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CIA Confirms 7 Employees Killed in Terror Attack in Afghanistan; President Obama: Security Lapses Unacceptable; Ringing in the New Year

Aired December 31, 2009 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And time now for your top-of-the-hour reset.

I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is noon in Detroit, where the Muslim community is angry over last week's terror attempt and taking action.

It is 12 hours to the New Year celebration in Times Square, where New York police are stepping up security today.

And it is 9:30 in the evening in Afghanistan, where we will look back on another year of war for the United States.

Let's get started.

The CIA just now confirming that seven agency employees have been killed in a terror attack in Afghanistan. It happened in Khost province, adjacent to Taliban and al Qaeda hotspots across the border in Pakistan.

Let's get more from CNN's Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.

And Chris, if you would, bring us up to speed on this statement from the CIA.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony. You know, CIA Director Leon Panetta informed the agency just today that seven of their colleagues were killed in that attack in Afghanistan and six others were injured, which suggests that this was a devastating attack at this forward operating base there in Khost. He also says that flags at CIA headquarters will be flown at half-staff in honor of those colleagues.

The Taliban is claiming that this was an Afghan national army soldier who infiltrated the base and then blew himself up there at a gym there on the forward operating base. It does -- if that is true, it raises a lot of questions as to whether he was assigned to that base, whether he was from somewhere else and managed to get onto that base, and it raises even bigger questions about the trust factor as Americans try to train and upgrade the Afghan National Army and police. You've got to have that level of trust there if you're going to be working so closely together. HARRIS: Yes. And Chris, this is the kind of attack that you can see being repeated over and over again. You wonder how you protect against it. I know that's one of the considerations moving forward.

Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon for us.

Chris, appreciate it. Good to see you. Thank you.

Another bomb attack in Afghanistan kills four Canadian soldiers and a reporter. Canada's Defense Ministry says they were killed by a roadside bomb about two and a half miles south of Kandahar. Four other Canadian troops and a civilian were wounded. The "Calgary Herald" identifies the reporter as 34-year-old Michelle Lang. She is the first Canadian journalist killed in the Afghan war.

Now to the latest failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner.

President Obama gets a preliminary report today of what went wrong. The president sys U.S. intelligence failed to piece together information that would have kept the terror suspect off the plane. Dutch authorities want to know who the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was in touch with while waiting for his flight.

And this just in. The State Department is changing the way visa information is handled. When embassies around the world report to Washington on potentially suspicious people, they must now include information on whether they have a U.S. visa. The department is also looking in to notifying airlines if someone has their visa revoked.

President Obama says the security lapses in the failed airliner bombing are totally unacceptable.

Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry joining us now from Honolulu, where the president is spending the holidays.

And Ed, first of all, good to see you. Happy New Year.


HARRIS: Yes. What can you tell us, Ed, about the report that the president is expected to receive today?

HENRY: Well, he talked -- you know, he was speaking a couple days ago about systemic and human failures that led to this incident. And let's talk about some of those.

First of all, we're told by senior administration officials that part of the report the president will be getting is frankly just trying to ascertain exactly why it is that, as our Jeanne Meserve has been reporting, the CIA had some of this information about the -- what was the eventual Nigerian suspect and didn't appear to pass it on to other agencies. This was supposed to be fixed after 9/11.

It appears that, still, intelligence officials are not speaking to one another, not sharing enough information. That's one of the systemic failures that is going to be talked about in this preliminary report.

Secondly, the president also talked about these various watch lists, no-fly lists, et cetera. In their briefings to congressional staffers yesterday, we're told that Obama officials said that, basically, even though there were some warning signs out there, there was nothing specifically that enabled officials behind the scenes to sort of raise this suspect up the list in terms of the watch list. He was on a broader database with over 500,000 people, but was never pushed up the list to say the no-fly list, which is a very select list, with only a few thousand people.

And, finally, how did he get these explosives on to the plane? What happened there?

And so they're talking about, you know, billions of dollars that have been spent by the Transportation Security Administration since 9/11. That agency created after that horrific attacks -- those attacks. Where's that money gone? And do we now need to go to a stronger system, full-body scanners, for example?


HARRIS: Ed, one more for you. Is there anything the president is doing now to get more of his security team in place? He is still, as you know, having trouble with his TSA nominee.

HENRY: That's right. Erroll Southers, and he has been held up by Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who doesn't want TSA employees to become unionized. The Republican senator believes that would make it harder to reward good employees at the TSA, harder to fire TSA employees who are stumbling on the job if they become union employees.

What's going to happen and what is happening now behind the scenes is that Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, the majority leader, are planning to push for a vote as soon as the Senate comes back into session in mid-January, and so we can expect a real showdown in the Senate over this. And you already have Democrats saying, look, a Republican's in favor of not having a full-time TSA chief on board at a time when there's real security issues -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right.

Our chief White House correspondent, Ed Henry, with the president in Hawaii.

Good to see you, Ed, and Happy New Year.

Hundreds of thousands are people are expected to ring in the new year in New York's Times Square, to be exact. They're getting the big ball and confetti ready right now. And preparations are also under way to keep partygoers safe.

New York's police commissioner talked with our Allan Chernoff about balancing security and celebration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: We want people to have a happy experience, but we're also concerned about a terrorist event. We have to do that after 9/11. When the ball drops, it's a certain feeling of relief, and we've made it through another year.


KELLY: Right.

CHERNOFF: It's a lot of stress on the police department.

KELLY: There is some stress, no question about it, but that's -- you know, that's all part of the business.


HARRIS: Well, police say a man who opened fire in Finland has apparently killed himself. The suspect's body was found at his apartment in the town of Espoo. Police believe he killed his former girlfriend at her apartment, then went on a shooting spree at a shopping mall. Four people were killed there.


POUT ANAN, MTV3: I spoke with the mall employees, and they said there was just an announcement that police, they say stay calm, but nobody was told what was going on. And then they were ordered to get out.

And it was minus 10 or minus 12 Celsius degrees freezing in Finland right now. So, they were so in a hurry, that they don't -- they didn't have time, even, to get their winter clothes on. So, they are with the T-shirt and sandals outside standing there.


HARRIS: Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is in the hospital in Honolulu today. Paramedics were called to his hotel after the radio show host complained of chest pains. Limbaugh's Web site says he is resting comfortably but offers no other information on his condition.

We are counting down to the new year right here in the United States of America. But it is already 2010 in other parts of the world.

And our Josh Levs is keeping us posted on all of those developments and all of the celebrations.

Good to see you again, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a lot to juggle throughout the day, Tony. We're following more than a dozen countries, even just the hour so far today since I've been on the air today with you.

We have something special right now. We're going to take you right now to the Vatican. Take a look at a service going on.

This is the mass of the Solemnity of Mary, the mother of God. It's taking place right now at the Vatican.

And while we look at this, let me tell you something that's interesting. New Year's Day also marks the 43rd World Day of Peace. That was -- it's a feast day of Catholic Church dedicated to pieces introduced in 1967. So, we're following that for you.

We're also seeing lots of fireworks displays all over the world. One I'm about to see with you for the first time right now, Tony. Let's take a look at Bangkok.

This is in downtown Bangkok, right along a river there. You can see how all-out some of these cities around the world go. It is beautiful.

You know, let's bring it full for a second. Listen to this.

All right. You can hear some of the sounds of the...

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

LEVS: ... excitement. I'm loving that.

And probably the most spectacular fireworks display we've seen throughout the day is from Sydney. Take a look at this.

Look at that. That's at the Harbor Bridge, Sydney Harbor Bridge there, and it's -- once I actually got to climb on top of that bridge. They actually have a walk that you can do all along the very, very top. They chain you to it.

HARRIS: Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

LEVS: This is the biggest fireworks display of New Year's that we know of in the world. And they spend 15 months prepping this thing, Tony. It takes 12 computers to just to fire off the 10,000 signals that get all these things going. And this is, according to the organizers, the most complicated bridge effect they've ever had in Sydney.

HARRIS: Look at Sydney again, just doing it so big.

LEVS: They're big, I know. It's just like a moment that they own. You know?

HARRIS: Well, this is that moment that Rosemary Church -- she's over there somewhere -- she's all proud and smiling and happy...

LEVS: Oh, I know.

HARRIS: ... showing off her country there. Australia and Sydney doing it huge.

LEVS: Do we have her? We have her. There she is. There's the smile. Take a look at Rosemary.

HARRIS: Look at her. Look at her.

LEVS: She's partying for us.

HARRIS: Look at it. It is huge.

LEVS: Where's Michael Holmes? Is he around?


LEVS: Oh man.

HARRIS: Way to go.

LEVS: All right. All right. I'm getting the cue.

Listen, there's something else I want to let you know about, because we're seeing the exciting part. Obviously, you can't pull one of those off yourself, and don't try, but there are some things that you can do to share with us.

We have something special at, your year in 30 seconds. Take a look here.

So, people are sending us their photos, their videos, their stories all at iReport. And some people setting up a 30-second video. We're sharing them with the world, and they're coming in throughout the day.

Also, let us know how you're celebrating the new year and what the biggest hopes are that you have for the next year, all your thoughts on that.

We've also got a conversation going on at the blog. Let's go to that graphic. We can end with that -- -- there, you got it -- and Facebook or Twitter/JoshLevsCNN. Anyway, you know how to reach me. is the blog. Keep your stories coming all day long. We want to hear what you've got. Keep t he videos and photos coming.

Tony, I'm loving this.

HARRIS: Yes, it's great. Isn't it? Happy New Year, Josh.

LEVS: Great. Happy New Year to you.

HARRIS: Appreciate it.

Ring in the new year with CNN. Join Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, live from Times Square tonight. The countdown starts at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. This year, the U.S. military's focus turned to Afghanistan. What were the big events and issues that influenced America's role there?

But first, our "Random Moment" in 90 seconds.


HARRIS: Boy, I hope you like this one. Forget about "Random Moment of the Day." Time now for what we consider the "Random Moment of 2009," the very refined and dignified wedding procession of Kevin and Jill Hines (ph).

You know where we're going here. No Bach or Mendelssohn or Mozart here. Come on!

You can definitely forget about "Here Comes the Bride." Oh, shake it like a Polaroid picture. Try "Forever" by Chris Brown.

This video became a viral hit over the summer, and it is -- wait for it, wait for it -- go, ladies -- our "Random Moment of 2009."


HARRIS: CNN has learned about a major change in how visa information is handled in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas Day airline attack.

For more on these changes, the big one in particular, let's get you to Rosemary Church at our Security Watch Desk.

And Rosemary, first of all, good to see you. And what are you learning?

CHURCH: Yes. Look, what we're learning on this day, Tony, is that the State Department is directing embassies throughout the world to include information on whether a person has a U.S. visa. Now, they want that included in what they call visa VIPER cables that are sent to Washington, and they include information on potentially suspicious people.

That has not been done to date, believe it or not. But that is a change, and that comes out of this preliminary review that the U.S. president received on this day.

And there may be other changes, too. The State Department is looking at the possibility of notifying airlines on whether a person has had a visa revoked. So, changes afoot -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. And Rosemary, have we learned anything new about the suspect here, Farouk Abdulmutallab?

CHURCH: Yes, we have. You know, a couple of sources here sort of give us this picture of a man who almost had -- there's a sense of two different characters. "The Washington Post" had an article today, and they interviewed former teachers, students, classmates, housemates at the school he attended in Yemen. Now, what we learned from that, that he was first at the school in 2005. He then returned in August, 2009. And he, by that stage, had gone from being a very chatty, outgoing man to being deeply religious, a loner.

He replaced his western clothes with a long, white, Islamic tunic. And then, in September, we learned in this article, he had told a classmate that he wanted to attend an Islamic school in Hadhramaut. That's a southern province there where al Qaeda has deep roots. It's actually the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden.

So, learning a lot from that.

There's also this blog that we came across. It's by a Canadian fellow who actually studied and lived in a residence with the terror suspect.


CHURCH: And he entitles his blog, "My Experience With Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab." And he indicates there in this that they won't very close. They actually lived in the same house, but they only met and chatted about five times.

And what he'd said was that several times early in the morning they'd meet in the kitchen, drink breakfast. They shared these several conversations, but then they would come to this abrupt stop and the terror suspect would then leave, leave the house. And so we do get this idea of this very friendly man on one side of the coin, and then on the other this cold man very focused on his religion.

HARRIS: Yes. OK, Rosemary. It's usually a mixed picture when you try to profile someone like this.

Rosemary Church for us.

Good to see you. And Happy New Year.

You know, it became the forgotten war trumped by the invasion of Iraq, but the U.S. ramped up the fight in Afghanistan in 2009, to be sure. More American troops are on the way in 2010, as a newly re- elected president pledges to tackle corruption.

Atia Abawi is our CNN correspondent in Kabul.

And Atia, great to see you.

As you look back on 2009, is President Karzai's re-election, albeit in a disputed election, the defining event of the year, maybe followed closely by the coalition's escalation of the war to battle a resurgent Taliban?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Tony. When you look at President Karzai's re-election, when you look at the election process itself, it brought a let to light in Afghanistan and to the international community. Not just the fact of the corruption within the government here in Afghanistan, the fact that the majority of the Afghan people feel that they can't trust the government.

It also brought light to some of the irresponsibilities when it comes to the international community as well. We saw much drama. It was political drama, it was like a soap opera when it came to the politics taking place here in Afghanistan.

You had one international official after another international official, especially when you look at the U.N. The head envoy here, Kai Eide, being attacked by his former deputy after he was dismissed, because he was dismissed for saying that it was a fraudulent election. And then followed by General McChrystal and President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan and the escalation of troops. It has many people questioning what does 2010 hold for the country?


HARRIS: Right. Well, let's start with the government.

What are the sort of minimal expectations for President Karzai and the government he is assembling in the new year? I'm thinking about, really, security and the economy.

ABAWI: Well, the minimum expectations, when you really look at it, is to clean up the government. It's to have a government that the Afghan people trust to help with the economy of Afghanistan. But President Karzai himself will admit that he needs the international community's help in helping the Afghan economy.

And when you talk to the average Afghan, when you ask them what their number one concern is -- and I you know we talked about this in the past, Tony -- is the fact that they need jobs, that they are impoverished, they need to feed their children. They won't necessarily say security. Security will actually follow their economic stability at the moment -- Tony.

HARRIS: If you were preparing the American people for the year ahead, given your time on the ground and how you have viewed the coalition efforts there, the response to those efforts from Afghans, and what the so-called Afghan surge will mean in terms of the fight to come, what should Americans prepare themselves for with respect to this war?

ABAWI: Well, I think when you talk to most analysts and when you talk to people here on the ground in Afghanistan, one thing that they will warn the American public about is, with this escalation of troops, that will likely mean more deaths, more injuries, more fighting, because the Taliban say that they won't back down either. But one thing that the Afghan government will tell you and what the Afghan people will tell you is to not give up on them, that they need the help at the moment. And many Afghans who are disenchanted by their government, possibly even disenchanted by the international community and the coalition forces, they will tell you right now, they still need the help.

I just interviewed today two former Taliban who are part of this new reconciliation program. One of them did tell me that he does think that Afghanistan still needs the NATO forces within the country until the Afghan troops can stand on their own two feet. But, obviously, the other Taliban had a different point of view. And he's hoping that the international troops leave.

HARRIS: All right. CNN's Atia Abawi for us in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Terrific reporting in 2009, and look forward to your work in 2010.

Happy New Year to you, Atia.

Let's get you caught up on our top stories now.

President Obama gets a preliminary report today on the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane. The president is demanding answers about what went wrong. He says U.S. intelligence failed to piece together information that two have kept the terror suspect off the plane.

New Year's celebrations in Bali, Indonesia, canceled after the U.S. State Department warned of a possible terrorist threat. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said the warning initially came from Bali's governor. The governor, however, said there was no information about a new terrorist threat.

The number of Americans filing initial unemployment insurance claims fell to 432,000 last week. That's 22,000 fewer than the previous week and the lowest in 17 months.

We will get another check of our top stories in 20 minutes.

The suspect in the Christmas Day terror attack spent his college days in London. What influenced him there?


HARRIS: So, just how did a young man turn into the alleged terrorist accused of trying to bomb a Christmas Day flight?

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson looks at who and what influenced Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this high school photograph, there is a look of innocence. But, behind the impassive gaze, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab appears to have been deeply troubled and lonely.

He was devout, loved his faith. His friends even called him "The Pope." One of his internet postings reads, "How can I really enjoy being with people to whom I cannot express my feelings? They know I'm Muslim, but I see how they don't understand."

But he hid his troubles well. Kwesi Brako was on the school basketball team with him.

KWESI BRAKO, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND: To say I'm surprised is - is a given at this point. I didn't -- I wouldn't have figured him to be a lonely person.

ROBERTSON: In his blogs, Abdulmutallab was longing to get to university mixed with Muslims. In the fall of 2005 he got his wish, admitted to University College London. But this conflicted teenager was about to enter a highly-charged Islamic scene.

USAMA HASSAN, FORMER RADICAL: It was a bastion of idea (ph), if you like, going on - on the campuses.

ROBERTSON: Hassan knows. Now reformed, he was once a campus radicalizer and influenced the man who orchestrated the killing of the "Wall Street Journal's" reporter, Daniel Pearl.

HASSAN: On British university campuses, he would have had exposure to a variety of Muslim voices, all claiming to speak for true Islam, and many of these voices would likely (ph) be very extreme fundamentalist voices who openly advocate no compromise with the West, as they say it.

ROBERTSON: Abdulmutallab joined the university's Islamic Society and by his second year became its president. Brako was at a different college in London, but his old friend had turned his back on him. Abdulmutallab was changing.

BRAKO: You know, he had begun to wear, you know, Islamic clothing. I think he was wearing a kaftan and the matching trousers and sandals.

ROBERTSON: In 2007, under Abdulmutallab's leadership, the Islamic Society organized a week of debate about the war in Iraq titled "War on Terror" -- a war that appears to have weighed heavily on him.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This is the campus at University College London where the "War on Terror" week was held. A year later, an independent British think tank issued a report on Islamic societies at universities like this. They concluded that while most students were tolerant, a significant minority supported violence in the name of Islam.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The few friends Abdulmutallab did have at university are hard to track down. Eventually, we get a lead.

ROBERTSON (on camera): We've been trying three days to find one person at the university who knew him well enough who's willing to talk to us, and we think we found him. This could be the breakthrough.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His name is Qasim Rafiq. He was the Islamic Society president just before Abdulmutallab.

VOICE OF QASIM RAFIQ, COLLEGE CLASSMATE: Hello? ROBERTSON (on camera): Hello. Is this Qasim?

RAFIQ: Yes, speaking.

ROBERTSON: Qasim, hi! This is...

ROBERTSON (voice-over): I ask about Abdulmutallab.

RAFIQ: It's difficult for me to reconcile, you know, the man that I - the person I knew, and - and what - I've just been reading and seeing in the media, of course, over the last three or four days, is (INAUDIBLE) explained (ph). Again, it goes back to the issue of where exactly did, you know, this supposed (ph) radicalization take place.

ROBERTSON: Investigators are still trying to figure out where and how Abdulmutallab was radicalized. What worries Usama Hassan is that Abdulmutallab may have radicalized others.

HASSAN: There is of course the worry that - that he may - may have a small band of - of comrades, of friends who - who think along similar lines.

ROBERTSON: Nic Robertson, CNN, London


HARRIS: Well, the new year means new laws. We will show you how they could impact everything from your mortgage to what you can order in a restaurant.


HARRIS: All right. If you are looking for the latest financial news and analysis, you are just a click away at Our Money team has really done a terrific job for you this year. And we expect even more out of the team in 2010.

Let's get you to the New York Stock Exchange. What, three full hours into the final trading day of the year. And let's take a look at how stocks are trading. Down. We are down. Not in triple-digit territory, but, OK, a considerable sell-off going on right now. We are down 55 points. At last check, the Nasdaq is down six.

And the new year means new rules on everything from mortgages to dog breeding. Alison Kosik is in the newsroom with a sampling of new laws that take effect after the ball drops.

And, Alison, let's start with these new federal rules on mortgages that could be very helpful to people looking to buy a home in 2010, and sell one. By the way, hello.

ALISON KOSIK, CNNMONEY.COM: Exactly. Exactly, Tony. No, you're right. You know, these new rules that you're talking about, they take effect tomorrow. And that's going to help clarify the cost of mortgages for consumers. Now the rules will mandate a standard three-page good faith estimate for consumers that you'd receive within three days of applying for a loan. Now good faith estimates, they've been around for years, but they're all different, which makes it almost impossible to really figure out the true cost of a loan and compare it to offers from other banks. What often happens is the bank with the lowest interest rate isn't offering the best total cost because of high fees and other expenses. The new rules also force banks to consolidate the fees they control into one origination charge, and that charge will not be allowed to go up.

This, by the way, is the first major update to federal mortgage rules since 1974. And if you're a savvy consumer, Tony, the government estimates the changes could save you about $700.

HARRIS: Ooh, I like the sound of that.


HARRIS: Well, that's federal. Many new state laws also taking effect tomorrow. Take us through some of the highlights there.

KOSIK: OK. We'll do. We're going to start in Kentucky, where new limits on pay-day loans go into effect. These high-interest loans, they became a big concern this year and several states have imposed restrictions of some kind. The new law in Kentucky caps the annual interest rate at 36 percent and limits borrowing to just $500 at a time.

Elsewhere, California, it's going to become the first to impose a statewide ban on restaurants that cook with trans fats. Violators are subject to $1,000 fines. But restaurants there, they've had almost 18 months to make this transition, and most have already done so.

A restaurant smoking ban goes into effect in North Carolina. Smoking bans exist in more than 25 states. But this is really significant, Tony, because North Carolina is a major tobacco grower, so this is seen as a symbolic advance for anti-smoking forces.

And in Washington state, new limits on dog breeders. They're only going to be allowed to own or control 50 dogs at a time. Still sounds like a lot. I guess that's why they call them puppy mills.

HARRIS: To me. Yes. Yes.

All right, Alison, appreciate it. Happy new year to you. Thank you.

KOSIK: Sure. Happy new year.

HARRIS: Thank you.

You know, there are those who talk about helping others, and then there are those who commit everything they have to it. Martin Parnell, who lives in Canada, is a man planning to run -- to run 250 marathons in the new year for charity. And he joins us from Cochran (ph) in Alberta. He's on the phone with us.

Martin, forget my bluntness here, are you nuts? Two hundred and fifty marathons next year? Really?

MARTIN PARNELL (via telephone): Yes. Yes, I could be, Tony. It has been said before, but that's the plan. Yes, I plan to start tomorrow and hopefully complete 250 by December 31, 2010.

HARRIS: Hey, Martin, is it true, you actually wanted to run a marathon every day next year, 365 marathons?

PARNELL: Yes, I -- that was sort of milling around in my brain about six months ago when I was trying to, you know, figure it out. And I talked to my wife Sue and she sent me off to a doctor. She said, you better see our local doctor, have a chat with him. And luckily my -- our local doctor, Dr. Hamlin (ph), has climbed the seven highest peaks in the seven continents. He's climbed Everest and he's, at the moment, skiing towards the South Pole. So I knew I was in pretty good hands. But he said, look, he said, why don't we, you know, back it off a little bit and look at doing five a week and then having two recovery days. So I agreed that made a lot more sense.

HARRIS: So is that the schedule, you'll run five days a week and then you'll get a couple of days to recover?

PARNELL: Yes, exactly, Tony. I'll be running Sunday through to Thursday each week through the year. And Thursday will be my day I run at local schools. So I'll be doing a marathon at a local school in the Calgary area, you know, running around the track or the field and the kids can join me for a couple of laps.

HARRIS: That's terrific. You know what, let me see here, I tried to do a little math in my head here. I don't know what kind of time you're keeping on this. But if you break it down a bit, let's just say it takes you four hours a day to run the 26.2 miles, to run the marathon. You know, Martin, that's not even a full days work. How tough is this really going to be for you?

PARNELL: Well, you know, you're right. My wife actually said I'm -- it's sort of like a part-time job. A little cheeky. But actually the run time's going to take me between five and five and a half. To do this kind of volume, you've really got to back off the pace. So, yes, I wouldn't be able to maintain a four-hour. So, you know, five and a half.

But what I do is I run for nine minutes and I walk a minute. So that's basically how I manage, you know, manage my marathon.

HARRIS: Yes. Who are you running for? I know this is for charity. So who are you running for and why are you running for this particular group?

PARNELL: Yes, I'm running for Right to Play. They're a humanitarian organization that through sport and physical activity have developed programs to help kids learn. They operate in 23 countries, including North America. And really where it came from was five years ago I did a cycle trip from Cairo in Egypt down to Cape Town, four months across Africa, you know, across 10 countries. And I, you know, during that trip, I spent, you know, time with kids, playing soccer and, you know, pick-up games and table tennis along the road and I just found they were -- the enthusiasm when kids do sport, they just forget everything. You know, these kids don't have a lot, but you could just pick it up. So, yes, that's where it came from.

HARRIS: Well, Martin, that's terrific. And if you were able to accomplish this, will you set some kind of record? Will you be in the "Guinness Book of World Records"?

PARNELL: Well, no, it doesn't look like it. I did check that out. But they -- to qualify, the fellow right now, a fellow called -- an American called Larry Mecon (ph), has completed 105 marathon races and the criteria is that it's a race. You know, it has to be an officially organized race, which mine aren't.

HARRIS: Got you.

PARNELL: So, no, unfortunately, it doesn't look like "Guinness World Record" night.

HARRIS: Well, run on, mate. And the best. And we love that you're doing it for the kids.

Martin Parnell -- and I'm going to let you know now that we're going to track you on this and we'll check in with you from time to time next year if that's OK with you.

PARNELL: You bet, Tony. Can I just say my website?

HARRIS: Yes, sure. Sure, sure, sure.

PARNELL: Yes, it's

HARRIS: Yes, let's see if we can get you -- get some money raised for your effort here.

Martin, the best. Be well and run on, brother.

PARNELL: Thanks, Tony. Really appreciate it.

HARRIS: Yes, yes, our pleasure.

After 9/11, a presidential commission put out a list of recommendations to prevent such an attack from ever happening again. Have those recommendations been followed?


HARRIS: Let's get you caught up now on one of our top stories.

New Year's Eve celebrations canceled in Bali after the U.S. State Department warned of a possible terrorist threat. The U.S. embassy in Jakarta said the warning came from Bali's governor. The governor, however, said there was no information about a new terrorist threat. President Obama has demanded answers about the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane. Today he is expected to get a preliminary report on what went wrong. The president says U.S. intelligence failed to piece together information that would have kept the terror suspect off the plane.

Rush Limbaugh is in a Honolulu hospital. Limbaugh's radio show staff says the conservative host was rushed there late yesterday after suffering chest pains, but that he is now resting comfortably.

Two unforgettable crimes shocked us all in 2009. The beating death of Chicago honors student Derrion Albert and the gang rape of a girl outside a homecoming dance in California. In both cases, there were witnesses who did little or nothing to help police. Nobody willing to snitch. I spoke to a high school class here in Atlanta about the code of silence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where I live at, and the society that I grew up in, you just can't snitch. Like, it's just out of the question. You just can't do it or you'll get in trouble, you know what I'm saying? That most of the people who are doing these bad things, you know them.


HARRIS: Tomorrow, hear the rest of my interview about snitching with these sharp kids. My series "Class in Session: The Culture of Not Snitching" airs tomorrow starting at noon Eastern.


HARRIS: I've got to tell you, it seems like deja vu, discussing ways to tighten our security in the aftermath of another attempted terrorist attack. Remember the September 11th Commission? And they came up with a lot of recommendations. CNN's Joe Johns looks at which were actually carried out.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, steps to keep us all safe. At the time, they did not seem optional, but apparently they were. Take this recommendation -- "improved use of no-fly and automatic selectee list should not be delayed."

JOHNS (on camera): Translation, hurry up and figure out how to use the security screening list to keep track of who's trying to fly. The commission wrote those words in 2004, and now, just one week away from 2010, a guy on a watch list, but not on a no-fly list, was actually able to get on a plane with a bomb in his underwear. How in the world does that happen?

JOHNS (voice-over): Attorney Richard Ben-Veniste was a member of the 9/11 Commission. RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSIONER: And, two, the fact that he had traveled to Yemen, he had been in possession of a valid visa, he had purchased his ticket under circumstances that raised red flags, and, of course, his father had been concerned enough about him to have gone to the U.S. embassy and had follow-up conversations with CIA.

JOHNS: And then there's this 9/11 Commission recommendation, "the TSA and the Congress must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers." They've given it priority, all right, but haven't even come close to getting it over the finish line. TSA bought a bunch of so-called puffer machines to detect explosives by blowing air on passengers, but they didn't work very well.

Other scanning technologies allowing authorities essentially to see underneath the clothes of departing passengers have been bottled up, just 40 scanners in 19 airports across the entire country right now. Why? Privacy concerns mostly. Richard Ben-Veniste says, get over it.

BEN-VENISTE: I think we need to put aside puritan concerns and get down to the reality of people trying to kill us and balance those two issues.

JOHNS: And while the investigation is far from over, it's also looking like one of the commission's most important messages of all got lost in translation even before Northwest Flight 253 hit the skies between Amsterdam and Detroit. The commission urged over and over again that federal agencies collaborate instead of compete, writing that "information procedures should provide incentives for sharing."

JOHNS (on camera): Translation, if you have information, share it. Clearly, that didn't happen as the CIA wrote a report on the suspect but did not send it to other agencies. Seemingly, a major failure in the eyes of the 9/11 Commission, which decided that forcing federal agencies to talk to each other about stuff like this, was its most important mission.

BEN-VENISTE: To break down those barriers and to make sure that information gets shared. That was our principal recommendation in 9/11 and one of the principal reasons we were unable to exploit the mistakes made by al Qaeda prior to 9/11.

JOHNS (voice-over): It makes you wonder what it might take for us to actually learn our lesson.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: Great question. Many of you have been through airports across the country since Christmas Day. Are you experiencing, what, long delays, security searches? That was our question on our blog today. Got a couple of comments for you. Susan says, she "just traveled from Seattle to Sacramento and didn't experience any delays going through security. The TSA workers were moving the crowd along very well. Let's remember, there is no security system, government, or public official that can keep us completely safe. Life just doesn't work like that." Thank you, Susan.

And Roger has another outlook. He says, "from now on, everyone flies naked! Now, there's nowhere to hide bombs. I mean, really, who's going to want to walk around the airplane naked?"

Let us hear from you. You can leave your comments on my blog at


HARRIS: And happy holidays and happy new year to you as well.

Karen Maginnis, I got to tell you, boy, we are just hours away from the biggest new year's eve celebration anywhere on the planet. Sydney's pretty good -- Sydney's pretty good, but it's not New York City. So we are expecting about 600,000 people. Allan Chernoff did the math for us. I'm going to put a little pressure on your forecast here because the real question that people have right now is, how many layers, if I'm going to be there, starting in about 3:00 p.m. on?


HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM, Detroit's Muslims are speaking out about the attempt to bring down an airliner over their city. You'll hear what they have to say next in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: You know, Muslims in America are outraged a member of their faith is accused in yet another terror plot and some are vowing to take action. Here's CNN's Mary Snow in Detroit.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Inside a tiny mosque in Detroit, Imam Kazim Abula (ph) leads fellow Nigerian Muslims in prayer. It's a break from what he describes as the shocking news that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian and Muslim, stands accused of plotting to blow up an airliner.

IMAM KAZIM ABULA: It is a disgrace, embarrassment to us as Muslims, to us as Nigerians.

SNOW: The imam says he has immediate concerns about the safety of his small community, but there's also anger within the community.

SNOW (on camera): What makes you angry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because it is not Islam, they don't understand. This is not the Islam that I know. SNOW (voice-over): Members of this mosque joined other Muslim groups Tuesday in condemning the attempted terror plot.

DAWUD WALID, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR MICHIGAN: No faith or legitimate, political ideology could ever justify the injuring or murdering of innocent civilians.

SNOW: But Majid Moughni, a lawyer and activist, hopes for more than words. He lives in Dearborn, home to one of the country's largest Muslim communities. He says American Muslims were just recovering from negative perceptions.

MAJID MOUGHNI: And now we get this other terrorist that attempts to blow an airliner right over our heads, right over the heads of the largest Muslim population outside the Middle East. Right over our heads. And we're going to sit and watch? We said, no.

SNOW: Moughni is taking his anger to the streets and organizing online.

MOUGHNI: Our goal right now between now and then is to literally spread the word out, you know, we have . . .

SNOW: He's organizing a march in Detroit to coincide with Abdulmutallab's first scheduled appearance at court. The message?

MOUGHNI: If they've got something with America, we're Americans. If they've got something against America, we're Muslims and we're prepare to die for Islam, just like you are. We're not afraid of death, just like you're not. But we're standing on the right side, the side of peace, and you're not.


HARRIS: Well, we can tell you that Majid Moughni was successful in getting a permit for the rally outside federal court in Detroit January 8th. He says so far he's received hundreds of responses and hopes thousands of people actually show up. It is so about (ph) time.