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Flight 253 Terror Plot

Aired December 30, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Obama blames human and systemic failures for the Christmas Day terror bombing attempt. Should heads roll at the CIA? TSA? Department of Homeland Security? We are going to talk about that with the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean. Three Americans who lost loved ones to terrorism and Ambassador Paul Bremer will be here. What did the U.S. really learn from September 11th and is the country safer now than it was then? Plus, a shocking 911 call on Christmas day from Charlie Sheen's wife. Brooke Mueller, why he is now asking a judge to modify a restraining order against her husband. We've got an exclusive one- on-one with her attorney next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. Want to thank Candy Crowley for sitting in so ably last night hosting this program. We begin things with Ambassador Paul Bremer. He was served as presidential envoy to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. He was chairman of the national commission on terrorism from '99 to 2000. Mr. Ambassador, thanks being with us. The president says that a mix of human and systemic failures resulted in that terrorist incident Christmas Day. What's your say assessment?

PAUL BREMER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NAT'L COMMISSION ON TERRORISM: I think looking back, Larry, there are groups of technical problems and also conceptual problems. The technical problems involve things like these massive databases and how they are handled or not handled. Secondly, the question of whether there's been adequate information sharing across the various bureaucratic boundaries. And thirdly, of course, the incident showed that there is a massive failure of the screening system. Both the physical screening and the conceptual and sort of how you screen, the fact that this guy paid cash for his ticket, didn't have baggage and so forth. Alarms obviously should have gone off. And I think these technical problems are troubling. They are not particularly surprising to me. Much more concern I think are conceptual problems.

KING: Like?

BREMER: Well, you know, this administration since it came into office really from day one, basically downplayed the question of whether we were involved on a war on terror. They even tried in some cases to redefine it as not a war on terror. And I think that this has -- this conceptual problem has showed itself in the initial reaction of some of the high officials to both the Ft. Hood incident and this incident that happened on Christmas day. There is a sort of a state of denial that sort of follows from the conceptual idea that we are not at war. And thirdly, the administration followed that concept with what I think is an incorrect view that the way to deal with the people is through -- treat them as criminals. One of the clear lessons of the national commission on terrorism, which you pointed out I chaired, was that you have to understand we are at war with these people and they have to be -- they can't be treated as criminals. It's a very different approach.

KING: But Republicans are now criticizing him for what you just said yet the shoe bomber was treated as a criminal, tried in a criminal court, was in jail in America. What is the difference?

BREMER: I think that was also wrong. I think when this fellow was subdued on Christmas day, the very first and top priority should have been and continues to be to interrogate him to get as much information as possible because the role of the goal is not to bring him to justice. The goal is to prevent future attacks. And it's not surprising that as soon as he got himself a lawyer, he stopped talking. And that is the price you pay when you consider these terrorists just as criminals. They are criminals, but our goal should be to get as much information as possible because our objective is to save American lives in the future.

KING: So mistakes were made in the past as well. Do you think it's wrong though for some, Republican Vice President Cheney among others, for criticizing the president? First if it is a time of war, why criticize the chief executive? And weren't mistakes made in that administration?

BREMER: Sure I don't think there has been an administration certainly not since I've been down here in Washington which is more than 40 years that hasn't made mistakes. All administrations make mistakes. The question is do they learn from their mistakes. And I think that is the question going forward now.

Will the administration now understand that it's not enough to consider terrorists just as criminals? Which was the way we treated them really in some cases during the '80s and '90s and the national commission on terrorism pointed out that this was a flawed approach. It is a flawed approach. We are at war with these people.

KING: Should we play down the criticism and play up more of the trying to offer support and objective advice?

BREMER: Yes, I think first of all, the president quite correctly has ordered a complete review. First results I guess are due on his desk tomorrow. That will probably address most of these first area that I spoke of, these technical problems of the database and information sharing and the system for screening. And I think I judge from what he said that he intends to act on what he learns. He hopefully will find where the faults are, take whatever action is appropriate and then hopefully make us all safer. I think we should wait and see how that works out and I certainly hope very much that he succeeds in making us safer. That is his job.

KING: You were chairman of the national commission on terrorism. There's a terrorist born every minute. Is this a winnable war?

BREMER: Yes, it is a winnable war. But it is winnable on the condition that we understand that it's going to be a very long war, just as the Cold War was a long war. And by the way, it's important that in this war we have bipartisan support for the conduct of this war. No one party could have succeeded in winning the Cold War over a period of 50 years. It had to be conducted under Republican and Democratic administrations across a very long period of time. And this is a generational conflict we are in with Islamic extremists that's going to have bipartisan support and hopefully out this incident or the lessons from this incident, we can begin to build some bipartisan support to winning the war.

KING: Thank you ambassador, happy New Year.

BREMER: Happy New Year to you.

KING: Ambassador Paul Bremer. Governor Thomas Kean was the chairman of the 9/11 Commission. We will ask him about the failed terror attack and what he thinks went wrong next.


KING: Joining us now is Thomas Kean, the former governor of New Jersey who served as chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Thomas Kean, it's always great to see you with us. What do you make of what the president said about this being a mix of human and systemic failures?

THOMAS KEAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF 9/11 COMMISSION: Well, I suspect the president's right. The president has taken the right attitude. This is something that's got be fixed. I know we are going to search for who created the problems and what they are. But the main problem is let's fix them and let's move on.

KING: "The Washington Times" quotes your co-chair, Lee Hamilton, as saying that homeland security officials have good intentions but that they lack passion and urgency. He thinks homeland security has not risen to the priority level it needs to achieve. Agree or disagree?

KEAN: Well as usual, Lee Hamilton right. There are a lot of problems on the president's plate. We've been dealing, as you know, with health care, finances and global warming and all very important problems. But the most important problem in the world is keeping the American people safe and this has always got to be at the top of the list, no matter what else is going on.

KING: Now we always look back, we say this guy shouldn't have been stopped at this airport. Isn't it true that President Bush had an August 6th memo that might have prevented 9/11?

KEAN: That is a little unfair because there wasn't a single branch of the United States government that dealt with terrorism in any way that wasn't responsible in some way. Our report documented again and again the failures and the problem this time, it's, you know, it's like reading the same script over again. They are talking about the fact that intelligence agencies didn't talk to one another. And that was the major fault we found in our report. We said if they had talked to each other, there was a possibility that 9/11 just wouldn't have happened. And here again, we were lucky this time but again, intelligence agencies didn't seem to be talking to one another.

KING: What do you make of the former Vice President Dick Cheney's charge that the president is trying to pretend we are not at war?

KEAN: Well, I don't know. I just not soon get into that kind of charge because I don't think it's productive at this point. What really is productive at this point is getting together, finding out whether the director of national intelligence is operating correctly. That's the new position that was created under the legislation we recommended that Congress passed, whether the counterterrorism center is operating as it should and what the mistakes were and whether we can correct those mistakes and correct those fast because these people want to harm us. Don't pretend they don't. These people are out there to kill American citizens and we've got to be on alert at all times and that means all 17 intelligence agencies operating together, operating as a unit, sharing information with one another, helping to stop the next plot before it occurs.

KING: Ambassador Bremer said that this is a winnable war. Do you agree with that?

KEAN: Yes, one by one. But we've got to -- we've got to always be on the alert. And since we're fighting a shooting war in Afghanistan against these very same people, what they want to do is have an attack against us, hopefully for their point of view, an attack on our soil.

So it's particularly important now to stay alert. They will try to do this. They will to try it out of Africa or Asia or out of any number of places in the world where they have affiliates. There is a lot of al Qaedas around now. And we've just got to be alert. We've got to make sure the intelligence agencies are working the way they should, the president was right to say what we did. And he said, basically, people screwed up, I want to get to the bottom of it, I want to make sure it doesn't happen again. And I commend the president for taking that attitude.

KING: Your commission was hailed for its bipartisanship, the way you and Congressman Hamilton got along so well. What impact though do you think political skirmishing now has on all of this?

KEAN: It has a negative effect. I mean, this is not something the parties ought to be fighting over. Look, there are two things going on right now. One is there are partisan comments coming from both sides and the other thing is if there is certain sniping going around within the intelligence community where people are saying, maybe it was their fault and not our fault.

But both of those things are absolutely uncalled for. Both of those things don't help us one bit in defending the country or its people. Intelligence agencies have got to work together as one unit and they've got to cooperate with each other. The parties, when it comes to national security, partisanship should end right there and we should be working together as a country, and as a people. And if we don't, you know, people are going to suffer.

KING: Are we safer now than 9/11?

KEAN: Yes, we're safer now but not, as we found out in this incident, not as safe as we should be. I mean, that's the problem, that we're safer now but these people are looking for new ways to attack and this was a new way they tried this time. And thanks to some brave people on the plane and perhaps some failure of their technology, we were a little lucky this time.

But the technology is we've got to stop them at the airport before they get of the plane. This fellow should have been stopped at the airport. He should not have had a visa to come into this country. He was the profile of a terrorist, as you and I understand terrorism. Should have been identified, should have been stopped and we ought to do that to terrorists in the future.

KING: Governor, from a U.S. government official, we have learned that the United States had intelligence that between August and October of this year, that extremists in Yemen were discussing operations. Someone known as the Nigerian was mentioned. U.S. intelligence also had a partial name Umar Farouk. The CIA apparently had information. His father was given warnings. What went wrong?

KEAN: They didn't talk to each or other. They didn't put these pieces of information together. It didn't come up in the National Terrorism Center, I presume. I presume the director of national intelligence didn't have this information.

And there's the same kind of problems that happened on 9/11. This is Yogi Berra says deja vu all over again. Here it is. And look, one incident alone, this wasn't any father. This was a father who was one of the top citizens in his country and a very prominent businessman. When he has the courage to come forward to the American Embassy and say, look, I'm worried about my son, he's in with terrorists, all that, that should have risen right to the top. Forget all the other pieces of information and the president said we had a lot, some we don't even know about. But forget all the rest. That alone should have gotten attention.

KING: Thank you, governor, happy New Year and good seeing you again.

KEAN: Nice to see you again, Larry.

KING: Governor Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey. The CIA by the way denies allegations that the agency didn't properly share information about the terror suspect but many people are asking, did the CIA drop the ball? Two former CIA officials will talk about it when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Joining us now is Tyler Drumheller, former CIA official, served the agency for more than 25 years. He was the division chief for the director of operations in Europe, author of the book "On the Brink: An Insiders Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence."

Also with us is Larry Johnson, he served as deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He's a former CIA analyst and co-founder and CEO of Berg Associates. First, our condolences, Tyler and Larry, eight Americans killed in Afghanistan's suicide bombings, all believed to be CIA employees. Do you have a comment on that, Tyler?

TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: Yes, I just heard that just now and it just underlines the world we live in and the sacrifices that the officers of the CIA along with the military of the CIA make in these peoples really is heart breaking. My thoughts go that to their family, obviously.

KING: Larry?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA ANALYST: It's a no-win situation, you know, the CIA gets kicked around for not connecting dots and then you've got men and women out there on the front lines getting killed. The eight that lost their lives, this is one of the largest losses of lives of CIA employees in the last 30 years.

KING: The CIA is rejecting accusations that it failed to properly share vital intelligence on the Christmas day terror suspect. Do you buy that? They're denying it, Tyler.

DRUMHELLER: Yes, I think they did share. The problem here is that the system that was set up by the Reform Act in 2004, Intelligence Reform Act in 2004 set this up. This was almost an inevitable with the expansion of the intelligence community, the bureaucracy here in Washington that it was almost inevitable that something like this was going to happen.

The CIA station in Lagos collected this, they sent it in. The information comes from the field, it goes to all -- it goes automatically to the National Counterterrorism Center, to the CIA, to the White House, all these people get it.

The problem is they have broken the link between the analytical process and the operators in the field. So the people who are analyzing here, many of them are young contractors working at the counterterrorism center don't have the experience and don't have the grasp of this to go back to the station and ask the second question. The station doesn't have the contact to specific analysts to go, to follow up on it and see if what they have sent it in has been followed up on. So they've got -- the real question here is the bill for the future, to make it smaller, better staffed and more efficient.

KING: We keep hearing, Larry, about a failure to connect the dots. Based on what you know, are we connecting the dots? JOHNSON: Yes, we are. And I think that is an outrageous charge and really it's not correct. I've worked in intelligence now for 25 years. I still hold clearances. I still work both with intelligence analysts and military operators.

And this information was getting its way through the system. The reality Larry is the failure wasn't on the intelligence side. The failure was at the airport. Ten years ago, you would profiled this individual. And by profiling, I don't mean you look at the race, ethnicity, size of his body. You look at the fact that he bought a ticket going one way with cash with no luggage and you're going to Detroit in December without a winter coat? That immediately 10 years ago would have forced the airline to pull him aside and say, OK, what's up and start looking at him and maybe suggest him to some very specific training with some trace detectors. That could have been done. It wasn't.

So yes, it's unfortunate that the information hadn't become instantaneous. But what's going to happen out of this -- if we go this route, the critics will say, oh, you didn't connect the dots, it is going to create from the analysts standpoint a reaction where everything is going to come to the top. You are going to have such a blizzard of information that nobody will be able to actually see the real threats from -- there are hundreds of bogus threats that come through every day.

And it's sometimes only after the fact -- when this guy was identified firmly as having said, you know, I'm going to blow up a plane, then everyone started going through the files. If his father had gone to the embassy and said look, my son has got exploding underwear, he's going to fly and try to blow up a brain at Detroit, if the CIA had that information yes, they should be excoriated. But I guarantee you, they did not have that kind of information.

KING: We are going to have you both back very soon. Thank you Tyler and Larry, happy New Year.

DRUMHELLER: Thank you, Larry.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Larry.

KING: What has the United States learned about security since the attacks of 9/11? Family members of those killed on that terrible day speak out when we come back.


KING: Nobody can speak more about tragedy than victims of it. Joining us now, David Beamer, his son Todd Beamer died on United flight 93 on September 11th. Todd was among those passengers who fought back against the hijackers before the plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Also Debra Burlingame, she's the sister of Charles Burlinghame III. He was the pilot of American Airlines flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon. She is also the co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Strong and Safe America. And Alice Hoglan, her son Mark Bingham also died on United flight 93. Alice as well is a former flight attendant.

What is your reaction, David, to what happened Christmas day?

DAVID BEAMER, SON DIED IN 9/11 ATTACK: Well, Larry, it was a terrible event and I'm certainly pleased that the mission was not successful. I'm very thankful for the fellow that was referred to as the flying Dutchman for leaping to action and preventing that plane from being blown up.

So I'm very pleased with the outcome and of course disheartened about the fact that it happened at all. And it clearly points out from the enemy's point of view, they believe that there is a war going on and for them, it's an absolute passion and an absolutely priority. And I'm not convinced that for us, that the war is really -- has either of those. For us, it seemed to be more of one of the agenda items but not one that we are pursuing with real passion and an absolute priority. I'm concerned about that.

KING: Debra, do you agree with that, Debra?

DEBRA BURLINGAME, BROTHER DIED IN 9/11 ATTACK: I completely agree. I think that in some ways, this young man from Nigeria may have done us a favor because he pointed out that we have a policy of denial now about who this enemy is. The fact that this man would try to blow out the side of an airport and that the response of this government would be to put him into criminal custody, that man should have been taken after he was stabilized medically and interrogated for every bit of intelligence we could get from him.

The Yemeni government is saying they are cooperating, but the fact of the matter is, this is the new center of gravity in Yemen and we need to know who is behind this, who helped him. All of the information that would have come out is now lost to us because he is lawyered up and we will now have to put him through the criminal system where we are negotiating with the terrorists to get this information.

KING: Alice, the same thing occurred though in the Bush administration with the shoe bomber.

ALICE HOGLAN, SON DIED IN 9/11 ATTACK: Yes, in his own perverse way, this fellow Abdulmutallab has done us a favor. He has given the American people a gift. We are now focused on two important issues that we have somehow lost track off. Those are deficiencies in aviation security and the proper courts for trying terrorists.

KING: David, do you ever forget that day?

BEAMER: Never forget it, Larry and I'm reminded of it always, every time I see our grandchildren, clearly reminds what we're all missing. And I think the gift, if you will, that has happened during this Christmas season has really also been a gift to our enemies. In that here, they had a plan. And even though, even though we had intelligence, we had the terrorist's father trying to warn us, and the fact that we still couldn't prevent him from getting on the airplane, I think they must be saying, wow, this is easier than we thought. I think they're encouraged by it.

KING: More with Debra and Alice when we come back. Our blog question of the day is do you think security in the United States has improved since 9/11? We would love to know what you think. Go to and more with our families when we come back.


KING: Debra, there were failures in the Bush administration, as early failures in this administration. Do you think we can do anything firm to stop all of this?

BURLINGAME: Yes, I do. I think, first of all, we need no understand who this enemy is. And once we understand that they are committed, they are resolved, and they are going to stay in this fight for generations -- what we need to do is accept that and not fool ourselves into thinking that if we are kind, that if we show them forbearance, that if we close places like Guantanamo, where we keep known, committed, hardened terrorists away from our soil, that that is going to keep us safe.

We have to understand that the key to all this in intelligence. When that man, that credible man walked into the US embassy in Nigeria, the first thing the State Department should have done was to find out whether or not this man, his son, was issued a visa and revoke it. They have the authority to do it. That would have kept him off the plane right there. We didn't need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep him off the plane if they had done that one thing.

KING: Alice, at this time of the year, is it more particularly difficult for you?

HOGLAN: Yes, of course. I live with the fact that my son will not be with me every day. The word hero has bandied about and abused. But my hero is Casper Shuringa, who mustered all his courage, stood up, ran to this ugly guy, yanked him out of his burning seat, hauled him out, and thwarted him, and, in so doing, was able to make up for several levels of failure in security that should have kept the guy off the plane in the first place.

It showed up that just the same thing that happened on Flight 93 on September 11th, that a small group of passengers, when they are confronted with the facts, can, indeed, summon the courage to act together and make up for the security deficiencies that I'm afraid are still very prevalent in the security system. I'm just so grateful to President Obama for acknowledging that there has been a failure and that we do need to continue working. We are a little safer now, but not nearly as safe as we should be.

I agree with Thomas Kean and with Paul Bremer. They are both correct. It's a winnable war, but we have a long way to go.

KING: David, do you have of any optimism?

BEAMER: Larry, I am an optimist and I think with good, committed people, making this a priority, we can continue to make sure world safer. I'm chagrined by some of this knee jerk reaction or something to gain a little favor and help us think positively. If the enemy has a sense of humor, then they must be chuckling about our response that says, OK, all Americans are going to have to stay in their seats, like third graders, for the last hour of the flight, which I say is ridiculous and really having nothing to do with solving the problem.

KING: Do you agree with that, Debra?

BURLINGAME: Yes, and you talk about knee jerk, the TSA is really abusing passengers at this point. And that is part of jihad. They love to see us go through these shenanigans, jumping through hoops. Janet Napolitano pointed to how everything ran smoothly afterwards, that TSA stepped up their security measures. They were doing pat- downs on people, pat-downs. These explosives were kept in this man's groin area, the crotch. Nobody is being patted down in that area. This is all for show and they have to stop doing that. The American people understand that is a dog and pony show and it has to stop.

KING: Three victims speaking out. David Beamer, Debra Burlingame, Alice Hoglan, our thoughts will always be with them.


KING: Happy New Year. Former Vice President Dick Cheney slams President Obama, saying he is trying to pretend we are not at war. Has the president done enough? We will debate the politics of terror when we come back.


KING: Welcome back. This is a war of words over the war on terror. And former Vice President Dick Cheney seems to be leading the charge. Here to talk about the political issues surrounding the failed Christmas day terror attempt is S.E. Cupp, columnist for the "New York Daily News," a political commentator, and co-author of "Why You Are Wrong About The Right." Also with us is Tanya Acker, rather. I've got a new profession for you. She's a political analyst and contributor to the "Huffington Post." She also worked in the office of the White House Counsel during the Clinton presidency.

Here is what he said, Cheney: "as I have watched the events of the last few days, it's clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airline and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war." Is that a little too critical, SE?

S.E. CUPP, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": No, I think the vice president is expressing frustration that a lot of Americans have right now. The president has coming out looking almost like a CEO who is looking to address a kink in the system, rather than an impassioned national leader. I think Americans remember after 9/11, when President Bush came out to address the nation. He was angry. He was visibly outraged.

KING: SE, I don't mean to intercept, but he also, as we've discussed -- there where information prior to that that could have prevented 9/11. Wouldn't that have been better?

CUPP: Sure. Let's be very clear, these fundamentalists are going to try to attack us regardless of who is in office. This is not Obama's fault. However, he is making serious, serious misjudgments, miscalculations about our national security, both in his tone and tenor, and in the actual practical measures that he is initiating, closing Gitmo and trying terrorists as criminals.

KING: Tanya, Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye dismisses the comments, saying Cheney has lost all his credibility?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course he has. I mean, the former vice president has been rooting for failure, and for the failure of this administration since January. None of this is any surprise.

But I find it so interesting, again, curiously short memory that he seems to have about the nation's efforts to fight terrorism. You know, were we at war when the Bush administration reduced New York City's anti-terror funding by 80 million dollars on the grounds that there weren't any national landmarks there? Were we at war when the Bush administration and its GOP allies didn't move forward with Democratic proposals to inspect cargo containers and shipping containers that were coming into the US?

We could play a very partisan game about failures on both sides. What we really need to do now is to try to think about something that is proactive, instead of simply reacting to the last terror attack.

KING: SE, if it is a time of war, why criticize the chief executive? I thought we all band together?

CUPP: Sure. Of course, I'm certainly not rooting for Obama to fail or for the country to be attacked. That is outrageous. But I think it's my patriotic duty to question the president when he comes out four days after we have been almost attacked. And by the way, this was not a failure. They succeeded. They succeeded in terrorizing us.

Four days after the fact and basically says, we are going to look into this. And his secretary of Homeland Security comes out and says that the system worked. It's my obligation to question what they're doing and how they're this incident.

KING: Frankly, Obama, shouldn't he have come out earlier?

ACKER: Yes, he should have come out earlier. Janet Napolitano shouldn't have said that. She actually retracted that, by suggesting that the system worked. To suggest that now we are in a huge crisis because he gave a press conference two days later, instead of this attack -- was not successful. It was a failed attack. It's simply lunacy.

Let's not simply try to score partisan points here. Why aren't we looking at new mechanisms for screening people? And frankly, by the way, I think there are some real lapses here that occurred at the airport. If this guy really did check in with no bags and paid cash for a ticket, that is absurd. What are you doing on a plane with no bags, paying cash for a ticker?

There were lapses at every level. But I find this GOP attempt to try demonize the president, it's quite offensive.

CUPP: Tanya, if you don't think this is a crisis, you are naive. We are in a crisis. Just addressing the airport security is not going to do anything about Ft. Hood or the attempt on Ft. Dix. This is not just about airports. This is about ideology. And the president does not want to acknowledge that. That's the problem. It's not funny either.

ACKER: Democrats never said we weren't in a crisis. I wish that the GOP -- and, frankly, I wish we had all this outrage when Democrats said, hey, we want to inspect cargo shipping containers that come into the US, but the GOP said it was too expensive. When the Bush administration said they wanted to relinquish control of six US ports to a Dubai company, but then said that we still don't want to inspect cargo containers coming into the country from overseas.

Yes, I think it is a crisis. It's not just about the airport. I certainly never said that. But until we start looking at this in a global comprehensive way, then we are not going simply be nothing but reactive.

KING: SE, last night on this show, Dan Burton, the congressman from Indiana, said Janet Napolitano should resign. Should she?

CUPP: I don't think so. I don't think this was Janet Napolitano going rogue and making something up. I think she was given a directive to defend the system. And whoever told her that, that is who should be fired. I think Jane Napolitano was taking orders. And that is the scary part about this.

ACKER: I don't have a basis for know that somebody whispered in Janet Napolitano's ear to say, here is what you say on Sunday. I'm not going to be that much of a conspiracy theorist

KING: You have not heard the last of this. S.E. Cupp and Tanya Acker, thank you very much. And Happy New Year to you both.

Actor Charlie Sheen was arrested, by the way, for allegedly assaulting his wife Brooke on Christmas day. Her lawyer speaks to us exclusively in 60 seconds.


KING: welcome back. On Christmas morning, Actor Charlie Sheen was arrested in Aspen, Colorado. He was charged with domestic abuse, criminal mischief, menacing, and assault in the second degree.

Let's listen now to the 911 call made by Charlie's wife, Brooke.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me exactly what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband had me -- with a knife. And I'm scared for my life. And he threatened me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, are you guys separated right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, right now we have people that are separating us. But I have to file the report or else --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there other people there? Does he still have the knife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he still has the knife, but there are other people that are here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are the people that are there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have people here. My family is here. But right now, if I don't file this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, where is he with the knife?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is in the other room?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is someone in the room with him?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is with somebody packing to leave. But if I don't file the report --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand. I'm sending officers to help you. I need more information. Does have any other weapons?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, which room is he in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the back room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And which room are you in? When the officers enter the house, which room will he be in?


I thought I was going to die for one hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, what's your name?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what's your husband's name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Charlie Sheen. I got to file this report.


KING: That was Brooke Mueller making that call. Her attorney, Yale Galanter, is here with us, a LARRY KING LIVE exclusive, next.



KING: By the way, we sent out a -- we reached out to Charlie Sheen or his representatives to come on the show. They declined or they actually didn't even give us a statement. With us is Yale Galanter, an old friend, attorney for Charlie Sheen's wife, Brooke Mueller. He is in Aspen, Colorado.

From what your client told you, what happened at 3:30 Christmas morning?

YALE GALANTER, ATTORNEY FOR BROOKE MUELLER: Larry, they had a very bad marital moment is what he like to call it. Brooke ended up calling the police. Unfortunately, Charlie was arrested. Fortunately, Charlie was able to bond out of jail right away. This morning, we went to court with Charlie's lawyers and filed some paperwork to have the domestic violence restraining order modified so that the two of them can have contact again.

KING: According to police reports, Yale, Brooke told them he pulled out a knife, held it to her throat and said "you better be in fear. If you tell anybody, I'll kill you. Your mother's money means nothing. I have ex-police I can hire who know how to get the job done and they won't leave any trace." Brooke says she replied, "you're right. You're right. You're right. I'm sorry. I love you."

What do you make of this, Yale? What is this all about?

GALANTER: Well, again, Larry, I really do think it is a private matter between Brooke and Charlie. I know that they want to reconcile. They want to try and work on their marriage. They have two beautiful babies that they are trying to raise. And I'm hoping that everything works out for them. And they have a really good future for themselves.

KING: But if he had a knife, can she take back that charge? Under new domestic laws, doesn't he stand charged, whether she says it or not?

GALANTER: Well, I can't -- I'm not Charlie's lawyer. I represent Brooke. But what I can tell you is that the reason they put this domestic violence restraining order in place is to separate them, let them cool down. I can tell that you Brooke loves Charlie very much. I know that Charlie loves Brooke very much. They want to raise their children together. And they really do want to continue with their marriage and have things go along as they should.

In terms of the statements to the police, I really can't speak to that. I wasn't there. I know what the documents say. Hopefully it won't get to that.

KING: You think it's going to be all settled?

GALANTER: We are very hopeful that there is a non-litigation resolution to this. Charlie's arraignment is February 8th. I'm, of course, in contact with Charlie's lawyers all the time. We really are hopeful for an amicable resolution to this.

KING: Yale, as the attorney for one of the parties, you sound awfully sympathetic to the other.

GALANTER: It is not that I'm sympathetic. I think that the fact that they are both celebrities, there is a media spotlight on them -- I really think we need to give them a break. They need time to try and work out their differences. Maybe they need to go to counseling. Maybe they need some kind of guidance. But the truth of the matter is they have been married for almost two years. Brooke recently gave birth to these two beautiful, beautiful babies. And they really should be given every opportunity they possibly can, out of the media spotlight, to try and work out their differences.

You know, they are married. They are no different than anybody else, except that they are celebrities, and there are cameras and lights on them all the time. And they really do need some privacy to try to work this out.

KING: We will be right back with Yale Galanter, the attorney for Charlie Sheen's wife, Brooke. Don't go away.


KING: Charlie Sheen has, of course, been charged with domestic abuse. And he is innocent until proven guilty. Domestic abuse is a very serious topic. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, 512-685-6288.

Yale, you have to admit, based on what she is saying on the 911 call, while this may be private, this is serious business.

GALANTER: Oh, I agree with you 100 percent. I don't think any man should ever do violence to a woman, no matter what the circumstances. That being said, you know, Brooke and Charlie are both adults. They do want to reconcile. They profess their love to one another. And, you know, I think they need -- really need to be given a break and be given the opportunity to do that.

And I think, you know, people, their friends, their family, their counselors, their lawyers, should stand by them and allow that to occur. I mean, that's what they want to do. I think that's what should happen.

KING: Charlie is saying that his wife abuses alcohol. As her attorney, would you comment on that?

GALANTER: Well, I -- you know, I have known Brooke for a long, long time. She is a wonderful, wonderful girl. I have never seen her abuse alcohol. I have been out with her at cocktail parties and social settings. I mean, she really is. She is a wonderful, devoted mother, devoted wife. I have just never seen that. So, you know, at least in terms of my personal knowledge, I've never seen that occur.

KING: Have they talked to each other since the incident?

GALANTER: No, they are prohibited. I mean, since this happened, you know, a few days ago, the court order restricts both of them from having contact. So there's been no e-mail communication, no text, no phone calls. And that's why we filed the petition we filed today, to go into court on Monday morning and ask the judge for some type of modification, so they can have communication and start to try to rebuild their lives and their marriage.

KING: Will both parties be at that hearing Monday?

GALANTER: No. I think it will just be Mr. Sheen's lawyer and myself at the hearing. And we will talk to the judge. And the prosecutor will have a position. And hopefully, we will get the relief we are asking for.

KING: So you are telling us tonight, Yale, that she wants to continue that marriage?

GALANTER: She absolutely wants to continue the marriage. She just wants to raise her children and be with Charlie. And hopefully work things out.

KING: Thanks, Yale. Always good seeing you.

GALANTER: My pleasure, Larry. Take care. Happy holidays.

KING: Same to you. Yale Galanter coming from Aspen, Colorado. He, by the way, is also the attorney for OJ Simpson. Told me before we went on that OJ's appeals have been filed and the Supreme Court of Nevada will be hearing them in February.

It's time now for Erica Hill and "AC 360" -- Erica?