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Feds Foil Terror Plot to Bomb a New York Synagogue; Obama and Cheney to Speak on U.S. National Security; Authorities Focus on Southern California in Search of Cancer Teen and Mom; Test Predicts Kids at Risk of Joining Gangs; U.S. Arms in Taliban Hands A Cause for Concern; U.S. Arms in Taliban Hands; Congress Rejects Closure, Transfer of GITMO detainees; 4 Jailed for Alleged NY Bombing Plot
Aired May 21, 2009 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. Glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. It's Thursday, May 21st. I'm Kiran Chetry.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, I'm John Roberts. We are following several developing stories right now. We'll be breaking them down for you in the next 15 minutes here in the Most News in the Morning, including a terror plot foiled in New York City.
This morning details about the plan to bomb a synagogue and shoot down U.S. fighter jets. And the incredible story of how the feds kept it from happening. All of that ahead.
Also developing right now, new clues in the search for a 13-year- old cancer patient on the run with his mother. She is refusing to treat him with a conventional medicine that doctors say could save his life. But this morning, authorities are hoping for a break in the case as they ramp up their search and move the focus now to California.
Plus talking terror, President Obama set to deliver a major speech on national security today, but it won't be the only one. His biggest critic on the issue, former Vice President Dick Cheney also addressing the topic. And this morning the sniping between administration's past and present is already underway.
CHETRY: And we begin with developing news of a plot to bomb a New York City synagogue and to shoot down U.S. fighter jets, all of it foiled by the feds.
Four men are now in custody. And these are some new pictures you're about to see. They're just coming in from outside of the federal courthouse with the federal officers in Manhattan last night where the suspects were booked.
Now prosecutors say the plot made it to its final stages. The suspects reportedly planting explosives in cars near a Jewish temple.
A major catch, though. Authorities actually infiltrated this terror ring a year ago and supplied the men with phony weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAY KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: Four individuals were arrested for planting bombs in the front of two synagogues in the area. The bombs had been made by the FBI technicians. They were totally inert. No one was ever at risk or in danger of being injured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: That was New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The four men are expected to appear in federal court just north of Manhattan in White Plains, New York, a little bit later today. And CNN's Susan Candiotti is there.
Susan, tell us a little bit more about how authorities were able to infiltrate this plot?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, this all started to come together about a year ago June. And just to give you a scene setter, we're going to show you how far this plot allegedly ran.
It started, according to prosecutors in Newburgh, New York, upstate New York, and then also included this temple, the synagogue in Riverdale in the Bronx, New York. Also included, a storage facility in Stamford, Connecticut and Stewart International Airport, the scene of an international guard air base.
And again, so it goes back to about a year ago when prosecutors say one of the four suspects met with an FBI informant, someone who had previously pleaded guilty to criminal fraud and was on probation. They began a series of meetings with these people, a series of meetings that began in Newburg, New York.
And at one of the meetings, one of the suspects allegedly said that his parents had lived in Afghanistan. That's where they were from, that eventually he would like to go there and that this person was upset about U.S. soldiers, as he put it, killing Muslims in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. That eventually he wanted to go there to die, "as a martyr" and that he wanted to "do something to America."
So over the months, over the months, all kinds of meetings were held that were said to have been videotaped and audiotaped. And eventually they got around to purchasing, for example, a digital camera from Wal-Mart. They bought four cell phones. They bought a gun and wound up just last month putting some of the details together.
They allegedly went from place to place videotaping and/or taking pictures of some of these targets, including the synagogue, including the air base in Stewart, New York.
And also, along the way, the informant provided to them these fake, a fake stinger missile as well as C4 explosives, but they weren't really C4 explosives in the form of some improvised explosive devices.
And that, Kiran, is how it all came together eventually winding up on the scene outside the synagogue and Jewish community center last night when the arrests were made.
CHETRY: All right. Susan Candiotti for us in White Plains this morning. Thanks.
ROBERTS: The Obama administration is about to move a top Al Qaeda detainee from Guantanamo Bay prison to New York City to stand trial. That word coming in the heels of a Senate vote to withhold funding for shutting down Gitmo.
This morning, President Obama is expected to make his case for closing Guantanamo Bay again when he delivers a major speech on national security. But he's going to have to share the spotlight with one of his most outspoken critic, former Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking on the same subject at practically the same time.
CNN's Jill Dougherty is following that for us. She's live at the White House this morning.
Jill, we have dueling speeches and a setback for the president.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, John, really he's been facing a tsunami of criticism on Guantanamo. And today, what President Obama is going to try to do is to redefine that debate.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Dick Cheney has been on the attack almost since leaving office. President Barack Obama, he thinks, has made Americans less safe.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that led us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11.
DOUGHERTY: President Obama has outlawed those Bush-era enhanced interrogation techniques.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values.
DOUGHERTY: Mr. Cheney says closing the Guantanamo detention facility could free terrorists to attack the U.S. again. The president says Guantanamo Bay has become a rallying cry for terrorists and a black eye for America's image around the world. The sniping from both sides has turned personal.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy. So they tried it out, the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.
DOUGHERTY: But one Cheney biographer says Cheney is scoring points. BART GELLMAN, AUTHOR, "ANGLES: THE CHENEY VICE PRESIDENCY": What he's managed to do very effectively is frame a public debate and keep that debate focused on the things Cheney wants to talk about.
DOUGHERTY: And we understand from two sources familiar with that Cheney speech that he will try to do a couple of things. One is to dispute the insertion that fighting terrorists is a recruitment tool and then he's also going to push back on that argument, the rationale that President Obama has made for shutting down Guantanamo -- John.
ROBERTS: A lot of rhetoric back and forth this morning. Jill Dougherty at the White House for us. Jill, thanks so much.
Most Americans still don't like Dick Cheney but they like him more now than when he left office back in January. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released minutes ago shows 37 percent have a favorable opinion of the former vice president. That is up eight points from January when he left office. George Bush's favorability rating jumped six points in the same time period, and he hasn't even made a single public appearance or given a speech since leaving office.
And you can see Vice President Cheney's remarks on our Web site at 10:45 this morning. Just go to CNN.com/live. We're also going to, of course, carry President Obama's speech. You can see that live here on CNN at 10:10 Eastern. It will also be streamed live on CNN.com.
CHETRY: All right. We're also following new developments in the search for a 13-year-old cancer patient from Minnesota. He's on the run this morning still with his mother. And authorities are saying that they're working new leads that put Daniel Hauser and his mom just south of San Diego, California, possibly preparing to cross into Mexico for treatment.
Now, Colleen Hauser, the mother, does not believe in using radiation and chemotherapy, which doctors say are the only things that can save her son's life. He has Hodgkin's lymphoma. Instead, she only wants to use natural remedies like herbs and vitamins.
Jason Carroll is here now following the developments in the story. So, they somehow, at least authorities believe, got from Minnesota to Southern California.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Correct.
CHETRY: How were they able to find this out and how close were they to figuring out if they can get them?
CARROLL: Well, good question. They're not saying how they got the tip but obviously, authorities are making some progress in terms of their investigation. It's unclear how the pair is traveling or who, if anyone, is helping them.
A sheriff in Minnesota says he has reliable information Colleen Hauser may be seeking treatment for her son's cancer just south of San Diego in Mexico. He is also confident he will find them. Meanwhile, the boy's father continues to cooperate with authorities in Minnesota.
CARROLL (voice-over): Daniel Hauser's father came out in defense of his wife, Colleen, explaining why she failed to show for a court hearing and took their cancer-stricken son Daniel into hiding.
ANTHONY HAUSER, DANIEL'S FATHER: I think it was kind of a spur of the moment thing and pure (ph) accident.
CARROLL: The court hearing ordered by a judge who wanted to review x-rays to see if Daniel's Hodgkin's lymphoma was getting worse. Doctors say chemotherapy and radiation treatments are the 13-year- old's best chance at survival. Anthony Hauser says he and his wife are not completely against chemo. They are opposed to doctors giving their son too much, which Hauser believes could make his son worse.
HAUSER: The problem was and they would not work with us, you know. They said this is what we follow and this is what we do, and there is no in between.
CARROLL: Hauser says his family should have the right to follow their religious beliefs and use alternative forms of treatment, such as herbal supplements and vitamins. The Hausers are Roman Catholic but also follow the Native American teachings of the Nemenhah Band. Phillip "Cloudpiler" Landis is that group's medicine chief.
PHILLIP "CLOUDPILER" LANDIS, NEMENHAH BAND: The basic premise, Lieutenant (ph), that we adhere to is first do no harm.
CARROLL: Landis says he survived cancer using natural forms of treatment and has been advising the Hausers. Landis says the group does not oppose traditional medicine.
LANDIS: If your child falls out of a tree and his brain's hanging out, I'm not going to put plaster on there. You know, you want to go to the hospital and have the surgeon put the brain back in.
CARROLL: The Hausers' attorney released a 12-point statement saying treatment cannot be forced. Point one, it is a violation of spiritual law to invade the consciousness of another without their consent. Their attorney calling it a "case of love versus power."
Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg saying it's a case of the boy's best interests, which Brown says is medical care. Hauser's father says he is looking out for his son's best interest.
HAUSER: I'm not saying alternative medicine is going to cure you every time. If it isn't being treated, I'd say return home.
CARROLL: Well, Daniel's court-appointed attorney said he considers his client to have a diminished capacity because of his age and because according to court papers, Daniel cannot read. The FBI and the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency are assisting with the search. It is still unclear at this point if the pair are still in the states or somewhere in Mexico. Obviously, in terms of what doctors are saying, time is of the essence here.
CHETRY: Yes, certainly seems to be the case. Jason Carroll, thanks so much.
And we've been asking you what you think about this case. Should the courts or the parents ultimately have the final say in how Daniel is treated?
Well, everyone calling our show hotline just about, 877-MY-AMFIX, is saying that the family should be able to do what it wants. Here's a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE, ARKANSAS (via telephone): His body belongs to himself. It is absolute tyranny to force him to undergo medical treatment he doesn't want. It's an absolute evil for the government to force him to take this chemotherapy.
ANON (via telephone): If he wants to do holistic medicine, we have a constitution in this country and he should be able to exercise his right.
BERNIE, CANADA (via telephone): Leave the mother alone. Some of these children actually can come out of this by themselves. Some of them need therapy, and some of them never come out.
EIDA, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): God made doctors, as well as he made that child. He made me and you. That's why God put different people here for different situations. Mother, bring that child back for that child to get well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: All right. So our last caller saying that she thinks that the family should seek medical treatment. We'd love to hear more from you. Call our show hotline. 1-877-MY-AMFIX.
And also stick around. In our next hour, we're going to be talking to the spokesman for the Hauser family. That's coming up at 7:20 Eastern time.
ROBERTS: It's a quiz designed for kids, but this one could save their lives. We'll tell you all about the new test designed to keep them from ending up in a gang. Will it really work? The story is brand new this morning.
Plus, dramatic pictures of a high speed police chase that ends with a dramatic crash. But what police did to the suspect afterwards is what has people really talking this morning. You'll see the tape.
It's 12 minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's a question that police, parents and community activists have been asking for years. How can you keep a kid from taking a wrong turn, ending up in a gang or immersed in a life of crime or drugs?
Well, this morning, one group of researchers thinks that they may have an answer -- a multiple choice test. A series of simple questions designed to give answers that could change lives. Thelma Gutierrez has the story.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're not the average questions you'd ask a child. Have you carried a concealed weapon? Sold drugs? Or attacked anyone? But nearly 1,000 kids in Los Angeles are being asked those very questions.
KAREN HENNIGAN, USC DEPT. OF PSYCHOLOGY: This is my lab at the Psychology Department.
GUTIERREZ: Karen Hennigan, director of the Center for Research on Crime and Social Control at the University of Southern California, says this questionnaire could help identify which kids are most at risk for joining gangs.
HENNIGAN: There are ten risk factors in here that studies consistently have suggested are associated with gang joining.
GUTIERREZ: Her team was asked by the city of Los Angeles to design a confidential questionnaire for kids between the ages of 10 and 15. Social workers or case managers are trained to interview the kids with the parents' consent.
(on camera): Is this about helping the city spend their limited resources wisely?
HENNIGAN: If we can focus these resources on the youth who really need it, and can turn their lives around young, then we can stop the feeding, you know, into the gangs.
GUTIERREZ (voice-over): UCLA professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap isn't convinced children will answer honestly.
JORJA LEAP, PH.D., UCLA DEPT. OF SOCIAL WELFARE: I am a scientist, but I think that any kind of tool or instrument has to be sensitive, has to be the kind of things people are going to give honest answers to.
GUTIERREZ: Javier Chavez, a former gang member and father of three, says the questions are too harsh for kids.
JAVIER CHAVEZ, CONCERNED PARENT: When it comes to drugs, weapons and stuff like that, you know, I don't think it's good for like a 10- year-old to be asking them that type of stuff. GUTIERREZ: But Albert Ortega, also a former gang member and father of three, says if the test will help kids get intervention, he's all for it.
ALBERT ORTEGA, CONCERNED PARENT: I think the test is OK maybe for them to find out maybe they can get involved into other activities, you know? After school programs.
GUTIERREZ: Hennigan says that's the idea, to move kids into programs that will lead them away from gang life. The questionnaires won't be shared with law enforcement, the schools, or even the parents.
Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.
ROBERTS: Christine Romans is here "Minding Your Business" this morning. She's got some new clues about where the economy can be headed.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, John and Kiran.
New clues about where the economy is headed and where the unemployment rate might be headed. Are things getting better? Are they getting worse? Are they staying the same?
I'm going to tell you exactly what's happening in the economy and "Romans' Numeral," the number is five. Go to twitter.com/AMFix. And what does the number five have to do with the economy, the jobless rate, and your job prospects? That's right after the break.
CHETRY: All right. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's a live look right now of Washington, D.C., 53 degrees. It's going to be nice and sunny and hot. Eighty-one and sunny a little bit later today.
ROBERTS: We get a lovely day in New York City as well. Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" this morning. Good morning to you.
ROMANS: I know. It's going to be a lovely day. That's good news around here, right?
Look, I want to talk to you a little bit about what's happening in the economy. We've been talking about on this program and elsewhere, the green shoot (ph). Is the economy starting to get a little better? We keep talking every week.
We take with a microscope these weekly economic reports to see if something is coming up there. And the fed yesterday gave us an indication at least of what they've been thinking. The Federal Reserve actually now predicting higher unemployment than it had been just three months ago, and a sharper decline in GDP, looking for unemployment range now of 9.2 percent to 9.6 percent and declines in GDP and then also less robust GDP growth in some of the out-years.
These are the minutes from the April meeting, so it just tells you what the people who are dissecting the economy every day are starting to think.
Yes, it's a little bit in the rearview mirror because these are the minutes from their April meeting. And since then, we've had some signs of life in the housing markets and the like.
So we just don't know yet if it's real and how long it will last but we do -- I can tell you that most people tell me that the worst is behind us. That the economy is not growing. I mean, that's the bottom line here. The recession is likely not over. We still have, you know, difficult in the economy and unemployment rate is going to continue to rise.
ROBERTS: You've got a "Romans' Numeral" for us this morning. And just so that all of you at home can play along, it's a number that Christine comes up with every hour here. A number that's driving a story that really affects you and your money. So what's the "Romans' Numeral"?
ROMANS: The number is five. The number is five. Some very good guesses on this.
CHETRY: It's a percentage.
ROMANS: It's a percent. The five percent of the number.
CHETRY: All right. We had Lovel22 (ph) twittering to "AMFix" five percent of 401(k)s went broke. Coreappler (ph) guessed, did the economy shrink by five percent?
ROMANS: Coreappler (ph) has some good guesses every morning.
Well, the economy probably shrunk by more than five percent, unfortunately, and more than five percent of 401(k)s probably went broke.
This number actually is the unemployment rate a year ago. Think of that. Just a year ago in the summer after Bear Stearns went down and before the Lehman Brothers debacle, you had five percent national unemployment rate. Right now, it's 8.9 percent. And everyone agrees that it is going higher. How much higher is the question.
So this is the worst job situation since the 1980s. You know, it's a difficult situation. Put it in context, how quickly it has deteriorated from five percent to 8.9 percent.
ROBERTS: We got the weekly jobless claims today as well, right? ROMANS: We do. So we'll be able to see sort of state by state what's happening with layoffs and the like. And what we're going to hope for is that the layoffs at least, the mass layoffs are slowing, even if companies aren't hiring. That's what we've been looking for in all of these numbers that at least the mass layoffs are slowing.
ROBERTS: Great. See you again soon.
CHETRY: Well, are U.S. weapons being used to kill Americans in Afghanistan? A former top CIA official in Afghanistan tells us how Taliban insurgents are getting their hands on American weapons.
And a video everyone is talking about this morning. It's quite disturbing actually.
A high-speed police chase that ended in a bad crash, but what happened to the suspect when it was all over could land some officers in legal trouble.
It's 24 minutes past the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Five police officers in Alabama could face criminal charges this morning after dash cam video became public showing them beating an unconscious suspect. It happened in January of last year. A warning. What you're about to see is graphic. So we just want to let you know that.
But it involves suspect Anthony Warren. He led officers on a high-speed highway chase. One officer was on foot, was hurt when the van swerved through traffic. There you see that.
The suspect then crashes. The car flips over. He's tossed out of the vehicle, as you see there. Lands unconscious.
Well, five officers are then seen beating him with their fists and batons. Now, a prosecutor preparing for Warren's trial requested the tape and then saw that attack. It now launched an internal investigation. Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford addressed claims over a police cover-up last night on CNN's "NO BIAS, NO BULL."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LARRY LANGFORD, BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: We're dealing with human beings who, in many cases, try to protect one another. The fact of the matter is, they shouldn't have tried it in this particular case. We won't tolerate it and everyone responsible for covering it up will in all probability lose a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Warren is currently in prison. He's serving a 20-year sentence. His attorney has filed a claim against the city.
Well, it's 28 minutes past the hour now. Checking our top stories. We're following developing news. A plot to bomb New York City Jewish centers and shoot down fighter jets foiled by the feds. Four men are now in custody this morning, including one who reportedly told an FBI informant he was from Afghanistan and wanted to do something to America because he was angry over the U.S. war there.
The suspects were arrested last night after trying to attack two Jewish facilities in the Bronx. Authorities say their intent was real, but the big catch here is the weapons were not. The feds actually infiltrated the terror ring last year and they supplied the group with phony bombs. We're going to have much more on this story all morning long.
Also, the man accused of murdering D.C. intern Chandra Levy back in 2001 has now been indicted. Twenty-seven-year-old Ingmar Guandique is already serving a prison sentence for attacking other women in the same park where her Levy's body was found. His attorney says the first-degree murder charge is flawed and is based mostly on unreliable accounts from "jailhouse snitches."
And the blogs are already buzzing this morning about a bill in Texas which would allow people with concealed handgun licenses to bring those guns into public colleges and dorms, classrooms and dorms. The Senate there just approved that measure and the House still has to vote on it.
Supporters say it's a common sense way to prevent campus shootings like the one at Virginia Tech. Critics say that it will only make schools more dangerous.
We'd like to know what you think about it. Give us a call on our show hotline, 1-877-MY-AMFIX - John.
ROBERTS: Just crossing the half hour now. Are American-supplied weapons bound for Afghan security forces ending up in the hands of the Taliban?
A "New York Times" report says markings on ammunition collected from dead Taliban insurgents suggest that it's coming from the Pentagon.
Our next guest has some thoughts of how this could be happening and how things are going to have to change there. Gary Berntsen spent more than two decades in the CIA. He also led CIA forces in eastern Afghanistan after 9/11. He's with us now.
So the ""New York Times" suggested poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces is responsible for at least some of these weapons getting into the hands of the Taliban. What are some of the other routes that you know of?
GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR, "HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, COUNTER-TERRORISM AND NATIONAL LEADERSHIP": Part of the promise is there's been a lot of container theft over the last year and a half. Containers moving from the port of Karachi up into Afghanistan on trucks and U.S. forces have been broken into, have been robbed completely. And, I mean, this is more of a problem than just the Taliban drinking Red Bull and, you know, listening to iPods. I mean, they're getting equipment out of these things. That's one.
ROBERTS: So the Pentagon sends these containers full of weapons to the port of Karachi.
BERNTSEN: Not so much weapons all the time. It's body armor sometimes. They're trying not to send weapons that way, but sometimes ammunition gets put in these.
ROBERTS: Right, right.
BERNTSEN: So they pick some of that stuff there. The other issue to is that a lot of Afghan police, we've lost a 1,000 Afghan police this year. Sometimes you'll have entire governor's compounds that are overrun. They'll lose 10, 15 guys. They'll recover weapons and they'll recover ammunition during those encounters as well. And then sometimes there is theft or sale by Afghan security forces.
About a year ago when Karzai -- there's an attempted assassination of Karzai, it was a senior Afghan official, a general that sold those weapons to the Taliban who tried to kill Karzai with them.
ROBERTS: You know, the Government Accountability Office had some criticism that it leveled at the U.S. government for, quote, "significant lapses in accountability," failing to account for thousands of rifles, some of which ended up in the hands of insurgents, some of which were used on the battlefield to kill American soldiers.
BERNTSEN: Some of the contractors that are out there, like some of these companies are spending a lot of time doing accounting, just doing the accounting of this. So, I don't see that as the biggest problem. The larger problem is loss during combat operations.
ROBERTS: Right. Now the U.S. military says it's not a widespread problem.
Do you agree?
BERNTSEN: I don't think it's that widespread. And I think most of the losses happened when -- we lost 1,000 police there last year. That's when most of the losses occurred.
ROBERTS: So how is the military going to have to change its supply lines, then, to respond to this increasing transfer of weaponry and ammunition?
BERNTSEN: Clearly, we've gotten a free ride for six or seven years out of shipping things from the port of Karachi up through Pakistan and end. Our supply lines are going to have to come from the north now. And the administration is preparing for that.
Things are going to have to come through Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, as they come down into Afghanistan. It's going to be a completely different supply chain.
ROBERTS: That's going to be a lot more complicated than taking them by ship to the port of Karachi and then just running them up the roads of Pakistan through the Khyber Pass,.
BERNTSEN: Much more complicated, more of an expense. And the Russians are going to have more to say, because the Russians will come out and say, OK, you can bring non-lethals through our area, but not lethals.
ROBERTS: Right. You know, one of the topics that we've been kicking around here for this -- in the past week here is Iran, because of the meetings between Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and President Obama. Now we've talked about Iran in terms of what's happening in Afghanistan.
There's a fellow who's running for the presidency and the elections are coming up in a couple of weeks, Mohsen Rezai. He was the head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps back in the 1980s. What would happen if he won?
BERNTSEN: His election would complicate things greatly. This is probably the most dangerous man in Iran. He was a candidate in 2005 and withdrew two days before the election, which allowed Ahmadinejad to get elected. Ahmadinejad pales in comparison as a radical.
Mohsen Rezai is wanted in connection with the bombings in Argentina in 1994. Mohsen Rezai is the commander of the RGC, sent tens of thousands of people to their death when he commanded the siege, which the RGC set over during the war. This guy has blood all over his hands. He is the most hostile individual in that country toward the U.S. And he managed most of those terrorist operations that were conducted against the United States in Lebanon in the 1980s. This would be a bad thing if he gets elected.
ROBERTS: And one other issue. I know you were in field ops. You didn't deal so much with, you know, relations with Congress. But Nancy Pelosi said about the CIA misleading Congress. Is there something to that?
BERNTSEN: No. There's no -- I have to say this, that those committees inside of Congress are by law of the United States, the CIA has to brief them, and what we call notifications. If there's a covert action as approved by the president, there's a presidential finding, they will go in and they will, you know, do a presentation of this. This is all documented. There are lawyers in CIA doing these presentations. They're not going to lie to the Congress.
After 1973 in Watergate, you know, CIA learned its lessons and is very, very careful on this. And, you know, from time to time has there been an oversight, something has been missed? Yes, that may have occurred, but on a program like this, a covert action program, where a presidential finding was written, they're presenting clearly and -- I mean, I've been down, I've briefed Congress, and we are very, very careful and no one's lying to Congress.
ROBERTS: Gary Berntsen, it's always great to see you. Thanks for coming by. I know you're headed to Afghanistan in the coming days, so, safe travel.
BERNTSEN: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Appreciate it - Kiran.
CHETRY: All right. Well, not in my backyard. That's what the Congress delivered, a message, a strong bipartisan one at that, to President Obama about transferring Gitmo detainees to the U.S. So how will the president handle this crucial test?
It's 34 minutes past the hour.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet a beauty queen-turned-travel machine in this week's "Road Warriors."
KATIE STAM, MISS AMERICA 2009: I'm Katie Stam, Miss America 2009.
The moment they put the crown on my head, I started work literally. For my personal platform is primarily community service and so I change locations every two to three days. 365 days of traveling. A good night's rest is absolutely essential in order to function every day. You learn really quickly how to teach yourself how to catnap.
Things I always take with me when I'm traveling, obviously I have to have a hardware, got to have the crown with me everywhere I go. I have to have make-up with me so that you can be ready at a moment's notice.
Staying in touch with friends and family is so important for me. I always try to call my parents whenever I land. It is a sacrifice that you make about being on the road, you know, 24/7. But there are so many other things that you gain, that make it so much more positive.
Well, this is Miss America, and I hate goodbyes, so how about blow you a kiss and say, see you later!
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
In a few hours, President Obama delivers a major speech on terrorism and national security. And he'll be spelling out his plan for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, just a day after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to keep Gitmo open at least for the foreseeable future. Members of the president's own party have now put the president into a real political bind.
CNN's Jim Acosta has that part of the story from Washington.
Jim, how important is this policy, and we heard it again and again on the campaign trail -- it's a pledge that he's made to close Gitmo. So what now?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, you're right. President Obama made closing Guantanamo one of the centerpieces of his campaign and one of his first acts in the Oval Office. But now his own party is making it harder for the president to keep his word. In short, it's Gitmo versus NIMBY or not in my backyard.
OBAMA: Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.
ACOSTA (voice over): President Obama's promise to close Guantanamo by January of next year has run head-on into one of the oldest traditions in politics - not in my backyard.
REP. LAMAR SMITH (R), TEXAS: Guantanamo Bay was never meant to be another Ellis Island. The terrorists were detained there for a reason, to keep Americans safe.
ACOSTA: In a crushing defeat to the president, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to cut off funds to close the detention camp and block the transfer of detainees to the U.S.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, I think the American people by every poll that I saw and, of course, all of the telephone calls that we were getting from Kansas, certainly do not want terrorists in the U.S. homeland.
REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: They don't want it in their backyard. They -- you know, they hear from constituents.
ACOSTA: Virginia Democrat Jim Moran was almost alone in his willingness to accept detainees into his district, where 9/11 plotters Zacharias Mousawi and American Taliban John Walker Lind were tried and convicted.
Does this mean that that deadline is not going to be met, of January of next year?
REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I don't see how it can be met now. I think the White House lost that when they failed to give us adequate information, failed to engage in the debate.
ACOSTA: The White House says it's not backing away from its plans.
GIBBS: The president would not make a decision or a judgment that would imperil the safety or security of anybody in this country.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Providing financing to the terrorists, radicalizing others.
ACOSTA: But the administration was undercut by FBI director Robert Mueller, who told Congress detainees would pose a risk in American prisons. Democrats noted there are domestic and al Qaeda terrorists already behind bars in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have they presented any particular danger to us?
MUELLER: If you're talking about physical danger in terms of being able to escape and undertake an attack. No.
ACOSTA: Presidential scholar say Mr. Obama now faces a crucial test.
JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Democrats live with the constant fear of being called weak on defense. The president will be defined by this and the president can define this. I think that's where he can use the power of the bully pulpit.
ACOSTA (on camera): Which brings us to this morning when it will be mano-a-mano. President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney giving dueling speeches on the war on terror in Guantanamo. Some in Washington are billing it as a foreign policy debate that was never really had during the campaign - Kiran.
CHETRY: We'll certainly be watching.
Jim Acosta for us this morning. Good to see you. Thanks.
ACOSTA: You bet.
ROBERTS: He's out of prison, but will Michael Vick ever make it back to the NFL? A closer look at the chances the disgraced quarterback will get a second chance at football stardom.
And amazing video. Lightning lighting up the skies, zapping Seattle's space needle. The incredible pictures just ahead.
Forty-two minutes now after the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. And a rather striking look at Dallas as the sun's coming up. Thanks to our friends at WFAA. 60 degrees. And obviously clearing Dallas this morning. Going up to 86. Lots of sun in the forecast. So always remember to wear sunscreen.
Meantime, look at this. Cameras rolling in Seattle. Capturing an incredible series of lightning strikes. Three lightning bolts hit the city's famed Space Needle within a few minutes' time.
No one was hurt. No damage reported. Of course it happens all the time during thunderstorm. Space Needle is actually equipped with two dozen lightning rods that safely channel energy into the ground. It does make for some pretty stunning pictures.
Forty-five and a half minutes after the hour. Rob Marciano is at the Weather Center in Atlanta.
CHETRY: All right. Well, he's paying his dues for dog fighting. But does Michael Vick deserve another shot at the NFL? We're digging deeper on Vick's road to redemption.
Also the president said he'd close Gitmo by next January. But the Senate put a lock on the cash to carry that out. So what now?
Bill Adair is breaking out the Obameter and the Truth-o-meter this morning to get to the bottom of it. It's 47 minutes past the hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": You probably heard disgraced quarterback Michael Vick released from prison today. I don't know. I guess he's still on probation. Some pretty strong restrictions. You know, he is not even allowed within 100 yards of Snoop Dogg. Did you know that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Former NFL star Michael Vick is now out of prison. He's serving the remainder of his dog fighting sentence in home confinement. His agent has said that a return to the NFL is, quote, "on the back burner." But what are the chances that Michael Vick will find redemption in the world of pro-football?
Carol Costello is following that story for us live from Washington. You know, it's one of those things, when you do harm to animals, many, many people don't forget.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran.
I just hear we have breaking news so I'm going to send it back to you for that. And we'll get to Michael Vick in just a second.
CHETRY: All right, Carol. Thanks. John has the breaking news. ROBERTS: Yes, we'll get right back to Carol in a second. Sorry about that, Carol.
We want to go up to the Riverdale section, the Bronx in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly are talking. This is in the wake of that plot uncovered to bomb the Riverside Temple in the Jewish Community Center up there.
Let's listen in.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: We have to constantly make sure that we have the best police department in the world, that they're well-led and well-trained, and I think we have that. I'm just so proud of the efforts that they have, not just in this case but the day in and day out in the city are there to protect the rest of us.
And this is -- it's sad that some of these things potentially happen. The good news is that the NYPD has prevented what could be a terrible event.
Ray, you want to...
KELLY: I would simply say that this was a classic cooperative effort, not only the NYPD and the FBI, but the New York state police, Newburg police and all the members of the Joint Terrorist Task Force. This investigation started almost a year ago. It was very closely monitored.
Again, I want to stress what we did last night that no one was at risk. This was a very tightly controlled operation, but these individuals did, in fact, place these bombs, or what they thought to be bombs in vehicles right in front of the building where we're standing and then the temple just a few blocks away.
Now, the charges that I believe will be brought against these individuals are conspiracy to acquire or to use weapons of mass destruction. That includes the bomb and also the Stinger missiles.
KELLY: You'll see additional police presence in this area, in Riverdale. We have our critical response vehicles. We'll redeploy them here, because we want to give the folks in the neighborhood a comfort level, but in essence, things will be as they are in the rest of the city.
KELLY: We're still trying to determine that, but it's very convenient, you might say, off the highway. Both of them. They're on the same street, just a few blocks away. That may very well be the reason why they chose them.
KELLY: Would you say that again, please?
KELLY: Well, we know that one of them, the -- I would say the prime mover in this case, James Cromitie, had an extensive criminal record. He's 53 years of age. He lived in Brooklyn. All four of them lived in Newburgh, New York now. The other individuals are younger. Two of them are in their -- one is, I believe , 29. The other is 33. I don't have the age on the fourth one, but they all have criminal records.
KELLY: No. They stated that they wanted to commit jihad, and, again, you know, more information about the motive, I'm sure, will be developed as the case progresses. But right now, that was -- stated they wanted to commit jihad. They were disturbed about what was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed. They all made the statement that, you know, if Jews were killed in this attack, it wouldn't, you know -- that would be all right.
ROBERTS: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly talking about the circumstances surrounding the arrests of four men in New York late last night, involved in a plot. This is a year-in-the-making to bomb the Riverdale Temple in the Bronx section of New York City as well as the Jewish Community Center. There are four men in custody, James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen.
We'll be hearing a lot more about this throughout the morning because they're going to be appearing in court today as well.
CHETRY: And especially in the backdrop today, we're going to be talking about the Guantanamo Bay situation. One of the arguments against bringing Gitmo prisoners to America is the fear that -- in U.S. prisons, there could be a potential to incite this types of swats and ideologies.
So, it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. We'll continue to follow it throughout the morning.
We will get back to Carol Costello and her story about Michael Vick. We want to take a short break here in AMERICAN MORNING.
Fifty-five minutes past the hour.