Return to Transcripts main page


Senator Harry Reid Apologizes for Remark about Obama; RNC Chairman Criticizes His Own Party; CIA Double Agent in Taliban Video; Pakistan Taliban Trains Children to be Suicide Bombers; Consumer Electronics Show Entices with New Gadgets

Aired January 9, 2010 - 17:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Randi Kaye, sitting in for Don Lemon. It is the kind of remark that makes you stop and ask, did he really say that?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today is apologizing to all Americans for comments he made about President Obama during the 2008 campaign. We are just learning about the quote which appears on a new book on the campaign called "Game Change." Reid is quoted as saying, then Senator Obama had a chance, a good chance of winning the white house because he was, quote, "light-skinned" and his speech had what Reid described as, quote, "with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one." The damage control is already under way. In today's statement Reid says, quote, "I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans, for my improper comments." Let's talk about all of this with CNN's Political Editor Mark Preston. Good to see you, Mark.


KAYE: What would possess Harry Reid even in private to say something like this?

PRESTON: You know, Randi, Harry Reid has always been known as someone who speaks very bluntly. He speaks his mind. He's not known as a great orator. You don't see him on senate floor giving these real flowery speeches. Sometimes, he gets himself in trouble. And this is a great case of where Harry Reid probably should have kept what was in his mind in his mind. And in his mind, he shouldn't have said it. As you said, incredible damage control going on this morning. Once the news broke that he had said these words, his office immediately issued that statement saying that he was sorry, they're trying to move beyond this issue.

KAYE: Let me share with what the white house is saying about this. They released a statement saying, Harry Reid called me today -- this is from the president -- "Harry Reid called me today for unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I have known him for years. I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issue of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I'm concerned, the book is closed. What do you make of that statement from the president? PRESTON: Not too surprising. I mean, Harry Reid is doing a lot of good work for President Obama on Capitol Hill. He really should be credit with helping get President Obama's agenda through. You know, we talk a lot about this supermajority, the fact that there are 60 votes in the senate. In fact, there are not 60 votes in the senate and we have seen that in the health care debate. Not all democrats are on board. You know, also, if you look at the context of the quote, it doesn't seem as if Harry Reid was trying to be disparaging, so to speak, in his remark. He was making an observation. It was -- it was an observation, he shouldn't have made. It was a poor choice of words, bad choice of words, and I think that President Obama understood that. Also, in the book we should point out that it's noted, if we are to believe the authors of the book, and I think we should because they are very good journalists, that Harry Reid was one of the first democratic leaders to tell Barack Obama to run for president.

KAYE: And why would he do that?

PRESTON: Because, you know, according to the book now, and we've heard some of this anecdotal evidence over the past year or so, year and a half, is that democratic leaders didn't think that Hillary Clinton could win in a general election. They thought that she would win through the primaries but in fact once she got into the general election, republicans would try to dig up a lot of dirt in the past Clinton administration. Also, supposedly the alleged affairs that President Clinton had and that would not be enough for Hillary Clinton to overcome and she wouldn't win the presidency. They saw or at least what this book says, they saw Barack Obama as somebody who could actually win the primary and perhaps win the general.

KAYE: And for Harry Reid, is this a big deal or just a bill embarrassment?

PRESTON: This is a huge embarrassment. It's a big deal because it will always dog him. What is a bigger deal, though, is that there was a poll released this morning before the news broke, this news broke early this morning in a newspaper, another poll in Nevada that shows that Harry Reid is in deep trouble of winning re-election. Right now he's a 52 percent disapproval rating. Not good when you're the majority leader, somebody who's able to deliver for your state to have that many voters not supporting you. And you know something, this is a poll -- these numbers are not too surprising for us, Randi, because we've seen these numbers over the past six months. Harry Reid is in trouble of winning re-election. They acknowledge that. And they're going to spend upwards of $25 million to try to get him re-elected in November.

KAYE: If we can, let's quickly touch on another book that's also getting a lot of attention. This one by Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele. It's called "Right Now," and then it is actually subtitled, "A 12-step program for defeating the Obama agenda." Was this book a surprise for the gop?

PRESTON: I think it was a surprise that Michael Steele, the Chairman of the Republican Party, would actually put a book out during his time as the chairman. That was so critical of the Republican Party because as people will say, that when you're the chairman of the party, you should be the cheerleader of the party. You should really try to heal the party. It has caused a lot of angst in the Republican Party, certainly on Capitol Hill. Michael Steele in his subsequent interviews on his book tour has been asked many questions about the state of the Republican Party. He has said that, for instance, he doesn't think that the republicans can win back the house in November. House republicans do not want to hear this. In fact, there was a dustup, there was a call this past week between Congressional communicators and RNC's Communicators and things are very heated. So, people are angry at Michael Steele for what he has said in his book.

KAYE: He's taken so much heat, in fact, he had to cancel interviews as well. Should he be concerned about his political future?

PRESTON: Look, some people told me that Michael Steele really thinks that he should run for president, and I don't know if that's true or not. Look, he will remain as chairman of the party. He has been able to raise an incredible amount of money. The Republican Party is on the upswing. This time last year they were in a lot of trouble. But Randi, they won two big governorships back in November and the fact is things are on the upswing through the Republican Party. So for right now he's safe.

KAYE: Mark Preston for us on two big stories tonight. Thank you, Mark.

PRESTON: Thanks, Randi.

KAYE: Fresh confirmation tonight that the suicide bomber who killed seven cia operatives in Afghanistan was really an agent of the Pakistan Taliban. A chilling new video shows the man the cia thought they could trust, revealing his true loyalties.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live from Amman, Jordan, with the details, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randy, until this video came out, there was a lot of questions of what was on the mind of this Jordanian doctor who told Jordanian intelligence officials that had gone to Pakistan and he could help inform on al Qaeda's leaders. The cia working with Jordanian intelligence. The work he sourced. But in this video, he now said when he got to Pakistan, he joined the Pakistani Taliban, told them all about this intelligence operation and with them planned an attack against the cia base in Afghanistan and he said this is a very, very clear message that no amount of money can buy off somebody's faith from their god, an indication here that he would -- that whatever he told Jordanian intelligence officials was just lies and that he was really working here for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

And what we see in this video as well is him seating with the leader of the Pakistani Taliban saying that this attack is in revenge for the death of the Pakistani Taliban leader last year in the u.s. Drone strike. And what this shows us as well is very clearly how closely the Taliban and al Qaeda are working on the same objectives and clearly the -- clearly here a very, very important objective, a very, very important operation and the operation, given to the Pakistani Taliban to carry out this very important operative. Very big symbolic statement there for how closely Taliban and al Qaeda are right now.

KAYE: So, Nic, what does the video actually tell us about just how tight? I mean, any more insight there in terms of the length between the Taliban and the al Qaeda?

ROBERTSON: You know, what it's going to tell intelligence agencies and officials a lot and it's going to tell them they're going to have to go back to their agents and double-check and make sure that they really are on the side that they say they're on and they're not on the Taliban fighter, not on al Qaeda's side. And I spoke with a former expert, adviser to the king here, who's got a lot of experience in intelligence operations in this part of the world, and he says this is going to slow down the hunt for Osama Bin Laden because when you go back and check all of your sources and your spies, you are going to have to spend time doing that and that means it's going to slow down the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. So, what the Taliban and al Qaeda have managed to do here is really put a huge crimp in operations for some time to get Osama Bin Laden.

KAYE: And for the Jordanian intelligence service as well?

ROBERTSON: Oh, absolutely. They've got a lot of questions to answer here. I mean, we've been talking to sources here who have indicated that they think the Jordanian intelligence services, along with the cia, have really acknowledged some red flags here. How can they possibly trust a Jordanian doctor who just arrived in Pakistan to say that he could actually get close to al Qaeda's leaders? I mean, that just doesn't add up. And why would they trust somebody who was clearly by his internet blogging, an ideologue, a supporter of Bin Laden? Why they would trust somebody like that? Jordanians Intelligence had never had success of putting somebody in the top ranks of al Qaeda before, intelligence operative. So, a lot of red flags missed and everyone will have to analyze what they did wrong as well as double-check their agents and spies -- Randi.

KAYE: Still so many questions. Nic Robertson for us in tonight in Amman, Jordan. Nic, thank you.

And back in the U.S., a not guilty plea for a suspected terrorist arrested this week by the FBI. Twenty five year old, Adis Medunjanin is a Muslim immigrant from Bosnia, he was accused of receiving training from al Qaeda. His passport was taken away Thursday. That night he was arrested following a traffic collision in which he rear- ended another car at high speed in New York City. He's allegedly linked to Najabul Zazi, who was charged with plotting an attack last year in New York that would have coincided with the eight anniversary of the 9/11. Medunjanin denies any knowledge of the Zazi case.

Security scares board, two flights yesterday adding to the list of security issues in just the past couple of weeks. With methods of screening passengers seeming to come and go, we're asking what has changed since 9/11? And TV goes where no TV has gone before without the funny classes, 3-D TV and other cool stuff debuting at the consumer electronics show. We're getting a look at the gadgets you're going to be asking for in 2010.


KAYE: A graduate student from China accused of touching off a massive airport security scare last weekend is due in court next week. Police say 28-year-old Haisong Jiang ducked under a security rope at Newark, Airport when the guard momentarily walked away from his post. The terminal was shut down and thousands of passengers had to be re- screened. Jiang roommate said his friend made a mistake but meant no harm.


HUI, SUSPECT'S ROOMMATE: He's my friend and he's a nice guy. Yes, he did something, you know, inappropriate. But I'm not a lawyer, I can't say is that wrong or not, right?


Jiang was arrested yesterday in Piscataway, New Jersey and charged with defiant trespassing. He apparently was at the Newark, Airport to see his girlfriend off to Los Angeles. He may have ducked under the rope when the guard wasn't looking to say one final good-bye to her.

Security scares in the terminal but in the air. Not once but twice yesterday. Unruly passengers forced unscheduled layover when's airline pilots decided to play it safe. Friday's Airtran Flight 39 from Atlanta to San Francisco had to make a pit stop after a reportedly intoxicated man locked himself in the bathroom. Two F-16s escorted the flight to Colorado, Springs, where the fbi arrested Muhammad Abu Tahir. Official say, he is likely to face charges for interfering with a flight group.

Same day, different flight to Hawaii bound plane had to land in L.A. after man was accused of harassing a woman on the board. He was removed from the jet but not arrested. Officials say the woman did not want to press charges.

We have all been through a gamut of changes in the name of security at the airport but is any of it working?


KAYE (voice-over): We take our shoes off, remove our laptops and toss our bottled water, all in the name of safety. But are we any safer today than we were before 9/11? Not exactly says Bruce Schneier, Author and Security Technologists.


BRUCE SCHNEIER, SECURITY TECHNOLOGISTS: We take away guns and bombs, terrorists use box cutters. We take away box cutters and needles, and they put explosives in their shoes. We screened shoes, they use liquids. We limit liquids, they strap explosives in their underwear. This is a stupid game we can't win and we should stop playing it.


KAYE: But the game goes on. The tsa tried puffer machines which blow air on you to release explosive material. They didn't work and are being phased out. And the airport pat downs ...


SCHNEIER: Any pat down that you experience that doesn't embarrass you physically is one does not very effective.

KAYE: Schneier does give metal detectors higher marks.

(on camera) He said metal detectors likely force the would-be Christmas Day bomber to build an inefficient bomb for his underwear, which need a syringe and home-brewed detonator that failed. But the next guy may be better at it.

(voice-over) Would those x-ray body scanners do the trick?

SCHNEIER: It won't detect things that are not very dense so if the explosive is spread out over a large area, maybe it's in a fabric.

KAYE: Like the explosive PETN sewed into underwear.

(on camera) For some without a magic machine that's terrorist proof, the answer is profiling, countries and individuals. The Obama administration says now travelers from countries considered state sponsors of terrorism and other countries of interest will face extra scrutiny. Does profiling work?

Candice Delong was an fbi profiler for 20 years.

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER: These are things that we know have worked in the past for various law enforcement agencies and zoning in on certain people.

KAYE (voice-over): Delong says, the answer is a combination of ethnic profiling and behavioral profiling. Someone sweating on an otherwise cool day or a traveler avoiding eye contact. Others argue ethnic profiling makes us less safe.

SCHNEIER: We do not have a perfect profile. Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes, and, you know, it nice to say that it's Muslim men but it isn't always.

KAYE: Remember the shoe bomber Richard Reid? He was British with a Jamaican background. Dirty bomb conspirator Jose Padilla was Hispanic American. A university of Texas study found that profiling high-risk categories is no better than random screening because the screeners in effect become blind to anyone that doesn't fit the profile. Imagine if they're profiling only Middle Eastern men. Would they even spot one of al Qaeda's most wanted, American Adam Guden?

And Schneier says profiling is also ineffective because terrorists learn how to beat it, by picking people who don't fit the profile, people like a Nigerian with a u.s. visa with a U.S. Visa perhaps, leaving from Amsterdam.


(on camera) Now let's look at some glaring issues with the tsa, which has been operating for months without a director in place. The administration has nominated former fbi agent Errol Southers for the post but South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has put a hold on that nomination.

Rick Nelson is a former navy helicopter pilot with over 20 years of intelligence experience. Rick, you say that underestimating the importance of leadership in an agency like the tsa is a huge mistake.

RICK NELSON, CTR. STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES: Oh, absolutely it is. In the times like this, you've got to have, necessarily have strong leadership in place. You know, as the president said in his remarks, there's some systemic failures that occurred on Christmas Day, and for those systems to be changed, it's going to require strong leadership at the department level. And it's going to require the president to have his individuals and his leaders in place to do that.

KAYE: What really is going on at the tsa? When you look at recent events, you have the Christmas Day attempted bomber with explosives sewn into the underwear. We have the Newark airport security breach where the tsa worker leaves his post for about 90 seconds and this guy slips by. What's going on?

NELSON: Again, I think it's an issue where you strong leadership is needed. Certainly the acting administrator is doing a good job but, again, the acting name is something you have to get past. We have to get someone permanent into that position. I think any time you politicize the national security debate, we're doing the nation a disservice here. So, we need to put the leaders in place into that department, into that agency, so we can begin to address some of these issues that you just mentioned.

KAYE: We're talking about the confirmation of Errol Southers, which is being held up. That is President Obama's nominee to head the tsa. Republican Senator Jim DeMint has been very, very vocal about this. He hasn't been confirmed apparently in part because republicans are worried that he's going to unionize the tsa. Have we reached the point here where politics is affecting the safety of this country?

NELSON: Well, absolutely, I think it is. As I said any time we politicize a debate, we're doing the nation a disservice. In the next administrator at tsa will be the fifth one that we had as a nation in the last eight years and it's very difficult to make systemic changes to an agency like that when you keep changing leaders out. And that's something that's going to have to be addressed here and going to have to be addressed soon. The president's going to have to make a decision on this candidate. KAYE: What has the public lost in terms of this leadership or lack of leadership at the TSA?

NELSON: Well, again, you know, the acting position is a very challenging position because you know you're not permanent. So, there's always some hesitancy to put into place policies or to do take the agency in a direction when you know that you're not going to be there for a long period of time. So, by putting permanent leadership in place, you can actually commit yourself and dedicate the organization to a directional change and the kind of systemic change the president says is required here.

KAYE: Does it go beyond leadership? I mean, what does the tsa need to do to gain some ground here against the bad guys?

NELSON: Well, again, the tsa is in an extraordinarily difficult situation. Considering all their up against, they actually do a very good job. What they need to do, though, is they need to get the resources to stay ahead of the terrorists, to stay out in front. We're always going to have terrorism. The terrorists are always going to adapt their tactics to get around our security measures and we cannot rely solely on tsa to keep us safe. It's going to require holistic solutions that include better intelligence sharing, improved investigative techniques and political and congressional oversight to ensure that the tsa has everything it needs to do with job correctly.

KAYE: All right. Rick Nelson, we will have to leave it there. Thank you so much.

NELSON: Thank you very much.

Florida's weather gets turned upside down. You might not believe your eyes but iguanas literally dropping out of the trees during this cold spell.

Jacqui Jeras is tracking all of the brutal weather for us.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is nasty out there for a whole lot of people today, Randi. The good news is there are warmer temperatures on the way. We'll let you know when and just how warm they will be. Coming up after your forecast.


KAYE: Amazing video right there. It's been so cold in Florida, iguanas are dropping out of trees. The cold-blooded animals cooled down so much they can't hold on any longer and they drop to the ground. Good news is they're okay. Just in a zombie state until the weather warms up.

The cold also taking a toll on sea turtles. Dozens were taken to a Marine Life Center after being rescued from Florida's Atlantic Coast after the cold weather shot this system, the coal weather shocked their system. Most of them are endangered green sea turtles and they're used to tropical waters. Jacqui Jeras watching for us. Jacqui, isn't that something of videos of these iguanas. You don't see that every day.

JERAS: You don't. It's shocking. Isn't it?

KAYE: They need a warm-up.

JERAS: They get so stiff. They can't hang onto the trees, I guess, right? They just fall out. So, good to know that all of the animals are Ok. But you know, it is a good reminder to check on your pets, too. Because, oh, yes, there it goes. Right out of the tree. Not a big fan of those iguanas. Anyway, the good news is that the warmer temperatures are coming. We just have to be a little bit patient for it. What's going on in the atmosphere today is our jet stream pattern just as this big trough in it as we call it and this allows the cold air from the north to spill on in. So, temperatures are 10 degrees to 30 degrees below average. Now, we're going to see this pattern shift a little bit over the next couple of days and we get what we call a ridge pattern.

Believe it or not, the Upper Midwest, 5 to 15 degrees above normal by Monday. So, this is some great news. Still below average in the southeast but we are going to be warmer and we will see temperatures near normal. Probably by the middle to latter part of the week, depending upon where you live. But, one of the areas as, you know, the iguana video really showed is Florida's having such a hard time with this. And you're not used to conditions like this and it doesn't happen very often. In fact, maybe once every 20 years. So, temperatures here have been hovering around freezing and it's been creating that real problem for a whole lot of people. Look at that, 36 right now and Jacksonville as well as Orlando and also into the Tampa area.

And we've got a little bit of precept to go along with that. We have been seeing icy conditions. We had sleet in Orlando earlier today. Check out this live picture right now coming from wplg. This is Ft. Lauderdale. Your temperature in Ft. Lauderdale, 42 degrees and you had rain on top of that. And it's just very miserable. Temperatures here tonight that are going to be dropping down probably into the 30s and the wind chill index could be down into the 20s. We might even see a little sleet in West Palm Beach.

I want to show you an I-report that we have from Ocala, Florida. That's about an hour and a half north of the Orlando area. Ooh, this is something Atlanta actually accident video I see that we have there. Yes, Atlanta, icy streets and people just don't know how to drive on it so they're spinning out in that black ice has been a real problem. Now we have Ocala I-report that I want to show you from Jim Yat (ph) that he took this morning. You only had one tenth of an inch of snow.

Jim, I'm wondering how much it took you to gather up to make that snowman. Good to see those folks having a little fun in that. Florida will see temperatures hovering around the freezing mark across much of the state tomorrow morning but they will start to moderate, as I said, down next week. So, hopefully folks are just playing it safe out there -- Randi. KAYE: That is some good news. I really did like Jim's snowman there. A lot of work.


JERAS: Not bad.

KAYE: Not bad at all. All right. Thanks, Jacqui. Appreciate it.

A new video from the Pakistan Taliban shows the suspected suicide bomber who killed seven cia officers last month in Afghanistan.

Humam Al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor who the cia believed it has successfully recruited to fight the Taliban. In the video, Al-Balawi says, his faith cannot be bought.

Two people have been killed in a machine gun attack on the Togo National Soccer Team. The team's bus was sprayed with gunfire near the border between Angola and the republic of Congo. The bus driver and assistant coach were reportedly killed. The team was headed to Angola for the Africa Cup of Nation's tournament but has now withdrawn. A separatist group in Angola claimed responsibility for that attack.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is apologizing for comments he made during the 2008 presidential campaign. A new book called "Game Change" quotes Reid as saying, then Senator Obama could win the white house because he was light-skinned and had, quote, "No Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one." President Obama has issued a statement accepting Reid's apology.

Now let's talk about this with cnn Political Analyst Roland Martin. He joins me by phone from San Antonio. Roland, let me first get your initial reaction to Reid's comments.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via the telephone): First of all, it's obviously shocking to hear the comments. I got a call this morning from the senator's staff. Clearly they're very concerned about this and doing significant damage control. Issues nonsensical he would make such a statement but he thought he was on background or he thought it was, you know, on the record or whatever the case may be. Randi, I think it is also something that speaks to that we cannot just say, well, it's a crazy comment. Understand the thinking of individuals and how they perceive things.

So, in the study, Randi, came out several months ago, in May of 2009, that showed if there's an African American ceo of a company with a baby face, lighter features, more pleasant, they received differently than somebody who was white with a similar feature. And so, it speaks to the psychological view the people have. During the campaign, people have to be honest. Even though, he has a different name, people say, oh, he was a different kind of candidate. And I'll be honest, what Reid said is, I have often heard, being said in African- American circles, in terms of how people are going to be more accepting of him than a different type of African-American candidate. So it was a very interesting comment that I think people need to really look into.

RANDI KAYE, CNN GUEST NEWS ANCHOR: What do you make of what he said -- and I'm quoting here -- "no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one." Suggesting he can slip in and out of this "negro dialect."

MARTIN: I will be honest with you, I can't tell you how many times, Randi, oh, my god, you are articulate. That is when you speak a certain way, you're perceived differently, different than other African-Americans. And so -- when you start breaking down the psychology of how people do things, this is what African-Americans, who in corporate America, deal with every single day in terms of how you dress, how you talk, how you walk. Again, a couple years ago there was a study done on African-American men, who in corporate America, who had to dress a certain way. They could not react a certain way. Even on the campaign, people would say, why can't Senator Obama show anger at issues? Because he did not want to be saddled with the angry black man stereotype. So because, again, how other people perceive you plays a role because he was trying to get votes.

KAYE: Right.

MARTIN: People would think it's nonsense. But when you start digging deeper into what he said, that's what a lot of people think and he was thinking I think what other people were thinking, he simply said it, which was his biggest mistake.

KAYE: So let me ask you this, the president says he has accepted Harry Reid's apology. As far as he's concerned, "the book is closed." That's a quote from the president. Is that enough?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, look, first of all, I'm not surprised the president would issue such a statement. But there is no doubt once Monday hits and then other cable radio shows, cable stations and then we have black radio, it is going to be the topic on Monday. So Harry Reid -- Senator Harry Reid, frankly, is going to try to weather the storm, which is why you saw him reiterate his issues in terms of cutting it out the (INAUDIBLE) on the las Vegas Strip. He knows, come Monday, this is still going to be out there. So it's not just going to simply die away because the president simply said, I accept his apology.

KAYE: Roland Martin, I know you have a flight to catch. We'll let you go. Thanks again for joining us.

MARTIN: Randi, appreciate it.

KAYE: Buckling down to fight the Yemen threat, the head of U.S. Central Command is talking about long-term commitment to battle al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A slice of paradise or a dangerous piece of propaganda? How the Taliban are allegedly using pictures like these to lure children into the battle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAYE: Federal prosecutors say he tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas day, but Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's lawyer says he is not guilty. The plea was entered Friday in federal court in Detroit. The 23-year-old Nigerian was shackled at the ankles, saying little except that he understood the six-count indictment he faces. The most serious of the charges -- attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction on board northwest airlines flight 253, which was carrying nearly 300 people. A conviction could land him in prison for life.

Abdulmutallab's time in Yemen has focused new attention on that Middle East country and its apparent role as a safe haven for members of al Qaeda.

U.S. CENTCOM chief, General David Petraeus, recently returned from talks from the president and he spoke with our Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Do you think there needs to be a systemic change to issues such as Yemen, which is so obvious so many people say that the grinding poverty there is such a recruiting tool.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: I think that's exactly right. I think really that we have arrived at that conclusion. You think we recognized these are not short-term problems. These are not campaigns where you must take the hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade. These are endeavors that have to be comprehensive in nature and they have to be enduring in their timeframe.


KAYE: You can hear much more of that exclusive interview tomorrow on "Amanpour." It is the first meeting with the president since he pledged support in the fight against al Qaeda. That conversation 2:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

It's like some kind of sick vacation brochure, pictures of paradise on the walls. Children told they could punch their ticket and go after they blow themselves up.

CNN's Arwa Damon has more.


ARWA DAMON, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Images could not be more disturbing, children being trained by the Pakistani Taliban on military exercises and even more chilling, carrying out executions.

How does this happen? How are children brainwashed into taking up the fight for the Taliban? We find some clues just a 15-minute drive from a Pakistani military base in South Waziristan, a volatile area that until recently was a stronghold of the Taliban.

(on camera): After three days of fierce fighting, the Pakistani military took over this compound. They say that they knew that it was a training facility of sorts for suicide bombers. They suspected that maybe children were involved. What they didn't know or realize was the level of indoctrination.

(voice-over): The military says it learned that the Taliban used this compound to brainwash boys as young as 12 years old, perhaps as many as 300 of them.

(on camera): The children were told that images like this is what awaited them in heaven. Here, for example, we're told is a river that symbolizes milk and honey on its banks, virgins and heavenly creatures.

(voice-over): This picture shows a home similar to those in this area but set against a lush backdrop. Written across it, "long live the Taliban of the mountains."

ZAHID HUSSEIN, TALIBAN EXPERT: But I have never seen this kind of elaborate painting about so-called heaven.

DAMON: Zahid Hussein, an expert on the Taliban, has talked with many children who have been in such training centers. He says these images would easily captivate boys in this part of Pakistan. They grow up in abject poverty, surrounded by this harsh landscape with no exposure to the outside world, and they are easily manipulated.

HUSSEIN: They tell them look actually this is a waste here, and if you do a good thing, then you will directly go to heaven, immediately go to heaven.

DAMON: He says it's a complete distortion of Islam, but one that the children fervently believe.

In a phone call with CNN, the Taliban denied this compound was under their control. But it acknowledged it's training children from Pakistan, Afghanistan, central Asia and the Middle East to be suicide bombers.

Parents sent their children to this center for the free food and religious education. But the military says the Taliban had other plans for them.

LT. COL. YEUS (ph), PAKISTAN MILITARY: These terrorists keep the children at the frontline and mostly the casualties were of children when they were attacking the posts.

DAMON: Dozens were killed in this marketplace after a teenager blew himself up in October.

Although, there are no statistics on how many suicide attacks are carried out by teens, the government realizes it's a growing problem.

Zahid Hussein agrees.

HUSSEIN: Almost 90 percent of the suicide bombers, if you look at their profile, they are between the age of 12 to 18.

DAMON: Innocent children turned into cold-blooded killers, fooled by fantastic images of paradise.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Narwiskot (ph), Pakistan.


KAYE: It is heaven for gadget lovers. The latest Smartphones and TVs and other electronic devices, all under one roof in Las Vegas. We'll speak live with an expert to find out what's getting the biggest buzz at the consumer electronics show.

And brutal weather coast to coast. High winds get the best of a meteorologist who is showing viewers just how bad the weather is.


KAYE: Smartphones are getting even smarter. TV is adding another dimension. And technophiles from around the world are in heaven in the annual consumer electronic show in Las Vegas. It's where the coolest stuff you never knew you needed is on display before it goes on sale.

Jon Fortt, a senior writer at "Fortune," is joining us live from Mountain View, California.

Good to see you, John.


KAYE: A lot of people are saying this show is back on its game after a lackluster 2009. What gadgets would you say are getting the biggest buzz?

FORTT: Google didn't have a booth at the consumer electronics show but they had plenty of buzz. The Nexus One phone that they announced right before the show started is the big within why. I think it's a gorgeous phone, gorgeous screen. It's got some features that the top Smartphone out there right now, the iPhone, doesn't have. It has urn- by-turn directions and voice control. It's probably not an iPhone killer for a few reasons but it certainly has a lot of people excited.

KAYE: What does Apple have coming out?

FORTT: The rumor is at the end of the month Apple is going to introduce the iSlate or something like that, a tablet. There were plenty of tablets as Ces too. Once people hear apple is planning to do something, everybody wants their own take on it.

KAYE: We hear the word tablet. We hear the word slate. What's the difference for those of us who are not experts on this stuff?

FORTT: The difference is neither one really exists right now. But folks are trying to figure out what the format will look like. A tablet or a slate, they are pretty much interchangeable, are like a big iPhone. Think of it that way. Maybe it's about 8.5 by 11, about the size of a hard-cover book. It's got a colored screen and an operating system somewhat sophisticated like a P.C. or laptop. KAYE: That's the Lenovo that we're looking at in the video. It looks very cool. Let's talk about 3D. It's big business in the box office. Now they're moving from the theater, I guess, to the living room?

FORTT: That's the intent. There were plenty of 3D TVs on display at Ces. People were very excited about it. It looks gorgeous but I've got to dump a little cold water on all of the 3D excitement. For one, there's no content out there yet. Sony and Discovery and IMAX are planning to come out with a 24/7 3D channel but that doesn't come until 2011. ESPN is planning a 3D sports channel. It won't be on all the time and that doesn't come until the middle of the year. If you buy a 3D TV now, there's not much to watch on it. Blu-Ray is supposed to add some 3D features. We will see those movies trickling out but it's a bit early. And the last thing, the glasses for 3D, the good ones, like the ones you use in the theater, those cost a couple hundred bucks each. So if you have the kids in the House trying to watch the latest animated version of, I don't know, "How to Train Your Dragon" and they sit on the glasses, that's going to set you back.

KAYE: That's certainly not good. I know you're not supposed to text while you're driving, but what's up with the new digital dashboards?

FORTT: There were a lot of those at Ces too. This is one that we really can get excited about right now. We've seen a lot of great technology coming to the car. Navigation was a big part of the reason why people started getting screens in for more than just watching movies. And at Ces, we saw lots of gizmos for letting your phone connect to a screen in your car, providing it with an Internet connection. Once you do that, there are all kinds of things that you can do, from finding a spot to stop for gas to maybe even using Twitter. That had a few people a little bit worried, Twitter in the car?

KAYE: Oh, man, yes. You are supposed to be driving, aren't you?

FORTT: You are.


There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you're doing the OMG while you're driving.

KAYE: Before we let you go, just in the last 10, 20 seconds, what was the coolest thing you tried?

FORTT: Well, it's kind of hard. You get excited about all of the hype and sometimes the coolest thing is something that might not be practical. I got excited about a bicycle that's actually a green bicycle. It's something that Sano's coming out with. You can get on the bike and ride it and it charges, kind of like a Prius-type bike. As you ride it, the battery provides a little extra oomph to your pedal steps.

KAYE: Very good.

FORTT: It's green. It's cool. KAYE: A very practical answer.

FORTT: It's a couple thousand bucks, too, but...

KAYE: Oh, well.

FORTT: Oh, well.

KAYE: All right, Jon Fortt with "Fortune" for us. Thank you.

FORTT: Thanks, Randi.

KAYE: For three years now we have been proud to introduce you to "CNN Heroes," everyday people who are changing the world. Tonight, you will meet a trucker-turned-lawyer in Vermont, where 72 percent of adult homicides are domestic-violence related and mostly in rural areas. Her name is Wynona Ward and her motto is "have justice, will travel."


KAYE: A "CNN Hero." Wynona Ward helped almost 10,000 victims of domestic violence. She drives 30,000 miles a year doing that. To see the inspiring story of one woman she's help or to nominate someone you think is changing the world, go to

Do you know someone trying to quit smoking? It is a great idea. no doubt about it. We'll tell you about a new study that shows at least one negative side effect.


KAYE: Quitting smoking, a great New Year's resolution that all health officials endorse, but there can be some negative side effects. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has our "Fit Nation" report.


KAYE: All right, Sanjay, thank you.

Rough weather coast to coast. And in Oregon, it is not safe to be outside in the brutal winds, even if you're doing your job. A meteorologist found that out the hard way.


KAYE: Snow in Florida, blistering cold in the nation's middle section, wind out West. No doubt weather is a big story this weekend. One meteorologist in Oregon got a little swept up in her coverage.


KALI CHALMERS, REPORTER, KGW: The wind is blowing 60 to 75 miles per hour out here. But the wind-chill, it is just painful.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAYE: Oh, my. Yes, she said painful and, ouch, painful is right. Kali Chalmers from CNN affiliate KGW was swept away by the brutal winds, thudding to the ground, taking that guy down with her. Her station says that wind gusts topped 100 miles per hour where she was reporting. Hard to stay upright in those conditions. Wow.

I'm Randi Kaye at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'll be back in one hour with more on the quotes from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which he refers to President Obama's skin color and dialect.

"The Situation Room" begins right now.