Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Allied Pilots Association: System Failed; Fertile Ground for Terror?; The Guantanamo Connection

Aired December 30, 2009 - 14:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Pushing forward on security on the ground and in the air in some of the stories we're are following right now.

A tense time in Time Square as the NYPD investigated a suspicious vehicle. The white van with tinted windows and no plates had apparently been parked there for awhile. The cops cleared nearby buildings till they could clear the van as safe.

It's the next front in the war on terror, Yemen. Yemen has not been in the headlines like this probably since the USS Cole bombing. We will look at the situation there and the suspected link to the bomb plot on that Northwest plane.

Low tech or high, what provides better security? Canines who can sniff out threats or scanners that can spot them.

We begin this hour with the backlash from some commercial airline pilots to what happened on Christmas and how the TSA handled it. Let's get back to CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve with more -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, who might you think might be most important to get the notice to when an event like this takes place, Kyra?

PHILLIPS: That's a great question. I mean, I think a lot of us wonder who really is in charge and who is calling the shots. It's a confusion among all the agencies.

MESERVE: Wouldn't you think pilots would need to have this information?

PHILLIPS: That would be the most important.

MESERVE: Yes. Well, the pilots say they weren't getting the information they need to have. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents about 11,000 American Airlines pilots, says that on Christmas Day, after that attempted bombing on that flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the TSA instructed the airlines only to notify the pilots on board flights that were coming into the U.S. across the Atlantic.

Here's a quote, and we verified it with an aviation source. "The TSA should have mandated that information about this security event be passed on to all airborne flights. Instead, TSA specifically directed airlines to implement security measures for inbound transatlantic flights."

Now, you might want to listen again to what Janet Napolitano had to say on Sunday, two days after the attempted bombing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated. So, the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: So, she says that 128 flights received notification. What we're being told is that's a small fraction of the flights in the air, that flights coming in across the Pacific, flights coming in from the Caribbean, domestic flights, the pilots on none of those flights were informed of what had transpired on that Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight.

Why is that important? Because al Qaeda has a history of staging multiple simultaneous events. The pilots maintain they should have been told what was going on so that they could take appropriate actions on their aircraft.

Here's another quote from the Allied Pilots Association. "Clearly, we have seen a large-scale communications breakdown concerning this terrorist event. It is essential in times like these that we act swiftly to ensure our crews are prepared to thwart any terrorist attack."

In addition, Kyra, we've heard from an aviation source that airlines did not have a phone call with the TSA until 11:00 p.m. on Christmas night. That was many hours after these events transpired.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: It all comes down to communication.

Jeanne Meserve, thanks.

Geography, politics, history all point to Yemen as fertile ground for radical views and potentially deadly actions. A weakly-governed country just south of Saudi Arabia, at the tip of the Red Sea, is high on our radar, and it has been for the U.S. government since at least 2000. We've reported on the Yemeni connection to several high-profile terror attacks from the USS Cole, to the Fort Hood shootings, to the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253. As you may know, al Qaeda, on the Arabian peninsula, has claimed responsibility.

Now we want to hear from a former federal agent who's been trying to help the Yemeni government turn back those terrorists. Neville Cramer spoke with reporter Peter Busch of CNN Affiliate KPHO in Phoenix.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER BUSCH, REPORTER, KPHO (voice-over): It's called a jambia (ph) sword.

NEVILLE CRAMER, RETIRED ANTITERRORISM SPECIALIST: It's sharp and probably will cut your head off if you really wanted to use it for that.

BUSCH: And in Yemen, it's about as common as cell phones are here.

(on camera): What's it like in the country there? Is it dangerous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no question about it.

BUSCH: But Cramer says it's not this that makes Yemen dangerous. It's this -- al Qaeda has moved in, and made Yemen the latest hotbed of terrorism. It was a renowned Muslim cleric from this Arab country that investigators have connected to the Army doctor accused of murdering 13 U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood.

CRAMER: I would say that a third to Afghanistan and Pakistan right now, that Yemen is certainly next in line. Al Qaeda's presence is there.

BUSCH: Cramer is a retired federal immigration agent who dealt with our country's security issues. He just spent two weeks in Yemen helping them with theirs. And the good news, he says, many of them are willing to listen.

CRAMER: They realize that it is their country and their society that could be changed significantly if al Qaeda gets a foothold there and takes over, and they were adamantly opposed to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Underscoring the point, Yemen's government says it's determined to defeat al Qaeda because al Qaeda is killing Yemenis. In CNN's "SITUATION ROOM," we heard from a spokesperson for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED ALBASHA, YEMENI EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: This frustrates a lot of the Yemeni people, first and foremost, because al Qaeda is targeting us before they are targeting anybody else. Like I said, we started this war in 1992, we're losing blood on the ground. Yemen is a battlefield that Yemenis are losing blood.

At the embassy attack that people are talking about in 2008, we have lost eight brave soldiers that protected the exterior barrier of the embassy. In the escape of 2006, the prison escape people are talking about, out of the 23 that escaped, 20 were detained and killed, and three are still at large. And no mistake, it's a matter of time, we're going to hunt them down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Now the Guantanamo angle.

We know at least two of the Yemeni inmates who have been released from the Gitmo prison camp went on to link up with AQAP, the al Qaeda branch in Yemen, and Yemenis make up almost half of the almost 200 prisoners still being held at Gitmo.

David Remes represents 15 of them. He's a lawyer with a human rights practice called Appeal for Justice. We're also joined by terrorism analyst and CIA veteran Larry Johnson.

David, I want to start with you. We mentioned you represent 15 Yemeni detainees. You also represented two of the six Yemenis who were released and sent back to Yemen on the 18th.

You know, in light of seeing this connection to two Yemenis released from Gitmo, tied to this alleged bomber on Christmas Day, you've got a lot of people really, really scared, specifically about those clients that you represent.

DAVID REMES, LEGAL DIRECTOR, "APPEAL FOR JUSTICE": Well, the clients that I represent were determined not to be any danger to the United States after an exhaustive interagency review by President Obama's Guantanamo task force. They've simply found that there was no evidence to support the claim that they were a threat.

The other two that you mentioned I believe were Saudis who returned to Saudi Arabia and then migrated to Yemen. I think it's a big mistake to conflate what is going on in Yemen, which is quite a serious problem, with the issue of Yemenis as Guantanamo. As you say, they constitute nearly half of the prisoner population. And if anybody is against closing Guantanamo, the best way to do it is to keep the Yemenis from leaving.

PHILLIPS: You're saying your clients were deemed not a threat?

REMES: That's exactly right. President Obama set up a Guantanamo task force in his January 22nd executive order. It consists of the Defense Department, the CIA, the Justice Department, all interested agency stakeholders.

They have reviewed the files of every single man in great detail, all of the evidence, and they have approved for transfer a certain number of men who included my clients, as well as the other six who were released. This is not a careless process. It's far more rigorous, in fact, than the process that was put in place by President Bush.

PHILLIPS: Larry Johnson, what's your response?

LARRY JOHNSON, TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, one of the problems with Guantanamo has been that it is correct that there were several people who were picked up in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 overseas, in Afghanistan/Pakistan border, who were victims of being -- the United States put out a bounty, about $25,000 a head for any al Qaeda operatives, and there were some enterprising Afghan entrepreneurs who went out and just grabbed people off the street, said, hey, these are al Qaeda and turned them in.

Some of those people got into the system. But there are also some genuinely bad people down there.

I think one of the things that has to take place is we need to get this out of partisan politics, because, you know, I don't think the previous administration wanted to jeopardize American safety, and I don't think the current administration wants to jeopardize American safety. But, however, when you try to deal with this issue of Guantanamo, it becomes partisanly charged.

And so I think it would be better served if President Obama, for example, had set up a genuine bipartisan, high-profile commission of some very respected people from both sides of the political spectrum, because there are some individuals at Guantanamo -- I know this from a friend of mine who ran the facility -- that they shouldn't be there. And they ought to be released. There are some others that ought to be brought into a military tribunal process.

I think as Americans, what we ought to avoid is, we don't want to be like the Soviet Union or communist China. Back in the day of the Cold War, they could declare somebody an enemy of the state, hold them indefinitely.

We don't want to hold people indefinitely. We ought to make sure that anybody who is there knows why they are there. And I'm not saying necessarily read them their Miranda rights, but we ought to have a judicial process of some sort, preferably under military control, to adjudicate this to make sure that the bad guys are off of the street, they're either incarcerated or executed, and the ones who are innocent are freed.

PHILLIPS: Now, taking that all into account, we are still looking at two guys that were released from Gitmo and now are being tied to this alleged bomber on Christmas Day. And I look at what your clients are being accused of, David, being tied to al Qaeda, helping Taliban fighters, being bodyguards to Osama bin Laden.

I mean, it's obvious that they did something, they raised red flags somewhere, and they were put there at Gitmo for a reason. I mean, it's very possible they're absolute angels. I mean, obviously, I have no idea. However, the chances are pretty slim when you look at the charges against them.

REMES: Well, those are only charges. All of the evidence that the government has it's kept secret.

When courts have looked at this evidence, they have decided in four out of five cases that the U.S. had no reason to detain the people in the first place. High government officials like Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell's chief of staff, said that the vetting process in Afghanistan and Pakistan was awful, and that many of the men, most of the men, as far as I'm concerned, were scooped up like fish in a net and then brought to Guantanamo.

PHILLIPS: I guess any way you look at it, there is no guarantee.

So, Larry, let me bring it back to you.

In light of what we are seeing right now, and what we are learning about Yemen, what we already know about Yemen, and the turmoil that it's in -- it's a breeding ground for al Qaeda, there are so many connections to Yemen and terrorism. So you start talking about more of these individuals being released and seeing what happened recently with where these two are tied to the most recent example of Christmas Day.

Are you concerned?

JOHNSON: Well, I am actually a little heartened. The good news out is that the terrorist attempt on Christmas Day, the United States was trying, my understanding, up to three months ago to try to launch some military operations in Yemen against terrorist targets, and the government of Yemen was not cooperating.

They did finally agree to cooperate a few weeks back, in mid- December, but now, with this group coming out and boldly taking credit for it, and putting themselves out front, it has really put the Yemenis in a position that they have to now cooperate and really put their cards on the table. Now, we shouldn't harbor any illusions.

Let's remember, the government of Yemen also released the bomber of the USS Cole. They didn't do a good job of holding and keeping that person in jail. And when you pick beneath the surface of Yemen, you get into these tribal ethnic family groups, and they keep constantly changing allegiances. So we're working a little bit with a massive Jell-O that keeps moving around.

But for at least the short term now, I think we're going to have a much better position to go in, root out what remains of this al Qaeda and the Arab peninsula leadership to try to kill them, put them on the run, not give them any rest where they can sit around and train. So I think it buys us some time and gives Yemen a chance to figure out which side they want to play on.

PHILLIPS: Larry Johnson, David Remes.

Thanks, gentlemen.

It was already on the radar. Now, is Yemen in Washington sights? We'll talk of possible retaliations for the Detroit bomb plot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: With al Qaeda elements in Yemen claiming the Christmas Day bomb plot, the country shot up to the top of Washington's terror watch list. So now what?

Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr looks at some possible strategies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What did President Obama mean when he said this about the failed Christmas Day attack...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.

STARR: A senior U.S. official tells CNN that military and intelligence experts, as part of an already existing effort against al Qaeda, are looking at possible targets to strike in Yemen if the president orders retaliation for the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, an attack that al Qaeda in Yemen says it organized.

The U.S. official says, "We'd do it if we could tie it back to the right people." Easier said than done.

The first problem, finding who is responsible. The U.S. believes al Qaeda members in Yemen scattered after recent air strikes may have killed several members. Those air strikes were aimed at hitting al Qaeda even before the Northwest Airlines attack. If there is retaliation now, would the U.S. or Yemen conduct the strikes?

The whole U.S./Yemeni relationship is now under wraps. Officially, the U.S. won't say who carried out the recent strikes. There is a secret agreement with Yemen to keep it quiet, one American official says. But a growing number of U.S. military officials privately say the Yemeni military doesn't have the ability to do it on its own.

So it may be that U.S. ship-launched cruise missiles, fighter jets or armed drones would be used in a retaliation strike, but it won't be made public. All of this underscores the U.S. military is urgently trying to help Yemeni troops train to fight al Qaeda.

In 2006, the Pentagon spent less than $5 million on Yemeni counterterrorism units. This year, $67 million, more than a 1,300 percent increase.

The head of U.S. intelligence earlier this year made clear why it's so important.

ADM. DENNIS BLAIR (RET.), NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Yemen is reemerging as a jihadist battleground. The capabilities of terrorist groups in East Africa will increase in the next year.

STARR (on camera): U.S. military officials say bombing al Qaeda targets in Yemen won't be enough and may not even be the right answer. They say the focus now is on getting the Yemeni military capable of capturing and interrogating al Qaeda suspects so everyone can learn what they are up to next.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Well, in Iran, more demonstrations today, but this time thousands of hard-liners gathered in a number of cities to show their support for the government.

Rosemary Church is monitoring the situation from our Iran Desk -- Rosemary.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra. You know, we are seeing some of the worst violence on the streets of Iran since the disputed June 12 elections.

Of course you would remember vision coming out of that. And this is why the Iranian government has organized some pro-government protests.

Want to look at some vision, if we could just bring that up now. This is from today.

We can see here hundreds of thousands of supporters of Iran's regime out on the streets Wednesday, this day, in a show of force against the opposition. Now, these state-sponsored rallies held right across Iran, including Shiraz, in the south, and Arak (ph), Qom, and Tehran in the north, and several other cities, too. And then this vision here, state television showing footage of people swarming downtown areas, including Tehran's Englenab (ph) Square.

Now, compare this vision with this video, amateur video of anti- government protests Sunday in Tehran. Let's bring that up. Here we see it.

Now, what we are seeing exactly here are protesters throwing stones at members of the Basij, Iran's paramilitary force. Now, we know at this point eight people were killed on Sunday, more than 500 protesters arrested, following these anti-government demonstrations.

CNN, though, cannot confirm the authenticity of this video or any other amateur video coming into us, including this one. I want to bring this up. I want to warn you, though, this is very graphic indeed.

We're seeing here people screaming on the streets. There is a police van there in sight. It mows straight into a crowd of people. There you can see it.

There's the back of that van. It's now going to reverse out. And on the left, we are going to see another police van.

This police van moves in, mows over the top of a person lying on the road there. You can see them on the far right. Now, after that, all of the witnesses move in and try to remove that person off the streets.

So, some vivid pictures we are getting in from Iran.

Now, also, getting some response from Iran's police chief. He has said he will show no mercy.

Want to listen to what he had to say. Let's bring that up.

GEN. ISMAIL AHMADI MOGHADDAM, IRANIAN POLICE CHIEF (through translator): The time of moderateness is over. I have repeatedly said that before, but they thought I was joking.

From now on, anyone who participates in such demonstrations and gets involved in fundamentalist and destructive actions will see no leniency. The crackdown will be harsher in comparison to this Sunday. The judicial process will also be harsher. You will see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Now, he has said that he will crush the protesters, his words there.

Now, also at this point, of course, we were reporting on Sunday there was word that the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi had been killed. That was confirmed today, and his name, Syed Ali Mousavi. He was buried today.

At this stage, we don't have very much information on exactly what happened and how he died. His uncle's supporters say he was shot to death, but the Iranian government denies that. There are increasing fears, too, that Mousavi could also be arrested.

So, the combination of these deaths, these arrests, and, of course, the Iranian language coming from Iran, directed criticism at the United States and Britain, all of that combining to increase the tension between Iran and the West.

Back to you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Rosemary, thanks.

New orders now today for some four million federal workers -- don't text while you're driving. President Obama signed the measure back in October, but it officially goes into effect today. The texting ban is part of the government's plan to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Two media giants locked in a bitter battle, and you could wind up the loser. News Corp, the parent company of Fox, wants Time Warner Cable to pay higher fees. If they don't, you might have to scramble to find your favorite shows or the NFL playoff games. The current contract is set to expire at midnight on New Year's Eve.

The all-clear given after some tense moments in Times Square today. Police blocked off the area and evacuated some buildings after a suspicious van was spotted. That van is believed to have been left unattended in a parking spot for about a day or two.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, Times Square getting ready to ring in the new year with the greenest ball ever. The crowds have not gathered quite yet, but CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow live in Times Square to give us specifics on that.

But let me tell you, you had quite a little interim surprise there, I guess, as you break off. We were concerned about a suspicious van.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Right. We did. A nice little lunch break for me, Kyra.

We were on the roof of this building at One Times Square and they evacuated us. So I was on the phone with you guys, reporting live as we were walking down 21 flights of stairs. So, you know, it's nice. It warmed me up a little bit. It's a little cold out here.

But no, back to the...

PHILLIPS: A little double duty.

HARLOW: Right, a little double duty. Back to the good story though this New Year's Eve, of course, as you said. It will be the greenest ever.

What you're looking at behind me, folks, is that famous New Year's Eve ball. But what makes it so green this year is that there are literally over 32,000 LED lights in the ball and in the 2010 numbers that will light up at midnight tomorrow night. And we're talking about big energy savings here.

It's going to be 78 percent more energy efficient than back in 2007. And for every hour that this thing is lit up, Kyra, it's going to take the same amount of energy as it would to heat two traditional ovens at home. So, a major energy savings.

And if you're sitting at home and you're wondering, how can I partake, can I use this technology to be more energy efficiency? You can.

We talked to the head of Philips North American Lighting. Here's what he said about what you can do at home.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED CRAWFORD, CEO, PHILIPS LIGHTING NORTH AMERICA: Well, for the average consumer, they hate changing light bulbs. And the beautiful thing about this product is it lasts 20 times longer than what they're using now. So, that's 20 less trips down to the store, it's 20 less times they have to get out the ladder. It saves a tremendous amount of energy but, also, it saves because you don't have to replace the light bulb very often.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right.

And Kyra, these are the light bulbs he's talking about, LED light bulbs. You can buy them at the hardware store. They're 80 percent more energy efficient.

But some other people here in Times Square -- I want to roll this video for you -- being energy efficiency this year at the Duracell Pedal Power Lab. They are literally pedaling for 166 hours. All of that power, that's going to light up the 2010 number that we see tomorrow night, here on Times Square -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. So, why all this attention? Why all this money? Why all these changes?

HARLOW: Sure.

PHILLIPS: Because there is quite a history behind this ball drop. For those who maybe this might be the first time, or they are just tuning in, they have never lived in our country, this is something that goes back years.

HARLOW: It's an American tradition. People started gathering here in Times Square, Kyra, in 1904. 1907 was when we had that first ball drop in Times Square.

I've got to tell you, much smaller. This ball is 12 feet wide and weighs over 11,800 pounds. The first one was 5 feet wide and it weighed 700 pounds.

So that dropped every year except -- this is interesting, Kyra -- 1942 and 1943, during World War II. They didn't have the ball drop. People came to Times Square, but they had a dim out and then a moment of silence before ringing in the new year.

I thought that was an interesting little fact.

But no, this is such an American tradition. We're just going a little greener this year, Kyra. And, of course, that's all going to kick off tomorrow night. CNN is going to have coverage starting at 11:00 Eastern -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We sure are. We hope folks tune in.

Poppy, thanks so much.

HARLOW: You got it.

PHILLIPS: We're just getting word now of an earthquake in Baja, Mexico.

Karen McGinnis is working that for us, will join us with more.

Are we going to go now?

Yes, we are.

Karen, what have you got?

KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right.

Yes, we want to show you what the latest is.

Here is the border between Baja and the United States, right along here. Here is Arizona.

This is where we have actually seen kind of a cluster of quakes. If we can zoom in across this area, it's about 20 miles to the south of Mexicali, Mexico. That is very near the U.S./Mexico border, about 100 miles from San Diego.

If you're wondering if they felt anything in San Diego, the word that we hear from our CNN affiliates there are yes, they felt it slightly. The magnitude on this, 5.9.

But since then, take a look at this. We see a couple of these red dots.

There actually have been a few aftershocks, each of them successfully weaker than the other. The initial one, 5.9, very shallow depth, only about two miles deep. That is very shallow when you are looking at these quakes. But you can see some of these other red dots indicate where some of the other aftershocks have taken place.

This is about 100 miles to the east of San Diego. And as I mentioned before, they said they did feel it there. There are no reports of any damage or any injuries.

So we'll keep you updated on that.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Lots to talk about right now in Afghanistan, as well.

Atia Abawi about a bombing. Atia, what do you know?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, what we're hearing right now is that Americans have been killed after a suicide attack in the eastern Afghanistan in the province of Khost. This bomber -- the details that we do have, although they're fuzzy, he was able to get onto this base. This was a U.S. Military base. He was able to get into either the dining facility or the gym where the explosion occurred and killed these Americans.

Again, we're still waiting on the more details and we're waiting to see exactly how this man was able to get on base, have access to the Americans there. Right now the U.S. Military is stating that it was not soldiers or U.S. troops that were killed. And we're still waiting to hear from the U.S. Embassy who the Americans were -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Atia Abawi, keep us posted. Appreciate it.

Well, you're standing at the checkpoint waiting to get on an airplane. Do you prefer scan or sniff?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: In Somali, word that a potential terror attack on a jetliner may have been averted last month. Authorities say that a man tried to board a flight in Mogadishu with chemicals, liquid and a syringe. He was arrested by African peace-keeping troops before the flight took off. The flight's final destination was Dubai.

Millimeter wave technology -- the wave of the future in airline security. The future is not at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The final point of departure for Christmas Day bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The Dutch say they'll have 15 body scans machines up and running in three weeks. And passengers bound for the U.S. will pass right through them.

One uses high energy electromagnetic waves. The other, a wet nose and instinct, and lots of training. When it comes to keep dangerous chemicals off airplanes, there's the state of the art and the tried and true.

We have two reports, beginning with CNN's Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport the newest weapon on war on terror that can see through clothes carrying explosives. Already used on millions of passengers, these special X-Rays can catch all kinds of contraband.

PETER KANT, RAPISCAN SYSTEMS: Regular weapons, guns, knives, box cutters and the like but also unusual types of weapons. Explosives, liquid explosives, gels.

TODD: Officials at Rapiscan, the manufacturer say the machines can detect pentaerythritol tetra nitrate, an explosive known as PETN, which the suspect in the Christmas Day incident was allegedly carrying.

The machine's images will look like this -- outlines of the body, not in detail but weapons and other items do show up. This technology has been very controversial, because previously it was much less invasive.

I went through a so-called back scanner machine. I was advised that if I didn't want my private areas shown, I should put a metal plate in my pants. I stepped just in front of the machine, turned around. In just a few seconds the monitor displays my humble contours. Now in this test, I'm playing the role of a would-be terrorist. I try toy hide a plastic lipstick container in my vest pocket. Busted. I sneak a sports drink bottle, busted again. How about wires in a sealed sandwich bag hidden in my sock? On the monitor, they show up on my ankle.

But the machines have limitations. When I pour water in a sealed sandwich bag place it inside my beltline and in a sock you can barely see it. But one company behind this technology says trained screeners would detect it. And the Transportation Security Administration says they have other methods to detect liquids.

When this came out, privacy advocates called it a virtual strip search and they're not much more satisfied with the newer technology.

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: Essentially they're putting a digital fig leaf on the image. This protects the image from what the operator will see. But the machine itself can still record all of the detail and store that information for use at a later point.

TODD: A TSA official tells CNN there won't be any hard drives to store the images, and says no one will have access to pictures without the so-called fig leaf on them. From one passengers tested on the older machines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been through it over in Europe and I didn't mind.

TODD: Officials with Rapiscan and the Transportation Security Administration tell us the machines are only used if more than a metal detector is required. And passengers then get a choice between machines and pat-downs.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is a German Shepherd trained to search out explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's placing the explosives in the springs of the vehicle. So like it's a car bomb.

FINNSTROM: He hones in and signals by sitting.

(on camera): So that was a find?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(voice-over): Uncovering a compound similar to what the U.S. government says airport authorities failed to find on the suspected terrorist accused of trying to blow up a flight into Detroit Christmas Day. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like Silly Putty, but it's a very high- grade explosive.

FINNSTROM: Patrick Belts trains bomb sniffing dogs for agencies like the FBI and Los Angeles Police. And believes any properly trained dog would have identified the explosives used.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, it would have been easy.

FINNSTROM: Counter terrorism experts we spoke with agree and are questioning how and when dogs like Bear should be used.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that this individual showed up with a one-way ticket purchased with cash, with no checked baggage. Well, he should have been pulled aside. And at that point if inspected by a dog, literally could have detected.

FINNSTROM: But dogs have limitations. They can only work so long without rest and tend to make a mess if stuck inside for long periods.

(on camera): Still dogs tend to be the cheapest, fastest and most reliable explosive detection capability that we have in this country.

(voice-over): Bear has been a $60,000 training investment over nine years for the Los Angeles Port. He trains monthly in different scenarios. Today, it's an old bus used to simulate an airplane.

(on camera): It only took the dogs seconds to find those explosives hidden aboard the bus. But Beltz says had those same explosives been hidden in my clothing the dogs might not have found them at all, because they have not been taught or directed to do so.

PATRICK BELTZ, EXPLOSIVE-SNIFFING DOG TRAINER: That I know of, no one has been given a green light for dogs to smell bodies.

FINNSTROM: That's here in the U.S. Beltz does train dogs to sniff-search people for countries in the Middle and Far East where he says standards are different.

BELTZ: In America, it could be considered very intrusive to make you stand still while my dog went to your groin area and smelled around.

WILLIAM YOCHAM, LOS ANGELES PORT POLICE: They can be taught and I have every confidence that he could do it but right now the legalities of it are just astronomical.

FINNSTROM: The Transportation Safety Administration says the 700 dogs its currently using are trained to check baggage, cargo at airport areas. But could be used to check people if necessary.

Terrorism concerns have prompted Auburn University to develop a program they claim trains dogs to sniff out suspects carrying explosives as they casually walk past. Since the Detroit incident, discussions of increasing aviation security have focused mostly on the technology, but perhaps one part of the solution is man's best friend.

In Banning, California, Kara Finnstrom, for CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Well, dog scanners. mandatory pat downs. What security measures do you want to see next time you are at the airport? Here are the tweets.

TweetSensations says, "Full body searches would be super time consuming and might be too easy for a bad egg TSA agent to abuse. And I don't think that utilizing intrusive scanners on human beings should be instituted until its health effects are fully investigated.

But Doug42755 says, "Aura scanners are not expensive and safe. They will help identify health issues along with objects for airport security.

JohnMichaelPoff is up for "Anything that will keep me safe me on an airplane. So, D) all of the above."

From DABigBoss12, "We are losing more and more freedoms for the sake of protection. Now they want some pervert to see my daughter naked at airports.

SmokeyTyrz asks, "Why not use casino-style biometics scanners at airports?"

And from Sweebee, "Prevent another 9/11. Make the full body scan mandatory. Privacy is nothing if you're dead."

Thanks guys, for all of your thoughts.

Now, for the record, those air travel rules put in place in the wake of Flight 253 were due to expire today, but the TSA is extending them for airlines and airports. They include pat downs and extra extensions for carry-ons. Airlines may at their discretion enforce a one-hour rule. That means passengers have to stay seated for the last hour of hour of flight to the U.S. from abroad. And no blankets or pillows on the passengers' laps during that hour. The TSA is expected to issue a new directive tonight.

Tough time for an American family. Their loved one, a missionary, believed to be held in North Korea. And they're working to get him released.

And 2010 looks like a good year for snail mailers and stamp collectors. A lot of new ones coming out. For example, Mother Theresa will appear on a new postage, perfect for mailing donations to your favorite charity. And from the big screen to the small stamp, Oscan winner Katherine Hepburn. Old time Western heroes, Gene Autry, Tom Mix and Roy Rogers. Finally, straight from the Sunday funnies, Beetle Bailey, Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Top stories now. Family members of an American missionary believed to be held in North Korea say they're working with U.S. authorities to get him released. Robert Park told relatives before Christmas that he was trying to sneak into the communist country.

After more than two years in captivity in Iraq, freedom for British man. Peter Moore is now undergoing medical tests after his release in Baghdad. Moore, a computer expert, was one of five British men seized by militants in May of 2007. The kidnappers later killed three men and released their bodies. The fourth captive is also believed to be dead.

In South Africa, a huge new concern for doctors battling HIV and AIDS. Drugs that used to work against the disease are suddenly not working so well. They've apparently built up a resistance. Two thirds of the world's 33 million HIV cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Well, look out Hogs because here comes a Gator. Where else but Florida? Our (INAUDIBLE) are up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: As always Team Sanchez working hard back there on the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

Hi, Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Kyra, Iran is obviously a huge story, it's breaking news. We're going to be all over that as I'm sure you guys have been covering, as well.

But this Mike Leach story that we started on yesterday -- remember you and I were talking about this yesterday when I was up in New York. This thing now has reached new heights. Apparently the coach -- he's been fired. They did so just as he was going to file this -- his lawyers, the guy Liggett who I've been talking to had this TRO that I've gotten a copy of. He was going up the steps, he was filing the TRO -- temporary restraining order -- so that the coach could continue coaching at Texas Tech. And just as he's doing that, they serve him with a different set of papers. Those set of papers essentially telling the Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach that he's fired. All of this having to do with Craig Kames' son which he allegedly abused by putting him in isolation in a shed.

I tell you, we're working on getting the lawyer. We're going to get guests on from the university. This is turning into a real talker and it's all happening interestingly enough, right in the middle of bowl season. I mean, this is when people are supposed to be watching the teams' best athletes all coming together. Instead, we're seeing this seeming debacle. And neither side, by the way -- we just talked to the lawyer -- neither side is letting go on this things. The lawyer for Mike Leach said, this is not over. So we'll talk to him and see what is going on.

PHILLIPS: Sounds good, Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right.

PHILLIPS: Thanks.

Get your motor running or your gator running, and head out on the highway. A Florida man's riding high, but not on a hog -- on his gator cycle. Why? Just because. Florida's alligator country, you know. The dude says that he had to soak the 10-foot hide for a week just to get it soft enough to work with. Where you ask? Where else, his swimming pool.

(GIVING IN FOCUS) PHILLIPS: Isn't that the truth. Well, you can see more examples of how your friends and neighbors are helping the needy. Just click onto our web site CNN.com/giving. And Saturday, CNN will give you a special look at the best of the "Giving in Focus" stories in "Favorites in Focus." That show starts 3:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, we're staying on top of the leadership vacuum at the Transportation Security Administration. TSA being run by an acting boss while the President's choice of a permanent head is held up in the Senate. One senator, South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint forcing a delay because he's afraid nominee Erroll Southers will let TSA screeners join a union. He is not backing down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM MDEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think the American people should be aware that the priority of the administration is to submit our airport security collective bargaining with the unions. Even though that's been prohibited since the agency was formed.

The reason it's prohibited is the same reason for the CIA, the Secret Service, the FBI, the Coast Guard is there's a constant need to adjust, to be flexible, to use imagination to change things. We cannot ask a third-party union boss whether or not we can a screener from one station to another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Well, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he'll force a vote on the nomination when the Senate reconvenes next month.

I'm Kyra Phillips, that does it for us. We'll be back here tomorrow, 1:00 Eastern.

Rick Sanchez picks it up from here.