Return to Transcripts main page
Iranian Authorities Admit Evidence Of Ballot Box Stuffing In Some Cities; Claims It Did Not Change The Final Outcome Of Ahmadinejad's Victory
Aired June 22, 2009 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: The Iranians say Western nations, including the United Sates are inciting and helping the demonstrators. Senator Feinstein leads the Intelligence Committee. And she says she is assured there is no covert U.S. meddling.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: These questions have been asked as late as this past week. People in the clandestine operations who would know this, and in a formal setting, and that's the answers we were given.
KING: Senator Lugar, a leading Republican voice on international affairs says Iran's crackdown should not preclude negotiations over its nuclear program.
SEN. LUGAR, (R) INDIANA: Of course, we really have to get into the nuclear weapons, we have to get into terrorism of Iran, in other areas of the Middle East.
KING: Health care was the other big debating point. The Democratic proposal hit a wall this past week, because of a report showing it would cost $1 trillion, but still leave more than 35 million Americans without insurance. As Congress goes through a big rewrite, and a role reversal of sorts.
REP. HARRY REID, MAJORITY LEADER: We feel we would put together a bipartisan plan.
FEINSTEIN: To be candid with you, I don't know that he has the votes right now.
KING: Just a small sampling there, of the sound of Sunday that will shape the week ahead. Back to you, John and Kiran.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: John King for us. Thanks so much.
It is a minute after 7 o'clock, here in New York. Welcome on this Monday. It is the 22nd of June, so one day of summer, so far.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: And not looking anything like summer, still, in New York. We're hopeful maybe next week we'll get summer.
Here is what's on our agenda this morning, the big stories that we're breaking down for you in the next minute, or so. Iran now admitting what critics have accused all along. That ballot boxes were stuffed with extra votes. But the powers that be in Iran are still rejecting claims that the overall vote was rigged.
CHETRY: Iran media also saying that - Iran is saying the media behind a cyber war to help fuel these protests. "Newsweek" says that one of their journalist is being detained without charge. In all, at least 24 journalists and bloggers have purportedly been arrested since the aftermath of the election. Ahead, we're going to be talking to one journalist who just returned yesterday, from Tehran, about what it's been like on the ground.
ROBERTS: Plus, here's another reporter's amazing tale. One correspondent for "The New York Times" escaped from the Taliban with the help of Pakistan's military. He's not talking. Our Nick Robertson is live in Islamabad with a story you just have to hear this morning.
We begin with more on a stunning admission from Iran's top election officials. Ballot boxes in at least 50 cities and towns were stuffed. Iran state media says as many as 3 million votes could be affected, but that doesn't mean anything is going to change in terms of the overall outcome of the election. Our Chief International Correspond Christiane Amanpour is tracking developments. She is in London for us this morning.
And could this mean, Christiane, that we are starting to see legitimate cracks in the legitimacy of this election?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we're certainly seeing confused speak. Because on the one hand, now, they are admitting that in 50 cities around Iran there were more votes cast than people in those cities. This had been a leading complaint of Mir Hossein Mousavi even as of Friday evening, June 12, after the polls had closed. That's one thing.
On the one hand supreme leader, the supreme religious leader, and indeed, the Guardian Council, and others, foreign minister, all of the officials who have been speaking over the weekend, say well, there was no fraud, no possibility of cheating and the election result will stand.
So, on the one hand, inviting the complaints from Mousavi and others to be put forth to the Guardian Council, on the other hand they're saying, well, there's no possibility that this result is going to change because, of course, there couldn't be any cheating.
This, after this weekend, Chatham House, an important think tank here in England, has put out a lengthy paper showing how irregularities in the elections process could have taken place, and likely took place.
Now, inside Iran, foreign ministry and other officials are stepping up their criticism of the West, the U.S., Europe and especially Britain for quote, unquote, "interfering in the post election violence, and in some cases encouraging the protests." The speaker of the Iran parliament is saying they need to review ties with Great Britain. Also, the police chief in Iran - very importantly - saying while the police are equipped to deal with riots and protesters they have not been given permission to use their firearms. This could be because the firearms that are being used, according to eyewitnesses are by and large from the Basij, the hard-line revolutionary militia.
Iran also admitting that it is something like more than 400 people have been arrested since these protests began, John.
ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour in London this morning. Christiane, thanks so much.
CHETRY: Well, the man who many claim won the election Mir Hossein Mousavi is calling for continued protests this morning after a weekend of violent and many times bloody clashes on the street. Scenes we are only seeing through the web. Because many mainstream reporters are being kicked out or thrown in jail the protesters have remained just faces in the crowd. That is, until now. One woman apparently gunned down during a rally. You're seeing the video there of her being shot and the aftermath of that, captured by another protester on his cell phone. This has deeply shocked Iran and the world.
Octavia Nasr has her story. And we want to warn you that these are disturbing images. You may not want your children watching.
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN CHIEF EDITOR, MIDEAST AFFAIRS (voice over): Her name is Neda, the facts surrounding her life and her death difficult to verify. She appears to have been a young student who joined thousands of countrymen to voice her disapproval of Iran's election results. Eyewitnesses say Basij militia men hiding on a building rooftop shot Neda in her chest, silencing her forever.
A man who appears to be her father desperately calling on her to open her eyes. A stranger begging her to stay awake.
"Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, Neda," the man says, but Neda doesn't respond. She dies right there on the street, another protester capturing her last moments on a cell phone camera.
And just like that, Neda, who came to the square thinking she's one voice among thousands, turned into the voice of an entire opposition movement. Neda, which means "the calling" is now on millions of clips across the globe, on the Internet is specially designed avatars, a young life cut down in its prime. One woman's gripping story speaking volumes, a grim reminder of the price Iranians could pay for freedom. Octavia Nasr, CNN, reporting.
CHETRY: Again, those pictures are very, very difficult to see for anyone, just heartbreaking. Really driving home what exactly is going on, on the streets of Iran. Meanwhile multiple sources online say that a silent vigil has been planned for Neda, and other so-called martyrs. It's slated to start in about 30 minutes. We are working to confirm that. But we do know that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is threatening to crush any new opposition protests.
ROBERTS: Neda's story is also bringing something else to light. Women are on the front lines of this struggle, a struggle that is about more than one election. It underlines a real desire for change and equality by so many people in the Islamic nation. Our Ivan Watson is live; he's got more from our special Iran Desk this morning, where we're monitoring all of the feeds coming in from that country, on all of the social networking sites and other sources.
Ivan, what are you seeing this morning?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: John, a really remarkable phenomenon over the course of the past week, is that women, who are required according to Iranian law wear Islamic covering over their clothes, to cover their hair, as well, they have really been, as you mentioned, on the frontline of these demonstrations.
WATSON (voice over): Amid the clashes and chaos, a recurring scene; women, in their black overcoats and scarves, at the heart of the struggle. Collecting rocks for ammunition against security forces, protecting a fallen pro-government militiaman from an angry mob, wounded in the government crackdown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iranian women, since the late 1800s have been, in fact, at the forefront of the struggle for change.
WATSON: At Shiraz University this week, riot police clubbed women dressed in black robes.
A man yells, "Don't beat them, you bastards." The women stand their ground. Many Iran experts aren't surprised.
BADI BADIOZAMANI, IRAN EXPERT: We have a saying, or a name for them, shirizan (ph), lioness, lion woman.
WATSON: At least one of these women has paid the ultimate price for her defiance, a woman now known around the world as Neda, felled by a bullet on the frontline.
WATSON: John, I spoke with one 19-year-old woman who was in the front lines Saturday. She took photos that she contributed on iReport. She was clubbed by a Basij militiaman, she was injured. She said that on Sunday she was too terrified to go back out on the streets and protest, John.
ROBERTS: It's fascinating, Ivan, to see the part that women are playing in these demonstrations, particularly when you look at ayatollah's address at prayers on Friday, it was a sea of men. It's almost like there's two Irans. WATSON: Exactly, and one thing to point out, in mosques and at prayer services, women are segregated from the men. So there would have been probably some women there but they would have had to be praying in a separate part of that area. But, of course, the majority of the people attending those services always men, John.
ROBERTS: All right. Ivan Watson, for us this morning at the Iran Desk, in Atlanta. Ivan, thanks for that.
CHETRY: In coming up in just a couple of minutes, we are going to be speaking to an Iranian-American journalist who was there. He was in Tehran as of yesterday. He returned back to Dubai. He's going to be joining us to talk more about what it's like to be covering something that many have never seen in their lifetime. It's 10 minutes past the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.
There are some stunning new developments out of Iran this morning. The powers that be in that country now admitting that many ballot boxes were stuffed with extra votes, but they say, on one hand, that that happened; on the other, that the election results will still stand.
Journalists in Iran have been told to stop reporting, that the government can no longer guarantee safety. Reporters there are literally risking their lives as we've seen from these pictures, so were many of the protestors, so that the rest of the world can see what's going on.
One of them is Jason Rezaian, he is from the Tehranbureau.com.
Jason, you just left Iran yesterday. You're now live with us in Dubai this morning. I want to start by asking you about these latest developments, this really stunning admission from Iranian authorities acknowledging, at least, in some way discrepancies in the vote. Do you think this is doing to change anything?
JASON REZAIAN, JOURNALIST, TEHRANBUREAU.COM: I think it's kind of a preventive measure. But I think they couldn't stand by and do nothing, as you see, as the world sees, there's so many protests going on. Nobody seems to buy the election results at this point. So I think, you know, this is to stop more protests. But it doesn't seem like that's going to work.
CHETRY: So if they are acknowledging that yes, there is a possibility this ballot box stuffing took place, how would that -it would seem counterintuitive that it would stop the protests. Because, I mean, the people are out there protesting because they feel they want true democracy represented. They want either a revote, or they want some things to change. So, how is that being received today, the word that perhaps there was some ballot box stuffing going on? REZAIAN: Well, I've only been here in Dubai for a few hours and I haven't been in touch with Tehran since that announcement was made. I think they are really just trying to stop the bleeding any way they can. It doesn't seem like, as I said, that that's a likelihood.
CHETRY: We are learning more this morning also about some of the reporters being detained. In fact, the news coming in today that "Newsweek" Maziar Bahari is being held now, according to "Newsweek" magazine. The AP also reporting at least 24 journalist and bloggers arrested since these protests began last week. As you said, you just left Tehran yesterday, were you fearful of the possibility that you could be detained?
REZAIAN: I wasn't so much fearful about being detained, but, you know, I was told last Wednesday that I had to stop working. They revoked my press pass a couple of days before it was set to expire. And you know, I had felt a little bit cooped up, and watched every time I left my apartment. So I felt like I could be much more effective outside of the country, at least for the time being, So that's what prompted by departure last night.
CHETRY: Are you going to be attempting to go back in? And what is the likelihood of Iranian authorities granting you the permission to come back to the country?
REZAIAN: Well, I'm a citizen, so I'm free to come and go as I please. It's more a question of whether I'll be able to work or not. Time will tell if that's going to be possible. For the time being it doesn't look like any journalist representing foreign media will be given permission to work in Iran.
But I think the really important point right now is that so much of what's getting out has nothing to do with the work that reporters are doing. It's what people that are risking their lives going out in the streets, and taking videos with their cell phones, taking pictures with their cell phones -and really going to great lengths to get those images out of the country.
You know, the bandwidth on the Internet is very low to begin with, but it's been more restricted over the last few days. So it's really a true testament to the folks of Iran that they are getting these images out. I think that anybody that's been working in the media, in Iran, over the last couple of weeks will attest to the fact that we've been really limited in what we've been able to accomplish.
CHETRY: Sure. All right. Well, I wish you the best of luck as you continue to try to get that story out there. Jason Rezaian, a journalist who left Iran and is reporting from Dubai for now, with Tehranbureau.com. Thanks, Jason.
CHETRY: It's 17 minutes past the hour right now. We're going to take a quick break, be back in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: It's 20 minutes now after the hour, Stephanie Elam here this morning, "Minding Your Business".
Of course, a lot of people's 401(k)s took big hits with the downturn of the stock market, but now people are finding that maybe the companies aren't really stepping up to the plate like they used to, when it comes to 401(k)s.
STEHPANIE ELAM, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a bigger hit for a lot of people, John and Kiran. And that is really what a lot of people are looking at.
If you take a look at it, according to a new survey that is out, about a quarter of U.S. companies have gone ahead and have just stopped matching contributions to a 401(k)s. That is since September. So, since we started seeing - a lot the pain in the economy.
CHETRY: Almost a quarter of these companies?
ELAM: About 23 percent, yes.
CHETRY: When we first started talking about this, it was maybe 1, 2, 3, 5 percent.
CHETRY: It seems a lot of companies have jumped on this bandwagon and are not contributing.
ELAM: And it is something that you don't really talk about, right? You don't hear a lot of people saying this out loud, but it really is a huge number. And it really does effect a lot of people's savings here.
This is all in an effort to save money for these companies, during the recession. And if you take a look at the other big thing here, a quarter of employers now are offering limited access to go ahead and be a part of the 401(k) program. That's basically free money being taken off the table here. In a recent poll, 87 percent said the company matching is the best feature, of course, because it is free money. You need that money.
ELAM: The one good thing I can tell you about this is that a lot of the employers here are saying that this is probably going to be a temporary move.
ROBERTS: That's good.
ELAM: And it is not going to stay this way, but for right now, a lot of people are seeing some pain in the 401(k).
ROBERTS: Stephanie Elam, "Minding Your Business" this morning. Stephanie, thanks so much for that. Coming right up after the break, a "New York Times" correspondent kept by the Taliban, kept hostage for seven months, is free. It was a daring escape. Our Nick Robertson tells you the story coming right up.
ROBERTS: The world is still focused on Iran this morning. The government there still trying to keep the media silent, kicking out, even jailing mainstream reporters and bloggers. We're still getting an amazing amount of dramatic images from some of the violent protests that Iran is trying to keep a lid on. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(PROTESTORS SHOUTING, SCREAMING)
ROBERTS: Protesters are fighting back with whatever they can find, sometimes just rocks and bottles; and then using their cell phones and their computers to share their struggle with the world. Two brothers who left Iran years ago are using music to call for change in Iran. Their band is called Blurred Vision. This is part of their song titled "Democracy."
(BEGIN MUSIC VIDEO, "DEMOCRACY")
(LYRICS ON SCREEN)
Lies all well disguised, masses all hypnotized.
Terror's all you hear, war won't make it disappear.
Leader's teach us, everything we shouldn't be.
Everyday people, this is no Democracy!
(END MUSIC VIDEO)
ROBERTS: Well, their names are Sepehr and Soheil. We can't share their names for safety reasons because they still have extended family in Iran. Their father, a former general in Iran's military, was there just last week. They hope to see an online revolution to help the youth in Iran. They are here live now to talk about that.
Sepehr and Soheil, it is good to see you this morning. We should point out for our viewers that we had initially had you booked last Friday, but you wanted to wait until your father got out of Iran before you came on. You said you would come on this morning regardless, though. Did he come home? And why were you fearful for him?
SEPEHR, MUSICIAN, BLURRED VISION: Thank you for having us on the show. He did arrive. We're very happy that he's back. Obviously, you're seeing the images that are coming out and the world can understand why Iranians all over the world are fearful of what is going on in our country right now. ROBERTS: What did he tell you about what was going on there last week?
SOHEIL, MUSCIAN, BLURRED VISION: Had a chance to talk to him briefly, yesterday, and he is basically reporting the same things that you're seeing, we're all seeing, on the Internet, on TV, everywhere. The one thing that really stood out, in my mind, that he told me, was that the people over there are not afraid anymore. They have basically conquered that fear that's been instilled in them for the past 30 years, by the government, and they are out for change.
ROBERTS: Now, 60 percent of Iran's population, we should point out, is under the age of 30, in United States it is about 40 percent of the population that is under 30. What are young people fighting for? Because it does seem to be evolving over there. Are they fighting for a free and fair election or are they fighting for something bigger?
SEPEHR: This is no longer, I think, regarding the elections. The youth of Iran, for the past week, we can really look at it on this level, that what they have been experiencing, what we've been seeing for the last week, if you take that and multiply it by 30 years you will understand why the youth of Iran and the people of Iran are out there in the streets going through what they are going through, and risking their lives. Because they are essentially fighting for their freedoms, for their democracy, for basic human rights that have been stripped away from their existence for the last 30 years that this regime has been in power.
ROBERTS: Let me ask you this question, we had a professor from Columbia University on, an hour ago, who said he didn't think this was about revolution and regime change. He sort of likened this to America's Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Do you think that's correct, or do these young people want regime change?
SOHEIL: That's actually very good that you brought that up because we were discussing this earlier, Sepehr and I. I think in order for their to be a civil rights movement, there has to be some other rights involved, some basic rights that are there, before you can go on and ask for civil rights. And the people of Iran have really been stripped of all and every basic human right that you can possibly think of, for the past 30 years.
This is definitely - I don't know if you want to call it a revolution, whatever it is, it's asking for change. It's not just change in the sense, oh, no more rigged elections, because rigged elections have been going on, you know, for the past 30 years. It's no surprise to the people of Iran, or other Iranians outside the country, that this election was rigged.
So, I don't think these protests that are going on, I don't think they have anything to do with really just a fair election or civil rights, it is basically about wanting huge change in the country.
SOHEIL: And you know, having freedoms that we all love to have. ROBERTS: Now, the two of you are very plugged in politically. I know that you have tried to help out the reformist movement there by using your web site, www.blurredvisionmusic.com, as a portal for them to get the word out, upload some videos, too, or whatever other messages they might have. I'm sure that you're seeing the debate here in the United States, between Republicans and the White House over what is the appropriate posture for the president to take. He's been very standoffish on this, because he does not want the United States to become the story. He has been called timid and passive by some Republicans. What do you think this president should do regarding Iran?
SEPHER: Well, we are artists, and our main objective of being here today, we are not sort of involving ourselves in the politics going on. This is, at a fundamental level, a call to humanity to unite, to come together, to stand behind the youth of Iran.
Our web sites, we're are in talk with some IT professionals right now. We hope to have it up and running within the next day or two. We've been working hard at getting it together, getting it to the right level, that the youth in Iran can be able to upload their images and their videos onto our web site. Where, from there, we will get it out to the world for them. Really, we'll leave the politics to the politicians.
We are at a grassroots level, right now, as the youth in Iran are at a grassroots level. This is a call out to all our peers in the music world, in the entertainment world, all the multi-media stations our there, all the satellite companies out there. We need to get involved as a humanity, to make this a success. To cut down on the bloodshed that is going on and to get the information out to the people, increasing satellite signals in Iran is a great start for the youth here where they are always saying, you know, what can we do?
One of the main advantages of what is happening is that it is going on through the internet. This is an information revolution. And the youth can get involved by going on twitter, transferring their time zones to Tehran time to confuse the government there, but really this is a callout to the world to get involved and stand behind this movement and put their support behind the youth that are risking their lives there for things we have here and they deserve.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Right. We'll keep following all of those efforts and of course all of the information coming out of Iran. So () from Blurred Vision in Canada, thanks so much for being with us this morning, giving us the youth perspective on all of this. We really appreciate it.
Guest: Thank you very much.
Guest : Thank you for having us.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: 31 1/2 minutes past the hour now. More news now, a test of just how far the U.S. will go to stop North Korea. Right now, a U.S. destroyer is tracking a North Korean ship that is suspected of carrying ballistic weapons and believed to be headed to Myanmar. Yesterday Senator John McCain said that we should board the North Korean vessel if there's hard evidence that it is moving missiles or weapons technology. And North Korea again saying that would be an act of war. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered additional protection for Hawaii as a precaution.
ROBERTS: This year's hurricane season has its first named storm, tropical storm Andres came together off of the coast of Mexico. Much of that country under a tropical storm warning. Forecasters say the storm could down heavy rains across southwestern Mexico for the next two days.
CHETRY: First half of the year, golden, apparently for Goldman Sachs. The report in Britain's "Guardian" newspaper said that huge profits will yield huge bonuses for the banking firm staff. Critics already saying the dominance of a few successful banks could hurt efforts to stabilize the global financial system.
And we're following developments in Iran literally moment by moment this morning through our own people that are on the ground and also through I-report that continue to flow in. We'll return in a moment but first another story that will have people talking today.
He may have thought it was now or never, the reporter from the "New York Times" David Rohde is free this morning after a desperate and daring escape from the Taliban. He had been held for seven months in northwestern Pakistan. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live from Islamabad. You know, a lot of people, first of all, marveling that this happened, so happy he's free. And a lot of people are wondering how did he do it?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's really interesting, Kiran, number one, he was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan just outside of Kabul and then they took him after some time to Pakistan where he's been held for many many months. We talked to Pakistani military here who told us their troops were involved in helping him get away from the area but it was David and Tahil Ludin(ph), his associate who jumped over the wall from the compound to make good their escape.
That's what they said and this is what the Pakistani military is telling us that they then found a Pakistani army soldier who took them to a nearby base. The Pakistani Army then brought them to Islamabad. Here at the capital, handed him over to U.S. officials. They went back to Afghanistan and now out of the region. So it is an amazing story, but the details we have at the moment, exactly how they were able to get the space if you will to jump over the wall and make this daring bid for freedom, we still don't know those details right now, Kiran?
CHETRY: And do we know - you know, he's been held for so long. Have we heard from him? Was there any indication of why they were holding him so long and what the plans were?
ROBERTSON: You know, about a month or so ago I interviewed a senior Taliban spokesman, a spokesman for the Afghan-Taliban leader Mullah Omar and I asked about David Rohde. At that time, the "New York Times" had requested news organizations keep information about David out of the headlines because they didn't want to put his life in danger. And we absolutely respected that. The Taliban spokesman I talked to then was angry that "The New York Times" wasn't negotiating with them. What the Taliban wanted he said was for a prisoner exchange, for some top Taliban officials they said were being held prisoner by the U.S. to be released. And they also wanted money. "The New York Times" said no money was involved and that no prisoners were exchanged in David's release at all.
CHETRY: Well, certainly relief I'm sure from all sides as people who knew David that he was able to get out. But it also underscores the dangers you face when you try to get close to a story like that, you never know if somebody is going to take you in. That's the risk you guys put yourself in every day. Nic Robertson for us this morning. Thanks. 35 minutes past the hour.
ROBERTS: Well, some of the top videos right now on cnn.com. A drive- through getaway, police say this woman was being detained in a grocery store for shoplifting when a friend decided to help her out by crashing his car through the front window of the store. The woman hopped in and the car got away. The police later found the car but the couple are on the lam.
Plus strange goings on in an old funeral home in North Carolina. The current resident of the home describes some inexplicable spooky events like seeing a strange man appear and disappear in her bedroom. Most people believed that the old funeral home is haunted.
And yesterday marked the very first day of summer. It certainly showed in Florida over the weekend, reaching triple digits in some places. That's pretty unusual for Florida. The temperature usually stays in the 90s. Temperatures here in New York remain in the 60s, however. We're so lucky, aren't we?
ROBERTS: We wouldn't want it to be 100 degrees here.
CHETRY: You know what, everything has been pretty unusual so far. We'll see if it gets better since summer started yesterday. Come on, summer, let's get going.
ROBERTS: You know, in fact later on in our third hour we're going to be talking with the co-author of a new climate change report who says that a lot of this has to do with global warming. So stay tuned for that.
CHETRY: We'll see. All right. We look forward to it.
Meanwhile, new this morning an iPhone becomes exhibit A in a lawsuit against the TSA. A man claims agents harassed him while they held him at the airport for carrying too much money, even though that's not a crime. Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve picks it up there live in Washington. So what was going on, Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the secretary of Homeland Security over what it calls unlawful searches and detentions at airports. The potential evidence as you say, an audio recording of TSA screeners.
MESERVE (voice-over): This iPhone captured the conversation between the Transportation Security Administration agent and a passenger.
TSA OFFICER: I'm just trying to ask some questions to figure out what this is all about so I can get you on your plane. But you want to play smart ass, and I'm not going to play your (expletive) game.
MESERVE: The agent was talking to Steve Bierfeldt. He works for the Campaign for Liberty, an upgrowth of the Ron Paul presidential campaign which promotes the constitutional rights. Bierfeldt was flying out of St. Louis when screeners saw this cash box in his carry on. At the time it contained $4,700, proceeds from the sale of political items. Although there are no restrictions on carrying large sums of money on flights within the U.S., the T.S.A. detained Bierfeldt and along with other law enforcement agencies questioned him for almost half an hour, and appeared to threaten him with arrest, unaware the phone in Bierfeldt's pocket was capturing every word.
OFFICER: The question is why do you have this money? That's the major question.
STEVE BIERFELDT, AIRLINE PASSENGER: Yes, sir. I'm asking whether I'm legally required to answer that question.
OFFCIER: Answer that question first. Why do you have this money?
BIERFELDT: Am I legally required to answer the question?
OFFICER: So you refuse to answer that question?
BIERFELDT: No sir, I'm not refusing.
OFFICER: Well, you're not answering.
BIERFELDT: I'm simply asking my rights under the law.
Swearing at me, cursing at me, threatening to handcuff me. Take me to the DEA and the FBI. Just the inconvenience. No, it wasn't worth the (inaudible) at all.
MESERVE: The TSA says the agent has been disciplined for using inappropriate tone and language but said in a statement "a passenger who refuses to answer questions may be referred to appropriate authorities for further inquiry." The ACLU says Bierfeldt did not refuse to answer questions and his detention and questioning violated constitutional protections against unlawful search. LARRY SCHWARTZTOL, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: TSA believes its passenger screening is an opportunity to engage in free wheeling law enforcement investigation that have no length to protecting flight safety.
MESERVE: The ACLU and Bierfeldt believes that this incident is reflective of a much large problem but this passenger just happened to be carrying a pocket copy of the U.S. constitution and the latest technology.
CHETRY: Just happened to be working with Ron Paul who, you know, is one of the most libertarian congressmen out there. So -
MESERVE: Yes. They could not have picked a worse person to stop.
CHETRY: And did he know the iPhone hit record on it. Or when you said they didn't know, he did this.
MESERVE: He did this. He said he only recently put this record application on the iPhone but when they took him away from the screening checkpoint into a private room he decided this could be interesting. He activated it. So he was well aware that this is all being recorded. And if you listen to the whole tape he's extraordinarily calm and polite through the entire thing.
ROBERTS: He is. But there's no question he was messing with them.
MESERVE: Well, I asked him that. He said no. What he really wanted to do was go on his way. What he really wanted to do was get on his flight.
CHETRY: If he really wanted to get on his flight, he would say, you know what, I got all this cash because I was selling t-shirts and buttons for Ron Paul.
MESERVE: Well he felt he didn't have to answer that question for them, that there was no right for them to ask him that question. And I might say eventually an agent comes in who figures it out. He looked more closely at the cash box. He says there are checks in there written out to the Campaign for Liberty. He looks at the literature, he says these are political contributions. Bierfeldt says yes, the guys says you're free to go. But it took a half an hour for somebody to do that.
ROBERTS: So in other words, he was messing with the first guy, right?
MESERVE: Well, I think there was a little messing going both ways.
ROBERTS: Yes. Thanks.
CHETRY: We're recording all of this, Jeanne, I just want you to know.
ROBERTS: Thanks, Jeanne.
CHETRY: Very interesting story.
ROBERTS: You know it's a prerequisite for all Ron Paul supporters to carry a copy of the constitution in their pockets too. Ron Paul is a great friend of the show. Always no shortage of great stories when it comes to Ron Paul.
CHETRY: Exactly. All right. Well we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, the latest on the post-election protest going on. There is new information coming out today, some shocking comments coming from Iran's leaders. 44 minutes past the hour.
ROBERTS: A look at Central Park this morning from the very tippy top of the Time-Warner Center, our world headquarters here in New York. And if you didn't like the fact that it was raining all weekend in New York, never fear because it's going to rain all this week, too. It's cloudy and 67 right now. Showers and a high of 76 later on today. Maybe it will get some of the last round of the U.S. Open. We certainly hope so.
CHETRY: Well, I had a Murphy's law moment. I've got to tell you I thought, a little break of sunshine, let me put the two kids in the wagon and run to the playground, sure enough - the sky opened up.
ROBERTS: Come out to play.
Rob Marciano tracking the extreme weather across the country today. And Rob, we don't want to belabor the point about the krug(ph) here in New York City. So tell us what's going on elsewhere across the country.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: And we certainly don't want Kiran's kids falling off the wagon.
CHETRY: That was showers for the day, I tell you that.
MARCIANO: Showers today again. Well I think mostly to the north and east, the U.S. Open, as John mentioned, I think they will get in the last round. They are almost done with it right now. So that starts in the next couple of hours and we'll see - there's your storm way out there on the east coast. Still bringing some showers to eastern New England. But certainly a strong north wind today and that may very well slow down some travel across some of New York's airports.
Chicago back to parts of central Indiana is where we're seeing, well, quite a bit of showers there. And the heat continues, the sizzle across much of the nation's midsection. Heat advisories and heat warnings, St. Louis could very well touch 100 degrees today. Check out Tallahassee, 102. That' a record yesterday. Hattiesburg got 100, Brunswick, Georgia 98, and Miami, Florida seeing 98 degrees as well.
All right. One thing, we're into hurricane season, it's forecasted to be a quiet one. But the Pacific season well under way. This is the first named storm of the season, just off the coastline of Acapulco. It is forecast to become a hurricane. Right now it's tropical storm Andres. And as it becomes a hurricane and then scoots north towards Acapulco, it will begin to wreck that coastline. So a decent storm out there on the Pacific side. All is quiet on the Atlantic side. John and Kiran, back up to you.
ROBERTS: Rob, thanks so much for that.
MARCIANO: You got it.
CHETRY: We're going to be taking a quick break, and when we come we're going to be talking about the role of women in what's been going on in Iran --
MARCIANO: They tossed back a two-shot. It's so much fun.
ROBERTS: Rob. Cut Rob's mike, please.
CHETRY: What did Rob say? So much fun to toss back a two-shot. Ok. Well, thanks, Rob. When we come back we're going to talk about the impact women have been having in Iran as the protest post election continue into their second week.
CHETRY: Well, here's the staggering statistics, 2/3 of all bankruptcies that are filed in this country, personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills or illness. We're talking about regular working people who get sick and then they can't keep up with their bills. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is "Minding your Business this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a third bath right there.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not so painful any more, living across the street from a Las Vegas house they once owned and lost to bankruptcy.
BECKY SPECHT, FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY: We were trying to keep up with our house payments and the car payments and the medical.
GUPTA: So in 2005, Becky and James Specht filed chapter 13 and promised to pay $220 a month to dig themselves out from underneath their massive medical bills. Becky was a nurse when she was accidentally stuck by a needle and got chronic hepatitis B and then came the breast cancer diagnosis. Unable to work, she lost her medical insurance and the bills began to pile up.
BECKY SPECHT: I was in the medical field for years, helping people. And all of a sudden I couldn't get help. GUPTA: After they filed, James had a heart attack. As a result, he lost his job and insurance. Which meant more unpaid bills.
JAMES SPECHT, FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY: There was a lot of stress involved. No one should ever have to go through this.
GUPTA: Dr. David Himmelstein at Harvard Medical School has been studying medical bankruptcy for nearly a decade. He says middle class Americans are bearing the brunt of medical bankruptcies.
DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, CAMBRIDGE HEALTH ALLIANCE: This is the mainstream of America. They had insurance, they played by all of the rules and yet they were ruined by their medical problems.
GUPTA: In his newly released national study, more than 62 percent of all bankruptcies were linked to medical problems.
HIMMELSTEIN: Virtually none of us has adequate coverage to withstand the financial consequences of a serious illness.
GUPTA: Bankruptcy attorney Caramen Dellutri agrees. He says chapter seven is most commonly used in medical bankruptcies. You don't have to pay back your debt. Chapter 13 structures a repayment plan.
CARAMEN DELLUTRI, BANKRUPTCY LAWYER: What we see are younger families who are really dealing with the debt, the medical debt in a harsh way.
GUPTA: The Spechts are caught up in that struggle to survive. He's working, but only part-time. In 2007, they stopped their bankruptcy filing, simply unable to make the payments any more. The old bills, they're back, and now new ones, as well. Becky has just found another tumor in her breast. They are planning to file for bankruptcy again. As for the new medical bills --
BECKY SPECHT: I can't open them. I can't worry about it. And I can't have my husband worry about it.
GUPTA (on camera): Now the Spechts have been watching the whole health care debate very closely. They're hoping that reform comes in time to help them.
(voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
CHETRY: And by the way, just one quick Google search of what it costs for health care in this country and it's no wonder that people are going broke.
There is more now in an "AM Extra." Your typical cleaning at a dentist, which many people put this off because it is expensive and you pay for it out of pocket, but it is necessary, as well. It can cost $100. Going to the emergency room can cost you more than $500 before you even get any treatment at all,. That's just walking into the door. Coronary bypass surgery cost more than $20,000 on average, and if someone in your family needs chemotherapy and cancer treatment it can take about $136,000 for a full course of treatment.
ROBERTS: Pretty incredible, wow. Those bills just pile up so fast.
As part of our continuing coverage of the crisis in Iran, we've been checking in with expatriates here in the United States. We also talked to a couple of members of a Persian-oriented band, Iranian- oriented band from Canada a little while ago. We're going to be going to part of Los Angeles. It's actually called Tehrangeles because there are so many ex-patriot Iranians living there.
Our Kara Finnstrom is going to walk us through a 24 hour Souk in downtown Los Angeles to get reaction there. Stay with us. We'll be right back with that.
ROBERTS: Hundreds of thousands of Iranian natives now call southern California home. So what do they think about what's happening in their homeland? CNN's Kara Finnstrom is finding out this morning. She's at a Persian market in downtown Los Angeles. Hey, Kara.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, well, this one of these outdoor markets where grocers, restaurant owners come to buy their fresh produce for the day, you can see some red ripe tomatoes right here but what's different about this business right here is that it is uniquely Persian. If we walk inside, these cucumbers right here, they're call Persian pickles and they have a little bit of a different flavor. These lemons right here are sweeter than the typical lemons that you'll get and they have all kinds of foods that you find in traditional Persian foods. Things like eggplants and dates. Mohammed here is the owner and I want to bring him in if I can, real quickly. He's been very busy this morning, trucks coming in and out. But you said business is going on as normal, but it's been very difficult for you to concentrate.
MOHAMMED, STORE OWNER: Yes, of course, it is. Because my mind is over in Iran, worry about the people, worry about my family. It's kind of tough to stay concentrated on the business. Physically still here but my soul is with my people.
FINNSTROM: You said you were able to get in touch with some of your family. What were you able to learn from them?
MOHAMMED: Well, actually I was able to call my sister yesterday. She's in Iran. And talk to her, and she assured me that everybody is OK and everything's all right. But I'm not sure that she's telling me the truth.
FINNSTROM: If we can give you some pictures at home of this market and the business going on. And if you tell me at the same time as we take a look at some of these pictures what it's been like here day-to- day as you say you have about 100 merchants who are Persian. And many of them are having trouble focusing as you are. MOHAMMED: Yes (inaudible) the last week or so. Most of them that come over her here, they talk about it. Iran, Iran, Iran.
FINNSTROM: Well, we thank you for letting us come here today.
MOHAMMED: You're welcome.
FINNSTROM: And this is kind of the scene we've been seeing through all of these Persian businesses and neighborhoods that we've been visiting, just very difficult obviously for them to keep focused on the day to day.
ROBERTS: With so much going on back home. Kara Finnstrom for us this morning.
Kara, thanks so much for that.