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THE SITUATION ROOM

FBI Source Inside Al Qaeda; Russian Combat Troops on Alert; Chris Christie's Future; Christie Shrugs Off Grim Poll, Cracks Jokes; Potential Rivals Targeting Hillary Clinton; Kerry Kennedy Testifies in Her DWI Trial

Aired February 26, 2014 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thank you.

Happening now, Russian troops, ships and warplanes, they are on alert near the border with Ukraine, as pro- and anti-Russia crowds clash, ethnic tensions threatening to explode.

Chris Christie joking about his political troubles. I'll ask the Democratic (INAUDIBLE) member why she suggests Christie's political future, in her words, is a pipe dream.

And terrorists rushing an airplane cockpit -- a chilling video dramatizes just how quickly it could happen. Why some are arguing that post-9/11 security measures still aren't enough.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a stunning revelation today that The FBI had a source inside Al Qaeda with direct access to Osama bin Laden eight years before the 9/11 attacks. "The Washington Times" reports the source learned that bin Laden was looking to finance attacks inside the United States and that the information helped foil a plot against a target in Los Angeles.

Let's bring in our national security analyst, the Al Qaeda expert, Peter Bergen who actually met with bin Laden back in 1997.

There's pretty explosive indications here the FBI was sitting on a source close to bin Laden, but apparently never shared that information with all the committees investigating what happened.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean, it's extraordinary, Wolf. I mean you think about the literally hundreds of thousands of man and woman hours that went into the 9/11 investigation. This seems like an important thing that the commission should have known.

You know, the U.S. government was aware that bin Laden was a problem in '93. We know that already. The State Department issued a report about him.

But this kind of, you know, the idea that you actually had a source inside his inner circle, that is, you know, quite unusual.

BLITZER: When you met with him years later, you had no clue that the U.S. had a source that was planted inside.

BERGEN: No. I mean I would have been deeply surprised. I mean these -- this is a -- they're, you know, very hostile to Westerners, to Americans in general.

The question is, we don't know who this source was. And it's not clear from reporting if the source was in Afghanistan.

Was he in Saudi Arabia?

It's not clear.

BLITZER: And it's coming to light now because of an obscure legal case that all of a sudden, this information is coming to light.

BERGEN: You know, thinking about it, in 1993, bin Laden was living in Sudan. So my guess is the source would have been in Sudan. And there are number of people that I know who have either been indicted or have been of interest to U.S. authorities who might kind of correspond to this source inside al Qaeda at that time.

BLITZER: It's very sensitive information, obviously. All these many years later, bin Laden is dead. We know what he organized on 9/11, But it's still, I guess, indicative if, in fact, they didn't share this information, the FBI, with all the Congressional committees investigating and all the supersensitive outside committees that were investigating, that's an embarrassment to the FBI.

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, you know, there's plenty of embarrassment to go around. The CIA didn't tell the FBI about people that were associated with al Qaeda inside the United States before 9/11. And if those names had been known, they could have been detected.

But the fact is, is that this sort of changes our view a little bit of how -- I mean, actually, I think the big story here is an attack in 1993 that was averted in Los Angeles, because of this source, I mean, to me, that's extraordinarily interesting news.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very interesting.

And, quickly, you have a piece that you just posted on CNN.com on terror levels, the threats that are out there right now.

And you're suggesting what?

BERGEN: Well, you know, I mean, I think there's a tendency to hype the terrorist threat in certain circles. You know, Sochi, there was a lot of discussion.

BLITZER: Going into the Winter Olympics?

BERGEN: Yes. And there's a reason to be concerned. But, you know, it went very smoothly. And I think it's not the only example where we have seen sort of dire predictions of things that just don't happen. And usually, when people say the sky is falling, when it doesn't fall, no one really holds them to account. You know, it's just -- it's much easier to say, actually, things are sort of OK, you know, rather than saying the sky is falling all the time.

BLITZER: An important article you posted on CNN.com.

Peter, thanks very much.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: The Russian combat troops, they are now on high alert, as President Vladimir Putin ordered surprise war games right on the doorstep of Ukraine. It's the latest disturbing fallout from the violent upheaval in Ukraine

. And it comes as thousands of pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators take to the streets in Ukraine's southern region of Crimea, where there is an explosive mix of political and ethnic tensions and where Russian bases its own sixth -- its own Black Sea fleet.

Let's go straight to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.

He's on the ground in Crimea for us -- Fred, tell us what's going on.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Yes, well, there's a big Russian population here in the Crimean Peninsula. And a lot of those Russians want Crimea to be part of Russia rather than be part of Ukraine. That's why you had this massive demonstration today, where both of these sides faced off against each other.

And I want you to take a look what happened there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): When tensions fly this high, there's very little room for debate. Thousands of pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian protesters faced off on the Crimean Peninsula, an area with a substantial Russian population.

The question, should Crimea remain Ukrainian or join Russia?

"Crimea is a Ukrainian territory," this man says. "And all these demands to hand it to Russia are totally baseless."

On the pro-Russian side, a very different view. "Crimea should be Russian," he says, "In Russia, there are many cultures and they all have rights. In Ukraine, languages are banned and marginalized."

One protester died during the demonstration, even as a line of police and local leaders tried to keep the two sides apart.

(on camera): The situation here shows the deep divisions in Ukrainian society. On the one hand, you have thousands of pro-Russians, and on the other, thousands of pro-Ukrainians. Right now, they're screaming at each other. There's pushing and shoving, but no violence yet.

(voice-over): The large Russian population in Southern Ukraine fears they might suffer under the new leadership in Kiev, that the Russian language and Russian culture might be banned. And some are taking the law into their own hands. As we drove past the many Russian military bases near the garrison town of Sebastopol, we saw this -- a pro- Russian militia manning checkpoints, together with local police, who are clearly not local to the government in Kiev.

The men had an armored vehicle. They didn't let us film. We took these pictures with our cell phones.

The militia answers to this man, Alexei Chaliy, the new mayor of Sevastopol, elected Sunday in a vote the central government says was illegal. Many here hail him as a champion of Russian interests.

Chaliy says his new force is an anti-terror unit.

"Because there is grave danger, we are founding an anti-terrorist center," he says, "that will coordinate all of our security forces."

Fear, uncertainty and anger are driving many people in Ukraine out into the streets these days. They feel these are decisive times that might determine the future of their nation.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PLEITGEN: As you can see, Wolf, a lot of fear, a lot of anger, and, of course, always the danger that all of this could get out of hand. And then, of course, there is that specter of perhaps Russia getting involved, if things get worse here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Fred, Ukrainian authorities have ordered the breakup of one of their elite security police forces, accused of randomly shooting into crowds in Kiev.

PLEITGEN: Right.

BLITZER: And we're now learning that many of these police units, they're moving into Crimea, where you are right now.

How significant is that?

PLEITGEN: It is very significant. It's the Berkut force. And as you said, that force was disbanded on Tuesday by this new interim president. And now what's going on is that this mayor that you just saw in that report, he says that he's actually going to continue to pay those people. He says he's gotten money from somewhere. He didn't say where he'd get it from and he was going to continue to pay them.

And when those Berkut forces came from Kiev back to the region, they were actually cheered by the people there. So, certainly, they won't have to face any repercussions and there are some people who want to actually still keep that force alive. One of them is that new separatist mayor there in the town of Sevastopol. So a very charged situation right now. That certainly is something that the central government in Kiev is not going to let happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frederik Pleitgen, be careful over there.

We'll check back with you.

Thank you.

Up next, Chris Christie cracking some jokes about his own political troubles, but the Democrat he beat in November says Christie's troubles could end his career.

And just ahead, a chilling video dramatizes just how quickly terrorists could actually breach an airliner cockpit.

Is the video realistic?

Are post-9/11 security measures tough enough?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS," COURTESY NBC)

SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: A new poll shows that half of New Jersey residents believe Chris Christie was involved in the Bridge Gate scandal, half of them, while the other half know how to keep their frigging mouths shut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Seth Meyers had some fun at Chris Christie's expense last night. But Christie was cracking some jokes of his own today, shrugging off a new poll which shows troubling signs for his potential possible 2016 White House hopes, if they still exist.

CNN's Dana Bash has been looking at this part of the story -- Dana, what do you see?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is Chris Christie's 111th town hall since he's been governor. That's certainly a lot. And it was an hour-and-a-half of vintage, tell-it-like-it-is Chris Christie. It was easy for him to do that, though, since the people who asked him questions steered clear of the scandal that's plagued him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A town hall in the part of New Jersey where his political career began. And Chris Christie got a question about traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those traffic lights, especially at the Holland Tunnel...

BASH: About the Holland Tunnel, not the G.W. Bridge scandal.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I can't speak to the Holland tunnel lights, but I'll look into it.

BASH: Christie still has a respectable approval rating in New Jersey, 50 percent, but it is plummeted 20 points since this time last year when it was a sky-high 70 percent. In a new national CBS/"New York Times" poll ranking potential GOP presidential contenders, Christie stands out, but not how you'd like. More Republicans think he should not run than should. Forty-one percent opposed, more than anyone else. Perhaps, he saw that before saying this.

CHRISTIE: The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you're always wrong affect my life every day, pollsters and weathermen.

BASH: The only reference to his political problems was a constituent plea not to let it distract him.

CHRISTIE: You cannot allow it to distract you from the core job that you've been elected to do and I won't let that happen, so don't worry about it.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Christie may have avoided a tough scandal question because he picked the questioners. He did admit he's a discerning politician.

CHRISTIE: You will recall that that was the woman who's raising her hand right from the beginning. Something told me to stay away from that.

BASH: The toughest question, from a 10-year-old girl about education.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: He called her up, definitely creating a moment.

CHRISTIE: Did you type this? Tomorrow, just by coincidence, a meeting with the commissioner of education. So, I'm going to make him answer this.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: This was all about Christie trying to reclaim his straight- talking persona that made him a different and appealing politician.

CHRISTIE: My job is to be the adult in the room, to tell you folks the truth about what's going on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (on-camera): Now, as part of his promise to tell the truth, Christie reminded constituents that he is now in his second and final term as governor, the back nine as he put it, and that means he does not have to worry about politics anymore. And Wolf, a Christie aide I talked to afterwards emphasized he was talking about New Jersey politics. He didn't mean to have any kind of comment on presidential politics.

BLITZER: All right. Dana Bash, thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: And joining us now, the former majority leader of the New Jersey Senate, Senator Barbara Buono. She lost in her bid to become the governor of New Jersey to Chris Christie. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to listen to what Chris Christie said today at the town hall meeting about his future in politics. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I'm not worried about politics anymore, everybody. This is it. I'm on the back nine. And when you're on the back nine and you don't have to worry about playing another front nine, your only obligation is to tell people the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How do you interpret that comment?

BARBARA BUONO, (D) FORMER NJ GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'd be interested to see what the question was. Obviously, he's embroiled in everything he says is really shaped by the scandals that his administration is engulfed in. You know, whether it's the Nixonian dirty tricks associated with Bridgegate or allegations, in some cases, of extortion with regard to Sandy relief funds.

I think the governor is very interested in addressing those issues even though he's making it appear as though he's not.

BLITZER: His aides say he was talking about being finished with politics in New Jersey but not necessarily nationally if he were to run, for example, for the Republican presidential nomination. Do you think he has a future as a potential Republican presidential candidate?

BUONO: Look, this is a -- I'm not a political pundit, but I will say this. This is a man who really never wanted to -- never planned to serve out his full term as governor of New Jersey. He was using it as a platform to run for president of the United States. In fact, when he was running, it seemed like almost a sure thing. And now, that it's become a pipe dream -- I mean, if you look at his budget address yesterday, it reflects someone who has almost given up.

I mean, I've almost felt like I was back in college listening to my political science professor. It was a sermon on what was wrong with 40 percent of the speech talked about the public employee pension system. But he offered no solutions. BLITZER: Because you tweeted yesterday, and I'll put it up on the screen. You tweeted, "maybe it's just me, but CC, Chris Christie's delivery of budget address seemed like he sensed it would be his last." His last means he'll be out in a year? Is that what you're saying?

BUONO: Well, you know, I think it's entirely possible. But if you look back at his election night speech, back then, it was a different Chris Christie. He talked as if he had big plans. He said, you know, I didn't seek a second term to do small things. I sought a second term to get the job done. And so, just watch me do it.

And yet, we had a speech yesterday where he really outlined the issues facing New Jersey with pension, meeting our obligations regarding our increased debt load that he contributed to, and yet again, he offered no solutions. He talked about -- he equated New jersey to Detroit at some bankruptcy suggesting if he we did nothing, that we could head down that road, and yet, he offered no solutions.

I think what we're seeing here is an administration that was really built upon an outsized cult of personality that's coming tumbling down before our eyes.

BLITZER: Do you believe him when he says he knew nothing about the closure of those lanes going to the George Washington Bridge?

BUONO: Well, what I believe is irrelevant. It's what, you know, the people of New Jersey believe ultimately, but also through the U.S. attorney's office is handling that, and I think that one thing is for sure, this governor has lost all if not most credibility. Back when -- a year ago when anything he said, everybody believed it regardless of whether or not there was any validity to it. Now, you know, he's lost any credibility, so that anything he says, nearly everything he says is not believed.

That's why he hasn't even proposed his pet project of an income tax cut. I mean, that's something that requires a lot of belief, a lot of credibility that New Jersey can actually afford. He didn't even mention it. And that's something that really appeals to his base.

BLITZER: You heard from a whole bunch of prominent Democrats only after your defeat in that election for governor of New Jersey, whether it was the vice president, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, all these Democrats, they basically did -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- nothing to help you beat Chris Christie. Do they owe you an apology?

BUONO: I think it was a miscalculation on their part. I think people were taken in by again, by his cult of personality, but even if you didn't buy into the fact that I could win, which I believe I could have, the fact that there was -- these issues were out there. My campaign drew attention to the fact that this administration was bungling distribution of Sandy funds.

You know, we didn't have the money to go up on TV as much as we needed to communicate that message, but we had a very robust online presence and we brought attention to that. The issue with respect to the Bridgegate, that was in early September. You know, when the two debates that I engaged in with the governor, I drew attention to that, the unexplained -- at the time, the unexplained lane closures over the G.W. Bridge, and unfortunately, no one was willing to take this governor on just then.

BLITZER: Yes. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, she showed up at the very end of your campaign. But Hillary Clinton didn't show up. Joe Biden didn't show up. Virtually, no one came in. They didn't really raise money for you. They did virtually nothing to try to help you beat Chris Christie. Is that fair?

BUONO: Essentially, but you sound like you're reveling in it.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm not reveling in it. I'm just looking back and I'm wondering if it might have been different if you would have had some support from some of your prominent fellow Democrats.

BUONO: There's no question. It was a matter of resources. Back in August, we lopped ten points off his lead in the polls without spending any money because people were focused on the election. You know, I had a call from one of the political bosses in September saying to me, "you know, Barbara, you know, I can't tell you who told me this but the internal polls are closing," and I said, "yes, I know that."

I knew that was going to happen when people started focusing on the issues. And then he said to me, you know, "it's too bad you don't have money to go up on TV and, you know, make sure that people know who you are." And I said, "you know, that takes money." So, on the same polls that showed that this governor was popular with respect to Sandy relief at the time, they also showed that people disagreed with him on all the issues, whether it was creating jobs, whether it was social issues.

It was a matter of communicating that to the people of New Jersey, because they're smart. They want to know who's running against Chris Christie. And unfortunately, we didn't have the resources to convey that.

BLITZER: Senator Buono, thanks very much for joining us.

BUONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, a chilling dramatization of just how easily terrorists might still be able to storm an airline cockpit. I'll talk to the woman behind the video. We'll discuss what she's asking Congress to do right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's public schedule is picking up steam after speculation grows about whether she'll run for president again, and she's being increasingly targeted by potential Republican rivals. Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is in South Florida where Hillary Clinton has been today. Brianna, what's the latest?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we speak, and we're here not far from Miami, Secretary Clinton is in Orlando giving a speech on health care. She's trying to really look forward. She's talked a little bit about health care saying that there needs to be a full evidence-based debate.

She's talked about applying fixes to health care reform, but she's really trying to push forward, take focus away from some of the Republican attacks recently, the latest of which has to do with documents that should have been released a year ago pertaining to her husband's presidency. We understand those will come to be released, some of them, anyways, very soon.

But Hillary Clinton is here in Florida trying to get her message out as she will here at the University of Miami in a couple hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): It's only 2014, but the likely presidential candidates are jockeying for position.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: When women are excluded and marginalized, we all suffer.

KEILAR: Hillary Clinton spoke about gender equality Tuesday at Georgetown University as she ramps up her public schedule. She has a sizable lead among Democrats and Republicans eyeing the White House are taking aim.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: I think Hillary Clinton is going to struggle to win on multiple fronts.

KEILAR: Florida senator, Marco Rubio, slammed Clinton Tuesday for the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens while she was secretary of state.

RUBIO: They should have either closed that facility or provided adequate security. They did not under her watch. I think she's going to have to answer for Benghazi.

KEILAR: And Jeb Bush.

JEB BUSH, (R) FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Of course, it matters.

KEILAR: Responding to a question about the testimony Clinton gave shortly after the attack.

CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?

BUSH: Four Americans lost their lives. It matters. It matters a lot.

KEILAR: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has tried multiple times in the last couple weeks to make Bill Clinton a liability for his wife.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: He took advantage of a girl that was 20 year old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that. And that is predatory behavior, and it should be something we shouldn't want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office.

KEILAR: It's red meat for conservative voters with intense animosity for Hillary Clinton.

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: She's still an incredibly polarizing figure. And attacking Barack Obama is a great way to fire up your base if you're a Republican, but attacking the Clintons is almost as good, if not better.

KEILAR: Clinton has even factored into a Republican primary.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Secretary Hillary Clinton.

KEILAR: One GOP opponent of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is running this ad that features him hugging her. But for now, Clinton is trying to stay above the fray.

CLINTON: We believe this is the unfinished business of the 21st century, giving women the tools and resources to break through the barriers that keep them from contributing to fully participating in their governments' economies and societies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, here at the University of Miami, students are already lining up a few hours ahead of Clinton's speech to get inside. Faculty and staff will also be in the audience.

And, Wolf, she's here on the invitation of do that Donna Shalala, who, as you are well aware, was the health and human services secretary under her husband, Bill Clinton. Of course, the big question is, what is Hillary Clinton going to talk about here tonight? Her staff is playing that very close to the vest. We don't actually know. So we will be waiting to see.

BLITZER: And we will find out together with you, Brianna. Thank you.

Turning to Texas now, the latest state to have a federal judge strike down a ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling won't be enforced pending appeal, meaning gay couples for the time being still can't get married in Texas.

The decision is just the latest in a series of federal and state moves to overturn current laws forbidding gays and lesbians from marrying. Attorney General Eric Holder has urged state attorney generals to be suspicious of any such legislation.

Meantime, in Arizona, there's mounting pressure on the governor, Jan Brewer, to decide whether to sign or veto a bill passed by the state legislature allowing businesses to refuse service to gay customers based on religious convictions.

CNN's Ana Cabrera is on the ground for us in Phoenix.

Tensions clearly very high right now. What's the latest?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The voices are growing louder primarily in the opposition of this bill that would allow businesses to refuse to serve gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs.

Now, we do know the governor has just wrapped up some meetings with state lawmakers, people from both sides of the aisle. That happened within the last half-an-hour. We're told the conversation was respectful, that it was productive, that the governor listened intently, trying to understand each side and also asking questions about how Arizona ended up in this mess.

But we still await a decision as the voices of opposition continue to grow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: I'm Ana with CNN. Is Governor Brewer available?

(voice-over): Arizona governor Jan Brewer spending the day behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has her private entrances.

KEILAR: Her state and the nation waiting to learn what she's going to do with a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. Supporters say it would ensure religious freedom.

But opponents argue it will lead to discrimination. The governor says she wants to understand both sides and set meetings with state lawmakers today. Representative Ethan Orr, one of three House Republicans who voted against the bill, is one of them.

(on camera): When you meet with the governor today, how do you expect things to go?

ETHAN ORR (R), ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I genuinely believe she's going to veto it, like you said. She's going to keep her own mind and her own council, but I don't believe that she would be sitting down with us unless she was going to veto the bill.

CABRERA (voice-over): Senator Steve Yarbrough, who co-sponsored the bill, hopes to convince the governor otherwise.

STEVE YARBROUGH (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Well, I will tell her basically what the bill does, what the bill doesn't do, and that it has been extraordinarily distorted as to, you know, the whole struggle that it's been made up to be, when it's really not about that at all. Will I be successful? Who knows.

KEILAR: The governor's last public comment on the issue was this tweet overnight saying, "I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the state of Arizona."

Meantime, the calls for action are growing louder. Hundreds have come to the Capitol to protest. High-profile politicians like John McCain and Mitt Romney have called for a veto. And big businesses have publicly condemned the bill, including Apple, American Airlines, Delta, AT&T, and Intel.

Even the NFL is watching this closely with next year's Super Bowl scheduled to be played in Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: The lawmakers close to the governor tell us she really likes to keep her cards close at her vest, and so at this point it's anybody's guess as to when she will make her decision -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Got to make that decision by Saturday, though. All right, Ana, thank you.

Up next: the chilling dramatization of just how easily terrorists potentially could still storm an airline cockpit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Terrorists rushing an airplane cockpit, a dramatization purports to show how quickly it could happen.

It underscores what some say is the urgent need for a secondary barrier on top of the reinforced cockpit doors which were mandated after 9/11.

Backers are trying to jump-start a bill languishing in Congress that would require those barriers.

CNN's Rene Marsh is working the story for us.

Rene, what are you finding out?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, aviation security is no doubt a talker on Capitol Hill today. The video you're about to see is making its way around town.

The woman behind it is Ellen Saracini, a 9/11 widow. She produced the video with the help of airline employees. They're trying to show lawmakers a hijacker can overcome the flight crew and penetrate the cockpit, she claims, in less than two seconds. Here's the video.

As disturbing as that video was, it is a dramatization. The food cart which is used to block the cockpit, it seems to disappear at one point, presenting no obstacle at all. So we can't necessarily take it as fact that this is an accurate depiction of how easy it is to get into a cockpit.

The video was shot and produced on a plane that was parked. No passengers were on board. That said, we introduced you to Saracini and her crusade last March. Since 9/11, she's been fighting for legislation that would require airlines to install secondary barriers.

You're looking at what that looks like. They are gates outside of the cockpit doors, and the idea is this barrier would create a second line of defense for pilots during the seconds that the cockpit door is open, when a pilot leaves to use the restroom or even to receive food. Now, Saracini's husband, Victor, he was a captain of United Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center.

A bill mandating these barriers was introduced in the House last April, another bill introduced in the Senate last September. She has support, 54 co-sponsors in the House, and today with the video you just saw she's hoping to convince senators to sign on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What does the TSA -- what do they have to say about this?

MARSH: Well, we know that the TSA believes that this should be a decision left up to the airlines as to whether they will install these barriers. But they said in a statement that TSA applies a layered risk-based approach to security.

That means hardened cockpit doors, armed pilots, crew self-defense training, as well as air marshals -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Rene, thank you.

Ellen Saracini is here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Let's talk about this video. Why did you decide to do this?

ELLEN SARACINI, WIDOW OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM: Because nobody is moving quick enough.

It's 13 years later. And we seem now to have airlines -- we had one airline, United Airlines had installed these secondary barriers on a lot of their aircraft. Now that the merger happened between United and Continental, the new CEO has decided to remove the secondary barriers from the oncoming aircraft, and it sets a dangerous precedent.

We have our airline companies that are minimally complying with what is recommended by the TSA for procedures. And by removing the secondary barrier, the only thing that is proven the protect the cockpit during those times when the door is open, if that is being removed from the aircraft, we have no form of protection during that time when...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And you don't think that beverage cart that they place in the aisle over there and the flight attendants stand behind it while the pilot walks out, and they go to the lavatory, whatever, and then they close the door, you don't think that's good enough?

SARACINI: Well, you tell me whether that's good enough. That was just depicted. That's the most robust form of protection that the airlines have. And the cart did not disappear. The cart was pushed over. The carts are top-heavy. They are easy to move. That cart was pushed over, and so was the flight attendant by one of the intruders, and the second intruder just went right into the cockpit.

BLITZER: So, basically, what you're saying is when they saw the pilot walk out, they stormed that cart and they just ran over the cart and got into the cockpit?

SARACINI: Absolutely.

And that's what these study results showed. They showed that 100 percent of the time, the cockpit door was protected once the secondary barrier was installed and up. But using the most robust form of protection that the airlines have, which is the cart and the flight attendant, the cockpit was able to be breached in under two seconds.

BLITZER: And -- so, who prepared this video for you? How did it -- walk us through the process.

SARACINI: Well, the FAA requested and commissioned the RTCA to do a study. It involved the FAA, the TSA, airline companies, Boeing, security experts, the CIA, the FBI. This study is now completed and came out with these results. Moving forward, we have gone and now we need legislation.

The legislation has to happen because none of the airlines are complying with the best method in order to protect the cockpit and through legislation we're hoping to make sure that the cockpits get the appropriate barriers.

BLITZER: And I'm sure you'll do in memory of Victor, your husband, who was that pilot of 9/11.

SARACINI: Yes. And 2,973 others who are not here with us today.

BLITZER: Hey, Ellen, thanks so much for coming in.

SARACINI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. Ellen Saracini, doing important work.

Just ahead, a Kennedy on trial. RFK's daughter, Kerry Kennedy, testifying in her DWI case and getting drilled by prosecutors. We have details of the mistake she says led to her accident.

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BLITZER: A dramatic day in court for Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the ex-wife of the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo takes the stand in her DWI trial. Telling jurors she mistakenly took a sleeping pill the morning her car swerved between lanes and careened it to a tractor trailer.

CNN's Tom Foreman is working the story for us. He's got the details -- Tom. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this is actually in many ways a small case, but because it is connected to the Kennedy family, it is getting big attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are we feeling today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty good.

FOREMAN: Kerry Kennedy's legal team showed up at court acting like the misdemeanor charge against her is no big deal. The case is simple against the 54-year-old niece of President Kennedy and daughter of the late senator Robert Kennedy. Prosecutors say she was driving drugged in 2012 when her Lexus sideswiped a truck, kept going and was found by the side of the road with Kennedy incoherent behind the wheel.

On the stand, however, she said what she's claimed all along, that she accidentally mixed up prescription medications.

KERRY KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY: I told the officer that it was theoretically possible that I had mistakenly taken an Ambien rather than a thyroid pill earlier that morning.

FOREMAN: Kennedy's connections have drawn tremendous attention to the case. In the audience, her friend Diane Neal, an actress who used to be on "Law & Order SBU." Also the defendant's mother, 85-year-old Ethel Kennedy. The lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, is famous for his famous for his high profile clients including billion felon Michael Milken and actor Russell Crowe. And Kerry Kennedy is also the ex-wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Still on the stand prosecutors pounded her, asking how she could not realize she took the wrong pill? How could she claim she remembers nothing from the accident.

"You've taken this pill for 10 years," a prosecutor said, "and you can't tell me whether or not it makes you feel tired?"

"I guess I don't really think about how I'm feeling when I take it, "she replied. "I take it, and then I'm asleep."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: No one was hurt in the accident but Kennedy could be hurting plenty if she is convicted.

In the worst case, Wolf, she could lose her license and spend up to a year in jail.

BLITZER: For a misdemeanor. This is -- it's not a felony. This is a misdemeanor.

FOREMAN: But a serious misdemeanor.

BLITZER: All right. Tom, thank you very much. Our legal correspondent Jean Casarez was inside the courtroom before Kennedy's testimony, she's joining us now.

So what did you see inside? What was it like, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: It was an amazing dynamic. I mean, the courtroom stood still, as it always does, when the defendant is called to the stand. But in this case, as she takes the stand, her character's put at issue and she can talk about all the good things she has done. And she is an advocate for human rights. She is the director of the Robert Kennedy Center of Justice and Human Rights.

She really is a jet setter. I mean, last week she testified and she turns to the jury and just starts to tell them that she was in France last week, she met with John Kerry. She then went to Brussels, Belgium and met with the director of parliament and it went on and on. But then as far as the facts of this case because this is a DWI case, not a case about human rights and all the good she has done, she talks about that she had both bottles side by side and she now believes that she took the Ambien, but she said that she just doesn't remember at all when she veered off the road.

And the prosecutor is trying to combat this mistake of fact by saying, you took the pill for 10 years, you do know that it has some effects. You start to feel drowsy when you were at your apartment. You could feel the drowsiness and she would not admit that because they're trying to show that she had knowledge she was getting sleepy, something was happening, and she still went out and took the wheel and continued to drive even when she veered off the side of the road at one point.

BLITZER: You would think, Jean, that since no one was hurt in this accident, and it is a misdemeanor, the two sides could work out some sort of deal that would avoid this kind of spectacle, this kind of trial that's going on right now.

CASAREZ: You know, that's so interesting because there is a lesser included here, which is really sort of like a traffic citation. Now maybe that wasn't offered by the prosecution, maybe she didn't want to accept it. She got visibly frustrated on the stand when the prosecutor continued to say, but you did not feel anything? No, I never felt an effect from Ambien. I'm just out when Ambien hits me.

And there were inconsistent statements she made after this all happened that she believed it was something medical with her brain that had happened, a type of seizure, but then she retracted that. And she at one point said to the judge, Judge, can I talk to you a minute, can I ask you a question? This is in front of the jury and the judge said, no, you have to answer the questions. We are in court.

This is a working class jury. And as they heard about the jet-setting and just the lifestyle that she leads, how will that affect them because this is a DWI case? But it was fascinating, as she said, my father was killed as he was running for president. Daddy was the attorney general. BLITZER: All right.

CASAREZ: I mean, it really was testimony you just don't hear in court.

BLITZER: It certainly sounds like it. All right, Jean Casarez, thanks very much.

Jean Casarez, reporting for us.

Just ahead, it's like something out of a spy thriller. How a giant international bank helps some wealthy Americans dodge billions of dollars in taxes.

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