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THE SITUATION ROOM

CIA Spies Arrested in Iran?; Egypt Releases Three American Students; Major Change in U.S. Tone on Egypt; Airlines Criticized for Checked Bag Fees; Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum Makes Controversial Statements on Airport Screening; Bill Clinton Discusses Past Heart Problems; Pakistan Government Seeks to Ban Nearly 1,700 Words from Text Messaging; Potential Cuts to Military Budget

Aired November 25, 2011 - 17:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, protests and counter-protests in Egypt on what's being called last chance Friday. Plus, the surprise release of three American students.

Also, counterfeit computer chips made in China and unknowingly used by the U.S. military. One expert calls them a ticking time bomb for national security.

And the remark at this week's CNN presidential debate that's ignited a huge controversy -- should Muslims be signaled out at airport security?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Joe Johns.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following a disturbing report out of Iran that could have huge implications for U.S. efforts to stop that country from building nuclear weapons. A dozen people reportedly have been arrested and one Iranian official says they're all spies for the US.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us -- Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, the CIA isn't saying anything about this. But a former CIA officer tells us is this is true, it's a huge setback for U.S. intelligence in a place that's already been very difficult to penetrate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: (voice-over): The U.S. could have just lost some key assets in its effort to keep Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. An influential Iranian legislator says Iranian intelligence has arrested 12 CIA spies. That's according to an Iranian news agency. The report couldn't be independently verified.

The official says the alleged spies were trying to cripple Iran in the necessarily, military and security areas. He wouldn't say who they were or their nationalities.

Analysts say if this is true, they were probably Iranians.

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: They may or not have known that they were working for the United States. Often you recruit someone and they don't know they're -- they're working for you. They think they're working for somebody else.

TODD: Another expert, former CIA offer Bob Baer, says if this is true, it's likely the agents operated what he calls a virtual CIA station -- gathering information then downloading it onto an innocuous looking Web site in code. Their intelligence handlers, he says, could de- encrypt the information.

But Baer says the Iranians are also very good at catching this kind of thing. And he says U.S. intelligence is probably weighing its next move.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: You do a counter-intelligence damage assessment and then you, you know, once you determine why things went badly, then you can start up again.

TODD: The CIA would not comment on any of this.

(on camera): Iran's latest claim is part of what analysts say is a ratcheted up intelligence war between the U.S. and Iran, highlighted recently when American lawmakers accused Iran of operating spies out of its interest section here in Washington and elsewhere in the wake of the alleged plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador.

(voice-over): Iranian officials denied involvement in that plot, denied spying in the US.

This latest twist comes just days after U.S. officials confirmed some CIA operatives had been captured by Iran's ally in Lebanon, the militant group, Hezbollah.

Analysts say we're likely to see more of this.

MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Spy versus spy covert action is 21st century warfare. The United States doesn't want to have to bomb Iran because, first of all, we're not sure whether that would even be effective at stopping the nuclear program, and second of all, it could really cripple the international economy, send the price of oil sky high.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Michael Rubin says instead of a military strike, the U.S. could use its intelligence networks to actually hit the Iranians, maybe sabotaging Iran's nuclear program with computer viruses like that Stuxnet worm that targeted their centrifuges. Iran accused the U.S. and Israel of that operation. Neither U.S. nor Israeli officials ever spoke about that -- Joe.

JOHNS: And so -- but whoever did it, it actually worked?

TODD: It was very effective. Experts say it destroyed hundreds of centrifuges and it might have set their alleged nuclear weapons program back by as much as two years. It really crippled them at the time, about a year-and-a-half ago.

JOHNS: Wow!

TODD: Yes.

JOHNS: Thanks so much for that, Brian Todd.

TODD: Sure.

JOHNS: Three American college students arrested in Egypt have been released and are now heading back to the United States. They were accused of throwing Molotov cocktails during protests in Cairo this week. The father of one of the young men spoke to CNN just a little while ago.

Here's what Kevin Sweeney said about his son, Derrik.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN SWEENEY, DERRIK SWEENEY'S FATHER: He is a dual major in Arabic and psychology. And he actually went to not just learn the language. He's already fluent in Arabic. He wanted to learn the culture. And -- and this uprising in the streets is part of the -- it's a phenomenon of the culture.

He will not go back to Egypt. He will, one way or another, whether -- whether he -- this -- this semester is -- is over for him, you know, whether he's able to finish it remotely or just writes it off. He really does not want to be in Egypt right now...

With all of the chaos that's going on there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, in Cairo -- Ben, you have some new information on when these students are supposed to be leaving Egypt?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Joe.

We heard earlier this evening from their lawyer that they were on their way to the airport. One -- but one of the -- two them will be leaving shortly, if they haven't left already. One of them leaves tomorrow morning, flying to Frankfurt.

Now, we heard yesterday that a -- the prosecutor general had ordered their release from police. It took about 24 hours, not unusual, in fact, for word to get from the judge to the police officers who actually were holding these young men. So now they -- they're free. No charges were made against them, despite the fact that the local media made a rather big deal about it.

And this is all part of -- there is an attempt in some quarters here to try to blame foreigners for the trouble here.

But it's not something that most people have really taken up. Most people realize that this is purely an Egyptian matter and these boys were probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Joe?

JOHNS: So then that's not surprising at all.

We've seen the anti-government protests in Tahrir Square. But you actually witnessed something that was a little bit different from that.

Let's talk about it.

WEDEMAN: Yes, that was radically different, Joe. That was this pro- government, pro-military demonstration about three miles from here in the neighborhood that's predominantly inhabited by police officers, army officers and government officials. They came out to express their support for the government and also to condemn the people in Tahrir Square.

Their feeling is that they have monopolized the scene recently, certainly since last Saturday, that they don't reflect the real feeling of Egyptians.

The people at this pro-government demonstration said that they are the silent majority and they've decided that it's time for them to come out and express their voices.

Just to reassure you, what you're hearing in the background is not gunfire. Those are fireworks -- Joe.

JOHNS: Interesting. Just to -- just to sort of reiterate a point we made a little bit earlier, from your reporting and and what you can tell, these are authentic counter-demonstrators, not people who have been sort of put up to it by the government or by the ruling military?

WEDEMAN: No. I can tell you, from my many years here in Egypt, I know what a planned, organized government-sponsored demonstration looks like. Usually, there's not a high level of enthusiasm and as soon as the camera turns away, everybody just goes quiet again.

These people seemed absolutely sincere in their support for the government. And I must stress that Tahrir does represent a significant part of Egyptian society, but there are many people who are simply worried that this country is becoming enmeshed in demonstrations, in protests, in clashes. There are people that would like a little peace and quiet in this country -- Joe.

JOHNS: Concerns, certainly, that there may be something that is worse than actually having no civilian government in place. A lot of people worried about stability.

Thanks so much for that, Ben Wedeman.

The violence in Egypt is prompting a significant change in tone by the Obama administration. For the first time, it's calling on the military to give up power.

CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is working that part of the story for us -- Jill, what do you have?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, you know, there's a feeling over here at the State Department, really of deja vu. Just looking at those pictures with Ben, people back on Tahrir Square demanding democracy and then the administration here in Washington really torn between wanting to support the people, that tidal wave of people power, but also conder -- concerned about stability.

And, of course, then, as now, some people think the administration is being far too cautious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): The protesters on Tahrir Square are calling it last chance Friday. And as Egyptian-American Adel Iskandar checks his BlackBerry for the latest news from friends on the square, he believes it.

ADEL ISKANDAR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The next 24 hour period could be absolutely crucial for that.

DOUGHERTY: Parliamentary elections, the first since the revolution toppled President Hosni Mubarak, are scheduled to take place Monday. But the protesters are fed up. They want the military to step aside and give real power to a civilian government that.

That cry is being heard at the White House. Friday, in a statement, the press secretary urged just that -- immediate change.

"The full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner," it said, "that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people as soon as possible."

The Obama administration is watching the exploding tensions in Egypt with alarm. Less than two months ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was praising the military.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'd like to recognize the work of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been an institution of stability and continuity.

DOUGHERTY: But the violence against demonstrators and the resignation of Egypt's civilian government has changed that.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We condemn the excessive force used by the police and strongly urge the Egyptian government to exercise maximum to discipline its forces and to protect the universal rights of all Egyptians to peacefully express themselves.

DOUGHERTY: The White House still wants Monday's elections to go forward without violence or intimidation. But Adel Iskander says Egypt is in no condition to hold elections right now. He says the Obama administration should stop being cautious and come out and say that.

ISKANDAR: There is a failure to see that the street is really the only determinant of Egypt's future and that the United States government, as are, as most governments, should support whatever the Egyptian people would like to see.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DOUGHERTY: And many Egyptians now are saying first things first. Get rid of military rule and then go to elections. And the White House seems to think that they can do both.

But at this point, it's really the Egyptian people who are running this -- Joe.

JOHNS: That's for sure.

Thanks so much. Jill Dougherty at the State Department.

The Pentagon potentially facing $600 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.

After the super committee failed to reach a deficit deal, are military salaries on the chopping block?

Plus, it's being called the ticking time bomb of national security -- ahead, how counterfeit military parts made in China end up in the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Huge budget cuts could be in store at the Pentagon, more than half a trillion dollars, as the United States tries to reduce its massive debt. And everything, from fighter jets to troop benefits could wind up on the chopping block.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has details.

Chris, what's next for the Defense Department?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Joe, everybody is going to be scrambling to protect their own pet projects and an intense lobbying up on the Hill as well. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee already says he's going to introduce some legislation that would block these defense cuts.

Well, President Obama says he'll veto any such bill like that that comes across his desk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The F-35 will end up costing $150 billion more than what the Pentagon projected 10 years ago. So even though it can fly faster than the speed of sound, the fighter jet can't outrun its critics who want to cut the number of jets or kill the program outright.

And it's just one target in an everything's-on-the-table battle to cut the defense budget.

TODD HARRISON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS: They will have to cancel some programs. They'll have to cut back on the number of items they're buying.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The Pentagon may have to cut another $600 billion over the next 10 years, starting in 2013. Certain cuts can't be made that quickly.

HARRISON: Like closing bases, reducing personnel costs, reducing the number of personnel, those are things that take time to implement.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): But the average soldier could see lower pay increases, even adjustments to combat pay. The cost of military health has spiraled from $19 billion to well over $50 billion in just 10 years.

TINA JONES, FORMER PENTAGON COMPTROLLER: So the average family will probably --0 military family will probably experience some increase to that or a decrease in their -- the benefit per se. They may...

(CROSSTALK)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Tina Jones is the former Pentagon comptroller who says the DOD could come of out this leaner and meaner. She agreed with Newt Gingrich when he criticized the military's taking 10 to 15 years to buy and build new weapons.

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Apple changes technology every nine months.

JONES: Their businesses processes are slow and arcane and can be very inefficient.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Which can lead to systems like the F-35, a program where the government estimates it'll spend $1 trillion.

JONES: So more careful management of costs, there's going to be no room for error on this. They've got to do a better job at that.

LAWRENCE: Yes, but a fighter jet does not go down without a fight. Nearly 50 members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans alike, have already formed a caucus whose sole purpose is to try to save the F-35.

Joe, I know that comes as a huge shock to you, but just one example, again, of just how much -- how much fight there's going to be up on Capitol Hill with members of the Pentagon lobbying to keep some of these programs and some of these, you know, systems intact.

JOHNS: And you'd have to assume that those are the members of Congress whose districts are most affected by the Joint Strike Fighter, whatever actually being built. Thanks so much for that.

LAWRENCE: That's right.

JOHNS: Appreciate it.

To China now, where we're learning more about the production and sale of counterfeit military technology, which could have dire implications for national security here in the United States. We first brought you the story a couple weeks back. Now CNN's Eunice Yoon has gone inside China to uncover just where these fake parts are coming from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EUNICE YOON, CNN REPORTER: This electronics market in southern China might not look like a place where you can buy military hardware, but it is. In video shot by a private investigator, vendors confirmed they're selling military grade computer chips, components often used in systems for American armed forces.

These chips are the same types that were found in a batch destined for the U.S. military. They were sold as refurbished military chips, and cost about a 10th of the price of new ones. And now the sale of these components is becoming a major point of contention between the United States and China.

That's because in the U.S., these refurbished chips are considered counterfeit, and according to a recent U.S. Senate committee study, more than 1 million similar parts have already found their way into the Pentagon supply chain.

BRIAN TOOHEY, PRESIDENT, SEMICONDUCTOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: Well, it's a ticking time bomb of American national security and our citizens' health and safety.

YOON: China's government insists it's trying to stamp out counterfeit trade. But when the Senate committee tried to send a team to China to look into the matter, the government here refused to issue visas. We set out to track the chips ourselves.

We began in the town of Guiyu, known among environmentalists as the electronics waste capital of the world. Old computers are shipped here from all over the world. The electronics are mined for their most valuable parts and they end up in stacks as tall as I am.

We quickly found this factory, where disregarded electronics are processed. Here workers strip chips from computer circuit boards. The components are cleaned up and, in some cases, relabeled, this factory staffer explains.

Sometimes they remark the chips in order to sell them (inaudible).

Once the chips are ready for retail, they end up in markets like this one in Shenzhen. Investigator Ted Kavowras, a former New York cop, often goes undercover looking for counterfeit goods -- today, military grade computer chips.

TED KAVOWRAS, INVESTIGATOR: Normally we can tell what's fake and what's not, not only by the word of these dealers, which is normally quite correct, but by the price differential.

YOON: The vendors were selling refurbished chips that can be used in many types of electronics. Refurbished chips function the same as new ones, this vendor says. If you are not a professional, you can't tell the difference.

Another is candid about his preference in customers. If the customer complains about us, the market will punish us, he says, so we are more willing to trade with foreigners, who take the products and never come back. And the products often end up online, where procurement officers in the U.S. order them, unaware of what they're getting.

Remember those chips we showed you earlier? Turns out a broker in Florida was convicted in October of passing off hundreds of thousands of refurbished chips as new, including those used in F-16s and Navy warships.

TOOHEY: These counterfeiters go to extraordinary lengths to commit this fraud and to traffic in these chips. And so it's a constant battle.

YOON: Kavowras thinks the battle has to be fought on both sides of the Pacific.

KAVOWRAS: Well, counterfeit chips entering the military supply chain and pipeline is a fault of the procurement system, and I think that's been weakened by budget cuts. So shame on politicians for blaming China. It's not China. China is not the problem. It's reduced budgets and carelessness in the U.S.

YOON: Whatever the cause, an entire industry built around refurbished military chips is thriving in China, and shows no sign of going away -- Eunice Yoon, CNN, Shenzhen.

JOHNS: Senator Carl Levin who chairs the Armed Services Committee investigating these parts has issued this statement.

"If China does not act promptly to end counterfeiting, then we will have no choice but to treat all electronic parts coming in from China, whether for military or civilian use, as suspected counterfeits. That would mean requiring inspection of all shipments of Chinese electronic parts to ensure that they are legitimate.

Huge protests and counterprotests in Cairo: what's driving the tens of thousands of people taking part? We'll hear from some of them on what's being called Last Chance Friday.

And 23 million people flying in the U.S. this holiday week. Should the TSA be profiling some of them by race? Details of the controversy and what sparked it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: The holidays are in full swing at the White House but behind all of the official good cheer, the truth is, there's not so much for the president to celebrate at the moment. CNN's White House correspondent Dan Lothian has more. Dan?

Well, holiday blues out there at 1600 Pennsylvania?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Joe, you know, aides are always quick to list the president's many accomplishments, but the White House is facing some big challenges. There's partisan gridlock, a lot of finger-pointing right now.

The president is battling members of Congress to extend the payroll tax cut. That is something that he'll be pushing for again next week when he hits the road to Scranton, Pennsylvania. But perhaps the biggest question that critics keep asking remains unanswered: where are all the jobs?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): With a Marine brass band playing in the background, a horse-drawn cart carried the official White House Christmas tree to a reception by the first lady.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: (Inaudible) take care. Happy holidays.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): But behind this festive atmosphere, the White House is grappling with domestic and foreign policy challenges that aren't taking a break during the holidays.

Despite Black Friday deals and shoppers rushing to make purchases, the economy is still struggling, and unemployment remains at 9 percent, a reality the president acknowledged during his weekly video address.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problems we face didn't develop overnight, and we won't solve them overnight. But we will solve them. All it takes is for each of us to do our part.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): But Republicans have been attacking the president for not doing enough to fix the economy and create jobs, and presidential hopefuls have slammed Mr. Obama for the super committee's failure to reach a deficit reduction deal.

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's done nothing. It is another example of failed leadership.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): There are problems overseas, too. Russian president Dmitri Medvedev is concerned about the missile defense system the U.S. plans to deploy, and Europe is threatening to pull out of the New START arms control treaty and said Russia could deploy its own weapons to target the defense system.

In Egypt, where dozens of protesters have been killed and thousands injured, unrest threatens the transition to democracy. The White House, which has publicly condemned the violence...

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We call for restraint on all sides.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): has now stepped up its pressure. In a statement, spokesman Jay Carney is saying, "The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately."

LOTHIAN: Also in that statement, Carney expressed confidence that the Egyptian people, who have overcome some big challenges in the past, will be successful again. And also he offered reassurance that the U.S. would stand with the Egyptians on this transition to democracy.

Joe?

JOHNS: You know, on the political side, though, I've talked to a lot of Democratic strategies who have said the White House can take some solace in the fact that there is a lot of chaos, if you will, in the Republican race for the nomination, and also the low approval numbers of the Congress.

LOTHIAN: And you really touched on something that's very important. And when you talk to aides there, they will also direct our focus to that as well, that when you go out there and talk to people and you look at some of the polling, Americans are pretty unhappy with both parties, certainly unhappy with the members of Congress so the president does have that on his side.

JOHNS: Dan Lothian at the White House, thank you so much.

There's one new development in Egypt that the White House can cheer -- three American students arrested in protests this week have been released and heading back now to the United States. They're accused to throwing Molotov cocktails during the deadly violence that left dozens of people dead in Cairo. The scene there today much more peaceful ahead of elections this Monday. CNN's Ivan Watson is there for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The crowds are back here in Tahrir Square, a sea of humanity, really. And instead of selling gas masks like they were a few days ago when the bloody street battles were underway, now trinkets and patriotic Egyptian colors for sale. Many people are calling this an extension of the previous revolution that brought down Hosni Mubarak, those protests in January and February that helped force out the former president.

But part of the anger here is directed against the ruling military council that replaced him. Now, I've met Allah (ph), who is a psychologist here, why are you here with your family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to participate and add my voices to those who say let's do a real change, instead of a camouflage or smoke screen of some kind. I don't know what it's hiding, but nothing of what the January Revolution has been really done. WATSON: What change do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, simple change. People are waiting for someone to take command, to give the people what they need, to give the people some recognition, some dignity, some sense of dignity, that the law is being applied to everyone.

WATSON: Is this really applied against the generals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really. I'm not here to protest against the generals themselves. I'm here to protest against the idea that the generals are not doing anything. The machine, the political machine or the military machine, whatever regime that is, it is not doing their job.

WATSON: So are you going to vote Monday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

WATSON: There you have one of the people gathered here. At another part of town right now there are tens of thousands of people gathering in support of the military council. So far this has been a peaceful expression of people power on two sides of the political power two days before Egyptians are expected to go to the polls in the first round of parliamentary elections.

Ivan Watson, CNN, from Tahrir Square in Cairo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The push to cut airline baggage fees just as the holiday travel season gets underway. Ahead, details of a new effort unfolding on Capitol Hill.

Plus, a government call to ban more than 1,000 words from text messages. We'll tell you where and why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: It's a somewhat unusual topic for debate of presidential candidates, but the subject of airport screening and who should be singled out is in the spotlight after this week's CNN presidential debate. CNN's Athena Jones has details. Athena, what's this controversy about?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, with so many people traveling during this holiday season, airport security is the top concern. And as we learned on Tuesday night in that debate, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum had some controversial ideas about how to improve the way TSA screens for terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Airport security and who gets screened, it's a subject that has touched a nerve.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should be trying to find the bomber, not the bomb.

JONES: And during this Thanksgiving holiday period, the TSA is a spotlight once again after Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum called for extra scrutiny for Muslim flyers during the CNN debae Tuesday night.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": So just to be precise, is it ethnic profiling, religious profiling? Who would be profiling?

SANTORUM: Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. Obviously Muslims would be someone you'd look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are the radical Muslims who are the people committing the crimes by and large, as well as younger males.

JONES: Santorum's comments prompted applause from the crowd, but criticism from advocates who say it's unconstitutional and that it won't work.

COREY SAYLOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: He completely threw equal protection out the window.

JONES: Congressman Ron Paul said Santorum's proposal is a bad idea.

RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? You know, he was a pretty tough criminal.

JONES: With more than 23 million people expected to fly in the 12 day period surrounding Thanksgiving, airport screening is a hot topic. Every traveler we spoke to at Washington D.C. Reagan National Airport said Muslims shouldn't be singled out.

ANDY SEAMANS, AIRLINE PASSENGER: Do I agree with racial profiling? No, I don't think so. It's a very slippery slope and leads down a very bad path very quickly. So with the current policy we have in place, they're not always convenient, they're not the best, but they're the best for what we have right now.

ISABELA LOPES, AIRLINE PASSENGER: I think they're very discriminating. There are American who are Muslims everywhere. Anyone can be a terrorist, not necessarily a Muslim.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Now, the ACLU has also weighed in on this idea, saying that profiling is a short cut based on bias rather than evidence and that there's really no reliable terrorist profile. Joe?

JOHNS: Yes, that's for sure. It's hard to imagine just you're your reliable terrorist profile would be. Thanks so much, Athena.

JONES: Thanks.

JOHNS: Screening is not the only hassle for air travelers right now. There is also the baggage fees. There is a new effort on Capitol Hill to do something about them. Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester with that part of the story.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Joe, you know that many airlines out there are now charging travelers to check-in bags. And if you are checking in a couple of bags, that can cost you more than $60. One senator says enough is enough. She's now taking on the airlines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Remember the days of flying on Pan Am? Air travel has taken a decidedly different term and passengers are not happy about it. What's most annoying, being charged for a checked bag.

GAIL PERRYMAN, TRAVELER: It takes forever to get on and off the plane because of the people that carry-on bags because they don't want to pay the checked bag fees.

ELIZABETH MUELLER, TRAVELER: I think it would be great to not pay for bags. I'm always prone to take Southwest over any other airline just because they're free.

SYLVESTER: Southwest is one of the exceptions. Most airlines faced with rising fuel prices and slack travel demands started three years ago charging customers for checked in bags. Typical fees are about $25 for the first bag, $35 for a second bag. So more people are opting to carry on their bags. That means longer lines at the security and a mad dash on the plane to get precious overhead bin space.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana says travelers are tired of being nickelled and dimed. Landrieu has introduced a bill that would let passengers check in one bag for free.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, (D) LOUISIANA: They are tired of this travel experience which is getting to be more of a hassle. I believe when you purchase a ticket to fly anywhere, it should come with at least a seat, free water, access to a restroom, and at least one checked bag for free.

SYLVESTER: More carry-on bags means more work for the Transportation Security Administration. The Department of Homeland Security says their costs have gone up $270 million a year since the baggage fee. But the airlines industry argues their profit margin is already razor thin and Congress has not right to butt in here.

SEAN KENNEDY, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: Nobody tells the hotel whether or not they should have free bottles of water or free Wi-Di. No one tells a bus what services they should offer for free. This should really be up to the carrier and the airline should be able to decide that they want to charge for and consumers should be able to decide who they think is the best option for them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: These days, the flying experience is different. If you want preferred seating, you have to pay for that as well. And there are the long security lines that we're all familiar with all of this.

JOHNS: I actually once got charged a free for paying cash.

SYLVESTER: Are you kidding?

(LAUGHTER)

SYLVESTER: That's the bottom of the barrel.

JOHNS: Thank you so much, Lisa Sylvester.

Growing concern of a possible bottleneck as tens and thousands of U.S. forces leave Iraq in the coming weeks.

Plus, find out which reality show winner got a surprise call from the defense secretary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Lisa Sylvester is here with some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

SYLVESTER: As protestors take to the streets in Syria, the Arab League has a warning for the Syrian government. A senior diplomat says Damascus risks sanctions if it fails to respond to today's deadlines to allow Arab League observers into Syria. Those sanctions could include freezing all dealings with Syria's central bank and airlines.

The U.S. military is ordering troops crossings from Iraq into Kuwait, the people returning home that they be returned faster to minimize a build-up triggered by the year-end deadline for withdrawal. Troops are required in Kuwait to turn in equipment before heading back to the United States. President Obama ordered the withdrawal last month after talks to extend the deadline broke down.

And this season's "Dancing with the Stars" winner J.R. Martinez received the congratulatory call today from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The actor is an Iraqi war veteran who suffered severe burns over more than 40 percent of his body from a land mine. Secretary Panetta also invited Martinez to the Pentagon for a personal meeting, and that is expected to happen soon. So I was happy to see that he won.

JOHNS: Thanks, Lisa.

He's probably one of the best-known heart patients in the world. Ahead, former president Bill Clinton opens up to our Sanjay Gupta about his road to quadruple bypass surgery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Former President Bill Clinton has gained recognition for a number of critical causes since leaving the White House, not the least of which is his own personal battle as a heart patient. Now he's opening up to CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the road to bypass surgery and the hopes that others can avoid it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I was lucky I didn't die of a heart attack.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Former President Clinton, like too many people, was busy, and for year his ignored warning signs from his heart. But in 2004 during an exhausting book tour, there was something different.

CLINTON: I had a real tightness in my chest when I was getting off the airplane and the only time I had it unrelated to exercise.

GUPTA: Here outside New York Presbyterian hospital and in just a couple of hours president Bill Clinton, former president, is scheduled to undergo surgery.

CLINTON: So I immediately went down to our local hospital and they did a test. They said you've got real problems. They hustled me down to Columbia Presbyterian and they confirmed the determination that I had serious blockage and needed the surgeries.

GUPTA: The doctors immediately knew options were limited. The 58-year- old Clinton need to have his chest opened, his heart stopped, and surgery performed.

DR. CRAIG SMITH, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL/COLUMBIA: There's no medical treatment for reversing the obstructions that have already formed in his blood vessels.

CLINTON: They got Hillary and Chelsea there. All I remember it was happening fast and everybody who cared about me was scared. And I felt rather serene. I thought, gosh, we dodged a bullet, I didn't have a heart attack.

GUPTA: On Labor Day, 2004, Mr. Clinton had four blood vessels bypassed.

SMITH: Starting this morning, around 8:00, he had a relatively routine quadruple bypass operation. We left the operating room around noon, and he is recovering normally at this point. So I think right now everything looks straightforward.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: President Clinton has made some dramatic life changes since then. And there are also things you can do right now to prevent having a heart attack. Be sure to watch "Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports -- The Last Heart Attack" tonight at 7:00 and 11:00 right here on CNN.

"Taxi" and "show-time" ahead, what's behind one government's effort to ban these words and hundreds of others from all text messages. We'll have the details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHNS: Imagine if the government put out a list of 1,700 words that you're not permitted to use in text messages. One government is doing just that. CNN's Reza Sayah has a story from Islamabad.

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REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Pakistan it's the war on violent extremists that usually makes headlines. But now the government is waging a new fight -- a war on what the government has deemed obscene and offensive language in text messages. In a notice sent out to cell phone carriers, government has called for nearly 1,700 words to be banned from text messages.

The lengthy list includes the run of the mill expletives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The F word was banned, I heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of the words should be banned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a Muslim government. So Muslim government should ban those words which are very abusing in the language.

SAYAH: But it's hundreds of seemingly tame words and phrases on the banned list that have many Pakistanis puzzled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea where this idea came from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is confusing.

SAYAH: Words like "taxi," a term sometimes used to refer to prostitutes, "idiot," "drunk," "show-time," "Satan," and "flatulent."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably many people don't know what it is except for doctors maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a stupid idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the words are just weird, I mean, no sense of banning those words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're basic major, major issues going on in this country and this is not something we should be worried about.

SAYAH: A spokesman for Pakistan's telecommunication authority wouldn't go on camera, but he said the government is banning these words to serve the public interesting but cutting down on spam and unsolicited messages.

A quick test showed for now you can still text message the banned words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get it?

SAYAH: Including the medical term for excessive gas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flatulence. SAYAH: But perhaps not for long. The Pakistani government wants cell phone carriers to block the banned words starting this week.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.

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JOHNS: They say boys will be boys, but this is ridiculous. CNN's Jeanne Moos has one Michigan woman's story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mommy's not feeling so well so she stays a little longer than usual in the bathroom, and when she comes out, stay-at-home mom Mary Napoli stayed eerily calm.

MARY NAPOLI, STAY-AT-HOME MOM: Oh boy.

MOOS: The boys, by the way, are one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the matter mommy?

MOOS: What could possibly be the matter with having flour all over your house?

NAPOLI: As soon as I stopped recording I sat on the middle of the floor in the living room and started crying.

MOOS: Talk about flour power, the entire mess was caused by one five- pound bag.

NAPOLI: My gosh, I don't know what to do. I think I'm going to throw up.

MOOS: But instead of throwing up, Mary kept regurgitating one phrase --

NAPOLI: Oh, my gosh.

MOOS: From the chair seat to the window ledge on the door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. Oh my gosh.

MOOS: We counted at least 27 "Oh my Goshes."

NAPOLI: Oh my gosh. Not fair.

MOOS: Mary had just gotten home from the grocery store and says she forgot to lock the cupboard.

NAPOLI: My god, it's like a snowman puked all over my living room.

MOOS: It reminds us of the dog gets in the trash videos when the culprit is identified by an incriminating clue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder if tank had anything to do with it. Can you tell me what happened?

MOOS: The flour kids weren't talking either.

NAPOLI: What happened? Zack?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

MOOS: Mary called her mother-in-law for help. By the way, those of you who say this video is fake or "Fakey McFakeovitch," you don't know how flour flies.

Mary and her mother -- Mary and her mother-in-law used a shop-vac to remove most of the flour but two items beyond salvaging. She had to throw away this rug and a light bulb emitting a burning flour smell. Hardest to clean, the couches.

NAPOLI: We haven't paid off those couches yet.

MOOS: During cleanup, Zack slipped on the flour and cut his lip, so Mary left the kitchen sink and came running. Unfortunately, the faucet was also running, the sink overflowed and flooded the kitchen.

So next time you think you've had a bad day, remember Mary.

NAPOLI: I told my mother-in-law that I feel like I've inhaled so much flour I'm going to start to rise.

MOOS: At least Andrew was dressed for bad behavior, like a prison inmate.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, see?

NAPOLI: Yes, I see.

MOOS: -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: I'm Joe Johns in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.