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Attack Of The Drones; Hillary Clinton's Plans For 2016; Border Security: Do Numbers Tell The Real Story?

Aired January 29, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the United States prepares new offensive against al Qaeda.

Plus, will she or won't she? Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, a man who has known her since he was 19 years old, reacts to our CNN interview and tells us about a date he had with her.

Apple will launch a new iPad with a very different price tag. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, attack of the drones. The American government is launching a new war, some of this country's 7,500 drones may be about to take off with new targets in their sights.

Today, Niger's ambassador to the United States tells CNN his government has agreed to allow the American military place drones in his country in an effort to gather intelligence on neighboring Mali, Algeria and Libya, three spots where we have seen a recent explosion in al Qaeda-linked attacks on Americans.

Eric Schmitt is senior writer for the "New York Times" covering terrorism. He broke the story this morning that the U.S. is planning a drone base in Niger. Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Dave Deptula oversaw the first predator drone strike in 2001.

You all know more about this than anyone. In such a crucial question as this war on al Qaeda continues ramps up again. Eric, you reported on it today, how big of a deal is this?

ERIC SCHMITT, CO-AUTHOR, "COUNTERSTRIKE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S SECRET CAMPAIGN AGAINST AL QAEDA": Erin, this is a major development by the U.S. military. It creates an intelligence hub in Niger, a former French colony right next to Mali and right below Libya.

So it's a key base from which to fly surveillance drones to monitor the activity such of what's going on with Mali right now with the French-led operation there. But also watch for militant fighters and weapons that are continuing to flow out of Libya down into some of these other countries in which it's called the Sahel region.

BURNETT: I mean, it is amazing. They don't want to use boots on the ground, but there -- you know, at least if they do end up arming them, which is the big question mark, would be Americans maybe in the United States still killing people there. Lieutenant General, the administration has -- you know, they told me no boots on the ground with al Qaeda in Mali, but is this the new boots on the ground?

LT. GENERAL DAVE DEPTULA, U.S. AIR FORCE (RETIRED): Well, Erin, drones are more properly titled remotely piloted vehicles allow us to do is project capability without projecting vulnerability. That's one of their advantages. But the biggest advantage is really persistence.

In other words, they provide the ability to observe a particular area, analyze what's going on and then react in an appropriate way to meet whatever the national security objective is at the time. In this particular case, they'll be used for intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance purposes up front.

BURNETT: Eric, here's the likely new CIA Chief John Brennan. He was the guy who sort of started the whole drone thing. Here's what he said about drones that seems to be really important when we think about what the repercussions could be for this country.


JOHN BRENNAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There's another reason that targeted strikes can be a wise choice, the strategic consequences that inevitably come with the use of force. As we have seen, deploying large armies abroad won't always be our best offense. Countries typically don't want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.


BURNETT: All right, but they also don't want drones over their towns either. Look at Pakistan where the president has gone all-in on drones six times more attacks by drones under President Obama than under George W. Bush. Pakistanis, 94 percent of them think drones kill innocent people. What do we get out of this, Eric?

SCHMITT: Well, here's the trade-off, Erin. The problem is, this part of Africa is one of the big problem spots for the U.S. intelligence community. I travel with General Carter Hamm, who was the head of the military's Africa command, this month and he told me this is one of the real blind spots for U.S. intelligence agencies.

They don't have good ways of collecting intelligence. They don't have good spy networks on the ground. So introducing these drones will get a head start on trying to monitor some of these militant networks including the al Qaeda affiliate there.

BURNETT: Lieutenant, people might say who cares about drones. A lot of people in this country say look, we don't want to risk American lives. If we're going to have to fly over and kill quote, unquote "bad guys" with drones, so be it. Let's do it.

There are people on the left and the right who agree about that. You know, they say what about the Pakistanis or in this case, the Africans, what are they going to do about it. But someone might one day, right.

It could cause someone to launch another terrorist attack or some of the other 70 countries that have drones right now, but most cannot arm the drones might be able to arm drones say Iran.

DEPTULA: Well, the first thing to realize, Erin, is that using remotely piloted aircraft contrary to popular belief actually provides the greatest degree of ethical oversight for their use than does any other use of military force because you're essentially carrying around an entire intelligence analysis network with you in the context of the number of people that are involved in overseeing the operations.

What people don't realize is there's nothing unmanned about the system except that little piece of fiberglass itself flying around in the sky. It takes about 200 people to maintain one orbit and you can either pause and figure out what's going on if you're uncertain or you can react quickly with all the information that you have. So they provide an asymmetric advantage for the user.

BURNETT: OK. But Eric, he talks about in a sense the transparency, but it seems there has been anything but when it comes to drone who drones kill. So if somebody makes this decision, it has not gone through traditional paths in this country.

SCHMITT: That's right. American diplomats in Niger have been very careful. They've been laying the ground work for these types of operations for over a year now. The U.S. ambassador there has spoken to religious leaders and basically clan leaders in Niger.

And they are trying to explain this to make sure the perception of drones, which as you pointed out, the negative perception coming out of Pakistan and Afghanistan for many people, does not carry over here in Niger.

BURNETT: Let me ask each of you about the cut-backs on defense because this seems crucial to me. I don't know if you saw the "Wall Street Journal" had an op-ed saying why the French can't fight. Provocative title and they backed it up with the facts that they pulled.

Now they have a point of view, but they note that the French are deploying into Mali right now with barely half the vehicles that they had four years ago. There have been so many cut-backs in the French military. Barney Frank always used to tell me they're freeloading off the U.S.

Everyone freeloads off the U.S. military, but if we start cutting back dramatically, are we possibly going to end up in a situation where we can't fight a traditional war. Where the only thing worse than having to be the country that bears the security risk for the whole world is not being able to do it?

DEPTULA: Well, Erin, let me jump in here because quite frankly, that goes to the essence of why we have a government and our senior leadership as we discuss these fiscal cuts needs to get to the heart of why we have a government in the first place. If you go back to the preamble of the constitution, it states that we put together this government, number one, to provide for the common defense and then promote the general welfare.

So prioritization of what the United States wants to be able to do in terms of national security is very, very important and it will determine just how many resources we spend to maintain that capability.

SCHMITT: Erin, just to top that off, looking at what's happening here, you have the United States providing the French both high end and low end equipment. You've got the super-sophisticated drones and providing intelligence, but you also have relatively mundane cargo planes and refueling planes as well that are key parts of this operation for Mali.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it. Some serious questions this country is going to answer and whether this is just one step in an inevitable path towards more conflict.

Still OUTFRONT, the president and Republicans disagree over what needs to be done to secure the southern border of the United States. We will take a look for ourselves. We have an OUTFRONT investigation for you.

And the NRA, Wayne Lapierre, executive vice president there, he is going to be testifying at a Senate hearing tomorrow on guns. You know what? There's a reason why he's loved and hated. We have a special report.

Hillary Clinton answering questions about 2016, her relationship with Bill and this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which of these three names would like to adopt -- three or four months on this, the incredible Hillary, the artist formerly known as the secretary or just Hill Clinton.



BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT," the big question for Hillary Clinton. OK, not that one about 2016, this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which of these three names would you like to adopt? We spent three or four months on this. The incredible Hillary, the artist formerly known as the secretary or just Hill Clinton, but it does sound a bit like Bill.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. I think we're going to have to work on that list. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, does that list include president? Our Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott today we asked about her presidential ambitions and here is how she chose to answer that question.


CLINTON: I have absolutely no plans to run.


BURNETT: OK, you heard her. Robert Reich has insight into what Hillary really means. The former secretary of labor has known Clinton since she was 19 years old. They attended Yale law school together, served in the Clinton administration together and he even went out with her in their college days on a so-called date.

Now, going to get to that later because trust me, there is a revelation coming your way, viewers. I spoke to Professor Reich just before the show and asked him if Hillary will run for president in 2016.


ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it's been said that once you are infected with the presidential bug, it is very hard to get it out of your system. So I think there is a strong likelihood that she will run, but I believe her when she says she has no current plans.

She's been working so hard for so long that she genuinely needs some time just by herself. She needs some time off. I don't think -- I don't see how it's possible to decide to make that kind of commitment until you've actually had a time to rest.

BURNETT: Look, it's a fair point. I just want, though, just because I guess this is what people do when they may run for president or have the bug, as you said. She and Bill Clinton have said similar things before she ran in 2008. Here she is in 2006.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ever want to be president?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never? You'll never run?

CLINTON: You know, Tim, I have no intention of running for president.


BURNETT: So she's done this before.

REICH: Yes. And when somebody says I have no intentions or I have no plans that usually means either they do have an intention or plan or they just want to keep their options open. I think it's the latter in case of Hillary Clinton right now.

I think she does want to keep her options open. She doesn't want to close any options. That's rational. But I don't think she really is planning on running right now. I don't think it's possible after the intensity she's been under to make those kind of plans.

BURNETT: It's sort of, you know, in 2006, President Obama was asked if he was going to run and he said I will not. I guess, this is one of those cases where, you know, no means yes.

REICH: Erin, I want you to know I am definitely not running for president in 2012.

BURNETT: I want to give you a chance to hear -- she also today talked to some of the reporters who have known her over the past four years. She was very loyal in saying I want to talk to these reporters and among them, Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott here at CNN. Here's what she told them about her future.

CLINTON: Right now, I am trying to finish my term as secretary of state and the president and I had a good laugh the other night because, you know, I am out of politics right now and I don't know everything I'll be doing. I'll be working on behalf of women and girls. I'll be hopefully writing and speaking. Those are the things that I'm planning to do right now.

BURNETT: So what do you think as someone who's known her and you knew her in those years, 19, right, when we all were as idealistic and rosy-eyed about the world as we could possibly be.

REICH: Well, look, the Hillary Clinton we see today is obviously more sophisticated and a little bit more wizened than the Hillary Clinton I knew when she was 19, but the young Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham, actually in those days, was incredibly talented, incredibly bright, determined, ambitious, had a very deep sense of social justice and really wanted the world to change and was determined to be a leader.

I don't think the Hillary Clinton we know today is all that different, but let me just say this. She has been under not only intense pressure as secretary of state, visiting more nations than any secretary of state has ever done before, but before that, she was in the Senate.

Before that, she was first lady. Before that, she was first lady of Arkansas. This is not somebody who has had much chance to stop and just, you know, measure where she is, where she's going. I think it's going to be a great opportunity for her for the next year at least. She doesn't have to make a decision.

BURNETT: I mean, it's possible that you could have been the first man, if you had -- things had gone a little differently back then. What is this --

REICH: I don't think there was very much going on there. I mean, when she ran for president, a reporter from the "New York Times" called me up one day, had found some of her old letters and said well, she mentions that she went on a date with you and to be completely candid with you, I did not remember it.

But I didn't want to insult her by saying that. So I just went along with it. Even to this day it's very sketchy. She was president of her freshman class. I was president of my sophomore class. I think it was more like a presidential summit.

BURNETT: You were like the BMOC, at least you don't kiss and tell, all right.

REICH: I was pretty short then. I don't remember any kissing or any telling. Anyway, let's end this right on this note, Erin.

BURNETT: We will do that. Thank you very much, Professor. Great to see you.

REICH: Thanks. Good to see you.


BURNETT: You got a revelation about Hillary's dating life. OUTFRONT next, President Obama says America's borders have become more secure. It's a big claim. We investigate it. Does it really add up? The answer next.

And some people say that the Super Bowl ad, you will see it, is racist, but is it a manufactured controversy?

Later in the show, covered, my god, in foam.


BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, border security. So President Obama went to Las Vegas today. He's trying to sell the country on his version of comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, the president says now is the time to replace a broken system and he says a consensus is emerging on how to do that, but he also said something that really caught our attention. He said that America's borders have become more secure during his first term.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: First, we strengthened security at the borders so that we can finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants. We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: OK, that is true. The number of undocumented immigrants caught crossing in from Mexico has plunged. There could be many reasons for that. Many people who live and work along the border say the president's rosy picture just doesn't add up.

Casey Wian is in the small border town of Naco, Arizona with this OUTFRONT investigation.


ROBERT LADD, ARIZONA RANCHER: It's bull. It's not true. This border is not secure until they want to have harsh treatment and penalties for coming illegally. They're never going to be secure.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Ladd's cattle ranch spans 14,000 acres along the Arizona/Mexico border, which here is a dirt road and a 13-foot high fence.

LADD: This is the hole they cut last Friday afternoon to bring two-truck full of dope in. They torched the metal and then they just break it with a toe strap on the truck. Then they use a portable grinder to cut the mesh.

WIAN: They then took off through his property. He says it was the 28th and 29th smuggling vehicles crossing his ranch in the past year.

LADD: People traffic is down. There's no doubt about that, but we still have two or three groups a day.

WIAN (on camera): Two or three groups a day?

LADD: Yes.

WIAN (voice-over): Ladd scoffs at claims of dramatic improvements in border security based on fewer border patrol apprehensions and he says it's too soon for comprehensive immigration reform.

LADD: There has got to be a bunch of people coming across that wall to try to get here while they can, take advantage of the pathway to citizenship.

WIAN: Sheriff Mark Dannels' deputies chased and lost the drug smugglers on Ladd's land Friday.

SHERIFF MARK DANNELS, COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZONA: There's a lot of unrest in this county, especially in the rural parts. People just don't feel safe because of the illegal flow, the criminal elements that are floating through Cochise County and entering our nation. It's scary.

WIAN: Dannels blames the nearly two decades' old border patrol strategy of pushing illegal traffic into remote rural areas.

(on camera): The border patrol vehicle just drove right by. You said there are not enough agents on the border. What would it take to get this border secured sufficiently where you would feel comfortable as sheriff?

DANNELS: Well, first of all, the first report card on that is when the people of Cochise County are not in fear to go out in their backyard like the gentleman I was talking about here three or four nights ago, went in his backyard and was hit in the head with a two by four while they burglarized him and took off.

Until I get the feeling from the citizens of Cochise County that, we're comfortable, we're confident that it's making a difference. Right now that's not the case.


BURNETT: I mean, Casey, obviously you're there tonight. The border patrol says the number of people apprehended. That they have taken under custody trying to cross the border was 1.7 million in 2000. That's an incredible number, 1.7 million, everybody, when you think of 10 million or 11 million undocumented immigrants, only 340,000 in 2011 so less traffic or less enforcement?

WIAN: Well, it's definitely less traffic, Erin. Of course, we had the economic slowdown. That cut traffic across the border. Lot of illegal undocumented immigrants returned to Mexico. It's not a lack of enforcement because they have increased the manpower on the border dramatically, more than doubling the size of the border patrol in the last ten years.

They've increased technology. Billions of dollars invested in things like cameras, remote sensors, and drones. What people here argue about is the strategy of enforcement. You'll see behind me that there are no border patrol agents anywhere in sight along this border.

They're relying on the fence, relying on the technology, deploying their agents in many cases away from the border, thinking they can funnel these illegal trafficking groups into specific areas where they can catch them north of the borders.

The communities in these rural areas say they're the ones that are the victims of this strategy and they're the ones whose properties are being run through by these immigrant drug smugglers.

BURNETT: All right, Casey Wian, thank you very much reporting live from Naco, Arizona.

Still OUTFRONT, four years ago, President Obama made a very big promise, every one of you watching probably remembers this. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Today, it looks like it might never happen, a big development.

Plus, the NRA's Wayne Lapierre is going to be testifying on Capitol Hill tomorrow. Is he about to double down on his view on guns?

Would you pay $1,000 for that, 1,000 bucks, everybody, 1,000 bucks. Apple thinks so.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

And we begin today with an American official telling CNN that a cache of weapons seized off the coast of Yemen may have come from Iran. Here's what was in it -- surface-to-air missiles, potent explosives, rocket-propelled grenades. They all had markings on them that indicate they came from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The official tells Barbara Starr the weapons were believed to be headed for Shiite Muslim insurgents in Yemen.

Gregory Johnson, a scholar at Princeton, tells us the Yemeni government claims Iran has been supplying the insurgents with weapons for years. The United States has only recently believed them.

Well, Apple is releasing a new iPad. It doubles the tablet's current maximum capacity, 128 gigabytes. So, that means you can store 100 DVD quality movies or 30,000 songs. I don't even use apps.

All right. The only other thing that changes is the price which starts at $799 for Wi-Fi only. It is set for release on February 5th.

But Mark Spoonauer, editor in chief of "Laptop" magazine, tells us the timing is curious, given that Microsoft is releasing its latest surface tablet on February 9th. It says Apple is trying to steal a little of their thunder.

All right. Well, we are learning more about the fire in which 234 people were killed in a Brazilian nightclub. A Santa Maria police department inspector says fireworks used by the band that night were intended for outdoor use only and accuses the band of intentionally purchasing the fireworks because they were cheaper than those for indoor use. He also said investigators found evidence of faulty and fake fire extinguishers -- fake fire extinguishers.

Here in the United States, Robert Solomon of the National Fire Protection Association says one reason the fire was so bad was because of the combustible acoustic material in the building. He says one it catches on fire, there's no number of sprinklers or fire extinguishers, real or fake, that can put it out.

Now, an OUTFRONT update to a story we have been following closely, ongoing activities at Iran's Parchin military site. You may recall, this is a plant suspected of being home to Iran's nuclear weapons program. And plant inspectors have continually been denied access to.

The Institute for Science and International Security has posted new satellite images taken on January 17th, and they say the images show the possible foundation of a new building, the extension of a security perimeter and a building that was rebuilt after being demolished. Well, it's been 544 days since America lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

You know what? Not very much. But you know what, stocks are nearing all time highs so go ahead and celebrate. Dow closed at 13,954 -- 210 points shy of the record hit before the world went to hell in October 2007.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: closing Guantanamo Bay. Is it really a priority for this president?

According to the State Department, the man who was assigned in 2009, his main job, his job, everybody, to be down there to help close the infamous prison, has been reassigned and there are no plans to replace him.

For more than four years, we have heard President Obama promise to close that prison.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus.

I will close Guantanamo and I will restore habeas corpus.

Those prisoners that we hold in Guantanamo deserve to be able to go before a court and say, it wasn't me or I didn't do it.


BURNETT: Pretty clear. It's still open. And President Obama insists he still wants to close it. But as of October, there were 166 detainees still being held in Guantanamo and the question tonight is: will he keep his word?

OUTFRONT tonight, Dafna Linzer, senior reporter for "ProPublica" who covers Guantanamo.

What do you think? Is he going to keep his word? He says it again and again.

DAFNA LINZER, SENIOR REPORTER, PRO PUBLICA: I'm sure that it's a goal but nothing that he's doing right now is affecting any possibility of a change. You know, I think part of it is they just were so boxed in by Congress but I think also there's just been no leadership that's really been pushing this. And we saw, you know, this office at the State Department achieved a number of its goals, was able to get a lot of people back either home where they came from or to other countries who would hold them.

BURNETT: I'm just curious because on the point you're making now, according to the director of national intelligence, 28 percent of the people who have been released, detainees released from Guantanamo, have gone back to terrorist activities -- those numbers from 2011 -- back to trying to kill Americans. One of them has been mentioned as someone with possible attacks to the -- possible links to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.

Did the president just not understand all this? Was he being too idealistic and not aware of the facts? Or is he aware of this and thinks this risk is worth it?

LINZER: Yes, I think that that is at the heart of the question that a lot of people were asking right from the beginning with his plan about closing Guantanamo. Remember, President Bush, even in his second term, sent hundreds of people home from Guantanamo. At its height there were almost 800 prisoners there. Today, as you said, there are fewer than 200.

So think when President Bush sent a lot of people home, there was no push-back obviously from his own party. The Democrats were happy --

BURNETT: There would be a lot more push-back for President Obama to do it, right?

LINZER: Right, exactly.

BURNETT: People on the right would say, oh, you know, you're some sort of peacenik. You're so idealistic and conveniently forget what George W. Bush did.

LINZER: I think that's exactly what happened. You know, the president came in, he thought this is going to be a bipartisan issue, he thought he was going to have all this congressional support. It melted immediately. Even Harry Reid, you know, who is the Senate majority leader, who's a Democrat, voted against funding for the president right out of the gate in 2009 to move people back from Guantanamo to hold them in U.S. prisons. Just said no.

BURNETT: And is he going to end up putting more people in here now that we have the war on al Qaeda which is not over, not defeated, has spread somewhere different, is different now. You have more people coming.

LINZER: It's very possible. And what's really possible and what's really happening, too, is that they're not sending people home as you said to places like Yemen. There's another prisoner who was supposed to go back to Algeria. You know, now, Algeria seems unstable.

So not only new people but sending people back to countries that have become more unstable since this plan to close Guantanamo has made it very difficult.

BURNETT: So, is he -- right now, there are 87 people there who are supposedly approved for release. Is he going to let those people go? Because it would seem now, especially given that no one's been held to account for the Benghazi attack, that the president still has not said a single word himself publicly about the Americans who died in Algeria, that having any of these people linked to another attack would be horrific for this president. LINZER: I think it would be really, really tough. You know, once somebody who was killed recently by a drone strike, this goes to your earlier segment about Yemen, this was somebody who was in Guantanamo for six years, somebody they then turned around and targeted with a drone strike. So I think that they're very worried about recidivism, absolutely.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Dafna, thank you very much. Really appreciate your taking the time. This is going to be a tough one.

And let us know what you think. Will the president keep his promise on Guantanamo?

And all eyes tonight are on Capitol Hill. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre will be testifying at a crucial Senate hearing on gun violence, and it's tomorrow but he's obviously in the center of everybody's proverbial crosshairs.

And we have looked through his prepared remarks. There is no sign he will be softening his tone but it is the provocative, tough often insulting talk that has made LaPierre loved and hated in this country.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with the story.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Always quick to attack his foes, since shortly after the Newtown shootings, Wayne LaPierre has been everywhere -- talking up gun ownership, talking down gun laws and promoting his solution to school shootings as he did on "Meet the Press."

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.

FOREMAN: Many critics have called him just that.

In his 22 years as leader of the NRA, the former conservative activist and lobbyist is well-known for what his opponents often call inflammatory statements. In a 1995 fundraising letter, for example, he called federal agents enforcing gun laws, quote, "jack-booted thugs". In 2000, he implied President Clinton was an accessory to murder, allowing gun deaths to mount up to build public support for gun control. And after the Columbine high school killings, he told Congress the NRA's members were being unfairly blamed.

LAPIERRE: Somehow a reckless societal pathogen, a mighty extremist empire opposed to safety, caution and reason. That's a cruel and dangerous lie.

FOREMAN: When Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, LaPierre said it happened not far from a school, a gun-free zone. And once again, he lit into his foes. LAPIERRE: It didn't make any difference. Their laws don't work. Their lies don't ring true. And if Tucson tells us anything at all, it tells us this: government failed.

FOREMAN: And now, even with Newtown still close at hand, he says it is gun control advocates who are endangering America.

LAPIERRE: We believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families, with semiautomatic firearms technology.

FOREMAN (on camera): Still, for all his bluster, LaPierre has turned the NRA into a political juggernaut, amassing more than 4 million members and pouring $16 million into political races last year alone, making politicians fear not only his bark but also his bite -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks very much to Tom Foreman.

And still to come, controversy? What controversy? If you haven't heard about this, here it goes. The question is: are companies playing the race card for their own game and why are we falling for it? The ad of the Super Bowl.

And later in the show, sea foam, as high as 10 feet, blankets this coastal town. I mean, this is absolutely incredible. It's coming up.


BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle", where we reach out to sources around the world.

And tonight, we begin in Egypt where growing defiance against Mohamed Morsy has the country's defense minister warning of a possible government collapse. Reza Sayah is in Port Said, Egypt and I asked him how crucial the situation is.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, for the second night in a row, people in Port Said essentially told President Morsy, we know there's a curfew in place but we're going to come out in protest anyway. Thousands of people here poured out in the streets after the 9:00 p.m. curfew, chanting anti-government, sometimes expletive-laden slogans against President Morsy. Port Said is a city in one of three provinces where the president has declared emergency rule and curfews.

We should point out that most people seem to be abiding by the curfews. Obviously, other people are not.

But late Tuesday night, a sign that perhaps the president is backing down from his strategy. On his Twitter page, he made an announcement that he's now leaving it up to the governors of these provinces to decide whether to keep these curfews in place. We'll see what the reaction to that is going to be -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks to Reza.

And now we go to Australia, where after weeks of extreme weather, including heat wave and flooding, Aussies now are grappling with an absolutely disgusting phenomenon, sea foam, oodles of it. It looks brown and foul. Hugh Whitfeld is on Australia's east coast where the froth has washed ashore.


HUGH WHITFELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks like they're playing in a giant bubble bath but this is sea foam, full of air and whipping its way on to the Port Macquarie's beach. For those who took the plunge, not necessarily pleasant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely disgusting, putrid stuff.

WHITFELD: The phenomenon is a repeat of the bizarre scenes on the Sunshine Coast yesterday, where a car emerged from nowhere. Here, the dirty water from the swollen Hastings River turned today's wild ocean a filthy shade of brown. It's churned up into foam and washed ashore.

(on camera): The churning ocean looks like a washing machine and this, the soap. Further out, the strong winds are causing rough seas, making for dangerous conditions.


BURNETT: Filthy froth and a shade of brown.

Anderson Cooper, I don't know what would be worse. I don't know. That froth looks pretty disgusting to me.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly does. Yes.

BURNETT: What do you have coming up?

COOPER: We're keeping them honest tonight on the program. The head of the NRA heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow. We're getting advance word on what that testimony may be.

We'll also take you back to Newtown where a hearing turned ugly. The crowd heckling the father of a man whose son was killed in Sandy Hook.

Plus, the fine print on immigration reform. We're going to look at that tonight. The president talking tough today in Las Vegas.

Gary Tuchman, though, goes back to the border to talk with a cattle rancher who says not a day goes by where he doesn't deal with illegals on his land.

Plus, Garrett McNamara, a daredevil looking for a rush. He tells me even if this didn't get it done, what may be the world record for surfing, a record which he already holds, by the way, but may have been beaten with this wave that he just surfed. I'm going to talk to Garrett McNamara ahead.

Also, we have tonight's "Ridiculist". That's all at the top of the hour.

BURNETT: Wow. Just imagine if he was surfing in the froth.

All right. Thank you, Anderson. That's an amazing picture.

Now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: Volkswagen's Super Bowl ad. Funny or offensive?

The automaker released the ad early and it's already getting hit with accusations that it's racist because it features white actors with Jamaican accents. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they're the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No worries, man. Everything will be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, man. Don't fret. Sticky bun comes soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Dan (ph), you're from Minnesota, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the land of 10,000 lakes, the Gopher State.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In conclusion, things are pretty dismal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what this room needs? A smile. Who would want to come with I?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are three minutes late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't be no cloud on a sunny day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, chill, Winston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respect bossman.


BURNETT: Respect bossman. And that joy ride did not go over well with the "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow. Here is what he had to say about it this morning on "STARTING POINT."


CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES: I don't like it at all. It's like blackface with voices. I don't like that.



BURNETT: All right. OUTFRONT tonight, Roland Martin and Reihan Salam.



BURNETT: OK. You're both, you know, both people of color. This is a touchy subject. This is a touchy subject. I don't know what to ask. It's about women, all right?

You find it racist, Roland?

MARTIN: No, actually it was funny. I don't know what Charles Blow is talking about. Seriously, it's funny. OK?

Now, here's the deal. The whole notion of get in, get happy, the guy's in a happy mood, when you go to Jamaica, I have vacationed there more than anybody -- hey, that's how it is.

In fact, here's what's interesting. The father of tourism in Jamaica, Abe Issa, he's white. He's white. His family owns a couple of -- a couple of resort deals.

So, I mean, seriously, this is the problem in this country when we talk about it's either racist or not racist as if there's no in between. Some things can be insensitive, some things can bigoted, some thing can be racist, some things can simply be funny.

SALAM: There is -- well, one thing I want to say about Roland's point is it's actually racist for people to assume only black people have Jamaican accents because Jamaica has a large Chinese population. It does have a European origin population, a ton of Lebanese.


SALAM: It's a diverse population.

But bracketing that question -- here's the thing.


SALAM: So, America is different than it was 30 years ago. When we talk about racism, racism is about hierarchy. Racism is about saying racism is about saying that some groups are better than other groups.

But this is not about racism. If we can't be playful about our differences, then we actually can't be a real mixed melting pot, multicultural society.


SALAM: And the thing about this ad is that it's not saying Jamaican equals bad, equals lazy, equals something else.

MARTIN: Right.

SALAM: That would be racist.


SALAM: What it's saying is that hey, Japanese dude --

BURNETT: Or at least it would be culturally, you know, it would be bigoted in some way. But race, to your point is separate.

MARTIN: Or offensive.

So, again, you can -- see, what has happened when we come to the issue of race, if it's homophobia, it's either, oh, you're anti-gay or you're not, or you're racist or you're not. As opposed to something might be offensive, and you simply might say, well, that's offensive, but that doesn't mean that you're racist, doesn't mean that you're homophobic. It simply means that somebody might it offensive.

BURNETT: Have we just become so sensitive, though? I mean, it's like you can -- so now, as a woman, let me just tell you -- race makes me nervous. This is not my, right?

All right. Woman -- people make jokes about woman. And some people go -- oh, my gosh, you're not a feminist. It's crazy. Stereotypical things about women -- oh, you want to talk it out all the time. You know what? Sometimes it's funny. And sometimes it's grounded in truth.

And that's why stereotypes are something to acknowledge at times.

MARTIN: But also, there are things, though, if we want to be honest -- there are things that women can say that a guy can't say, or things that black folks can say but white folks can't say.


MARTIN: Same thing with Hispanic, same thing if you're Jewish.


MARTIN: So you have sort of this we can but you can't.

Again, we can't be so afraid we talk about race to not just jump right to oh, my God, it's racist, take it down.

SALAM: But, Roland, there is the reason for that and the reason for that is this -- the reason for that is simple.


SALAM: When there's some groups that are powerless, when there's some groups that have been on the receiving end of these things, sometimes these are the groups where they're now trying to assert themselves and say, no, we're not going to let you get away with that.

BURNETT: That's a fair point. Now, let's go back to the issue of accents. I want to play some ads, and viewers, listen to this, this shows how the world has changed. This is a 1989 ad from Polaner Jelly.

SALAM: Uh-oh.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please pass the all fruit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pass the Polaner al fruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pass the Polaner all fruit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you please pass the jelly?



BURNETT: OK. Southern accents. So the stupid -- clearly, the stupid guy doesn't have any manners.


MARTIN: Not necessarily the stupid. Here's the deal, when we were in the newsroom, I brought this up. I'm born and raised in Texas. I saw that and I'm sorry, I said that's funny. Why? Because you're sitting there going, I don't care what you all call that, pass the doggone jelly.

I mean, you can -- it's funny. It would be the salsa commercial. New Jersey? I mean, that's what it is.

And so, we can't get upset all the time.

BURNETT: Maybe Chris Christie shouldn't get so upset about "Jersey Shore".

SALAM: It is a kind of a reverse snobbery thing saying that the Texan guy was the unpretentious cool guy in that ad.

BURNETT: But accents can be problematic. Here is an ad the last time around that a lot of people were critical of this, from an attack ad against then -- Senator Debbie Stabenow, what aired in Michigan during Super Bowl last time. Let me just play this ad and you may recall it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spent so much American money, you borrowed more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow.


SALAM: See, you push my buttons, Erin. You push my buttons.

MARTIN: Uh-oh.

SALAM: So, I think that one of the issue is that that's an example of an ad that is representing an Asian person as though Asian people aren't part of the fabric of this country, too, OK?

BURNETT: Right. And as if having an accent, it does seem to demean.

SALAM: In that case, also, you can find plenty of Chinese people who can speak fluent English, right?


MARTIN: When Harold Ford was running for United States senator in Tennessee when they had the white woman in the commercial and, it played on this whole deal, oh I met him at the playboy club, we know -- so again, it goes to what are you trying to say, black guy, white female, what's going on here?


MARTIN: So that's different because that's a political ad. You didn't have the music in the background, you didn't have the Jimmy Cliff playing. And so, it was conveying a whole different message than be happy, drive a VW.

BURNETT: Yes. And you know what VW? I think they're a winner. You know why? Because we're playing it, because everyone around the country is going to play it and talk about it and more Volkswagens sold.

MARTIN: We're having a conversation about it. So, that's a good thing.


MARTIN: Next thing I want to see you --

BURNETT: All right. What is that farfegnugen or whatever --

MARTIN: I have no idea. SALAM: Farfegnugen.

BURNETT: Farfegnugen.

SALAM: I've got it tattooed across my chest.

MARTIN: I'm from Texas. Just call it a VW.


BURNETT: Let us know what you think about Volkswagen ad. Go to our blog, please, and we have an online poll for you.

All right. Still to come, Americans stocking up on supplies, people thrown in jail. How the Super Bowl has turned into something I found absolutely horrific and so would Mark Haines, a chicken apocalypse.

MARTIN: Uh-oh.


BURNETT: All right. The Super Bowl is just days away. And all anyone seems to be talking about is not even the game and, you know, the brothers that are going to coach the two teams, but about chicken.

Last week, a report from the National Chicken Council stated that farmers had produced fewer than 1 percent chickens than the year before. Now, this sparked an online hysteria, never has 1 percent meant so much. So, actually, that's right, it did. Among fans that thought there would be a chicken wing shortage leading up to Sunday's big game.

Now, well, that's simply not true. There's plenty of wing to go around. Don't worry. Chicken wing prices have skyrocketed to their highest levels in history.

And two nervous football fans in Georgia were arrested for stealing $65,000 worth of frozen chicken this month, of wings.

Reading all these stories, I couldn't help think of one person, Mark Haines. Haines was my morning co-host and good friend. And he loved chickens.

Mark was always bringing in stories about chickens and talking about how much personality they had. When he passed away, I gave his wife a chicken that Mark loved and she gave me one of his chickens. I treasure the chicken.

And with all these stories, I mean, headlines like "chicken apocalypse", I mean, my God, I couldn't help but think that Mark was looking down and trying to tell me something. And I know what it is. I eat too much chicken.

According to (INAUDIBLE), average American eats 19 chickens a year. According to the math of what I eat, I eat 26 chickens a year. There's a lot of chickens. I grew up in chicken countries. I love chickens, Mark. They're not only sweet avian. They're healthy for humans. But I'm cutting back.

Anderson starts now.