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A Look at the Powerful Explosive Used by Terror Suspect; Best Return for the Decade for Gold; The College Board Rakes in Cash

Aired December 29, 2009 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning on a Tuesday morning, December 29th. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us this morning.

Here are the top stories we're now getting a look at the device that could have brought down a Northwest jetliner. The explosive powder and a detonating syringe stitched into the suspect's underwear. A bit later, we're going to look just how powerful even a small amount of that powdered explosive can be.

ROBERTS: Also this morning, the visa issue. He was barred from Britain, and his own father alerted the U.S. Embassy about him, so how did the alleged terrorist slip past American intelligence and is anything being done to make sure that it doesn't happen again? Our State Department Correspondent Jill Dougherty is looking for answers.

And be prepared to suffer. That's the warning from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group taking credit for this failed attack. Is Yemen the next Afghanistan in the war against terror?

CHETRY: We begin the hour though with new pictures of the bomb the feds say could have brought down Northwest Airlines flight 253. The feds say that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab used this pair of underwear to smuggle explosives onto the plane.

CNN has learned the suspect is telling federal investigators the bomb came from Yemen and so is a claim of responsibility. Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is tracking the story for us this morning from Washington.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, when you see this bomb, you will see how even a pat-down might have missed it.

These pictures from an FBI bulletin obtained by CNN show 76 grams of PETN in an anatomically-shaped sheath tucked into a pocket stitched into underwear. It was allegedly worn by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to avoid detection during screening.

There is scorching from the attempt to set off the bottom, and one photo shows the triggering device, a melted syringe with plastic film-like material and tape. Preliminary analysis indicates it contained ethylene glycol, an ingredient in coolant and antifreeze.

A claim of responsibility from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called it an advanced bomb and touted the fact that it defeated American security. A U.S. counterterrorism official says the statement appears to be authentic and it seems credible that the group had some involvement in the attempted attack.

The government of Yemen where the Al Qaeda affiliate operates, says Abdulmutallab visited the country at least twice, once four or five years ago, and again from last August to early December.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You do worry that next time the lessen they'll take from this is, next time what we need is two or three guys on each plane and several planes so that we can have some assurance at least one of them does blow up. So I'm not sure I would take a whole lot of comfort from it.

MESERVE: U.S. officials say the alarm raised by Abdulmutallab's father more than a month ago was not specific or credible enough to put the young Nigerian on a terror watch list.

But critics say there was a failure to connect the dots, including his use of cash to purchase a one-day way ticket, that he didn't check luggage, and perhaps most importantly the British decision to deny him a new visa last May.

RANDY LARSEN, INSTITUTE OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I just don't believe that we'll ever have a scenario where we'll get more advanced warning of an attack on America. It's hard to imagine that this will happen. And yet we failed to put that information together.

MESERVE: Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula says the attempted attack was retaliation for an alleged U.S. attack against terror targets in Yemen.

Two prisoners released during the Bush administration from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are among that group's leaders, but counterterrorism officials say they are still investigating just how tightly linked that organization is with the attempted bombing.

John and Kiran, back to you.


ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning. Jeanne, thanks.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is weighing in on the attempted terror attack. Last night on "LARRY KING LIVE," Ridge questioned why the suspect's visa wasn't revoked especially after his father warned American officials about his son weeks earlier.


TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Why the State Department didn't revoke his visa immediately is beyond belief, in my judgment, either. But at the heart of this is, it's a clash of cultures. It's an institutional challenge. DHS can only act on information it gets, and I'm not sure they had all the information at its disposal.


ROBERTS: This morning we are learning that the American authorities did flag the suspect's visa, even gave it a second look. But in the end, nothing was done beyond adding his name to a database of about 500,000 names of people with suspected ties to terrorism.

Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty is live for us in Washington this morning. And Jill, many people are saying balls there were dropped here in this particular case.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. As you said, one of the big questions hanging over the State Department this morning is how the suspect got his U.S. visa and most importantly why it wasn't revoked after his father raised several red flags about his son.

Right now there's a lot of finger pointing and the secretary of state has ordered an immediate review of visa procedures.


DOUGHERTY: Why didn't alarm bells go off when the suspect's father, according to a new account by a senior U.S. official, warned the U.S. embassy in Nigeria his son was under the influence of religious extremists and was in Yemen?

The U.S. official denies the father warned officials his son might be on a suicide mission. There was no suggestion he was about to carry out a terrorism act, this official says.

The family says the father reported the matter to the Nigerian security agencies about two months ago and to some foreign security agencies about a month and a half ago, then sought their assistance to find and return him home.

The State Department says the father went to the embassy November 19th. The next day the embassy sent what's called a "visas viper cable" to Washington, detailing the father's concerns. But the State Department says the National Counterterrorism Center ruled that information was not sufficient to revoke the suspect's U.S. visa.

Could that information have choked off an alleged plot? A U.S. official tells CNN, "We coded his visa file so that, had he attempted to renew his visa months from now, it would have triggered an in-depth review of his application." But...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why wasn't that visa revoked once he had been tagged in the system?

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I've asked the same question, and we all want to know the answer to that question. You know, that will be part of the process that we are undergoing at the president's direction over the next days and weeks.

DOUGHERTY: It's a stark contrast to the British.

ALAN JOHNSON, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: He was here on a legitimate student visa, studied on a degree course at UCL, hasn't been in this country for 14 months, applied to come back on a student visa in May, was refused, which meant he automatically went onto our watch list, and can't enter this country.


DOUGHERTY: The State Department says the secretary of state can revoke a visa, but it's usually done for diplomatic, not security reasons. That has to be done in consultation with other agencies, the department says.

But even with all of those other agencies involved, no one apparently connected the dots, the father's warning and the fact that that suspect had an active visa. John, Kiran?

ROBERTS: Failure to connect the dots. That's something we've heard a lot of after 9/11. So is this a failure of the system? Is it a failure of individuals, or both?

DOUGHERTY: I think it is a failure of both, because the system defines what people have to do. And it appears here that they did precisely what they were to do, but nothing more.

And there was a judgment call there. When you had this information, couldn't you ask more questions? In other words, could he come into the United States? He had a two-year visa, multiple- entry. So that was one with of the key questions that just wasn't asked.

ROBERTS: More people asking more questions on top of all of this. Jill Dougherty for us this morning. Jill, thanks.

CHETRY: It's seven minutes past the hour. Here is a look at some other stories.

New this morning, hardliners in Iran's parliament demanding no mercy for opposition leaders as the regime's bloody crackdown continues. Iran's state news is also accusing opposition "terror teams" of killing protesters to create sympathy for their cause.

At least eight people have died in Sunday's anti-government protests.

ROBERTS: Authorities say the death toll is up to 40 thank you in a suicide attack in Karachi Pakistan. The killer targeted thousands of people in a Shiite procession on Monday. The worshippers were commemorating a major religious holiday. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. CHETRY: North Korea says it has detained an American who entered the country illegally last week. He's believed to be 28-year-old Robert Park, a Korean-American Christian missionary from Arizona. Fellow activists say Park crossed the border from China Christmas Day. He was carrying letters, they say, calling North Korea to end its human rights abuses.

ROBERTS: No public option, no problem. That's the message from House Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. The leading liberal Democrat said he would vote for a bill without the government-run insurance plan. The current House bill includes a public option, the Senate version does not.

The House-Senate conference committee begins negotiations on merging the two bills next month.

CHETRY: It's eight minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: PETN, the explosive that was brought on board that Northwest Airlines flight, just how dangerous is it, and could it have brought down the jetliner? Our Nic Robertson has a demonstration of its explosive force coming up.

It's ten minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: It's 12 minutes after the hour, and time now for a quick check of what's new this morning.

President Obama making his first public comments on Monday since the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253. The president has been facing criticism from some Republicans for not speaking up sooner, but he vows his administration does take terror threats seriously.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would with slaughter innocent men, women, and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses.

We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.


ROBERTS: Here in New York City, 2009 was the safest year ever, with the fewest homicides on record, 461. That's down 11 percent from 2008. Michael Bloomberg says the sharp drop in violent crime makes this year, quote, "One for the record books". And the custody battle over Sarah Palin's grandson is now being played out in the public. The judge has denied a request by Bristol Palin to keep the custody proceedings closed. The boy's father, Levi Johnston, said he feared Sarah Palin may have too much pull if those proceedings were kept under wraps -- Kiran.

CHETRY: The explosive that nearly detonated aboard Northwest flight 253 Christmas day is PETN. It's a white powder that looks a lot like sugar and can deliver powerful blasts even in incredibly small quantities.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson traveled to a farm in England for a look at just how powerful this powder can be.


SYDNEY ALFORD, EXPLOSIVES EXPERT: It doesn't compress down very well.

ROBERTSON: What you're looking at is a bomb in the making. The white powder is the explosive PETN. Six grams of it, just a tiny fraction of what alleged Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab intended to use.

ALFORD: If it goes off, I expect it (inaudible)

ROBERTSON: At a remote farm in the English countryside we're getting a lesson about PETN's destructive force. Everything about the test is real. PETN is dangerous.

Not taking any chances. That bomb is going to go off in a few seconds. In a moment, we'll see the force of the explosion.

ALFORD: People like to exaggerate.

ROBERTSON: A little earlier, in his lab, explosives expert Sydney Alford detonates just a few grains of PETN. The chemical in PETN is hard to make or get your hands on. But although it's an explosive because it's not volatile, it's perfect for a terrorist on a long-haul flight.

ALFORD: If I were carrying a pocketful, sure it can be packaged just neat powder in my pocket. It's bang-up would be the last of my worries.

ROBERTSON: Sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN the working assumption is that the alleged bomber, Abdulmutallab, may have had some 80 grams of PETN.

ALFORD: That will probably be, if it were dry, closer to 80 grams.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Is that enough to blow a hole in an aircraft?

ALFORD: Certainly. It's enough to blow a hole.

ROBERTSON: What we understand he was wearing these explosives in the sort of groin area. Can you imagine that you could in some way fit these into -- sew them into a set of underpants?

ALFORD: Certainly you can. Yes, yes, yes. I've done it. I've done it. No problem at all.

ROBERTSON: It looks just like sugar, just like salt, and it's easy to imagine how this can be stitched into clothing and hidden around the body. And that's what makes PETN such a challenge for airport security officials to detect.

(voice-over): Alford believes the only reason lives were spared this time is because the alleged bomber's lack of training meant he couldn't detonate the bomb. And that means he probably didn't make it.

ALFORD: On the one hand, he's being given, shall we say, a high- value substance. And on the other hand, it seems to be left to his own efforts.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Is it easy to make for the average person?

ALFORD: The average person, probably not.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Back at the farm, Alford's crude six- gram bomb is about to show what PETN can do in the hands of professionals.

(on camera): Very impressive. It's gone through?

ALFORD: It may have burnt away.

ROBERTSON: This is what six grams of PETN does to something that's twice as thick as an aircraft fuselage. Just six grams. That's pretty damaging. And that was a tiny amount, easy to sort of hide about a person.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): The alleged bomber had much more than six grams, and he smuggled it on board an airliner. But he didn't have the expertise to detonate it.

Nic Robertson, CNN, at a farm in Wilshire, England.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You can imagine the damage that a larger quantity of that would have done.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Especially if it had actually gone off the way it was intended to. So very, very interesting from Nic Robertson this morning. Meanwhile, still ahead, prepping for the SAT. You know you pay a lot of money for those courses, for the study guide. Are they worth the money or is it actually just going into the test maker's pockets. Carol Costello with a look at that.

Seventeen and a half minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back. Right now, it's 20 minutes past the hour. A quick look at some of the morning's business headlines.

The attempted terror attack on a Northwest jet impacting airline stocks. Shares of the major carriers opening lower this morning on concerns that international travelers who are critical of the industry's recovery will cut back on travel plans.

ROBERTS: The maker of the Thomas and Friends toy trains has agreed to pay a fine of more than $1 million. The penalty is part of a settlement for selling toys that contain too much lead in the paint. The toys in question were recalled back in 2007.

CHETRY: IPhones once again available online in New York City. AT&T temporarily halted online sales. The exact reason not clear, but bloggers have the idea. Some think the phones were pulled because AT&T cannot handle New York's data traffic.

ROBERTS: So coming up Thursday night, we say goodbye not only to 2009 but to the first decade of the 2000s. So what's it been like in terms of price of oil and precious metals? Our Stephanie Elam here "Minding Your Business" this morning with a look back at the last decade in history.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It seems leak a good time to go ahead and take this opportunity to look back at gold and oil prices. And if you take a look, they have been on a tear over the last ten years or so. In fact, gold was actually at its low in 1999 so the last ten years have been actually kind of rosy for gold.

Take a look at that. This year alone up 25 percent. Over the last decade, up 291 percent. So obviously, if you had invested in gold, if you had known what was going on, you're a very happy camper as those decade comes to an end.

Now if you take a look at gold and move on to oil, we can show you that there again we've got some really strong numbers. Oil up 77 percent this year and up 208 percent over the decade. Of course, prices for oil always affected by things like global demand. You've got temperatures, more oil needed right now because it's winter. You also got whether or not the dollar is strong or weak, all of that can factor into this.

And then geopolitical issues, tensions that may be in one part of the world and also demand. As it just grows from different countries, emerging countries can also affect oil prices. But still you can see how things can move around here. So commodity prices up more than 100 percent since 1999. So this shows you how things can move, and we've never seen oil and gold prices move this much over that period. So this just shows you things have changed. If you were investing and gold normally doesn't move like that, if you were investing back then, it's been a nice decade for you.

ROBERTS: If only you'd known.

ELAM: If only you'd known.

CHETRY: Where were you in 1999?

ELAM: If only we were all together then.

ROBERTS: So how many people predicted that gold was going to go up? I remember when I was growing up in Toronto there was a guy back in the 1970s was predicting that gold was going to go to $1,000. Never got anywhere near it.

ELAM: And -- people, yes. And it doesn't move that fast. Yes. And then this year was just kind of wacky compared to how it's normally moved. People would say gold is a bad investment because you don't get a lot of movement, but then you look at a year like this.

CHETRY: There you go.

ELAM: Pretty nice place to be. Also because of all the economic worries.

CHETRY: Right.

ELAM: People wanted to go someplace.

CHETRY: Gold is real. You can hold it.

ELAM: Tangible things.

CHETRY: Right.

ELAM: Let me hold on to my bar of gold here. Therefore, it had a nice little lift.

ROBERTS: You sound like Ron Paul this morning.

CHETRY: Yes, you do.

ROBERTS: Stephanie, thanks so much.

ELAM: Sure.

ROBERTS: Is Yemen the new Afghanistan? We'll check in with a couple of experts who'll tell us what's going on there and shedding new light on the situation there in the aftermath of what happened there on Christmas morning with the attempted bombing of flight 253. Stay with us. It's 24 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's 7:26, time for an "A.M. Original," a story you won't see anywhere else.

The SATs have become synonymous with getting into college and getting a good score, classes and tutors there to help. Well, it's become a huge industry but are the kids the ones profiting from it? Our Carol Costello is finding out in her series "Educating America."


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are the buzz words in the SAT biz, test anxiety.

ED CARROLL, THE PRINCETON REVIEW: I started in this business as a teacher and a tutor. You know, private tutor working with people in their homes. And I, after a while, felt more like a test prep therapist.

COSTELLO: SAT Tutor Ed Carroll says parents' desire to cure test anxiety has transformed what was a simple test into a growth industry. Take New York's Princeton review. This for-profit test prep service pulled in $138.7 million last year in revenue. And it's just one of hundreds of such services across the country. Never mind the man who oversees the SAT, says such anxiety beating services are unnecessary.

LAURENCE BUNIN, THE COLLEGE BOARD: I always tell parents and students, keep it in perspective. The SAT is just one thing they look at. They're looking at your grades. They look at what else you do, sports, athletics, music, art.

COSTELLO: Still, The College Board, the nonprofit organization that offered that advice, sells its own online course for $69.95. And it offers a study guide for $21.99.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It pulled SAT takers --

COSTELLO: That bothers Robert Schaeffer (ph) of FairTest, a consumer watchdog group that opposes pretty much all standardized tests from No Child Left Behind to the SAT. He claims The College Board's drive to make money has impacted its mission to, quote, "connect students to college success and opportunity."

There's a huge business, multiple hundreds of millions of dollars a year, in tests and test prep material that come out of our parents' pockets and into the pockets of test makers.

COSTELLO: The College Board does generate big money. According to its 2007 federal tax returns, The College Board pulled in some $621 million. Because it's nonprofit, it's tax exempt.

While The College Board would not comment on camera about how much it brings in, it did tell us, "We do not generate profits. All revenues from our products, services or grants are re-invested into improved services that support our mission."

But Schaeffer (ph) says the nonprofit uses a lot of that revenue to line the pockets of its executives.

ROBERT SCHAEFFER, FAIRTEST: The top officers of The College Board, allegedly a nonprofit organization, earn $500,000, $600,000, $800,000 a year. That's where lots of that money is going.

COSTELLO: According to 2007 tax returns, Gaston Caperton, the president of The College Board, made nearly $900,000 in salary, benefits and perks. And 12 of the nonprofit's top executives made more than $300,000 a year in salary and benefits.

Schaeffer (ph) says that's excessive. He'd rather see more of The College Board's money working to make the tests more fair for students who can't afford those pricey college prep classes. The College Board says it already does that.

BUNIN: We have a lot of free programs and services. Each year we give away $30 million, $40 million, $50 million worth of free services to low-income students.


COSTELLO: As one expert put it, what citizens expect of nonprofits and what the law says are two different things. Nonprofits can make a profit as long as all the monies go back into the organization. And generally speaking, executives at nonprofits can make big salaries. And often do.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: And so we want to ask you, are big salaries OK for the SAT makers? Let us know what you think. Go to

It's 30 minutes past the hour. That means it's time for this morning's top stories.

Iran's bloody crackdown continues as hardliners in parliament demand no mercy for opposition leaders. Activists web sites are reporting that eight opposition figures are now in custody. Meanwhile, Iran's state news accusing anti-government terror teams of killing protesters to create sympathy for their cause. At least eight people died in Sunday's protests.

And CNN has obtained the first images of the bomb that federal investigators say a Nigerian man carried onto Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas day. Explosive powder sewn into the crotch of a pair of underpants. If successful, authorities say that that crude device could have blown a hole through the side of the plane.

ROBERTS: And a branch of Al Qaeda in Yemen claiming responsibility for the attempted attack. The group said it was revenge for alleged U.S. strikes on Yemeni soil. Right now, among those being sheltered in Yemen, the Muslim cleric who corresponded with the suspect in the Ft. Hood rampage and former Guantanamo Bay inmates who have joined Yemen's Al Qaeda wing.

All of this is raising concern that Yemen could be the next front in the war on terror. Joining me now to talk more about this is Ian Bremmer. He is the president of the Eurasia Group and Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics and author of the book "Far Enemy, Why Jihad Went Global." He is in Miami this morning. Good to see both of you.

Ian, let's start with you. A former NSC counter terrorism official Richard Clark says that he believes that in some ways Yemen is becoming the next Afghanistan. Do you agree with him?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Well I think that's right. Not in the sense that we're going to see lots of U.S. troops on the ground but in terms of how close to becoming a failed state. 25 million folks sandwiched in a very small piece of territory, next to almost 30 million in Saudi Arabia with lots of territory, lots of resources. But Yemen is running out of oil, running out of water.

You've got a secessionist movement in the south, you've got Shia rebels in the north that are fighting directly against the Yemeni government and spilling over into Saudi territory and you now have Al Qaeda of Yemen coordinating with Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. They call their organization the same name now, Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula.

And we've seen a couple of significant attacks with real technology behind them against major figures, both in Saudi Arabia and now against the United States.

ROBERTS: And Fawaz, what's your sense in all of this? Why Yemen? Why now? And do you agree with Ian that it is becoming a failed state or is it already there in your estimation?

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR MIDDLE EASTERN POLITICS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I think the storm has been brewing for a few years. It just has finally reached a climax. I mean, I think you're absolutely correct. Yemen is a failing state, it's not yet a failed state. You have a collapsed economy. You have multiple political ideological and tribal fault lines that are pushing the country to all-out war.

You have, as Ian said, a civil war in the north - in the south. You have also multiple fault lines the south wants out of the union. You have tribes that are challenging the integrity of the state. John, 40 percent of the 28 million Yemenis are unemployed. A majority of the 28 million people live in absolute poverty.

The ability of the state to deliver the goods is no longer there. Not only because of declining oil revenues but because of pervasive corruption in the country. What Al Qaeda has done is to embed itself within local conflicts. Al Qaeda appears to have merged with local conflicts. And this is where the danger lies. So you not only have an Al Qaeda foot print, an alien one, you have Al Qaeda now leading the struggles in the south against the north.

And also you have tens of thousands of Somali refugees. Somalia is a refugee state. So you have interaction between Al Qaeda members in Yemen and Somalia. You have U.S. pressure in the tribal areas of Pakistan are forcing Al Qaeda to send some of its assets to Yemen. And also you have arms smuggling in Yemen.

John, I go to Yemen quite often. You can buy tanks in Yemen. So the ability to purchase tanks and guns and missiles is out there. And this is why Yemen now is becoming a major problem, not only for the United States but the integrity and unity of Yemen itself is at stake today.

ROBERTS: If ever there was a recipe for extremism, it sounds like it's there. Now some members of Congress have advocated pre- emptive strikes against Al Qaeda targets in Yemen. There was a strike on or about December 17th. Some reports say that it was the U.S. cruise missile fired from U.S. warships. The U.S. military has been very quiet about this, but pre-emptive strikes work there?

BREMMER: Well, it certainly struck me as pre-emptive what we saw back a couple of weeks ago. And I think if the intelligence is good, I think the U.S.'s standing policy to try to go after these guys and they're not going to talk about it to you or I.

Are they going to work in terms of the kind of insurgency and the deep-seated problems that both of us have been talking about? Absolutely not. This is a structural issue with an utter lack of capacity to deliver resources not just pervasive corruption but I mean truly, you know, you're talking about a water table that's falling apart.

If you were to send billions of dollars to Yemen right now, you wouldn't be able to literally to actually give it to the folks on the ground. There's no mechanism or infrastructure. People talk about the Taliban in Afghanistan. They always say that where the roads stop the Taliban begins. In Yemen that problem is endemic. And so, you know, we've been aware of this.

I remember talking to General Petraeus about a year ago, and we had a pretty broad conversation about the region. The one thing he said is, Ian, you're not paying enough attention to Yemen. That's becoming a failed state. The United States knows this is an issue. Dealing with it on the ground, even with resources, is not trivial.

ROBERTS: So Fawaz, General Petraeus, Ian was talking about, went to Yemen to speak with President Salih last summer, convinced him that he has got a problem there and accept U.S. aid. Now according to sources in the Pentagon, there are U.S. special operations there, Green Berets, involved in training Yemeni troops and counter terrorism measures. Is it possible to stop Yemen from becoming another Afghanistan?

GERGES: Yes, absolutely. It is. In fact, this is a big challenge, but this is not, John, a counter terrorism question. The United States, we spend about $70 million a year now on counter terrorism in Yemen. And 40 million is on development. 70 million on counter terrorism, and 40 million on development.

What you really need, not only $400 million spending in development, you need the international community, not just the United States, but the international community and the Arab and Muslim states to find formulas for the structural problems that exist in Yemen.

You need inclusive government, you need to deal with the pervasive corruption,. You need to find political formulas for the divisions that exist. This is not just Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is a byproduct of the deep social and political crises that exist in Yemen. The Yemeni state can no longer deal with the challenges to its integrity, the challenges from its own population.

And what has happened, as I suggested earlier, is that Al Qaeda has imbedded itself within this local conflicts and the question is, how do you break, how do you separate, how do you prevent Al Qaeda from leading the struggle against the Yemenis state.

Again this is not a counter terrorism question, this is a social, political and economic crisis and the United States and the international community must take a long-term view not just a short term. In fact, counter terrorism, if we deal with Yemen as a counter terrorism question, we play into the hands of Al Qaeda and a war like Afghanistan or Pakistan in Yemen could easily be the final nail that breaks the Yemenis state and then you have multiple issues, multiple conflicts, and Al Qaeda surely - Yemen could easily become the new Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: No question. It could quickly become everyone's problem. Fawaz Gerges, Ian Bremmer, great to talk to you this morning. Thanks for coming in. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, new rules and long lines because of what we've been talking about this morning, that foiled attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas. Well, it's inconvenience of heightened security measures at the airports, will it translate into major trouble for the airlines?

Allan Chernoff will join us live. 38 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Heightened security in place at the nation's airports and especially on international flights since the attempted Christmas day airline attack. But how long will fliers put up with this new normal.

Allan Chernoff is at Detroit Metropolitan Airport with more.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lines are long. The security measures at a minimum an inconvenience. And the time loss substantial and seemingly as long as ever following the Christmas day bombing attempt.

(on camera): You got here three hours before your flight.



CHERNOFF: And it's domestic?


CHERNOFF: Normally would you get here three hours before a flight?


CHERNOFF (voice-over): But in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's apparent attempt to destroy a Northwest Airline plane, it seems no inconvenience is too great for the safety of the skies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd rather be safe than, you know, them take the extra precautions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's what it has to be, and it's unfortunate that we have to go to these measures but I guess it's understandable.

CHERNOFF: As if body and luggage scan, shoe removal and liquid disposal weren't enough, now some passengers on some international flight must abide by strict flight rules.

These passengers who arrived in Detroit from Amsterdam had to remain seated for an hour before landing with nothing on their laps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just like a small house arrest on the last leg of the flight. It was pretty good. It felt really secure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately this is the day and age where we have to do these extreme things.

CHERNOFF: Extreme as in serving as the last line of defense if all security measures fail. Just as Jasper Schuringa sprang into action to grab Abdulmutallab on flight 253, others say they're prepared to do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all hope so, that everyone wants to be that sort of hero.

CHERNOFF: But will the thoughts of heroism and tolerance for inconvenient security last? Psychologist Jeff Gardere says they won't if there are no further incidents in the coming months. Memories are short.

JEFF GARDERE, PSYCHOLOGIST: I think as time goes on they'll start to be a little less agreeable, a little bit more irritable, especially if they feel that the rules are being delivered in a way that is draconian. CHERNOFF: But what Americans remember right now is the fact that someone came close to blowing up a plane on its way to Detroit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just press on, you know. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and you know, everybody stay vigilant.


CHERNOFF: After 9/11, the country had a wartime mentality, near- misses like Friday's attempted bombing are very quick to revive that vigilance and tolerance. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Allan Chernoff for us, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: The attempted bombing has reignited the debate about how the U.S. deals with the threat of terrorism. Critics are saying President Obama was way too late in addressing it. Jim Acosta is looking at the politics. He is live for us in Washington this morning. Hi, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. You now, when President Obama spoke out on the terrorism scare in Detroit, he did that three days after the incident entering a debate that had already begun over his administration's approach to combating terrorism.


ACOSTA (voice-over): President Obama interrupted his vacation in Hawaii with some tough talk on terrorism.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a nation, we will do everything in our power to protect our country.

ACOSTA: But it was also a chance to turn down the heat on Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, who had initially given something of a thumbs-up to the government's handling of the Detroit terror scare on CNN "State of the Union."

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: One thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here, the - the passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action.

ACOSTA: Within minutes, Republicans had latched on.

REP PETER KING (R), HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Earlier today, Secretary Napolitano said the system worked. The fact is the system did not work.

NAPOLITANO: Yes. That - that's a phrase taken out of context.

ACOSTA: When pressed, Napolitano later dialed (ph) back her remarks.

NAPOLITANO: Our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. ACOSTA: Now members of Congress are asking questions, such as how the suspected terrorist in Detroit could fly in the first place after his own father had informed authorities his son was a potential terrorist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The threat to the United States is real. I think this administration has downplayed it. They need to recognize it, identify it. It is the only way we are going to defeat it.

ACOSTA: But one key senator who has sometimes frustrated the White House brushed off the notion the president has gone soft on terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you share that viewpoint? What do you think?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I - I don't want to - I don't think it's fair to lay this on President Obama or the Obama administration. A lot of these practices are ones that have been going on for quite a while.

ACOSTA: The White House says those security procedures, some dating back to the Bush administration, are now under review.

ROBERT GIBBS, US PRESS SECRETARY: I think the best New Year's resolution that we might be able to make in the New Year is to make the security of the American people a nonpartisan issue, not a political football that we punt back and forth.


ACOSTA: There is plenty punting going on in Washington, John. Hearings on the Detroit scare are planned for early next month, and the top Republican on that committee has already said there should have been a big red flag next to the suspect's name, and there are plenty of other issues, such as Guantanamo. Republicans are saying the president should shelve his plan to close Guantanamo at this point, John.

ROBERTS: So, shelve Guantanamo, but, at the same time, the president is trying to get some of his key appointments filled. They're being held up. And some of the key appointments that are still vacant are ones that are absolutely essential when it comes to maintaining security at our airports and on our jetliners.

ACOSTA: That's right. Those men and women at the airport wearing the blue shirts that say TSA, they don't have a full-time, permanent boss at this point. The temporary head of the TSA is a holdover from the Bush administration and, right now, the - the current appointee from the Obama administration to take the head of the TSA, a man by the name of Erroll Southers, he is still waiting to - to get his appointment confirmed. He is currently the assistant chief for the LAX Police Department, the Los Angeles International Airport out there in California, and his duties are head of Intelligence and Homeland Security. But, at this point, that nomination is on hold by Jim DeMint, the very conservative Senator from South Carolina. He's opposed to unionizing - fully unionizing the TSA, something that Southers apparently wants to do.

ROBERTS: All right. Jim Acosta for us this morning from Washington. Jim, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, it's 48 minutes past the hour. Our Jacqui Jeras is going to have this morning's travel forecast. It looks like Texas is getting ready for icy, snowy mess and windy and cold in a lot of parts of the country. She'd check it out for us, coming right back.


ROBERTS: It's nine minutes to the top of the hour.

Jacqui Jeras is monitoring the Extreme Weather across the country. She's at the Weather Center in Atlanta, and we've got lots of cold temperatures here in the Northeast and some snow on the way?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And, you know, nothing's worse than the wind this time of the year, guys, right? It just gives you that extra bite. You know, unfortunately it's really driving conditions across the Northeast for today. You can see those lake effect snow bands which continue to come on through as that cold air moves over the warmer lake waters.

Check out these pictures from Buffalo from yesterday, really heavy snowfall, up to 11 inches has fallen here with several more expected today. And on of the biggest issues, not just the snow but those winds creating, really, zero visibility at times today, so use a lot of caution if you're traveling in these areas.

Again, those winds blowing across the Northeastern corridor to sustained winds in the teens and 20s, but we're to see gusts pushing 40, maybe 50 miles per hour, so that's going to drop your wind chill factor down way low for today. In fact, subzero right now into the interior, teens along the Coast, but we could see this down to single digits this afternoon as those winds continue to kick up.

Of course, that's going to cause problems if you're trying to travel today unfortunately. Boston, New York City, DC and Philly, delays could reach over an hour. Dallas and Houston, you're going to be seeing some low clouds, snow in Dallas, rain in Houston as this moisture moves on in here. It's going to interact with some of that cold air, so, yes, snow for Dallas. We could see half of an inch, maybe even up to two inches, and that will spread its was on up to the north and even move into Oklahoma City as well.

This will be the storm system that we'll be watching as it makes its way towards the southeast, and then makes its way up the Coast, and this could be bringing in a nice surprise for New Year's Day for a lot of you across the northeast.

Cold temperatures all around - John and Kiran. CHETRY: There you go. Bundle up.

Jacqui, thanks so much.

Well, this morning's top stories are just minutes away. We're taking a hard look back at this year's financial meltdown and the lessons learned from our economic experts.

ROBERTS: Also ahead, Gerri Willis has some financial resolutions to keep your wallet fat in 2010.

CHETRY: Also, taking aim at all the soda we sip in a shocking and pretty gross new ad campaign. Thank you. We needed to see that this morning. Our Dr. Gupta has a look.

That's all ahead right here on the Most News in the Morning. Fifty-three minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Fifty-five minutes past the hour.

Now, we're "Paging Dr. Gupta". 2009 could go down as the year of the swine flu. It has left a quarter of the globe untouched. Federal health officials say that almost 10,000 people have died of swine flu since April and some 50 million Americans caught the virus.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta traveled to Mexico to meet the little boy who survived the very first case.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the number of cases of swine flu build around the world, everyone has been on the hunt for the source.

GUPTA (on camera): We've long suspected that the origin of swine flu may have been on a pig farm, and now we're headed towards one, about two hours north of Mexico City. We think we may find where this virus started.

We may also find him - Edgar Hernandez. People believe he is "patient zero," the first patient to contract the virus.

GUPTA (voice-over): La Gloria - it's a village where everyone knows someone. I showed this motorcycle rider Edgar's picture. His name is Frederick and he offers to take me.

GUPTA (on camera): Don't drop me. OK.

So after hours of searching and hours of driving, we're finally going to meet the little boy that everyone is calling "patient zero."

GUPTA (voice-over): There he is - Edgar Hernandez, a little five-year-old boy who got so sick. GUPTA (on camera): Did you have a headache? Dolor la cabeza?

EDGAR HERNANDEZ, FIRST H1N1 PATIENT (through translator): He had a headache and - and throat (ph).

GUPTA (voice-over): He was brought to this clinic where he was diagnosed as possibly the first case of swine flu of this outbreak.

So where did it come from? Edgar's mom think she knows.

GUPTA (on camera): A lot of people are saying that the swine flu came from some of the pig farms. Do you believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that what she is (ph). (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA: There's no question we stumbled onto a controversy here. The citizens of La Gloria really believe that the pig farms in the nearby areas got so many of their citizens sick, so we decided to pay those pig farms a visit.

GUPTA (voice-over): The industrial pig farm is huge and owned by American company Smithfield Foods. People in town say they believe this is the source of the outbreak.

GUPTA (on camera): We finally made our way to the hog farm, but the Mexican Department of Agriculture and the company itself said they've done testing and the tests have come back negative. They simply wouldn't let us through security, the simply wouldn't show us the pigs.

GUPTA (voice-over): This medical mystery now only half solved. We know who may have first contracted swine flu, we just don't know where he got it.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, La Gloria, Mexico.


CHETRY: Wow! That's just amazing. And you can read more about the search for patient zero on our blog. Head to

ROBERTS: Top stories are coming your way in just 90 seconds. We're just a minute and a half to the top of the hour. Stay with us.