: that's one reason the u.s. is so worried about the claims by the northwest airline suspect. he says he traveled to yemen and was given bomb-making materials there by al qaeda. look at the map, and you see the immediate potential for disaster. al qaeda operatives in yemen are within striking distance of saudi oil facilities. hundreds of vulnerable cargo ships pass the coastline each year. one reason al qaeda has established yemen as its safe haven, the government there is already battling tribal rebels in both the north and the south. >> there is a very real sense that the central government is losing control over most of the
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country. >> reporter: a senior u.s. official tells cnn that yemeni president saleh has grown more accepting in recent weeks of u.s. assistance, that he understands now the situation in his own country fighting al qaeda has grown dire. john? >> barbara starr reporting tonight. barbara, thank you. joining me now is a senior policy analyst with the rand corporation. and steve emerson, the executive director of the investigative project on terrorism to talk more about this. steve, let's talk with you. richard clarke, the former white house embassy chairman, who sounded alarm bells, said in many ways yemen is in many ways in danger of becoming the new afghanistan. do you agree? >> absolutely. richard clarke was warning about yemen and i remember getting briefed by him back in 1999 and in 2000, of course, cole" was blown up by terrorists
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from yemen. so, therefore, there's been a migration of some of its leadership and center of religious and political gravity to yemen, where there's a failed nation country so there's no central authority being able to be projected and rein in the terrorists. so that's why the united states, together with the yemenese military, but it's really the u.s. who has done many of the strikes in the last month. >> do you agree this is a failed state or on its way to become a failed state? and what are the internal pressures there that are making this a haven for al qaeda fighters? >> i do not believe that yemen is a failed state. it's a state that's facing some very, very difficult challenges and in some ways there are resemblances between yemen and the tribal areas of pakistan, the tribal societies. there are areas where the government doesn't exert jurisdiction. you have to keep in mind that yemen is larger than iraq. and it has a much more difficult
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geography. there are parts of yemen where there are no roads, no infrastructure. this area has become sanctuary, so can become sanctuaries very easily. and in this case, there is a rational element in that yemen is very close to the horn of africa, where there is a very large al qaeda link insurgency going on. these are very closely connected and this is what makes the whole area so dangerous for the stability of the world. >> steve emerson, it's been said where the road ends, al qaeda begins. and as angel was just saying, there's not a lot of roads in a big part of yemen. so in terms of trying to dislodge these groups, in terms of trying to go after them as general david petraeus has indicated the u.s. is and as senator joe lieberman suggested the u.s. is with special operation forces and green berets, how difficult is it to
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get to them? we know the difficulties that the u.s. has had in afghanistan in those mountainous regions. >> well, you know, u.s. successes in afghanistan, although accompanied by single intelligence, have largely been the -- the success have largely been attributable to boots on the ground, sources, infiltration, special operations, which is exactly the messy type of thing the united states is going to have to do in yemen if it's going to basically defeat and put al qaeda on the defensive. there's no other way around it. joe lieberman was talking about special operations. he's talking about covert operations. he's talking about special forces on the ground that are basically going to have to dislodge, conduct covert operations militarily, collect intelligence, recruit informants. basically replicate the entire apparatus, what we did in pakistan and south waziristan. >> is it possible, angel to turn back the tide there? if you see yemen is not yet a failed state, is it possible with the assistance of u.s. forces to stop it from tipping over into a failed state? >> i think it can be done.
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i think the fact the job of counterinsurgency is always better done by local forces, because local forces have the local knowledge, they are more accepted by the population, i think it would be a grave mistake to have boots on the ground in yemen. it would simply violate al qaeda's narrative that the muslim world is being occupied by infidels. what they need to do is give the yemenis the capabilities they need, assistance, training, equipment to do the job themselves. >> what do you think about that, steve? we heard from al qaeda in the arabian peninsula that the attack on flight 253 was in retaliation for u.s. attacks or perhaps u.s.-sponsored attacks, against al qaeda in yemen. if the u.s. goes in there, tries to dislodge al qaeda f. it steps up operations, do we risk seeing more of these acts of terrorism directed at the united states, and that it would be better for yemeni forces to do it but also it raises the point, are they equipped to do it? >> ideally, look, ideally i
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agree with angel it would be better for yemeni forces to do it. so far if you look at the past decade, they've been unwilling to do it or incapable of doing it. and there's a reason for that. either they themselves are jihadists or they don't have enough of the government resources behind them. i would love to strengthen and embolden the central government to be able to take that decisive force and basically move in to the counterterrorism arena and basically obviate the united states from having to do it but so far they haven't manifested the political will to be able to do that. it really leaves it upon the u.s. to do it by itself. would i love i would love to, as i say, see the yemenis doing it but we have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. a lot coming up in the future. thank you both for talking to us tonight. thank you for joining us, gentlemen. appreciate it. coming up -- should all carry-on luggage be banned in light of the failed terror attack? we'll have a special report. just when you thought it was finally over, a new twist to the international child custody bat from brazil.
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the international custody battle over a 9-year-old american boy is apparently far from over. sean goldman's brazilian family says it will fight to regain custody. these are images of sean and his father david goldman after they were reunited last week. a brazilian supreme court judge order sean be returned to his father. his family said at the time it would end its legal battle to keep the boy in the country. lawyers for the relatives of sean goldman now say that they will push for sean to tell a brazilian court where he wants to live and continue to fight to bring him back to brazil. as new york city prepares to ring in a new year, some good news about the old year. new york city is on pace to have a record low murder rate. according to new statistics, new york's murder rate and overall crime rate are down 11% from 2008. so far this year there have been 461 murders in new york. that is down from 523 last year.
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the murder rate down 29% since 2001. it matches a trend across the country the fbi says throughout the first half of this year, murder and manslaughter rates fell 10% compared with 2008. a sheriff's deputy in washington state who was critically wounded in a shootout last week has died. 44-year-old deputy walter kent mondale was shot when he responded to a domestic dispute. as we taken off life support yesterday. he leaves behind a wife and two children. six law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty in the seattle area since october. that is six. coming up -- a machine that virtually strips passengers before they board their flight. just how much does it reveal? how much is too much? you better travel light. the move to limit, even ban, most carry-on luggage. have you guys seen this new "avatar" trailer ?
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you have seen it on overcrowded flights, people trying to jam overstuffed baggage into those overhead bins and under their seats.
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the overcrowding even worse since the airlines started charging to check bags. now the canadian government is taking the drastic step of banning most carry-on luggage on flights bound for the united states. as luis schiavone reports, many flight attendants are saying, it's about time. >> reporter: will carry-on luggage become the next casualty of the attempted christmas day bombing of a flight into detroit? in canada, for passengers bound for the united states, it already is. there's ample reason to be concerned about carry-ons everywhere, says analyst larry johnson. >> to this day, there is no effective technological solution in place at the airports for passenger screening in terms of what a passenger takes on board a plane and for carry-on luggage that would prevent a bomb. >> reporter: in canada, if you're heading for the u.s., you'll not only walk through a metal detector, you'll also get a physical pat-down. and while you can take your medicine, your ipod, your
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computer and your baby food with you, for the foreseeable future, you can no longer bring your suitcase on board. good idea says a flight attendant with usair and spokesman for the 50,000-strong association of flight attendants. >> everybody who's flown recently knows what a mess the carry-on situation is in cabins. it needs to be regulated. it's out of control in the cabin, and i think it is part of the security system. it will help reduce the items in the en cabin, which will help flight attendants know what's going on. >> reporter: at the aviation flight administration, a spokeswoman tells cnn, the u.s. policy remains unchanged. the rule is one carry-on and one personal item. the airlines are responsible for essentially enforcing that, end quote. a spokesman for transport canada in that country is working well. the security lines are moving a bit more smoothly and it's a welcome change from the chaos of big bags being wheeled onto passenger planes. in the u.s., though, john air
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travelers by the millions still swear by carry-on luggage. it doesn't get lost. you don't have to wait forever at a luggage carousel to pick it up. and as you said, it doesn't cost anything to check. >> what is it about carry-on luggage that irritates the flight attendants so much? >> it's just a chaotic scene. people get onto the airplanes and as you know they have these huge suitcases and they're jamming them into those cabins. and if one of those compartments over a cabin breaks, then that plane is grounded until it's repaired. there's a lot of stuff from this man we spoke to said he saw somebody bring a potted mranplaa big, potted plant. other people bring skateboards. it's just chaotic they say. >> but that sounds like far more of a convenience issue or a frustration than it does a security issue? >> well, they feel if they know more what people are bringing on, the simpler the better. they feel they have more control over who is on their plane, what they're bringing into their plane. they just feel that the more
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order they have, the more safe everyone will be. >> okay. but at the same time, you know, millions of flights fly every year and there's never a problem. and this fellow, who's alleged to have this bomb on his person, didn't have it in his carry-on luggage. he had it sewn into his underwear. so what purpose does banning carry-on luggage serve in this particular case? >> for instance, in the case of canada, the canadians say that they want to move these -- these lines through the air checks more rapidly because they're now patting people down in addition to having people go through x-ray machines, through metal detectors. that just moves everything along more rapidly. and also it's in and of itself, it's a security risk to have these airports jammed with long lines of people. they're just sitting there elbow to elbow just sitting ducks, really. >> okay. one more point then, louise, on the pat-downs. the canadian official says they would like to have less going through the security so they have more time for a pat-down.
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i assume, though, they're not patting people down in the crouch area, which is where this fellow allegedly hit the bomb. so how does that help? >> i'm not sure really, john, how explicit these pat-downs are. i imagine they would reserve the right if they had any kind of suspicions -- and i'm just now i really don't know. but i'm sure that they reserve the right to get as explicit as they wish to be with the these-downs. >> louise schiavone tonight watching all of that. louise, thank you so much. a weapon against terrorism or way too intrusive invasion of privacy? some airports are using special scanners that can see right through your clothes. but could the devries the devi explosive that was used in this attempted terror attack? >> reporter: in stark detail, an fbi intelligence bulletin obtained by cnn shows pictures of the bomb allegedly carried on board northwest flight 253 by suspect umar farouk
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abdulmutallab. the main charge was sewn into his underwear, says the fbi, quote, anatomically congruent, possibly to avoid detection during screening. i asked former deputy director steven mchale how much of a problem is this concealment for security officials? >> it's a huge concern that he managed to get onto the plane. would you have to look at all of the systems, from the intelligence systems all the way up to the screening. >> reporter: whatever primary screening the suspect had in amsterdam clearly didn't detect the explosive. could secondary screening have pick td up? rapid scan systems makes a system called the secure 1000. tsa ordered 150 for u.s. airports. i go through one with a liquid container and knife hidden on my person. this scan, using so called back scanner technology, can see right through my clothing. i've covered my private areas. the knife and liquid bottle are detected and pinpointed on avatar figures. those images are sent to screeners and tell them which
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part of the body to search. we asked could this have been detected in the christmas day incident? >> another technology available, so-called millimeter wave machines, microwave radiation technology not as sensitive but which some experts say could have detected this explosive. the amsterdam airport, cnn has learned, has millimeter wave machines but we're told that facility is not using those on a widespread basis right now because of privacy concerns and that officials there are waiting for the european commission to set rules for using them. privacy concerns here in the u.s., according to officials at rapiscan, have been addressed with u.s. officials. john? >> brian todd for us tonight. brian, thank you. we'll have much more on the failed christmas terror attack
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and the suspect. how can the united states prevent terror tacks in our own country? we'll talk to a panel of leading experts. also, we'll take a look back at the swine flu outbreak. is the worst of it over? that story is coming up next. the all-new ram heavy duty. with a legendary 6.7-liter cummins turbo diesel. an all-new refined interior. it gives brains more to think with. it gives muscles more to work with. it gives trophy shelves more to deal with. introducing the 2010 motor trend truck of the year. ram.
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the world health organization says the worst of the swine flu outbreak is over in this country, but the pandemic continues around the world. the outbreak caused panic in this country with health officials scrambling to come up with a vaccine. kitty pilgrim has the lessons learned this year from the swine flu outbreak. >> reporter: the biggest worry, who is most at risk? the very young were becoming sicker with h1n1 influenza than the elderly. doctors suddenly realized how vulnerable their patients were, such as joanne cox of the children's hospital in boston. >> i just saw how rapidly very huge numbers of children got very, very sick, and it happened fast and it happened in large numbers. and that really changed my mind. >> reporter: the cdc was estimating last fall that 20% to 30% of the children who died of swine flu had no underlying medical condition. >> i think it is sobering that some totally healthy people suffer this very rapid
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deterioration from the h1n1. >> reporter: another high-risk group with a high mortality rate, pregnant women. the biggest worry was vaccine, was there going to be enough and how soon would it become readily available? in the fall, pediatricians were dispensing the nasal spray version but the cdc admitted the vaccination campaign for h1n1 was going to be a little bumpy. by season's end, there was sufficient supply to go around. so much effort went into manufacturing vaccines for swine flu, there were spot shortages of vaccinations for seasonal flu. and there was a big issue for schools to deal with. a debate that erupted in the spring with the first cases continued into the fall school year. should schools be shut down or should classes continue? >> 5 to 15 is probably the age group where it's most contagious because of the close proximity of these children in school.
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under 5 is a higher risk group and if they get sick, they get sicker the younger they are. >> reporter: one school district in long island, new york, caught in the dilemma last may. >> i worry 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. and ultimately the responsibility is mine. >> reporter: many schools opted to stay open and send sick children home. the world health organization says more than 11,000 people are known to have died from the disease. that compares to several hundred thousands who die of the seasonal flu each year. now, in retrospect, health experts say the knowledge gained from dealing with the swine flu pandemic is very valuable in preventing the next global influenza outbreak, which could be only a season away, john. >> what are w.h.o. officials expecting will happen with h1n1 next year? >> they really don't know. and, of course, globally it has not died down yet. it's still out there. it is over -- pretty much over in the united states. the worry is that some other type of influenza will mix with
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it and you'll get a new strain. that's always a very big concern. >> always the concern. kitty pilgrim tonight. kitty, thanks so much. johnson & johnson is expanding its recall of tylenol arthritis pain caplets. the company is now recalling all arthritis pain caplets 100-count bottles with red ez open caps. customers have complained that the pills have a musty, mildew-like odor that causes nauzia, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. the side effects are being called temporary and nonserious by johnson & johnson. coming up -- the failed attack on flight 253. how did the plan get so far, and can new attempts be prevented? two leading experts on terrorism and security join me here coming up next. medicare.
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it doesn't cover everything.
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president obama today said a mix of human and systemic failures allowed a terror suspect to board northwest flight 253 on christmas day. how were the warning signs missed? how was the suspect able to board the aircraft with an explosive device on his body?
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joining me now is break this all down, cnn national security contributor fran townsend, former bush administration homeland security adviser at the white house. and terrorism analyst harvey kushner, who is the author of "holy war: on the home front." fran, we're hearing the words again today fail to connect the dots. we know abdulmutallab's father went to the u.s. embassy in nigeria at least a couple of times, had some followup phone calls with them. it just seems extraordinary that eight years after 9/11, we're still hearing about failing to connect the dots. >> well, john, i think what you saw this afternoon is the president's very same frustration that you're expressing. you know, look, we've made lots of progress, lots of work has been done on information sharing but it continues to be a battle. they get lots of information in the intelligence community every single day, so there's this flood of information and the sifting of what's important versus what's not important, what's relevant and significant. and i think what we're finding
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is they failed this time. >> and, harvey, how would you describe the level of failure that you see here? >> i think it's monumental, john. i saw it firsthand when i worked for the federal government right after 9/11 collecting intelligence and there was a lack of sharing of information. you know, different cultures. and, you know what, it's coming on nine years. we spent billions of dollars, and we have one agency, homeland security, that's supposed to coordinate this. and these are not dots, john. these are huge, huge points on a map that weren't connected nine years after from someone, a father -- this wasn't someone with an ax to grind or neighbor whose leaves have blown on their lawn and wants to turn someone in as a terrorist, this is a man with gravitas and stature goes to the cia and feeds them information not once but twice and it's not acted upon in that agency or between other agencies? we can talk about political reasons why not but it's a st
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stymie to me that nine years after we still don't connect these huge markers. >> fran, we talked in the early days after 9/11 about not a lot of interagency cooperation, coordination or communication. interagency coordination or cooperation but this would seem to be a lack of communication within a single agency, that the cia person on station in nigeria wrote up a report, passed it on to langley, and it kind of got lost in the system. >> well, my understanding, john, is we talked to our colleagues at the cia, is that some of the information was passed on but not all of it was. frankly, if it had all been passed on it may be it turns out they understood the significance of it greater. the other problem here -- >> do we know what was held back? >> that is not clear. they're not really giving us the details of that. the president's statement was pretty ambiguous and nobody is really talking about the piece not passed on. we'll get much greater insight when we understand that. the other piece, that
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interagency hub is supposed to put all this information together. if there wasn't enough information to add him to the no fly list we don't know, why didn't the nctc request additional information from the cia or the rest of the intelligence community? that's also not clear. >> we talk about communication. we talk about intelligence gathering, communication within the agency, single agency, interagency communication, security at airports. the president said in this case the system failed. i think many people probably have a legitimate question as to whether the systems work at all or whether it's just blind luck there hasn't been a successful attack against an airliner. it would seem the greatest defense the united states has against terrorism at this point is the incompetence of the people trying to pull off the act. richard reid, this fellow. >> let's hope that's the case. let's take a look from 9/11 to now, the nine years, and the advances in technology.
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maybe the government isn't the right organization to operate this. maybe google could do a better job. i don't mean that facetiously. you could go on there and click and within seconds you have this massive interchange of information that's out there. you mean to tell me with the advancements in technology over the last nine years we can't put together a system? i don't think it's technology as much as it is the cultures of the different agencies and the unification of one force fighting terrorism and collecting intelligence and getting real, actionable data, john, down to local law enforcement almost instantaneously. how do you do that? we still don't have the answer. >> what do you say about that? obviously you can't turn security for the nation over to a private enterprise but do we need to strip it down again, a private enterprise type of approach to intelligence gathering and dissemination? >> as you know, the intelligence community has adopted a good deal of private sector sort of technology and business practices. they have this intelipedia.
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they've adopted much of the technology we're discussing. they need to do more. i think your other guest is absolutely correct when he says this is as much about culture. the technology exists if the will and the rules exist to enforce sharing. i think the white house has got its work cut out for it in terms of getting this information from the collectors to those who are going to analyze it and then into the hands of those who can actually action it. >> there are a couple things at work here. how did this guy not end up o know a no fly list or at the very least on a selectee list to be singled out for further screening? and then there is also the issue of how did he get to keep his american visa he obtained in 2008? the former inspector general of the department of homeland security had an op-ed in today's "new york times" in which he said, after his father reported him to the american embassy in abuja, new jeer ya this fall shouldn't his visa have been revoked and shouldn't aviation
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officials been told to be on the lookout for him should he attempt to board a plane bound for the united states? the state department culpable as well? >> you would think the state department, the lead agency in koording relations with other nations, great britain turned him down because they were suspect of the school he was applying to. so, yes. we have to have better cooperation not only intraand interin this country but between other nations. something bad like that in great britain should have been immediately sent across the pond to the united states. we should have revoked his visa. >> you can do all the intelligence gathering you want to, fran, and somebody is going to slip through. then it comes down to airport security to try to catch them as the last line of defense. we see in canada they're limiting carry on baggage, initiating patdowns, but not patting down any passengers in the area where this fellow was keeping the bomb. so at airports immediately what can you do? >> well, as brian todd reported
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earlier this evening there is all sorts of technology. we just have to make up our minds this is important enough of a threat we're willing to use it. there have been privacy and civil liberties concerns about this imaging technology but there are procedures we can put in place to address those concerns. we have to make sure the dhs and the transportation security administration gets the resources they need to deploy these machines so we can detect this equipment. that's the last line of defense but we ought to have it there. >> all right. good to talk to both of you tonight. thanks for coming in. at the top of the hour, campbell brown is back. >> hey there. we'll stay with tonight's breaking news for people who are just tuning in as you may know we are learning tonight the father of the man accused of trying to bomb a u.s. airliner met with someone from the cia, so why didn't the agency share that critical information with the rest of the intelligence community? we're also going to look at this issue of how much privacy airline passengers may be willing to give up in order to improve security, just what fran
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was talking about. a lot coming up at the top of the hour. we'll see you then. >> thanks so much. still ahead, bristol palin versus levi johnston custody battle. the first victory in the bitter case goes to levi. that story is coming up.
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karl rove the former presidential adviser to george w. bush has divorced his wife of 24 years. a spokeswoman for the family said rove and darby hixson were grant'd divorce last week. she said the couple came to the decision mutually and applicably. rove was known as the architect of the bush administration and served as bush's senior adviser.
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darby hixson was rove's second wife. a bitter custody battle over the grandson of former vice presidential candidate sarah palin. a judge has now ruled that the battle between palin's daughter bristol and levi johnston will be open to the public. johnston asked that the court proceedings be open to, quote, reduce sarah palin's instinct to attack. bristol palin asked the case be kept private saying it was in her son's best interests to not have all the dirty laundry aired in public. the judge said palin did not prove that her son would be harmed by all of the attendant publicity. it was a sneak peek at the new year's celebration in new york's times square today. the organizers of the times square event released confetti in what they call an air worthiness test. on new year's eve 3,000 pounds of confetti will be thrown. they are inviting people to come to times square to write messages on the con fety to be dropped at midnight. be sure to tune in for all o

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