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Four Arrested in N.Y. Synagogue Bomb Plot; Obama Plans Major National-Security Speech; Cancer Patient, Mom Believed to Have Fled to Mexico; Police Officers Fired after Beating; Asian-American Business Owners Targeted for Money; Senate Blocks Guantanamo Closure Funding Request; Michael Vick Released from Prison

Aired May 21, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome once again. We're about two minutes before the top of the hour. Here in New York, it's going to be 7:00 right on the nose on this Thursday, May 21st. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

Here's a look at the top stories on our agenda this morning that we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes here on the Most News in the Morning.

Four men will appear in federal court today, accused of planning to bomb a New York synagogue, a Jewish center, and planning an attack on U.S. military planes with surface-to-air missiles. Authorities say the intelligence is from an FBI informant who provided the men with fake weapons.

President Obama is giving a major speech on national security later this morning. But right on his heels, the man who says the president's policies are making us less safe, former Vice President Dick Cheney will give a speech on keeping the country safe. We're previewing the dueling speeches live from the White House this morning.

Police say they're closing in this morning on a 13-year-old cancer patient and his mother. The pair is on the run. They took off rather than consent to court-ordered chemotherapy that could save the boy's life. The family wants to treat the boy's cancer naturally. Police say the pair could already be in Mexico.

We begin this morning now with a developing story right here in New York City. You heard the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, just a couple of minutes ago.

Authorities have four men under arrest this morning and say they have foiled a bomb plot aimed at a synagogue and a Jewish center. They say the charges are based on information from an FBI mole who also provided the men with fake weapons. The men will appear in federal court in just a few hours.

And that's where our Susan Candiotti is live this morning. As we said, Susan, we heard live from Commissioner Ray Kelly there from the New York Police Department. Fill in some of the other blanks for us this morning with this story.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, sure, John. You know, in this case, the explosives were fake, but obviously, the arrests are not. We heard some of the details including the fact that according to prosecutors, according to the FBI, these four suspects were trying to commit a jihad. They were apparently upset, they said, that the U.S. soldiers have been killing, as they put it, Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan and they wanted to, quote, "do something to America." And targeting Jews was one thing, according to prosecutors, that they wanted to do.

And you know, John, this plot is somewhat reminiscent of the JFK terror plot that will soon be going to trial here in New York. JFK International Airport, the so-called Liberty City plot in Miami, Florida, as well as the Lackawanna six outside Buffalo, New York.

The difference in this case is that the FBI informant supplied what the alleged plotters thought were real explosives and a Stinger missile. As we heard, this plot came together about a year ago. Three U.S. citizens, one Haitian, and eventually came together over a series of meetings that were videotaped and audiotaped. And now these men are charged with two counts of conspiracy, one to carry out an attack with a weapon of mass destruction, and the other to conspire to get their hands on a Stinger missile.

And in addition to carrying on an attack on a Jewish community center and a synagogue, they also planned to take out some air National Guard planes at a base in Newburgh, New York --John.

ROBERTS: And they'll be appearing, as we said, before in that courtroom right behind you a little bit later on this morning.

Susan Candiotti for us in Lower Manhattan. Susan, thanks.

ROBERTS: And later on this hour, we're going to talk more about the story with Congressman Peter King. He's the ranking Republican on the House Committee for Homeland Security. He knows all about it and he'll fill in some of the blanks for us this morning.

CHETRY: All right. Well, two White House officials confirming this morning a terror suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay will be moved to New York for trial in a civilian court. This comes as the Senate vote blocked the cash needed to close Gitmo.

Ahmed Gilani is a suspect in two 1998 al Qaeda bombings on U.S. embassies in Africa. And now if moved, he'll be the first Guantanamo detainee brought to the U.S. and the first to face trial in a civilian court.

This is the aftermath of that August 1998 embassy bombing in Kenya. More than 200 people, including 12 Americans, were killed in those twin attacks. The official announcement on that trial expected to coincide with a speech by the president today. It's billed as a major address on national security. Both President Obama and one of his biggest critics, our former Vice President Dick Cheney, will be talking later this morning about America's safety.

Our Jill Dougherty is previewing this face-off live from the White House.

Hi, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kiran. You know, this is a crucial speech for President Obama. He's under fire not only from Republicans but from members of his own party, especially on the issue of Guantanamo.


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 OF THE UNITED STATES: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that led us to 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, "ANGER: 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: So, get ready to hear from both men, a broad strategic view of how the United States should defend itself against terrorism -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. It's strange, though. Anything about the timing of why the vice president is doing this at the same time as the president is giving a speech?

DOUGHERTY: From what we understand, it's coincidental.

CHETRY: All right. Jill Dougherty at the White House this morning. Good to see you, thanks.

Also, stay with CNN all morning. We're going to be bringing you both speeches. President Obama takes the podium at the National Archives in just over three hours. This will be at 10:10 Eastern Time this morning.

And then at the half hour, former Vice President Dick Cheney will deliver his speech. If you are away from your TV, you can watch online,

Well, as we've said, President Obama is preparing to give a major speech later this morning about his policy on fighting terrorism, also national security. These are issues that he will address including closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That's something that he's been talking about since he's been on the campaign trail.

But now Congress throwing in a bit of a wrench in that plan. The Senate voting overwhelmingly, 90-6, to prevent detainees from being transferred or imprisoned anywhere in the United States.

Bill Adair, the editor and founder of the Pulitzer Prize-winning joins me now from D.C. this morning, where you're turning your Truth-O-Meter and your Obameter on this big debate about Guantanamo Bay. Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: All right. So the first thing about the Obameter is it's a way to rate whether or not the president is keeping some of those promises he made as a candidate and as you've pointed out before he made more than 500 on the campaign trail. So let's get to this one today.

He pledged to close down Guantanamo Bay by January of 2010. As it stands today, where does this promise rate on the Obameter?

ADAIR: We've just moved our rating to stall on the Obameter because of that vote you just mentioned. Ninety to six indicates that the opposition is coming not just from Republicans but from many, many Democrats. And there's a lot of concern that Obama has not explained what he would do with the 240 detainees in Gitmo. And so for now, we've got it rated stalled. We'll be watching to see what happens, but he's got to satisfy Congress that he has a plan here.

CHETRY: All right. Let's move on -- another campaign promise. This one also related to Guantanamo Bay. President Obama pledging to "develop an alternative to President Bush's Military Commissions Act on handling detainees. Where does he stand on that campaign promise?

ADAIR: We've also rated that one as stalled on His -- he has, here again, seemed to back away from his campaign promise.

He had indicated he was going to scrap the Military Commissions Act, which provides for the tribunals as opposed to putting the detainees through criminal courts in the United States. And despite the one that will -- that they've indicated will be tried here in New York soon, there's really not much progress on this one. In fact, Obama has said that he's going to try to work within the Military Commissions Act. So for now, that one is rated stalled also.

CHETRY: Right. The only one, as we said, Ahmed Gilani, who is a suspect in the embassy bombings in Africa.

All right. Well, let's get to the truth-o-meter right now. And what we do here is we go through some of the claims that are being thrown around Washington.

The ones about health care today. Very interesting. We're going to try to separate fact from fiction.

This is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. This is what he said about one of the most controversial proposals related to health care. This "public option insurance, a plan run by the government which would compete against private insurance." Let's listen to what Senator McConnell said.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: That would mean a government plan that would inevitably put the government between you and your doctor, and there would be no more private insurance. Because with the private insurance, people will not be able to compete with the government option.


CHETRY: So, he said basically private insurers would go out of business if that passes. How do you rate that on the Truth-O-Meter?

ADAIR: We've got that one rated barely true on the Truth-O- Meter. It's important to recognize here that Obama's plan retains private health insurance provided by your employer as the centerpiece of its plan.

Now, it does include a public option in which people could opt for a government plan. But the experts we talked to indicated that that would actually stimulate some competition that isn't in the marketplace now. So we've got that one rated barely true.

CHETRY: All right. We also have Republican Congressman Roy Blunt. He issued a statement in this past week stating "Democrats have failed to answer the most basic question." This also is relating to health care, "of how they want to pay for the more than $1 trillion of health care spending."

How does that claim rate on the Truth-O-Meter?

ADAIR: Yes, that one does a little better. That earns a mostly true on our Truth-O-Meter. He's right that they really haven't fully accounted for how they would do it. They haven't even provided some complete cost estimates, but that's because the plans are very much influx.

Obama has provided some general numbers, but there are questions about whether the money his -- the money that he would use is based on some overly optimistic assumption. So for now, we've got that one as a mostly true, that Blunt is right. They really haven't explained fully how they would pay for it.

CHETRY: All right. Always good to have you with us.

Bill Adair, we look forward to seeing you next week as well, when you separate fact from fiction for us from some of the comments we're going to hear throughout the week.

Great to talk to you, Bill. Thanks.

ADAIR: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: New this morning, the man accused of sexually assaulting and killing intern Chandra Levy eight years ago has been charged with murder, kidnapping and attempted first degree sex abuse. The Chandra Levy case gripped the nation during the summer of 2001 before the September 11th terrorist attacks stole the headlines. California prison inmate Ingmar Guandique will be arraigned on May the 27th.

Crime and Craigslist. The New York prostitution ring run primarily on Craigslist has been busted. The state attorney general says the online site needs to take more action to prevent crime.

Seven people were arrested in connection with the operation which advertised in the notorious erotic services section of Craigslist. Craigslist recently announced plans to drop its erotic services and screen all new submissions to an adult services site.

And five Alabama police officers had been fired a year after this high-speed chase and rollover was caught on a police dash cam. As disturbing as the rollover itself was, it was a clip by what happens after. We'll tell you about that.

Ten minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: More on our developing story this morning, the hunt for a mother who rejected chemotherapy treatment for her sick son and then took off with him. 13-year-old Daniel Hauser has Hodgkin's lymphoma but his family believes in alternative treatment for the disease like herbs and vitamins.

Jason Carroll is here now with details on where the two are believed to be at this point. And it looks like they got a long way away.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They did, apparently. And it also looks like authorities are making some progress in terms of their investigation. It is 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. The sheriff also says he is 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 that 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 Hauser's court-appointed attorney said he considers his client to have a diminished capacity because of his age and because according to court papers, the teenager cannot read. The FBI and the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency are assisting with the search. But at this point, John, it's still unclear if they're in the states somewhere in San Diego or if they've already made it into Mexico.

ROBERTS: Sounds like they got a pretty good lead on them, though.


ROBERTS: All right. Jason, thanks so much.

Coming up, by the way, tough questions for the family spokesman. He's going to be with us live in about ten minutes' time. We'll ask him if the boy's father has heard from the two at all since they've been on the run - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, the Senate blocks $80 million of what have gone to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. So what does that mean for the president's plan to move detainees off the island? We're going to be speaking with Senator Dick Durbin about the situation just ahead.

Also, it's the video that everyone's talking about this morning. It's disturbing. It's a dramatic police chase that ends with the suspect being thrown from the car. He lands unconscious. What happens to him next, though, could get five police officers fired.


CHETRY: Well, welcome. Charlotte, North Carolina, good morning to you. This beautiful shot coming to us courtesy of WSOC, our affiliate there in Charlotte.

Right now, it's a little bit cloudy, 64 degrees. It's going to be partly cloudy, going up to a high of 79 in Charlotte this morning.

Some of our top videos right now on, a Kentucky man who lost both hands in an accident is one of only three people in the world with these advanced prosthetics. They're called touch bionic eye lens (ph). They're so precise he says he can even grip a pen. There you see him signing his name. He says the most important thing to him, he can hold his daughter's hand again.

Also, a high school principal in California comes under fire for separating school assemblies by race. The school says the intention was to motivate students. Only one assembly was held before protests led to the cancellation of the others.

And Virgin founder and CEO Sir Richard Branson talks with CNN about his hunger strike for Darfur. Branson and others went without food for days to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in the country. Actress Mia Farrow ended her fast because of a doctor's request. She then asked Branson to take over for her.

And those are some of the most popular videos on

ROBERTS: Five Alabama police officers are out of work this morning after a high-speed chase ends with officers beating an unconscious man.

Our Carol Costello joins us now from Washington with more. The video of this accident is disturbing enough, but what happens afterwards is a real "what a moment."

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's not over yet either. Now those officers were fired because of that video you were talking about, John.

This video is disturbing, so I'm going to pause for just a second so you can get the kids out of the room.

Got it. OK, here goes.

These pictures were recorded from a police officer's dashboard cam. It shows police chasing a van driven by Anthony Warren, who they suspected of drug activity.

Now you see the suspect in the van. He clips that police officer and knocks the cop to the ground. Warren eventually will continue driving with speeds up to 100 miles per hour, and then you can see he loses control and the van rolls over. He's thrown from the van. He's lying there unconscious and take a look at what happens next.

You can see the officers beating him with batons and fists. This beating lasts for just 11 seconds.

Actually, John, this beating happened back in January of 2008, but the tape in its entirety didn't turn up until this year. And when the police chief saw it, he was not happy, especially since it's alleged as many as six supervisors saw these pictures over the past year, but no one ever told the police chief about that 11 seconds.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's "NO BIAS, NO BULL," Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford responded to cover up allegations.

(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 need a job.


COSTELLO: And will need a job. The police chief says the officers have been fired and they may face criminal charges down the line. But some are defending the police officers' actions. Here's what a police trainer told Anderson Cooper.


EUGENE O'DONNELL, NEW YORK STATE POLICE TRAINER: The reality is the cops have no, no way to tell for sure that he was acquiescing. There are many, many examples of individuals who are shot multiple times and who still literally in their dying moments are able to injure or kill police officers.


COSTELLO: Anthony Warren, the man who was beaten in that video, is currently in prison serving a 20-year sentence. An attorney for Warren has filed a claim against the city. So I think that, John, it's not over yet.

ROBERTS: The police had no idea that he was acquiescing? He was out cold.

COSTELLO: He was lying on his stomach unconscious. It appears that way anyway.

ROBERTS: And he had, because he was unconscious, he had no idea what had happened to him after the accident until his attorney asked for that videotape. Right?

COSTELLO: Yes. I mean, his attorney was going to show the tape in court. And there was some problem with a copy of the tape so she asked for the original.

ROBERTS: Oh, my gosh.

COSTELLO: On the original, that 11 seconds was included in the video, and that's how she discovered it.

ROBERTS: Wow. Unbelievable.

COSTELLO: And then, you know, the prosecutor's office was informed, and then the police chief was informed.


COSTELLO: And now we got this.

ROBERTS: All right. Carol Costello for us this morning. Carol, thanks so much - Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, the manhunt heats up for the mother who took her sick son on the run rather than subject him to chemotherapy. But what kind of treatment will he get while they're both missing? We're going to talk to the family spokesperson next.

Also, global extortion. People being told to send thousands of dollars to China or face death? Why many are falling for it.

It's 23 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Back to one of our top stories this morning.

Police may be closing in this morning on a mother and son on the run. Colleen Hauser possibly on her way to Mexico to try to find alternative treatment for her 13-year-old son's cancer. The mother is refusing court-ordered chemotherapy for her son Danny.

Dan Zwakman is a spokesman for the family. He's also a member of the Nemenhah Band which has already guided the family through some natural treatments. He joins us from St. Paul, Minnesota, this morning.

Dan, thanks for speaking with us today.

DAN ZWAKMAN, MEMBER OF THE NEMENHAH BAND: Good morning. Glad to be here.

CHETRY: Well, this case has certainly generated a lot of attention, a lot of opinions on both sides, but right now the bottom line is that Colleen and little Danny are nowhere to be found. You were with the father, Anthony Hauser, on Tuesday night. What is it like for him right now?

ZWAKMAN: Him and his world, you have to understand, he lives pretty much on the farm with his family, close-knit family, very quiet person. Not accustomed to getting out in the world as much as this case had brought him, of course. And for all this to happen and happen, just the timing when it did to him (ph), so busy on the farm every day. But now in addition to planting season, he was just devastated. It's a matter of like the rug was pulled off from under him.

CHETRY: Now, I can imagine this is an extremely tough situation right now for the family. Did he sort of agree with Colleen that she should go on the run? Or was this something that she decided on her own when she decided to take Danny?

ZWAKMAN: From all due appearances, it was a case of her decision by herself, her and Danny. He seemed to have no knowledge of it whatsoever.

CHETRY: And has he been in contact with her since? ZWAKMAN: No. Absolutely not.

CHETRY: One question I'm wondering is, I understand that this all started because the family refused chemotherapy after he had one round of chemo. Correct?


CHETRY: How will he get treatment, though, if he's on the run with his mother?

ZWAKMAN: We can assume, I think it would be easy to assume, most people would agree that she probably took off and left to obtain a treatment. I feel confident in saying she was afraid of what the court was going to order for Danny, which would have probably most likely been against her wishes and she was looking for the alternative path and decided on her own to go find it.

CHETRY: All right. Well, you're with, as we said, the Nemenhah Band. It's a Native American religious group that also believes in traditional healing.

Colleen told a judge that she wants to continue treating Daniel using those methods which include using natural remedies, as well as other things, like, I think that they talk about sweat brooms, other things like that. Have those methods ever cured cancer?

ZWAKMAN: Well, I can personally name, by first name five people that I know and have just met that have been cured completely using natural and traditional medicines, not using any chemo, any radiations, any surgeries. So, yes. I think if were to start researching this, we'd find thousands of people.

There has been quite a bit of support on this case when this case hit the headlines that many people have contacted us showing, giving their testimonies, their stories and even giving us their cures. But, yes, it's happened many times.

CHETRY: Daniel has, for people that may be just getting familiar with this case, Hodgkin's lymphoma. Most conventional oncologists say that it's a highly curable form of cancer, especially in young people. The consensus seems to be from the medical field that Daniel will die without treatment which usually involves chemo and radiation but live if he gets it. What did Danny's parents say about those pretty universal assessments?

ZWAKMAN: They look at it in their own respect, and they look at the bigger story than that. They also know that the medical community calls it a success if a person is living five years later. If that person happens to die in the sixth year, they still call it -- they still refer to themselves as having a successful treatment.

CHETRY: Well, our Sanjay Gupta has said that especially in kids under 21, it's usually 95 percent cure rate and in very, very rare instances does Hodgkin's lymphoma come back after being treated with chemo, which I know is certainly no picnic, and radiation. Hopefully we'll be able to get Dan back, but it looks like we may have lost him.

Again, what he said is clearly, as we all know, a very difficult time for this family. But again, the search still continues for Colleen Hauser and her young son, 13-year-old Danny, who right now is suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma. His parents do not want him to be treated with chemotherapy. And that's why they went on the run.

ROBERTS: It's half past the hour. Here's a check of this morning's top stories.

Four men will appear before a federal judge later on today accused of a plot to bomb a synagogue in a Jewish Center here in New York City. They also plan to attack military planes with surface-to- air missiles. Authorities say an FBI informant gathered intelligence and passed the men fake weapons. Just moments ago New York's police commissioner stressed citizens were never in harm's way.


RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: This investigation started almost a year ago. It was very closely monitored. Again, I want to stress as we did last night, that no one was at risk.


ROBERTS: New violence in Iraq this morning. A suicide bomber in Kirkuk killed six U.S. backed Sunni paramilitary soldiers. Iraqi police say the men were waiting in line to get their monthly paychecks.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, 15 civilians were killed by a suicide bomber on a U.S. military patrol.

And the World Health Organization says the number of global swine flu days cases has passed 11,000. 11,034 to be exact. Here in the United States, health officials say the number of H1N1 deaths hit double digits with at least 10 deaths. The latest victim is a 21- year-old man from Utah.

Alarming news of a global phone scam this morning. An extortion plot that is specifically targeting Asian-Americans living in the United States. Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is here with this morning.

And some people are getting some pretty serious threats here.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Not the type of call you want to be getting at any time of the day. This is apparently happening around the country. Asian-Americans being told to send thousands of dollars to China or face death. Police and the FBI say this is a scam.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): The caller speaks in Mandarin Chinese. He's threatening to kill Asian-American business people and their families if they don't wire at least $10,000 to China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the victims told me they cut the limbs off the children in front of them.

CHERNOFF: This businesswoman who would not identify herself on camera got one of the calls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He asked for money and I was very, very scared. He said he was a mafia, and he said that his members were around my office.

CHERNOFF: She did not pay. But San Francisco police say others have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's possible that over $100,000, that were wired over to China.

CHERNOFF: Police are investigating about 50 cases in San Francisco, and there are several hundred in the Bay area. In fact, according to the FBI, the scam is hitting Asian communities nationwide. From California to Texas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Police believe the extortionists based overseas are getting names and numbers through Chinese Yellow Pages on the Internet and they are using internet phone service to reach their targets.

This woman in Maryland says an acquaintance evacuated his home after receiving one of the calls.

CORRINA SHEN, BUSINESS OWNER: He got really scared and didn't know what to do, and he took his family out and moved to the hotel.

CHERNOFF: But the FBI says not one of the threats has actually been carried out.


CHERNOFF: This appears to be yet another Internet scam with a very violent tone. The FBI says if you receive one of the calls, contact your local police.

ROBERTS: So many scams out there on the Internet. I'm getting e-mails from Russia every day.

CHERNOFF: And most of them involve just send me money, get these prescriptions, whatever. But here we're talking about death threats.

ROBERTS: Wow. Unbelievable. Allan Chernoff this morning. Allan, thanks so much for that.

CHETRY: Time now to check stories that are new this morning.

President Obama has interviewed his first possible Supreme Court nominee. Officials say that the president met with Federal Appeals court judge Diane Wood. Wood serves in the president's hometown of Chicago and was in Washington yesterday for a conference at Georgetown University.

Just hours from now, a Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on Chinese drywall. The foreign-made drywall suspected of causing serious corrosion and foul odors that have led to problems in homes across several states. There are new tests now from the EPA showing samples of the drywall made in China contain three materials not found in samples made in the U.S..

Plus the FBI says an informant gave them the intel they needed to stop a bomb plot here in New York. Next, we're talking with a ranking republican on the house committee for Homeland Security Congressman Pete King.

It's 35 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: President Obama's plan to shut down the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has hit a major roadblock. The Senate yesterday voted 90-6 to block $80 million the White House requested to shut down the prison. Later on this morning, officials say the president will lay out his plan to close Gitmo in a major national security speech. For more on all these, we're joined this morning by the majority whip, Senator Dick Durbin. Good morning, Senator. Great to see you.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: So, you in the end voted against blocking the funds. Though you did share the concerns of many of your colleagues, why did you decide to vote against it and what do you think about those concerns? Are they valid?

DURBIN: There are two provisions. One of them blocked the funds. And I could have voted for that because the president's plan has not been presented to us. There's no need to appropriate the money at this point until we have this plan for the future of Guantanamo. The second provision, though, the one that troubled me, said that we couldn't have any of these Guantanamo detainees brought to the United States to be held in a security facility.

You can't try a person for a crime in the United States without holding them in a security facility. So some of those who could be prosecuted, even successfully prosecuted, couldn't be prosecuted under the language of that amendment.

ROBERTS: So, that puts you at odds, then, with the Senate leader, Harry Reid, who yesterday said he didn't want the transfer of any detainees to the United States?

DURBIN: We have a different point of view. I happen to believe that if they're brought here to be put on trial, they obviously need to be held in a secure facility during the course of the trial and perhaps incarcerated afterwards. Presently, today, we have 348 convicted terrorists in the prisons of the United States of America, and a large percentage of them are from overseas. They're held safely and securely with no threat to the American people.

I do believe we have to look at the bottom line here. The president is right in saying Guantanamo is more than a detention facility. It's become a symbol. And sadly, it has become an organizing tool around the world for terrorism. The sooner that we bring Guantanamo to close, the better.

ROBERTS: Yesterday before Congress, FBI director Robert Mueller said that it could be problematic to have Guantanamo detainees in American presence that they may get involved in gang activity. They may even seek to recruit people to terrorism. Do you share those concerns?

DURBIN: Well we asked the FBI after that testimony if the director was saying that you couldn't safely hold the Guantanamo detainee in a super max facility in the United States. And he said, no. He didn't say that. And obviously he wouldn't. There's never been an escape from one of those facilities in the United States as to whether or not anyone being held in a prison, whether it's a gangbanger from the streets of Chicago or New York, or someone involved in terrorism might have a network of friends to be worried about. Of course we should worry about that.

But let's be very candid about this. Closing Guantanamo is putting an end to something which is causing problems across the world. The United States has an image from Guantanamo that is not helping us win friends and win allies in the war on terrorism.

ROBERTS: In terms of bringing detainees to American shores putting them on American soil, there's also this idea that was eliminated by Pentagon officials yesterday that if the United States doesn't agree to take some of the prisoners why would any other country around the world take them?

DURBIN: Well, that's a very obvious point. This notion that somehow we'll take these dangerous detainees and ship them all over the world, wouldn't consider putting them even on a super max facility in the United States, maybe a little hard to sell to our allies and friends.

ROBERTS: So Senator Durbin, you said you agree with the provision to not give the president the $80 million that he wants at the moment to close Guantanamo. He's going to make an appeal again today during this significant speech he's giving at 10:00 this morning, a little after 10:00, which again he'll talk about the importance of closing Guantanamo. What do you want to hear from him today?

DURBIN: Well, I think the president's going to start to lay out a plan. This is a complicated issue. Do remember that President Bush called for closing of Guantanamo himself but couldn't get the job done, because it's extremely complicated. Let me just also add that I'm aware of one detainee who's been there for seven years.

A year ago our government notified him that they no charges against him. ROBERTS: Right.

DURBIN: He could be released as soon as they found a country to send him to. They're unable to. He continues to be held.

ROBERTS: But, Senator, it looks like the president is not going to outline the plan that you're looking for today. So, how long will you defer this money?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you this, this money should be deferred through this fiscal year which goes to October 1st. I think that's a reasonable thing to do. I want to give the president time to work through this carefully. I do believe at the end of the day that we'll see transition from the Guantanamo facility to a secure setting for detainees and the release of those with whom we have no charges and no suspicion.

ROBERTS: Will he be able to make that pledge of closing Guantanamo by January 22nd, 2010?

DURBIN: I can't answer. I really leave that in the hands of the president. It's a tough job that he's been given. He's inherited a lot of challenges. I know he'll handle this well.

ROBERTS: Senator Dick Durbin, it's great to catch up with you. Thanks for coming in this morning.

DURBIN: Thank you, too.

CHETRY: Well, the FBI says an informant gave them the intel needed to stop a bomb plot here in New York. Next, we're going to be talking with a ranking republican, on the House Homeland Security committee, Congressman Peter King.

Also, a shot that has all of us saying, wow, this morning. Lightning strikes, and it hits Seattle's Space Needle. Rob Marciano will be with us with more on the track of the thunderstorm in the area and more of that video. It's 42 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

Four men will face a federal judge later today. They're accused of a bomb plot on a New York synagogue and Jewish center. The FBI says an informant collected intelligence on a man, even provided them with fake weapons. These were explosives they allegedly thought were real and planted at the Jewish house of worship. For more, I'm joined now by the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security committee, Congressman Peter King.

Congressman King, thanks for being with us this morning.

REP. PETER KING (R), HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE (via telephone): Thank you, Kiran. CHETRY: The plot is disturbing on many levels. You know, our government's busy trying to fight terror abroad and to protect us from foreign fighters who may try to come here and do us harm, but this alleged plot involved four home-grown terrorists. How concerned are you about that?

KING: I'm very concerned. The worry is Islamic terrorist has fought overseas and has fought here. And thank God we have people like Ray Kelly with the NYPD, and we have the FBI who monitor these plots and try to uncover them and stop them. But too many people don't realize how real this threat is, and the issue of homegrown terrorism, the issue of Islamic converts coming out of prison is a very, very real threat.

And there's any number of mosques that are under surveillance, any number of plots at any given time that are being watched and the NYPD, the FBI have stopped a number of plots in New York. And this is one of the most dramatic, and, again, if the FBI and the NYPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force had not been on top of it, there would have been, again, terrible carnage.

We would have had a temple destroyed. We would have had a community center destroyed and we could have had an National Guard, planes brought down by a stinger missile. And that's why we have to realize it is a worldwide threat.

CHETRY: For people who are not familiar with this story, among the allegations also is that they wanted to go to Stewart Airport in upstate New York, their hometown, apparently, and try to shoot down a plane with a weapon they believed was a stinger surface-to-air guided missile. There is a -- clearly, if all of these charges are correct and end up being proven, there's intent. But did they have, if they were not given these what turned out to be fake weapons by this informant, would they have had the resources, do we know, to actually carry this out?

KING: We have to assume they -- you assume they would have. If they're that desperate, if they're that anxious to carry out a plot like this, they would have done whatever they had to do to obtain these explosives. Now they may not have been as sophisticated as C4 but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to be setting off bombs. Obviously they thought they were getting the best material, but they had not been able to get that, I have no doubt that they would have used whatever they could, whether it's fertilizer, whatever dynamite, every type of explosives.

And you know, getting back to the original point. This is a worldwide effort. And I wish we were spending more time focusing on this rather than how we can shut down Guantanamo. I am more concerned about protecting American lives here than I am about the rights of detainees in Guantanamo.

CHETRY: Here's what apparently, allegedly, some of the things that were told to the informant from one of the suspects, they, referring to the United States military, are killing Muslim brothers and sisters in Muslim countries. So if we kill them here in the United States with IEDs and stingers, it is equal. Not to excuse in any way, shape or form, wanting to, you know, do harm to innocent people, but how much of some of this anger is stemming from things like the Guantanamo Bay situation?

Meaning that, how much of a recruitment tool and do we need to think about that, that perhaps we're seeing with the, the situation with Guantanamo Bay, et cetera?

KING: Well, the fact is Guantanamo was there because we captured detainees and we had to have a place to put them. We are at war with Islamic terrorism. And if you're involved in a war, there are going to be casualties, there are going to be battles. We are going to be fighting in Afghanistan and the fighting is going to be a lot worse in Afghanistan. And I know that one of these defendants, James Cromitie, his father was from Afghanistan. He feels very strongly about this, apparently.

But your loyalty is supposed to be to your own country. I mean, World War II we didn't expect German-Americans or Italian-Americans to be uprising against the United States because we were bombing German and Italian cities. If you're an American, your loyalty is supposed to be to your country. And we can't be facing our foreign policy on people in this country who don't love their country and don't want to stand by it.

CHETRY: All right. Well, as we said, great work foiling this alleged plot.

KING: If I could specifically commend Joe Demarest, who is the assistant director of the FBI in New York, who did a phenomenal job and Commissioner Ray Kelly. Both of them, world class. They are the best.

CHETRY: Certainly are. All right. Peter King, congressman out of New York, it was great to talk to you this morning . Thanks.

KING: Thank you, Kiran.

ROBERTS: The long road back for Michael Vick. Does he deserve a second chance? We'll take a closer look at whether Vick has paid his dues, coming up. It's 49 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: You want me to sing? I'm not going to sing!

Thank you, Ray.

Good morning, Savannah. Light rain, 68 degrees there right now. Later on, thunderstorms and a high of 76. Rob Marciano is tracking all the extreme weather for us. And Rob, the south land getting it in the kisser today. Boy, going to be a wet kiss, too.

(WEATHER REPORT) CHETRY: All right. Well, here is what we're working on you for this morning. Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance to make it big in the NFL? We're looking at both sides of that argument.

And I'll be going one-on-one with the legendary Larry King. He's got a new book out called my "Remarkable Journey" and what a remarkable journey it is. He is going to be joining us coming up. It's 54 minutes past the hour.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Here is news from the world of sports. Michael Vick, a name from the past, a couple of years ago. Do you know about Michael Vick? Yes. Got himself into trouble and had to go away is out of prison. And now he is out of prison, and he is back in his home. It's a house arrest. And the judge was very, very severe with him. He said, OK, house arrest, and here is what you got to do. Stay! Stay!


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

Former NFL star Michael Vick is out of prison and serving the remainder of his dogfighting sentence under home confinement. How much more does Michael Vick need to do to redeem himself and could he ever come back to play professional ball.

Carol Costello is following that from Washington this morning. He served time. Is that enough to redeem himself in the eyes of the nation?

COSTELLO: It all boils down to this question, does Michael Vick deserve a second chance? His agent said the NFL could reinstate Vick by September, but the NFL says it won't do that until Vick shows genuine remorse. The problem is no one knows what exactly that means and the NFL isn't saying. But there are some who say Vick has already paid his dues and he deserves another shot.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Call it Michael Vick's great big redemption challenge. There are those who say the former superstar hasn't paid quite enough for his dogfighting sins. Humiliation and prison and $3.7 million plus in legal fees are not nearly enough. Not for the privilege of making a living in the NFL again.

To do that, the National Football League says Vick must show genuine remorse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is entitled to a second chance.

COSTELLO: On Atlanta sports radio 790, the Zone, some football fans who once revered Vick thinks he has paid his dues. After all, Vick showed remorse before he went to prison for 21 months.

MICHAEL VICK, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: First, I want to apologize for all of the things that I've done.

COSTELLO: But for the animal rights group PETA, Vick's apology doesn't add up to genuine remorse.

DAN SHANNON, SPOKESMAN, PETA: We think Michael Vick has lost the privilege of having his remorse if does choose to express it, taken at face value. We feel that we do need to see some evidence that he is capable of it and that it is genuine before it can be taken seriously.

COSTELLO: PETA actually wants Vick to undergo a brain scan to see if he is capable of remorse.

What authority does PETA have? You guys bust them on coke, vehicular homicide, domestic abuse. They get in front of the commissioner, nobody is taking a brain scan to Roger Goodell to show the authenticity of their remorse and Michael Vick isn't doing it either, so that whole notion is preposterous.

COSTELLO: And there's the thing. The NFL has reinstated lawbreakers before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm angry. I'm mad at myself.

COSTELLO: In 2000, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a murder case. In 2005, ravens running back Jamal Lewis went to prison on drug charges. Both are now NFL superstars.

MICHAEL MCCANN, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": I don't know if it's hypocrisy, but it certainly seems as if Michael Vick has been targeted as the greatest villain around.

COSTELLO: And there are plenty who understand why. Animal rights group says Vick viciously abused animals who could not fight back, dogs. You know, many in America consider dogs member of the family.


COSTELLO: And Vick certainly knows that. He reached out to the Humane Society of the United States that he'll work with it to convince young men, dog fighting is wrong. His attorneys also say, John, that he agreed to take part in a documentary and that he'll get $600,000.

ROBERTS: This will be a fascinating one to watch. What are you betting?

COSTELLO: I'm betting he'll get reinstated.

ROBERTS: Yes, I think you're right.

Carol Costello, in Washington. Carol, thanks so much.