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tv   MSNBC News Live  MSNBC  December 29, 2009 4:00pm-5:00pm EST

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explosive could have blown a hole in the side of the airplane if it was properly detonated. let's bring in chief white house correspondent chuck todd who is traveling with the president in hawaii. and chuck, what are you hearing about what we might hear from the president just minutes from now? >> reporter: well, chris, they're being very tight-lipped about what it is he's going to say. it was obviously pretty unexpected. it's said he will simply update the country on what we've learned so far in the review process. when it comes to this attempted terrorist attack of that northwest airliner. so, you know, there's a whole number of ways one can interpret it. at this point we're probably better off waiting to hear from the president, what he's going to say. but all sorts of rumors flying around, is he going to announce some new policy on this or a new part of the investigation on that or maybe they've learned x. it may simply be the decision that public relations decision that every day we may hear from the president more personally on this rather than have it come
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out in print reports or anything like that. so at this point they're being, as i said, very tight-lipped about exactly what it is he's going to say, other than simply updating the review process. we'll hear very soon. by the way, chris, we'll only get audio at first. there's no way to go to television video, so folks will know we'll only hear the audio portion of this, not a video portion right away. >> let me ask you, too, about the whole question of maybe he needs to get out there more. there were a number of articles today in some of the prominent newspapers in the country, why it took 72 hours for him to come out and whether that's his style, whether he has waited too long in some critical situations. is the administration feeling the heat on that? >> reporter: well, you know, if they're feeling the heat, there's trying not to let it show. they absolutely will sit there and say that, it would have been irresponsible to go out there, chest thump a little bit early on, especially if you're worried about endangering any other
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operations that are going on, whether it's something part of the investigation, in yemen or in other places. so, you know, that's their stance about this. but you're right, chris, this is turning in a little bit of a political football. you have republicans saying why wasn't he out there sooner. why did he leave it to his press secretary, his homeland security director. and so this white house will say, those are the appropriate people to speak at the time while you have all the information. so, you know, there's going to be -- talking to one other person, they said, whatever they would have done, they would have been criticized. that's sort of their mantra at this point, that this is the environment we live in. it's hyper polarization on just about everything that happens. had he come out immediately, they would have said he's doing it too soon. or that it's too late. they said, look, we're going to get the criticism no matter what. this is the president's style and he's going to do it this way. >> chuck, thanks very much. just to let people know, we are
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told that the president is still at the house. he hasn't left for the marine base yet. we're probably at least ten minutes out from this statement. again, we'll get the audio first. maybe at least ten minutes from now. in the meantime i want to go to michael, investigative reporter and msnbc contributor. what have you been finding out over the last 24 hours since we spoke, michael? >> well, probably the most two interesting developments in the last day or so, is, number one, the yemeni government confirming that in fact aubd aubd, the detroit bombing suspect had in fact been in yemen for several months, as recently as earlier this month. and, you know, there were the initial reports that he had told the fbi after his arrest that he had been in yemen. but now you have the yemeni
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government confirming that. and then probably more ominously is the statement from al qaeda and the arabian peninsula yesterday, claiming credit for the operation, showing a picture of abdulmutallab, and saying this was in retaliation for the u.s.-backed air strikes aimed at al qaeda in yemen. this is, if true, a formal blowback. here we have al qaeda striking back at the u.s. homeland in response to u.s.-backed military operations against al qaeda in yemen. that is a serious escalation of matters, and it also could be the grounds for a more direct american military strike against al qaeda forces in yemen. >> we're also already getting indications that we have an increasing presence there.
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certainly in terms of doing some consultations with forces in yemen, and maybe even some special ops. there's also this report that the same radical cleric who talked to major hassan, the suspect in the ft. hood incident, also had contact, according to pete williams, with this suspect. so i'm guessing it's going to increase scrutiny on many of these more radical islamic terrorists, particularly in yemen, wouldn't you think, michael? >> absolutely. all of this coming together is a security and a political nightmare for the obama administration. security, because of the obvious deterioration of the events in yemen, while the president was agonizing over his decision to send more forces to afghanistan. yemen has been going downhill. al qaeda has been gaining strength in yemen. it's becoming the kind of safe
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haven that afghanistan was prior to 9/11. and so it's very much a security issue. and political, because remember, the president, we're coming up on the president's one-year deadline for closing guantanamo. in just a few weeks. now, they now acknowledge they're not going to meet the deadline, but they've been trying and agonizing very hard to get as far down the road as they can in meeting what has been a top priority for this administration, closing gitmo. guess where half of those gitmo detainees are from. they're from yemen. the further yemen deteriorates, the more impossible it is to return those detainees at gitmo to yemen. it makes it a much harder political nut for the administration to deal with. just one more point, we expect to have more information about him later this afternoon. so stay tuned on that. >> that being the cleric we were
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talking about. appreciate it, michael. >> okay. thank you. since that christmas day terror plot, of course, president obama has ordered increased security at airports, including more federal air marshals on flights bound for the u.s. could an air marshal prevented this kind of attack from happening? joining me live, jam write smith, former cia paramilitary officer. there are a lot of people who say, look, if it gets to the airport, already the system has failed, that the first line of defense needs to be intelligence. but if we can put that aside for now and deal with what happened exactly in this case, at the airport, where do you see the failures? >> good afternoon, chris. good to be with you again. the security at an airport needs to be a concentric ring, where you have differing layers of security. you've got an outer perimeter, inner, and so forth. in this case, we've got watch lists that he was picked up on, with intelligence where he was
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noted earlier as being a potential problem. but at the airport, once somebody comes into the airport, that we've got tsa that puts an eye on them as they check their documentation, but what really needs to take place is additional screening prior to even getting to the ticket counter. and we need to be looking at behavioral profiling. and this is not profiling based on race or ethnicity, but it's profiling based on mannerisms, dress, behavior, and those types of things are indicators and can be indicators of someone that needs additional scrutiny. so the failure, i believe, is really more airport security needs to take place at the airport. >> we had a direct -- a former director, jamie, of ll security on our air earlier today, and he said every single passenger he thinks needs to be questioned. would you agree with that? >> well, that's going to take an
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inordinate amount of time for people to board the aircraft if you're having to question every passenger. but if your personnel are trained to look for certain things, and as they -- you know, take for el al for instance, on the binford airport in tel aviv, if you enter the airport, before you're even able to go to the ticket counter you have to go through a line and put your bag on a prescreening device. that's another opportunity for the airport personnel to walk the line and look for people displaying mannerisms and dress, behavior that they consider questionable. and then they'll pull you off to the side and talk to you, in some cases they'll take your cameras, look through the pictures that you've taken. so they have some intelligence personnel, some security personnel there that touch you before you even make it to the ticket counter in the first place. so these types of things, the u.s. needs to look at it and we need to be more proactive rather than reactive. telling somebody they can't put
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a blanket on their lap or telling them they're going to turn the gps off before you land, that's ridiculous. because, you know, all you've got to do is listen to the pilot and if he says the flight takes five hours, you set your watch. and now you know when the plane's going to land. you don't need a gps to tell you where you are. >> let me ask you finally, we only have a little bit of time, but there's always a question, when i've been speaking with congress over the last couple of days, there's a finite amount of money. in terms of technology, where should the money be spent? there's controversy over the puff machines that turned out to be pretty much useless. a little bit of dust got into them, and they were breaking down, they really weren't detecting a lot of the bomb materials. so they've been done away with. and there's millions of dollars down the drain. where do you think the tech money needs to go? >> well, the back scatter radar and their microwave devices that allow you to scan the human body, there are different types of devices which allow you to scan the body without
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necessarily looking at anatomical body parts, which could be considered a serious invasion of privacy. but, you know, if we as a country can come up with trillions of dollars to bail our country out in the auto industry, i believe we could probably find the money to put some adequate technology to protect our citizenry as we are traveling the world. i believe that's probably a little bit more important than whether a certain carmaker, you know, can survive or not, as to whether or not a human being can survive. but the devices like back scatter radar and microwave that allow you to examine the body as the person is moving through without actually seeing body parts, so to speak, that's a possibility. the downside to it is that you have health concerns if it's too powerful and you have people traveling on a regular basis, in the case of microwaves, it may be irradiated that they can see health problems down the road. but there are systems out there that can provide the needed
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security without endangering the privacy consideration, as well as the health consideration. >> jamie, thanks very much. we do appreciate that. just remind people that any minute now we'll be getting audio from president obama, who's going to be talking about the latest on the investigation. so we'll stay tuned for that. and you also remember that more than five years ago, the 9/11 commission made its recommendations for how air security could be improved. a lot of those changes have not been fully implemented. we'll talk with a former 9/11 commissioner coming up in just a little bit. and you're still fighting to sleep in the middle of the night, why would you go one more round using it ? you don't need a rematch-- but a re-think-- with lunesta. lunesta is different. it keys into receptors that support sleep, setting your sleep process in motion. lunesta helps you get the restful sleep you need. when taking lunesta, don't drive or operate machinery until you feel fully awake. walking, eating, driving or engaging in other activities
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developing now, a new study just released minutes ago show the herbal supplement ging could by onna has been marketed for years to help improve, prevent or delay conditions commonly associated with a disorder such as alzheimer's disease. the chief science correspondent, what can you tell us about this? i was just saying to you, for a while i had my dad taking it. >> the one thing about this study that shows is that it doesn't hurt. there's nothing toxic about it. 3,000 people 72 to 96 over an average of six years studied, it had absolutely no effect on their memory over that period compared to a placebo. i think this puts the nail on the coffin of gin gingko bill onna. there have been small studies suggesting this might work, it just doesn't. >> a lot of people make a play
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on alzheimer's and say i've got oldtimers, meaning i can't remember things. are there things that have been proved to help with cognitive retention? >> well, exercise has been -- >> keep the blood flowing. >> that does work. but other than that, in terms of medicines which we desperately want as a society, to have better medicines for alzheimer's, they just aren't there. there are some that can delay it for a time. but the progression ultimately goes ahead and develop alzheimer's disease. there's an enormous amount of work in this area. a lot of promising leads. but right now there's nothing to prevent the cognitive decline in older people who get it. it's a very tragic thing. we know the numbers. there's going to be millions and millions of people in the united states even more than there are now as the population ages. >> this is also a study that is going to, i'm sure, we're going to get some sort of press release from the people who manufacture this. this has got to be tens of
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millions of dollars a year. >> it's about $105 million a year. >> $10 million in gingko biloba? >> alone. and most of the time when the government has studied these, because the manufacturers are not required by the fda to study them the way the drug manufacturers are required to study their products, they come up showing they don't have much of an effect. a lot of people want to believe in this stuff. they don't like the doctors, nurses. we heard about that in the health care debate. but alternative medicines don't seem to help too well either. >> i thought a few times myself if i should start taking this. you just saved me some money. >> money is the worst thing it does to you, it hurts your pocketbook. >> in this economy, we all want to save a little bit here and there. >> that's right. travel time being hampered by weather in parts of the country. snow and freezing rain is spreading across parts of the south west. it could dump several inches of
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snow. charles hadlock is in fort worth, texas, where they usually don't get a lot of the white stuff, do you, charles? >> reporter: no, we don't. what makes it so unusual, chris, this is the third time this month that north texas has seen a snow and ice event. it just started snowing here in fort worth about 30 minutes ago. it's been mixed with rain here and there. and they're expecting it to turn completely to snow before it ends before midnight tonight. we could get an inch, maybe two inches in parts of north texas tonight. what is concerning most people here is the drive home. temperatures right now are about 35, 36 degrees. but in the next few hours or so, especially as this precipitation continues to fall, the temperatures will fall. and if they fall below 32 degrees, bridges and overpasses in north texas are expected to ice over. so texas department of public safety officials are out. icing, deicing the bridges,
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making sure that the ice solution is down, and also that sanding is under way to prevent any kind of accidents that likely will occur as they did a week ago on christmas eve. we had near blizzard conditions here. this snowstorm will not be anything like that, because we don't have the winds and the cold temperatures associated with it. back to you, chris. >> what a winter it's been. you look great, charles. but behind you it looks pretty miserable. get in from the cold. >> reporter: yeah. breaking news we're following for you. any minute now, president obama expected to speak about the latest into the investigation of that christmas day terror plot. we will have the audio for you live here on msnbc. we expect to have it coming up after this break.
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breaking news to tell you about. any minute now, president obama expected to speak about the latest in the investigation into the christmas day terror plot. we're going to have it live for you right here on msnbc. in fact, i'm told by my producer that we're actually hearing an
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audio check. so this could come at any second now. i'm sorry, we've got it? let's go to chuck todd while we're waiting for the president. chuck, any more indication what we might hear from the president -- never mind. here it is. >> yesterday i updated the american people on the immediate steps we took, the increased screening and security of air travel, to keep our country safe in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on christmas day. and i announced to our viewers, a review of our terrorist watch list system and review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it, and prevent future attacks. those reviews began on sunday. and are now under way. earlier today, i issued the former guidelines for those reviews, and directed the preliminary findings be provided to the white house by this thursday. it's essential that we diagnose the problems quickly, and deal
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with them immediately. the more comprehensive formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks. and i'm committed to working with congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country. i wanted to speak to the american people again today, because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. it's been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the christmas incident warned u.s. officials in africa about his son's extremist views. it now appears that weeks ago, this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list. there appears to be other deficiencies as well. even without this one report, there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been
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pieced together. we've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists, and potential terrorist attacks. but it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have. had this critical information been shared, it could have been compiled with other intelligence, and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. the warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would never have been allowed to board that plane for america. the professionalism of the men and women in our intelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement and homeland security communities is extraordinary. they are some of the most hard working, most dedicated americans that i've ever met. in pursuit of our security here at home, they risk their lives, day in, day out, in this country, and around the world. few americans see their work,
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but all americans are safer because of their successes. they have targeted and taken out violent extremists, they have disrupted plots and saved countless american lives, they're making real and daily progress in our mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al qaeda and other extremist networks around the world. and for this, every american owes them a profound and lasting debt of gratitude. moreover, as secretary napolitano said, once the suspect attempted to take down flight 253, after his attempt, it's clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security took all appropriate actions. but what's also clear is this, 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
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lives, a systemic failure has occurred. and i consider that totally unacceptable. the reviews i've ordered will surely tell us more. but what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breech of security. we need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system because our security is at stake and lives are at stake. i fully understand that even when every person charged with ensuring our security does what they are trained to do, even when every system works exactly as intended, there's still no 100% guarantee of success. yet this should only compel us to work even harder, to be more innovative and relentless in our efforts. as president, i will do everything in my power to support the men and women in intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security to make sure they've got the tools and resources they need to keep america safe. but it's also my job to ensure that our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland
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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. that's the spirit guiding our reviews into the attempted attack on christmas day. that's the spirit that will guide all our efforts in the days and years ahead. thank you very much. >> so the president of the united states, very strong words, talking about human and systemic failures that led to this near catastrophic accident aboard that flight going to detroit on christmas day. a very different kind of message than we heard just a couple of days later from the press secretary, and the secretary of homeland security, who had said the system worked. let me bring in chuck todd, who has been traveling with the president in hawaii and get your reaction to this. >> reporter: absolutely. that was a very blunt assessment by the president, to call it a systemic failure is pointing
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basically -- basically he's saying point the finger at the government, point the finger at us. it's somewhat of a reversal of what we heard from the administration on sunday, and on monday. and even a little bit from the president yesterday. this was clearly the more they've learned, the more they believe that, you know, there's no sense in pretending that this couldn't have been prevented. and the president is basically saying, they had enough information to prevent this, had this system worked properly. chris, i can tell you in our own reporting, for instance, one of the missing pieces to this puzzle has to do with the suspect's visa. and how that piece of information, the fact that he had an active u.s. visa, apparently was not communicated by the state department to the national -- to the national counterterrorism center, nor was it looked up by the folks at the national counterterrorism center. that's just one piece of information that we know about. clearly the president has other intelligence that they're learning, that made them come to this conclusion. but it's a rather striking and
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blunt assessment by the president. systemic failure doesn't get any tougher on him 1e68 and on the government than that, chris. >> one of the criticisms we heard in the aftermath of his statement yesterday was that the president said we should be confident, but critics said he didn't give people reason to be confident, didn't give specifics of how things were being made safer. now he's saying, look, on thursday, i'm already going to get my preliminary report and we're going to move forward with this. >> that's right. and putting a timeline on the review, you know, i'll be honest to being a little confused, chris, because last night we had an on-the-record briefing with the chief of staff to the national security council, and we had asked specifically, can you help us out? what's going on with this review? who's doing it, how is it working? there's two reviews. there's a review of the tsa and the airline safety procedures. that is being headed up by homeland security. the second review has to do with this intelligence failure. which is what the president
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clearly was focused on in this statement just now. well, on that front, dennis mcdonough said that review hadn't yet begun. now we're hearing from the president, he expects preliminary results from the review by thursday. so clearly this is now something on john brennan's plate, the chief counterterrorism adviser to the president. they're figuring that out. as i said, chris, we are learning lots of information ourselves on this. including that visa situation. and clearly we're going to hear more possibly about his travel to yemen, and some other things that, frankly, all of that stuff was available to the u.s. government. and i think that's what the president is saying. they had a bunch of information. dots weren't connected. and again, pointing the finger at the government itself. it was a pretty striking conclusion that the president has drawn. >> thank you very much, chuck todd, reporting from hawaii for us, where he has been with the president throughout this vacation. and of course, he's calling for these two specific reviews, but there was a huge review five
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years ago by the 9/11 commission talking about very specific ways, very specific recommendations about how to make air travel safer, and many of those recommendations have never been implemented. let me bring in a member of the 9/11 commission, richard ben-veniste. let me get your reaction first to what the president had to say. >> i thought the president was very reassuring in that he recognized where we had failures. he's recognized where improvement needs to be made. and has taken responsibility as the chief executive of our government for, first, authorizing a quick study, and secondly, a more comprehensive study to determine what went wrong, why information was not shared, and again, this was the principal recommendation of the 9/11 commission that is that we needed to share information across agencies, and here across
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borders as well. there's information that would have been quite helpful for us to know in connection with the travel to yemen, the existence of a preexisting visa at a time before there were any obvious warnings, and certainly any specific warnings from this young man's father. as to his radicalization. but the fact that he had been barred from entering great britain as a result of making some false statement on an application for another entry into great britain, would have also been quite useful for us to know. >> well, one of the things we also know is that a sophisticated method of matching passenger names with various terror lists, this comparing of intelligence, of information, that you as members of the 9/11 commission were so specific about recommending, it has not been fully implemented.
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i want to get your initial reaction, when you first heard about this happening, and as some of these revelations have begun to unfold, how frustrated are you? >> well, as we learn more information, we begin to get a greater picture. rather than jumping to an immediate conclusion, we needed to see how much information was available and what was done with. >> well, can i just interrupt you right there, because i want to make people understand, since the president brought it up and you brought it up. so you have this suspect's father, he goes to the u.s. embassy, he reports his son. the next day under a program called visa viper, which in fact was mandated by congress, it was reported to washington, the embassy sent a cable saying the father was concerned his son was falling under the influence of religious extremists in yemen. so the state department, following existing procedure, passed the viper information to the national counterterrorism center for entry into its terrorism data base.
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neither the state department nor the ntsb never checked to see if he entered the united states, had a valid visa, information that is readily available in the data bases. so we know about that. is that in direct contradiction to you as members of the commission are recommending after your study? >> yes, of course. we were talking about making information that is necessary from one agency to another agency, or even in this case within the state department itself accessible and utilizing it in a way that will eventually be useful to us. here, in addition to all of those things, there were indecia that would might have alerted people on the ground, which the airport that is normally regarded as a very high security airport, the fact that this individual had traveled to
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yemen, the fact that he had bought his ticket in an out-of-the way place for cash, the fact that he had no checked luggage, the fact that he had purchased his -- a one-way ticket for cash, as i say, all of these things might have warranted a secondary screening. and i think that's the area which we will need to focus on as we begin to assess lessons learned from this experience. we need to utilize the selectee list, which is a list of about 15,000, as opposed to the terrorist list which is half a million, which is compared to the no-fly list, which is about 5,000. so that individuals who are on the selectee list need to go through secondary screening. had this man been subjected to secondary screening, it is
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likely that he would have been prevented from boarding that aircraft. >> richard ben-veniste, who knows an awful lot about it, a member of the 9/11 commission, thank you for talking to us today. >> thank you, chris. ahmadinejad said opposition rallies are a foreign-backed nauseating masquerade. tens of thousands of protesters are rallying today in support of the government and calling for the punishment of opposition leaders. and the iranian parliament speaker said president obama is disgracing himself by supporting the opposition movement. nbc has the latest from tehran. >> reporter: iranian authorities responded angrily today to western criticism over the violent protest that took place across iran this weekend. today president ahmadinejad described the weekend's protest as a nauseating mass occur aid engineered by the united states and israel. the foreign minister manager said that the british have
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stopped speaking nonsense, otherwise they'll receive a slap in the mouth from iran. iran's powerful revolution guard said the foreign media is working hand in hand with the protesters in order to fan the flames of discontent in the country. pro-government supporters gathered outside parliament today, shouting slogans of death to the protesters, and death to the opposition leaders. meanwhile, inside parliament, the speaker of the house said the president obama had discredited himself by standing up for the protesters this weekend. he also called for the judiciary to punish the protesters and the leaders of the opposition with the full force of the law, and show them absolutely no leniency. meanwhile, opposition leaders said today that the government should apologize to the iranian people for the events of the weekend. a demand that's probably going to fall on deaf ears. back to you. >> our tehran bureau chief
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reporting on the increasing tense situation there. we also have breaking news from here in the u.s. the search for a texas prison guard accused of stabbing his wife and mother-in-law to death has taken authorities to georgia now, where his car was found in a river. the car belonging to albert james turney was found partially submerged in the chattahoochee river in dekalb county. turner allegedly killed both women, while at least two children were watching. one of those children called 911. turner has been on the loose ever since. sometimes the little things in life feel like r biggest enemies. [dripping] [shower running] they can be damaged... theyan be stolen. happily,
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some strong words from president obama about the government's blame in the failed christmas day terror plot. he says a warning from the suspect's father about his son's extremist views was passed to sufficient intelligence officials just weeks ago, but it was not widely distributed and nothing was done about it. >> 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 caused nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. and i consider that totally unacceptable. >> in fact, the president went on to say it is a human and systemic failure. is the government doing enough to keep americans safe? here to face off, democratic
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strategist, josh gotheimer, a former adviser to the hillary clinton campaign. and republican strategist alex, a former press secretary for the rnc. alex, we just heard the president say that those two reviews from yesterday, he may want a preliminary report on those already on thursday. he wants to get this done immediately. are you pleased about what you're hearing right now. >> absolutely. the more we hear about it, the attack on christmas day is something that deserves the attention of the highest levels of government. one has to wonder why we're hearing this on tuesday, whereas on sunday, the president's spokesman and homeland security adviser was out on tv saying the system worked. now 48 hours later, as far as the public knows, there's been no new evidence brought forward. everyone on sunday knew this was a serious breakdown in security. and yet the administration was out there defending the system. now 48 hours later they realized how tone deaf they're sounding
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and now we're hearing a different tune. welcome tune, though. >> was there a missed opportunity in the 48, 72 hours following the incident itself? >> no. i think the president and the administration did what they're supposed to do, which is actually to get to the bottom of this quickly. it's clear they have done a quick and immediate review and will do another one by thursday and then a longer term one. this is exactly how the system is supposed to work, when you look into incidents of terror, the president has done what i think is an honorable thing and admitted that we need to do more here, take responsibility, the fact that everything wasn't done, and that should have been done in this situation. i think that's exactly right. but here the republicans go, here my friend, playing politics with the national security like republicans do. that's a bit of a shame. instead of saying let's figure out what happened here so we can prevent it in the future. >> i'm not playing politics here. i'm just stating what happened. on sunday the administration went out and said the system worked and 48 hours later they said there was a systemic failure in the way it's set up.
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that's what happened. that's not a political statement. it's an observation of the administration not having a consistent message during this crisis. >> what you're seeing is quick accountability. they came out and admitted they haven't done everything that should have been done. >> accountability -- >> if this were dick cheney, it would be several months later, they would be behind the scenes in a bunker and we would hear about it after the fact. >> accountability is rolling heads, is placing blame, it's not just going out and saying, well, the system failed after you earlier said that the system worked. we have to let the process play out and see if the president does hold his team accountable. >> a part of that process is obviously going to be finding out what happened, who his contacts were, this suspect's contacts were, what exactly is the situation in yemen, especially as it relates to the apparent growth of al qaeda and the strength of al qaeda in that region. representative peter king, you both know, he's a republican from new york, he's the top republican on the homeland
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security committee, he says the suspect should be tried by military tribunal rather than a civilian court. he wants him to be able to be questioned, he wants to get information, intelligence that he thinks could be critical to saving future lives, to making our security stronger. what do you think about that, alex? >> well, i mean, i'm not a lawyer. i think you have to look at the legal precedent, which i think is the shoe bomber case in 2001, where i think he was tried in civilian court. but you have to look at the legal precedence. it opens up a lot of questions about the president's policies in guantanamo bay, he wants to bring those prisoners, including ksm, to the united states and try them in civilian court. he never used the word terrorists in describing the attacker. instead he uses words of vague language like extremists. now we're under attack by extremists, which i don't exactly know what an extremist is. or how that is different from a
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terrorist. maybe, i don't know if josh knows. >> why does it matter if he uses that word? >> exactly. >> he's clearly trying to water down the language -- the president's been trying to water down the language in how he describes the war on terrorism. a phrase that the administration officials no longer use. >> back to your question for a second. i think we should let the justice department obviously answer peter king's question, like they have in the past and make a decision based on the evidence. what bothers me is that peter king's out there playing politics, just like -- i mean, the republicans refused to let the new tsa director through. put him on hold instead of actually getting president obama's nominee through the process at the homeland security to make sure they get the person in who's actually going to make sure problems like this don't happen in the future. so what i would say to republicans is just, let's stop playing games here. let the president do what he's going to do, which is look for accountability here, make sure we hold the right people
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responsible. >> let's not be naive here. we're heading into a very political season. there's very important elections coming up next year. this is an issue where both sides can very legitimately and intelligently disagree. but did the democrats, did the obama white house provide an opening, a political opening for the republicans, josh, by sending out the secretary of homeland security, sending out the press secretary to say the system worked? >> i don't think that was their finest hour. but i think what is their finest hour is actually cleaning it up, fixing it, and saying the president -- sending the president out there several days in a row and making sure we actually find out what happened, correcting it and making sure there aren't problems in the future. that, to me, is a good leader. >> for the republicans to say, okay, we've criticized that. we know what happened. maybe they said some things on sunday in the talk shows that weren't legitimate. but now the president has come out two days in a row, accepted
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responsibility, has a plan for moving forward and let that drop. >> i think republicans unanimously supporting the president if and when he aggressively wants to fight the war on terror. his statement today -- >> come on. >> in his statement today -- >> you're saying the president of the united states is not doing everything possible to defend our country? >> i don't think trying terrorists in civilian court is doing everything you can. but i think his statement was very strong and i think you'll see republicans supporting it. certainly wanting to get to the bottom of those reviews. >> we're out of time. alex, josh, always fun to watch you guys. that's a good conversation, one we'll continue. >> thanks so much. >> thanks. things we thought you should know. bill clinton looks to upgrade his presidential library. on "hardball," chris matthews with president obama's response on the detroit terror scare and the politics of national security. new tylenol cold rapid release gels day and night release medicine fast to relieve painful coughs, congestion and sore throats.
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a lot going on today. here are things we thought you should know. democratic senator max baucus is blasting right-wing websites that suggested he was drunk on the senate floor during a health care debate. here's part of the video. >> where's the senator on that side of the aisle that's got the courage to break from their leadership, break for the partisanship, their exercisers said to work together to pass health care reform. i ask, where is the courage is this. >> someone who can't say right wing website shouldn't criticize, but the senator's office released a statement saying, "those who want to kill
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any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. this is beyond the pale." pete sessions is responding to a report that he wrote an e-mail saying, "i love you and believe in you" to accused swindler allen stanford. his spokesman said, "congressman sessions believes its content resembles language he would use to communicate to a person in crisis to encourage right decisions and prevent further trat ji." stanford is accused of running a ponzi scheme. it looked like former president bill clinton wants to supersize his presidential library. he's reportedly talking to arc tegts about expanding his library possibly to accommodate a new exhibit featuring a marine one helicopter. president george bush wants a marine one helicopter for his library, too.
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reagan's library has a full sized air force one. next on politics with the stories we'll be watching tomorrow, mark murray is deputy political director for nbc news. what have you got real quick here, mark? >> chris, it's already time to look ahead to the big stories we'll be following after the new year. the first big story will be a look at the conference to reconcile the already passed house and senate health care bills. it's going to happen right after the new year. also, the jobs bill that the congress and obama white house is working on will be another big story. and finally, the 2010 mid terms are going to be off and running. particularly they're going to be very competitive primaries in the first half of this year. including ones in illinois, in february, and texas in mark. thanks very much. good to talk to you. that's "the big picture" for today.
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up next, "hardball" with chris matthews, he's here, and it starts right now. war in the air. let's play hard ball. good evening. i'm chris matthews, up in new york. leading off tonight, is it time to start checking. i mean, really checking the way israel does who gets on our airplanes. to quote the writer christopher this week, we had better get used to being the civilians who are under a relentless and planned assault from the pledged supporters of a wicked and theocratic ideology. he's talking about islamic extremism and the followers who will die if they can kill more of us. do we start serious checking and interviewing people before getting on our airplanes? fighting those extremists, radical islam doesn't fear war,
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they embrace it. also, what did hillary clinton's run for the white house tell us? did she lose because voters didn't want her or didn't want a woman to be president? and "newsweek" is out with the list of the biggest rivalries of the decade. it's a hell of a list. who's number one? wait until you hear. check out the "hardball" "sideshow" tonight. let me tell you what i really think. my wife, the queen kathleen matthews is going to join us tonight and interview me about what i think are the most politically potent stories of the year. we start with the question of privacy versus safety. cliff may runs an organization called defense of democracies. and steven collins is a radio talk show host from philadelphia. cliff, i want you to start, and i have two simple questions for you. we want to make our airline travel safer, we want to make sure terrorists don't get on the planes, we want to be serious about it. we want it to work. number one, what information can we gain about potential passengers that could keep us, o

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