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President Obama Calls for Intelligence Agency Review; Terror Politics: Security Experts Say Lessons of 9/11 Forgotten; Best Places to Live and Work; Cheating Goes Global

Aired December 30, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is 7:00 here in New York this morning on this Wednesday, December 30th. Thanks for being with us on AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Here are the big stories we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

We were supposed to learn from mistakes made prior to September the 11th, 2001, but it seems U.S. intelligence agencies are not much better today when it comes to connecting the dots about possible terror plots against America. In the case of the alleged Christmas bomber, it seems it is the CIA that dropped the ball this time. More on that just ahead.

CHETRY: And President Obama blaming both human error and the system for intelligence failures and promising to fix what went wrong. Reviews of the nation's terror watch list and travel screening procedures are already under way.

Also this morning the White House now admitting Al Qaeda may be behind the failed attack, and now there's talk about possible retaliation against Al Qaeda in Yemen.

ROBERTS: The Transportation Security Administration is extending those extra security measures put in place after the attempted Christmas Day attack. We'll tell you how long to expect those changes at the airport and as well on board aircraft.

CHETRY: First, though, an angry President Obama holding his second news conference in two days from his vacation in Hawaii. CNN learning that even the president himself may not have known until early this week, days after the Northwest failed bomb plot, the alleged terror suspect's father met with somebody from the CIA at the American embassy in Nigeria to give warnings about his son.

The president is now acknowledging a total breakdown of intelligence communication.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. It now appears that weeks ago, this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed. A systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable.


CHETRY: And president Obama now demanding answers from the intelligence community. He wants preliminary results from two investigations by tomorrow.

Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is live in Washington. Jeanne, what are you learning about the so-called, as the president put it, systemic failures?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We've learned the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spoke to the embassy in Nigeria more than once about concerns about his son. We're told that there were two face-to-face meetings, this from sources familiar with the family's discussions with the U.S.

There were two face-to-face meetings, there were several phone calls, there were written communications, and this generated, we're told by a well-placed source, a CIA report. It was a report that was sent on to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but it was not disseminated to the wider intelligence community. It sat there and it did not come to light until after the attempted attack on Christmas Day.

Now, CIA spokesman George Little had a response to this. He said "We learned of him in November. That is when the father came into the embassy. We did not have this name before then.

Also In November we worked with the embassy to ensure he was in the government's terrorist database including mention of his possible extremist connections in Yemen. We also forwarded key biographical information about him to the National Counterterrorism Center."

What the CIA isn't saying is if they passed on all the information it had. And another thing we're wondering about is if this information had been passed through a different channel, through this CIA report, perhaps it would have gotten more attention, perhaps different sets of eyes would have seen that information.

But I will say here that -- you mentioned in the lead that the CIA is, perhaps, the one getting fingered here. They aren't the only ones. There are also questions being raised about the National Counterterrorism Center.

In fact, one U.S. intelligence official said to us last night, "NCTC was created to connect the dots on terrorism. If somebody thinks that could have been done better in this case, they know where to go for answers."

The situation here is not that this one report from the CIA in Nigeria might have put a bright light around this situation, but that it might have been pieced together with other pieces of intelligence that the U.S. government had to give them a clearer picture that an attack was coming.

CHETRY: And the other question seems to be, what does it take, I guess, you know, what types of information do intelligence agencies gather that eventually make their way to ultimately having someone be on a no-fly list?

MESERVE: That's part of it. And there were a lot of different pieces of information coming to light here. This is what we've learned, but there are many news organizations reporting different pieces of this story today.

We had a White House -- rather an administration official give a briefing last night in which he said there was information about Al Qaeda linkages, there was information about Christmas Day attacks, there were reports today from other organizations that there was intelligence about a Nigerian being prepared for attacks in Yemen.

There were reports that he might have had communications with Anwr al Awlaki. He's the cleric who was in communication with Lieutenant Hasan.

So it looks like there were a lot of pieces here, many different pieces of the puzzle that probably weren't put together to make a picture.

CHETRY: And as we said, the president wants preliminary results from two of these investigations by tomorrow, so we'll see if we learn more then. Jeanne Meserve this morning, thank you.

ROBERTS: Intelligence agencies are already pointing fingers at one another over the breakdown in communication. A lot of focus the past few days has been on the State Department and why the suspected terrorist was allowed to keep a visa to the United States.

But as you might guess, the State Department says it did everything that it was supposed to. Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty joins us live from our Washington bureau. Good morning, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Well the first important clue in this case, as Jeanne mentioned, came when the suspect's own father turned to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria for help in finding his son. And right now the State Department is examining how it handled that crucial first connection with the father.


DOUGHERTY: With images still fresh of what could have been a devastating terror attack, President Obama is slamming security agencies after warnings from the bombing suspect's father that his son might be under the influence of religious extremists fell through the cracks. OBAMA: It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list. There appears to be other deficiencies as well.

DOUGHERTY: State Department spokesman Ian Kelly insists department staff did what they were supposed to do, send a cable from the embassy in Nigeria outlining those warnings to the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington, the brain trust of all federal agencies fighting terrorism.

Could the State Department on its own have pulled the suspect's visa which allowed him to visit the U.S. any time? No, Kelly says. It's an interagency decision.

But the bureaucratic finger pointing has begun. A U.S. government official familiar with how the embassy cable was handled in Washington telling CNN the cable was a very thin report, with nothing specific, just one of hundreds of reports that counterterrorism center evaluates daily, not enough reasonable suspicion to warrant putting the alleged bomber on a no-fly list or revoking his visa.

But in May, British authorities did refuse the suspect a visa and put him on a watch list. A British source tells CNN, it was because he lied on a student visa application, claiming he went to a bogus college. That information, however, was never passed on to U.S. authorities, he says, because it wasn't linked to terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we've got to ask why wouldn't our allies have shared with us information even if it was not terrorism related?

If this individual lied on their visa application in their visa application process, why wouldn't they have shared that with us, because frankly, if an individual is known to have lied to another immigration authority around the world, I would want to know that.


DOUGHERTY: As the facts in this case are emerging, a pattern is becoming clearer. As one official familiar with the father's warnings tells CNN, there's a system in place for collecting and reporting data, but not a clear set of guidelines for taking action on that information, John.

ROBERTS: Jill, where's the secretary of state been through all of this? We haven't heard from her yet.

DOUGHERTY: She has been on vacation, Christmas vacation, but we're told that right from the beginning on Christmas Day she began dealing with this, that she has been in very close communication.

And she did order, as you can imagine, a review of how they are dealing with this specific case as well as how they deal with consular and especially visa issues in the State Department.

ROBERTS: Jill Dougherty for us this morning, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Nine minutes past the hour.

Also new this morning, the U.S. may be considering a retaliatory strike on Al Qaeda operatives in response to the attempted airline bombing Christmas Day. Senior U.S. officials tell CNN that military and intelligence officials along with their counterparts in Yemen are now reviewing possible Al Qaeda targets.

ROBERTS: North Korea says it is holding an American who entered the country illegally on Christmas Eve. The man is believed to be Robert Park. He's a Korean-American missionary. Park's family is working with the State Department and members of Congress to secure his release.


ROBERTS: So as we examine what was behind the attempted terror attack on flight 253, a lot of questions are being asked, and one of those questions, were the lessons learned after 9/11 forgotten or were they ever really learned in the first place? We're digging deeper on that this morning, and we'll have a report coming right up.

It's 11 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: It's 13 minutes after the hour. That means it's time for an "A.M." original, something that you'll see only on "American Morning." But first a check of what's new this morning.

CHETRY: Two back-to-back explosions in western Iraq. The interior ministry saying these blasts killed at least eight people, wounded 20 others, including the governor of Anbar province. Officials say that he was trying to help victims of a car bomb when a suicide bomber exploded a vest.

ROBERTS: Disturbing video out of Iran posted on YouTube apparently taken in Tehran during Sunday's protests that left seven people dead by Iran's numbers. Watch as a green and white police truck runs over a body on the street, leaves the scene.

It's not clear if that person was killed, and CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the video at this time.

Meanwhile, pro-government demonstrators are taking to the streets today. Iranian police now say they have more than 500 opposition protesters in custody.

CHETRY: New York City will get a huge bill for the admitted mastermind's trial. Police commissioner Ray Kelly says security costs for the upcoming trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other codefendants will easily top the initial estimate of $75 million. Kelly says the city doesn't have enough officers to handle security and federal money will have to help pay the overtime. ROBERTS: President Obama is demanding answers. He wants to know why eight years after 9/11 the system failed again. The attempted Christmas Day bombing of a commercial airliner has put a spotlight on the leadership vacuum at the Transportation Security Administration and with it questions about whether the lessons of 9/11 have been forget.

Our Jim Acosta is live in Washington right now with an "A.M." original. And Jim, some people might be wondering if the lessons were learned at all, because in the post 9/11 world it was about failure to connect the dots, and it happened again.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There are people in Washington who have jobs that entail connecting those dots, and apparently the dots were not connected in this case. And the president said so himself yesterday.

And that's not all. A former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security during the Bush administration says he's shocked that the TSA is still leading without an acting administrator. But experts say that's not all the government has to do after spending billions of dollars on airline security.


ACOSTA (voice-over): More than eight years after the attacks on September 11th, the attempted bombing of flight 253 proved terrorists are still exploiting gaps in aviation security. One hole that worries security experts is right at the top of the TSA.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY INSPECTOR GENERAL: It's really shocking that there isn't a permanent TSA administrator in place.

ACOSTA: It took President Obama eight months to pick somebody to lead the TSA, but Errol Southers, the current head of intelligence at Los Angeles International Airport, has been in limbo since September. Republican Senator Jim DeMint is blocking the appointment in protest of White House plans to fully unionize the TSA.

JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There's a constant need to adjust and to be flexible, to use imagination to change things. We cannot ask a third-party union boss whether or not we can move a screener from one station to another. That's what collective bargaining does.

ACOSTA: Just two weeks ago, the acting administrator of the TSA was hauled before a congressional hearing to explain how one of the agency's passenger screening manuals got leaked on to the Internet. At the time, Gale Rossides, a holdover from the Bush administration, insisted the flying public was safe.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Where are we with respect to security as it relates to the traveling public?

GALE ROSSIDES, TSA ACTING ADMINISTRATOR: Madam Chairwoman, the system is very strong and I am very confident in saying that.

ACOSTA: Tell that to the 9/11 Commission which warned five years ago the TSA and Congress must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers. To this day, most air travelers pass through magnetometers which won't pick up bomb materials hidden in clothing. A GAO report issued in October found TSA has an array of ten passenger screening technologies, but the agency has not deployed any of these technologies to airports nationwide.

The TSA spent $30 million on bomb detecting puffer machines, only to find they have frequent maintenance issues. New body imaging scanners, which could have made the difference in Detroit, are years away from widespread use.

ERVIN: Had technology called whole body imaging, back scatter machines, millimeter wave machines been in place at these airports, at a minimum it would have noticed that something anomalous was taped to this suspect's leg.

ACOSTA: Add to that the 9/11 Commission's plea to improve the terrorist no-fly list, a list that did not include the suspected bomber on flight 253 and a top security expert says you have a big problem.

ERVIN: I think the flying public has reason for concern.


ACOSTA: And here's why. With new cockpit doors and armed pilots, experts note aviation has actually seen more security upgrades than the ports and borders, which is why an attack on an airliner would send a disturbing message of failure, John.

And one thing we should note about that acting administrator at the TSA, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is planning to force a vote for a new permanent administrator sometime next month.

ROBERTS: All right. But there were a lot of complaints that there isn't a permanent head at the TSA. But Gale Rossides very familiar with the TSA. She helped create it, correct?

ACOSTA: Right. But what you are talking about connecting the dots, when you're talking about leading an agency that has 2,200 screening checkpoints across the country, experts across the border saying you need somebody permanently in charge there, not somebody who's sort of waiting for that person to come in to replace them. So, Gale Rossides, yes, is accomplished and the White House says she does a fine job over there, but she is definitely a holdover from the Bush administration, is not expected to be there for the long haul, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thanks.

CHETRY: Still ahead, we're going to be checking in with Carol Costello. She has an "A.M. Original" on the overseas and very profitable business of selling college papers to American students. You just pay a fee and give them the topic and hey, but do they really pay both for your score and in the long run when it comes to cheating?

Carol has an interesting look still ahead. Nineteen minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: It is 22 minutes past the hour and we're "Minding Your Business" with Stephanie Elam. And she is talking about some of the best places to find a job. We know it's been tough. We know we're in double-digit unemployment. And so if you have to uproot yourself, where should you do?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there are some places in the country that do not have double digit unemployment rates and because of that they make some really good places to move. So we're going to take a look at a nice big map to show you where some of these places are. I'll read them off to you.

You've got Cass County, North Dakota; Platte County, Nebraska; Sarpy County, Nebraska, as well. Dallas County, Iowa; Grafton County, New Hampshire; Dane County, Wisconsin; Boulder County, Colorado; Madison County, Nebraska -- lots of Nebraska -- Roanoke County, Virginia, and Saline County, Arkansas. So those are the top ten.

But let's go ahead and take a look at the top three because why not, it's end of the year. We like the list right now.

Starting off with Cass County, North Dakota, that would include the town of West Fargo. Look at their unemployment rate. Only 3.4 percent.


ELAM: They've got industries. They have health care, retail, manufacturing and education. They've got good jobs, low unemployment, a welcoming community as they put it. They've got Microsoft there, John Deere and Bobcat.

Moving on from there to number two, which is Platte County, Nebraska, their towns include Columbus, unemployment rate of four percent. In fact the manufacturing and medical equipment, because there's companies like Becton Dixon (ph) there Bale (ph) Manufacturing and Arthur Daniels Midland (ph), which has an ethanol plant there. But they have low wage rates, low electricity prices and real estate is pretty inexpensive.

Also, get this. They have 200 jobs that are open right now. So if you're looking for work, that is a good thing.

All right. Third on our list here, Sarpy County, Nebraska. This includes towns like Papillion and the unemployment rate there, 4.7 percent. You have Offutt Air Force Base, so that obviously means 10,000 people are employed and this is the largest employer in Nebraska and it happens to be in this county. Also, military contractors and PayPal actually is based there.

And then spillover from neighboring Omaha has led to more retail, more restaurants, more stores, and big chains like Kohl's, Wal-Mart and Lowes which are also adding jobs to that area in Nebraska.

The economy really helping out Nebraska. I'm sure maybe a lot of people in Nebraska are like we're good, don't everybody fly in here and take over our place.

ROBERTS: Nice place, low cost -- low cost of living there as well.

ELAM: Low cost of living.

ROBERTS: Your dollar goes further.

ELAM: It's good places for families as well. So some places people maybe should put on their radar if you're looking for a job.

ROBERTS: All right. You know, wait for it to thaw out a little bit.

ELAM: There's that whole thing, the plains. That part may be hard. But if you want to see more about these cities and these counties, you can go ahead to for more.

ROBERTS: All right.

CHETRY: Sounds good. Steph, thanks.

ELAM: Sure.

ROBERTS: Stephanie Elam "Minding Your Business" this morning.

And coming up next, Clark Kent Ervin who is the former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security as well as terrorism expert Larry Johnson joins us to talk about where we are with the investigation, what we can do to keep people safe as they're traveling on aircraft around the world. Stay with us.

It's 25 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Twenty-seven minutes after the hour. Your top stories just a few minutes away. But first, an "A.M. Original," something that you'll only see on AMERICAN MORNING.

Recent studies show a growing number of students are cheating in college. As part of our "Educating America" series, Carol Costello finds one reason is plagiarism has gone global.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look at the word, "cheater" it's awful, but educators say many students would rather cheat than fail. This young woman who asked us not to use her name or university was a cheater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a lot of students, they feel very stressed and pressured and they kind of get cornered and they trap themselves or they mentally trap themselves and they feel like they have no other way out. So then they cheat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Identify the underline --

COSTELLO: The University of California San Diego actually has a mandatory seminar for students who cheat. Six hundred took part this year. Used to be American students would pay Americans to cheat for them. Today, often unbeknownst to the American cheater, he or she is going on-line to outsource their brains to places as far away as Pakistan and India.

PROFESSOR TRICIA BETRAM, GALLANT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: Of course that's contributing to making America and other societies dumber, quote/unquote, because they're not learning how to do the work themselves and how to communicate.

COSTELLO: One man from the Philippines who did not want to be identified, says he's written dozens of term papers for American students.

PHILIPPINE WRITER (via telephone): It's unethical, but, you know, I come from a third world country. It's good pay. The temptation was really great.

COSTELLO: How much did they pay you?

PHILIPPINE WRITER (via telephone): I got as much as $15 a page. It was a topic on state of the U.S. economy in 1950.

COSTELLO (on camera): So I'm on the site called "Best Essays" and they say right on the site, we work hard to achieve academic excellence.

(voice-over): And it says it's provided students with original papers since 1997. So I requested three-page paper on Jayson Blair, the former reporter who was fired after making up stories for "The New York Times." Total cost for a three-page paper?

(on camera): It's going to cost me $80.97.

(voice-over): "Best Essays" is not the only so-called Internet paper mill. There are literally hundreds of them on-line. It's become such a problem, more than a dozen states have made such services illegal. Yet they thrive.

COSTELLO: What these companies are doing isn't legal here, yet they survive. Why do you think that is?

PHILIPPINE WRITER: Because they're not based in the United States. They're based in Ukraine. They try to make it appear that the company is based in the U.S. But no, it's not. They're only making it appear so that the students will sign up and place their orders.

VICTOR GUEVARA HERNDON, VIRGINIA HOME OWNER: We have absolutely no connection to this company.

COSTELLO: Victor Guevara lives in this house in Virginia. For years, his address was listed as the home of, a site that recruits writers to write term papers.

Virginia authorities tell us Guevara and his house have nothing to do with the site.

HERNDON: I still receive mail for them, credit card statements or invoices from people who have written for them and gotten ripped off. I have one here from Kenya.

COSTELLO: Virginia authorities tell us there is little they can do since this paper mill sites can be headquartered in places like the Ukraine or anywhere in the world.

So, as long as that word "cheater" continues to be OK with so many students, Internet paper mills will continue to thrive and American brains will continue to get dumber.

(on camera): Best Essay did tell me that all customers are urged to use this reference material responsibly. It never claimed it as their own. But I must say, from their Web site, I did not get that message. I did receive a paper, however, and I brought it to American University in Washington to get it graded. I received an "F."

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: And you can share your thoughts on the way that students cheat these days and see more of Carol Costello's "Educating America" series on our blog. Just go to

CHETRY: A minute past the bottom of the hour. It means it's time for our top stories.

President Obama is taking steps to fulfill one of his campaign promises. He's ordering federal agencies to classify less and to share more. Among other things, the executive order is expected to make public more than 400 million pages of Cold War era documents.

ROBERTS: Just in to CNN, the results of the Netherlands investigation into how the suspected Christmas Day bomber was able to board a U.S. airliner in Amsterdam bound for Detroit. The Dutch government says the attack was, quote, "professional, but executed poorly." The government also announced that it will begin immediately using body scanners on all flights destined for the United States.

CHETRY: And the U.S. may be considering a retaliatory strike on al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, in response to that attempted bombing on Christmas Day. Senior U.S. officials tell CNN that military and intelligence officials, along with their counterparts in Yemen, are now reviewing possible al Qaeda targets there.

ROBERTS: It's disturbing news to say the least, the father of the alleged Christmas bomber warned the CIA about his son, but that vital information was never acted upon. Why eight years after 9/11 was U.S. intelligence unable to connect the dots? Joining us from Delaware is former homeland security inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin; and in Florida, former counterterrorism official for the State Department, Larry Johnson.

We'll get to the issue of connecting the dots in just a second.

But, Larry, let me ask you for your reaction for the news moments ago from Amsterdam, that Dutch officials are going to put into use the so-called backscatter or millimeter wave imaging machines for all passengers destined for the United States?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: That's good news. It should have been done a long time ago. As I said before, we've known about the threat of these al Qaeda operatives, being able to bring bombs on planes for 15 years. We've had the ability it to do the technology, at least some of it. It's not fool-proof.

But to put both trace and bulk detectors on board at passenger screening checkpoints, it wasn't done. It wasn't done after 9/11. And there's no excuse for not doing it.

I think that the question of an intelligence failure really is irrelevant, because you know what, if you have the right security procedures in place, it doesn't matter whether you have an intelligence failure, that those systems will prevent the threat. That's the -- that's the key point here, John.

ROBERTS: All right. And in talking about those intelligence systems, Clark Kent Ervin, let's go to you here, many people cannot believe that eight years after 9/11, when all the talk post-9/11 and the 9/11 Commission was all about a failure to connect the dots, they're still not connecting the dots.

Are people right to say, what the heck is going on here?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY INSPECTOR GENERAL: That's exactly right, John. I'm one of those people who can't believe it.

In this instance, the suspect's own father, and not just some guy off the street, but a respected Nigerian banker, we now know at least a couple times to our embassy, talked to at least two agencies, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, followed that up with written communications, with telephone calls, and still, that wasn't enough in the government's judgment to get the suspect on the selectee list at a minimum. That list, about 14,000 people work have at least subjected him to additional scrutiny at the airport and presumably the device attached to his leg would have been discovered at that time.

I'd go further, though, and to say, if we know this much information about someone, his name ought to have been on the no-fly list. The government has to get away from this notion that a person has to specifically threaten the aviation system when we know al Qaeda remains fixated on the aviation system.

ROBERTS: Yes, Larry, post-9/11, and you, of course, know this as well, that, you know, the whole talk was about synthesizing information, about sharing, about talking to people. So, you had so many different pieces of information. You had the CIA knew that al Qaeda was trying to train some, quote, "Nigerian operative" to go to the United States, you had the warnings from this fellow's father at the embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, and then you had the fact that he had a two-year visa to enter the United States.

If you had synthesized that information, do you suddenly go -- ding, we got a problem here?

JOHNSON: Perhaps. But, John, it's not the CIA's fault. Let's be clear about that, number one. It's not even clear that the CIA had the information about the al Qaeda efforts to use somebody from Nigeria. That may have been a signal intercepted at NSA.

The organization that was put together after 9/11 to fuse all this information is the National Counterterrorism Center, NCTC. CIA, that responsibility was taken away from CIA.

So, if you're a case officer out in Abuja, Nigeria, and you get this father that comes in and says, "Hey, my son is a radical," CIA should be blamed if his father walked in and said, "Hey, my son is wearing a t-shirt that says "Proud graduate of the Obama bin Laden terrorist training camp" and he's got exploding underwear and he's getting ready to fly to Detroit." If that kind of information the CIA had and didn't pass it on -- fine, hang him.

But what's being done right now, this effort to claim that it's an intelligence failure is nonsense, because the reality is, when a guy shows up at the ticket counter, pays cash, one-way, no luggage -- 40 years ago that was a sign that the person needed to be pulled aside and interrogated, regardless of whether there were dots to be connected.

But somebody needs to brief the Obama administration that that's no longer the CIA's job. It's an NCTC, that's under the control of Admiral Denny Blair, director of national intelligence. That's supposed to be the fusion center. They're the ones -- at least his name was in the TIDE database.


JOHNSON: It didn't get passed over to the FBI. So, I think -- I think the finger-pointing at the CIA right now is a red herring and a diversion.

ROBERTS: I take it too, that, Larry, you meant to say, Osama bin Laden, not Obama bin Laden.

JOHNSON: Yes. I'm sorry. ROBERTS: Finish this up here, Clark, you know, we talked about all the reforms put in place post-9/11, what needs to happen now? Do we need another top down review, need to go back to the drawing board -- what?

ERVIN: Well, you know, I disagree with Larry to this extent. As the president said yesterday, this was a systemic failure and a systemic failure on two fronts. Not just the screening front but also on the watch list procedures. We need to change the watch list procedure. We need to make sure that agencies, including the CIA, and the State Department, and the NCTC, widely share this information and we need to deploy immediately, not just abroad, but also in this country, these whole body imagers.


ERVIN: It's the closest thing we can get to a silver bullet.

ROBERTS: OK. Clark Kent Ervin and Larry Johnson, great to talk to you this morning. Thanks for being in.

JOHNSON: Thanks, John.

CHETRY: We're also getting a better picture right now of the alleged bomber's state of mind. Our Randi Kaye has a look at some of the online writings -- still ahead.

Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Finally, a detailed picture of what happened before the attempted Christmas terror attack is coming together.

The timeline starts in London. From 2005 to 2008, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was enrolled at University College London.

Last June, still in London, he applies for a U.S. tourist visa. That visa is granted. And in August, he's believed to have traveled to Texas for two weeks.

Early this year, a stop in Dubai, where he again attends college.

Finally in May, he lands on the radar. He applies for a visa to visit England but is denied because the school on his application was not government-approved. At this point, England puts him on its watch list.

Now, from August to early December, Abdulmutallab is in Yemen, allegedly prepping for his attack.

In November, he finally shows up on the U.S. radar when his father, a former bank executive, visits the embassy, the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, talks to someone from the CIA and says he's worried about his son's extremist views. He also follows up with several telephone calls. After the first visit, the embassy sends out a visa viper cable to the State Department. The information also ends up at CIA headquarters and the National Counterterrorism Center which decides not to put Abdulmutallab on the selectee or no-fly list, but puts him on a much broader list.

On December the 16th, Abdulmutallab buys his ticket with cash for nearly $3,000. December 24th, he boards a KLM flight to Amsterdam carrying just a shoulder bag. Then on Christmas Day, he connects in Amsterdam to Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, and shortly before noon, on the final approach to Detroit, allegedly tries to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear -- Kiran.

CHETRY: John, thanks.

Well, also this morning, we're getting a better picture of the alleged bomber's state of mind in the days and the years leading up to the failed attack on Christmas Day.

Our Randi Kaye is digging deeper into the hundreds of Internet postings of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.



We spent hours going through hundreds of postings online, many of them filled with spelling and grammatical errors, but all of them reveal something more about the man suspected of trying to bring down Northwest Flight 253.

(voice-over): One of his first online postings to the Islamic forum appeared in February of 2005. It reads, "My name is Umar, but you can call me Farouk." The more than 300 postings paint the alleged Christmas Day bomber as a lonely teen, someone who felt isolated and lost between his Muslim faith and sinful temptations of the secular world.

Farouk1986 writes, "I have no friends. Not because I do not socialize. I feel depressed and lonely."

Dr. Jerrold Post studies terror suspects in the online world.

DR. JERROLD POST, AUTHOR, "MIND OF THE TERRORIST": This was a man who was struggling between the temptations of the West and the strict precepts of the Quran and finding himself failing.

KAYE: Authorities have yet to verify the postings were written by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But the information matches what we already know about his personal history. The user name is Farouk1986 -- a combination of the accused bomber's middle name and birth year.

Qasim Rafiq knew Abdulmutallab in college in London and describes him as humble.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) QASIM RAFIQ, FRIEND OF UMAR FAROUK MUTALLAB: He never came across as anyone who was of concerned. I mean, our conversations generally centered around, you know, football.


KAYE (on camera): But the posts show he had more than football on his mind. Loneliness gave way to sexual desire leading to, quote, "minor sinful activities" like not lowering the gaze, which he saw as his religious duty. He tried fasting to avoid what he called evil thoughts.

(voice-over): The poster also wrote about life at an elite boarding school in Togo, Africa. That's where this man first met Abdulmutallab. He remembers him as devoutly religious.

EFEMENA MOKEDI, FMR. CLASSMATE OF SUSPECT: He was a peaceful person. You know, he was a friendly person, sociable.

KAYE: The happiest posts are from June 2005 when Farouk1986 writes from Yemen where he was learning Arabic. "The Yemenis are so friendly and welcoming."

(on camera): None of the postings reveal extremist views or any hint of radicalization. One posting, March 2005, includes his strongest words related to the Iraq war and former President George Bush. It reads, "Why not forgive Bush for invading Muslim lands and killing my Muslim brothers and sisters, all the people who oppress the Muslims and all people who do me wrong, for surely, Allah's torment is enough for them?"

(voice-over): But are those the writings of a man who four years later would sew enough explosives into his underwear to bring down a U.S. airliner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something very seductive about the path of jihad when you're coming from that psychological state of meaninglessness.

KAYE: Loneliness, confusion and a desire to belong may have preyed on Umar Abdulmutallab.


KAYE: Experts tell us often times those looking for someone to do jihad will search websites, like the Islamic forum, looking for someone who appears lonely that they can radicalize -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Randi Kaye for us this morning. Thanks.

Meanwhile, it's 45 minutes past the hour. Jacqui Jeras will have this morning's travel forecast for us right after the break.


ROBERTS: Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Baby, it's cold outside. Our Jacqui Jeras tracking the extreme weather across the country. She's in Atlanta this morning, where it's not very warm either.

Good morning, Jacqui.


ROBERTS: This morning's top stories just minutes away. Up first at the top of the hour, will the United States take on al Qaeda targets in Yemen. Our Barbara Starr is working her sources and she'll join us live from the Pentagon.

CHETRY: Also, who is Umar Abdulmutallab? What was he like before becoming the face of an international terrorism case? Pulling in the worldwide resources of CNN, we're live in his hometown in Nigeria with some answers.

ROBERTS: Plus, how can you keep your bank account growing in the next year? Our Gerri Willis back with some more financial resolutions for you. Those stories and more still ahead on the most news in the morning. Stay with us.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. It's 54 minutes past the hour. That means it's time for an am house call. It's supposed to improve memory and to prevent cognitive decline. But a new study says that the popular supplement Ginkgo Biloba flat-out doesn't work. It tracked 3,000 people between the ages of 72 and 96 years old for six years. It is the largest and longest study of the herbal remedy, which accounted for nearly $100 million in sales last year alone.

A follow-up to a story we told you about yesterday. Johnson & Johnson is now expanding its recall of Tylenol arthritis caplets. The company is now recalling all product lots of the 100-count bottles with the red easy-open cap. Customers were complaining of a moldy smell that caused nausea and stomach sickness. The odor is believed to stem from a chemical used in packaging. So far, company officials say the side effects have been temporary and non-serious.

And the food police urging government regulators to crack down on false claims that they say deceive a lot of health-conscious consumers. A report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest says that manufacturers use buzzwords like "whole grain," "all natural," "lightly sweetened," to grab shoppers' attention. The group is appealing to the FDA to stop what it calls "food label chaos." And maybe we'll see some changes there, John.

ROBERTS: All right, Center for Science in the Public Interest bringing a lot of things to people's attention. Not everybody is enamored of them, but a lot of people are.

Revelers heading out to celebrate New Year's Eve tomorrow night may be at risk for hypothermia. A severe case can kill you, but hypothermia can also help you cheat death. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke to someone who saw the other side and came back in his series "Cheating Death." It was one of the highlights of 2009. Have a look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zeyad Barazanji is back from the dead. Nearly five minutes without a heartbeat after a sudden cardiac arrest. But three years later, he's alive and well.


GUPTA: Part of his treatment at New York Presbyterian Hospital was therapeutic hypothermia. I met with Barazanji's doctor, neurologist Stephan Mayer.

DR. STEPHAN MAYER, NY PRESBYTERIAN/COLUMBIA HOSPITAL: Imagine a chemical burn injury in the brain triggered by 20 minutes of not enough oxygen. Hypothermia is like throwing water on the fire. It just puts out the fire.

GUPTA: The method is simple. You run chilled saline through an I.V. and wrap the torso and limbs in pads filled with cold solutions. Think of it like the opposite of a hot water bottle.

As far back as 2002, studies in Europe showed it sharply improved the outcome from cardiac arrest. And a new study says it's just as cost- effective as many standard therapies.

But here's the thing, it's never quite caught on here. A University of Chicago survey found that only around 230 hospitals, out of some 6,000 in the country, actually have this equipment.

MAYER: There is a treatment that was shown to be effective in two clinical trials in the "New England Journal of Medicine," the premier medical journal in the world. Yet, today, you could easily be taken to a hospital and not be given that treatment.

GUPTA: For Zeyad Barazanji, it meant a chance to cheat death, another chance to smell the summer air.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: Sanjay, thanks.

Still ahead, your top stories just 90 seconds away. It's 58 minutes past the hour.