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AMERICAN MORNING

Terror Suspect's Father Met with CIA; Retaliation Strike in Yemen?; Counterterrorist Center Not Getting Enough Information; Fox Channel Might Stop Broadcast; U.S. Students Buy Term Papers

Aired December 30, 2009 - 08:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: So, hopefully, 2010 will be a little bit better.

But meanwhile, we have a lot of stories for you coming up in the next 15 minutes.

First, new developments this morning in the Christmas Day plan to blow up a plane, including the stunning lack of communication, some missed opportunities as well to stop a suspected terrorist. In a moment, new information about what the CIA knew and why they didn't share it.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Also, we're learning more this morning about possible retaliation against al Qaeda targets in Yemen. CNN's Barbara Starr was the first to report it. We're going to go live to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- just ahead.

CHETRY: And born of wealth and taste. How did this educated boy with a passion for prayer become a global terror suspect? Christian Purefoy is live in Nigeria with an A.M. original, "The Evolution of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab."

ROBERTS: But, first, we're learning more about the lack of cooperation among government agencies that allowed a suspected bomber aboard a U.S. airliner. It turns out the alleged Christmas bomber's father met with the CIA, yet that vital piece of information never made it to the right people who might have been able to prevent him from getting on that aircraft.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is live in Washington for us this morning.

And, Jeanne, you've got some new information coming out of the Netherlands right now?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Dutch officials at a press conference just a moment ago announced that their country will begin to use millimeter wave body scanners on passengers heading to the United States. You'll remember that when the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab went through Amsterdam, he went through a metal detector that was not sufficient to find those explosives on his body.

Now, in the meantime, it's going to take about three weeks for those scanners to get up and running because they have to be fitted out with some new software. In the meantime, there will be body searches as mandated by the TSA. And, by the way, we are expecting a new security directive from the TSA today, but we don't know how significant any changes in the security requirements will be -- John.

ROBERTS: And as far as the investigation goes, Jeanne, what's the latest information you're getting on that from your sources?

MESERVE: Well, you know, we're hearing from people who are familiar with the family's discussions with the U.S. that when the suspect's father went to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, he didn't just go once. He had two face-to-face meetings, there were several telephone calls, there were also written communications. And this generated a report from CIA personnel at the embassy in Nigeria.

That report was sent, we're told by a well-placed source, to Langley, Virginia, CIA headquarters. And then it was kept there for five weeks. It was not disseminated to the wider intelligence community until after Christmas Day and the attempted attack.

What the source tells us is that if that information had been pieced together with other information, the U.S. might have been able to predict this attack and stop it before it happened.

Now, certainly, the CIA isn't the only one under scrutiny here. There was information, we know, passed by the CIA and the embassy on to the NCTC. That's the National Counterterrorism Center, the organization that was put together after 9/11, specifically to unify the intelligence being collected across the U.S. government.

But here's something one U.S. intelligence official had to say to us: "NCTC was created to connect the dots on terrorism. If anybody thinks that could have been done better in this case, they know where to go for answers."

So, I think there's going to be a little bit of warfare here and a lot of finger-pointing -- back to you, John.

ROBERTS: Certainly sounds like it. Jeanne Meserve for us this morning -- thanks so much, Jeanne.

CHETRY: So, is the CIA at fault here? Should America's spy agency have done more? Could it have done more to spot and stop this threat?

Just ahead -- we're going to be talking live with Jack Rice, a former CIA special agent to get some answers, coming right here on the Most News in the Morning.

ROBERTS: President Obama is demanding to know how U.S. intelligence agencies dropped the ball in the attempted Christmas Day bombing, but he may also be thinking about payback. The U.S. and Yemen are reportedly coordinating plans for a possible strike in al Qaeda targets in the small Arab nation.

Our Barbara Starr is working her sources and she's live at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Hi, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, you know, it's exactly what you would expect the Pentagon and the U.S. military to be doing -- reviewing the target list, ready if President Obama asks for it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (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, quote, "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 U.S. military is urgently 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 re-emerging as a jihadist battleground. The capabilities of terrorist groups in East Africa will increase in the next year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So, who and what is on the target list, John? U.S. officials say they believe there are about 200 al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, a central core that they are determined to go after and there now are a number of training camps in Yemen, and indeed, they are looking at the possibility that the Nigerian suspect trained at one of those camps inside Yemen -- John.

ROBERTS: Another front in the war on terror. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon this morning -- Barbara, thanks.

CHETRY: Also, other stories new this morning in the wake of the attempted terror attack Christmas Day, a New York state lawmaker plans to resurrect a bill allowing for the use of ethnic profiling. Assemblyman Dov Hikind says that, quote, "Ninety-nine percent of terrorism suspects are young Muslims of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian background. So they should get most of the security force's attention." The original bill never got out of committee.

ROBERTS: Massachusetts health authorities report nearly a third of patients hospitalized for swine flu in Massachusetts also had asthma. Experts are warning anyone with asthma or other respiratory conditions to get vaccinated against H1N1, as well as the seasonal flu strain. A little bit piece of advice for you this morning.

CHETRY: There you go. My daughter has it, has asthma and her pediatrician said she's in a high-risk group.

ROBERTS: Did you get her vaccinated?

CHETRY: Yes. But we're still waiting for part two, the booster shot.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: It took a long time as well for to you find the vaccine.

CHETRY: Yes. It's hard to get in some places.

Well, meanwhile, Jacqui Jeras is taking a look at the weather for us.

You know, this is the time of year, colds and flu season. It's bitter cold out there. It seems like everyone's sick.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know. A lot of stuff going around, unfortunately. Use the hand sanitizer. That's all I have to say to you about that today and make sure you bundle up.

It's one of those days where it's just too cold to be cute, as my mom would say. Wear the hat, go ahead and put on your scarf and make sure you stay safe out there this morning. We do have some slick roadways especially across the upper Midwest here, from Nebraska, through Missouri, Kansas City, St. Louis into Chicago. Chicago is not quite hitting the ground yet. In fact, most of what you're seeing out in this area is what we call "virga." It's precipitation that evaporates before it ever reaches the ground.

But you're seeing some heavier showers down to the south. To places like Houston and New Orleans. So, expect some airport delays there, as well as Chicago, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.

Bitter cold temperatures continue but a little bit of warming tomorrow. We'll tell you more about that with your New Year's Eve forecast at midnight. What you can expect, coming up, when I see you guys again.

ROBERTS: All right. Jacqui, thanks so much for that.

Yes, I grew up in Canada. So, you know, you get somewhat inure to the cold. When I moved to the States, the first place I moved was Miami because I was just sick of it!

CHETRY: There you go, right?

ROBERTS: Sick.

CHETRY: There's no need for a down jacket out in Miami. An umbrella, hurricane gear.

ROBERTS: Always need the umbrella. January and February, it's actually very nice in Miami. Just kind of cool, not too hot, not too cold either

So, President Obama yesterday called it a mix of human and systemic failures -- definitely some intelligence failures here in dealing with the Christmas Day bomber. We're going to be talking with Jack Rice, a former CIA officer, about what he thinks went wrong and how it can potentially be fixed -- coming right up.

Nine minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

You know you were going to talk.

ROBERTS: I thought we both were.

CHETRY: Just go ahead.

ROBERTS: Yes, time for an A.M. original this morning. We always do these at 11 minutes after the hour.

CHETRY: That's right. That was good.

CNN has learned that the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab talked not once but twice with a CIA official, warning of his son's extreme views. A report was prepared but then never sent to any other government agency.

Now, President Obama is not happy about the situation, pointing his finger at the intelligence community.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon, as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Totally unacceptable says the president. But did the CIA drop the ball or are they being made into the scapegoat here?

Well, for "A.M. Breakdown," Jack Rice, a former CIA special agent -- thanks for being with us this morning.

JACK RICE, FORMER CIA SPECIAL AGENT: Great to be with you.

CHETRY: So, the suspect's father went to the U.S. embassy to share his concerns about his son's radicalization. He apparently met twice, and as well as had multiple phone calls with embassy officials, including a CIA agent. So, explain this process to us.

What should have happened next?

RICE: Well, this was a disaster. The president was right, by the way, to be angry.

But essentially it should have worked this way -- after at least one interview, or two interviews, or multiple phone calls, there should have been a report that was produced. This would have gone up essentially a chain of command within the agency at the embassy itself. From there, it gets sent to Langley.

Now, at Langley, there should have been another process where it gets spread out to the intelligence community. They should have gone to the National Counterterrorism Center. This should have been pushed out. I mean, the problem that we have here...

CHETRY: OK, wait. All right. Let me ask you about that...

RICE: Yes.

CHETRY: ... it says that this report then sat on someone's desk at CIA headquarters for five weeks and that it wasn't shared, as you said, it should have been with other intelligence agencies until after the Christmas Day incident happened.

So, you talk a little bit about that breakdown. The first thing is it should have gone out immediately. Anybody coming to let's say an embassy and saying, "I have some concerns about a fellow I know, perhaps someone I'm related to," that would immediately go out to every agency in terms of analyzing terror?

RICE: Well, see, that's I think -- this addresses where the president was really talking about. It is a systemic problem and it is a human problem.

The human problem was missing the analysis. Just because they didn't understand why it was important doesn't mean that it doesn't need to be spread out, because if they had been able to -- I hate to be cliche-ish, but if they had been able to push this out, they might have been able to connect those dots to synthesize this so we understand what this meant. So, that's the human failure.

But it's also about establishing a system that says, "When I get a piece of information that may be important, once it gets to Langley it should be pushed out to the National Counterterrorism Center." It wasn't. That is a fundamental failure. So, it's not just the guy on the front end in Nigeria or the chain of command in Nigeria. It's also what was in place or the people in place at Langley who didn't do what it is that they're supposed to do.

So, it sort of grabs both sides of the world and the intelligence community. Look, this is very frustrating for the American people because it's reminiscent of what we saw after 9/11. You remember where we simply didn't take the pieces of information that we had and put them together in a way that made sense.

CHETRY: Right.

RICE: The same thing happened again after billions of dollars.

CHETRY: Right. And, you know -- I mean, many have said this before though, that we have to be right 100 percent of the time and terrorists only have to get lucky once. You know, I mean, we understand that Abdulmutallab's father never said his son was planning an attack. There was no magic piece of intelligence that would have landed the suspect on the no-fly list even.

So, without any type of specific info, and you got these massive amounts of information coming in, how much attention can we really realistically expect a report like this to get?

RICE: Well, you're right, because you have to look at all of the information that comes in from NSA that goes to the National Counterterrorist Center in general. But what the agency, what the bureau, what everybody picks up, that is true. But again, the whole concept of synthesis isn't to grab your little pieces of information and then hold on to them like somebody who has just found a penny they're not going to share with anybody.

They have to be able to take something even if they don't understand it and push it out so others can. I mean, remember, it is not just about this father saying I have a problem with my son. You now hear about intelligence of a potential Nigerian who may be used to attack the United States who had connections to Yemen. Just that --

CHETRY: Yes, and that's the interesting part. We had that little bit of information that al Qaeda was preparing a quote "Nigerian" what was known in one. There was also apparently some knowledge about any communications taking place between this terrorist suspect and a known al Qaeda operative or leader overseas. So you had all these tidbits you are talking about. That was the point, right, of this national -- the national clearinghouse that we had after 9/11 that was put together, this counterterrorism center, that was supposed to be they were connecting the dots.

So what use is that agency if other agencies are not giving it information to help connect the dots?

RICE: No question about it. You think about what they did, versus what the Department of Homeland security did, I had a conversation just the other day with Tom Ridge, the first secretary. And that's what they do. Their job is to take bits of intelligence. They don't acquire it themselves, they get it from everybody else. But guess what? If you don't get the information, how do you analyze it? How do you synthesize it? If you can't analyze it, if you don't have it, then there is no point of having people in the field actually getting it.

CHETRY: Got you. Well, it seems that there are a lot more questions being raised and a lot more work to be done in how we handle this moving forward.

Jack Rice, former CIA agent, thanks so much for talking to us this morning.

RICE: Great to be with you.

CHETRY: 17 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. 19 minutes past the hour. That means it's time for "Minding Your Business." First a look at some of today's business headlines.

ROBERTS: General Motors is having a fire sale on Pontiacs and Saturns. Those brands have been discontinued and GM wants to clear out its inventory. It is going to pay dealers $7,000 for each car they move off the lot. That means buyers could end up paying as little as $8,000 for a new car. That offer ends on the fourth of January. So hurry out there.

CHETRY: There you go. Well, Outback steakhouse agreeing to pay $19 million to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by female employees. The equal employment opportunity commission claimed that the chain denied female workers favorable jobs. The money will go to female employees who have worked with the Outback for at least three years since 2002. The company has also agreed to hire a new human resources executive. ROBERTS: And Stephanie Elam here "Minding Your Business" this morning. There could be some changes in the landscape to cable television coming up. Channel could disappear for at least a short period of time.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That would upset a lot of people actually, I think. None of those things. They would all go away because there is a bit of a spat going on between Time Warner Cable and News Corp. which is the company that owns Fox. So all of the Fox channels, we are talking Fox Business, Fox Sports, all that stuff could just disappear. So, the issue here is that they have a contract licensing deal that's set to expire on New Year's Eve and Time Warner cable says that the network renewal fees are too high. While the networks say that they have to raise their fees to cover costs.

Now broadcast stations like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, all of them they traditionally are just free. Those stations do not cost the cable networks anything to air them, but the difference here is that News Corp. is saying, you know what, why don't you just pay us $1 a subscriber like you do for the cable networks because our ratings are actually better than a lot of those cable networks.

The issue here is obviously the networks are saying that they find it very hard to make money off the broadcast stations simply because there is so much programming out there now. Advertisers are not paying as much to get their ads on these stations and on top of it, a lot of these shows you can find them on the internet. So, that's also pulling eyes away from these channels.

All of this factoring in. Now let's take a look at who would be affected by this. We're talking about 13 million customers overall. Just including the other stations, like Food Network and Weather Channel who are also part of the spat here with Time Warner cable. But customers in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas would lose their local fox stations and the National Network Broadcast. That would make a big difference there. But obviously this has to come to some sort of resolution and they are -- talks are ongoing because it doesn't benefit either company to not work it out.

Obviously, Fox wants to keep their channel out there for these three major cities, and obviously it is better for them if they have those channels as well. But you think about all the people who love "American Idol" and "Glee" and football, this is going to be a big issue if it's not resolved before the New Year. But, hopefully they are hoping that they will be able to work it out to keep the station on even while they are negotiating.

ROBERTS: You would expect if Fox wants $1 per subscriber that that cost, at least some of it, is going to get passed along too.

ELAM: That's the issue and that's what they are saying is the concern here, to keep costs down.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks, Stephanie.

ELAM: Sure.

CHETRY: All right, still ahead, the business of selling these essays, papers to students. Anything's for sale thanks to the internet. But what do they really mean in the long run? Does cheating matter? Carol Costello takes a look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: 25 minutes past the hour and that means it is time for an "A.M. original," something you'll see only on "American Morning." In this time you hear a lot of college students are getting their fall semester grades. Some of them didn't earn those grades, they actually paid for them.

ROBERTS: One reason that so many students are cheating these days is that plagiarism has gone global. Our Carol Costello found that out in our "Educating America" series. Have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

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.

Identify --

COSTELLO: The University of California San Diego actually has a mandatory seminar for students who cheat. 600 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 online 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.

It's unethical. But, you know, I come from a third world country. It is good pay. Temptation is really great.

COSTELLO (on camera): How much did they pay you?

I got as much as $15 a page. It was a topic on state of the U.S. economy in 1950.

COSTELLO: So I'm on this site called "best essays". And they say right on the site, we work hard to achieve academic excellence.

COSTELLO (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 -

COSTELLO (on camera): It is going to cost me $80.97. Bestessays is not the only so-called internet paper mill. There are literally hundreds of them online. 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?

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. 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 (voice-over): Victor Guevara lives in this house in Virginia. For years his address was listed as the home of essaywriters.net, 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 these 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 okay with so many students, internet paper mills will continue to thrive and American brains will continue to get dumber.

COSTELLO (on camera): Bestessays did tell me that all customers are urged to use this reference material responsibly and never claim it as their own. But I must say, from their website 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: You can share your thoughts on the way these students cheat these days and see more of Carol Costello's "Educating America" series on our blog. Just go to cnn.com/amfix.

CHETRY: Thirty minutes past the hour. That means it's time for top stories this morning. Dutch officials announcing the airport in Amsterdam will now start using body scanners on all passengers taking flights to the United States immediately. It is the same airport where the suspected Christmas Day bomber was able to board a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit. The Dutch government called the attack quote "professional" but called its execution "amateurish."

ROBERTS: A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Reid plans to force a confirmation vote on Erroll Southers nomination to head the Transportation Security Administration just as soon as lawmakers return in January.

Southers' nomination is being held up by Republican Senator Jim DeMint who says he wants more time to debate the issue of possibly unionizing TSA employees.

CHETRY: And this information just in to CNN. The Associated Press reporting that last month a Somali national was arrested trying to board a commercial flight with powdered chemicals, liquid, and a syringe. Officials say that combined it could have caused an explosion.

The flight was taking off from Mogadishu, the Somali capital, making several stops before heading to Dubai. The incident clearly all too similar to Friday's attempted attack on Northwest flight 253.

ROBERTS: Interesting that it was discovered in Mogadishu as well but not in either Nigeria or Amsterdam.

As you'd expect, there is plenty of finger pointing going on inside the beltway over the alleged Christmas bomber. The president is catching it from the right for waiting until Monday, three days after Christmas, to speak. Republicans are being accused of blocking President Obama's nominee to head up the TSA.

So a lot to talk about this morning. And here for the "A.M. Breakdown," CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville along with Republican strategist Kevin Madden. Gentlemen, great to see both of you.

Kevin, let's start with you. The president taking heat, as we said, for waiting three days before issuing his first comments about the Christmas day bomber. But if we go back to December of 2001, President Bush waited six days before he said anything about shoe bomber Richard Reid. So why all the heat for this president from the Republicans?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there is two reasons. First is you have to look at the initial response. George Bush was never accused of being soft on terrorism in the aftermath of September 11th. He was still enjoying a great deal of goodwill from the American public for his rather robust response.

If you remember, when President Bush went to the ground zero site and took a bullhorn, that was a presidential moment that was engrained in many people's minds. So that carried him over for many, many months, and it gave him the political capital that he needed to prosecute his anti-terror policies at the time.

President Obama right now has suffered very greatly in the last few months because of the fight over health care, and he has very little political capital right now. So Republicans feel it is in vogue to criticize this president.

And then lastly, you have to also remember the fact that the president being on vacation in Hawaii, it's much different than being in Texas. Hawaii to many Americans seems like a foreign place. And I think those images, the optics, hurt President Obama very badly.

ROBERTS: It may seem like a foreign place, Kevin, but it is a state. And James, you want to ring in here?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He's from Hawaii. It wasn't like we didn't know that. The man's entitled to go to his home state for a vacation.

MADDEN: I absolutely agree on that.

CARVILLE: He came out and he spoke twice as fast as President Bush. This entire thing is political.

What I'm encouraged that apparently this president wants to find out what happened. And at the end of this process I hope somebody gets fired because there was -- obviously from this distance it appears there was some big breakdown, and as opposed to trying to cover it up, let's find out who it was and hold somebody accountable for this.

ROBERTS: And James, to the point...

CARVILLE: And for god's sakes, quit worrying about what the images look like if he's in Hawaii. He's entitled to have a vacation there. It's his home state.

MADDEN: I absolutely agree -- let me clarify that. I absolutely agree he's entitled to a vacation. But to many Americans, Hawaii seems like this very tropical place, and the optics of many of these reporters reporting about the president's response with surfers behind them is much different. And I think it just hurt the perception of the president's response.

ROBERTS: On the idea of optics here, regardless of where the president was, Karen Finney, whose of course a well-known Democratic strategist and used to work in the White House, in "Politico" was commenting on this, and said that the president's inaction, James, "seemed to eliminate a response that did not adequately address the human component that an incident like this requires."

Should the president have done something differently?

CARVILLE: You know, I don't like all that "wanted dead or alive" and hoo-ha-ha and that kind of stuff. If they're having a real investigation, if they're trying to determine -- I fly a lot. I fly for a living, you know, and I'm curious as to what happened.

I expect my president to call people on the carpet and say, look, our embassy knew about this. How did this guy get a visa? What's the deal at the Amsterdam airport? We want our TSA to be fair, but what's the answers to some of these questions? I think people are entitled to it.

And I'm less concerned about him running off on cable television, giving all that "wanted dead or alive," "we're going to get them." And for god's sake I hope doesn't go off and invade another country that doesn't have anything to do with this.

ROBERTS: Kevin, let's talk about the nomination of Southers to head up the Transportation Security Administration. Republican Jim DeMint is opposing the nomination saying that he is opposed to the idea that Southers may want to unionize the TSA. At a critical time like this, is it right for one senator to be holding up this nomination?

MADDEN: That's something that has to be litigated within the Senate. That's the Senate rules. One senator can do that.

ROBERTS: What do you think?

MADDEN: I think the optics of it are very troubling again for Republicans. There is a potential there that many Americans could look at that and see it as partisanship and gamesmanship up on Capitol Hill.

But I think that the American public is going to look at this issue in the totality of it. They're not going to look at a lot of inside baseball gamesmanship up on Capitol Hill and decide to pick winners or losers.

But of course, yes, I think for any senator to hold up a nomination that has to do with Homeland Security, that could potentially be a problem.

ROBERTS: We're getting, James, potentially a look here at how things are going to go next year. The former vice president has rung in this morning on what he calls the, quote, "low-key response" by the president to all of this, saying that President Obama's trying to pretend that we are not at war with terrorists.

Do you think that this is going to be recurring theme from the Republican side as we head into the mid-term election here?

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Let's go invade Sri Lanka. That would be their -- look, I think what he said is that there was a systemic breakdown, and I think we ought to have a hardcore investigation.

By the way, on this question of TSA being unionized, I think every fireman that went in on 9/11 was a union member. And I would like to ask Senator DeMint, how did being in a union member affect them, because like 1,100 of these guys lost their lives running into a burning building.

I think this whole idea of blaming the unions for this is absurd. I don't think Senator DeMint has any idea what he's talking about. Captain Sully was a union member. It sure didn't stop him from landing that airplane in the river.

ROBERTS: All right, well, we'll keep watching to see where all of this goes. James Carville, Kevin Madden, good to catch up with you this morning. Thanks for coming in.

MADDEN: It's great to be with you.

CHETRY: Well, a lot of questions being raised about this attempted attack on Christmas Day. But one of them is how this boy, educated, with money, and a passion for prayer, turned into a global terror suspect, somebody his own father expressed concern to the CIA about.

We're live in Nigeria with an "A.M." original on the evolution of the so-called Christmas bomber.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It's 40 minutes past the hour.

Many times we hear about extremism and how it rises out of poverty. But the suspect who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas had wealth, he had education, and a passion for prayer. So why did he turn to terror?

We're digging deeper this morning in Kaduna, Nigeria. That's where Christian Purefoy is live with an "A.M." original for this morning. Christian?

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kiran. Yes, we're in Abdulmutallab's hometown. Behind me you can see the house where he grew up in, and about 50 meters from there is the mosque where he and his community went to worship.

And we've been asking around his neighbors to try and dig around and see if there was something in his past that may have motivated in his actions. Here's what they had to say, Kiran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PUREFOY: This is the small mosque once attended by Umar Abdulmutallab, the man who allegedly tried to let off a bomb onboard the Detroit flight on Christmas Day.

The last time Abdulmutallab came here to pray, his neighbors say, was in August this year, just before he went to Yemen. Everyone here is shocked that he is now the center of a global terrorist alert.

(on camera): Was he a devout Muslim?

(voice-over): "He would be the first to prayers and the last to leave," says the local imam. "But he didn't mingle. He liked isolation."

At the prestigious local school he attended, which does not even teach religion, this son of a wealthy Nigerian banker is remembered as well-behaved and popular with his classmates.

(on camera): So he mixed with children from all backgrounds here, Christian, Muslim --

KERCHIRI SETH, SCHOOL VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's right. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, other religions, because we have other nationals here in Nigeria.

PUREFOY: Do you have Americans here in the school?

SETH: Yes, we have Americans.

PUREFOY: But outside the school there was violence on the streets.

The city of Kaduna sits on one of the longest religious fault lines in the world, separating a Christian sub-Saharan Africa and a Muslim northern Africa.

In 2000 nearly 1,000 people were killed in Kaduna after religious riots, and in 2002, thousands were displaced after the Miss World Competition was to be held here. It was canceled after tens of mosques and churches were burned. Growing up in Kaduna, Abdulmutallab was certainly no stranger to religious violence.

Nobody in Kaduna that I met publicly supports Abdulmutallab's actions. But he is certainly not alone in his resentment against the west.

"The west promotes immoral values," said this trader. "It's wrong for the west to support the Israelis to kill Muslim Muslims," says another.

Extremism is not taught here, insists Imam Dumawa. There is no attempt to justify suicide attacks. Abdulmutallab must have learned his radical ideas in his studies abroad, he says.

But he warns many similar young men from wealthy families studying in the Middle East are often returning with dangerous ideas. "There are sects abroad that are trying to trap and brainwash our children," the imam says.

The question that concerns many in Kaduna now is whether Abdulmutallab may not be the last young Nigerian to fall prey to radical and violent ideology.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PUREFOY: And one of the big questions on everyone's mind, Kiran, is how a wealthy, young Nigerian living a very wealthy part of Kaduna in a country where 70 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day, could try and carry out an attack like this.

But perhaps the simplest answer may be a comparison with one of the world's -- with the world's most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, who comes from a very wealthy family himself -- Kiran. CHETRY: Speaking of that as well, Christian Purefoy for us in Nigeria this morning, thank you.

ROBERTS: Coming up now on 45 minutes after the hour.

Gerri Willis has got our latest installment in our "Financial Resolution" series. Today she looks into how you can find the right financial advisor, your guide to planning your future. Stay with us.

Gerri will be with us in just a couple of minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Jacqui Jeras is watching the weather for us this morning. We've got some cold weather in a lot of parts of the country and some stormy weather coming into the northeast for New Year's Eve. Jacqui what have you got?

CHETRY: Yes.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the good news is that the worst of the storm is not going to hit the big cities for your New Year's Eve celebration. But the bad news is if you live in northern New England it's going to be quite a doozy for New Year's Day.

In the meantime, we're dealing with some wintry conditions and wet conditions across the nation's mid-section. The storm relatively weak but certainly causing some problems especially on the roadways this morning along I-80 from Des Moines to Chicago; Kansas City along I-70 over the towards the St. Louis area.

Most of what you see out ahead here though, isn't reaching the ground. But it likely will later on this afternoon. So travel delays are expected. Should be somewhere in the range of 15 to 30 minutes. Houston and Dallas, due to rain and low clouds; Chicago and Minneapolis due to light snow and clouds; and Salt Lake City getting in on some of that heavier snow.

We've got quite a few systems lined up out west by the way. So a series of storms will be pushing through here in the upcoming days.

Some pictures to show you out of the Sierras, where snow is certainly a welcome sight; a lot of people are trying to getting that last ski run in before the end of the year. Four to eight inches of new snowfall in the last 24 to 36 hours and more will be expected at least through the New Year.

Temperatures are chilly there and they're very cold across parts of the east, too. We're going to start to warm up a little bit over the next coming days with that approaching storm. And that's why we're going to start to see some of that rain mix in rather than snow for Philadelphia and New York City.

Temperatures today in the 30s and 40s, 40s and 50s across the south, only 25 in Minneapolis and temperatures in the 50s across the south and that's due to that rain. We'll be pulling out of the nation's mid-section for you for midnight. Expecting to see 18 degrees in Chicago and good weather there, the east will be the big focus with the worst of the weather with that rain/snow mix. And that will include you in Boston. Temperatures will be in the 30s.

So guys, it's not going to be really heavy for a lot of people I don't think on New Year's Eve but it'll be -- do you have the umbrella? Do you not have the umbrella? If you don't have it you're going to get a little wet. If you have it, it seems kind of silly. You know what I mean?

ROBERTS: Right.

JERAS: Right there?

ROBERTS: There could be a lot of people there in Times Square too...

JERAS: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... as we ring out the first decade of the 2000s.

CHETRY: There you go.

ROBERTS: Now, some people -- some people say, no, the new decade doesn't start until 2011. Well...

CHETRY: No.

ROBERTS: ... those are all the people that celebrated the millennium on January 31st -- December 31st, 2001.

CHETRY: There you go.

ROBERTS: It was a small party.

CHETRY: Yes and they were very surprised to see that Y2K really didn't happen.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: On any -- we're going to a quick break. When we come back Gerri Willis on the steps you need to take to find the right financial advisor.

It's 50 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to The Most News in the Morning. A financial advisor is there to offer investment advice in financial planning but how do you know that you've got the right one?

CHETRY: It is a tough question for a lot of people. Gerri Willis is here with our "Financial Resolution" series. So, when you're picking a financial advisor there are some red flags you should be aware of as well. What should you look for?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: There are red flags.

There are a lot of things to look for. These are telltale signs that your advisor may not have your best interests at heart. Guarantees of big returns; nobody can predict the stock market. If you're being guaranteed double-digit returns every year, go find somebody new.

Checks, your checks go directly to the planner or his company. This is a big sign there is a problem. They should go to a third party custodian, not directly to the advisor.

If your advisor pressures you to buy specific investments, that's a sign there's real trouble. They're either paid on commission in which case they make more money when you buy what they want you to buy or they're just not listening to you. It's important that they listen to what you want.

Don't fire an advisor just because you haven't had the kinds of returns you expected. Consider though how in-depth they were at responding to the crisis. Did they duck your calls when the market was tumbling? That's a sure sign you should get a new advisor.

ROBERTS: How can we check up on our advisors? A lot of these people you just have to put faith and trust in.

WILLIS: But there are checks you can make. For example, if you're using a stockbroker, call FINRA, F-I-N-R-A. They also have a Web site finra.org, that's the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. They have a database online on brokers that includes lawsuits, disciplinary actions taken against them.

Your state securities regulator may have info on brokers' employment history and education.

One thing to pay attention here, the letters after their name; advisor designation -- they matter. The one thing that means the most is the CFP, that's a certified financial planner. It takes a lot of study to get that designation.

NAPFA, that's the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors -- this is one of my favorites, guys. Because this means that you don't take commissions for selling products. You take your fees directly from the people you're serving.

ROBERTS: Obviously some people are more talented than others. Right?

WILLIS: That's true. And that's something you just have to learn by talking to other customers that they have, by doing real research and investigating these folks before you put down your money.

CHETRY: Getting good recommendations too.

WILLIS: Absolutely. ROBERTS: Gerri thanks.

CHETRY: Thanks.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Coming up next, a look back at Jeanne Moos' best stories. Imagine calling 911 because a fast food restaurant got your order wrong? We're not making this stuff up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Time for the "Moost News in the Morning". We all hate getting bad service at a restaurant but for some people it is not enough simply to complain to the manager and move on.

ROBERTS: They didn't hold the mayo, they forgot the extra egg rolls. The pizza wasn't here in 30 minutes. For some people the only fix to such disasters, call the cops. Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fast. Dial 911 for fast food. A burger, McNuggets, now shrimp are leaving police dispatchers fried.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always get the shrimp fried rice so I said I'm going to get extra meat this time.

MOOS: A woman who ordered take-out shrimp-fried rice at this Texas restaurant was the latest to enter the fast food 911 hall of shame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he didn't even put extra shrimp in there. And I asked him can you give me extra shrimp or can you give me my money back and he sort of hollered.

911 OPERATOR: Ok, well, I'll get somebody out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In how long?

911 OPERATOR: I don't know how long. AS soon as I can.

MOOS: She wasn't the only one acting shellfishly. Remember the unhappy meal drama when this woman called 911 three times from a Florida McDonald's?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The manager just took my money and won't give me my money back. They're trying to make me get something off the menu that I don't want.

I ordered chicken nuggets. They don't have chicken nuggets.

MOOS: But why are 911 operators so cooperative when these people call? We asked senior dispatcher in Paulson City, Texas (ph) where the shrimp-fried rice emergency occurred. So if I went to, say, McDonald's and ordered a quarter-pounder came out and only had an eighth of a pound, if I called 911, you would still be nice to me and send a police officer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have to, yes.

MOOS: Police worry a minor food fight could escalate into a food rage incident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our policy is not to have sarcasm.

MOOS: But an Orange County, California dispatcher didn't get the memo when she answered the call for a Burger King.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked them 4 different times to make me a Western Barbeque Burger.

911 OPERATOR: Ma'am we're not going to go down there and enforce your Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

MOOS: Six years later former dispatcher Lynette Carol (ph) is still laughing.

LYNETTE CAROL, FORMER 911 DISPATCHER: Oh, dear lord, I don't understand people. Why are they calling the police for this?

MOOS: Lynette didn't get in trouble for how she handled the call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're supposed to be here to protect me.

911 OPERATOR: Well, what are we protecting you from, a wrong cheeseburger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

911 OPERATOR: Is this like -- is this a harmful cheeseburger or something? I don't understand what you want us to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just come down here. I'm not leaving.

911 OPERATOR: No, ma'am I'm not sending the deputies down there over a cheeseburger.

MOOS: Now that's a nugget of wisdom. Even someone with the mind of a shrimp would get.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Cheeseburgers are harmful in some way but you've got to eat a lot of them to have them do harm.

CHETRY: Calling the cops won't help you out there. You got to call your nutritionist. ROBERTS: Unbelievable. Thanks for joining thus morning. That will do it for us. We'll see you again here bright and early tomorrow.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, the news continues, here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins. Good morning Heidi.