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U.S. Official: North Korea Not In Control Of Satellite; Holder: Automatically Register Every Voter; Interview with Leon Panetta; Interview with Jeff Sessions

Aired December 12, 2012 - 19:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news on North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket. What we're learning about just how much control the country has over that satellite.

Plus, Erin Burnett has an exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about this launch. She also talks with him about Syria, what we're learning tonight about the forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad and how scud missiles have been fired. The United States government says it shows just how desperate Assad's regime is now getting.

And also, our first look at the shooter who police believe is responsible for last night's deadly rampage in a Portland-area mall. Police have identified him as well as the two people that he killed. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield in for Erin Burnett tonight who is on assignment in Afghanistan. We've got breaking news right off the top. CNN just learning that the United States does not believe that North Korea is in full control of that satellite that it sent into space with the long-range rocket launch.

This is according to a U.S. official to our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. You know, up until now, by most accounts, this launch has been seen as a success, or certainly it raised the bar on how we view their capabilities.

Erin Burnett spoke with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, exclusively in Kabul about this very issue. Take a look.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for taking the time.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Good to be with you, Erin.

BURNETT: I wanted to start by asking you about North Korea. I know, obviously, they've had failures with rocket launches and eight months ago they failed. Now they've had a success. And I'm wondering if you know how they fixed it or whether they might have had help from another country? PANETTA: We have no idea. As a matter of fact, we're still assessing just exactly what happened here to look at each of the stages and determine whether or not it really was a success or not. But, you know, the fact that they've launched this missile is a clear provocation.

We've warned them not do it. We've been very concerned about their firing this missile, in violation of every international standard and rule. And, you know, it's clear that have one of the reasons we're rebalancing in the pacific is to deal with the threat from North Korea and we will. We're prepared to do that. We will respond if we have to.

BURNETT: How will we respond? Does this mean they could hit the United States?

PANETTA: No, the fact is that we do have a very strong missile defense that would be able to guard against that kind of potential and --

BURNETT: So we would be able to stop it if it were coming in?

PANETTA: I'm very confident that we would be able to do that. Obviously, the hope is that we never have to face that kind of threat, and that's why we continue to warn them against this kind of provocation. Because, you know, frankly, it doesn't help the situation in Korea.

It just creates a greater provocation, not only towards the United States, but towards South Korea. And the result is that tensions increase there and it makes the concern about some kind of miscalculation that much greater.

BURNETT: And there was one thing you said. You said you weren't -- you were still determining whether it was a success or not. Is that still something that the U.S. is not sure about?

PANETTA: No, I think we still have to assess just exactly what happened here. Track, you know track, you know -- we had radar tracking the flight of that, to be able to analyze exactly what happened during the course of that flight, the various stages.

And then most importantly, the final stage, to determine really whether or not that did work effectively, or whether it tumbled into space. I mean, that's the issue that we need to assess.


BANFIELD: And we will have more from Erin's interview with Secretary Panetta a little later on in the program. But I want to bring in James "Spider" Marks, retired U.S. Army general, who served as a senior intelligence officer in Korea.

And also Victor Cha, who served as director for Asian Affairs at the White House from 2004 to 2007, where he was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy for North Korea. Spider, let me begin with you. The secretary is not necessarily calling this a success. Barbara Starr is reporting that the U.S. doesn't think that Korea has any control out of this, short of saying it's tumbling out of control.

They're not in full control. Does that matter? Is this splitting hairs or semantics, or is this really still quite a leg that they have now up in this battle?

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): I think it's significant that they were able to establish the capability of launching a three-stage rocket.

I think we will determine whether they were able to put a tip or at least some form of a satellite into an orbit and then what's it doing up there, at this point, is not significant.

We shouldn't worry that that was an armed or a nuclearized or a weaponized tip. I think they just wanted, primarily, to establish the ability to launch it into an extra atmospheric type of orbit, and they were able to do that with a three-stage rocket.

The real concern that we would have is how do they weaponize that, but this clearly is a provocation against all U.N. resolutions.

BANFIELD: Yes, it's a big difference, weaponizing with WMDs or nukes, and maybe, Victor, just weigh in on that. If there is this suspicion and if it bears any truth, that Iran may have actually helped this process along, does that not equate to Iran would be willing to help the process along in terms of nuclear warheads as well?

VICTOR CHA, FORMER NSC ASIA AFFAIRS ADVISER: That's entirely a possibility as well, Ashleigh. I think that the relationship between Iran and North Korea, when it comes to this missile business, has been quite deep, quite robust.

Every Iranian missile of the Shahab design, from one through four, have all been North Korean missiles. So there's a real history of cooperation there and I would imagine that it would continue.

With regard to whether this thing is a satellite or whatever it is, if the North Koreans don't have control of it, that, to me, would not be that surprising, because they really don't have a full-fledged space program.

They just disguise this as a space launch, but as the General said, this is clearly for a military application, before it is for a civilian application.

BANFIELD: And let me jump back to you, General Marks, about the issue of, the tactics. Tactically, they really can't do much to us. I think you have said before, we can defend against a no-warning missile attack here in the United States, so why is this such a big deal, or is it? MARKS: Well, it is a big deal. They have not done this before. They've had a couple of launches, you know, about 15 years ago, they launched a rocket over Japan. It was a surprise to most of us. That occurred just before I took over as the senior intel guy in Korea.

And we've been watching these developments very, very closely. This is a big deal. Ashleigh, this is a big deal. But the arrangement along the peninsula was established close to 50 years ago, as a result of the cold war, and what we need to do, as Victor has indicated, is we've got to change the dynamic here.

Iran is very much a part of the discussion, but not included in what we know as the six-party talks, which are Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and Japan.

We need to try to change the dynamics here, so that there isn't this provocation, because what you have along the peninsula is quite stark. You have this incredibly robust and modern South Korea and this stark, dark nation directly across the DMZ.

BANFIELD: Victor, who does have influence over Pyongyang?

CHA: Well, I think for many years, we believed it was the Chinese. The Chinese are the primary source of food and economic assistance, energy assistance to North Korea. But then, again, the Chinese had a high-level visit to North Korea the day before that they announced that they were going to do this missile launch.

So, even the Chinese, I think, are quite frustrated. But at the same time, I would imagine that they're also not willing to completely abandon the North Koreans, because they don't want to see instability in the north, which would then suggest instability along their border.

And that is something they don't want to see. So China is really the country that has the most influence, and yet it's very difficult to move them to a place where the United States, Japan, South Korea.

The other members of the six-party talks would like China to go, which is to put more pressure on the north, such that they stop these sorts of provocations and stop their missile and nuclear programs.

BANFIELD: All right, Victor Cha and Spider Marks, thank you to you both for your perspective on this tonight. Do appreciate it.

OUTFRONT next, with just 20 days until the fiscal cliff, both sides are saying very little about progress, which is really what everybody wants. So you would think the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee knows a thing or two about what's going on, right? You'd be thinking wrong. Republican Jeff Sessions comes OUTFRONT tonight.

Also, how far is too far when you're interviewing someone on a sensitive topic? Barbara Walters asks Governor Chris Christie if he is too fat for the job of president. John Avlon's going to weigh in on this one with a little bit of historical perspective. Also, a new twist in the very bizarre story about John McAfee, the internet tycoon has now left Guatemala. Police want to question him about a murder in Belize, but that is not where he's headed. Details next.


BANFIELD: Our second story OUTFRONT, getting out the vote. You know, there's just nothing like being an American citizen. You can say what's on your mind and you get to vote, or do you?

Because according to the Census Bureau, 60 million people failed to vote in 2008 because they weren't registered. Some people had moved or were unaware of the deadline to register, because it's quite a bit before the election.

They also apparently were quite discouraged by the complex registration procedures. So, because of that, Attorney General Eric Holder has a solution for our voting system.

In a speech last night that really largely went unnoticed, he said this, "Automatically register every eligible voter in America and enable their registration to move when they do." So is this an obvious solution or is this the government going too far?

OUTFRONT tonight, political analyst Roland Martin and David Frum, former senior adviser to George W. Bush. David, I know you've written extensively about this.

On its surface, that just sounds terrific. Just make it easier for every red-blooded American citizen to be able to vote. But I know you say this is kind of just far too small of a solution. Why?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. America has a uniquely ram shackle voting system. It's sort of injurious to the national pride to hear that Brazil does it better, but Brazil does it better, and so does Mexico.

So what I'm disappointed in from the attorney general is there are a lot of problems, he's picked one, it's an important problem. But it also happens to be a problem, the fixing of which would benefit his party.

Because probably the younger people, the less -- the more mobile people, who would be benefited, would tend to vote Democrat, which is fine. Democrats should vote too. But if you're going to fix it, do a real fix.

Don't simply introduce something that is advantageous to one party, as if it's a complete solution, when there are so many problems that need to be fixed together, as was recommended by the post-recount reform commissions in 2002.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OK, I'm sorry, first of all, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: You're not even going to wait for the question, are you, Roland?

MARTIN: I'm sorry, I can't. I'm trying to figure out. Only Democrats somehow move? Look, this is not a Democrat or a Republican thing. I've covered city government, I've covered county government. I can tell you as somebody who has at the table and watched this nonsense happen, it is ridiculous.

The problem this country is that we have 50 different rules because it's done by state. Then when you go in those 50 states, then you have different counties. Part of the problem, you have federal elections, congressional races, senatorial races, presidential race, and then you have your state and local races.

This is the start of -- a starting point, if you will. So if Attorney General Eric Holder, David, had come out with eight or ten different ideas, folks would have been going nuts saying, no, that's too much.

It's a way to begin the process, because it is convoluted, in some places, Ashleigh, it's so crazy. If you literally move from one apartment, right next-door to the next one, your voter registration is ineligible. That's how crazy it is.

BANFIELD: David, let me ask you this. You suggest that voter registration is just one very little plank in a very big problem. And yet so many people, within hours and the next days after the election suggested that President Obama may have won this election because he had a better ground game.

He was able to get out there in the community, register voters, et cetera. So Eric Holder's solution would theoretically even the playing field for Republicans. That's got to be palatable.

FRUM: No, it probably wouldn't because Republicans do tend to be more registered. Democrats always need a better ground game, because their voters, younger, poorer, more mobile are more likely to fall off the registration polls.

Let me give you a very concrete example of the kind of problem that the attorney general does not address. The election of 2000, there was a big mess up in the voting in the city of St. Louis. There were lines that went -- that were not yet discharged at the time of the -- that was appointed for the end of the voting.

The local -- very Democratic city, St. Louis, in a crucial state, Missouri, local Democrats went to an elected judge, a political official, and asked that judge to extend voting hours.

In no other democracy in the world does that kind of decision get made by an elected official, who comes from one party or the other. Everybody else has some kind of National Electoral Commission, has nonpartisan officers.

Throughout the United States, it's done in a political way. You have to fix all of these problems, or else -- by the way, none of them will work, because if it is seen to tilt to one side, nothing will happen.

MARTIN: David, you're talking about a line. We're talking about just getting people to the line and that is what I'm saying. Again, you're absolutely right. It's a broad issue that we have here. Lots of problems, but one of the fundamental problems is when you have different registration dates.

When you start to talk about different criteria in one state compared to the others, in terms of what you need, the beginning process is to, first of all, get people registered.

I think the attorney general is talking about the most basic fundamental issue, and that is affirming the right to vote for every American. What you're talking about is later in the process. Let's just get them registered, first.

BANFIELD: And I have to leave it there, although this conversation, there is certainly more to it than that. Roland Martin, David Frum, thank you both. Do appreciate it.

And OUTFRONT next, Chris Christie is asked if he is too fat to be president. Which questions, if any, should be off-limits?

And also, Erin Burnett has an exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and she asks him pointedly, what does the United States need to do to help end the violence in Syria, if anything at all?


BANFIELD: Our third story OUTFRONT, fit for duty. How far is too far when it comes to asking someone if you're too fat for the job? Many would say that question is just plain and simple off-limits.

But Barbara Walters went there in an interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in an interview that's going to air tonight. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are people who say that you couldn't be president because you're so heavy. What do you say to that?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No, that's ridiculous. That's ridiculous. I mean, I don't know what the basis --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're worried about your health.

CHRISTIE: Well, I've done this job pretty well, and I think people watched me for the last number of weeks in Hurricane Sandy doing 18-hour days and getting right back up the next day and being just as effective in the job so I don't think that's a problem.


BANFIELD: So is that or isn't it a fair question? OUTFRONT tonight, John Avlon, who knows a thing or two about all of our presidents and all the history surrounding them.

Let me start by the obvious question, you're a heartbeat away from the presidency when you're a vice president, that was an issue when people talking about him being a possible running mate this time around.

When you're the president and you potentially do have health risks, isn't that a fair question for the American people to ponder?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a fair question to ponder in the ballot box. I don't think it's a legitimate question to throw at a guy who's thinking about running for president.

Look, at the end of the day, the American people are smart. They're going to make a judgment about someone's weight among all the other factors that they look at. Ultimately, it's about job performance.

And I'm with Chris Christie on this one. Look, people in the country have seen him responding to Hurricane Sandy, working around the clock, and he's done by all accounts an exemplary job. That's what matters. That's the key criteria.

BANFIELD: You're right.

AVLON: Ashleigh, the only thing is, look, will some people take it as a style point? Sure, but it's not the real substance by which you decide.

BANFIELD: Way outside the style of all of this. There is facts behind the fact and the National Institutes of Health say if you're about 5'11" and weigh 215 pounds, you're considered obese. And the risks that are scientifically associated with being obese are severe.

I mean, blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, certain cancers, that's unavoidable, those are realities. And that, by the way, are just at obese.

There are other statistics for being even heavier than that, and Chris Christie's never said how heavy he is, but isn't that a concern for the leader of the free world to be at risk for this many more diseases than the average guy?

AVLON: It's a concern, but I don't think it's determined the American people would have to take that into account. Number one, it's a concern for Chris Christie and his family. And I think if he decides to run for president, you'll probably see an attempt to lose weight, probably for style reasons. But he's proven the ability to do the job. The job performance is there.

BANFIELD: Yes, he has. He has shown a lot of people that he's great at what he does. That's not the disputed issue here. Let me ask you about your incredible acumen in the history of presidents. Give me some background. We never used to talk about this stuff. This was off-limits completely with our historical presidents and there were some serious health concerns with a number of them. AVLON: Absolutely. Look, we've had some seriously large mammals as presidents before too. William Howard Taft, famously, a very large guy. Grover Cleveland before him, so this isn't unprecedented territory, let's not pretend that it is.

More important than someone's weight or even what health concerns they have is probably their age. And Chris Christie is just 50 years old. So while he absolutely should, in a matter of health, get himself in better shape, we've had presidents elected with far more serious health problems, polio, FDR, Adison's disease, JFK.

BANFIELD: Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and the entire nation did not know his wife was running the country?

AVLON: Effectively, yes. In his second term, Wilson had a stroke and his second wife was running the country. Eisenhower had a serious heart attack. So we've dealt with health problems in presidents before. This is obvious. No one is going to be surprised that this is an issue.

BANFIELD: But we're in the age of demanding to know everything and reality TV.

AVLON: We have a fascination with 2016 and a fascination with superficial appearances, when really this job is about substance and performance.

BANFIELD: All right, John Avlon, getting to the heart of the matter. Thank you. Appreciate it.

And OUTFRONT next, just 20 days away from the fiscal cliff and we're still seeing the wheeling and the dealing, behind closed doors, though. One senior Republican senator says he has had enough of all the secrecy and he's coming OUTFRONT with us to talk about it.

Plus, some new details in that Portland area mall shooting. We're going to give you a first look at the man that police say was responsible.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFFRONT. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, in for Erin Burnett, who's on assignment in Afghanistan tonight.

And we start the second half hour with stories that we care about.

Internet tycoon John McAfee, who was on the run for weeks, now appears to be back in the United States after being released and deported from Guatemala this morning. Guatemalan officials tell CNN that he boarded a flight bound for Miami this afternoon and according to flight records, that plane has landed.

International criminal defense lawyer Douglas McNabb tells us the only way that McAfee could be considered for extradition to Belize instead is if authorities there had charged him with a crime. But so far, McAfee is only wanted in Belize for questioning in the death of his neighbor, but not charged with it.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is recovering in a Cuban hospital after a six-hour surgery to treat cancer. The type of cancer remains unknown, but the country's vice president says Chavez's recovery will be complex and difficult, and has asked Venezuelans to pray for their leader.

Chavez's illness was first reported 18 months ago and he's had at least two operations since that time. On Saturday, the leader announced that the cancer had returned.

The Federal Reserve has announced that it's going to keep short- term interest rates near zero, at least as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent. Tonight, unemployment is at 7.7 percent. And Jim Bianco, who follows the Fed, told us that he believes it's going to be well into 2014 or even 2015 before we get to that 6.5 percent unemployment rate.

The Fed has also said that it will extend its program to buy $45 billion in treasuries, every month, in addition to its existing policy of buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month.

It's been 496 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke warns that we're already paying the price for teetering on the edge of this fiscal cliff and he points to a recent drop in consumer and business confidence and says he hopes that Congress will do the right thing and not kick the can down the road.

So that brings us to our fourth story, OUTFRONT: Deal, no deal? Deal, no deal?

It is not a Howie Mandel story. It's everything to do about the fiscal cliff. And it's happening behind closed doors. And what is said in public does not seem to clear anything up.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The longer the White House slow-walks this discussion, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff, and the more American jobs are placed in jeopardy.


BANFIELD: So what's really going on behind the scenes?

Earlier, I spoke with Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who's been asking the same question, and I asked him, how much he, as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, actually knows about what's going on.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Very little -- almost nothing, frankly. I mean, I learned from sources that the speaker was disappointed and things were not moving forward as well as he seemed to have indicated right there in those public remarks. But otherwise, really, we don't know.

And the people that are losing in this process, this secret process, are the American people. They'll be the ones asked to pay more taxes. They may be the ones that are asked to tighten their belts. And they need to know what the choices are and what we're wrestling with. And they need to know how their congressmen and senators stands and feels about these issues.

And I really think the classic understanding of the way Congress should operate is being undermined, because we're not having committees, we're not having amendments, we're not having votes, we're not having debates, we're just sitting here, waiting for the president and the speaker to tell us what to do, apparently.

BANFIELD: I think a lot of people are gobsmacked, hearing that from someone of your ilk. You're the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. It does sound like you're pretty rankled by this whole process, but it also sounds like you're a bit upset with your Republican leadership.

SESSIONS: Well, I'm -- you know, first of all, it's driven by Harry Reid. He refused to bring up a budget, to bring up a single appropriations bill.

BANFIELD: But you just mentioned Speaker Boehner.

SESSIONS: Well, I was going to get to that. He's driven this process, and about the only thing the Republicans could have done would be to protest it, and fight harder about it. And we have, but I don't think effectively enough. And we've now, at the end, fallen into this trap, I would suggest on of just having secret negotiations.

I really wish we could have avoided it. But this was the strategy of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, and they carried it out for almost three years -- over two years now.

BANFIELD: All right. You said in your op-ed today, and I want to quote you directly. In part, you said, "Washington has become possessed by the idea that a small group of negotiators, meeting in secret, can solve the deep, painful, and systemic problems plaguing this country with a single grand bargain, produced at the 59th minute of the 11th hour. This is a siren song."

I suppose the question would be then, what makes you think, senator, that a larger group of lawmakers, say Congress, would be able to do any better, given the unbearable gridlock that y'all have been in, and given the fact that Gallup has even polled y'all at 10 percent favorability.

What makes you think you can do better?

SESSIONS: Ashleigh, I think, had we been debating for the last two years openly and honestly, the very difficult choices this country faces, the threat we have over us from the debt, the American, and we've done so intelligently and effectively, and our members are capable of that, I believe the American people would have a better --

BANFIELD: But, Senator, I think there are a lot of people who disagree with you and say, open and wonderful debate, sure, but the filibuster stops a lot of that from happening. And that the vote, ultimately, no matter how wonderful you orators are, ends up being right along party lines.

SESSIONS: Well, look, after you voted and voted and voted, pretty soon you get exhausted, right? Pretty soon, everybody who advocates one view that can't be successfully won by votes has to begin to think that a compromise is appropriate. And our leaders, at that point, I think it would be appropriate for them to try to bring people together to reach an agreement.

But you have to understand, that we've not really had a national discussion about these big issues, have we? We've not brought it up in our committees. No budget has been laid out, directly not laid out by budget, because the Democratic leadership didn't want to discuss it publicly.

BANFIELD: So, Senator, the polling --

SESSIONS: I'm just telling you, that's the fact. I'm not exaggerating. It was a strategy executed not to publicly debate and have votes on the great issue of our time.

BANFIELD: Well, no matter what happens, there seems to be gridlock, whether it's the big process or the little process at this point.

Senator, delighted to talk to you. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful holiday.

SESSIONS: Thank you, Ashleigh.


BANFIELD: We are now getting our first glimpses of the man police say went on a deadly shooting spree in a mall crowded with Christmas shoppers outside of Portland, Oregon, yesterday. Investigators say 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts acted alone when he allegedly squeezed off at least 20 shots, sending thousands of shoppers running for their lives. We're also hearing police dispatch audio from those horrifying moments.


DISPATCH: Just confirming you said an active shooter?

OFFICER 1: Yes, there's one person that's saying that there's a man with the rifle near the food court and he's still shooting people.

OFFICER 2: We are out here on foot and there are people bailing out like crazy from everywhere. (END AUDIO CLIP)

BANFIELD: CNN's Kyung Lah is outside of the Clackamas Town Center, and that's what you were just hearing about on that audio recording.

Kyung, we're piecing together all of this information, bit by bit, including that the gunman officially tried to flee in the middle of all of this volley of gunfire, and that he was also yelling out to witnesses, that he was the shooter.

But what are we finding out about maybe the most important element, motive? Why did this happen?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very, very difficult to know right now.

Police themselves are saying, look, we just don't know. We don't know what the motive is. We don't have much of a criminal history on this man. In fact, he really wasn't on the radar at all for police.

When you talk to his family, we reached out to his mother and family friends, what they say is there were no apparent warning signs. You think back to the Colorado movie shooting, to Virginia Tech, there were significant signs. But in this case, his family and his friends are saying, they just didn't see it. They thought of him as a normal 22-year-old boy, a family friend saying he was just a good boy.

The only sign that we saw, Ashleigh, of perhaps a fascination with guns is when we looked at his Facebook page. There is a picture of a man firing a handgun, it appears to be him.

So there appears to be some fascination with guns. But at this point, that's really the only apparent sign right now.

BANFIELD: You know, the remarkable fact here was that there was somewhere around 10,000 people -- 10,000 people in that mall at the time. So despite the fact that two people were shot dead, including the gunman, who shot himself dead, and one was injured, you would think that the toll would be much, much higher.

What happened?

LAH: Absolutely. You think about what any American mall looks like during this time, when it's packed with shoppers, the fact that there were only two, and while it's certainly very difficult for these families, it's incredibly lucky.

What police are saying is that the gun jammed early on. That was a lucky stroke. When he started firing, the gun jammed very early, when he was in the food court.

But then there were other things that police did tactically. Police no longer wait for SWAT to get in place, because of the lessons that they've learned, from Columbine, from Virginia Tech. They move in as quickly as possible. They don't wait for SWAT. They move in. The other thing is, you mentioned, Ashleigh, those 10,000 people inside the shopping mall, they stayed cool. They reached out. They helped each other. They dragged people in.

And that's in part why police say there were not as many injuries.

BANFIELD: And we should remember that that other victim in the hospital is just a teenage girl who was fighting for her life last night and remains in the hospital.

Kyung Lah, thank you for that. Do appreciate it.

OUTFRONT next, Erin Burnett's exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Syria and what it would take for U.S. intervention.

And then a very strange story. A country is being accused of using vultures as spies. No joke.


BANFIELD: We are back with tonight's "Outer Circle", where we reach out to our sources all around the world.

And we want to start in Sudan's Darfur region. That's where the government officials there say that a captured vulture is part of an Israeli spy mission.

Nima Elbagir is following the story for us. And I asked her just what evidence do the Sudanese officials have to give their claim any support.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, after that deadly strike on the Sudanese weapons factory back in October, which Sudan blamed on Israel, it did look like relations between the two countries could get nit worse. But it appears they, in fact, can.

The Eurasian griffon vulture migrates to Israel en route from Europe to Africa. And Israel ecologists have been tagging the bird for years in a bit to track the migration patterns. But when a bird fell to Earth in Sudan's western Darfur region, local authorities were a bit perturbed to find Hebrew writing and a tracker on the wing and promptly declared to the local press that the GPS tracking devices were clearly the latest in Mossad spyware.

We have no word on the bird's current whereabouts -- Ashleigh.


BANFIELD: Nima Elbagir, thank you for that.

Time now to check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "360". Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Ashleigh. We're keeping them honest tonight on the program.

We're going to talk more on that North Korean rocket launch. The country spent more than $1 billion on that rocket launch, North Korea, even as their own people starve and suffer. And while the world is focusing on the rocket, our focus tonight is something that you may not know, that North Korea operates a network of concentration camps, political prisons, where some 150,000 people men, women, and children are forced to live, work, and often die.

We're going to take you inside where the most notorious camp is called Camp 14. I spoke with a young man who was actually born inside that camp as prisoner, raised there, managed to escape and lived to tell the world about what goes on inside, as part of a system of three generations of punishment, where they not just punish one person accused of a crime, but three generations from that person's family. It's an incredible story, and I urge you to watch it.

Plus, a story about an ex-Marine, a U.S. Marine, who says he was just trying to get to Costa Rica to go surfing. Instead, he was arrested at the border and thrown in a Mexican prison. That's where he is tonight, all for an old shotgun he says he registered properly when he crossed the border.

His family says his life is in danger. Our Gary Tuchman heads to Mexico to try to get answer.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" and a whole lot more at the top of the hour -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Hey, Anderson. Looking forward to it. Thank you for that.

Our fifth story OUTFRONT tonight: missiles in Syria. Syrian sources who are loyal to the president there, Bashar al Assad, fired at least four short range scud missiles at rebel fighters today, according to U.S. officials. There's no clear word on what kind of damage they inflicted.

But the escalation in fighting comes as the U.S. and allies closely monitor Syria's possible use of chemical weapons.

Erin Burnett sat down for an exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Afghanistan, and she asked about those weapons.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think there's a danger here, based on the intelligence that we got a few weeks ago, that, you know, they were, in fact, beginning to assemble these weapons and put them together. And when you do that, you know, that's a dangerous sign, that the next step is to use them. And so, that's why we issued this warnings we did, made very clear that there would be consequences.

And, you know, at least at this point, you know, the intelligence on this issue has kind of leveled off.

But my concern is this: that as the opposition continues to move against the regime, particularly as they move towards Damascus, that if the regime feels that it's in danger of collapsing, that it might very well resort to these kinds of weapons. That's what concerns me the most.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": You know, everyone has said, well, Syria is a chemical weapon superpower. I've heard that word, "superpower," used to describe them. Sarin gas, VX nerve agent, you know, we've heard about some of these things and what it can done.

But how good is our intelligence? How recent is our intelligence? How much do you really know about what Syria really has?

PANETTA: Well, we've been closely monitoring the situation with CBW for a long time, from the very beginning of this -- the war that's going on in Syria. Our -- one of our great concerns was the location of these CBW sites and whether they were secure and what was happening with them.

And we have been in very close collaboration with the adjoining countries -- Turkey, Jordan, Israel -- are all very concerned that CBW not fall into the wrong hands.

We are monitoring it as best we can. You know, there -- I can't say that this is 100 percent. But, you know, we usually have pretty good intelligence about some of the things that are happening.

But, this -- you know, let me put it this way: I think we would have pretty good intelligence if they made the decision to go get and try to use this.

BURNETT: And what would you do if they did? I mean, would that be something that would involve I mean, you know, Colonel Cedric Leighton, former joint chiefs, said to me that that would involve ground troops. You -- those would be a situation that the U.S. may have to consider that.

PANETTA: Well, I'm not going to go into the options because, obviously, the president would have to decide what steps we would take in that situation. And he made clear that there are going to be consequences.

We've obviously -- as we always do, developed plans that we can present to the president if that situation occurs, and then the president would have to make the decision what steps we would take to try to hopefully prevent that from happening.

BURNETT: So, troops -- you would give him an option of the ground troops. It would be his choice. But that would be among the ones --

PANETTA: Well, there would be -- I mean, there would be a series of options. As I said, I just don't want to go into the particulars of what they would be.

BURNETT: You know, President Obama has said, told ABC News, that the Syrian opposition is, quote-unquote, "legitimate" and had used that (ph), that he now president feels comfortable with that. But this comes in the same weeks, obviously, that you designated part of the opposition, one specific group, as a terrorist group.

How do you know, after so many months, saying we want to arm them or get involved because we don't know who they are, that now we seem to know so clearly?

PANETTA: Well, one of the things that we've made an effort to try to do is to be able to identify those elements of the opposition that we believe can represent the kind of leadership that ultimately can provide political transformation should the Assad regime go down as we expect that it will. And so, you know, over the last number of months, we've made an effort to identify who in the opposition represents that kind of leadership and to also identify those elements that we obviously don't support that involved al Qaeda or al Qaeda influence. That's what we identified yesterday.

And so, the effort now is to assure that the kind of opposition group that we support and that can bring a legitimate opposition together to transform government there is the one that we fully support.

BURNETT: It seems ironic and it has to be difficult for you -- I mean, since obviously you're supporting some groups, but there was an al Qaeda link group, supported group, that also wanted the same thing that the United States wants, getting rid of Bashar al Assad. And Libya was the same thing, al Qaeda wasn't able to get rid of Gadhafi and we helped them in that goal.

Does it -- is it strange that in a sense we're fighting for the same thing al Qaeda is?

PANETTA: Well, no. It's the nature of what's happening in the Middle East now. That as you have the Arab Spring occur, there are going to be very legitimate groups that want to be able to pursue a political transition to real democracy, to freedom, to all of the liberties and rights that we enjoy.

So, there are those groups, there are those that will try to take advantage of it. Extremist groups that will try to say, wait a minute, we don't want to head in that direction. We want to use this as an opportunity to basically promote extremism.

That is what happened in part of Libya. That's happening in Syria.

And our goal is to try to work with those that really want to pursue a legitimate political reform, to try to support them in their effort as opposed to try to, in any way, get al Qaeda to exert any kind of influence.

And it's tough. It's not easy.


PANETTA: There are extreme groups in these countries. But I think, deep down, people want to enjoy the kind of rights and freedoms that we have in this country. And I think, ultimately, that will prevail.


BANFIELD: Erin Burnett with the secretary of defense.

And OUTFRONT next, Erin is going to have a preview of her special show live tomorrow from Afghanistan.


BANFIELD: Tomorrow, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT is live from Afghanistan. And she has a preview of tomorrow's show from Kabul.


BURNETT: Good evening from Kabul, Ashleigh. I'm here in Afghanistan.

And tomorrow, we have a special report live OUTFRONT, the future of Afghanistan.

Daily life here is hectic -- people, traffic, animals. It is chaotic. And everywhere you look, there are armed men.

The Afghan national police are supposed to be taking over control, but they're struggling, at least from what we saw, to handle some simple things, like traffic control. Will they be ready when the U.S. troops leave? That's a crucial question and one we are trying to get answers to.

And after the longest war in American history, when will American troops leave? And when they do, what happens? Will this become a sanctuary for al Qaeda yet again? We are going to get answers to those questions with our interview with the secretary of defense, Leon Panetta.

And you are going to be meeting these girls. Their names are Supra (ph) and Sharzad (ph). They are just 14 months apart.

And these girls have big, big dreams. They are pretty inspirational. We're going to share it with you. And we are going to ask the question about what their future as girls is going to be when the American troops go home.

All that OUTFRONT tomorrow, live from Kabul -- Ashleigh.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BANFIELD: That sounds great. Erin, thanks so much.

An thank you all for joining us.

In the meantime, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.