Return to Transcripts main page
Al Qaeda Winning War on Terror?; Signs Missed in Terror Plot?
Aired January 5, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered. Is al Qaeda gaining the upper hand in the war on terror?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a suspended terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way.
BROWN: President Obama's angry admission that the homeland defense system just didn't work.
Plus, why didn't we listen to the warnings of the 9/11 Commission?
BOB KERREY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It's eerily reminiscent. It's the same language we had in the 9/11 report. Now, how long do you tolerate the system being broken?
BROWN: Five years ago, they told us to watch out for the American cleric who is taking Osama bin Laden's place. So, why is he still on the loose?
Also tonight, our CNN special investigation: A nationwide chain of yoga and wellness centers, two dozen former employees say it is a cult. They claim they were abused.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were screaming. People were throwing up. People were running away.
BROWN: Dahn Yoga's lawyers say it is no cult and no one was abused. Who is telling the truth? Our three-part investigation begins tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.
BROWN: Hey there, everybody. We start tonight, as always, with the "Mash-Up." We are watching it all so you don't have to.
Our top story tonight: an angry admission from the commander in chief. President Obama acknowledges the government dropped the ball, missing clue after clue that could have stopped the Christmas bomber before he even made it onto the plane. The president spent the afternoon huddling with his top security advisers, and then he emerged to face supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You rarely see President Obama as stern or as frustrated as we saw him just a little while ago.
OBAMA: The bottom line is this: The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots. That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president used a version of the world fail nine times in as many minutes.
OBAMA: Fail. Failure. Failures. Failures. Failed. Failure. Failed. Failure. Failure.
KATIE COURIC, HOST, "CBS EVENING NEWS": The president ordered his team to quickly come up with new recommendations to make sure this never happens again.
OBAMA: We have to do better, and we will do better, and we have to it quickly. American lives are on the line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president also confirmed publicly that the United States would no longer release any Guantanamo Bay detainees of Yemeni descent back to their home country.
OBAMA: But make no mistake. We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We're going to have full details on this story coming up tonight. Plus, I'll ask a member of the 9/11 Commission why so many of their recommendations have gone unheeded -- that coming up.
Moving now to Afghanistan and new information tonight about the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officers at an American military base. The terrorist was a double agent, and tonight we have new details on how he managed to slip through security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This is a Jordanian doctor by the name of the Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi.
One former senior U.S. intelligence official says he was providing very important information on some very high-level targets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The double agent was brought onto the CIA base in Afghanistan without first being given a polygraph test, one of the basic tools in establishing a spy's trustworthiness. He had provided bona fide information, including the location of al Qaeda leaders killed by CIA drone strikes. But a U.S. intelligence official says there were still questions about his reliability and the access he claimed to have to senior al Qaeda leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had already been to the base about half-a- dozen times, and because of the information he claimed he had, the CIA officers told the local guards not to search him as he went past three layers of security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some 13 CIA officers and contractors from the company formerly known as Blackwater had gathered to hear the informant's report when the bomb went off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: American and Jordanian officials apparently believed the bomber had been rehabilitated. They had hoped he would lead them to the top lieutenant of Osama bin Laden.
Here at home, a vicious cold snap blanketing much of the country has turned deadly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: An arctic blast is making its way south. That will plunge two-thirds of the country into possibly the deepest freeze of this winter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Tennessee, where overnight lows hit 12 degrees, four people have died, hypothermia the cause. In New Jersey, a nuclear power plant was shut down because of ice in its cooling system. In central Florida, with temperatures below freezing all week, farmers are performing a kind of citrus CPR.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, temperatures at strawberry farms like this and across the state are going to hit 32 or below, and it's going to stretch like that straight through the weekend. Meteorologists say they haven't seen it like that for such a sustained time down here in Florida for decades.
And it's going to get worse before it gets better, another band of frigid weather expected to hit two-thirds of the country tomorrow.
Turning now to Hollywood and an all-too familiar story of tragedy and excess, another young starlet found dead in her home. This time, it's Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson. She was only 30 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to the celebrity Web site TMZ, she had been dead for several days before her body was discovered. Her father is Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets and the great-grandson of the founder of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Casey Johnson had been trying to make a name for herself in Hollywood. Her girlfriend, Tila Tequila, was the star of the reality show "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila." The couple made tabloid headlines last month when they posted this video online.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Casey Johnson and Ms. Tila Tequila are now officially engaged.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Johnson, said to have had a drug and alcohol problem, led a troubled life. In 2007, the heiress adopted her now 3-year-old daughter, Ava, from Kazakstan, but lost custody to her mother in 2009, when she was found to be living in squalor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Johnson was also in trouble with the law. She was arrested on theft charges in November, allegedly stealing jewelry, clothing and documents from an ex-girlfriend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: No cause of death just yet, police waiting on an autopsy. And they say they don't expect -- or don't suspect, rather, foul play.
On the political front, a big blow to Democrats' hopes of keeping control of the Senate. North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan announced today he won't run for reelection this year, a big surprise here. Dorgan was expected to easily win a fourth term, so a boost for Republicans there.
But the party's own chairman is raising doubts about whether the GOP can recapture the House in the midterm elections. Republican Chairman Michael Steele was asked about it on FOX last night. He spent pretty much all of today cleaning up after himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Do you think you could take over the House? Do you think Republicans...
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Not this year. And, Sean, I will say honestly...
HANNITY: You don't think so?
STEELE: Well, I don't know yet, because I don't know who -- all the candidates. We still have some vacancies that need to get filled. But then the question we need to ask ourselves is, if we do that, are we ready?
HANNITY: Are you? Answer your own question. Do you think they're ready?
STEELE: I don't know, and that's what I'm assessing and evaluating right now. STEELE: certainly, I know some of my friends in Washington on the Hill were a little bit put out by what I said. What I am saying is -- the question was, will you take back the House? I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And that, of course, from CNN's "SITUATION ROOM." What a difference a day makes. Steele now says he thinks Republicans can win back the House in November.
And that brings us to the "Punchline" tonight, courtesy of Jon Stewart, back from vacation and ripping into the government for missing all the clues about the Christmas bomber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": It's December. He's going from Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit without a coat?
STEWART: With a one-way ticket? Oh, do you think he's going to Detroit to start a better life?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Jon Stewart, everybody. And that is the "Mash-Up" tonight.
Still ahead: new details about that security breach at Newark Airport in New Jersey on Sunday, also, more screening, more air marshals and more people on the no-fly list, but will this do anything to make us safer?
And President Obama meets with his national security team and delivers a blunt message: Intelligence failures will not be tolerated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I called these leaders to the White House because we face a challenge of the utmost urgency. As we saw on Christmas, al Qaeda and its extremist allies will stop at nothing in their efforts to kill Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Some breaking news now, new information just coming in about the security breach at Newark Airport over the weekend. You will recall a man got past security, causing an entire terminal to be shut down for hours. Well, that man still has not been caught. And tonight, we're a big step closer to finding out why he hasn't been caught.
We want to bring in Randi Kaye right now, who has more on this for us -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, here is what we know right now. I can tell you that we are still working to independently confirm this, but our affiliate WABC-TV in New York City is reporting that the man who breached security at Newark Airport Sunday evening hasn't been caught or identified because surveillance cameras were not recording.
That's right. They can't capture this guy because the very security cameras that should have been recording his image and video of him as he made his way in and out of the security area, that sterile area, as it's called, were not actually recording.
It turns out sources tell WABC that the surveillance cameras had been down for nearly a week. That's down even since the Christmas Day bomb scare in Detroit, and they were unable to record any security breach at all. Lots of time was lost here as a result, and the terminal shut down, hundreds of passengers screened and rescreened, all because TSA agents couldn't even identify the guy who breached security, no video of him, no identity.
BROWN: So, who is to blame here, Randi?
KAYE: Well, in a case like this, a lot of people are pointing fingers at each other, of course. We have TSA and the Port Authority, they're pointing the fingers at each other for the failure of the cameras to record, according to WABC.
In the end, the TSA had to request surveillance tapes from Continental Airline's own cameras. And that adds even more hours, of course, Campbell, to this response time.
BROWN: Pretty unbelievable.
KAYE: It sure is.
BROWN: Especially in the context of everything else that is happening.
KAYE: Absolutely, even since the Christmas Day scare.
BROWN: Randi Kaye for us tonight, Randi, thanks very much.
Now, even before this breaking news, we had heard some blunt, some unusually tough talk about airline security from President Obama. At a meeting with security team this afternoon, the president called the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day -- quote -- "a screw-up that could have been disastrous."
And right after the meeting, he was still very obviously unhappy. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: When a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way. And it's my responsibility to find out why and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future.
Elements of our intelligence community knew that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had traveled to Yemen and joined up with extremists there.
It now turns out that our intelligence community knew of other red flags that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sought to strike not only American targets in Yemen, but the United States itself. And we had information that this group was working with an individual who was known -- who we now know was in fact the individual involved in the Christmas attack.
This was not a failure to collect intelligence. It was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had. The information was there, agencies and analysts who needed it had access to it, and our professionals were trained to look for it and to bring it all together.
I will accept that intelligence by its nature is imperfect, but it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged. That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Joining me now, David Gergen, who was an adviser to four different presidents, and also Gary Berntsen, who is a former CIA officer, who is back with us as well.
David, you heard the president there. Flat out, this was a failure. What was your reaction to his remarks?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I have rarely seen Barack Obama smolder, but he was this afternoon, Campbell. He was clearly very frustrated, angry that this had happened in this way.
I'm told that, in the meeting, he wasn't hostile toward his people. He was very firm. But he said, look, this was a screw-up, but he also thanked them for those times when they have thwarted attempts, other attempts, this year.
I think, though, the point of all of this is, Campbell, is that the president feels very strongly, I'm told by top-siders at the White House, that, look, we can have a perfect system and people may still get through. But in this case, somebody got through because we had an imperfect system. It wasn't working well. And we need to clean this up.
And he clearly is not blaming the CIA for the way it collects information. He said that part of it worked well. What happens is, when the agency collects it, it's sent over to something called a new organization, new agency in Washington called the National Counterterrorism Center, NCTC, as it's called.
And the problem there, Campbell, is that it's an umbrella over representatives from 20 different sort of intelligence groups from around the government. Most of them have different computing systems and to try to integrate that information turned out to be a very, very hard task.
They're not bumbling people. These are smart people, but they're dealing with tons and tons of information. And making the information fragments match up, it's like a large puzzle. And if the computers are not properly aligned, it's very hard to do that.
So, they have got a lot of straightening out to do, and it's frustrating for the country that more than eight years after 9/11, after billions of dollars being spent on this, we still have a system that seems so porous.
BROWN: And, Gary, to David's point there, streamlining the system, this is the same thing we heard post-9/11, and, clearly, we're not there. We're not even close to being there.
GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR, "HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, COUNTERTERRORISM AND NATIONAL LEADERSHIP: A PRACTICAL GUIDE": I thought there were two important points for the speech.
First, he walked back the release of the Yemeni prisoners. Thrilled that he did that. Good move. The second thing he was trying to do was convince the American public that he understood what the issues were, because there's been a lot of questions. There's been a lot of statements by the White House and by the president that were not consistent with the threat that we have been seeing.
BROWN: OK. Let me stop you there, though, because I want to get specific, if I can, on both of those issues that you just addressed.
First, you know, look at the steps that the president said had been taken so far, more airport security, air marshals, updated terror watch list.
BROWN: Hold on. Stricter screening of passengers coming from countries that have a history of terrorism or sponsor terrorism.
If the failure was as we just said this connect the dot failure or getting the information sort of streamlined and to the right people, does any of that stuff make us any safer?
BERNTSEN: Not if you don't have equipment in those airports that detects explosives. We still -- the majority of the airports that we have don't have equipment that detects explosives for every person that goes through. They test some of it. A lot of what we have are metal detectors or scanners, but they don't necessarily detect explosives. BROWN: So, this list I just read off that they have announced since this happened is sort of meaningless in terms -- if we're not addressing those big -- connect the dots and the explosives issue?
BERNTSEN: We're going to have to detect explosives. We're going to have get -- have people in there that are really trained, that understand -- they know what they're doing, and recognize that this is not just about technology.
It's about really well-trained people who are committed to this, experienced, well-led, and investing in these people over a period of time.
BROWN: Yes, go ahead, David.
GERGEN: Campbell, as I see it -- and maybe Gary can correct me -- it's a two-step process.
First of all, if you collect and then coordinate the intelligence properly, you intercept the person before they even get to the screening. You stop them from going into the screening. And, then, if they do get past that initial stage, then the screening has to pick them up, and that's where you do need the technologies, the pat-downs. And we may have to be much more invasive than we have been willing to be in the past.
But is that properly stated, Gary, or would you change that?
BERNTSEN: I agree with you completely.
The problem is, is the clandestine service of the United States is not large enough to do this. The clandestine service is very small in comparison to the FBI for the job it's got to do. We need a larger clandestine service, more officers with the critical languages to do the collection that you're talking about.
BERNTSEN: But, then, if we lose, if we don't make it, we don't catch the threat before it gets to the airport, we still need to be able to detect explosives. And that's a large investment in money in our airports.
BROWN: All right, guys, stand by. I want to talk more about this, but I want to drill down to something else when we come back, how hard it is, I guess, for us to get the upper hand when it comes to al Qaeda.
David, you have called it Whac-A-Mole.
From Yemen to Somalia, how do we get these bad guys? We're going to talk about that when we come back. Stand by.
BROWN: President Obama says he is very serious about cracking down on al Qaeda, but the fight seems to spread from country to country.
And back with us now to pick up our conversation is senior political analyst David Gergen, as well as Gary Berntsen, a former CIA officer.
And, David, you know, the president said al Qaeda a nimble organization, but I heard you earlier describe this as Whac-A-Mole, smack them down in one place, they pop up something else. Gary, just during the commercial break, made a point to me that our military, our intelligence services are stretched so thin. They're in the middle of dealing with two wars right now, two hot wars.
How on earth do they deal with this if this is the issue? They can't just be bouncing from place to place.
GERGEN: This is one of the toughest problems we face as a country right now. And it sits very squarely on the desk of General David Petraeus, who has the Central Command that oversees, has the umbrella for a variety of countries, all of which now seem to be -- many of which seem to be inflamed with this.
And what happened, we went into Afghanistan to go after al Qaeda. We really gave them a hard hit. They just slipped across the border into Pakistan. We then went into Iraq and suddenly there were more terrorists there. Afghanistan got worse. We went back into Afghanistan. Now we have got terrorists who -- terrorists growing in Yemen.
And we just got rid of the -- when the Saudis went after their homegrown terrorists, they went into Yemen. And when we go after them in Yemen, they're going over to Somalia. That's the Whac-A-Mole quality of this, Campbell.
And I don't think anybody has a good answer for it right now. It is the second part -- in fact, it's the bigger part of all of this. Yes, we need to stop them coming into our homeland, but first of all we need to stop them from deciding they want to go kill themselves to come hit us. And that means we have to win this struggle on terrorism, against terrorism, or war against terrorism, whatever you want to call it. It doesn't make any difference.
We have got enemies out there. And they're popping up and it's spreading like a cancer, and it's a very, very hard problem for the U.S. military, especially when we're stretched thin. I don't think we have the answers, but I think it's what is going to preoccupy many people in the Obama administration in the coming months and maybe even years. BROWN: Gary, I know you feel this deeply as a former intelligence officer. The CIA is getting a lot of criticism right now because of this, which I know you also don't think is entirely deserved.
BERNTSEN: It's not large enough. The organization is not large enough to handle this problem.
The clandestine service is a very small service. What we need to develop in the United States is a directorate of strategic services, like we had during the OSS period in World War II. SOCOM in the military or something like that needs to be given expanded authorities, many of the authorities that CIA has in the realm of covert action.
Leave CIA to do the F.I. collection, and let the covert action be done by this new organization. McCain wanted to create a DSS. That was part of his campaign platform, a directorate of strategic performances. I have written about that as well. We are going to have to do that in this fight if we want to win.
GERGEN: Gary, can't the special forces and the Pentagon do a lot of that? Can't they carry out a lot of this covert activity? I thought they were already going after some of these al Qaeda guys.
BERNTSEN: Special forces is designed to do two things. It works with indigenous forces and it also does CAS, close air support. It doesn't do the types of things I'm talking about.
I'm talking about an expanded military organization that will spot, assess, develop, recruit sources and do lethal operations at the same time. Special forces doesn't do that. They don't do that. They do the training of foreign forces and they fight alongside of them, and then they will also do close air support, which they did when we invaded Afghanistan. But you need to go beyond that.
GERGEN: What about all the drones we have been using? We have been going after a lot of al Qaeda with drones.
BERNTSEN: That's a piece of this.
BERNTSEN: And CIA will do that, alongside the U.S. military.
But a new organization with expanded authorities -- and I know the CIA would hate to hear me say this, that we need something like this. And I know SOCOM would love to have this. And I think that this is probably where we are going to need to go in the end.
BROWN: We will see. That's a big hill to climb, I think, for Congress and this administration right now.
David Gergen and Gary Berntsen, though, appropriate your insight. Gary, thanks again.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BROWN: As President Obama demands to know who dropped the ball before the attempted airline bombing, another big question out there, were the lessons of 9/11 ignored? We're going to look at what clues the official report on September 11 might shed on the newest terror organization, right after this.
BROWN: President Obama made clear this afternoon the system failed in what he called a potentially disastrous way, leading up to the attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day. What he didn't discuss were the many warning signs that critics say can be found in the 9/11 Commission report published back in the summer of 2004.
It included 25 references to the American-born radical cleric linked to the Detroit terror plot.
And I want to go point by point through a number of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations and talk a little bit about why they seemingly haven't been addressed. Former Senator Bob Kerrey was a member of the commission. He's joining us now. Fran Townsend served as President George W. Bush's homeland security adviser. And she is a CNN national security contributor, joining us as well.
Senator, let me start with you.
Anwar al-Awlaki was mentioned 25 times in the report. How did the ball get dropped on this?
KERREY: The 9/11 Commission, we had subpoena powers. We had 10 people. We had a limited budget and a limited amount of time. And we tracked this guy down. And we sent the information to the Hill. We sent it to the executive branch as well, and they -- it simply wasn't followed up on.
The Iranian connection wasn't followed up on. There was a lot of things that were out there. And we actually deal with it all the time, because people are always saying, well, why didn't you do this, this, and this? And the answer is, we went out of business in July 2004, as a consequence of the statute saying that that is when we were shut down.
BROWN: Fran, you were inside the meetings. I mean, what can you share with us about how serious of a threat the government thought Awlaki was? I mean, was he a top priority at the time?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, FMR. BUSH HOMELAND SEC. ADVISER: Campbell, Awlaki was a top priority and he continues to be to this day, obviously and tragically. Not only has he been implicated in the Christmas Day attempted bombing, but also he was in communication with some crazy activities with Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.
When I was in government I made numerous trips, probably half a dozen, over to Yemen and met with President Saleh pressing him to do more against al-Awlaki. But, of al-Awlaki comes from a prominent family, prominent tribe, and we were very frustrated by the fact that it was difficult to get any action or follow-up out of Yemen.
KERREY: And it wasn't just him. The question is if he's communicating with somebody in the armed forces in a position of responsibility and potentially a threat to our own soldiers, why didn't we intervene? That's really the question, not what we did to go to Yemen to try to talk the Yemen president to do something, the move against al-Awlaki. But why didn't we move against the individual in the United States that ended up being the shooter?
KERREY: Look, I --
TOWNSEND: No, I agree. Senator, I agree with you, and in fact, you know, the director of the FBI, Bob Mueller, has asked Bill Webster, a former director of the FBI, former directory of the CIA, to look at this issue. I don't have -- I agree with you completely. I think it's clear that the FBI didn't follow up on the al-Awlaki information and should have and potentially wouldn't have lost the 13 soldiers at Fort Hood.
KERREY: The problem that you have in intelligence oversight -- I know I'm obsessed by this thing -- but intelligence oversight is different than all other oversights because you have oversight over highly classified things. You don't have the press with the capability of examining what's going on. So there's a bigger responsibility, a heavier burden of effort, and those committees need to be stronger. Instead, those committees are weaker. That's why we identify --
BROWN: So how do we get to that? How do you fix it?
KERREY: The American people are going to have to use this an opportunity and focus on Congress and ask them, demand Congress to restructure itself. Otherwise it won't.
BROWN: And, Fran, you've certainly dealt with this. You know, you think the president has the power to address these things, but in a lot of cases it is Congress. How do you address it?
TOWNSEND: President Bush did advocate for the restructure and reform of the oversight, as Senator Kerrey suggests. He didn't have both the House and the Senate majorities.
President Barack Obama has a unique opportunity here. He can make this a priority. He can work with the leadership in Congress. Democrats have control both of the House and the Senate and the White House, and so he's in a unique position to fix this now.
BROWN: Before I let you go, I do want to get to two other issues.
BROWN: One, detecting explosives at our airports, this is something that the report addressed specifically. You've been outspoken about it. Why can't we been able to get a better handle on that?
KERREY: I simply don't have an answer to the question. You've got to -- this is one you just got to manage by objective. You've got to say, we're going to get to -- this is where we are now, this is what it's going to cost to get to it because it's basically a technological solution.
You've also got the big visa problem, but I'm encouraged by the conversations that have been going on about how to make changes there because clearly you can't continue with the situation that we've got right now.
BROWN: But let me just clarify, Abdulmutallab was granted a two- year student visa, and what you have is apparently, you know, our files keeping track of all these things that aren't interfacing, I guess.
KERREY: Yes. You can't put the burden upon TSA and the airlines to solve a problem that's been created by the government itself. This guy should not have been on the plane. Should not have been on the plane. His dad comes in, a highly reliable witness and says this guy, this kid has become dangerous. And we let him get on the plane because we didn't revoke his visa. That visa should have been revoked immediately and wasn't.
And when I hear that the president talk about the system is broken, my God, it's just eerily reminiscent. It's the same language we had in the 9/11 report. How long do you tolerate the system being broken?
So I think you've got and unless and until you say, look, here's what we have to do. Here's the plan. This is what's going to cost and here's how we're going to get there, you'll never -- you'll just be running around in circles talking about this forever.
BROWN: And, Fran, it seems so simple trying to coordinate computers. Why can't we get this done?
TOWNSEND: Well, I think it's a matter of a layer defense. And you hear people talk about that, but what that means is, as the senator says, you need a better visa system. There is discussion now that responsibility should shift to the Department of Homeland Security while taking into account State Department concerns, but this hasn't been adequately managed. And frankly, between congressional oversight, explosives detection you mentioned, Campbell, while some has been done, there is a lot to be answered for in technology, but that's not the only answer.
We need greater deployment of dogs. We need greater behavioral screening at checkpoints. We need a whole multi-facetted approach to screening for explosives and abhorrent behavior where somebody may be trying to launch an attack against an aircraft.
BROWN: Senator Bob Kerrey, appreciate your time.
KERREY: You're welcome.
BROWN: And Fran Townsend as always, Fran, thanks very much.
TOWNSEND: Thank you.
BROWN: We've got more breaking news coming into CNN right now. CNN has learned that changes are coming in the government's terror watch list and its no-fly list. These are new changes just happening now. We're going to have details for you in just a moment.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROWN: More breaking news tonight. CNN has learned of a major shake-up involving the nation's terrorist watch list. This all coming in the wake, of course, of the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Northwest jet. And joining me on the phone right now is CNN State Department producer Elise Labott. Elise, what do you know?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, Campbell, this is actually something that's been done in the last few days since the December 25th attack. That the threshold for people getting on these watch lists, on these no-fly lists, for getting those visas revoked that we've been talking so much about is basically going to be much lower. They're lowering the bar for what it takes to get on this list.
In the last few days, the intelligence community has kind of gone through these watch lists, the tie (ph) database of about 550,000 people scrubbing it, adding these new criteria. And as a result, a lot of individuals have been put on no-fly lists. A lot of people have been put on watch lists and several visas have been revoked. The State Department doesn't really want to say anything about those numbers because they're constantly shifting, but what's interesting here is that officials say that, you know, based on the criteria that, you know, not only the State Department but the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies were using for Abdulmutallab about whether he should be put on a no-fly list, about whether his visa was revoked, based on that old criteria, he fell below the line and so he went into this general database, but not a no-fly list.
Now if they use the criteria, officials will say certainly he would have met the bar and he would be on those no-fly lists and the watch lists, and they're hoping now they're going to capture a lot more people and get a lot more people on those lists.
BROWN: So do they -- do they really think, though, that had these measures been in place that this would have kept him, the alleged Christmas Day bomber, from getting into the country? LABOTT: Well, it's one of the things that would have been stopped. As you know, we've been talking the last few days, the president said there was a systematic failure. Not only did all the relevant agencies that were making this decision about Abdulmutallab didn't know about this Nigerian, those NSA intercepts that a Nigerian was planning attacks. We also had at the State Department the cable that went out talking about the threat that this guy possibly posed based on the information from his father. He didn't note that he had a visa, and so people didn't know that they had to pull the visa at the time. And various agencies weren't talking to each other, and as we said, they weren't connecting the dots. But now based on this new material, anybody that's on these watch lists is going to go into these databases. All those cables that are going out about these individuals are going to say, hey, you know, this person poses a threat. And, by the way, he has a visa. He could put in -- he could come into the U.S. any time and they think that they're going to be able to catch these people much earlier before they get on the plane to the United States, Campbell.
BROWN: All right. Elise Labott for us tonight, CNN State Department producer with that new information coming in. Elise, many thanks to you.
Stay with us. Still to come tonight, we have a CNN special investigation into this very popular nationwide yoga chain, this yoga organization. Two dozen former employees of Dahn Yoga say it's a cult.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN SIVERLS, BROTHER OF FMR. DAHN YOGA MEMBER: I can't describe the pain. Until this day, we're still affected by this. I just can't describe the pain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Dahn's lawyers say it is not a cult. Its practices are common throughout Asia. You're going to hear from both sides when we come back as part of this investigation.
BROWN: We've got some more must-see news happening right now. HLN's Mike Galanos here with tonight's "Download." Hi, Mike.
MIKE GALANOS, HLN PRIME NEWS: Hey, Campbell. First off, a United Airlines pilot has admitted he was drunk in the cockpit at Heathrow Airport last November.
51-year-old Erwin Washington pleaded guilty in a British court. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit allowed when flying a plane. He'll be sentenced next month, could face up to two years behind bars. And that flight to Chicago was canceled. The 124 passengers were moved to other flights.
Well, NASA's Hubble space telescope is providing astonishing new glimpses of very early stages of the universe. The photos reveal never-before seen galaxies. There's also a photo of the universe captured and its earliest stage of developments, 600 million to 800 million years after the so-called big bang. That's about 13 billion years ago. A lot to take in with that one.
And we also have this. Several Nicaraguan Web sites have published new pictures of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The photo show him in a wheelchair meeting with Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega last year. Now if these are real, these would be the first pictures published of Castro since the ailing leader had an operation back in 2006.
Back to you, Campbell.
BROWN: All right. Mike Galanos for us tonight. Mike, thanks very much.
Tonight, we begin a special three-part investigation of a nationwide chain of yoga and wellness centers. Two dozen former employees of Dahn Yoga say it is a cult.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA "JADE" HARRELSN, EX-DAHN YOGA EMPLOYEE: They prey upon people like me who are ignorant about the way money works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Dahn's lawyers say it's no cult, this is a business. Find out more when we come back.
BROWN: Tonight, a nationwide chain of yoga and wellness centers which promises its members, quote, "healthier and happier lives," is under attack by some of its former employees. They claim the organization is a cult, and here now, Kyra Phillips with our special investigation.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The promises at first sounded perfect.
JESSICA "JADE" HARRELSON, EX-DAHN YOGA EMPLOYEE: I believe the greater goal. I believe that we were there to do good.
PHILLIPS: Promises made by leaders of a nationwide chain of yoga and wellness centers called Dahn Yoga. It's a booming business, claiming half a million current members worldwide.
JOSEPH ALEXANDER, VP, PUBLIC RELATIONS, DAHN YOGA: In our 30- year history, we have helped millions of people live healthier and happier lives.
PHILLIPS: But now, former employees allege abuse. LIZA MILLER, EX-DAHN YOGA EMPLOYEE: People were screaming, people were throwing up, people were running away.
PHILLIPS: They talk about accusations of rape.
HARRELSON: He just slowly took my clothes off of me and pushed me where he wanted me to go.
PHILLIPS: And a brother remembers a death on a mountaintop retreat.
ALLEN SIVERLS, BROTHER OF FMR. DAHN YOGA MEMBER: I can't describe the pain. Until this day, we're still affected by this. I just can't describe the pain.
PHILLIPS: Most Americans have probably never heard of Dahn Yoga, nor its founder, a Korean businessman named Ilchi Lee. Ilchi Lee is seldom seen in public. That's why this event is packed. It's the dedication of Dahn Yoga's Mago Earth Park. Mago, meaning mother earth. And according to this video, Ilchi Lee is the messenger of a new creation story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: All of humanity needed to hear earth's message. He set out for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: This was part of the spiritual message that drew in college students like Jade Harrelson and Liza Miller. They started out as members and soon became employees, but they began to question what they believed. What had been promised as the path to enlightenment began to look like a cult.
HARRELSON: They prey upon people like me who are ignorant about the way money works.
PHILLIPS: What started out as a few hundred dollars grew into payments of thousands as their training advanced. And to pay the bills, they took out student loans, giving the money straight to Dahn Yoga.
HARRELSON: My superiors and the master, the Dahn, encouraged me, where actually the people taught me how to take out these student loans.
PHILLIPS (on camera): How much money?
HARRELSON: I would say in total my expenses for Dahn came out to $40,000.
PHILLIPS: Oh, my gosh.
PHILLIPS: And where you ever able to pay it back?
HARRELSON: Oh, no, I'm still paying it back and I'll be paying it back for another 20, 25 years.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): However, Dahn Yoga's head of public relations tells us no one was ever coerced into spending money they didn't have in order to advance within the organization.
ALEXANDER: We make no excuse and no apology for the fact that we are a business. So they have misinterpreted natural business cycles, natural business goals as some type of undue pressure.
PHILLIPS: But these former employees say they believe some of the money they spent, which was supposed to help the world, instead supported an extravagant lifestyle, like these expensive homes in the Sedona mountains and this stable for Arabian horses.
RYAN KENT, ATTORNEY FOR EX-EMPLOYEES: As far as I can tell, the need for growth is designed and intended to provide more money to Mr. Lee, rather than any spiritual goal.
PHILLIPS: Ryan Kent represents 27 former Dahn Yoga employees who are suing the organization, calling it a, quote, "totalistic, high- demand cult group" which manipulates its members to serve Ilchi Lee's financial interest.
ALAN KAPLAN, ATTORNEY FOR ILCHI LEE: They've injected allegations of cult-like activity.
PHILLIPS: Characterizations heatedly denied by Ilchi Lee's attorney who says the suit is little more than a money grab by disgruntled former employees.
KAPLAN: Let's make it clear, my client, Mr. Lee, is not a cult leader. Dahn Yoga is not a cult.
PHILLIPS (on camera): What's bow training?
MILLER: Bow training would be a series of repetitive motions to -- over and over again.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Bowing over and over like this. Liza says it drove her to the brink of exhaustion just to reinforce her dedication to the group.
MILLER: We actually had to do 3,000 at one point which took about ten hours, and we didn't eat or drink during at that time.
PHILLIPS (on camera): Ten hours of bowing, no eating, no drinking? Did people pass out? Did they get sick?
MILLER: People were rolling around moaning, crying, wailing. There was a lot of emotional distress.
PHILLIPS: And nobody at any time said this is crazy, this is ridiculous. MILLER: If we were to come out and say things like that, we would, again, be refocused to ourselves and our problems.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Alexander says that depiction is simply untrue.
ALEXANDER: Generally people do a smaller number of bows and they build up to more. I know of no one who does 3,000 bows on a regular basis.
PHILLIPS: But allegations against Dahn Yoga and Ilchi Lee don't stop at money and abuse. There's much more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just want your side of the story, sir.
PHILLIPS: Well, on its Web site Dahn Yoga boasts an impressive list of scientists and politicians who applaud the work of Ilchi Lee. And as you could imagine, CNN has been hearing from Dahn Yoga supporters throughout the day. There's a link to Dahn's official response at CNN.com/Campbell. Even so, there are serious allegations about not only Ilchi Lee's behavior but that of Dahn Yoga as a whole.
BROWN: And, Kyra, I know before you even took on this investigation, you actually dropped in on a Dahn Yoga center because it was near your house.
PHILLIPS: Isn't that ironic? It was close to my house and I'm very much into yoga and meditation and spirituality, and I studied it for so many years. And it was impressive, the place itself.
PHILLIPS: So I walked in, got a brochure, asked a couple questions and then two days later I was handed this assignment. And it's interesting talking to former members. They tell me, that's what we do. We like to dress up the look of it and bring you in. And they sense your energy and they want to touch your pressure points and your organs and they say a lot of things to you. You seem unhappy, you seem stressed, you seem struggling. We can help you with that. We can make you more happy.
BROWN: And CNN, I mean you said this before today, we have two on this program, a huge response from the people who go to Dahn Yoga...
PHILLIPS: It's been pretty overwhelming.
BROWN: ... who, you know, are very defensive about this.
PHILLIPS: Well, we've been getting so many e-mails. Yes, folks writing in and saying, it is a cult, let me tell you my story. But then I'm reading all these other e-mails from people like Debra who said, my 22-year-old son was ready to commit suicide. He was on all these drugs. He was spiraling downward fast, but Dahn Yoga saved him. He became a master within Dahn Yoga.
Another person writes and says, look, I haven't -- this is the second best thing I've done for my physical and emotional health in 57 years. My husband sees a difference. My son sees a difference. I hope this investigation is fair.
So a lot of people writing in upset with this.
BROWN: And there's a whole lot more on the story I know as well. What's coming up?
PHILLIPS: Let me give you a little look into that. Actually, there's many more allegations that have taken place surrounding Dahn Yoga and they're very serious. One former employee actually claims that she was sexually assaulted by Dahn Yoga's founder. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA "JADE" HARRELSON, EX-DAHN YOGA EMPLOYEE: He just slowly took my clothes off of me and pushed me where he wanted me to go. And I normally like a robot just responded.
PHILLIPS: Why didn't you tell him to stop?
HARRELSON: I had been so taught and trained that he was a holy person, a holy object, and he was my connection to divinity. And again, just to say no to him and to refuse him was to refuse everything that I wanted for myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Now attorneys for Ilchi Lee deny any sexual assault took place, and they say they're confident that this claim will be dismissed in court. Our special investigation continues tomorrow night right here with you.
BROWN: All right, Kyra. We'll see you tomorrow night.
BROWN: Appreciate it.
Coming up next, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." Stay with us. We'll be back in a moment.
BROWN: "LARRY KING" starts in just a few moments, but first tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." A dating Web site that is not exactly aggressive about recruiting new members. In fact, it just kicked out a whole bunch of them. As Jeanne Moos shows us, for this matchmaking service, size matters.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine you're a beautiful person on the dating Web site called "Beautiful People" and all that holiday food was just too beautiful to resist and you gained a few pounds --
GREG HODGE, CO-FOUNDER, BEAUTIFULPEOPLE.COM (via telephone): We've had over 5,000 of our newly chubby members who have been removed from the site.
MOOS: Five thousand members dumped like a second helping. In the words of the founder of Beautiful People, "Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model."
MIA AMBER DAVIS, CREATIVE EDITOR-AT-LARGE, PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE: It's a very ugly thing that they're doing. It's hideous.
MOOS: You can only become a member of Beautiful People if existing members of the opposite sex vote you on.
MUSIC: You're so vain.
MOOS: You probably think this Web site is about you. Maybe both eyes. That's how we began a piece we did five years ago about the site.
(on camera): What we need is a guinea pig, not him. Me.
(voice-over): But despite our best efforts --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent.
MOOS: The photo I submitted was rejected. I didn't stack up.
(on camera): At least I'm not alone. Four out of five applicants are rejected by Beautiful People.
(voice-over): Let them eat cake. They better not eat any cake now that they say they're shedding beautiful people who packed on a few pounds. Members supposedly complained when they'd meet the actual person --
HODGE: And they hadn't looked as they represented themselves in their initial pictures.
MOOS (on camera): That's a shocker, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it elitist? Yes, it is, because our members want it to be.
MOOS (voice-over): Mia Amber Davis is a plus size model who sees no pluses in this.
(on camera): As you look at the beautiful people, is there anything you would like to say to the beautiful people? DAVIS: They all deserve each other. Get a life.
MOOS (voice-over): She and we wondered if it could all be just a publicity stunt. Co-founder Greg Hodge says no. When he looks in the mirror, he sees this: a 7.84.
(on camera): How do you look at yourself in the mirror every morning when this is the kind of superficial thing you do?
HODGE: Look, is it going to be correct? No, it's not. It's certainly very honest. People want to be with people they're attracted to.
MOOS (voice-over): Those kicked off the site can reapply to be voted back on. But you would think even a guinea pig wouldn't be a glutton for punishment.
MUSIC: I am beautiful no matter what they say.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BROWN: And that is it for us. Thanks for joining us tonight.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.