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THE SITUATION ROOM
"My Job Is Not To Worry About Those People"; Suicide Bomber; Agreement on Afghanistan; 47 Percent?; YouTube Responsibility; Stop Sign Cameras
Aired September 18, 2012 - 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, the final moments of Ambassador Chris Stevens. We'll hear from the doctor who treated him.
And a witness shows video he recorded of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Mitt Romney unplugged, the entire secret recording is out. And behind those politically damaging moments, a link to a former president's family.
And first, there were speed cameras then red light cameras, now, stop sign cameras. Wait until you see this.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Joe Johns. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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JOHNS: A week after the bloody attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, the White House is facing a growing backlash. Should there have been more security given possible threats tied to the 9/11 anniversary? And was the attack which killed the ambassador and three other Americans premeditated or a spontaneous eruption of rage over an anti-Muslim film?
Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is standing by. But first, to Libya, where we have stunning new video and witness accounts of the attack and the last moments of Ambassador Chris Stevens. CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is in Benghazi.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first thing that Fahad (ph) says he saw and filmed at the consulate compound. The cafeteria building up in flames. It was shortly before midnight, September 11th. The smoke so thick the compound's main house is barely visible. And then, this. After breaking through window, men shout they found a body. Suddenly, one of them cries out, "he's alive, he's alive." The crowd cheers. "God is great." Rushing for a car, they realize it's a foreigner.
"I was filming the video and I thought it was an American," Fahad (ph) recalls, but I thought it was a driver or security guy. I never thought it was the ambassador. It's clear from the rest of the video that the man they pulled out was Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Fahad (ph) says he was alive but barely.
"He had a pulse and his eyes were moving," Fahad (ph) says. "His mouth was black from all the smoke." Ten minutes later rushed through the Benghazi streets in a civilian's car, the ambassador arrived at the hospital, but it was too late.
"Dr. Ziyad Abuze (ph) tells us he got a code blue call. Patient arrested. Needs resuscitation. He, too, did not realize it was Stevens." "The body was covered in soot," he says. "I began resuscitation, but after 45 minutes, the patient gave no signs of life." The Libyan government has vowed to bring those who attacked the consulate to justice.
But nearly a week later, there are still contradictory accounts of what happened. The head of Libya's National Congress, Mohamed el- Magariaf, says it was a pre-planned attack, that the government has arrested dozens of people, among them members or sympathizers of al Qaeda and a handful of foreigners.
Others senior officials say the 50 were merely brought in for questioning, and there is no evidence of an existing plot. What is undisputed is that over the past three months attacks against western interests in Benghazi have increased as has the power of extremist groups. Something military officials say they warned the Americans about.
This young man says he arrived at the compound just as the fire fight began to subside. He says he didn't see any foreigners, just Libyans. Members of known extremist militias, bearded carrying Russian-made automatic machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, and lighter weapons. He was detained by the attackers and says he heard them talking about the assault, celebrating their success.
And he says before he was released they also talked about an attack on another location that night. A safe house where the American staff took shelter. Perhaps, we'll never know exactly what happened that night, but it's a far cry from the dreams of so many Libyans when they rose up last year. (END VIDEOTAPE)
JOHNS: That's Arwa Damon in Benghazi. The Obama administration keeps saying it took necessary security steps before the 9/11 anniversary. Let's turn to CNN White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. Dan, did they drop the ball?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Joe, that's the question being asked of the White House. And what's driving these questions is a statement that was put out by the White House on September 10th, on the eve of the eleventh anniversary. It was a readout of a meeting that the president held with senior advisors to talk about what kind of security measures had been taken.
Their statement pointed out that John Brennan, the president's Homeland Security advisor, had for the past month been holding various meetings to talk about security measures. And then, the statement pointed out that during the briefing, quote, "The president and the principals discussed specific measures we are taking in the homeland to prevent 9/11 related attacks as well as the steps taken to protect U.S. persons in facilities abroad as well as force protection."
According to the statement, the president wanted to make sure that all steps were being taken to protect Americans not only here in the homeland but also abroad, which brings us back to that question whether or not someone dropped the ball. Here's how White House spokesman, Jay Carney, dealt with that question today.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were numerous steps taken as there have been every year on the anniversary of 9/11 and as there have been at different times on the calendar when it is judged by the experts that taking additional steps, security steps as the right thing to do. As for specific measures taken at specific facilities, diplomatic facilities, I would refer you to the state department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Separate from the FBI investigation, you mentioned a few moments ago, is there any sort of inquiry going on here at the White House among the president's national security team to get to the bottom of, you told the American people on September 10th, we've taken steps to protect Americans here at homeland and abroad, obviously with four Americans tragically being killed, the steps were not good enough. So, is there an inquiry going on here to figure out what went wrong?
CARNEY: Ed, you're conveniently -- two things, just the anniversary of 9/11 and the incidence that took place which are under investigation in terms of what --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- which are under investigation.
CARNEY: And the cause and motivation behind them will be decided by that investigation.
LOTHIAN: What Carney did do, there is sidestep the specific question whether or not there was some kind of inquiry into someone potentially dropping the ball here. Instead, he talked broadly about the overall investigation into the violence there in Libya -- Joe.
JOHNS: Dan, stay with us. I want to bring in Arwa Damon in Benghazi. She's on the phone and CNN foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, at the state department. Arwa, first to you, you've been talking to Libyan officials. What's the latest on what you're hearing about whether this attack was pre-planned or not?
DAMON: Well, we're actually hearing different accounts as to whether or not that may be the fact. The country's head of the General National Congress, effectively the nation's president, saying that he does believe that this is a pre-planned attack or rather was a pre-planned attack carried out by extremist groups who were possibly affiliated with or sympathetic to al Qaeda.
But other senior government officials have been saying that as of now, they have no indication whatsoever that this was a pre-planned attack. Numerous eyewitnesses have been telling us that while the attack was taking place, they did see clearly -- extremist militias that does in fact operate in this area with a fair degree of impunity, something that is incredibly troubling not just to the Libyan government but clearly now to international governments as well.
And the Libyan population really wanting to see their government bringing these militias under control. But one must remember that this is a government that in and of itself admits it does not have the capability to take on these armed groups.
JOHNS: Really a mixed message there, Arwa. Thanks. Over to you, Elise Labott. You have visited more than a hundred embassies and consulates in your time covering the state department. How should this have worked? How should security have worked in Benghazi if it was working correctly?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, John, in an ideal world, what you have outside the embassy or consulate walls is some kind of outside perimeter where there's a local guard force. In this case, the assailants, the militants, were able to overrun what was a small Libyan contingent of local security contractors, Libyan security contractors.
But inside, there's usually a heavily armed U.S. presence, and also, from the local government. And we understand from officials I've been talking to today that there was a pretty robust or significant number of Libyan armed security officials by the government and also a significant number of U.S. armed shooters.
Now, also, there were at annex about a couple of miles away. There were also U.S. security personnel that rushed over to the scene. But, John, this consulate, this consulate in Benghazi, had about two officials detailed to it at the same time. They thought that this security presence was reasonable for the amount of security personnel, for the amount of diplomats that they had on the ground at the time with an extra security contingent for Chris Stevens.
And they say that, basically, this assault was completely unexpected, and in these types of chaos, clearly, it wasn't enough -- John.
JOHNS: So, they thought they were OK. Dan, why is the White House having such a difficult time sort of matching up the accounts with the Libyan government on what happened in Benghazi? LOTHIAN: Well, I think the short answer is that an investigation they say is still underway, and they're not backing away from the initial information that this violence was sparked by the film. But they say that that is based on -- that assessment is based on information that they have currently received pointing out that this investigation is ongoing and White House spokesman, Jay Carney, saying that he didn't want to prejudge anything here.
So, leaving the door open just a bit that other things really could have been at work here, that there could have been pre-planned attack, but pointing out that there is an investigation underway, and he was not ruling anything out, Joe.
JOHNS: All right. Dan Lothian, Elise Labott, and Arwa Damon over in Benghazi, thanks all of you for that reporting.
The other big story we're watching, secretly recorded tapes just released of Mitt Romney unplugged. Up next, how the video is tied to a former president's family.
JOHNS: The entire Mitt Romney secret video is out now adding to his image as an out of touch rich guy, some people say. The political shockwaves are still spreading from Romney's comments that almost half of Americans don't pay income tax, that they're more or less on the dole, and it is not his job to worry about them.
Incredibly, relative of a former president had a big role in making sure that Romney's private remarks became very, very public. Our Bryan Todd has been looking into this. What have you found out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, it turns out a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter was instrumental in getting this videotape out of obscurity and into a media frenzy. Carter's grandson didn't actually make the videotape. That was done four months ago in a moment Mitt Romney likely wishes he had back.
TODD (voice-over): It starts with a videotape of Mitt Romney speaking last May at a fundraiser attended by wealthy donors inside a private home in Florida. He's asked how he's going to convince voters that they need to take care of themselves instead of relying on the government. Unguarded, Romney tells the group nearly half the electorate will vote for President Obama no matter what.
VOICE OF MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing --
TODD: The video showing Romney seemingly callous and out of touch has blown up after being posted online on Monday by "Mother Jones," a liberal magazine, along with an article by reporter, David Corn (ph). Romney quickly called a news conference defending the message, saying the election is a choice between big government and personal responsibility. He also said this.
ROMNEY: It's not elegantly stated. Let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question, and I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way.
TODD: But how did a videotape made four months ago become something so potentially damaging to Romney's campaign now?
(on-camera) Parts of the video were posted in drips and drabs at first mainly as blurry video and audio files on YouTube. In mid- August the "Mother Jones" reporter, David Corn, was put in touch with the source, the person who Corn says videotaped Romney and posted it online. Corn won't reveal who that source is.
Last week, Corn was able to verify that the videotape was legitimate. Then, he posted it this week on "Mother Jones."
(voice-over) This account was given to us by David Corn, himself, who couldn't speak on camera because he's a contributor to another network. The middleman who got Corn together with the source, James Carter IV, grandson of former president, Jimmy Carter, seen here on Facebook with Corn. Corn says Carter had done research for him in the past.
On his Twitter account, Carter describes himself as an opposition researcher, political junkie, currently looking for work.
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: He obviously has his own agenda and trying to damage the Romney campaign. And without James Carter IV, this clearly wouldn't have happened.
TODD: David Corn (ph) says the person who videotaped Romney told him they weren't affiliated with any campaign, didn't go in with the intent to infiltrate the Romney camp. The fundraiser who hosted the event is Mark Leader (ph) who the Sunlight Foundation says has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates from both major parties.
BILL ALLISON, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: He's private equity. He's with a company called Sun Capital. I think they manage about $8 billion worth of investments. So, he comes from the same industry. Actually, that's how he got into private equity from meeting Mitt Romney.
TODD (on-camera): We've called and e-mailed Mark Leader(ph) repeatedly to ask who the person was who videotaped Romney at his home to ask who else was there. Leader's representative would only issue us a statement acknowledging that he hosted a fundraiser for a friend in May.
We've also tried repeatedly to get the Romney campaign to tell us who they think videotaped him that night. We've gotten no response to that either, Joe.
JOHNS: So, theoretically at least, there's a potential violation of criminal law somewhere here, right?
TODD: There could be. There could be, because Florida state officials tell us that state is a two-party consent state. The person doing the videotaping, the person being videotaped. They both have to agree to it. It appears right now that Romney was taped without his knowledge. The camera looks like it's placed behind some glassware.
David Corn says he assumes that Romney didn't know that he was being taped at the time. We've got nothing from either the Romney campaign nor that fundraiser, Mark Leader, on whether they plan to pursue charges against this person.
JOHNS: Interesting story. Thanks so much for that, Brian.
JOHNS: Mitt Romney is taking heat from all sides but really isn't backing away from his remarks. The political damage could be considerable. Joining me right now is CNN contributor, Ryan Lizza, and he's Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker.
Ryan, you're in Chicago today meeting with members of President Obama's re-election team. What's the mood over there?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I was there today doing interviews for another story for "The New Yorker." So, I just happened to be here when this bomb went off. You know, a couple things. You know, one point, I was there just kind of waiting around for an interview to start sitting over in the part of the campaign where the rapid response guys hang out.
These are the guys that, you know, bombard you and me with e- mails all day long about what they'd like to call our attention to in politics. And you look at this bank of TV screens across from them where they're monitoring the news, and literally, every news network they had on or three out of the four at least -- the fourth had a soap opera on, but three of the four had this story on it.
So, I mean, frankly, not a lot for those guys to do. I mean, this is such a major story that everyone's covering that, you know, it's one of those rules in politics where you just kind of stay out of the way because there's not a whole lot that the Obama campaign needs to do to fan those flames.
A senior advisor to Obama when I asked them this afternoon, you know, they said, look, I don't think that a single vote is necessarily going to change because of this audiotape, but, Romney's going to lose another week where he's already had a rough patch since the conventions and the Obama campaign has ticked ahead just a little bit in the polls.
And you know, it's another week that he can't afford to lose. They also argue that they spent the whole summer with this barrage of advertising painting Mitt Romney as, you know, frankly, in their language an out of touch rich guy. And this video would seem to confirm that stereotype. So, you know, they're obviously not shedding any tears over it right now.
JOHNS: So, I have to tell you, though, talking to some conservatives and reading some things online, there is, you know, a segment of the conservative population, the chattering class if you will, who say this will actually help Mitt Romney with the base. What's the thinking over there?
LIZZA: Well, whenever your guy is getting attacked and whether it's the mainstream media ganging up on him or when he's under siege, it always rallies the base. So, Mitt Romney's in trouble right now, and I think a lot of conservatives, the instinct is to come to his defense.
The second part of that is, look, the issue, the sort of serious policy issue here of the number of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes is a major issue on the right, a major issue for conservatives.
You know, I've also heard from conservatives and read some conservative columns since this blew up yesterday saying Romney made the worst possible sort of argument about what the problem is with a high percentage of taxpayers not paying federal income tax.
You know, he laid out this argument about them being dependent and them all being Obama voters when a lot of conservatives, intellectuals and policy wonks would say, you know, that wouldn't be their first talking point on this issue. You know, they would argue that, you know, every American has to have skin in the game when it comes to federal income taxes.
And as that percentage ticks higher, it makes it more difficult for their policy agenda to be supported. So, I think there's two minds. One is a lot of conservatives saying, oh, there he goes again. This is our guy, the Republican nominee, but he just doesn't quite understand conservatism. He doesn't understand our issues.
He tried to make this argument and he messed it up. But that's sort of mediated with the rally around your guy effect. And you know, look, the insider sort of smart guy consensus in this campaign right now is that this thing is slipping away from Mitt Romney. And so, I think there's a little bit of panic on the right.
JOHNS: Well, we'll see. And I know we have talked to some conservatives who say there's still a lot of time involved, and it's not Election Day yet. But thanks for that, Ryan Lizza, and we'll check back with you.
Who's actually in the 47 percent? It turns out it's a lot of Romney supporters. We're back to the magic wall to break that number down.
And Olympic superstar, Shaun White, arrested. What the so-called flying tomato is accused of doing next? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JOHNS: 132 inmates escape a Mexican prison on the U.S. border. Our Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Kate, what do you have?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Joe. This is a pretty wild story. Mexican authorities have detained a prison director and two other prison officials in this incident that Joe is just talking about. The state attorney general says the inmates escaped one by one using a seven-foot tunnel then cut through a chain link fence and fled.
A $16,000 reward is being offered for information leading to their capture. That is a whole lot of people.
Oil prices are feeling the blow a day after a sharp and sudden plunge that left traders scrambling and economists simply baffled. The October contract for U.S. crude closed down $1.33 to a $95.29 a barrel. Analyst haves come up with a variety of explanations for what might have caused the drop including a drop in stock prices and speculation about reserves.
Olympic snowboarding medalist, Shaun White, not having a good day. He's now apologizing after police say he pulled a fire alarm and broke a phone at a national hotel, then tried to take off in a cab after kicking a hotel guest who tried to stop him.
White now faces vandalism and public intoxication charges. White who's red hair earned him the nickname the flying tomato was released on his on own recognizance.
And there are some new faces coming to NBC hit show, "The Voice," this spring. Pop star's Usher and Shakira will replace current coaches and judges, I guess, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green in the revolving chairs for the fourth season. Green and Aguilera both released statement saying that they needed more time to focus on their day jobs.
They're expected to return to the show after a hiatus. The other two coaches, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine will remain. Are you a fan of "The Voice?"
JOHNS: Yes, I am, actually. And I got to tell you.
JOHNS: How on Earth is Usher and Shakira going to have time to go and do the show?
BOLDUAN: I don't know. I mean, it's clearly a demanding schedule.
JOHNS: It's got to be.
BOLDUAN: And they have very demanding schedules for the (INAUDIBLE). So, I don't see this as an excuse for Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. Like, that seems like a valid reason --
JOHNS: Hopefully, yes, I know. Full plate.
JOHNS: We know about that.
JOHNS: After a string of deadly attacks, we're digging into a new surprising policy change by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
JOHNS: We've all seen speed cameras and red light cameras, but now stop sign cameras? We'll show you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
JOHNS: A suicide attack killed 12 people today near Kabul's airport. Eight of the dead were South Africans working for an air charter firm. An insurgent group says the bomber was a young woman. The attack is a part of a fresh wave of violence in Afghanistan which is leading to a drastic change for the U.S.-led military coalition. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the details -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Joe, you remember that 33,000 man surge extra U.S. troops into Afghanistan? By the end of this month they will all be home. But right now that may be the only good news in this conflict.
STARR (voice-over): A suicide bombing in Kabul. Violent protests break out in reaction to a film mocking the prophet Mohammed and more insider attacks. Coalition forces including Americans killed by Afghan forces. To deal with it all, a stunning turnaround in U.S. military policy. NATO and Afghan forces will stop what were routine frontline combat operations where they team up in the field. General John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander made the decision after saying this less than a month ago.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN, USAF COMMANDER: At this particular moment I don't believe that we need to contemplate reducing our contact with the Afghans.
STARR: But now with tensions high, a coalition military official tells CNN that NATO will lower its profile. We think it's smarter to withdraw from certain operations, he says. It means about 100,000 frontline forces, mainly Americans, will not go on combat missions with Afghan units unless they get specific permission. It breaks a vital link, says Stephen Biddle, who has advised the Pentagon.
STEPHEN BIDDLE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We have now decided apparently that that partnering model of very close shoulder- to-shoulder interaction across the rank structure with Afghans is too dangerous because Afghans are shooting us when we do that.
STARR: On Monday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted that insider attacks are in his words the last gasp of the Taliban. The former U.S. ambassador disagrees.
RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMB. TO AFGHANISTAN: I'll believe it's their last gas when I've got my boot on the throat of the last one of them.
STARR: How bad is the last gasp? Fifty-one coalition forces killed by Afghans in uniform or pretending to be Afghan troops so far this year, nearly twice what it was all of last year.
STARR: Now Panetta as secretary of defense may be at odds with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey who says these insider attacks now threaten basically the entire ward. Dempsey says in his words, you can't whitewash it. Something has to change -- Joe.
JOHNS: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks for that, Barbara.
The war in Afghanistan is one area where President Obama and Mitt Romney find some room for agreement. CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence goes in depth for us.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy thousand American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.
LAWRENCE: But will Election Day affect them one way or the other? We see two candidates moving closer and closer to the point where there's not much space between them.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Next year Afghans will take the lead for their own security. In 2014 the transition will be complete.
LAWRENCE (on camera): There were real differences at the beginning of Governor Romney's campaign last summer when he seemed to criticize President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
ROMNEY: It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can. I also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. LAWRENCE (voice-over): But the governor's position evolved. By November he opposed any plan to bring most of the troops home before 2014.
ROMNEY: I stand with the commanders in this regard and have no information that suggests that pulling our troops out faster than that would do anything but put at great peril the extraordinary sacrifice that's been made. This is not time for America to cut and run.
LAWRENCE (on camera): Whomever sits in the Oval Office will have to decide how the U.S. hands over to the Afghans and that's where we see the biggest difference when it comes to talking with the Taliban.
OBAMA: We're pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): While President Obama makes a distinction between Taliban and al Qaeda, Governor Romney says he won't haggle with a group that has killed American troops.
ROMNEY: We don't negotiate with terrorists. I will not negotiate with the Taliban. That's something for the Afghans to decide how they're going to pursue their course in the future.
LAWRENCE: So there's negotiation versus no negotiation with the Taliban. President Obama announced an end date years in advance. Governor Romney opposed publicizing that date. The president ended the surge this month during the fighting season. The governor would have kept additional troops there through December.
Analysts say neither man has spent much time talking about the war. But Mark Jacobson says that's partly because the big strategic issues like the surge and handover have been pretty much decided.
MARK JACOBSON, GERMAN MARSHALL FUND: What we're looking at now is execution of this strategy. And that doesn't require the same sort of political capital and time from Washington, D.C. that was required two years ago.
LAWRENCE: The two men don't exactly agree on how the fighting affects the nation's finances.
OBAMA: Because after two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it's time to do some nation building right here at home.
ROMNEY: Of course the return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts.
LAWRENCE: So the biggest difference on Afghanistan may be how to spend the money when the war is over.
Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.
JOHNS: All this week CNN is going in depth on key foreign policy issues. Next week we're tackling social issues. Up next, who is actually in the 47 percent reference by Mitt Romney? We'll show you.
JOHNS: A lot of political buzz today about the number 47 percent after that bruising videotape surfaced from a Mitt Romney fundraiser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims who believe that government has a responsibility to care of them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: CNN's Tom Foreman is breaking down just who's in that so- called 47 percent. You're over at the "Magic Wall", Tom. So tell me, break it down.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, this really is this phrase that has just ignited everything. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing." First of all, are 47 percent with President Obama? Yes, the polls say that is very likely. And Mitt Romney was correct in his extended comments to say 47 percent of Americans don't pay income tax so they're in some way, some way dependent on government. For some of them that's just because they don't make enough money to pay income tax. Whether it's because they get enough tax credits to offset their liability.
Now, it's worth noting that of all these people who pay no income tax still have to pay payroll tax, you know, those deductions that on our paycheck, most of them, 61 percent pay the payroll tax. Other people pay sales taxes, maybe property taxes. In addition, people of plenty different varieties get some variety of benefits from the government. Look at the percentages in this country of people who receive Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, housing assistance, it is a tremendous number of people. Look at this -- 49 percent here receive benefits from one or more programs. However, in suggesting that 47 percent of the people who support President Obama and the 47 percent who rely on the government in some fashion are the same people, that's where Mitt Romney gets into a little bit of trouble.
For example, if you had a retiree who is living on Social Security, undeniably depending on the government it's statistically much more likely to be Republican. Same with a middle-aged man who has been laid off and who is counting on unemployment checks temporarily to support his family. Both might be troubled if they feel thrown in as part of this victim class that Mr. Romney is talking about. Still, one last point here, Joe, even when you consider that this is the real problem, that you're comparing this 47 percent to this 47 percent and in fact there may be a lot of Republicans over here, even if you do all of that, there's one last thing that while Democrats may crow about this and say Mr. Romney has insulted a whole bunch of people and made them angry, this is one last thing that I think you have to look at in this.
Look at this recent survey by Gallup. (INAUDIBLE) how much you alienate them. This found that 54 percent of people even right now still think that the government is doing too much for people. And those folks may be more inclined to buy into Mr. Romney's comments than most Democrats are. They may in fact say, yes, when he's talking about victims, he's not talking about us even if we're getting benefits. The question how each side spins that, that's going to be the measure of it I think -- Joe.
JOHNS: Yes, everybody thinks that 47 percent doesn't apply to them. Thanks so much for that, Tom Foreman.
A different target in the Middle East unrest. Protesters have been going after embassies. Now some people are angry at YouTube.
JOHNS: New backlash against YouTube for blocking some countries from viewing that insulting anti-Muslim film fueling anti-American sentiment across the Middle East. Let's bring in CNN Silicon Valley correspondent, Dan Simon, with details.
DAN SIMON, CNN SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Joe. YouTube, of course, has policies on what can go on the site. Obviously, you can't have nudity. You can't have graphic violence, and you can't have hate speech. They went and looked at this trailer, the "Innocence of Muslims" trailer and they determined that it can stay on the site, but they blocked it in Egypt and Libya, and that has at least one free speech group crying foul.
SIMON (voice-over): Violence and death spurred in part by an anti-Islam video. YouTube says the film trailer, "Innocence of Muslims," doesn't violate its policies. Yet it decided to block the video in both Libya and Egypt. But free speech lawyers like Eva Galperin say that's not the right course.
EVA GALPERIN, ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION: The responsibility for the violence falls entirely on the perpetrators of the violence. And by making this a discussion about censorship, you are really taking the blame away from the people who are really responsible. And I feel that that is really misguided and dangerous.
SIMON: Galperin is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that aims to defend digital rights around the world. She says once Google, the parent company of YouTube, starts censoring content, they start going down a slippery slope. EFF, which has never been shy to weigh in on controversial subjects, is accusing Google of turning its back on policies that promote freedom of expression.
GALPERIN: For many years, if you were a YouTube user and you wanted to upload a video, you understood that as long as it was not a violation of the terms of service and not a violation of the law, that it would stay up.
SIMON: In a statement YouTube says, "We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy, and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge, because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video, which is widely available on the Web, is clearly within our guidelines, and so will stay on YouTube. However, we've restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal, such as India and Indonesia, as well as in Libya and Egypt, given the very sensitive situations in these two countries." Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a graduate of UC Hastings Law School (ph) in San Francisco. Josiah Houck, a second-year lawsuit says YouTube made the appropriate call given all that's happened.
JOSIAH HOUCK, HASTINGS LAW STUDENT: They don't have the responsibility in foreign countries to do things that are bad risks for their business interests or adverse to the interest of Americans there. I think it's deciding what's in the best interests of Americans in Libya and in the Middle East, and I think they don't really have an interest in keeping this video up for any significant purpose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Below each video, you'll find a flag button.
SIMON: Under Google's procedures, YouTube users can flag objectionable content. Google staff then looks at the video and decides whether it needs company guidelines.
SIMON: So YouTube trying to walk a fine line here. Obviously, they had to make a judgment call. Joe, the unknown answer is whether or not you could have more inflammatory videos pop up on the site, which could then spur violence in other parts of the world -- Joe.
JOHNS: Dan Simon in Sausalito (ph), thanks for that.
A warning for drivers. Watch out the next time you see a stop sign, because someone may be watching what you do.
JOHNS: Drivers here in Washington, beware. Cameras are watching you on the road and it's not just speeding you should be careful about, but stopping as well. CNN's Sandra Endo joins us now with the details -- Sandra.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, it's another way drivers could be caught on camera and D.C. is already one of the most congested towns in the country and now drivers may have some more aggravation when they get behind the wheel. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ENDO (voice-over): In Washington, D.C., obey the four simple letters s-t-o-p or pay the price.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us a break. The stop sign cameras are out of the question. Give us a break.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they should put it on the stop signs now. I think that's a little too much.
ENDO: The nation's capital is following the lead of California, where photo-enforced stop signs have been raking in the dough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got a ticket in the mail of a (INAUDIBLE) sheet with a picture of my vehicle and my license plate. I just think they're a revenue for California.
ENDO: These cameras placed in the Santa Monica Hills were put up in 2007. Offenders fined 100 bucks brought in $2 million last year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it's something that's not posted and people aren't aware of it or they don't announce it and just kind of put there and you don't know it's there, that is kind of misleading.
ENDO: But drivers are warned. Washington, D.C., is gearing up to install 16 stop sign cameras by the end of the year, mostly at intersections near schools. Run through one of these, and it will cost you $50 in the district. Last year's D.C. red light and speed limit cameras raked in $55 million. City officials say it's not about the revenue, it's about safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police department's only goal is to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities.
ENDO (on camera): In order to avoid a penalty, under the law the car has to come to a full and complete stop before the crosswalk in order to count as a legal stop.
(voice-over): At this intersection near an elementary school, CNN saw a number of drivers rolling through stop signs, prompting one motorist to welcome the cameras.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People go through stop signs like they don't exist, so I think it's a good idea.
ENDO: D.C. officials say they're really going after drivers who speed up into an intersection, which will trigger the cameras in the first place. And before these cameras are installed, they'll give residents a 30-day warning period to make sure they know the cameras are there -- Joe.
JOHNS: Sandra Endo, thanks for that.
Happening now, the Romney campaign in full damage control mode. How badly will the secret tape hurt him?
The Obama campaign seizes the moment. And who are the 47 percent Romney calls victims in that leaked tape? We're digging deeper.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Joe Johns along with Kate Bolduan. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.