Return to Transcripts main page


Richard Phillips Now En Route to Vermont; Top Terror Investigation Memos Revealed; Obama Stands with Mexico in Cartel Fight; Ashton Kutcher Beats CNN in Twitter Contest; Sarah Palin Back in the Spotlight; Susan Boyle, International Sensation

Aired April 17, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And that's brings us now to the top of the hour. Good morning. It's Friday, the 17th of April. Thanks for being with us. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. A look now at what's on the agenda, the stories we're breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

The hero captain is finally headed home. Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is in the air right now and he's expected in his hometown in Vermont this afternoon. Armed Somali pirates held him hostage for five days on a lifeboat. You may remember of course -- now welcome home signs are already up and his friends and family say they cannot wait to see him.

President Obama is heading to the summit of The Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in just a couple of hours. He is in Mexico City right now. The president says that the U.S. shares responsibility for bloodshed and kidnappings in Mexico that have spilled across the border into the U.S.

And it's your money at work -- Citigroup posting better than expected results for the first quarter. GE reporting its net profit fell 35 percent. How does that all affect you? Our CNN money team is following it for us.

And there is some good news about your money to report. The head of the International Monetary Fund predicting the economic downturn may be coming to an end. Speaking in Washington the French economist said we could emerge from a recession next year but only if banks are cleansed of their toxic assets.


DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, IMF: It's still significantly undervalued. There's a long road to go. But I think that correct policy are now in place and that they will produce the reserve in the coming months.


CHETRY: And the head of the IMF went on to say that the U.S. will likely be the first country to show signs of an economic turnaround. Also developing this morning, the captain of the Maersk Alabama right now on a plane. It's bringing him home to the U.S. And as we wait for Captain Richard Phillips to arrive, U.S. officials now say that the captured Somali pirate who held him hostage will face trial in New York. In the meantime, Captain Phillips is scheduled to arrive in Burlington, Vermont, at 4:30 this afternoon Eastern Time. Phillips crew also now speaking out about the showdown with pirates.

Earlier, John spoke with John Cronan and asked him what he would like to say to Captain Phillips.


JOHN CRONAN, MAERSK ALABAMA CREW: I have to say thank you very much, captain. I can't really express my gratitude enough. I'm home with my family and my loved ones, thanks to your courage and bravery.


CHETRY: CNN's Jason Carroll is live in Captain Richard Phillips hometown of Underhill, Vermont. And boy, they are rolling out the carpet for him. They are expecting a huge celebration there.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And no one will be celebrating more than Phillips family, as you can imagine. They are counting down the hours, waiting for his arrival. I spoke to some of the folks there at the home and they just simply cannot wait to see his face again.

That's really the feeling among so many people here in this community. And, Kiran, when you come to a place like Underhill, you can understand the reason why.

Population here about 3,000. So when something like this of this magnitude happens to someone in their community, everyone here really feels it. And that's the case with Captain Richard Phillips. You know, you look around the town. You see the yellow ribbons are up. You know, the signs are up, including right here where we are. People coming out to the general store to send a special message to their captain.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that everybody is very happy he is home safely, and just praise God he's here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't wait to welcome him back home, back to his hometown and to his family. And the town is just thrilled beyond belief, as you can imagine, that he was rescued. And we're delighted that he's on his way home.


CARROLL: And if you take a look right there across the street, you can see someone is there leaving a message right now. Some of the other messages that were left out there in front, I'll read just a few to you right now. The Sorkin (ph) family wrote, "We are so very proud of you." The Delia (ph) family writes, "Captain Phillips, you rock." And then from Diane Skinner (ph), she wrote, "Captain Phillips, you are our hero."

Certainly, the sentiments of so many people here. Again, Captain Richard Phillips will be back at about 4:30. He will be flying in to Burlington International Airport. His family just can't wait to set their eyes upon him -- Kiran.

CHETRY: You know, I was wondering, is that town ready for the crush of the press as well? Because everybody, all the cameras and all the reporters is going to be out there, too. Everybody wants to, you know, get a chance to see him.

CARROLL: You know, I think, Kiran, if the town had its way -- I mean, they, obviously, understand the media fascination with this story, but if they had their way, they wouldn't want the media here. I know the family certainly wouldn't want the media here. The family basically saying they just want to get their life back to normal, wanting to see Captain Phillips on their own. And I think that's basically how a lot of people here in this community feel.

CHETRY: All right. Jason Carroll for us there. Thanks.

ROBERTS: President Obama on the move this morning. In a little more than two hours, he is going to leave Mexico, headed for the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. And while Cuba will not be president, the U.S. trade embargo against the island figures to loom large at this weekend's gathering.

Just hours after the president said it was up to Havana to make the next move, Cuban President Raul Castro responded, saying his government is willing to discuss everything with Washington, as long as it's on equal terms.

And President Obama leaves Mexico promising that the United States will do more to keep American guns and cash out of the hands of drug cartels.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've talked about the grave dangers that the drug cartels are presenting to both our nations. That are threatening innocent men and women and children on both sides of our borders. And our shared determination to put an end to these drug wars.

FELIPE CALDERON, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): Mexico and the United States want their citizens to live in peace and tranquility. They want their children and young people to live free from the violence caused by organized crime and free from the slavery of drugs. That is why it is very positive that our countries have renewed today their alliance to the feed that criminal organizations acting on both sides of the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: President Obama also acknowledged that he couldn't yet deliver on his campaign promise to reinstate the assault weapons ban since that ban expired. Mexico's president says violence in his country has gotten worse.

CHETRY: And developing this morning, the Obama administration taking an extraordinary step releasing top secret terror interrogation memos from the Bush years. Just released documents detailing the methods used by the Bush administration, including waterboarding, forced nudity to get high level terror detainees to talk. Critics say it's proved of torture. But despite those details being made public, the president says no CIA officials will face prosecution.


DENIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that he would have preferred to have moved beyond this. But the fact is there is a court case, and the president believed that he, out of respect for transparency and the rule of law, had to take this step.


CHETRY: The president says he does want to move beyond what he calls this "dark and painful chapter in our history."

News that the memos were declassified met with dire warning from former CIA director Michael Hayden who said the Obama administration's decision endangers the country. The White House said the president thought long and hard about his decision.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it's the -- and the president doesn't believe it's the existence of enhanced interrogation techniques in memos that have made us less safe. It is the use of those techniques, the use of those techniques in the view of the world that have made us less safe, and that is precisely the reason by which the president moved swiftly to end their practice.


CHETRY: Well, the White House also says the president consulted officials from the Justice Department, the CIA, the DNI and Homeland Security before he decided to declassify those memos.

Coming up at 8:30 Eastern, we're going to be talking to CNN contributor Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser in the Bush administration.

ROBERTS: Sarah Palin is shining on the national stage again. She headlined a pro-life dinner in Indiana last night taking shots at the president's economic recovery plan and condemning abortion. But she's getting more attention for what she didn't discuss. Candy Crowley now on Palin's first appearance outside Alaska in quite some time. She's there? Good morning, Candy. What was it like?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, I tell you what, you know, there is one thing we learned along the campaign trail last year, and that is that Sarah Palin can draw a crowd. And, last night, what we found out is that she still can.



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


CROWLEY (voice-over): She came.

PALIN: Thank you, Indiana.

CROWLEY: She spoke.

PALIN: It is great to be in Indiana, the crossroads of America.

CROWLEY: She rocked the house.

CROWLEY: Officials at the Vanderburgh County, Indiana, Right to Life Banquet didn't think there was much chance Sarah Palin would accept their invitation to the group's biggest fund-raiser. But she did.

MARY ELLEN VANDYKE, EXEC. DIR., VANDERBURGH COUNTY RIGHT TO LIFE: We immediately sold out before, actually, it was released to the public.

PALIN: This is free...

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

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


CROWLEY: The anti-abortion movement is a core constituency in the Republican Party, and the speech was Governor Palin's first this year in the lower 48.

It does have people talking about her 2012 intentions and parsing her words.

PALIN: I have a feeling that I'm going to leave here with new energy and with inspiration, and I will restart my engine. Personally and professionally, it's been a rough road for the governor since the Republican ticket was defeated in November.

Her relationship with Levi Johnston, the father of her grandchild, is the stuff of soap operas. Her dealings with state lawmakers are not much better. Legislative battles have been bitter.

Democrats and a few Republicans complained the Indiana trip shows the governor is more interested in her national ambitions than in state business.

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

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


CROWLEY: Sarah Palin today heads back to Alaska for the final days of her state legislature. But I'm told, John, by her office that she literally gets thousands of invitations so I suspect we will see her again in the lower 48 and probably sooner, rather than later.

ROBERTS: So just for the folks at home, what if -- what are some of the things to watch for that would give us an indication that she is thinking of a run for 2012?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think it's pretty obvious that she's thinking about it, and you can certainly take your time at this point. But it matters where she goes. Indiana, obviously, used to be a very solidly Republican state, although it went for Barack Obama last year.

It matters who she talks to. Because this is the period, sort of running up to the next couple of years, when you go to the party base and certainly that is who she was talking to last night.

It also matters who she is talking to, because, as we know, it takes a lot of money to run for president. So is she talking with fund-raisers? So you sort of pick up the clues as you go along and there's a certain momentum to it. And I certainly wouldn't discount it at this point.

And, you know, we've had some polls recently that show her right up there with Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. In fact, she was leading the poll just by a bit, but there certainly is a core constituency in the Republican party that very much like Sarah Palin.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll keep watching. Candy Crowley for us this morning. Candy, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Eleven minutes past the hour. We fast forward through the stories making news later today. This afternoon, 12:15 Eastern, Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, will urge conservative Republicans to drop their opposition to same-sex marriage. CNN has learned Schmidt will say that it cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of other.

Well, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, former Attorney General Janet Reno will receive the 2009 Justice Award. Current Attorney General Eric Holder will present it to her at a ceremony hosted by an independent national nonpartisan organization of judges and lawyers.

And in less than 90 minutes, the Dow kicks off the trading day above the 8,000 mark for the first time in more than two months. And the first quarter earnings also from Citigroup and General Electric are expected to drive that trading today -- John.

ROBERTS: President Obama making a promise to Mexico before he leaves that country for Trinidad and Tobago this morning. He's pledged to deal with the drug cartels. And the challenge he faces on his next Latin American stop, that's ahead.

And the global singing sensation that everyone is talking about. A contestant on a British reality show becomes an unlikely star. And we got a chance to talk to her and she performed for us. We'll have that for you. It's coming up on 13 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

A developing story right now. President Obama traveling from Mexico to Trinidad and Tobago. No word if Shakira is playing on Air Force One. But it's a 34-nation Summit of the Americas.

Before he leaves Mexico, the president promised Mexico's leader that he will work on stopping the flow of U.S. weapons across the border and end up winding up in the hands of drug cartels. It's going to be a challenge. Joining us now to tackle the topic is Bill Bennett. He was America's first drug czar.

Great to have you this morning.


CHETRY: So, you know, a lot of meetings that took place, but how much do you think was accomplished in terms of substance between our president and Mexican President Calderon?

BENNETT: Don't know. We'll see. I am very happy, though, that Barack Obama met with President Calderon. I've never been a big fan of Mexico in the drug war, even back in my days. I don't think they do as much as they could, but this guy has worked very hard and he is admired on all sides of the political spectrum here and many people in Mexico, too. He has pushed very hard. He's got a very tough situation. But what they have to do is nothing particularly dramatic, except bear down harder on all fronts. I don't think we should take off the table the possibility of using our military at the border. And I do think we got to get rid of this crazy stipulation that keeps those Mexican trucks from going from Mexico into the U.S. That's just resulted in trade war tariffs and so on. We can inspect those trucks.

We learned something, Kiran, right after 9/11 when we sealed the border. We really did seal it because we were afraid about being attacked again. We can do this again. It can help the illegal immigration problem as well as the drug issue.

CHETRY: One thing that the president -- that President Calderon was very focused on was the sale of U.S. guns to Mexican cartels. In fact, he said something like issue number one is gun, number two is gun, number three is gun. And President Obama said he wasn't going to push to renew the assault weapons ban. He said that the political climate right now makes it unrealistic. He did say he was going to call for stricter enforcement. Is that the right move?

BENNETT: Strict enforcement is the right move. The president is right not to call for it because politically it wouldn't fly. The Democrats have learned that. But I think Calderon is wrong, simply wrong about the guns, guns, guns. The number one problem in the U.S. is drug use, drug consumption because that fuels a lot of this, (INAUDIBLE) with the whole thing.

The drug -- the gun issue is this. They are saying 90 percent of the guns that they capture are U.S. What has happened is they've send a bunch of guns back to the U.S. that have markers on them. When they trace those, a lot of them do come from the U.S. But the number they send back is a very small percentage and the ones without the numbers on them are not U.S. They don't know where they're from. Most likely South America, Central.

But you should think about it...

CHETRY: As we understand...

BENNETT: ... why would you go to the trouble of going to the U.S. and using a straw man to buy guns when you can buy them on the open market?

CHETRY: Why then do we hear this repeated? Because you point out something and we did a PolitiFact check on it today, as well that...

BENNETT: Yes, I saw that.

CHETRY: ...that they're sending back guns that they need to get traced because their serial numbers indicate they could be from the U.S. There is a large number of guns that they know just by sight apparently are not U.S. guns, so they don't ship them back. Why then are we hearing our president and everybody repeat this 90 percent statistics? BENNETT: Well, it just happens. You know, it gets into the air. A lot of myths like this happened, like you can't fight the drug war, you can't win the drug war, or you can't, you know, make any progress in the drug war. It's another myth. You guys have done a very good job on this doing both sides all week.

But it's out there. And a lot of people hate guns and this is the way they've had their expression about it. That is not the problem. The problem is increased drug use and we have let things go lax here in the U.S.

CHETRY: Their programs, we talked about, you know, just say no, but what really is going to stop the demand?

BENNETT: I used to talk about it as first drug czar. I was confirmed by Joe Biden, who's chairman of the judiciary committee, now the vice president. Half-filled balloon. You got to push down on all parts at the same time. Treatment, law enforcement. Those drug rehab courts you were showing earlier.

Think about this. In 1979, we had about 25 million drug users in the U.S. In 1992, we had 11 million. Now that's not eliminating the problem, but we more than cut it in half because the country decided to get tough on it. We're back up to about 20 million and what we need to do is press on all parts.

At least the president understands that and he's got to use all parts. There is a reluctance, though, on President Obama's part to talk a lot about the issue. I hope it's not because of the earlier drug use as a young man. A lot of people have used drugs earlier. He should say I did, it was stupid, but we have got to talk about this. Bill Clinton did that. He could learn that from Bill Clinton. How is that? Praise Bill Clinton.

CHETRY: See that? And some praise for the president as well. Bill Bennett, always...

BENNETT: Sorry, Lord.

CHETRY: Always great to talk to you. Thanks for being with us.

BENNETT: Play that Republican god, you know. All right.


ROBERTS: I got a line from "Ghostbusters." Dogs and cats living together.


ROBERTS: News flash. Thanks, Bill.

BENNETT: You bet.

ROBERTS: President Obama taking an extraordinary step releasing top secret terror interrogation memos from the Bush years. Critics say it's proof of torture. Others say the move is making us less safe. We'll ask a former White House insider what she thinks.

And then, Susan Boyle, you've heard her voice. And we got a chance to speak with her this morning. Meet the singing sensation one-on-one. It's coming up on 20 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Twenty-two and a half minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Most popular videos right now on A growing problem in Russia. A tiny wee little tree found growing in this man's lung. At first, doctors thought he had cancer, but instead, say they found a two-inch fir tree growing inside his lung. It gets all new meaning to the phrase "coughing up a fur ball," wouldn't you say.

Also, dismissed for disrobing. A 20-year-old high school cheerleading coach was fired when administrators discovered steamy pictures of her in Playboy online. She said she told the school about her history as a model before she was hired.

And sick and tired of smelly underwear. Astronauts on the International Space Station are conducting experiments on just that -- underwear odor. And it seems to be working. One astronaut has been wearing the same pair of underwear for a month and says he hasn't gotten any complaints.

Susan Boyle,'s most popular. She's unassuming -- she's the unassuming, lovable Scottish woman who's making headlines around the world, after her jaw-dropping audition on a British reality television show. And this morning, we are learning more about what her life is like now. Here's CNN's Zain Verjee in London.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, it's the big buzz here in London, as well as around the world for days. One day, she was volunteering in the local church in Scotland. And the next day, she becomes this huge star. We want you to meet the woman behind the amazing voice.


SUSAN BOYLE, CONTESTANT, "BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT": I'm gobsmacked. Absolutely gobsmacked.

VERJEE (voice-over): Who can blame her? Susan Boyle's world has turned upside down since she became an overnight sensation on the UK television show "Britain's Got Talent." Before the notoriety, the 47- year-old described her life as ordinary.

BOYLE: I live alone is my cat called Pebbles.

VERJEE: Pebbles was nowhere in site when CNN paid a visit to her home in Blackburn, Scotland, and no wonder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Susan! VERJEE: With photographers camped outside the door, photographers inside the door, not to mention the crowd of autograph seeking kids at the door.

Boyle had her hands full.

BOYLE: I do feel rather humbled. I'm very humbled and very grateful.

VERJEE: She began singing in school productions at age 12, had private lessons and won local competitions. But a professional career never took hold. Boyle says partly because of circumstances at home. She cared for her aging parents. Both have gone now, and so she decided to give her dream one last chance.

BOYLE: So I just thought I'll go and sing, see what happen.

VERJEE: The crowd didn't know what to make of her when she took to the stage.

BOYLE: I was scared. I was scared. I mean, everybody is nervous in such a big program like that. It didn't make things any easier when the judges and audience seemed ready to laugh.

BOYLE: If people are cynical, you try and win them 'round and it worked. Don't tell me how. It must have been a miracle, but it worked.

VERJEE: Moving people, not only with her singing, but with her story of an unfulfilled dream to be a professional singer. Now, she finally has a shot at it, but Boyle isn't getting ahead of herself. She wants to enjoy the moment.

BOYLE: This is from a lady who is age 72.

VERJEE: She's happily made room for a growing fan base, surprised by all of the attention.

BOYLE: It's the way everybody seems to have embraced me. It's the way everybody seems to have apparently fallen in love with me.


VERJEE: And fans just can't wait for her to release an album. There are rumors of her getting a major record deal pretty soon. She says all this attention has not changed her one little bit -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, Zain Verjee for us. She sure hasn't changed one bit. And we're going to be seeing more of that. It seems that everyone is buzzing about Susan Boyle. She is making headlines around the world. This morning, she stopped by our show.

We talked to her about what she thinks about becoming an overnight sensation. Is she going to let them make her over or is she going to stay the same. We'll see what she says. Also developing this morning, top terror investigation memos revealed, documents showing the methods used by the Bush administration and critics say it's proof of torture. But we're going to talk to a former Bush adviser about whether declassifying the documents makes us more vulnerable. It's 27 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It seems everyone has heard Susan Boyle sing by now. And newspapers all over the world featuring banner headlines of the singing sensation from Scotland with the voice to die for.

Well, earlier this morning, Susan spoke to us from her home in Scotland. I asked her about what it feels like to become an overnight celebrity.


BOYLE: It's overwhelming. I feel overwhelming. Quite humbling.

CHETRY: Well, I can imagine. You know, it's very interesting. Simon Cowell is now saying that you -- that you can't get a record deal out there fast enough. And that if you appear on "Oprah" and you get this record out, it's going to be the number one record in America. What do you think about that?

BOYLE: I'm gobsmacked. Absolutely gobsmacked, and it would be wonderful.

CHETRY: Now as I understand, you can't even leave your house anymore. I mean, people are waiting to get autographs. You're receiving well wishes around the world. There's Web sites, Twitter, everything is about Susan Boyle right now. What is your family saying? What are they saying to you about this whole thing?

BOYLE: Just take one step at a time and enjoy the moment.

CHETRY: Your mom, you talked about her being an inspiration for you to just go out there and give it a try to go on that show. What role did your mom play in helping you take that step and get out there on stage?

BOYLE: Well, she was my inspiration and she was the driving force behind my application. I felt it was a tribute to her. She was a wonderful lady.


CHETRY: And we're not done with Susan Boyle. Stick around. In about 20 minutes we're going to hear her sing right here on AMERICAN MORNING. John?

ROBERTS: All right, we're crossing the half hour now, it's 8:30 eastern and here is what's on the agenda this morning. The big stories that we're breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes. Top secret terror interrogation memos revealed. Just released documents reveal the methods used by the Bush administration including waterboarding and forced nudity. Critics say it's proof of torture.

The hero captain heading home, Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is in the air right now and will arrive home in Vermont this afternoon. Armed Somali pirates held him hostage for five days on a lifeboat. He gave himself up to preserve the safety of his crew.

And despite our best efforts and yours, Ashton Kutcher is doing a victory dance this morning after beating CNN in a race to a million followers on Twitter. And, boy, oh, boy, it was close. Kutcher reached a million about a half an hour before CNN breaking news hit the magic number of a million itself. Kutcher had challenged CNN to the Twitter race, saying he would donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day. CNN planned to match that.

We're back to our developing story now, the White House releasing what is becoming known as the torture memos. CIA interrogation techniques used on terror suspects during the Bush administration. Some of those methods Bush lawyers approved included keeping detainees naked, in diapers or in cramped confinement.

Some former Bush officials say President Obama's decision to declassify these memos is putting the country in danger. Fran Townsend is a CNN national security contributor. She's also the former homeland security adviser to President Bush, and joins us now from Washington. So Fran, what's your take on the release of these memos? These were among the Bush administration's most closely guarded secrets.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: John, we should be clear with our viewers. Even during my time in the administration, I wasn't a part of the policy discussions, but I will tell you here is my concern about the release of them. Regardless of what you think on the issue of whether or not waterboarding is torture there were legal documents created and relied upon by career intelligence official who then implemented the program.

There were very strict controls on the program. These people relied on them and, now, to release them and to subject these people, these career professionals to sort of public humiliation and opprobrium, and then the potential of a congressional investigation really will make our intelligence community risk averse.

I think that's what Mike Hayden, the former director of CIA is getting at when he says look, you're going to make us less safe. I think there is real potential in that. I think the administration needs to come out and tell us why did you release them? I think they made the right decision to say they are not going to prosecute intelligence officials and I think Denny Blair made a very strong statement, the DNI on that issue, but I will tell you then why did you release them? What was the purpose? Because we've won legal cases in the courts to protect those memos up till now from public disclosure.

ROBERTS: In terms of the reason for disclosing, this is what Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement on the US DOJ's Web site. He said, "The president has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture. We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law."

So this administration has promised greater transparency to the American people. These methods are no longer in use. Why not disclose them?

TOWNSEND: Well John, I think it's perfectly legitimate for this attorney general and this president to decide they're not going to use this technique. But by disclosing them you've really handcuffed future administrations. And by the way, the president has appointed a group to look at the effectiveness in use of these techniques. That group has not come out with their findings yet and it really does foreclose their ability to say they're effective.

In this morning's "Wall Street Journal," there's an op-ed by Director Hayden and former Attorney General Mukasey that gives the example of how the use of techniques led to the ultimate capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. And so there is an argument to be made that in limited circumstances these techniques can be effective in preventing terrorist attacks.

ROBERTS: Now, in terms of these interrogation techniques, according to this memo, they included walling which is pushing a person against a wall. According to this memo it's a specially constructed wall, so that they wouldn't hurt themselves but it would make a loud noise. It was intended to shock more than anything.

A facial slap, which was an insult slap, according to the memo. Cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box and waterboarding. You said that you weren't a part of the policy development but were you aware of these techniques. And were you concerned, Fran, at the time that they might have crossed the legal line?

TOWNSEND: To tell you John I was not a part of either the legal discussion or the policy discussion. And the enumerated list of techniques that you've just gone through was probably one of the most closely guarded secrets even within the administration. I was aware that there was a program and it was later on that I understood not simply what the techniques were but that there were medical personnel involved, that the techniques could only be approved by the director of the CIA.

ROBERTS: Were you concerned that they might be illegal?

TOWNSEND: Well I had never seen the legal memos just as most Americans had not seen them, I had never seen the legal reasoning. What I knew was (INAUDIBLE) issued an opinion finding going through an analysis that held them to be legal.

ROBERTS: All right, Fran Townsend for us this morning in Washington. Fran it's always good to see you. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again soon. TOWNSEND: Thank you.

ROBERTS: All right -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Rehab is not just for celebrities. Thousands of Americans need help treating an addiction. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside the process from addiction to recovery.

Plus, a star is born, a most unlikely one. That singing sensation Susan Boyle with nearly 16 million YouTube hits and counting, sings just for you on AMERICAN MORNING straight ahead. 36 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

All this week we've been looking at America's addiction to drugs in our special series, "Drug Nation." Every year, more than 300,000 Americans turn to residential treatment or rehab to try to conquer their addictions. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at one woman's journey from addiction to recovery. It's for his documentary, "Addiction, Life on the Edge." You actually spent some time at a rehab facility. What was that like?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's fascinating to actually be in some of these rehab facilities and we her so much about it in the news and sometimes rehab seems like it's a time-out, if you will, for celebrities, but obviously much more than that.

I spent a lot of time in a place called Hazelden. Well-known in the rehab world, they have a main campus that sort of looks like a college campus but it's some intense life-changing experiences there for the people who go there, as I learned.


GUPTA (voice-over): Nic Sheff loved drugs. Crack, cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin and his favorite, crystal methamphetamine.

NIC SHEFF, AUTHOR: When I did crystal meth for the first time it was like, yeah it was like the answer to my problems. It was like I felt strong and confident.

GUPTA: After five rehabs, Nick finally kicked his addiction and wrote a popular book called "Tweak." It's about the toll drugs took on his life.

SHEFF (reading): I cook up a bunch of heroin and go to pick out a bottle of white wine from the refrigerator.

GUPTA: His recovery looked like a success. Everyone, including Nick, thought he had beaten his disease. Then he dropped off the radar.

(on camera): We had heard that he relapsed. Finally, we tracked him down at this sober living home in Santa Monica, California. Nick?

SHEFF: (INAUDIBLE) coming all the way over here.

GUPTA (voice-over): In August, he admitted taking prescription drugs and smoking pot.

(on camera): I was surprised to find you here.

SHEFF: Absolutely, man. I think I was doing -- well, I was doing really well, you know, externally. Just so crazy how I went from zero to 60 in, you know, in a day and a half or something.

GUPTA (voice-over): The peril of relapse is common among addicts. Dr. Kevin Clark is medical director at the addiction treatment center Hazelden.

DR. KEVIN CLARK (ph), MEDICAL DIRECTOR, HAZELDEN: Relapse is certainly sometimes a part of the disease process. Our figures are about 53 to 56 percent of patients remain abstinent in a year.

GUPTA: Nick, who has been diagnosed as bipolar, said a split with his girlfriend and an episode of manic behavior precipitated his return to drugs. He relapsed again in October, taking Vicodin pills. Now, he said he's been sober since the beginning of December. In speaking so publicly about his addiction and his relapses, Nick hoped to continue his healing.

SHEFF: Internally, you know, the gift that I've given myself of being able to be honest has maybe saved my life.

GUPTA: He's optimistic about the journey of recovery that still lies ahead.


GUPTA: I think you heard something very important there, which is relapse is often part of recovery. Hazelden, one of the places profiled there, is one of the few places to publish its result, if you will, how well they do and about half, about 53 percent as they say of people actually get through the first year and make their way out of recovery. It's by no means perfect, Kiran. This is how it is at a lot of these rehab centers.

CHETRY: Nick wrote a fabulous commentary just for us on I had a chance to read it yesterday. It's very interesting how undiagnosed mental illness or improperly treated mental illness, sometimes people turn to self medication and that's what happened in his case as well. Very good stuff. Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you, Kiran.

Don't miss Dr. Gupta's weekend special "Addiction: Life on the Edge," where he follows four addicts trying to stay sober for a year, this Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

ROBERTS: Trouble may be brewing at our nation's airports today. Hail, even snow could hammer parts of the country today. We'll check in with our Rob Marciano to see how it affects your weekend plans.

And from a sheltered life to international stardom, Susan Boyle an Internet sensation now making headlines in newspapers around the world and about to sing for you with that golden voice here on AMERICAN MORNING. It's 43 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Forty-six minutes after the hour. Let's fast forward now to stories that will be making news later on today. The hero captain on his way home right now. Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is expected back in Vermont this afternoon. Armed Somali pirates held him hostage for five days on board a lifeboat. This will be his first time back on U.S. soil.

President Obama traveling from Mexico City to Trinidad and Tobago today. There he'll attend a 34-member summit of the Americas. Other folks attending the summit include Eva Morales of Bolivia and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

At 5:00 p.m. Eastern, the Middle Class Task Force, a group chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, holds a meeting in St. Louis. This will be the third meeting in a series focusing on key issues facing the middle class.

And it maybe the last time that you see these two together on NASA's launch pads. The space shuttle "Endeavour" joining its sister ship "Atlantis" this morning at the Kennedy Space Center. The two are being readied for consecutive May and June liftoffs. One to the international space station, the other one to repair the Hubble telescope.


CHETRY: He said it was David versus Goliath, and we all know how that story ends. Ashton Kutcher edges CNN in a race for Twitter superiority, but it doesn't really matter in the end because thousands are going to benefit. Stick around to see why.

Also, Susan Boyle singing for you on AMERICAN MORNING in less than two minutes. It's 48 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Despite our best efforts and yours, and we thank you for them, Ashton Kutcher is popping the champagne today after just edging CNN in a race to a million followers on Twitter. Kutcher reached a million Twitters about a half hour before CNN's breaking news feed hit that magic number. He had challenged CNN to the Twitter race, saying he would donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day and then Ding dong ditch" CNN founder Ted Turner's house. And he is not letting him off the hook.


ASHTON KUTCHER, ACTOR, TWITTER CHAMP: A toast to Ted Turner. Ted, you are a pioneer in media in creating CNN and creating your entire network and your entire conglomerate. You are a pioneer in media, and you had the foresight to see that digital media was going to be the future, even before all of us believed. And for that, you deserve to be congratulated. And, also, you deserve to be ding dong ditched.


CHETRY: He said "before all of us believed." I don't think he was born yet.

ROBERTS: Ding dong ditching, by the way, is when you walk up to somebody's house, you ring the doorbell and then you take off.

CHETRY: It's so funny.

ROBERTS: And then you tape their reaction. We did it as kids all the time.

CHETRY: So did we.

ROBERTS: That was back in the dark ages! Tonight, it's Ashton Kutcher and Larry King face to face. Will the ding dong ditch be history by then? Well, Ashton Kutcher thinks that Ted Turner's house is in Atlanta, so it might take him a while to find him. Find out at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

CHETRY: He will be ringing a lot of doorbells looking for Ted.

ROBERTS: Start with Montana and work your way south from there.

CHETRY: Is it weight discrimination or is at a way to provide more comfortable flights? United Airlines says it will start aggressively denying boarding to overweight passengers unless they pay for a second seat. Well that story sparking a lot of debate this morning. Our viewers are sounding off on our show hotline as well, 877-my-amfix. Here's a little sample.


CALLER: My name is Melanie. I'm calling from San Diego. I don't agree with the additional fee for obese passengers. The airlines have never cared about what we want as customers. Our flights get delayed, canceled, rerouted and the customer's wants and needs have never been polled by the airlines. Next they will be asking for a bailout to give us half a can of soda and small packets of peanuts and cookies. Maybe they should poll us and find out what we need as customers.

CALLER: I think it's a great idea. If obese people can't understand that then they need to take other means of transportation.

CALLER: This whole United Airline thing just pisses me off. Why should someone have to pay double just because they are overweight? And I agree with what you guys were talking about before, why shouldn't crying babies have to pay extra or taller people have to pay extra as obese people have to pay extra? It's just ridiculous.

CALLER: Hi, this is Kilaney Zack calling from Hawaii. I think it's very important that several other people have mentioned to look at the way that comfort has been taken away from coach class travel for many years and the airlines need to be looking at the fact that they are not providing the comfortable environment for even normal weight passengers in many instances.


CHETRY: That's one thing everyone seems to agree on, right? It doesn't really matter how big or small you are, it's not necessarily comfortable riding coach. United's new policy is also the topic of our quick vote question today. Right now our quick vote. People who weighed in have a strong opinion. Seventy-four percent say they should charge more, while only 26 percent disagree. The calls and your e-mails, we really enjoy getting a chance to play these on our show. Please give us a call again. Whatever's on your mind, if you have a question, a comment, 877-myamfix. That's 877-692-6349.

ROBERTS: Riding in coach isn't bad if you don't mind riding like this.

CHETRY: Exactly. Especially in the middle seat. No place to put the elbows.

ROBERTS: I tried to use my computer the other day, and I was typing like this. It was incredible.

It was the voice heard around the world. Susan Boyle singing for you on AMERICAN MORNING. We've got it for you coming up. It's 55 minutes after the hour.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People throughout Central America were living in extreme poverty. They often don't have enough food. There are days when people just have one meal, if they're lucky. When I first came to Guatemala, it was just incredible seeing where people were cutting down rain forests to plant food. It was devastating so I decided to go back to school so I could help people produce enough food without destroying the environment. I came across this tree. It provided the staple food for this civilization. For some reason people have stopped eating this food which is one of the most nutritious foods you can get and it's free. You just collect it off the ground and they don't eat it because they don't know.

I'm Erika Vohman (ph), and I teach people about the (INAUDIBLE) for food and for reinforced conservation. Our workshops are just for women so they can acquire the skills and knowledge to feed their families and better their lives. It's fun. We're having an impact on the environment, we're having an economic impact and, also, motivating reforestation. It's really amazing.



CHETRY: All right, well now, the performance that we promised you from Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old singing sensation who has already registered nearly 16 million views on YouTube and counting. Earlier, she graciously agreed to sing for us. Here is a little bit more of that.


SUSAN BOYLE, "BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT" CONTESTANT (singing): I dreamed a dream in time gone by, when hope was high and life worth living. I dreamed that love would never die. I prayed that God would be...


CHETRY: She's great. I could listen to that all day.

ROBERTS: Voice of an angel. No kidding.

CHETRY: All right, well, congrats, Susan, and good luck to you.

Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We hope you have a great weekend.

ROBERTS: Right now here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.