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Scare in the Sky: Review of Screening Technologies Used in Airport Security; Same Flight, Second Scare; New Details on Northwest Bombing Suspect; Gift for Retailers: Holiday Sales Up; The New Rules of Flying
Aired December 28, 2009 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Joe Johns in for John Roberts. This is Monday, December 28th, 2009.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: 2009 -- just a few days left. I'm Randi Kaye in for Kiran Chetry today as well. Hope everybody had a lovely weekend.
JOHNS: You know, it's funny, no matter how far out you get from 2001, September 11th is always something to bring it back to your memory just like this past week.
KAYE: Yes, it sure has. It's been coming back real fast for a lot of people.
JOHNS: For sure. Here are the big stories we're telling you about in the next 15 minutes.
Right now, the Obama administration ordering a thorough review of security procedures after an alleged terror incident on Northwest flight on Christmas day. That suspect was on the government's radar. A source says he had enough explosives to blow a hole in the side of the plane. So, why was he allowed on it? We're live in Washington this morning.
KAYE: Plus, a second scare, the same flight, the same airport, sends emergency crews and bomb-sniffing dogs to greet the plane on the tarmac. This time there was no real danger but security is being ramped up for flights across the country. We'll tell you what to expect if you're heading to the airport this morning.
JOHNS: And protesters with car horns blaring clogged the streets of Tehran last night after a day of violence that left at least eight dead, including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. People may be putting their lives on the line to get the story out to you. We're getting the latest information.
KAYE: But first this morning, disturbing new details into the alleged terror incident over Detroit on Christmas day. Right now the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is in a federal prison. A court hearing is scheduled for today but he is not expected to attend. At the same time, President Obama is ordering a security review to find out how the suspect got a bomb past security in Nigeria and Amsterdam. Friday's scare resulting in new rules in the air and on the ground for millions of travelers and so many aren't sure what to expect on their returning flights. This morning, we'll break it all down for you.
Allan Chernoff in Detroit where this scare sparked a false alarm on another flight. But first, let's start with our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. She's live in Washington with the latest information this morning -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Randi, a source familiar with the investigation says the device made with the explosive PETN, was powerful enough to have blown a hole in the side of the plane and taken it down. So had it worked properly or had passengers and crew not responded so quickly, the results could have been catastrophic.
The overarching question remains how did it get on the aircraft? President Obama wants to know and has ordered a review of screening technologies used in airport security. In addition, he has ordered up a review of watch lists. How they're put together and maintained. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father went to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and raised concerns about his son's radicalization and although his name was placed in a database, he was not prohibited from flying or given additional scrutiny. Officials say that's because the information from the father wasn't specific or credible enough, but the review will try to determine if the criteria for classifying people and the risks they pose needs to be revamped.
Back to you, Randi.
KAYE: And, Jeanne, I understand that there are some questions now being asked about the air marshals after all this.
MESERVE: Right. We're told by the Department of Homeland Security that the use or an official with the Department of Homeland Security, that the use of federal air marshals has increased significantly since the events of Christmas day. Vacations have been canceled. Instructors and administrators are being put in the air. But a government official tells CNN that there was no air marshal on the same Amsterdam to Detroit flight yesterday when a sick passenger raised serious security concerns for several hours.
Representative Peter King says this was a clear failure of judgment and I'm quoting here. "There was a terrible mistake. It makes you wonder what in the world the administration is living in. If there was any flight that should have had an air marshal on board, it was the Northwest flight coming out of Amsterdam to Detroit."
In addition, DHS Secretary Napolitano is being criticized for some comments she made yesterday about air marshals on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's also reports out there that there were some budget cuts in the U.S. marshal program and that's why there wasn't a U.S. marshal on that plane.
JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, the federal air marshals are part of our system and, indeed, we share them and we share them -- they are posted randomly on different flights and as far as I know, on this flight, there was not one, but that was not the result of budget cuts. That's just a result of the fact that he happened to be on an airplane that didn't have one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: But current and former air marshals say the secretary is not correct. While air marshal assignments do have an element of randomness, assignments are largely based on intelligence and analysis of which flights are most vulnerable. Randi, back to you.
KAYE: All right. Jeanne Meserve on top of the story for us. Thank you, Jeanne.
And stay with us. We'll dig deeper into the alleged terrorist's past when we talk to Kemi Omololu Olunloyo. She's a former journalist in Nigeria who's been in touch with the suspect's family.
JOHNS: And a second scare on the same flight brought Detroit's airport to a standstill yesterday. Passengers on this Northwest Flight 253 watched as their luggage was emptied out onto the tarmac and sniffed by bomb-sniffing dogs, but officials say it turned out to be nothing serious.
Our Allan Chernoff is live at Detroit's metro airport working on this developing story. Good morning, Allan.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe. The false alarm shows how on edge airline crews and law enforcement are after the attempted bombing on Christmas day. As you said, it was the same flight, Northwest 253, Amsterdam to Detroit, a man described as a Nigerian spent much of the flight in the bathroom. That raised the suspicion of the crew. The pilot contacted his dispatcher at the airline and they told law enforcement, meet us once we arrive at Detroit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crew became suspicious or concerned because this individual kept going into the bathroom, and then he wouldn't respond and then he wouldn't come out. They radioed it in right away. At that point when the plane landed, he was taken into custody by both the airport police and federal officials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: The plane was surrounded by law enforcement. Law enforcement came on board and obviously for the passengers, it was quite concerning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEN RAUB, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 253: About an hour and a half before we came in, they said everybody's got to sit down, stay in your seats, nobody goes to the bathroom or anything like that, no standing up. So after all that, we just said OK. We got (INAUDIBLE). I figured it just came from December 25th thing that happened.
When they said they got somebody -- they're going to take somebody off that was a little panicky. That's just great. And then when I saw the police outside the window, I said, oh, oh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm. A passenger actually was sick, had food poisoning and that's why he spent much of the flight in the bathroom.
Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, law enforcement, nonetheless, checked out the entire aircraft. It was screened. The baggage also was re-screened. The passengers sat on that plane for a good number of hours and -- but fortunately everything was OK and that man who was detained was released last night and allowed to continue on to his final destination undisclosed by the way -- Joe.
JOHNS: Allan Chernoff in Detroit, thanks so much for that. Looks cold out there this morning.
And stay with us. This alleged terror plot casting a spotlight on Yemen, a poor nation with lawless areas prime for breeding terrorists. So what can be done to combat terror there? We'll talk about it with Peter Bergen, our national security analyst.
KAYE: Also new this morning, another air scare in Phoenix. The FBI says it released two men after being questioned by anti-terrorism authorities. Official say passengers on a U.S. Airways flight from Orlando to Phoenix said they were acting suspiciously. Both were described as Middle Eastern and speaking loudly to each other in a foreign language.
JOHNS: Car horns blared across the streets of Tehran last night as protesters clogged the streets following a day of deadly violence. Iran's state-run television saying at least eight people were killed in riots in Tehran and other cities in the religious holy day of Ashura (ph). Tehran said more than ten of the victims were members of the anti-revolutionary groups.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew was among the victims. This amateur YouTube video claims to show his body, but CNN could not immediately verify that. The violence is the deadliest since Iran's disputed elections in June.
KAYE: And checking the time for you right now. It's about 6:08. Let's get a quick check of this morning's weather headlines.
JOHNS: And we're going to turn to Reynolds Wolf in the extreme weather center. Good morning, Reynolds. REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, a lot of people are going to be enjoying an extended holiday, so to speak. For the millions of Americans that do have to go out and about either by going to air travel or by making the way down the roads, you have to know about the forecast.
Very quickly we're going to pinpoint one area where we're going to have a bit of concern in terms of some snowfall. Let's send it to parts of the northeast where it looks like up towards the Finger Lakes region and upstate New York you could see from now through tomorrow afternoon up to a foot of snow in some places.
Now coming up, we're going to let you know how that may affect your travel coming up in just a few moments so sit tight. Let's kick it back to you guys at the desk in New York.
JOHNS: I would say a foot of snow would affect your travel.
KAYE: Just a little bit.
WOLF: More than a little bit.
WOLF: Yes. Tendency to do that.
JOHNS: All right. We'll check back with you.
KAYE: Thanks, Reynolds.
WOLF: You bet, guys.
KAYE: Much more ahead for you this morning. We're learning more about the man behind the Detroit scare. Coming up, we'll talk to a friend of his family in Nigeria.
JOHNS: It's 11 minutes past the hour. And that means it's time for an "A.M. Original," something you'll only see on AMERICAN MORNING. But first, a quick check of what's new this morning.
KAYE: Returning now to our developing story and the investigation to what may have allegedly driven Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to try and blow Northwest Flight 253 out of the sky.
Joining me now, Kemi Omololu Olunloyo, a former journalist in Nigeria. She's been in touch with the suspect's family and knows them well.
Good morning, Kemi.
KEMI OMOLOLU OLUNLOYO, SPEAKING WITH SUSPECT'S FAMILY (via telephone): Good morning, Randi. Nice to hear from you again.
KAYE: Tell me, how well do you know the suspect's family and have you had a chance to speak with them since this incident occurred?
OLUNLOYO: I know you did describe me as a friend to the family. I'm not technically a friend to the family. I know the father very well. I know the dad very well. And I spoke to a member of the family over the weekend who was actually connected to me through some high-level media people in Nigeria whom I spoke to a close member of the family who spoke to me on condition of anonymity and the information he gave me was very, very, very, very serious, concrete information.
KAYE: What did he tell you?
OLUNLOYO: Mr. Umaru Mutallab is the father of the accused, and Mr. Mutallab is a well known figure in Nigeria. Everyone has heard that.
He was the first bank chairman. First Bank of Nigeria is the oldest bank in Nigeria and he was the chairman for years. A very caring, loving father who actually is also very caring about the community. First Bank is just probably one of the oldest banks that's left after the bank crisis in the '90s, and he really made sure he saved people's money and losing all their savings. He cares about people.
KAYE: Tell me how he's handling this story now about -- in the news about his son?
OLUNLOYO: He's very upset. He's very, very upset. This young man has brought him shame. He has brought the country shame.
We have a lot of problems in Nigeria. Many Nigerians accept these problems and some don't want to accept it. We have a problem of extremism and radical behavior in Nigeria, particularly in the north. No one is saying that Muslims are the only ones that are radical, but we have to really face the truth. I mean, this kind of behavior has cost so much in Nigeria. The Miss World pageant they had to move that because of all this fighting and radical behavior.
KAYE: Do you --
OLUNLOYO: This man is very upset.
KAYE: Do you know what made his father think that he was looking to do jihad or had been radicalized?
OLUNLOYO: That is so unheard of. Randi, everyone is talking about this. If my children were radicalized, I don't know if I would even tell the school principal.
But this man didn't go to the British embassy. He didn't go to the Italian or the Yemeni embassy. He went to the U.S. embassy for God's sake and something could have been done. Something could have been done.
I am in Canada and this plane was about to blow up on Canadian air space. CTV is telling me this whole drama started right here, and if that plane had landed or blown up, you know, on top of Windsor, which is, you know, Windsor, Ontario, which is bordering Detroit, we would have had the same thing as Pan Am 103. If this Pan Am 103 blew up on top of Scotland and people have to know that, you know, when this man went to the embassy, something is missing. And I'm appealing to Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security. Miss Napolitano is an excellent great individual who really needs to dig further, you know.
KAYE: Well, we're going to be speaking with her.
OLUNLOYO: Because something is wrong.
KAYE: We're going to be speaking with her later, Kemi. We appreciate your insight though as well and thanks so much for joining us this morning.
OLUNLOYO: Thank you, Randi, for having me. Have a good morning.
JOHNS: Coming up, we're "Minding Your Business." There's actually more good news for the economy. Apparently people actually spent just a little bit more money this Christmas season.
KAYE: We're going to break it all down for everybody, I guess, huh?
JOHNS: It's still early.
It's 18 minutes after the hour. And that means time for "Minding Your Business."
KAYE: All eyes on Apple this morning. The company's stock will open at an all-time high this morning after rumors it is set to announce its next blockbuster, the tablet computer. It's described as a cross between a laptop and the iPod touch. Bloggers are already calling it the "iSlate" and that domain name is already gone. Of course, Apple is saying nothing until an expected announcement on January 26th.
JOHNS: And Las Vegas is trying to keep the high-rollers rolling longer. Two Sin City casinos are opening new hotel towers today. Planet Hollywood is opening more than 1,200 rooms in the Planet Hollywood Towers, while the Hard Rock Hotel is adding nearly 400 rooms in the Hard Rock Hotel Tower. Executives say they're both gunning for the upscale visitor.
And speaking of upscale visitors...
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very nice.
ELAM: I like that.
JOHNS: Stephanie is here.
KAYE: It was not scripted.
ELAM: Off the cuff.
JOHNS: That's for sure. It may have been a very merry Christmas or a pretty merry Christmas for...
ELAM: How about merrier than last year?
JOHNS: Well, anything.
KAYE: That's saying much, I don't know.
ELAM: I mean, if you take it to account the fact that there was that massive winter storm the last weekend before Christmas, I know retailers were probably, like, biting their nails. Well, actually, it looks like things have turned out OK for them.
Let's take a look at what we're talking about here: 3.6 percent, that's what sales were up for the period of November 1st through December 24th. There's actually one extra day in that period, so they're saying, if you factor out that day, it's about -- better by about 1 percent.
But look at last year, it was down 3.4 percent. That was really, really painful. People had not adjusted their inventories, had too much product out there, people were in dire, dire straits. And so, that was really hard.
So, if you take a look at that, unemployment still very high in this country, still double-digit unemployment. But things are a little more stable this year. That helped out here.
Online sales rose 15.5 percent. A lot of that fueled by the fact that people just couldn't go anywhere the last weekend, so that last weekend before Christmas really helped out there. Still making up less than 10 percent of all retail sales.
Electronic sales were up nearly 6 percent.
Take a look at jewelry sales, too. They were down -- on the upside here by 5.6 percent, but compared to last year, when they were down nearly 30 percent, that's much better. Clearly.
Apparel still weak. Department store sales down 2.3 percent.
And gift cards don't look that strong which could be an indication about what could happen in January. But I don't know about you, but I went to the mall a few times while out in California, (INAUDIBLE) Stanford Shopping Center right by Stanford University, got a parking space easily every single day.
ELAM: Now, I don't know if that's because they're all Google people and they order everything online, but it was very easy to get a parking spot.
JOHNS: At a risk of getting some hate mail from some retailers, people are saying that they're out shopping for bargains and they're seeing a lot of junk.
ELAM: Well, you know, part of the issue, too, people saw that the inventories were adjusted. Last year, they had too much on the shelves. This year, they did not put as much on the shelves and so, because of that, if you didn't get out early to get what you wanted -- ouch, you couldn't find it.
ELAM: So, that's part of the issue for a lot of people, too. So, people going back now and exchanging and hoping to get what they wanted.
JOHNS: No Zhu Zhu pets.
ELAM: No. Yes, I keep hearing about those things.
JOHNS: Yes, I know. They're battery-operated rats.
ELAM: Why does anyone want that?
KAYE: Please explain.
JOHNS: No, I tried to find them.
ELAM: I would welcome anyone to come to New York City, visit the subway.
ELAM: We have our own brand of them. They're great. You don't need to do that.
JOHNS: All right. Thank you so much, Stephanie.
KAYE: Thanks, Stephanie.
JOHNS: All right.
KAYE: Much more ahead this morning. Will Yemen become the next front in the war on terror? We're digging deeper. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KAYE: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Friday's alleged terror attack means big changes for you in the air and on security lines. Our Jim Acosta is live with the new rules in just a moment.
JOHNS: But first, a CNN exclusive. The hero passenger who took down the terror suspect, Dutch filmmaker Jasper Schuringa revealed to our Fredricka Whitfield what happened aboard Flight 253.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Did you help take the image or did you also help subdue the suspect? Which is it?
JASPER SCHURINGA, HELPED SUBDUE TERROR SUSPECT: Well, basically, like I reacted on the bang and then suddenly there was like there were smoke in the cabin and so, people are screaming, "Fire, fire," and the first thing we -- like we all did -- is to check where the fire was. So -- and then I saw the suspect and he was on the seat.
WHITFIELD: So, how many rows back were you?
WHITFIELD: How many rows back were you? You were behind the suspect when this smoke...
SCHURINGA: No, I was -- I was on the right side of the plane and the suspect was on the left. There were quite some seats in between. So, when I -- when I saw that suspect, he was getting on fire and, you know, I freaked, of course, and without any hesitation, I just jumped over all the seats and I just jumped to the suspect and -- because I was thinking like, he's trying to blow up the plane.
And so, you know, I was trying to search his body for, you know, any explosives and then I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking out of him and I tried -- I tried to put out the fire and then when I did that, I was also restraining the suspect.
And then the fire started beneath his seat. So I waved my hands and everything. You can see it's a little burned. I put out the fire and then other passengers helped me as well. And, of course, I was screaming for "Water, water" because we really had, you know, fire in the plane is not that good, of course.
And so -- but then the fire was actually getting a little worse because of what I did, I did extinguish the fire. So, I grabbed the suspect out of the seat because if he was wearing any more explosives, you know, it would be very dangerous because he was almost on fire.
And when I grabbed him from the seat, the cabin crew came and they came with fire extinguishers and they got clear of all the flames. And just to be sure, like I grabbed him with other attendants and we took him to first class, and there we stripped him and contained him with handcuffs. And so -- and we made sure he had no more weapons, no more bombs on him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: That's our Fredricka Whitfield talking to Jasper Schuringa.
There are big changes in the sky and on the ground since Friday's attempted attack. The Transportation Security Administration says these changes are already in place, but won't be more specific. And some will be different, depending on the airport.
What are they and how do they affect the way you fly?
Our Jim Acosta joining us now live from Washington.
Good morning, Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe.
You know the message from the TSA this morning appears to be "expect the unexpected" and that is for good reason. The TSA says they don't want folks to actually know what is coming at them when they get to the airport over the next several days. And originally, it was thought this was only going to affect people flying on those international flights, but it's also affecting those domestic flights as well.
And whether you're traveling at LAX or LaGuardia or even here at D.C. National Airport, Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, you may encounter some long lines and we're hearing that from passengers across the country this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last hour we come in, we had to make sure we were seated, had nothing on our lap, no pillows or blankets. It was a bit strange I thought, but just I think precaution for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing that was different was that coming into the plane in Mexico City, they search all of our bags individually, the security guys, and then they searched us like a body search, each one of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And so, what are some of these changes that are going to be happening over the next several days? Well, passengers should be ready for extra pat-downs and security. That is something that passengers have not seen in a very long time. Not only at the security screening areas as you enter the gate areas, but sometimes, at the gates themselves. So be ready for that.
What also may be happening to passengers, they may be told that they can't have items in their laps one hour before landing on their flights. And that is something that we're not just hearing on international flights, but from travelers on those domestic flights as well. That's something we haven't really seen a whole lot of since 9/11. So, that is a brand new change for many, many travelers out there. They may not see that one coming.
And then, also, this one is not going to go over well with a lot of passengers out there over the next several days, you may not be able to get up on your flight one hour before landing. We're hearing some anecdotal evidence that is happening on domestic flights as well.
And keep in mind: that these changes are not going to happen at every airport and on every flight. These changes are going to vary according to TSA officials depending on what flight you're on -- and that is on purpose. They want people to sort of expect the unexpected, not see these changes coming.
And the idea is, Joe, is to keep the bad guys off guard when they're getting on those flights. They don't want to know -- they don't want anybody getting on these flights to cause trouble to know what may be coming -- Joe.
JOHNS: That's our Jim Acosta, live in Washington, D.C., this morning -- thanks so much, Jim.
KAYE: It is 6:30 and that means time for this morning's top stories.
Sources tell CNN the suspect in the alleged terror plot on Christmas Day had enough explosives on him to blow a hole in the Northwest aircraft. This morning, the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is out of the hospital and being held at a federal prison south of Detroit. There is a hearing set for this afternoon, though Abdulmutallab is not expected to attend that.
JOHNS: President Obama is expected to make a statement this morning on the alleged terror incident. The administration promising tighter screening procedures now. Passengers flying into the U.S. can already expect increased pat-downs and bag searches as you just heard from Jim Acosta. You'll also have to remain seated a full hour before landing.
KAYE: Another deadly suicide attack in Pakistan. Police say a second blast in Karachi in less than 24 hours killed at least eight people and wounded 30. The target was a Shiite religious procession.
JOHNS: Returning to our developing story, and the alleged attempt to bomb Northwest flight 253. The 23-year-old Nigerian suspect was known to authorities, yet he was still able to board a flight with explosives.
We're also learning Yemen, a lawless place just south of Saudi Arabia, may have played a role in the Christmas day plot.
Joining me now live, Peter Bergen, our national security analyst for CNN.
Peter, good morning.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good morning, Joe.
JOHNS: Were you surprised at all to hear this suspect allegedly had ties to al Qaeda and Yemen as well?
In the slightest, Joe. Although this is a new development in the sense that the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has, you know, attacked American targets, "USS Cole," the U.S. embassy on a number of occasions. Also attacked western targets in Saudi Arabia.
What is new here is an out of area operation. Similar to the kind of thing that al Qaeda central might launch from its base on the Afghan-Pakistan tribal regions. So this -- this is new, but the fact that it reaches back to Yemen is -- I don't think it's surprising. And the modus operandi of this guy and the Detroit plot is very similar to an attack that happened in Saudi Arabia on August 28th when an al Qaeda member tried to kill Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is the leader of this counter-terrorism forces in the Saudi Kingdom.
Very similar in the following ways. One, concealed plastic explosives, specifically PETN, in his clothing that got through metal detectors, blew it up, killed himself, did not manage to assassinate the Saudi prince who was the target. But this looks very much like a dry run for what we already saw for -- in Detroit. And I would not be surprised if the same al Qaeda cell in Yemen did both of these attacks and perhaps even the same bomb makers, as making a PETN bomb, which military-grade explosives. It's not something you can pick up on the Internet. It's something a skilled bomber would make.
JOHNS: Right. And PETN is essentially something that you see again and again associated with al Qaeda.
BERGEN: Yes. Also, we saw it in the Richard Reid attack eight years ago, almost exactly, when in his sneakers he had a PETN detonated bomb which obviously didn't luckily go off the way he wanted it to. And it's actually not something you do see in a lot of terrorist attacks. But we have seen it as an al Qaeda signature. So that also really reinforces for me that this will be traced back to al Qaeda in Yemen -- Joe.
JOHNS: Now another thing, the alleged Fort Hood shooter reportedly had ties to a radical cleric based in Yemen, "USS Cole," which you said was bombed in a port in Yemen back in 2000. How significant is the presence of terror networks like al Qaeda in Yemen?
Is this something the American government is becoming increasingly concerned about?
BERGEN: Well, I think the American government has been concerned about it since at least 1998 when a group of Americans were kidnapped there along with other Western tourists. That concern became very pronounced after the October 2000 "Cole" attack, and I think it's getting more and more pronounced now.
And we've heard from David Petraeus, who has just been over there recently, the head of CENTCOM, which is the military command for all countries in the Middle East.
We've had high-level visits by John Brennan, who is President Obama's counter-terrorism advisor. A lot of discussions with this Yemeni government about returning Guantanamo detainees. Some of whom have actually returned to the battlefield unfortunately. One of the leaders of al Qaeda in Yemen is a Guantanamo releasee. He may have been killed in a recent Yemeni air strike. That air strike was undoubtedly down with U.S. Intelligence help. So there's clearly some level of cooperation with the Yemenis.
Unfortunately, the Yemeni government has two civil wars going on effectively that it has to deal with. It's a very poor country, a very weak central government, heavily armed population, very tribal, geographically, topographically. It looks a lot like Afghanistan. It's Bin Laden's home country. That's where his family originates from. So it's sort of a place that al Qaeda, you know, finds pretty amenable to be located in.
JOHNS: There's also been talk about this latest suspect being on a watch list. Could you give us some idea once and for all about the difference between a watch list and a no-fly list? And why he wasn't on the no-fly list?
BERGEN: Well, no-fly list, you know, is you cannot fly anywhere, and that is a pretty small list. The database that this guy was on, numbers up to 500,000 people that could get you into being a selectee for secondary screening. That didn't happen with this guy. Because if he had a real secondary screening, meaning full pat-down, swabs for explosives, this thing would have -- this explosive device would have shown up.
So, you know, the universe of people on the TIDE terrorist database is very large. Universe people on the no-fly list is very small. Then the problem might have been that, you know, the fact that his father had flagged him as a potential problem to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, you know, that isn't necessary enough to get you on the no-fly list.
But, unfortunately, what should have really happened with this guy, you know, he should have been put into secondary at Amsterdam Airport. Clearly, that didn't happen.
JOHNS: Peter Bergen, you've been doing double and triple duty ever since this story broke. Appreciate that. A great resource for CNN.
BERGEN: Thank you, Joe.
JOHNS: Massive protests in Iran. The government cracks down. We'll get the latest on the situation in a live report.
KAYE: Plus, the investigation into the Detroit terror scare stretches to London. What police are searching for inside the suspect's home?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHNS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
We're covering all sides of the alleged terror incident on a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit, Saturday.
KAYE: In London, British police combing through suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's last known address. Britain's home secretary has confirmed that he was denied a student visa and placed on a UK watch list back in 2008. The worldwide resources of CNN take us to Phil Black live in London with the latest on the international investigation.
Good morning, Phil.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Randi.
For a third day now, police working in an apartment in the building behind me. This was the last-known address of Abdulmutallab when he lived in London as an engineering student. This was between September 2005 and June 2008. He studied here. And police are working with security agencies to essentially build a picture of his life in this city during that period of time to determine to what extent, if any, he was influenced to carry out the Christmas Day attack.
Was he radicalized or recruited during that time? These are the sorts of things that police are working to try and establish. The suspicion by the British government is that this was not an attack that he carried out alone. The question though is, does he have accomplices that could still be in this city?
And as you mentioned, the British government has confirmed following a failed VISA application. This is after he left the country as a student. He wanted to come back to study again, or so he said, made an application. That application for that VISA was rejected on the grounds that the college he claimed to be studying at simply didn't exist. And as a result, as part of standard British policy, he was placed on a watch list. And we are told that information should have been shared with U.S. agencies.
KAYE: And, Phil, it seems as though he led a pretty privileged life style. What are you able to tell us in terms of his life before all of this happened?
BLACK: He certainly did lead a privileged lifestyle, indeed. From a very wealthy family in Nigeria. He studied at a British International School in Africa. And while studying there, I want to show you some pictures. He took a number of school excursions to London. We have images taken by a schoolteacher back then of him standing in front of Buckingham Palace, in front of British Parliament. The teacher that we've spoken to says that even back then, he was a fiercely religious young man. He was devote. His nickname among his classmates was The Pope, which is unusual for a Muslim, but it was because he had this saintly err about him. He was, however, considered to be intelligent, capable, curious, tremendous potential. But even at that stage he showed sympathy for extremist thinking. And in class discussion was known to advocate and defend Islamic extremist movements like the Taliban. His teacher at the time, though, thought that that would just be a phase that he would eventually grow out of.
KAYE: Fascinating detail given the charges that he's looking at today.
Phil Black for us live in London. Thank you.
JOHNS: Another developing story this morning. Iran's state-run television saying at least eight people were killed in riots in Tehran and other cities during yesterday's religious holy day of Ashura. Iran claims many of the victims were members of anti-revolutionary terrorist groups, and today arrested several aides to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. According to an opposition Web site, Mousavi's nephew was among the victims. This amateur YouTube video claims to show his body, but CNN could not immediately verify that.
A lot of people wondering this morning will the death toll rise, and is more violence to come?
Reza Sayah has an "A.M. Original" monitoring all the information coming in to us live from the CNN center in Atlanta.
Good morning, Reza.
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe.
What an extraordinary weekend in Iran. Wide-scale protests and clashes based on the amazing video that's coming into CNN based on witnesses we've been speaking to for the past 48 hours. These were some of the most intense protests, some of the most fierce clashes we've seen since the disputed election back on June 12th. Things culminated on Sunday. Sunday turned out to be one of the deadliest days since June 12th.
According to state-run TV in Iran, at least eight people were killed. But one agency in Iran saying the killings were staged in order to take advantage of public sentiment. The reports in Iran from state-run news agencies citing police saying not a single gunshot was fired. But, again, based on video we're seeing, based on witness accounts, there were several gunshots fired.
Among the dead, and this could be a turning point in the post- election turmoil in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew. Mir Hossein Mousavi, of course, the opposition leader. And new information coming in to CNN is that Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew's body, according to an opposition Web site, has been lost. Look for that to add fuel to the fire of the opposition movement.
The intensity of these protests, as we mentioned before, has been ratcheted up on several occasions. Videos showed protesters actually outnumbering security forces, and on several occasions, attacking them. Extraordinary variety of protesters, men, women, young and old, the protests not limited to Tehran. There were reports of protests in Tabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad and Iraq.
And according to police in Iran, 300 people arrested. The arrests and the crackdown by the Iranian government drawing strong condemnation from the German foreign minister, the French foreign minister, and the White House -- Joe?
JOHNS: Reza Sayah monitoring the situation from Atlanta this morning. Thanks so much for that.
KAYE: It is 6:45 right now. Reynolds Wolf will have this morning's travel forecast right after the break.
And in ten minutes, don't have a corkscrew for that bottle of wine? Well, don't worry. That guy right there, yes, he has a very unique solution to the problem.
KAYE: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
Time for an AM House Call checking the stories about your health. Doctors have discovered the first U.S. case of highly drug-resistant tuberculosis. A report from the associated press says deadly diseases like TB along with malaria and HIV mutating quickly and spreading across the globe, and the reason seems to be overuse and misuse of the very drugs that are supposed to actually make us better.
And new research may explain why tumors can grow back even after they've been removed. A study at New York's Medical Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found tumors send out tiny cells call cyst which can reproduce the tumors. Researchers hope to find new drugs to stop the cancer from spreading.
And there's new research on how stress can hurt the human brain. A new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows chronic stress can speed up memory loss in older people who already have some loss of mental function, but stress didn't affect memory in older people whose brains are functioning normally, so Joe, I guess since you're so highly stressed.
JOHNS: Yes. I know a little bit about stress.
KAYE: Notice the sarcasm there. Your brain must be highly functioning, because I've never seen you stressed, actually.
JOHNS: Oh, sure. I just go to the gym all the time.
JOHNS: Even 1:30 in the morning.
KAYE: Before this show. You are my hero, I'll tell you.
JOHNS: It is 49 minutes after the hour. Let's get a check of this morning's weather headlines. Reynolds Wolf is in the Extreme Weather Center. Good morning, Reynolds. I'm sure you were in the gym as well this morning at 1:30.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Still flexing, man, still flexing.
KAYE: Oh, yes.
WOLF: Still feeling it. That's right. Who needs orange juice when you can work out? We're working out some snowfall in parts of upstate New York. Some places between now and tomorrow afternoon could see up to a foot of snowfall, and to the average person, a foot of snowfall will really just make you rip your hair up, but I'll tell you up in upstate New York in Syracuse, it's a common thing this time of year, no big deal. They're going to be cleaning it up. It's going to be hindrance.
It is also going to cause some problems along parts of 81 and even along 393 travelers. Now, out of a little bit more to the West in Michigan, big problem we're going to have is lake effect snowfall, there also for parts of I-75. Strong winds too may make it tough for very high profile vehicles, semi trucks, busses, that kind of thing, could be a problem. Big shot of cold air moving into the Central Plains. Look some scattered snow showers out to the West in the Cascade (ph).
Same deal for California. Pretty nice in parts of, say, the Southern and Central Plains and the Southeast, but your travel problems again all pointing up to New York where the high is going to be 39 degrees, 43 in Memphis, 52 in Las Vegas, and 68 degrees in Los Angeles. That is a snapshot of your morning weather. We're going to have more coming up throughout the day. Let's kick it back to you guys in New York.
KAYE: All right. Thank you, Reynolds.
WOLF: You bet.
JOHNS: This morning's top stories just minutes away including --
KAYE: Top of the hour, the scare in the skies over Detroit. New questions about how a man was allegedly able to bring explosives onboard in airline, and now the global war on terror could soon be fought on a new front.
JOHNS: At 7:10 Eastern, the tighter security for air travelers. What you can expect to see and not see when you fly. The Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will join us live.
KAYE: And at 7:30, another bloody crackdown on protesters in Iran. Some experts are calling this a major turning point for the regime. The president of the National Iranian American Council will tell us what it could mean for them and the world. It's 06:51.
JOHNS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
A record-breaking weekend at the box office. Moviegoers spent an estimated $278 million on movie tickets. Leading the way, James Cameron's 3d epic "Avatar" took in $75 million in its second week, "Sherlock Holmes" opened Christmas day and took in $65 million, and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" came in third.
KAYE: Did you really just say squeakquel?
JOHNS: Squeakquel. Incredible. My kids saw Squeakquel.
KAYE: And did they like it?
JOHNS: Huge fans of the chipmunks, yes. Just like I was.
KAYE: Yes, how can you not be?
It's about 54 minutes after the hour. That means it's time for the Most News in the Morning, but now you've probably sobered up from the holiday weekend by now and maybe if you're lucky, there's a bottle or two leftover, and in case your in-laws maybe your family member took off with your corkscrew, Jeanne Moos has this helpful tutorial on how to open a bottle of wine in a pinch.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You may not be the world's greatest wine connoisseur, but this Frenchman sure knows how to pop his cork, and we don't mean the usual way.
We mean without a corkscrew. Call it the cork shoe technique.
He's the toast of the internet for his sure-footed effort to open what surely wasn't the first bottle of the night.
Go ahead and laugh. Twenty seconds later, this Frenchman had that bottle uncorked. His feet is the subject of internet instruction.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: How to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. step one, stick a screw into the cork.
MOOS: Ranging from using a screw and a hammer.
To a hammer and a beater from a mixer. That method ended in the cork being shoved.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: All right.
MOOS: Inside the bottle. Others recommend using a sharpie.
This method is best if you're planning on polishing off the whole bottle. If caught without a corkscrew.
UNKNOWN MALE: Pull up.
MOOS: A wine professional might resort to a tree.
MOOS (on-camera): Or you could try using the phone book. Who says the internet has made the phonebook obsolete? Try doing this with a laptop. You know, a nice red goes very well with the yellow pages.
MOOS (voice-over): Funny, when they did it, it looked so easy. You think because it's cheap wine?
UNKNOWN MALE: Nada.
MOOS: I'm exhausted.
So my producer, Richard Davis, took over. Champagne corks are much bigger and easier, even sword play works.
UNKNOWN MALE: Hey!
MOOS: But here's a method that leaves you more screwed than a corkscrew. We tried whacking the floor. We tried the bottle in boot technique, but the cork wouldn't budge.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: 85% of the world's wine corks come from Portugal.
MOOS: Yes, well ours was the cork from hell.
UNKNOWN MALE: This is frustrating.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
KAYE: First let's say, that's why Jeanne's office is way far away from anybody else.
JOHNS: Yes. Strange behavior in there.
JOHNS: The thing about it is, you never saw the bottle break. It seems to me if you're pounding like that, eventually, it's just going to shatter and explode.
KAYE: I wouldn't want to risk it. I don't know -- because -- it was the bottom of the bottle being in the shoe.
KAYE: Being slammed against that wall.
JOHNS: Yes. No.
KAYE: Just by the screw tops, I guess.
JOHNS: Just don't drink. KAYE: There you go.
JOHNS: Top stories coming your way in 90 seconds.