Return to Transcripts main page
Pakistani Arrests; Health Care Deal; Obama's Jobs Plan
Aired December 9, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, breaking news out of Pakistan. Five missing American Muslims reportedly under arrest in Pakistan. Authorities say this was no tourist trip. They were planning terrorist attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know that much of the training and the direction for terrorists comes from Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan.
ROBERTS: And hacked e-mails have global warming suspects lashing out, questioning the very science of climate change. But Al Gore is not fazed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had these record storms, record droughts, floods, giant fires, unprecedented, all over the world.
ROBERTS: A one on one with the former vice president.
First the Secret Service, now the TSA, another serious government security breach. How did secret airport secret information end up online -- a gold mine for terrorists?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's alarming and it's appalling. It's really unfathomable. I think this is the most serious security breach on TSA's part since its creation in 2002.
ROBERTS: Why does this keep happening?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN TONIGHT live from New York. Here now John Roberts.
ROBERTS: Good evening and thanks for being with us. Breaking news tonight out of Pakistan. Five U.S. Muslim students reported missing from the Washington, D.C., area have been arrested by Pakistani authorities. The FBI has been looking for the men for more than a week now, one of them left a farewell video complete with images of American casualties. Pakistani media reports say the group was taken from the home of an activist lynched to jihadi groups. Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has got the latest developments for us on this breaking story -- good evening, Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. U.S. officials say they don't know for sure that the five young men arrested in Pakistan are the five young Muslim men, U.S. citizens, age 19 to 25 who mysteriously vanished from northern Virginia last month. But one law enforcement official says we think it is, but we don't have a firm.
A Pakistani police official tells CNN he is confident they are one in the same. The deputy superintendent of police in Sargodha, Pakistan where the arrest took place says it looks like the men tried to link up with two militant organizations but were unsuccessful. The five who disappeared from northern Virginia include one Howard University student and as you mentioned, John, one of the young men left a video which was described as disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIHAD AWAD, NATL. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR: I recall the video is about 11 minutes. And it's like a farewell. And they did not specify what they would be doing. But just hearing and seeing videos similar on the Internet, it just made me uncomfortable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: According to the Council of American Islamic Relations, the parents grew suspicious about their son's whereabouts late last month. Their concerns were taken to the FBI. A law enforcement official says none of the five had ever appeared on their radar before -- John.
ROBERTS: Indication that they had become (INAUDIBLE)?
MESERVE: John, that very specific question was asked at the CAIR press conference this afternoon and this was part of their response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IMAM JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK, COUN. OF MUSLIM ORG. OF WASHINGTON, DC: Although these young people were active (INAUDIBLE), from all of our interviews, there's been no sign that they were in any way outwardly radicalized. That as far as of any of the youth leaders or the (INAUDIBLE) leadership has been concerned that there haven't been any reports that there was anything outwardly suspicious in their behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: A U.S. law enforcement official says their intent still isn't clear but current information leads them to believe that the young men might have wanted to wage jihad overseas rather than stage attacks here in the U.S. -- John.
ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us tonight from Washington -- Jeanne, thanks. We're going to have a lot more on this story and the potential threat from homegrown terrorism later in the program. Former White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend joins us.
Moving now to the debate over health care, President Obama today gave a thumbs-up the compromised plan hammered out in the Senate even though it fails to deliver on the public option. The big question mark, will liberal Democrats get on board without it? Dana Bash reports on the issue that could decide the fate of health care reform.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anxious to move forward on his top priority, the president praised a tentative deal to drop a public option from the Senate health care bill.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I support this effort especially since it's aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering costs.
BASH: That's the goal of the preliminary agreement hammered out in secret by 10 Democrats, five moderates and five liberals. Whether it will hold remains to be seen. One negotiator is already openly reluctant.
SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: But I am not happy with the possibility that there would not be a public option.
BASH: Instead of a government-run insurance option, a government agency, the Office of Personnel Management would oversee not-for- profit private insurance plans that appeals to moderates. Democratic sources tell CNN if that plan doesn't work, it would trigger a public option but that could scare away Joe Lieberman whose vote Democrats likely need.
He issued this statement underscoring his quote, "opposition to a government-run insurance option including any option with a trigger." To appeal to liberals eager to expand government-run insurance, Democratic negotiators included a huge change in Medicare allowing uninsured Americans ages 55 to 64 to buy into the program.
One estimate says four million people could be eligible. Data on how much it would cost to buy into Medicare under this plan is not yet available but a recent Congressional Budget Office study on 62 to 64- year-olds put premiums at a whopping $7,600 a year, $634 a month. Democrats say out of pocket costs under the plan wouldn't be that high because many people would be eligible for government subsidies starting in 2014. Still moderate Democrats are wary of adding more strain to already stretched Medicare.
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: A national concern is what is the affect on Medicare and Medicare solvency since Medicare is already headed for insolvency.
BASH: Now Democratic leaders were clearly eager to announce a tentative agreement last night to show that they have momentum, but several negotiators today, John, both liberals and moderates, they say they don't consider this a done deal yet. The reason is because they are waiting for something very important. That is the Congressional Budget Office to weigh in and how much all of this will be cost, we won't see the CBO report or estimate probably for at least five days -- John.
ROBERTS: In the meantime, the debate goes on -- Dana Bash for us tonight on Capitol Hill -- Dana, thanks.
BASH: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Health care, just one of the big domestic issues President Obama was focusing on today before leaving for Oslo, Norway. The president proposing to put billions of new spending measures on the table to help kick start the anemic job market. He wants to use bank bailout money to attack record-high unemployment, a plan that some Republicans are calling Stimulus 2. Elaine Quijano is at the White House tonight -- Elaine, are Republicans going to go for this?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know John, so far at least it seems Republicans are just not buying this at all. The president sat down today here at the White House with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders and afterwards Republicans came out and said pointblank, look, with the U.S. in trillions of dollars in debt right now, the government just cannot afford to spend money that it does not have.
They say doing so would create even more uncertainty particularly among small business owners as they try to make hiring decisions. Nevertheless, the president said with unemployment now in the double digits, something needs to be done and he took a jab at Republicans for opposing the stimulus months ago saying those were the kinds of steps that helped pull the economy back from the abyss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's no secret that there's been less than full bipartisan support for the Recovery Act and some of the steps that have (INAUDIBLE) economy. But my hope is that as we move forward, we can do so together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now today's comments marked the third time in a week that the president publicly focused his attention on the economy and creating jobs. Interesting, John, the president just left the White House here, heading overseas eventually to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, but the president before he did that wanted to clearly send the message that he remains engaged and very much focused on getting Americans back to work -- John.
ROBERTS: Elaine Quijano at the White House -- Elaine, thanks.
The president's plan could help small business owners stay afloat and grow and that means hiring. The president said small business has created 65 percent of all new jobs in this country over the past 15 years. Our Lisa Sylvester spoke with one small business owner who could be forced to let her employees go and shutter her doors if help doesn't come soon.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria de Lourdes Sobrino is the owner of Lulu's Dessert in Anaheim, California. She's been in business for 28 years, but the company may be forced to close next month, 45 employees losing their jobs unless Sobrino is able to get a new business loan.
MARIA DE LOURDES SOBRINO, OWNER, LULU'S DESSERT: I don't hear anybody receiving loans. I don't see myself receiving any loans. So it is urgent -- it is urgent for the president to do something about this.
SYLVESTER: President Obama wants to help small businesses like Sobrino's get loans to avoid mass layoffs and survive the recession. The White House is proposing eliminating capital gains taxes on small business investment extending write-offs to motive business expansion and creating new tax incentives for additional hiring. Congressional Democrats say President Obama is on the right course.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: He inherited an economy that was in total freefall and now the GDP numbers have improved, they're in positive territory. And the unemployment numbers are improving, but no one will be satisfied until we fully turn the corner.
SYLVESTER: Mr. Obama's job recovery plan would rely in large part on the estimated $200 billion in unused funds from the TARP program, originally set up to help struggling banks. Republican critics question how much it will ultimately cost taxpayers to spend our way out of the recession. Senator John Thune says Congress approved billions to stimulate the economy, yet the job losses keep stacking up.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Earlier this year the president and congressional Democrats pushed a nearly $800 billion stimulus bill that would, as they claim, keep unemployment under eight percent. We all know that unemployment is now 10 percent.
SYLVESTER: Maria De Lourdes Sobrino, the businesswoman we profiled, she needs a loan by next month to avoid cutting 45 jobs. She said of President Obama's plan, that is a good intention, but the question now is how does the administration executes that plan and how quickly. And many of the ideas that they are talking about, these tax write-offs and tax incentives, that's not immediate help. And she says what would really help her is more pressure on the banks to ease commercial credit -- John.
ROBERTS: All right, Lisa Sylvester for us tonight -- Lisa, thanks.
Now to the latest government security breach, this time by airport security officers, five TSA employees are now on administrative leave after highly sensitive screening methods somehow ended up online. The documents were electronically redacted, but with just a few key strokes, computer experts were able to unveil information that could have helped terrorists get around security measures at airports. The mishap was discovered after someone blogged about it. A former homeland security official says the information was gold in the hands of terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER HOMELAND SECY. INSPECTOR GEN.: It points out weaknesses in procedures that can be exploited. This really is a road map for terrorists and god knows the number of people to whom this manual was exposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Homeland Security Department has halted posting documents with security information online until a review is complete -- good idea.
Coming up, more on the news out of Pakistan, Americans accused of planning terror attacks overseas, also General Stanley McChrystal has the new battle plan for Afghanistan, find out why he thinks it's the right strategy for victory.
And warming up to Al Gore, the former vice president is brushing off the skeptics. He insists climate change is for real and you will hear from him coming right up.
ROBERTS: Negotiators from rich and poor nations met today at the U.N. sponsored climate change conference in Copenhagen. They are attempting to work how differences over sharing the responsibility to curtail global warming. But much of the attention is still focused on Climategate, the controversy over a series of leaked e-mails that many say cast doubt on the entire science behind global warming claims. One of the nation's leading voices on climate change, former Vice President Al Gore sat down with me and my "AMERICAN MORNING" co-anchor Kiran Chetry for an exclusive interview. I asked the former vice president about the implications of the e-mail controversy.
AL GORE, 2007 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: These are private e- mails more than 10 years old. And they have tried to blow it up into something that it's really not. Just to pick one example, some of those exchanges you're talking about had to do with years ago, whether or not a study that they thought was of poor quality and shouldn't belong in the scientific report should be excluded from the report. Well they had exchanges back and forth and it ended up in the report fully analyzed and discussed, so if you take one little thing from 10 years ago out of context and describe it inaccurately, then it becomes a controversy without any real substance.
ROBERTS: Some of them were from 10 years ago, but many of them were far recent than that, some as recent as least year. You know I talked with Professor Peter Liss, who is the interim director of the Climate Research Unit. He thought that in fact this would have some sort of an impact on public opinion, the people who weren't sure or were skeptical might become more so. What do you think?
GORE: Well that is a separate question. Is there any substantive reason to worry about them? No. Does the noise machine of the climate deniers blow them out of proportion and fool some people into thinking they have substance? Well that's another -- that's another matter and I don't know how to respond to that. Over time the scientific process whereby all these scientists pick over every detail openly and fully, that process works and that's the process they followed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know it's interesting (INAUDIBLE) book you talk about how it was harder to prove concrete or to have concrete examples several years ago. But as we have progressed in the years it's gotten easier and easier to point to data suggesting this, yet there are still people like Senator Inhofe, who is going to this Copenhagen summit who says that it's the greatest hoax every perpetrated.
When we talk about public opinion, it's dropped a little bit in terms of whether or not global warming is cause by humans. In fact, we asked it last year, 54 percent believed that. We asked it just last week and only 45 percent believe it. Is it frustrating for you to think that perhaps less people believe humans are responsible for at least some of our climate change?
GORE: Well again, if you put it in a longer context, 10, 12 years ago when the last of these big meetings took place virtually no heads of state went. There was still a raging debate on points that have long since been settled. Now more than 70 heads of state are going to be in Copenhagen. They're close to getting a final agreement.
It will probably be finalized next year after the political agreement. That's expected next week. But to the first part of your question, there is an air of unreality about the discussion of arcane points from e-mails from long ago. The north polar icecap is melting before our very eyes. It's been the size of the continental United States for most of the last three million years and now suddenly 40 percent of it's gone and the rest of it is expected to disappear within five, 10, 15 years.
The mountain glaciers all over the world are melting, many of them at a greatly accelerated rate threatening drinking water supplies. We have had these record storms, record droughts, floods, giant fires, unprecedented all over the world. The evergreen trees in the American West are dying by the millions because the warming trend is making them vulnerable to pests that they could resist in the colder weather in which they evolve.
Climate refugee flows are beginning and could reach the hundreds of millions, destabilizing political systems around the world. Sea levels are rising. These changes are now beginning to unfold right in front of our eyes. And the fact that they are distributed globally causes this problem to masquerade as an abstraction. It's not an abstraction for those who are being affected nor would it be for our children and others who will be affected unless we take action now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's interesting that you say -- you say it's not an abstraction. In your book, "Our Choice", you also talk about what needs to be done in moving forward. You say that you have to overcome changing the way we think, the costs of carbon and the political obstacles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now one of the political obstacles in the way is this economy. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of people are saying we can't afford to do anything right now. What do you say to that?
GORE: Well there's been an interesting consensus building around the world that actually one of the best ways to create millions of good new jobs and stimulate the economy is by investing in green infrastructure. When the world went into this global synchronized recession from which we are now thankfully beginning to emerge interest rates were so low that economic policymakers couldn't use that tool, so stimulus spending was the instrument of choice all around the world, and infrastructure spending was the favorite option.
Many countries devoted even far -- even larger percentages of that stimulus to building green infrastructure in China, South Korea, et cetera. They see these industries as the key industries of the 21st century. China will overtake the United States in wind next year, soon thereafter in solar. They're building the largest smart grid or super grid in the world. We have an opportunity to take these new jobs that are going to be created and plant them in local communities here in the United States and create millions of them. They can't be outsourced.
ROBERTS: All right. You know in the book you lay out sort of a blueprint for how we can solve some of these problems and you talked about solar and wind. But that can only handle a percentage of things. You also talked about nuclear power and the environmentalists pretty much put a bullet in any new nuclear power development years ago. And now they are coming out saying, well this -- this has to be a critical part of our infrastructure going forward. If they hadn't tried to kill nuclear power a couple of decades ago, how much further ahead would we be right now?
GORE: Just a brief point on the first part of your question, John. More sunlight falls on the surface of the earth in one hour than is necessary to provide the entire world's energy...
ROBERTS: But there are limitations with the technology.
GORE: Those limitations are yielding to dramatic improvements in the technology. But let me turn to your question about nuclear. What really led to the stop -- almost the stop in nuclear power was the cost. It's been going up 15 percent a year for 30 years. A $400 million reactor is now $4 billion reactor.
ROBERTS: A lot of that cost was because of environmental regulation.
GORE: Well, I'm not sure that's actually the case. Some of it was. But the environmental regulations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have long since been redesigned to the industry's liking. I'm not opposed to nuclear power, John. I don't believe that it was either the safety or environmental concerns that resulted in the primary obstacles that led to the industry coming to a standstill. It is the cost and where the global...
GORE: It is the demonstrated linkage between nuclear reactors and the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. These cannot be placed by the tens of thousands around the world without putting nuclear weapons technology in the hands of people who we really do not think should have it.
ROBERTS: Let's leave it there for a second. I think we got to take a break. And we'll come -- we got some questions from viewers who we have been soliciting over the last 24 hours, we'll put those to you right after the break.
ROBERTS: We're back now with more of my exclusive interview with former Vice President Al Gore on the controversy surrounding climate change and global warming. The former vice president answered a CNN viewer's question about natural climate cycles between ice age and warming and how what we are seeing now might be different.
GORE: Yes, that's a great question. There are natural cycles related to the sun, related to the planet's orbit around the sun and so forth. But those natural cycles are now overwhelmed by the fact that we are putting 90 million tons every day of global warming pollution into this thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet. The magnitude of the manmade changes has now overtaken and far surpassed the natural cycles and many of the natural cycles actually are pointing in the opposite direction. The manmade global warming is now so pronounced that it is not only overwhelming in magnitude, but it is reversing what would otherwise be the effect from the natural cycle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that goes along with what David in Arizona asked you. He wants to know, "please tell us what percentage of carbon dioxide is caused by human activity relative to other sources of carbon dioxide".
GORE: Well, the majority of it is caused by human activity. And a cutting edge study now quantifies the different causes of global warming. About 43 percent or almost half is from CO2, 27 percent a little more than a quarter is from methane. Then there is black carbon, also referred to as soot, which in some areas of the world is a very, very pronounced cause. And then you have the nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide and so forth. But the largest single source is manmade CO2.
ROBERTS: And Jim in Cleveland asks this question, he says quote "In worst case scenario what is the soonest that the planet could reach critical mass if global warming persists at the current rates." People have talked about a level of I think it's 350 parts per million...
ROBERTS: ... as sort of the threshold here. But he's wondering how much more carbon dioxide -- how many more greenhouse gases could be pumped into the atmosphere before it reaches critical mass -- that no turning back point...
GORE: Well in the view of many scientists, we have already reached critical mass if you define that phrase as reaching the point where there are going to be dramatic changes on the planet. I mentioned earlier the North Polar icecap is completely disappearing right now. We are at 389 parts per -- almost 390. And some scientists, as you said Kiran, say that 350 is probably the safe level we should shoot for.
They have already reached a kind of a compromise with the science and saying the best that the political systems can imagine doing is stabilizing at 450, which is way higher than many scientists think is a safe level. But the danger is that we will barrel through 450 and go way on up there, just making this an entirely different kind of planet from the one that had conditions that were conducive to the rise of human civilization.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which leads into my question about what you hope comes out of this Copenhagen conference. I mean even in best case scenario, you have the EEU (ph) promising more than President Obama may promise and he could still face a lot of pushback at home dealing with the wars and dealing with health care as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean how much is it a political reality?
GORE: Well I think this meeting sometime toward the end of next week, we will probably see a political agreement among the heads of state gathered there, including President Obama that will give instructions to the negotiators to fill in the details and get a binding treaty early next year. But in this political agreement they are shooting for, they will hope to also get specific commitments, country by country, to start the reductions process sooner than would start if we just waited for the treaty next year.
ROBERTS: Former Vice President Gore, it's great to catch up with you again.
GORE: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thanks so much for coming in.
GORE: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
ROBERTS: And please join me tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING". We are going to continue our conversation with Nobel Prize winner Al Gore about this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Barack Obama.
And coming up here next, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan believes Taliban insurgents there can be defeated. That exclusive interview coming up next.
And the recurring threat of homegrown terrorism, a group of Americans arrested in Pakistan. Were they planning to carry out attacks in this country?
ROBERTS: General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, is in Washington briefing congress on the new war plan and what the 30,000 additional troops are expected to accomplish in Afghanistan. And he sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN"s chief international correspondent Christian Amanpour.
CHRISTINE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You spend time talking about the inside of the head of the enemy. What do you assess their position is now? Are they getting tired? Can you change it in a reasonable amount of time? What do you assess their status to be?
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: I think it's an interesting question. Because I think it's two different schizophrenic ideas. They have been an able to rise and there is a crisis in the ability to secure them. At the senior leadership, there is a tremendous amount of optimism and confidence and we see that in their comments.
AMANPOUR: Because they are winning.
MCCHRYSTAL: And then we see also a tremendous amount of angst because at the lower levels, they have been forced out a number of areas, the increasing security that we create shows the Afghan people a better way and that is the Taliban can be pushed out. Their fighters are tired. We see a number that have made overtures to reintegrate back in the government. And they have safe havens. They are trying to exert their forces close to the fight but they are having tremendous problems and weakening and they are finding that problem.
ROBERTS: For more on General McChrystal's remarks and the outlook for the U.S. fight against the Taliban, we are joined by pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. Chris recently spent time in Afghanistan.
What do you think?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I hear the comments by General McChrystal, I think in some ways, he's right. There are elements of the Taliban that are weakening at the lowest levels. One of the questions will be what replaces the Taliban if you push it out? Some of the Afghans we spoke with said they were just as or more afraid of the war lords than they were of the Taliban. The war lords kind of ran the country before the Taliban came in and they still controlled parts on the country. You know, it's a nice idea to think that maybe some of the local groups can be empowered. But you have to keep an eye on them. You get to be a war lord by being a pretty nasty son of a gun. So there are people in Afghanistan who are concerned if you push the Taliban out of the areas, what is going to take its place?
ROBERTS: General McChrystal seems optimistic. Is that a view shared by everyone at the senior level?
LAWRENCE: It is but to varying degrees. They said that success is not guaranteed but it's possible. General David Petraeus to says it's attainable. Those aren't exactly ringing endorsements of confidence and in fact General Petraeus seems to be trying to tell the American people, look at the Afghan government now because it may get worse before it gets better as the government tries to root out some of this corruption and he does expect a surge in violence next summer when all the new forces get on the ground.
ROBERTS: Chris Lawrence for us tonight. Chris, thanks so much.
Turning to the breaking news in Pakistan, five American students arrested in that country. And Pakistani police now say they are confident the young men were planning terrorist attacks. This is the latest sign of what anti-terrorism experts call the most dangerous year in the United States since 9/11. Joining us to discuss the rising threat of home grown extremists, Frank Townsend. She's the former homeland security advisor for President Bush and she is CNN national security contributor.
Fran, great to see you. We don't know a lot about it. Does serious does it appear to be?
FRAN TOWNSEND, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: We have been worried as have our British allies about the men between 18 to 25 who are traveling to countries, they travel back. We don't know. Once they land in Kabul, we don't know where they go. So we worry about them traveling to the tribal areas. There is a push that goes back to when I was in the government, in the Bush administration to look at travel patterns and associations and try to understand who may be receiving this training. The people who are most difficult to track of course are U.S. citizens or those who come to the country who become legal permanent citizens because they get less scrutiny when they cross borders.
ROBERTS: There is a number of cases that popped up in the United States or at least in the United States in the last 12 months. And it brings up the topic of Islamic radicalism here at home. And the U.S. has been immune to it. And the secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano says that terrorism is here and we must now confront. Do you agree? Is it finally here? Have we become Europe?
TOWNSEND: I don't think it's that bad. I don't think it's so bad that we have become Europe. By and large, the Muslim populations move in the communities and become assimilated and while being true to their faith and religion of Islam. I don't think we have less of that integration problem. We have domestic radicalization.
ROBERTS: What is driving it then? If we are different than Europe, what is driving it here? Is it localized? Is it imported from abroad?
TOWNSEND: It's both. If it were just one it'd be a little easier to attack. You have the local problem with radical preachers indoctrinating young men who are impressionable but you also have it imported from abroad. The internet is wonderful in many respects but it also is a vehicle by which these guys train, recruit and create money.
ROBERTS: One extremism.
TOWNSEND: That's the down side of the internet.
ROBERTS: Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary whom you worked with in the Bush administration, says there is definitely a nexus to al Qaeda. He said, "You are beginning to see the fruits of the pipeline that al Qaeda built to train Westerners and send them back to their homelands." We don't know if that group of people -- if they are involved or terrorism or if they had plans to be involved or terrorism or where they were planning to carry out attacks. Was it in Pakistan? Were in Afghanistan or were planning to come back to the United States?
TOWNSEND: That remains to be seen by these investigations but we do know they were young men leaving the communities around the country and going back to fight in Somalia. And we know of a case in New York, an expatriate from Pakistan. We have seen all of these cases on the individuals in the country who are inspired, if you will, and radicalized whether by the internet of what they hear from preachers.
ROBERTS: How do you fight it at home? President Bush talked about draining the swamp of terrorism, and that was overseas. Here are the United States, the economy is -- the economics are different. People are well educated. How do you fight it at home?
TOWNSEND: That is where you have to rely on local communities. That is where you see the first indication of the radicalization, odd behavior. Someone removing themselves from their families and communities. And having those communities identify those who are outside the bounds, outside of norm. Look at the case of the ft. Hood, here is a guy way outside the norm, and saying and doings strange changes. You need local communities to spot bad behavior to talk to people.
ROBERTS: What is interesting in this, the Islamic group care came upon these people and worked with the FBI. Fran Townsend, thanks for coming.
Still ahead, more trouble for tiger woods. A U.S. congressman weighs in and one sponsor is backing away. And a game changer for the NCAA. Can a new bill mean the end of college bowl games in the beginning of playoffs?
ROBERTS: Tiger Woods' troubles don't mount. Pepsico is dropping a Gatorade bears his name. And commercials are off the air for the next few weeks. And chances of woods being awarded a congressional gold medal leads one congressman to drop his nominations. He has been embroiled in scandal after his car crash and a series of alleged extramarital affairs.
We turn now to more problems in the sports arena. A house sub committee passed a bill today that would force the NCAA to scrap the bowl system in favor of a playoff system. It could scrap the debate of who the team is. Part of the legislation reads like this, "It shall be unlawful for any person to promote, market of advertise a post season NCAA football game as a championship or national championship game unless that game is the final game of a single elimination postseason playoff system." Joining me now is the bill's sponsor Republican Congressman Joe Barton, Sports Illustrator reporter Pablo Torre. Good to see both of you tonight. Thanks for coming in.
Congressman, let me read the authority that is contained in the bill. We should point out this is not like the health care bill, it's only one page long. Under the authority section 22 you say, the competitions involve and affect interstate commerce and are therefore within the constitutional authority to regulate. Many people agree that there should be a playoff. They don't like the bowl system. But many people are saying, why is congress getting involved here?
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: Because the BCS has had 11 years to get it right. And they can't get it right because they insist of picking two teams arbitrarily to play in a so called national championship game. We don't say they should do away with the current bowl system. They could be a part of the playoffs. If you are going to advertise interstate commerce as a bowl championship series, it should be the result of a playoff.
ROBERTS: Many people agreed that the BCS got it right this year with Alabama and Texas coming up in the rose bowl. How much of an appetite is out is there to change the system? PABLO TORRE, REPORTER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: There is a change for the decade and this year might be coming to a head. The BCS's Ari Fleischer started a twitter account. And sure, it's not with reason for governmental intervention. Fans are for a playoff but as far as the government stepping in, the population is smaller.
ROBERTS: Back to the issue of whether or not it's the right thing for congress to do. BCS executive director Bill Hancock said, "With all the serious matters facing the country, surely congress has more important issues than spending taxpayer money to dictate how college football is played." And Congressman Joe Barrow Democrat of Georgia yelled out, "No" on the voice vote today according to some reports. He said, "With all due respect, I really think we have more important things to spend our time on." He doesn't like the BCS system itself. Don't you have more important things? Shouldn't it fall to the NCAA?
BARTON: Today we voted to add the word mound to a national Indian monument in Georgia. And we added Confucius' birthday. With all due respect we can multitask. I'm going to Copenhagen next week on the climate change issue. I'm right in the middle of a health care debate, the telecommunications debate. A multibillion commerce bill, and it's unfair. TCU, and maybe Florida, might argue they might be able to beat Texas or Alabama. If we had a playoff, we wouldn't have that argument.
ROBERTS: And for folks at home who might not know how it works, how is the national championship game chosen.
TORRE: It's chosen in theory by a BCS system. There are five bowl games. There is one title game and it's the top two teams in the country. And this year they got it right with Alabama and Texas. The bigger issue is the four games. The BCS conferences. The money conferences, they get an automatic qualifier to the games. The real thorn in the side of sports fans is not the competitive side of it. But is the Utah coming from the mountain west, are they coming from -- are they going to get a fair shake and opportunity to play in the games and the money and the revenue.
ROBERTS: And what about the polls and the computer ranking system.
TORRE: The BCS was created to improve on the science of polls and the split national championships. But so right now, it's a BCS ranking system that is a consortium like the AP poll.
ROBERTS: Easy to understand when you say --
BARTON: With due respect to what he just said, the BCS wasn't created to promote a championship. It was created to maximize revenue for the power conferences that make up the BCS and it does it well. It's effective.
ROBERTS: Let me is it ask you, is there too much many in the bowl system to change? BARTON: I don't think there is too much money. I would point out if it was about a national championship, then the championship game teams would get more money than the other BCS bowls, but they don't. It's the same for the BCS bowls, and as to why they won't change, I don't have a good answer for that. My only answer and it's a speculation, they like it the way it is and by golly, they don't want to change and it don't feel they have to change it.
ROBERTS: Is there time to go to a playoff system?
TORRE: I think so. And I think BCS defenders will say we won't interfere with the student studies. That's a farce. I think the representative is right. It's about money and the statement and the animating spirit behind it. There would be times, sure, if do you a plus one system if you don't want to go a full playoff with standard four teams and play to get to the national championship game, which would be a decent compromise for the fans who don't want it to drag out for 64 teams.
BARTON: The University of Alabama is letting school out for three days. In basketball, they play 30 regular season games and have a tournament that lasts over a month. In basketball, basketball teams play 60 games and then have a tournament that lasts a month.
ROBERTS: So you figure there is enough time to the season. I like the idea of a playoff system because you lost three words into the bull system. Thanks for coming in.
ROBERTS: Still ahead, we are going have the latest on the wild weather across the country.
ROBERTS: A powerful winter storm blasted hey snow and frigid temperatures across the Midwest today. A blizzard dropped 17 inches of snow in Wisconsin. Jacqui Jeras has more.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are seeing blizzard conditions in Michigan and occasional whiteouts. Check out the pictures from Wisconsin. They had 17 inches of snow. This is Madison, 17.2. And blizzard conditions throughout the day. Travel was nearly impossible. Many vehicles including semis for stranded and thousands of people without power. And Rochester, Minnesota, hard hit, 16 inches of snowfall there. And travel is dicey and not advised for tonight. And we could see drift between 8 and 15 feet. The storm is on the move and it's pushing through the great lakes and heading into the northeast for tonight. We will see strong winds in the east tomorrow. You are going to wake up and we could some significant travel delays here result of that. In the wake of this storm, it will be brutal cold temperatures. We could see wind-chill indices between 20 and 40 degrees below zero in the upper Midwest. And wind chill advisories have been posted throughout much of the night.
I want to leave was a favorite story of the day and this is out of Madison, Wisconsin as well. What do you do when you are stuck and there is no school? You have a snowball fight of course. They tried to break a world record. Thousands of students showed up for it. They didn't quite make it. And that record is held by Michigan Tech, 3700 students having fun in the snow.
ROBERTS: They can't go to school but can get together for a snowball fight.
JERAS: Sure, just outside the dorm.
ROBERTS: Jacqui thanks so much. Coming up at the top of the hour Campbell Brown continues her coverage of global warming, trick or truth. Hi Campbell.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there John. We are going to do that tonight but we are going to start with breaking news in Pakistan. Five Americans arrests, and police are confident they were planning terrorist attacks which brings up the question how big is the threat of homegrown terrorism. We are going to talk about that.
And as you mentioned, trick or truth. Will the e-mail scandal damage support Al Gore's crusade. What can President Obama expect to get out of his trip to Copenhagen?
And are parents who try to keep their kids clean with hand sanitizers and soap actually putting their kids at risk? A new study with some interesting results for you tonight John.
ROBERTS: Maybe you got have bad bacteria on our hands. All right. Campbell we'll see you tonight in about two and a half minutes from now. We will be back
ROBERTS: Thanks for being with us tonight.