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AMERICAN MORNING

Obama Meets With Japanese Leader to Discuss Economy and North Korea; Muslim Group a Front for Iran, Government Tries to Seize NYC Skyscraper and Mosques; Deadly Nor'easter Pounds the East Coast; Warning Signs Missed on Nidal Malik's Promotion

Aired November 13, 2009 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. Thanks so much for being with us. It's Friday the 13th actually of November.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

CHETRY: 6:00 a.m. I'm Kiran Chetry.

HOLMES: We will make it through, though. Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes sitting in today for John Roberts. A look now at some of the big stories we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes on this Friday the 13th.

Happening right now, the president in Japan. Already getting down to business talking money, trade, war, North Korea, all those topics of conversation during his trip to Asia. We'll travel with the president. And in a moment, we'll take you live to Tokyo.

CHETRY: The feds trying to seize $500 million in assets from a Muslim group, including a New York City skyscraper and four mosques spread across the country. Prosecutors say the group is a front for Iran's government and long suspected of helping fund terrorism. So how will this affect relations between the U.S. government and American Muslims? The case as well as the controversy surrounding it just ahead.

HOLMES: And some troubling developments this morning about the suspected Fort Hood gunman. Why did the Army recently promote him to major when there were so many questions about his confidence? Former colleagues now claiming Nidal Malik Hasan openly pledged his allegiance not to America but to the Quran. And it was reported to his supervisors. We have a live report from Fort Hood just ahead.

CHETRY: First, though, the pressure on President Obama. The president is overseas this morning kicking off a week-long trip to Asia. And it's his first visit to the region since he took office.

So if you think a trip halfway around the world doesn't matter to you, actually, think again because Asia, for all intents and purposes is really America's banker. China and Japan are the two biggest holders of treasury securities to the tune of $1.5 trillion. Asia is also a place where millions of American jobs have gone over the past decade.

That said, here's the breakdown. He's going to be visiting four nations over eight days. First stop will be Japan. That's where this morning he'll be meeting with their prime minister, and we expect to hear from both men in about 20 minutes. We'll bring that to you live when it happens.

The president will then head to Singapore, China and South Korea. Part of the trip's mission to try to domestically prod leaders to get tough on North Korea for its disputed nuclear program. The president will also try to persuade China, an economic powerhouse, to buy more U.S. imports.

Our Ed Henry is traveling with the president. He's live for us in Tokyo this morning.

So, Ed what is the president trying to get from these powerful Asian nations? I guess, what's our leveraging power?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, good morning to you. Certainly when he sits down as he is right now with Prime Minister Hatoyama, who is the new prime minister here in Japan, he certainly wants to deal with trade imbalances that affect the American people. He wants to deal with the financial crisis as well. Japan, the second largest economy in the world. China close behind about to take it over for that spot. Also wants to deal with North Korea.

As you mentioned, as the U.S. gets ready for direct talks with North Korea, they also want to restart those so-called Six-party talks where Japan, South Korea, China stops on this tour. All those nations are key members of those Six-party talks.

And finally, the war in Afghanistan. The president winning a key commitment from the Japanese to put up several billion dollars over the next few years in reconstruction. Reconstructing schools, for example, in Afghanistan, that's a key part. As the president looks at his new strategy in Afghanistan, it's not just about troop levels. It's also about trying to get some allies on board to bring more aid to Afghanistan to rebuild that troubled government, that troubled nation, Kiran.

CHETRY: And let's turn to the tension that's been building between the U.S. and Japan. These are two countries that are normally pretty close allies. What are the disputed issues right now?

HENRY: Well, the biggest dispute is over the U.S. troop presence here in Japan. Still almost 50,000 U.S. troops. It really centers on Okinawa, the island where most of those troops are, and Japanese citizens here have been holding protests against President Obama in recent days saying they want those troops moved out of the city area, a more remote area so that the U.S. troops are not so close to the Japanese people. And what's significant, those protests have been out there before.

But this new prime minister has been asserting Japan's independence saying they will no longer be so dependent upon the U.S. And so we're going to be watching the body language very closely at this news conference. We've got two new leaders, a new Japanese prime minister, relatively new U.S. president. A real early test here of these new leaders getting together of how strong this alliance is going to continue to be, Kiran.

CHETRY: It is. All right. Ed Henry for us this morning, thanks.

HOLMES: Well, some other stories new this morning. A major shakeup in the Obama administration. White House Counsel Greg Craig is being forced out because of his handling of plans to close the military prison as Guantanamo Bay. An official announcement could come today. Craig advised the president to sign an executive order during his first week in office promising to shut Gitmo down by January 2010. The administration has since backed off that deadline.

CHETRY: U.S. State Department is extending a travel alert for Americans in Germany. The warning is in response to continued threats by Al Qaeda to attack German interests. U.S. citizens are being advised to maintain a heightened situational awareness and to keep a low profile. The new travel alert remains in effect until mid- February. It replaces one that actually expired this week.

HOLMES: Insurgents striking again in Pakistan. This time at least 16 people killed. Dozens wounded in two suicide car bombings overnight. The first bomb exploded outside of the national anti- terror agency building in Peshawar. Ten people died in that attack. A second explosion outside a police station near the Afghan border killed six people.

Also developing this morning, federal prosecutors are trying to seize four mosques and a New York City skyscraper. The mosques are in California, Houston, Maryland and New York. The feds say the owners have ties to Iran and are suspected of helping bank roll terrorism. Deborah Feyerick with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials are attempting to seize four mosques, plus a New York City skyscraper just steps from Rockefeller Center on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. The charge that the Alavi (ph) Foundation which gets money from these properties is actually a front company for a larger Iranian-owned bank and that that bank channels money to support Iran's nuclear program and parts of its military forces labeled terrorist organizations by the United States.

The four mosques include the Islamic Institute of New York in Queens, New York, the Islamic Education Center in Houston, Texas, and two other mosques in Maryland and California. We're told that the imam at the New York mosque is on a pilgrimage to Mecca and could not be reached for comment.

President Obama Thursday extended the national emergency with respect to Iran because of ongoing problems with that country. U.S. officials are also attempting to seize bank accounts and other properties believed to have direct ties to the Iranian government.

The U.S. accuses Iran of deceptive practices designed to fund terrorism and pursue its nuclear and missile programs.

American Muslims are already concerned about potential backlash because of the Fort Hood shootings. A senior justice official stresses that the move is against the Iranian landlords and that the mosques just happen to be in some of the targeted buildings. An attorney for the Alavi Foundation tells CNN the foundation has been cooperating with prosecutors and that they will fight these charges. Meantime, the skyscraper on Fifth Avenue remains open.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Deb, thanks. Well it's turning out to be one of the most dangerous nor'easters in years. Five deaths now being blamed on the storm that's still tearing up the beaches along the east coast this morning. The remains of Hurricane Ida pounding the mid-Atlantic coast, eating away at the dunes in places like Ocean City, Maryland. White caps also hitting windshields in Virginia. States of emergency being declared in some areas like Cape May, New Jersey. One man on the street there looked like he was more in a lake. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, guys. I'm out here at Bush and Olmie (ph). And you can see -- you can see where the water is well over my waste.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: That was an amazing picture from our affiliate WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia. States of emergency declared in Virginia and all the way up to the jersey shore this morning.

Our Rob Marciano is tracking the storm's latest movements. You warned us about this yesterday. And in some places, it's really doing some damage, this nor'easter to the dunes, to the beaches and putting people's lives at risk.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we often don't get all wrapped about a storm because it either loses its name or doesn't have a name. This is somewhat leftovers of Ida, but the destruction this has caused and the record it has set is truly remarkable. Remember Hurricane Isabel back in 2003 that ran up the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay area. This has caused more flooding, at least closer to the shoreline, than that hurricane did back in 2003.

High pressure, low pressure and the difference we continue to see those winds pounding. You want to see some wind gusts? Check this out.

Looking at Oceana, Virginia, 75-mile-an-hour wind gusts. Hurricane force there. Norfolk, Virginia, 74-mile-an-hour wind gust and Cape Henry 72. And then as you mentioned, this guy out there in the water. I think we have some other video besides him. Better you than me, pal. Definitely waist deep there. As far as what kind of rainfall we had, also flooding rains inland. Some of the numbers there pretty remarkable, Shawn (ph), if you can advance that for me. We'll look at that. Over 10 inches of rainfall in some areas and that's certainly remarkable.

All right. What can we expect to see going forward? The rain is about to let up in many spots here, but the winds will still blow tropical storm force in many spots as well. The rainfall expected to get towards New York, yes, but not nearly as much as what they saw across parts of Virginia. So, a remarkable storm in many facets.

What was a tropical storm, after it became a hurricane, making landfall as a tropical storm. One of the later ones in November and now causing certainly a historic nor'easter across parts of the mid- Atlantic. But it's confined to a very small case, Kiran and T.J., across the Delmarva there and the Chesapeake Bay area. It just sat there for a day and a half, two days. And, unfortunately for those folks, they're getting the brunt of it.

Back to you in New York.

CHETRY: Yes. It's been a real mess there for sure. All right. Rob Marciano for us, thanks.

HOLMES: Well, this next story not going to come as a surprise to a lot of folks. A lot of people suspected it. Now it's been confirmed that the McCain/Palin campaign 2008 was not just one big happy family.

Sarah Palin's new book "Going Rogue" hit store shelves Tuesday and that she admits there was tension between her camp and John McCain's staff, and that she was forced to avoid reporters. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey that airs on Monday, Palin was asked about her now infamous encounter last fall with CBS' Katie Couric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Let's talk about the interview with Katie Couric.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Must we?

WINFREY: Yes.

PALIN: OK. Oh, OK.

WINFREY: You talk about it in the book so I assume everything in the book is fair game.

PALIN: Yes, it is.

WINFREY: You do say that it wasn't your best interview.

PALIN: But, here again...

WINFREY: Did you think that was a single (ph) defining moment for you? That interview?

PALIN: I did not, and neither did the campaign. In fact, that is why segment two and three and four and maybe five were scheduled. The campaign said "right on, good, you're showing your independence. This is what America needs to see." And it was a good interview. And, of course, I'm thinking if you thought that was a good interview, I don't know what a bad interview was because I knew it wasn't a good interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. Well, there she is talking about it. You know, she also says that the McCain camp made her believe that Katie Couric would be sympathetic to her, a working mom as well, et cetera, et cetera. And that turned out not to be the case, according to Palin.

She also accuses the McCain camp of trying to stick her with a $500,000 legal bill for vetting that was done on her before she was chosen to join the ticket. Former senior adviser to the McCain camp claims that those bills were actually from Palin's personal attorney for handling troopergate and other ethics investigations that she faced.

HOLMES: So, next week is probably Palin week. We're going to see a lot of her next.

CHETRY: And I will. When you talk to Oprah...

HOLMES: Yes.

CHETRY: ... that's what happens.

HOLMES: That's what happens. Well, stay with us here. We'll be talking about that Fort Hood investigation. A lot of people trying to figure out why the suspect in that shooting, why in the world there were questions about his qualifications, questions about his dedication to this country. Why in the world did he get a promotion?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We have new developments now in the investigation of Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan accused of killing 13 people last week at Fort Hood.

Well, it turns out that he was recently promoted to major, despite questions about his qualifications. The Army has a severe shortage of majors. It's also raising questions about whether Hasan was kept on just to meet hiring requirements.

Ed Lavandera is live at Fort Hood. You know, hindsight is 20/20, but it does that there were some warning signs that may have been missed when it comes to Hasan's personality and his performance.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kiran. We've been searching for a lot of those people who could shed some light into Hasan's personality and any kind of stories that might highlight a little bit of his personality and his background. And some of the people that we've spoken with say that in recent years, he was not shy from expressing his extremist religious views.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Nidal Hasan's family describes him as a good American, but several people who knew Hasan in his years at this Maryland military university say the high-ranking Army officer expressed extremist Islamic views. One says Hasan openly pledged allegiance not to the United States but to the Quran, and when asked of the constitution was a brilliant document simply responded no, not particularly.

Our sources asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, and the investigators wouldn't comment on the details they offered.

CHRIS GREY, ARMY CID: We are doing everything possible, and we are looking at every reason for this shooting. We are aggressively following every possible lead. We are collecting, analyzing and disseminating every piece of critical information pertaining to this case.

LAVANDERA: Hasan has been formally charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder. The sources say superiors at the Uniform Services University were told about Hasan's inflammatory comments but that concerns about how to handle the situation led to Hasan being coddled and accommodated, even though he made class presentations, pushing extremist ideology.

University officials wouldn't comment and Hasan's attorney wouldn't either, saying his concern now is to ensure a fair trial.

JOHN GALLIGAN, HASAN'S ATTORNEY: Fundamental fairness and the right to a fair trial ought to be consistently applied in any of those areas. And I've said also that given the nature of the offenses that these folks are talking about, it's probably going to be a long and difficult road.

LAVANDERA: The road to recovery for the wounded in last week's attack will be long and hard. Twelve soldiers are still hospitalized, but many other soldiers who've left the hospital are already back on duty.

COL. JOHN ROSSI, US ARMY: General Casey called this event a kick in the gut, which is so appropriate. But I will tell you, at this time, Fort Hood has gotten its breath back and we continue to move forward.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAVANDERA: Kiran, those sources we've been speaking with are not authorized to speak on this case and it's because of anecdotes like that that Pentagon officials are now urging anyone who's had any contact with Nidal Hasan over the years to come forward and then tell investigators their stories -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Ed Lavandera for us this morning. Thank you.

Still ahead, we're going to be joined by Christine Romans. We've talked about overdraft fees, people just getting really socked over maybe withdrawing over $2 or, you know, going $2 over what they can pay for. Now banks have had to change the rules, but are they all playing by those rules?

Christine Romans is going to be joining us to talk more about that.

It's 17 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) Miami. Miami.

CHETRY: Everyone is dancing. It's Friday.

HOLMES: That was my selection today. I'm glad we got that song in, the All Rebel Rockers. Yes, we love Miami! Seventy-seven degrees and sunny today -- a beautiful Miami day. And a beautiful New York day as well.

CHETRY: Yes. It's the -- it's the mid-Atlantic states that are feeling the pinch this morning because of that nor'easter.

HOLMES: Yes.

CHETRY: All right. Well, welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

You know, more Americans are smoking for the first time in almost 15 years. The CDC is saying that a little under 21 percent of adults are lighting up and that that's jumped up from the 19.8 percent last year. But since the increase was so small, experts say that it could be just a blip and not a trend.

HOLMES: Also, we've got a new report out this morning, reveals which airlines are the best at not losing your luggage. According to the Department of Transportation -- I know you're wondering who. Number one -- Atlanta-based AirTran. Those are my folks. I love them. Flying them back to Atlanta today. Also, it's followed by Hawaiian Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Continental and US Airways. There's your top five.

CHETRY: There you go. All right.

Well, it's about to get a whole lot harder for banks to slap you with overdraft fees. Starting next July, the Fed is going to prohibit banks from automatically enrolling you in an overdraft program. Instead, you would have to sign up for it.

See, a lot of folks don't even know that they're in that overdraft protection program and then, boom, they get slapped with these fees. They'd rather (ph) just sort of have the check not clear.

Also it can sometimes lead to a hefty charge when your account is overdrawn and that's what's really turning out to be problematic, how much money people are spending by not knowing what their balance is.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's so interesting. Americans have gotten so used to just thinking there's going to be money there when they use their debit card and -- and there is money there. It's the bank's money, and then you get pay -- you get to pay a $39 charge for the honor of using the bank's money to cover the fact that you didn't have enough money in your own account. But the Fed wants to make sure that for -- for these overdraft protection programs that you have to opt in.

There's been a lot of complaint about this. You need to opt into them so that, look, if you go and you don't have enough money in your account and you aren't opted in, then you just can't make the purchase. You're going to be bounced right out of the place, right? Maybe that's embarrassing, but it's better.

Here's something I told TJ that he -- he couldn't believe when we were in the break. You -- we spend more in America on overdraft fees than we do on fresh vegetables. We spend more in America on overdraft fees than we do on books. We spend more in America on overdraft fees than we do on a postage stamp -- all of our postage stamps, all of our mailing combined. We spend so much money on these overdraft fees, they're a very important part of revenue for the banks, right? So they've been fighting to hold on to this.

These fed rules don't go in effect until July, so you have a great capacity to still be charged over the next few months. This is a line chart showing you how this has become so much more important to the banking sector. These are bank overdraft fees. Just about $10 billion in charges in 2004, now projected for this year $26 billion.

I mean (INAUDIBLE).

CHETRY: I mean, the other unbelievable thing that you and Gerri talked about is that it's the same people that keep over -- I mean it's a small segment. I mean, the majority of people (CROSSTALK) their account.

ROMANS: ... do not overdraw the accounts. The majority of people know -- maybe not to the penny, but they know that if they go and make five or six different purchases for $6 or $7 that they don't have the money in their account to do that, other people go and they make five or six different purchases and they get hit with a $39 charge five or six different times.

CHETRY: Unbelievable.

ROMANS: It's remarkable. So, you know, my advice on this is always think of it like a check. You can't bounce a -- you'll get a charge if you bounce a check, right? You're going to get a charge if you bounce your check that is your debit purchase and we just have to know how much money we have to spend. Because the banks are going to find a way to charge you for it. No matter what the rules are, they're going to find a way to -- to charge you for it.

CHETRY: It seems like common sense but it doesn't always work out that way.

Christine, thank you.

HOLMES: Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, we're going to be talking about the situation in Fort Hood, the man who stands accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood. Some are now asking the question is the military too politically correct? Could this have been avoided if they were not? Carol Costello, "Just Sayin'."

Twenty-four minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Twenty-six minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Information just in to CNN right now, the Associated Press is reporting that accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees are going to be headed to New York where they will face trial in a civilian federal court. And we don't have a timeline just yet. We are working our sources for more.

We're going to be speaking about the implications of this. Of course, one of the first steps in the president's goal of eventually shutting down Guantanamo Bay, but it also raises a lot of legal questions on how alleged and accused terrorists can be tried successfully in civilian court.

We're going to be speaking with defense attorney and former prosecutor Paul Cowan about this issue in just about five minutes.

HOLMES: Well, the warning signs were there, but they were missed. Army Major Nidal Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood gunman, had some radical views and apparently serious psychological issues. So why didn't he receive greater scrutiny from the military?

Carol Costello in Washington with a look in her weekly segment "Just Sayin'." Good morning to you. What are you talking about this morning, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, good morning. I am sure you have heard the charge. Political correctness is largely what really allowed Major Nidal Malik Hasan to escape detection and allegedly kill 13 people. Not only that, the same political correctness may be impeding our national security.

"Just Sayin' -- is it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: By the way, my friends...

COSTELLO (voice-over): Senator John McCain did what the military is urging Americans not to do, speculate about motive in the Fort Hood killings. But McCain did, calling the killings an act of terror and then...

MCCAIN: This may sound a little harsh, but I think we ought to make sure that political correctness never impedes national security (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: McCain is expressing concern about allegations Major Nidal Malik Hasan's superiors played down his extremist views because they didn't want to alienate a Muslim soldier.

He's not alone. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter on Baltimore's WBAL Radio on political correctness.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I mean, it's just, I think the -- the constant increasing menace of liberalism. We're certainly getting it from the Commander-in-Chief and...

RON SMITH, WBAL RADIO BALTIMORE: ... and from the Army -- Army Chief of Staff, George Casey -- General Casey. He said...

COULTER: (INAUDIBLE) and here I thought they didn't allow gays in the military. Shocking!

COSTELLO: "Just Sayin'" is our military too PC? Democratic Congressman and former Navy Admiral Joe Sestak says no. The military should be diverse and its leaders sensitive to minority soldiers.

REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Think about the stress they've gone under. The most deployments of any war we've had, the most stressful, I would argue, of any war for individuals going back three, four, five times and the longest of wars.

COSTELLO: The US Marine Corps rejects the notion Muslim extremists are hiding within its ranks for any reason. First Lieutenant Josh Diddams telling us bluntly, "The corps has not seen any trends that indicate individuals are any more likely to be involved in an incident based upon their religion."

A look at history seems to bear that out. In March of 2003, Army Sergeant Hasan Akbar, a Muslim, did kill two fellow officers in Kuwait. Court documents indicate religion was a factor.

But there are many instances of soldier on soldier killings when religion is not considered a factor. In May 2009, Sergeant John Russell allegedly killed five fellow soldiers. In 2004, Senior Airman Andrew Witt killed a fellow airman and his wife. And in 1995, Sergeant Will Kreutzer killed one soldier and wounded 18 at Fort Bragg.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: And those incidents weren't seen by our country's leaders as potential impediments to our national security, although some say maybe they should have been. Still, some conservatives fear political correctness is more dangerous because it allows obvious, suspicious behavior to go unchecked. And military investigators and the FBI are taking those concerns seriously.

I want to know what you think about this this morning. Is the military too PC? Write to me on my blog at CNN.com/AMFIX. CNN.com/AMFIX. We'll read some of your comments later on on our show. T.J.? Kiran?

HOLMES: Carol, thank you so much. We'll see you again here shortly.

CHETRY: Thanks, Carol.

Meanwhile, it's 31 minutes past the hour. We check our top stories.

Live pictures coming to us from Tokyo right now, where President Obama is on his first stop on a four-nation Asian tour. Right now we're awaiting a press conference with the Japanese president and the President. The Japanese prime minister and the President. Then they'll then head to a closed-door dinner on the agenda. We're going to be talking about money, trade, war, as well as North Korea and its nuclear threat. The next stop will then be an economic summit in Singapore, then China and South Korea.

HOLMES: The Republican National Committee's health insurance plan covers elective abortions for its employees. And RNC Chairman Michael Steele wants the provision stripped saying, quote, "Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose. The policy has been in place since 1991."

CHETRY: And Former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson will be sentenced in a federal court this afternoon. In 2005, investigators raided Jefferson's home and they say they found $90,000 in his freezer. Prosecutors are recommending he get between 27 and 33 years behind bars for convictions, including bribery and racketeering. But legal experts say that 10 to 20 years is more likely.

Well, the so-called balloon boy's parents are expected to plead guilty today. The charges connected to that alleged hoax had millions glued to their TVs and also used a little boy as a pawn.

Here's dad, Richard Heene's mug shot. He was charged yesterday with a felony. And this deal could actually keep him out of prison and his wife from being kicked out of the country.

Joining us now with more from Chicago, Attorney Paul Callan.

Paul, great to talk to you this morning.

PAUL CALLAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning, Kiran. CHETRY: So everybody remembers the video and we'll probably show it again of this Mylar balloon, you know, just flying through the sky and the moments of sheer terror when investigators and everyone believed that a little 6-year-old boy was possibly in there and had possibly fallen out. All because that's what his parents had claimed. As we take a look at what they could be facing now, do you think the punishment fits the crime?

CALLAN: Well, you know, it's hard to say. Normally in these cases, it's a very minor charge. It's a misdemeanor charge, making a false report. But remember, in this case, they disrupted air traffic at Denver International Airport. There were National Guard helicopters. The entire nation was riveted and terrified that this little boy was going to die. So I think this is really beyond the scope of one of these cases. It's really out of the box and warrants a far more serious punishment. So I can see why prosecutors are looking for a felony here against the father, which is an unusual approach in one of these cases.

CHETRY: Right. And the felony is, and maybe you can explain this charge a little bit more specifically. It says that he's been charged with attempt -- a class 4 felony. The father, Richard Heene, attempting to influence a public servant. What exactly does that mean?

CALLAN: Well, you know, this is a real stretch, Kiran, because usually in these cases it's only this misdemeanor of filing a false report with the police. So prosecutors are stretching. They're trying to come up with something that fits the fact pattern. And this charge is a charge that's usually used when you bribe somebody. You try to bribe a cop or high elected official. This felony applies. So they are stretching here.

And they are saying he tried to influence the public official by getting them to mount this massive search for his son. So I don't know. Could they win that if they went to trial on it? It would be a pretty tough win. But it's a negotiated plea, so he'll probably say enough in court in front of the judge to fit the statute and allow the judge to accept the plea.

CHETRY: You know, this is interesting, though, because you say that the prosecutor was, you know, took it seriously enough that he wanted to charge him with a felony. But as we understand it, they're not really recommending jail time, right? I mean, he could technically get 60 to 90 days in prison but most likely will recommend parole?

CALLAN: Yes, the advanced word on this through the defense attorney is that, yes, parole is the most likely outcome here. But I think you have to remember, Kiran, that there's no sure bet. When you appear in front of a judge in a high-profile case, anything can happen. I think Roman Polanski remembers that lesson. So, you know, there was a deal worked out in that case, too. But I think it's probably likely here that the judge will go along with what the prosecutor and the defense attorney wants. CHETRY: And then here's another interesting element. The wife, Mayumi is not an American citizen. She pleads guilty to a misdemeanor. Something was obviously worked out in that situation where the husband would plead to a felony. She'd plead to a misdemeanor because technically she could be deported if found guilty of a felony in the U.S.

CALLAN: Yes. Immigration laws in the United States are really tough on this. If you commit a crime that involves personal dishonesty or moral turpitude, you can be deported. So, you know, balloon boy and his family would be flying off to Japan to live the rest of their lives there if she were deported. So what they've done is they've worked out a situation where she's pleading guilty to a very minor misdemeanor, and they believe that immigration and nationalization will not force deportation based on that.

CHETRY: Right. All right, now I want to switch gears. This is something that just came in to us about 5 or 10 minutes ago that the Obama administration is saying that 9/11 mastermind, self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as well as four other Guantanamo Bay detainees are now going to be brought to New York City and that they are indeed going to face trial in a civilian federal court. This is according to officials speaking on anonymity. Apparently, the administration is going to announce this officially a little obit later today.

What are the implications of this? This is a big challenge. Obviously, you want to close Guantanamo Bay, but they face a lot of legal hurdles as they try to try these terror cases in a civilian court.

What do you think?

CALLAN: Well, this is huge. This is the biggest terrorist case that has ever come down the road in the United States. As you know, Sheikh Khalid was one of the masterminds of 9/11. And the other thing about this case that's different from a lot of these cases is that the administration has admitted that he was waterboarded. So the waterboarding and torture allegations will play very, very largely in a federal court. They'll play in a very different way than they would at Gitmo. So it's going to open interrogation techniques by the CIA to public scrutiny, to cross-examination. This probably will be a public trial for the entire trial. So CIA methods and operations could be exposed. This is very, very big that we're going to see this tried in a civilian court.

CHETRY: Yes. I know a lot of you, guys, are going to be -- lawyers, especially going to be watching this closely. It's fascinating, because apparently at least according to the reports there were some other detainees who are going to be tried before a military commission. So it's interesting on how they've decided which ones are going to go to federal civilian court and which ones are going to face a military tribunal.

We'll keep following this with you, Paul. Thanks so much for being with us this morning. CALLAN: Nice being here, Kiran. Thank you.

HOLMES: And we want to let you know and show you a live picture now of something we'll be keeping an eye on throughout the morning. And throughout the week, really.

Over the next several days, President Obama -- what you are seeing here is a live picture. That is the Japanese prime minister. This is happening in Tokyo, where the president, President Obama is making his first tri-- there he is -- first trip to Asia as president. First stop being Tokyo, Japan.

Having a press conference right now with the Japanese prime minister. This just started.

Our Ed Henry is there, travelling along with the president, certainly monitoring this along with us. We'll certainly keep an eye on this press conference and what the president will have to say and bring you any news that jumps out.

But, again, the president making his first trip to Asia as president. He has stop in China, stop in Singapore for the APEC Summit. And, again, like I mentioned, his first stop in Japan. We are monitoring this press conference. Bring you any news that just out. But right now, it's 38 minutes past the hour. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

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BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a sport centered around cars that get about five miles per gallon, NASCAR is an unlikely incubator for some eco-friendly practices. At races, all used tires are shredded. Each year, 180,000 gallons of oil and automotive fluids are recycled.

(on camera): The oil in a stock car could be used for, for what?

MIKE LYNCH, NASCAR GREEN INITIATIVE COORDINATOR: I mean, it can be used in fleets, in cars, recycled oil.

KEILAR: NASCAR races are like small cities: thousands of fans, thousands of cars, tons of trash. Only about one-third of NASCAR's race tracks recycle, though, official say all of them will within the next few years.

The sport is hanging much of the success of its greening efforts on changing the everyday behavior of its fans. And that's where the drivers come in.

BRIAN VICKERS, NASCAR DRIVER: I love enjoying the outdoors. And I want to make sure it's, you know, still there for my kids and grandkids.

KEILAR: Brian Vickers, driver of the number 83 car, is one of the sport's young talents. His personal car is a hybrid. Since NASCAR fans are infamous for their loyalty to the brands that sponsor their drivers, Vickers thinks he and others might be able to sell them on eco-consciousness as well.

VICKERS: There is a connection with this sport and its fans unlike any other. I think that presents an opportunity for this industry to make a bigger impact.

KEILAR: The potential is there, but even Jeff Gordon, one of the biggest names in racing, will tell you the sport needs to do more to sell fans on a greener lifestyle.

JEFF GORDON, NASCAR DRIVER: I think there's a lot more we can be doing, and I think that the fans would appreciate that.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, Richmond, Virginia.

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CHETRY: All right. And there is a live look right now at our president arrived in Tokyo today. And he's meeting with Japan's prime minister as well. They are giving a speech today. They're going to be talking about some major issues in terms of relations with Asia. Japan, in particular, as well as China and U.S. relations.

They're also going to be heading to an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore. He's talking about a lot of varying things with the president, including perhaps a more equal relationship with the United States. That's something Japan is trying to do. They are also trying to focus more on cementing their relationships with other Asian nations. And wanting to be a bit more assertive with the U.S. One of the big issues as we heard from our Ed Henry is U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Let's listen to a little bit about what our president is saying right now in Tokyo.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been looking forward to this trip for some time. I am only sorry that Michelle and the girls could not join us. The girls have been studying Japan in school. And so they have a great interest in Japanese culture. And hopefully I'll be able to bring them next time.

I want to thank the warm welcome that Prime Minister Hatoyama and the Japanese people have extended. I appreciate the graciousness with which you understood the delay that took place as a consequence of the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas.

Japan is my first stop as president in Asia. I began my trip here in Tokyo because the alliance between the United States and Japan is a foundation for security and prosperity, not just for our two countries, but for the Asia Pacific region. In a few months, we'll be marking the 50th anniversary of our alliance, which is founded on shared values and shared interests that has served our people so well and has provided peace and security for the region in an unprecedented way.

That anniversary, as Prime Minister Hatoyama pointed out, represents an important opportunity to step back and reflect on what we've achieved, celebrate our friendship, but also find ways to renew this alliance and refresh it for the 21st century. Both Yukio and I were elected on the promise of change. But there should be no doubt, as we move our nations in a new direction, our alliance will endure and our efforts will be focused on revitalizing that friendship so that it's even stronger and more successful in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. It's essential for the United States. It's essential for Japan and it's essential for the Asia Pacific region.

Throughout my trip and throughout my presidency, I intend to make clear that the United States is a pacific nation, and we will be deepening our engagement in this part of the world.

As I said to Prime Minister Hatoyama, the United States will strengthen our alliances, build new partnerships, and we will be part of multilateral efforts and regional institutions that advance regional security and prosperity. We have to understand that the future of the United States and Asia is inextricably linked. The issues that matter most to our people, issues of economic growth and job creation, nonproliferation, clean energy.

These are all issues that have to be part of a joint agenda, and we had very productive discussions about these issues this evening. It's true that because of the strength of our economic ties that was not the first item on our agenda, but we are fortunately going to have the opportunity to spend a lot of time discussing that in Singapore in the coming days.

As the world's two leading economies, we have spent a lot of time working together in the G-20 to help bring the world back from the brink of financial crisis, and we're going to continue to work to strengthen our efforts so that we can expand job growth in the future, and we will be discussing with our APEC partners how to rebalance our deep economic cooperation with this region to strengthen our recovery.

The Prime Minister and I discussed our cooperation on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I did thank the people of Japan and the Prime Ministers for the powerful commitment of a $5 billion over the next five years to support our shared civilian efforts in Afghanistan, as well as the commitment of $1 billion to Pakistan. This underscores Japan's prominent role within a broad international coalition that is advancing the cause of stability and opportunity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I shared with the Prime Minister our efforts in refining our approach to make it more successful in the coming year.

We discussed our shared commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately seeking a world without them. Since I laid out a comprehensive agenda in prague to pursue these goals, Japan has been an outstanding partner in those efforts, and together we passed a historic resolution, the security council last September. We are building a new international consensus to secure loose nuclear materials and strengthen the nonproliferation regime.

And to that end, we discussed both North Korea and the situation in Iran, recognizing that it's absolutely vital that both countries meet their international obligations. If they do, then they can open the door to a better future. If not, we will remain united in implementing U.N. resolutions that are in place and continuing to work in an international context to move towards an agenda of nonproliferation.

Finally, we discussed our partnership on energy issues and climate change. The United States and Japan share a commitment to developing the clean energy of the future, and we're focused on combatting the threat of climate change. This is an important priority for us. I know it's an important priority for the people of Japan, and we discussed how we can work together to pave the way for a successful outcome in Copenhagen next month, so I believe that we are off to a very successful start.

I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation during dinner, as well as we both travel to Singapore, and I am confident that we will continue to strengthen the U.S./Japan alliance so that it serves future generations. Thank you very much.

CHETRY: All right. There we heard from the President as he gave his speech in this joint news conference. They're going to be taking some questions as well, and again, this is his first full day in Asia as President. He's there in Tokyo, and again, he's going to be moving on to many other places, including departing for Singapore, heading to Shanghai, as well as Beijing, and finally ending in Seoul, South Korea, before moving -- returning back to Washington.

A lot of big issues on the table. As we've said before, countries like Japan and China have a huge, huge direct influence, especially economically as holders of some of $1.5 trillion of U.S. debt. Many security issues on the table as well with North Korea and their nuclear ambitions, so a lot to talk about, a lot to tackle, a lot of challenges as the a lot of challenges as the President makes his first trip to Asia as president of the U.S. -- T.J.

HOLMES: It's been a week since a Muslim army psychiatrist allegedly killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood. News of the massacre made it to the troops over in Afghanistan. While everyone is disturbed by the senseless slaughter, one U.S. soldier is finding it particularly troubling.

Our Chris Lawrence, live in Kabul for us this morning with this "a.m. Original." Chris, we appreciate you standing by there for us. What do you have? Hello to you.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, T.J. this is a man who was born and raised right here in Afghanistan, but he and his family evacuated shortly after the war started. Seven years later, he's come back as an American Muslim soldier.

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LAWRENCE (voice-over): The last time Muhammad Amiri was in Afghanistan, he was running for his life.

SPEC. MUHAMMAD AMIRI, U.S. ARMY: I used to live in Logor and Kabul.

LAWRENCE: That was 2001 with the U.S. launched an attack on the Taliban. The violence turned Amiri and his family into refugees, until they made their way to the U.S.

Seven years later, he's engaged an American soldier and now a U.S. citizen.

AMIRI: Today, I feel like -- today was my -- I just got married. (LAUGHING) I feel so happy.

LAWRENCE: But his happiness is colored by the shooting at Fort Hood.

AMIRI: I feel different a little bit because I am Muslim.

LAWRENCE: Specialist Amiri says, he feels like he's carrying the weight of what someone else did.

AMIRI: I feel bad because the Muslim measure, he's an officer, he did that, and people think that all Muslims are the same, but we have, in every religion, good people and bad people.

LAWRENCE: Other soldiers here can understand what happened but not where.

SGT. MAJ. LARRY TURNER, U.S. ARMY: Just kind of expect that when you hear in a combat environment, but being at home where you feel safe, secure, it's more of a shock.

LAWRENCE: Some of the shooting victims were scheduled to come here to Afghanistan. Those already deployed say time back home is when you relax and release some of the combat stress.

TECH. SGT. DWAYNE PYLE, U.S. AIR FORCE: It's kind of sad knowing that they can't let their guard down when they go back to the states.

LAWRENCE: Specialist Amiri hopes his fellow service members can look at him as he sees them.

AMIRI: White, black, Mexican, all the same. We are soldiers.

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