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BP Attempts to Replace Cap; Lockerbie Bomber Released From Prison with Three Months to Live Still Alive in Libya After One Year; Controversy Over Possible Mosque at Ground Zero. Former President Clinton Hits Campaign Trail for the Democrats

Aired July 14, 2010 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us. It's Wednesday. It's July 14th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: John Roberts is off today. I'm Drew Griffin filling in for him. Here are the top stories this morning.

The wait begins. BP delaying that critical test to see if it can plug the ruptured oil well. This could be the oil giant's best chance at stopping the oil until the relief well is complete. We're going to take you into the Gulf where the capping operation is under way.

CHETRY: There's a lot of passion on both sides of the debate in a New York City hearing over whether an historic building near ground zero should become a mosque and Islamic cultural center. We're going to hear the emotional arguments for and against just ahead.

GRIFFIN: And the Democrat's secret weapon may be an old one. President Obama calling on Bill Clinton again to help keep the party in control of the House in November. You'll see the former president hitting the campaign trail a lot in the coming weeks and months, we're told. This strategy coming at a crucial time for the White House with President Obama's poll numbers fading, along with voter confidence.

CHETRY: But first this morning, it's a bit of a letdown. Yesterday, at this time, we thought we may know by now whether or not the latest attempt to fix the leaking well was a success. It's 86 days now, an estimated 214 million gallons of oil spilled. And we have arrived at a critical moment for that brand-new cap a mile beneath the sea on that gushing well. As we mentioned yesterday, testing was expected to begin sometime Tuesday.

GRIFFIN: The oil giant postponed it because they want to take more time to analyze what he going on down there. Retired Admiral Thad Allen, who's leading the federal response, of course, says he's confident but warns there are no guarantees the cap will work.

Also, this -- the Obama administration sending another bill to BP, this one for $99.7 million. David Mattingly is live in New Orleans. David, you went out there yesterday, out into the gulf with the coast guard visiting the oil spill site. I guess you thought all those ship horns would blow signaling the end to the crisis, the cap would be on, but just not so. DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Drew. If this well was about to be capped, it certainly didn't look like it. I saw an operation gearing up, not gearing down to collect more oil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (on camera): You're looking at the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Resolute. That ship was our ride out here. It took us overnight coming from Pensacola. But now we've arrived at our destination. Behind us here is the very spot where the deepwater horizon rig caught fire, sank to the bottom of the ocean, and started that huge environmental and economic disaster.

(voice-over): And this is a critical time. One mile beneath my feet, testing is under way that could lead to capping the well. These images of the oil spewing into the Gulf may soon be just a bad memory. But you wouldn't know it by what you see on the surface.

(on camera): Just some quick observations of what we see out here, it looks like a small city of vessels, about 10 or 20 large ships out there, two of them clearly producing oil, pumping it up from below. That's where we see the large flames erupting as they burn off the natural gas that comes up.

(voice-over): I asked our coast guard escort to go in for a closer look. I wanted to see if there was anything going on that might show this catastrophe is turning a corner. But this was as close as we could go.

(on camera): We're about a mile away right now. Why can't we get any closer?

LT. PATRICK MONTGOMERY, U.S. COAST GUARD: Right now safety is paramount. Today is a very essential day in the operation. There is a lot of moving parts today. So just for the safety of the operation we need to stay about a mile back.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): These operations show no signs of standing down. The new cap may bring hope there will soon be an end to the leak, but there is still an oil sheen in the water and smoke from burning gas and oil climbs up the horizon.

(on camera): While those flames are burning, that tells you that the well has not been shut off. And it is expected to be a very dramatic moment out here when those flames behind me are finally extinguished. When that happens, that means the flow of oil has been stopped and that well has been capped.

(voice-over): But in the meantime, BP says work will continue on the surface to improve oil collection in case their new capping plan does not work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Part of that plan, as these layers of redundancy that we've heard so much about, pursuing different courses of action to make sure that they're prepared in case one doesn't work. So if they cannot cap this well with this latest plan, drew, they will rely on their previous plan to collect possibly all of the oil that is leaking out.

That's what we saw gearing up out there as we went out with the coast guard.

GRIFFIN: David, they are sucking up some of that oil, they do have tubes down there, right? Because for a while this was just going right into the gulf.

MATTINGLY: What we saw leaking out in the gulf was the oil that was coming out of the top of the riser. They still had the producers connected on both sides of it drawing up. So we saw two flames out there. That was indicating there were two operations where they were pumping oil up and flaring off that natural gas.

That was continuing. They are still collecting oil and they're still skimming oil off the surface that continues to escape.

GRIFFIN: David Mattingly live from New Orleans, thanks, David.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, in just a few hours, the accused "barefoot bandit," as he's been called, the 19-year-old who went on a cross-country and actually Bahamian crime spree could face now theft and burglary charges.

Colton Harris-Moore was deported from the Bahamas last night after pleading guilty to illegally landing a plane there. He's been on the run since escaping a halfway house in Washington State two years ago. He's accused of committing dozens of crimes across the United States.

GRIFFIN: Airport police in Los Angeles say cutbacks at LAX mean the airport is more vulnerable to terror attacks at any time since 9/11. That's in a letter that cites a 2004 study that states the three most likely attack scenarios are truck bomb, curbside bomb, or a luggage bomb.

The airport executive director is already firing back, saying there is no evidence to support the allegations.

CHETRY: And 80 police officers in Oakland, California forced to hand if their badges last night after contract talks between the union and the city broke down. Budget cuts all around.

The city's police chief now says layoffs mean police will no longer be responding to 44 situations that they don't consider to be life threatening. Among those that they listed off -- crimes like burglary, embezzlement, grand theft, identity theft, and vandalism.

GRIFFIN: And baseball's best -- remembering the boss. Before last night's all-star game there was a moment of silence in honor of long-time Yankee owner George Steinbrenner who died yesterday.

As for the game, the National league beat American league three to one. That is big news. The National league hadn't won since 1996. The Braves Brian McCann drove all three runs with a bases- loaded double in the seventh. McCann is the MVP. The National league now has home field advantage in the World Series. I hope it is with my Braves.

(LAUGHTER)

CHETRY: Six minutes past the hour.

(WEATHER BREAK)

GRIFFIN: When the convicted Pan Am bomber was returned to Libya, remember this? His doctors said he had only three months to live. A year later, guess what, he's still alive. Now some senators want to know, listen to this -- did the U.K. and Libya strike an oil deal for this guy's early release?

It is eight minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: BP is facing new outrage, and this time it has nothing to do with the oil spill in the Gulf. Last year, British officials released convicted pan am bomber from a life sentence because doctors said he only had three months to live.

Eleven months later he is still alive, and newly surfaced documents could show that BP and British officials made a deal for this guy's release so the oil giant could drill in Libya. Brianna Keilar is looking for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Three months to live. That's how long Scottish authorities said convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi had to live when they released him on compassionate grounds. Megrahi went home to Libya, received a hero's welcome, and almost a year later is still alive. Did the Libyan government pay off the doctors who examined Megrahi?

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG, (D) NEW JERSEY: And they fabricated, fabricated a doctor who was paid, it is said, to change his analysis, his examination of what this man's condition was like. So they said, maybe three months to live and here now he's saying this guy could live ten years.

So he was released so he could join his family while he took away other people's family members. It's outrageous.

KEILAR: Citing British reports, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg says the real reason Megrahi was released, to smooth over an offshore oil drilling agreement between Libya and British oil giant, BP.

KEILAR (on camera): You are convinced there was a deal struck here. LAUTENBERG: Oh, absolutely. I smelled a rat. We now see that BP had spoken to the U.K., talk about this enormous $20 billion deal that might go on with Libya and it might be soured if this man was returned.

KEILAR (voice-over): Lautenberg and three other Democratic senators are demanding investigations by the British government, the U.S. State Department, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

KEILAR (on camera): And you're not a fan of offshore oil drilling, certainly deepwater drilling and BP. I mean these are not --

LAUTENBERG: Right. They're not my choices. That has nothing to do -- the fact that it's BP is coincidence.

KEILAR (on camera): The State Department said it will look at the senator's request for an investigation but it seems not much can be done at this point about al-Megrahi's release.

We also checked with BP. A spokesman said it is a matter of public record that in 2007 the company spoke with its government and said slow progress on a Libyan prisoner release could hurt BP's business with Libya, but that spokesman insisted there were no specific discussions about al-Megrahi's release.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: New York's senior senator Chuck Schumer is also one of the lawmakers calling for an investigation into all this and he will join us and talk about what evidence he may have in about an hour from now.

CHETRY: The FCC's indecency policy ruled unconstitutional now. A federal appeals court saying it had a chilling effect on radio and television broadcasters. And it is a victory for FOX, NBC Universal, and other outlets who sued the FCC in 2006 calling the policies vague and unevenly enforced. The FCC is calling the court decision "anti- family."

GRIFFIN: Theater audiences are expanding. That's forcing many theater owners to install wider seats. According to a company that designs theaters, the width of a typical theater seat has gone from 19 inches to 21 inches over the last century. That's to accommodate a 15 percent weight increase in the average American since 1960.

CHETRY: What are airline seats, 17?

GRIFFIN: They're going from 15 to nine. You have to sit sideways now.

(LAUGHTER)

CHETRY: Or just stand. What airline is making you do that?

You can see a bridge over the Hudson River any day you want, but you can't always see one on the Hudson River. The brand-new Willis Avenue Bridge was pulled down the river by three tugboats, propped on several huge barges, and it will eventually replace the old one over the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx.

GRIFFIN: Oscar winners and beautiful people, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have tied the knot. The actress's rep tells CNN the longtime couple wed earlier this month at a friend's house in the Bahamas. The couple co-starred in "Vickie Christina Barcelona," for which Cruz won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

CHETRY: Congrats to the two of them. Still ahead, there's outrage in lower Manhattan over a plan to build a mosque just blocks from the World Trade Center site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIA DARWISH, MOSQUE ADVOCATE: All you people here yelling at me don't even know. And maybe if a mosque were built, then you guys would know what Islam was about.

ROSALINE TALON (ph), OPPOSED TO MOSQUE: And I'm not racist, thank you! No, I'm not!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Deb Feyerick takes a look at both sides of the controversial plan next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: 19 minutes past the hour. Time for an AM Original, something you'll see only on AMERICAN MORNING.

Emotions are running high here in New York City over plans to turn a century-old building that's just blocks from Ground Zero into a mosque and Muslim Community Center. Now the project has become a political hot potato, and it was center stage at a hearing yesterday. Deb Feyerick is following this story.

So, people on both sides came out yesterday and really emotionally stated publicly why they feel so strongly that either it should or should not be built.

DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. There was so much feeling and raw passion in that room. Just to give you a sense of location, the landing gear assembly of one of the 9/11 planes actually ended up right where the proposed mosque would be built. It's supposed to be a symbol of religious diversity and tolerance sponsored by moderate Muslims, but for some it is triggering fears of terrorism and Islamic extremism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DARWISH: My family died that day! FEYERICK (voice-over): It was a meeting filled with pain, sorrow and outright anger. Many came to say "no" to building a mosque near Ground Zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Have we forgotten what happened at 9/11?

FEYERICK (voice-over): Others, like Dania Darwish, who lost an aunt and two friends on 9/11, came to say it's the right thing to do.

DARWISH: And all you people here yelling at me don't even know. And maybe if a mosque were built, then you guys would know what Islam was about.

FEYERICK (voice-over): For three hours, tempers flared on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: This is a very carefully planned effort on the part of radical Islamists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: It's called Islamophobia, pure and simple.

FEYERICK (voice-over): New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission took it all in as it considers the fate of this 19th century building, two blocks from Ground Zero. If designated a landmark, the original building will remain. If not, American-Muslim groups will tear it down and move ahead with plans to build an interfaith community center and mosque.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: I do feel that it would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year-old building in order to build a monument to terrorism.

FEYERICK: The meeting wasn't pretty as emotions boiled over.

RAFIQ KATHWARI, MOSQUE ADVOCATE: That I'm ashamed to be an American today.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Rafiq Kathwari, a Muslim-American, reminded the crowd people from many countries and religions died on 9/11.

KATHWARI: Anyone has a doubt, this is my American passport.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Rosaline Talon (ph), heckled for opposing the mosque, spoke on behalf of her brother, a firefighter who gave his life saves lives in the towers.

TALON (ph): And I'm not racist, thank you!

FEYERICK (voice-over): some were suspicious of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose Cordoba Initiative is behind the group project, with one gubernatorial candidate even calling for an investigation into the $100 million center's funding. JOHN FASO, NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I would ask again in the context of this decision that you give people the time to have these questions answered.

FEYERICK (voice-over): New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg rejects that.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray or where they can pray.

FEYERIC (voice-over): Imam Feisal was out of the country and unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman said the center would counter extremism by giving moderate Muslims a voice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERIC: Now a vote is expected on this next month. New York is not alone. Around the country in places like Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio, proposed mosques have also been met with great resistance.

Clearly, the Ground Zero mosque is unique because so many see it as sacred ground. Kiran, I was down there yesterday. There's a lot of building going on. It's still very, very raw, this space is still open. People are moving ahead, but it's not done. Not by a long shot.

CHETRY: No, and you were saying every single aspect, every small detail is something that is battled over.

FEYERICK: Exactly. And one of the reasons being is because, you think 3,000 people died on that day. 1,100 people, their remains still have not been identified. So in the museum that's going to go way below ground in the basement of what was the World Trade Center towers, you're going to have a wall. And behind that wall there are going to be those remains, almost like a living vault, so when DNA does become available, those parts will be able to be tested.

But there is still a sense of absence. That's exactly what the memorial is supposed to convey with the waterfall, it's reflecting absence and loss.

CHETRY: All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks so much. In about 20 minutes, we're going to hear from both sides of the mosque debate. Pamela Geller, the director Stop Islamization of America, and also Ibrahim Ramey with the Muslim-American Society will join us. Drew?

GRIFFIN: Over at the White House, Kiran, they're calling in the big guy. With mid-term elections less than four months away, the White House is tapping former president Bill Clinton to campaign in some of the toughest battles. Ed Henry, live from the White House. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Turning to politics now, if Democrats do manage to keep control of the House this fall they might have Bill Clinton to thank. The White House intends to aggressively use the former president on the campaign trail over the next few months. One party official familiar with the plan calls it a quote "no-brainer."

Ed Henry is live at the White House in morning. Ed, how did this alliance come together? I mean these guys didn't see eye to eye when the former president's wife was running against president Obama

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: To say the least, you're right. In fact, they had another blow-up late last month and that's what sparked this, interestingly enough.

In late June the former president sort of blind-sided President Obama by going out to Colorado and getting involved in a tough Democratic primary there. He endorsed Andrew Romanoff, the upstart, even though president Obama has endorsed the incumbent, Senator Michael Bennett. That upset this White House, because they did not get a heads up about that.

I'm told a day after that endorsement, one of Mr. Clinton's aides came here to the White House to meet with the top White House staffer to not only smooth things over but say, how can we work together and map this out? The Clinton aide had a copy of the former president's schedule for the next few months and the bottom line is it is very busy, a lot of foreign travel. He's the UN Special Representative to Haiti, we've seen a lot on that this week.

But in between his foreign travel, I'm told that the White House mapped out a lot of events. We may even see him at dozens of events, fund-raisers, campaign events all across the country in the next few months.

GRIFFIN: What specific races -- you mentioned Colorado where the president Clinton kind of went rogue. He also got involved with the Sestak deal and that kind of failed. Do they think he can really turn the page in some specific races?

HENRY: Yes, they do. Especially in Arkansas. If you look at the Arkansas Senate race where the embattled incumbent, Blanche Lincoln, she survived back in May that runoff in large part because of Bill Clinton going back to his home state and not only campaigning aggressively but he was used in Blanche Lincoln's ads. Barack Obama was not used in those ads. He's not so popular in Arkansas. So they think Bill Clinton can help in that tough general election.

Then Kentucky is another one Democratic officials point to. You have a potential democratic pick-up because Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee, is running against Rand Paul, Congressman Ron Paul's son. Rand Paul has been in a series of controversies. That's a Republican seat that the Democrats are hoping to turn their way, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Let me get in this last question, Ed. Which is, how can Bill Clinton do it all? He was picked by president Obama to basically to rebuild Haiti. Now they seem to be yanking him off of that and heading him out to the campaign trail just to save the Democrats in the House in November

HENRY: Well, they're careful inside the White House to say they don't want to yank him off the Haiti job or any other important Clinton Foundation work altogether. They just want him to fit it in.

Because they say, as you noted, it is a no-brainer. This is one of the best politicians the Democrats have ever had in the last quarter century. As president Obama faces these credibility questions and all these various national polls right now, and as he tries to make this case that there is a real choice between the Democratic message and the Republican message, people inside the White House say there's no one better at making that case, that contrast between the Democrats and the Republicans than Bill Clinton.

They want to use him early and often and they point to what happened in 2000 when Al Gore had trepidation about using Bill Clinton, sort of backfired, blew up in his face. This he'd have used president Clinton more in 2000 he may have been president.

GRIFFIN: I can't resist, Ed, but what about using President Obama, the current president? He just doesn't have the clout?

HENRY: He'll be out there. Clearly, he's facing these credibility questions because of all these national polls. The ABC one yesterday saying 6 in 10 Americans basically don't have faith in this president right now to make the right decisions. They're pushing back on that inside the White House and saying they're going to send him out on the campaign trail. But there's certain states like Arkansas where President Obama is deeply unpopular. Lost to John McCain there by double digits. So they see it as a one-two punch. President Obama out there in some states, Bill Clinton will go to other ones -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Ed Henry, live at the White House.

Thanks for getting up with us, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, it's 30 minutes past the hour right now. Time for a look at our other top stories. BP says that today is the earliest it could start testing the new containment cap over the ruptured well. Those tests were actually put on hold yesterday. Engineers needed more time to review testing procedures.

GRIFFIN: All fired up here in New York as a battle begins over plans to build a mosque and Islamic community center literally in the shadow of Ground Zero. In just a few minutes we're going to hear arguments on both sides of this debate.

CHETRY: Also, three wildfires now raging across southern California. Fire officials say that some homes are being threatened but there's no reports of any mandatory evacuations so far. Two of the fires are located just a few dozen miles outside of Los Angeles. The third at Camp Pendleton Marine Base. There have been no reports of injuries so far. GRIFFIN: Returning to our top story now, that glimmer of hope in the Gulf taking a hit this morning. BP delaying a critical test to determine if its new containment cap is going to hold. And one man feeling the weight of the moment, the president's point man in the Gulf, retired Admiral Thad Allen.

Brian Todd spoke with Allen at BP Command Center, and joins us now live from Houston.

Morning, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Drew.

These well integrity tests have been delayed by what one source called potential complications, but officials are very quick to point out that they are just wanting to be more safe than sorry at this point.

Now, as the anticipation for this crucial test builds here in Houston at the Command Center, top administration officials have joined BP executives in the war rooms here. And I spoke with Admiral Allen about the tension.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The Incident Commander says these are easily some of the most critical days in the entire operation. Admiral Thad Allen says if they measure low pressure in the well for six hours or more, then this well is not strong enough to hold a new seal cap, and it's back to full-time use of surface containment ships to capture the oil.

RET. ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, INCIDENT COMMANDER: The final effect of this will be an order to me to BP.

TODD (on camera): How much pressure are you feeling right now knowing you've got to make that call at some point and that it could determine the direction of this operation?

ALLEN: Well that call will really be a reflection of all the inputs from the scientific community and all the best minds in the United States who we can get here working on this. So, wherever we're at, I'll feel confident that it won't be a Thad Allen decision, it will be a whole government decision in the best interest of the country.

TODD (voice-over): Allen describes the atmosphere inside the BP command center where hundreds of people have been working around the clock.

(on camera): When that cap got put into place and it was successful, what was the atmosphere like? Were there cheers? Can you kind of give us --

ALLNE: Well the video room where all this takes place is very much like a war room except everybody is a little bit more informally dressed. It is called the hive.

TODD: Right.

ALLEN: And it's actually fairy quiet. A lot of people are talking, there's a lot of radio communications, they're linking with the ROV operators that are out actually on scene.

TODD (voice-over): Allen says no one stood up and cheered but there was a huge sense of optimism and relief. We got a sense of the tension in that room called the hive, where the remotely operated vehicles are controlled during a recent visit to BP's command center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger that. Roger that.

TODD: I had to speak in hushed tones.

(on camera): Inside the ROV command center. These are the lead engineers talking to the engineers on the boat who operate the ROVs, giving the commands, seeing in real time what they're looking at. We're not really allowed to talk to these gentlemen because they're so involved in what they're doing right to you.

(voice-over): Allen is careful not to be too optimistic about this new cap. Simply too much has gone wrong before.

(on camera): Has it taken a toll on your family? They clearly haven't seen much of you in the last several weeks.

ALLEN: At this point we had be anticipated that I'd be retired. My wife and I were planning a trip to Ireland but that'll happen when it happens. We owe the country our best effort right now and that's what we're all about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, as gut-wrenching as this operation is, Admiral Allen and BP officials make clear it will be the attachment of the relief wells to that leaking well that will be the make-or-break of this entire operation. We won't know how that's going until late July or early August, when it gets to that leaky well.

This morning as far as the well integrity test that they anticipate, we should have more news on that in less than an hour when we get a technical briefing from BP officials -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: All right, Brian, I know you will break it when you have it.

Thanks for joining us from Houston this morning.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, there is a bitter battle of wills going on right now in lower Manhattan. Should a mosque and Islamic cultural center be built just 600 feet from the World Trade Center site? We're going to hear from both sides of the controversy next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CH: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. 37 minutes past the hour right now.

A proposal to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero generating a lot of heat at a hearing in New York City. Opponents want to give landmark status to the 150-year-old building which would essentially prevent the mosque and center from being built.

We're going to hear from both sides of the emotional debate today. Joining us, Pamela Geller, executive director of Stop Islamization of America, and a blogger with AtlasDrugs.com. Also Ibraham Ramey with the Muslim-American Society.

Thanks to both of you for being with us, this morning.

So, Pamela, you've become an outspoken critic of this project in general. The people who are behind it say that what they want it to do is improve relations, to have it be a place of tolerance and multi- cultural center, in fact.

Do you not believe what they're saying about what the motive is behind building this?

PAMELA GELLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, STOP ISLAMIZATION OF AMERICA: Well, they have been dishonest. First they said it was a mosque. Then they said it was a prayer center, which is a mosque. They've been very shady about the funding. We don't know where the funding is coming from. The Imam has advocated for tolerance, and yet in his book he advocates for the Sharia Islamic law, which is radically intolerant. They say it's for outreach. Why there? I mean --

CHETRY: Are you against a mosque being built in general in New York City, or in this location?

GELLER: No, absolutely not. We are absolutely not against that. We believe that that building is a war memorial, a large piece of the plane fell on to the roof, cashed through that building, and damaged it. It is a part of American history. The largest Islamic attack on America in the history of America. That should and war memorial.

And that building is 152 years old, designed by an architect who was a pioneer in his day. His buildings have been landmarked. And it should be given landmark status. That's Daniel Badger. It's a cemetery. We feel that it's a cemetery and that it's sacred ground and the dead should be honored.

And if was really outreach, then why is the majority of Americans against it? Why is the majority of New Yorkers against it? Where is the outreach? Why is there not sensitivity to how the Muslims of conscience and Americans feel about this?

CHETRY: Well let me ask Ibraham about this.

What is your take on the proximity, which is what has generated a lot of the controversy about this center?

IBRAHAM RAMEY, DIRECTOR, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION OF THE MUSLIM AMERICAN SOCIETY FREEDOM: I think there is a great deal of pain still residually as a result of the criminal attacks on 9/11. But it was not an Islamic attack, it was a criminal attack.

There are two things I would like to mention. First is that Muslims, like other people, in America have First Amendment rights, as in terms of freedom of religion. But the second, more important thing, is that reject the notion of collective guilt. We are not collectively guilty for actions that are taken by some people in the name of Islam.

Further, I think it's very clear that the Cordoba Institute and number of Muslims in the United States are really seeking to take a different way of establishing new relationships with America, and a new set of relationships with the people of the United States. This is an ideal way to do that.

CHETRY: But let me ask you -- 600 feet from the biggest terror attack in U.S. history, on U.S. soil, is the best way to do it? I mean, I think that a lot of the concern is the proximity to Ground Zero, not necessarily the building of a center.

RAMEY: Well there are numerous memorials to people who were killed in that attack. So let's not try to complait (ph) that idea of that that notion into the idea of Muslims having the right to have a mosque.

I mean, we're not trying to say that people should be compelled to believe in Islam. What we believe is that Muslims have a legitimate role to play in the social fabric of this country. We are part of the interfaith mosaic of the United States. But more than that, I think this particular group of people in the Cordoba Institute can do a huge amount of good, not only for Muslims in New York, but also for interfaith relations throughout the country.

CHETRY: And Pamela, I want to ask you about that. There are 600,000 to 800,000 Muslims just in Manhattan alone. And you did talk about the polling. The polling is interesting because when you take New York City, as a whole, according to the Quinnipiac Poll, you can say, yes, the majority are against it. But then when you break down Manhattan itself, only 36 percent of people that were in that poll are actually against it.

So is there really as big of an outcry about where this is going to be built as some opponents are making it out to be?

GELLER: Absolutely. This was an attack on America. It was not a criminal attack. It was inspired by Jihad. There have been close to 16,000 Islamic attacks since 9/11 across the world. What is being done to address the ideology that inspires Jihad? They are inspired by the last book, repentance, which commands Jihad. That's where the outreach should be.

CHETRY: You're taking issue with radical Islam, why does the Cordoba House fall into that, in your opinion?

GELLER: We are asking Muslims to be sensitive to our pain, to our grief. The 9/11 families. I reorganized a rally - Stop Islmaization of America organized a rally. Close to 10,000 people showed up. I mean, there is --

CHETRY: What does that mean, by the way, I'm just curious. Some would say that's a loaded phrase.

GELLER: What, Stop Islamization of America?

We believe Islam should be westernized, that America should not be Islamisized. We don't believe in Mosque-ing the workplace. We don't believe in introducing Muslim prayer into public schools.

CHETRY: When you hear this, what goes through your head?

RAMEY: Not just the term Islamophobia, but also frankly a kind of collective intolerance that is really not conducive to the spirit of what we are trying to do as Muslims in America.

I also have to say that respectfully, Muslims were also victimized by that attack. Muslims died in that attack, they died at the Pentagon. There are Muslims right now in Congress, there are Muslims in the National Security system, there are Muslims in the Military who would vehemently disagree with the idea that we don't have the right to be a represented part of the American multi-faith mosaic. And we are here. And we've been here since before the U.S. was established as even a republic. We're part of the United States.

GELLER: It's highly insulting to call what we do Islamophobic. Frankly, you could make the counterargument for freedom-phobic. The Muslim American Society is the public face of the Muslim brotherhood. I do not want -

RAMEY: That is absolutely untrue. You should know that.

GELLER: It was established by the Muslim brotherhood as a public face in the late '80s.

RAMEY: It was not. It absolutely was not.

GELLER: I urge people to -- we don't have to debate that now. I'd prefer to stay on the mosque -- but I urge people to look into it.

But pointing out dishonesty and subversion is not bigotry and hatred. And I have no problems. I love Muslims. I have no problem with Muslims. But to build a 13-story mega mosque on the cemetery, on the site of the largest attack in American history, I think is incredibly insensitive.

CHETRY: Do you believe Pamela when she says she loves Muslims?

RAMEY: God knows what's in our heart. I know that her words have been inflammatory, they've been insulting. They have cast aspersions on an organization that is an American organization, that's legitimately part of 55 communities in 30 states in the United States that does great work around youth development and charity and raising the level of political participation in America.

CHETRY: So is there common ground of building this, perhaps -- would you agree to this being build somewhere in New York that you could specifically say, that just wouldn't be at this location?

GELLER: Well, listen. At this location. Why not if you're going to have a mosque, why not have --

CHETRY: But I'm saying this exact project with a swimming pool and tennis court and the whole nine yards.

GELLER: And a synagogue and a church and a Hindu temple.

CHETRY: No, not that. What Cordoba House is saying they want to build, would you be OK with that 10 blocks away?

GELLER: Listen, I have no problem with mosques. One, a mosque looking down on the cemetery of Ground Zero is problematic. If it is outreach, why not have a church also in the building, and a synagogue, and a Buddhist temple? I mean, if it's really, truly multicultural. I mean the 92nd Street Y doesn't have a synagogue. The YWCA doesn't have a church.

CHETRY: So, what we're going to find out is whether or not this landmark ruling comes down and whether or not that makes a difference in the plans. But I want to thank both of you for coming today and for having a civil discussion about this. I know that there are a lot of emotions on every side.

Pamela Geller and Ibraham Ramey, thank you.

Drew.

GRIFFIN: Interesting stuff, Kiran. We are working on something that could be very big. Big announcement coming out of the Sarah Palin family. We hope to have it nailed down right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: It is big news. You know, picture tells a thousand words. Take a look at this picture right now. Where is it, guys? There they are. Apparently, "Us Weekly" is reporting that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are going to get married after all.

CHETRY: Yes, there you go. Daughter of former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, and Levi Johnston who famously had a lot to say about his at the time possibly would be mother-in-law. Now, it looks like the wedding is back on. The interesting part is whether or not the family is in a loop. Lindsey Power, senior editor of "Us Weekly" joins us on the phone right now. Thanks for being with us this morning.

VOICE OF LINDSAY POWERS, SENIOR EDITOR, US WEEKLY: Hi. Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: I bet you guys were very excited about this exclusive. They spoke exclusively to you about this. So dish. What's going on with Bristol Palin and Levi?

POWERS: Bristol and Levi are opening up in a new issue of "Us Weekly" confirming that they are engaged. Levi proposed two weeks ago and the craziest part is that Sarah Palin doesn't even know.

GRIFFIN: She knows now!

POWERS: That's right. The cat's out of the bag for sure.

CHETRY: So, what happened, because, of course, we remember them being on the scene shortly after John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate as the vice presidential pick and then we saw them on the stage together on and on and on and then, suddenly, they split.

POWERS: Right. They opened up to us about how they had the baby so young and it was really hard for them to work together to raise Tripp. But as they got a little bit closer, Bristol moved out of her parents' home to her own condo in Anchorage. They got a little more accustomed to parenting. As they got a (ph) custody plan, they've been started spending a lot more time together and then realized they wanted to reunite.

GRIFFIN: Yes. I mean, they were young kids. They were thrust into that same media spotlight, craziness, that Sarah Palin was just getting used to. I mean, they were under a tremendous amount of pressure. But boy, we were led to believe these two families hated each other. I'm wondering if, indeed, the mother-in-law, the mom is going to be onboard with this.

POWERS: It certainly would fit in with her family values platform. I mean, what's better than to have your daughter reuniting with the father of the baby? Reuniting the family. And also, Levi tells the new issue of "Us Weekly" that he has apologized. He said that he made up a lot of the hurtful words he said earlier publicly. So, it does sound like their relationship is certainly on the mend.

CHETRY: So, it's interesting according to some of the details in your article you say that they're reconnected three months ago while they were trying to work out a custody plan for their son who is now 18 months old. And that he sent her a text. She said saying -- I miss you, I love you, I want to be with you again. She was in shock.

POWERS: Right.

GRIFFIN: I bet she was.

POWERS: And they -- you know, they realize that they're really in love and they're together. And she was thrilled that he popped the question with a, you know, one-karat diamond ring that you can see in the photo op (ph) in the new issue.

GRIFFIN: All right. So, I mean, they've already had a baby together. When is the wedding? It's not like you have to do a big planning for this one.

POWERS: But they say they want it to be quick. So, certainly, you know, we'll see them walking down the aisle shortly.

GRIFFIN: OK. CHETRY: You know, her mom and dad are avid hunters. So, no wonder they want it to be quick. Just kidding. But she also joked, it's intimidating and scary to think about my mom's reaction. So, we will have to see. I'm sure that we'll be getting a tweet from Sarah.

GRIFFIN: I bet you that Sarah has known before this program went on the air. But anyway, Lindsay Powers, thank you so much for joining us. Let's show that picture one more time because it is a cute picture of that family. Now, apparently, going to be made legal. There they are. So, the big news, that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are going to get married.

CHETRY: Congrats.

GRIFFIN: This morning's top stories, besides that one, just minutes away, including did BP and the UK make an oil deal for the release of a convicted terrorist? New documents raising new questions. Four senators want answers and one of them, New York Senator Chuck Schumer is going to join us live.

CHETRY: Also, after loads of complaints over reception, will Apple be forced to recall the iPhone 4 or are some of the reports of hardware failure not all they're cracked up to be? We're going to be talking to a tech expert about the so-called death grip and what it means for the new smart phone.

GRIFFIN: Plus, one of America's busiest airports more vulnerable to a terror attack because of budget cuts? Airport cops say yes. The airport bosses say no. You're going to hear from both sides and make your own judgment. Those stories and more at the top of this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Welcome back this morning. We're talking about Haiti with "AM's House Call". Six months after the devastating earthquake, there is heartbreak everywhere you turn in Port-au-Prince, including in the city's orphanages where there are hundreds of thousands of kids going hungry, but not for the reason that you think.

CHETRY: Yes. The foods there, it's just not getting to the kids who need it. So, here's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta with more on why this is happening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is so striking in orphanages, smiles amid squalor. 350,000 orphans in Haiti, that's guess, and many like this little guy, don't even have a name.

GUPTA (on-camera): I don't know how old he is. He's an orphan at this orphanage. Among lots of other children. 40 to 50 at any given time, that's how many kids are taking care of them. Let me show you something else as well. Take a look at this particular building. Just look at the floor over here. That's where they sleep. There are no bedrooms. Find a place and sleep for the night. GUPTA (voice-over): This is the kitchen for all those children. This pot of beans is their food for the entire day. Simply not enough.

GUPTA (on-camera): Take a look. They have to obviously have food. And they have to store it in some way. This is the storeroom. It used to be completely filled with food. This is all they have left. I decided to call a contact of mine.

Eric, it's Sanjay.

ERIC KLEIN, CAN-DO.ORG: Hey, Sanjay. How are you?

GUPTA: I'm doing fine. I'm actually on speaker phone with you and our film crew is filming. We just came outside this orphanage. And it's one of these crazy situations that you and I have been talking about. They have about 50 kids here. Literally from a couple of months old to 18. And they have three stacks of tomato soup, a handful of beans and a little bit of rice. That's all they have really to feed these children, you know, for the foreseeable future. And I just thought I give you a call and see if you might be able to help out.

KLEIN: Absolutely. Let me make a couple of calls. I will get back to you. Give me about 20 minutes.

GUPTA: We're outside at the gate with the truck.

GUPTA (voice-over): We got the call. Eric with Can-Do.org found a warehouse full of supplies willing to stock the truck. According to the Global Disaster Media Response team, right now, there are at least 50 warehouses, football field in size, full of supplies just sitting there, some dating back to January. Never distributed since the earthquake. This is going to make you mad. Take a look at this. We got 50 starving kids in an orphanage. Down the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This stuff came in from Asia.

GUPTA: It has been sitting here a couple of months. At the orphanage, they literally had a half a bucket of beans and that was going to feed 50 kids for an entire day. All of this has (ph) beans over here. You're not paid do this and your guys are not paid to do this.

KLEIN: We're not paid. We don't even get paid for our organization. Our organization is (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA (on camera): So, I mean, people are donating lots of supplies and lots of money to buy those supplies. In order to actually get it distributed, it's counting on the goodwill of people like to you do it.

KLEIN: We're checking (ph) like going back to, like I said, showing results is the key thing there. I mean, that's what's missing. That's what's missing.

GUPTA: Driving back, I couldn't help but think of so much food and yet hundreds of thousands of Haitian children are malnourished.

We're going to have some happy kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?

GUPTA: So, that was not that far away at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not all.

GUPTA: It is still mind-boggling how close this stuff is. You can hear the kids literally -- joyous, laughter inside there. I think they know what's coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know what's coming. Yes, they do.

GUPTA (voice-over): It is true that other organizations like World Vision, Save the Children, UNICEF, have been helping orphanages here in Haiti long before the earthquake. But I can tell you, there are hospitals, camps, and orphanages that fall through the cracks sometimes. At least on this day, one of those cracks gets to be filled in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: One thing I have learned over the last few days being down here is that a lot of people obviously donating, a lot of generosity. But the definition of success often is to get some of these supplies simply into the country, or simply into the city of Port-au-Prince.

You have to really make sure it gets into the hands of people who need it. And I was surprised at just how often that process breaks down. Literally, stuff has been sitting there since the earthquake. Stuff came in so quickly after the earthquake - supplies still sitting there. They never got distributed.

And also just a lack of communication. I mean, just a few miles down the road, people have a tremendous need. Three miles down the road they have a tremendous supply. They never communicated. I'm not sure how that gets fixed, exactly down here, how that gets coordinated better. But, that's a real life example of what's happening here.

CHETRY: It's unbelievable. So if you didn't tell them that was happening, would those kids have just starved?

GUPTA: You know, I don't know. It was very random, very inconsistent. Oh, we think there might be an orphanage over here, there might be a food drop. They didn't know when their next food was coming. So, would they have starved? It's hard to say. But there was nothing reliable them in place or in the future.

CHETRY: And just one other quick thing. What is the plan for these huge warehouse? You said football-sized warehouses filled with food. What's the plan? How long was that food going to stay there? GUPTA: Well, some of it - this is the worst part of it - some of it has expired. And not just food but some medical supplies, as well. That's obviously just a complete loss that has to be written off. I think we got - there's going to be a lot of focus on there. Anderson talked to Bill Clinton about this type of issue, as well, and about the coordination among the various NGOs. They start to communicate with each other to try and move that stuff out as quickly as possible.

I don't know, but there hasn't been an overall coordination of that, as things stand right now.

GRIFFIN: Sanjay, I haven't asked you a question, because I'm quite frankly afraid of what I might say. I think it's so disgusting. A bunch of talk, no action down there. But we certainly appreciate you bringing that to our attention. We certainly had no idea that that particular scenario was going on this morning.

CHETRY: Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Me neither. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

GRIFFIN: Thanks, Sanjay.