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Decision to Send More Troops to Afghanistan; Feds Didn't See Fort Hood Suspect as Threat; Bill Clinton Pushes for Health Care Passage
Aired November 11, 2009 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Time for your top-of-the- hour reset.
I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.
It is noon at the White House, where two hours from now, President Obama again deliberates more troops for Afghanistan.
At the Vietnam Memorial, Americans honor the men and women who serve the country. It is Veterans Day 2009.
And it is 11:00 a.m. at Fort Hood, Texas, where some question whether the feds missed warning signs about shooting suspect Nidal Hasan.
Let get started.
On this Veterans Day, President Obama speaks publicly about those who served and deliberates privately about those serving now. The president deciding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. He meets with his war council later today.
Live now to the White House and CNN's Jill Dougherty.
And Jill, good to see you.
Let's start here -- how important is today's meeting? And what are the participants likely to discuss?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's very important. This is the eighth meeting with all of the major national security staff that the president has. His senior officials -- that would include the vice president, Secretary Clinton, who, by the way, is going to be on a video conference from Singapore, also the secretary of defense. You can name it, all the people that you would expect to be there, and it could be -- could be the last big meeting before he makes his decision.
Essentially, what he's looking at, Tony, is four options or four scenarios. And the focus has been on the number of troops. So, let's start with that.
One of the more fleshed-out ideas is one that would put in 34,000 new troops. It would be a combination of Army, there would be Marines, there would be support troops. They presumably would go into the areas where the conflict is the greatest in Afghanistan right now, and that would be the south and the southeast. But it's not only the number of troops that the clincher, the defining issue.
There are actually four. And if we can look at those, troops, of course, one. But it would also be cooperation from the Karzai government, which has been accused of a lot of corruption. What is the Karzai government going to be able to do to work with the United States and other forces?
Also, the civilian component. That's something that Secretary Clinton deals with. The aid, the development people who go into Afghanistan.
And then finally, the other country -- the other nations, NATO countries, that contribute. What will they put together?
So, it's really this, let's say, a puzzle, including at least four, if not more, issues -- talking about Pakistan, too. But all of this has to come together, not just that issue of troops.
HARRIS: OK. And, Jill, one more here. Any indication -- we know the president is about to leave for Asia, but any indication of just when the president might announce his decision?
DOUGHERTY: Well, that's the question. You know, he's under a lot of pressure to come out with it as quickly as possible, but you'd have to say that he is still in the question-asking stage, as far as we know. He's getting closer, but the indication that we're getting is it could be after this Asia trip.
He would come back. He still has a period there, perhaps around Thanksgiving, before Thanksgiving, or around that period, where he could come up with the final decision -- Tony.
HARRIS: All right.
CNN's Jill Dougherty at the White House for us.
Jill, thank you.
Another U.S. soldier confirmed dead in Afghanistan. The military says its divers have found the body of a paratrooper who went missing last week in a river. It happened in the western part of the country. Family members say he jumped into the water to save a fellow soldier. Divers are continuing their search for a second paratrooper.
President Obama leads the nation in honoring America's men and women in uniform. Last hour, the president took part in a wreath- laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It was part of the national Veterans Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery.
In his remarks, the president paid tribute to the veterans of wars past and those serving today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In an era where so many acted only in pursuit of narrow self-interest, they've chosen the opposite. They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self. Many even after they knew they'd be sent into harm's way. And for the better part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. They have protected us from danger, and they have given others the opportunity for a better life.
So, to all of them, to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families, there's no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Other nations are also honoring their fallen veterans. In London, Armistice Day ceremonies were held in Westminster Abbey. Three of the remaining four World War I veterans from the United Kingdom died this year. The fourth lives in Australia. The ceremonies mark the anniversary of the end of World War I.
One of a dozen of people wounded in the Fort Hood shooting is giving a chilling account of the attack. Specialist Logan Burnette had multiple gunshot wounds, but crawled to a door where an unidentified soldier pulled him to safety.
CNN was the only network there when Burnette spoke today from his hospital in Killeen, Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEC. LOGAN BURNETTE, FORT HOOD SHOOTING VICTIM: We heard the shooter continue to move to the opposite side of the building as he continued to fire. Very, very quick re-loader on that weapon. He was very swift, very tactical with what he was doing.
As he moved, me and two other soldiers in the cubical -- I wish I could remember their names -- decided it was time for us to get out of that building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been granted access to soldiers wounded in the Fort Hood shootings. He goes one-on-one with the victims, including Specialist Burnette, to recreate the ordeal and look at the road to recovery. That's tonight on "AC 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Now to the criminal investigation at Fort Hood. The feds had suspect Nidal Hasan on their radar, but concluded his questionable activities did not add up to a threat. That has some wondering whether authorities dropped the ball.
Here's CNN's Brian Todd.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On at least two occasions, we're told Nidal Hasan was supposed to give presentations on health issues during his medical training. But instead, he discussed his views on problems faced by Muslims in the military.
A classmate who attended one of the presentations told CNN Hasan made several people uncomfortable and they objected. The classmate says Hasan's superiors, who he did not identify, let him finish anyway.
Here's an excerpt from one of the presentations in "The Washington Post." The military "... should Muslim soldiers the option of being released as conscientious objectors to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events."
Hasan's attorney told CNN his client has not yet spoken to investigators.
COL. JOHN P. GALLIGAN (RET.), NIDAL HASAN'S ATTORNEY: Let's ensure that the process is followed, that the investigation is complete, and that we proceed with the same kind of impartiality that we would want in any case involving anyone, including ourselves.
TODD: Senior investigative officials tell CNN they took notice of Hasan late last year when they intercepted as many as 20 communications between him and a suspected terrorist sympathizer overseas. Sources familiar with the case tell CNN the person being monitored was radical imam Anwar al Awlaki, who was mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report has having developed a close relationship with two 9/11 hijackers. Still, the investigators say Hasan's communications didn't appear threatening, appeared consistent with his research as a psychiatrist.
(on camera): After a review of those communications and his personnel file, an employee of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service made the decision not to pursue further investigation of Hasan. That's according to a federal law enforcement official. A Defense Department official wouldn't comment on that.
(voice-over): I asked former Bush White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend about connecting the dots.
(on camera): How hard, looking back, would it have been to tie all this together, the communications overseas, the PowerPoint presentations that bothered some people, to tie all of it together and look at this guy?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Remember, you've got a PowerPoint presentation, you've got communications over a period of time in an unrelated investigation. It's very difficult for investigators to get all of that information in one place, especially when he's not the overall target of the investigation.
TODD (voice-over): Investigators tell us so far they believe Nidal Hasan acted alone. They see no evidence of coconspirators or that somebody else directed him to do what he allegedly did. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
HARRIS: And coming up in just a few minutes, more of CNN's conversation with Nidal Hasan's attorney. John Galligan explains why he took this case knowing his decision would win him few friends.
Senate Democrats are trying to find a way to get health care reform passed. Former President Bill Clinton is just one of those weighing in on the subject.
HARRIS: The health care bill doesn't haven't to be perfect, just get it passed. That is the message from former President Bill Clinton to U.S. senators during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar has the story.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Bill Clinton arrived on Capitol Hill with a message for Senate Democrats.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever their differences are, I just urge them to resolve their differences and pass a bill. And I also believe, you know, people hired us to come to work in places like this to solve problems and stand up and do it.
KEILAR: More than 15 years after losing a long, hard fight to overhaul the nation's health care system, Clinton said he stressed to Democratic senators the "economic imperative of delivering health care reform."
Asked by reporters how important it is for Congress to pass a final bill this year, Clinton wouldn't say. But in the private meeting with Senate Democrats, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said Clinton stressed Congress needs to approve a health care overhaul this year. It's a deadline the White House insisted on again this week, and congressional Democratic leaders say it's still their goal. But in the most definitive sign yet that it might be impossible, Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate and one of the president's closest allies on the Hill, said the Senate may only be able to pass its bill, one vastly different from the House-passed legislation and not the final bill that President Obama would sign into law.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Getting it out of the Senate. Now, if we're fortunate enough to get it done earlier, then who knows? But I would say our goal is to make sure it's out of the Senate this year.
KEILAR (on camera): As Senate Democratic leaders struggle to get buy-in from moderates in their party who have serious reservations about a government-run insurance plan, not to mention that controversy about abortion coverage, conventional wisdom tells you it's not going to get any easier if this process moves into an election year.
Brianna Keilar, CNN, Capitol Hill.
HARRIS: You know, the abortion debate has emerged as a major issue in health care reform. The bill passed by the House includes tight restrictions on federal money being used to pay for abortions.
We've been asking you to weigh in on this issue. Would you like to see a similar prohibition in the Senate health care bill?
Here's what some of you are saying.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as far as abortion is concerned, yes, we should have the same bill passed in the Senate -- in Congress, as we did in the Senate. No abortion should be paid for by taxpayers' money.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I would not like to see money put towards abortion, even though I am pro-choice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that we should have to pay for abortions that they want to get. They shouldn't abort anybody because it's a life, and they're killing a life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A woman should have a choice of abortion whether they want one or not. It's their life and their health.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really think our taxpayers' money should go to abortion, especially when you're against it. If it's pro-choice, then we should have that choice of not paying for it in our tax dollars money.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS: Still plenty of time for you to what in. Here's the number: 1-877-742-5760. Just tell us what you think.
HARRIS: And as we pause to remember the veterans today, we are also going to take a look at the sacrifices our current troops are making.
HARRIS: And here's a look at our top stories now.
President Obama is expected to meet with his war council again this afternoon to discuss sending more troops to Afghanistan. CNN has learned he is considering four options. President Obama leads the nation in honoring American veterans. Last hour, the president took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. In his remarks, the president praised the nation's veterans for their service and sacrifice.
In Brazil, officials are searching for what caused a hydroelectric dam to fail, leaving much of the country in the dark for hours yesterday. Subways, trains and buses stopped running. Police also reported robberies and looting.
We will get another check of your top stories in 20 minutes.
A United Airlines pilot was pulled off a flight this week in London. Police there say he was too drunk to fly.
CNN's John Roberts has details.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): British police pulled 51-year-old pilot Erwin Washington out of the cockpit minutes before takeoff Monday afternoon. United Flight 949 from London to Chicago had to be cancelled.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: The authorities are alleging that a United Airlines employee, apparently the pilot from Colorado, was arrested for being over the legal limit, having too much alcohol in his system to operate a plane.
ROBERTS: A suspicious co-worker turned Washington in. Police say he flunked the breathalyzer test and was arrested. United Airlines has grounded Washington, releasing a statement saying, "Safety is our highest priority."
Washington is now the third U.S. pilot and the second from United to be busted at Heathrow on alcohol charges in just over a year. It's been a tough year for pilots.
In October, a Delta crew made a near catastrophic mistake when they landed on an active taxiway instead of the runway in Atlanta. No one was hurt in that incident.
Two days later, two Northwest pilots overshot their landing in Minneapolis by 150 miles and failed to respond to radio calls for over 90 minutes.
JOSEPH BALZER, AUTHOR, "FLYING DRUNK": You can't justify someone showing up for work under the influence.
ROBERTS: Joseph Balzer is a recovering alcoholic, a commercial pilot and author of the book "Flying Drunk." He was arrested in 1990 for exactly that, flying drunk, and spent a year behind bars.
BALZER: If it was up to me, I'd had my own personal breathalyzer. If I had my own device, it would have never happened. I would have been able to tell my own -- you know, pre-flight myself. I'd pre-flight the airplane. I could pre-flight myself.
ROBERTS: John Roberts, CNN, New York.
HARRIS: And as the nation celebrates Veterans Day, we are taking a look back. Where does the holiday come from? How many veterans are among us today? And how many have been wounded in ongoing wars?
Josh Levs joining us with that -- Josh.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, we talk a lot about veterans. This is a chance for us to learn. You know, a lot of our own history and what's going on in our country today. Plus, we get to pull up this archival video, Tony.
LEVS: Let's go to this, because the origin for today goes all the way back to World War I. More than 116,000 U.S. military personnel died in that war, and the war was declared over on the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, which became known at the time as Armistice Day. And it was on November 11, 1954 that President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11th as Veterans Day to honor all the men and women who serve the U.S. in combat.
In fact, you know what? Since we're here for a second, let's do this. I want to show you the proclamation. Take a look at this.
The original proclamation from 1954, Tony, here it is online.
HARRIS: Whoa. OK.
LEVS: You can actually read it at VA.gov. They show you some of the original language talking about where today will come from.
Now, we've been looking at how many veterans there are living today. Let's go to this graphic, because we have the numbers there for you.
World war II -- OK, I'll just tell you. World War II, 2.27 million wounded, Tony. Rather, among us today.
LEVS: Six million from the Vietnam War, and 7.6 million from the Gulf War. So, you know, we have millions and millions of veterans inside this country right now, and obviously these are the people that the nation is thinking about today.
And I'll tell you one more thing, because we've been looking at wounded numbers as well. And I have those numbers for you.
I'll just tell you, we've been looking today at how many people are wounded -- were wounded in the wars that we've been following here at CNN, whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq. Inside the Afghanistan War, wounded, 4,434 troops, Tony. And Iraq, 31,000 troops wounded.
Some of them gone back, you know, into the field. But obviously we're talking tens of thousands of troops, U.S. troops, who have been wounded in recent years in the wars that we're covering right here -- Tony.
HARRIS: Yes. And we're also hearing from viewers with their thoughts on this Veterans Day. What are they saying to us, Josh?
LEVS: Yes. You know, there's a lot. It's really interesting, because we posted about this last night and throughout today. We're getting a lot of language.
But let's zoom in right here. I want to show you some of the things people are writing today.
This is here on the blog. This comes to us from Tara. She says, "To all the veterans today, past, present and future, thank you. I thank God every time I see my brother, now living in our town again for good, a United States Marine."
Let's jump over to Facebook here. Alessandro: " Those of us who have served and/or are serving really do appreciate those out there who thank us for current or past service. It means a lot to hear. Thank you."
HARRIS: There you go.
LEVS: And he's a soldier himself.
And let's go over here to Twitter. We've got one more. "Let us remember veterans every day, the sacrifices they have made, stand for the freedom we experience on a daily basis."
Let's go there graphic here so that you can weigh in. You've got my graphic there. We're talking at the blog, CNN.com/Josh, also Facebook and Twitter, JoshLevsCNN.
A lot of postings, a lot of conversations going on, Tony. A lot of people paying their respects to those who serve.
HARRIS: Yes. Very good. Glad to hear it.
All right, Josh. Thank you.
And as the nation pauses to honor its veterans, questions persist about whether President Obama will commit more troops to Afghanistan. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds 49 percent of Americans think the president is taking too long to decide. Fifty percent say, no, he isn't.
When asked what President Obama should consider when making decisions about the Afghan war, 52 percent say the president should follow the recommendations of generals, 48 percent want him to consider other matters as well.
The president meets with his national security team two hours from now, maybe a little less, to discuss strategy for Afghanistan.
And as President Obama listens to advisers about troop levels in Afghanistan, we're listening to you.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Gary (ph) from Cleveland, Ohio.
First, the president needs to make a quick decision here. He's had long enough. Either flood the place with soldiers to back the soldiers up there, or bring them all home. One or the other. We just can't sit on this forever.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, my name is Joanne (ph), and I'm from California.
I believe they should pull all the men out of Afghanistan and Iraq. We're killing up our men. It's like the Vietnam era again.
Those people have been fighting and killing each other for decades. We need to take care of our own country. We have people out on the street, and you're spending that kind of money over there . Yes, I'm p'd (ph) at our government big time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the saddest (ph) day for the U.S. veterans. Twenty years ago in the military.
I believe that we should send more troops. Don't let them know how many more we are sending, and that way keep them off guard. We've got to let them get out of that war.
That war is not ours. It was on the Bush administration, and Obama has nothing to do with it, but he is going to make it better.
God bless the troops in the United States and everyone across the world.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS: And you can still phone in your comments. Man, passions run pretty high on this subject, as you can hear in those calls.
Here's the number: 1-877-742-5760. Let us know what you think the U.S. should do next in Afghanistan.
And tomorrow night at 9:00, he backed President Obama's run for office. Now Al Gore talks about what he thinks the president should do about the war in Afghanistan and why he says time is running out to take on global warming.
Watch Al Gore on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE," tomorrow, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.
President Obama isn't the only world leader wrestling with the Afghanistan war. In Britain, an angry mother -- underscore "angry -- whose son was killed in the war has confronted Prime Minister Gordon Brown over his handling of her son's death.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: On this Veterans Day, as President Obama considers future strategy in Afghanistan, one mother's anguished phone call with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is causing all kinds of controversy. CNN's international security correspondent, Paula Newton, has that story.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Six coffins made for a somber procession. And it was the British prime minister himself who voiced what the he believes everyone lining this route must be thinking. What are we fighting for?
It is a pointed question asked by so many in grief and anger, and especially on this day by these families. Five of these soldiers murdered by a rogue Afghan police officer who was receiving training. The Taliban would later boast the gunman was one of them and safe within Taliban ranks again.
The incident has provoked renewed doubt about the Afghan mission. Doubt voiced so piercingly by Jackie James (ph). The mother of Guardsman Jamie James (ph) has take on Gordon Brown and his Afghan mission. After receiving a handwritten letter of condolence from the prime minister, a man who was partially blind, it was littered with spelling mistakes, her name misspelled. She voiced her outrage, called it an insult. And in a 13-minute phone conversation with the prime minister, that she recorded, Mrs. James' heartfelt doubts about why and how her son was killed in Afghanistan have riveted the country.
JACKIE JAMES, MOTHER OF GUARDSMAN JAMIE JAMES: How would you like it if one of your children, God forbid, went to a war doing something that he thought where he was helping protect his queen and country, and because of a lack -- lack of helicopters, lack of equipment, your child bled to death and then you have the coroner have to tell you his every injury? My son had no legs from the knees down. My son lost his right hand. My son had to have his face reconstructed. Do you understand, Mr. Brown, lack of equipment?
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: (INAUDIBLE).
NEWTON: On the phone, Gordon Brown stammers and sympathizes. And in a press conference said his troops were properly equipped, but that he had asked for a full report on the death of Jamie James. As for the letter . . .
BROWN: I issued a statement yesterday apologizing for any grief that had been caused by that. The last thing on my mind was to cause any offense to Jackie James. And I think people know me well enough to know that it would never be my intention by carelessness or by a failure to cause any grief to a grieving mother. NEWTON (on camera): As humbling as all this has been for Gordon Brown, the British government says it remains committed to the mission in Afghanistan, but with limits.
NEWTON (voice-over): Mr. Brown was asked if he would back up any American commitment of more troops in Afghanistan.
NEWTON (on camera): Will you rule out sending any more above and beyond the 500 that you've already pledged? Britain he said would contribute 500 more troops already announced, but no more.
NEWTON (voice-over): Britain, he said, would contribute 500 more troops already announced but no more.
BROWN: I do expect other countries in NATO to make commitments as well. I don't think this will be wholly an American or British announcement. I think there are other countries ready to play their part in Afghanistan.
NEWTON: Brown's stand is a reflection of the burden he now carries for this war. Polls show a majority in Britain now want their troops home and remain utterly unconvinced by a prime minister constantly trying to defend the sacrifices as necessary for the country's safety.
Paula Newton, CNN, London.
HARRIS: Pictures just in to CNN just moments ago. We want to take you back to Arlington National Cemetery now. These pictures, again, just moments ago into the CNN NEWSROOM. President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama -- we will roll this in just a second -- visiting section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. Section 60 holds the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And a couple of other tidbits I was unaware of. Visitors often take up the Jewish tradition of leaving stones on the grave markers. And there is a lot of conversation here among the families of the fallen. And oftentimes we hear the stories of families meeting here at section 60 and forming these bonds that last, that simply last for years. We understand section 60 has been one of the busiest parts of the cemetery, and it stands to reason.
Almost every day new burials take place here. And those burials bring with them, of course, the precision marches, the somber tones, Taps being played. And, again, oftentimes what you hear is of families coming together here and forming bonds that last for years.
The president and the first lad lady, section 60, at Arlington National Cemetery. Let's take a quick break. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. We're back in a moment.
HARRIS: For the first time, witnesses are speaking publicly about the brutal gang rape of a teenager outside her homecoming dance in Richmond, California. We get details now from Cecilia Vega of affiliate KGO.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really -- I really wanted to help her, but I don't know, I just didn't.
CECILIA VEGA, KGO CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the 20 bystanders who police say watched and did nothing as a 16-year-old girl was brutally gang raped outside her homecoming dance. It is the first time a witness to that horrific attack has spoken publicly.
VEGA (on camera): Why didn't you call the police?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't have a phone, and I just -- I don't know. There was a lot of people there. There were some people there that, I don't know, I just didn't want to say anything because I was scared.
VEGA (voice-over): Salvador Rodriguez was also scared by what he saw that night.
SALVADOR RODRIGUEZ: I saw people, like, dehumanizing on me. I saw some pretty crazy stuff.
VEGA: Police arrested him as a possible suspect after the attack, but he was released for lack of evidence. The 21-year-old says he tried to help the victim after the attack ended.
RODRIGUEZ: She was by herself. She was naked and, like, I tried to help her. I was like, oh -- like, I reached for her and she started screaming. And I said, hey, I don't want to hurt you, I just want to help. That's all I want to do is just help you. So she stopped screaming as if like she knew, you know, I wasn't trying to do nothing. And then I grabbed my t-shirt and I covered her up with it.
VEGA: He was skateboarding outside Richmond High the night of the dance. He saw people drinking in a poorly lit section of campus. When he got closer, he realized what was going on.
RODRIGUEZ: They were kicking her in her head and they were like beating her up and robbing her and ripping her clothes off. And it was just -- it's something you can't get out your mind.
VEGA: Police say the rape went on for two-and-a-half hours and that as many as 10 people may have participated. Rodriguez is friends with one of the suspects in custody. He says he tried to stop the attackers for taking pictures of her the girl. He now fears for his life by being labeled a snitch.
RODRIGUEZ: I just see like everybody going crazy and messing with her and all that. Hey, man, calm down. You know, leave her alone. That's a little girl. You know, you don't do nothing like that. Because I've got two 15-year-old sisters myself.
VEGA: The witness says he watched for 15 to 20 minutes. Not even his own family knows he was there that night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I feel that I could have done something, but I don't feel like I have any responsibility for anything that happened.
HARRIS: Well, neither CNN, nor the Richmond Police Department, has verified Rodriguez's account of his actions at the scene. The Richmond Police Department said Rodriguez's story is still under investigation.
And checking our top stories now.
President Obama is preparing for an eighth strategy session with his war council. They'll focus today on four options for Afghanistan. The White House insists the president has not made a decision yet on whether to send more troops to that war.
Military divers have found the body of a U.S. paratrooper who went missing last week in a river in western Afghanistan. Officials are continuing their search for a second paratrooper.
Police Sergeant Kimberly Munley is one of the heroes of the Fort Hood tragedy. She stopped the shooter with four bullets but was wounded in the process. Officer Munley spent some time talking with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who stopped by her hospital room today. She recount the events of last week to Oprah Winfrey. She says, "the entire incident was very confusing and chaotic. Many people outside pointing to the direction that this individual was apparently located. And as soon as I got out of my vehicle and ran up the hill is when things started getting pretty bad and we started encountering fire."
The family of shooting suspect Nidal Hasan has hired an attorney with inside knowledge of the military justice system. Retired Colonel John Galligan served as a military lawyer and later a military judge. Galligan tells CNN he took this case because Hasan has legal rights that deserve to be protected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. JOHN GALLIGAN (RET.), NIDAL HASAN'S ATTORNEY: As you know, I was only recently retained and I've only had one opportunity to meet directly with him, and that was for a brief 30-minute period shortly after I was retained. I went down myself, and together with the military detailed defense counsel and met with him. But it was primarily just to assure that he was satisfied with the current composition of the defense team. And then because of his medications and it was obvious that he was very tired, we terminated our interview at that time.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN: What is his physical condition like? We know that he took at least four gunshots. He was on a ventilator for some time in the aftermath of that attack. How is he now? GALLIGAN: Well, he's -- well, I'm not a doctor, but I'd qualify his condition as guarded. He's still hospitalized. He's still in an ICU unit. And I can assure you that before I make any attempt to continue to talk to him about his case or representation of him, I'm going to coordinate that through appropriate medical officers to make sure we're not impinge or be a detraction to proper medical care.
CHETRY: Right. How did you come to represent Major Hasan right now? I'm sure that was probably a tough decision for you.
GALLIGAN: Well, family members are the ones that originally contacted me. And in terms of the decision to represent Major Hasan, suffice it to say, I'm former military myself, as you know, and I consider it a privilege to be able to represent every soldier that walks in my office and has problems, whether it's -- or a legal issue, whether it's in the military, whether it's in the civilian sector. I take great pride in the fact that a major part of my law practice is to defend those who defend us.
CHETRY: Yes, and you did say that before. And I read it when I was doing research for this interview. And I thought to myself, what do you say then to the families of the 12 soldiers who were gunned down, these innocent soldiers who were gunned down, the one civilian who was killed, investigators say at the hands of the man that you're now defending?
GALLIGAN: Well, first and foremost, I share and extend my sympathies to all of the victims that were involved in this case. But I'd also caution and remind everyone how important it is that we ensure that as we go through a pretrial and trial process, whether it's within the military or outside of the military, that we remember why we all wear the uniform and the important rights that we seek to protect. And that is the right to a fair trial. And my biggest concern right now is to ensure that this military defendant, still cloaked with the presumption of innocence and entitled as all of us as Americans are, that is to a fair and impartial trial, actually receive that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: And we will hear more from John Galligan in the weeks and months to come as the case against Major Hasan progresses.
As the Republican Party searches for new leaders, one from the Dakota's is emerging.
HARRIS: All right. Let's get you to cnnmoney.com. Because our money team does such a terrific job, you won't find better work, particularly when it comes to the latest financial news and analysis anywhere else. Certainly not on the web, come on. Cnn.com/money. The headline story there, pretty snarky, we owe $12 trillion. Want to donate? Cnnmoney.com.
All right. Let's swing to the big board. New York Stock Exchange now trying to continue a rally into a sixth day here, as you can see. The Dow in positive territory, up 36 points. The Nasdaq, at last check, oh, Joe, I lost it, OK, up 14. We are following these numbers throughout the day for you, of course, with Susan Lisovicz right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
A fight for the future of the GOP in a New York district that has taken another turn for sure. Some Democrats are calling it a purge of moderates from the party. Republican State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava has come under fire recently for endorsing a Democrat after she dropped out of a race for the U.S. House. She has now resigned from her assembly position as minority whip. And GOP leaders had been calling for her to step down after she endorsed a Democrat for the 23rd Congressional District. Scozzafava considers herself a moderate Republican who supports same sex marriage and abortion rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEDE SCOZZAFAVA (R), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: The attacks were pretty vicious, especially since it was coming from people that identify themselves as Republicans. So that was difficult to overcome. But hopefully a lesson can be learned and we can move forward and make the party stronger and understand that there are many voices that make a party, but we can all -- we can all agree around core principles, less government spending, less government interference in the lives of others, lower taxes and working on eliminating the deficits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The Democrat that Scozzafava endorsed ended up winning the congressional seat over his conservative Republican rival.
As the GOP looks to the next generation to carry the party, they've chosen a different kind of freshman senator to be part of their leadership sessions on The Hill. At 6'4", Senator John Thune of South Dakota is standing tall. CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, takes a look at his ideas.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He walks through the airport unnoticed. But this anonymity may not last forever. John Thune is a Republican on the rise. A freshman senator already in the GOP leadership. He runs the Republican's weekly strategy session where they plot their Obama opposition.
JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: You know, it's a pretty critical time.
BASH: We tagged along as he made his way there.
THUNE: It's probably the most candid assessment that we have in a given week.
BASH: To look at this image, is to understand part of his appeal for the GOP. A young guy from South Dakota, in the leadership of veteran southerners.
THUNE: I love (ph) my buffalo.
BASH (on camera): Did you do that?
THUNE: No, I did not. Actually it was a guy from Rapid City wanted us to have it.
BASH (voice-over): He presses his prairie sensibilities.
THUNE: It's very easy here in this bubble to get bogged down in the, you know, the Washington-speak. There are just basic, sort of commonsense principles that I think make sense and that people understand. One is, you can't spend money you don't have. Two is, when you borrow money, you have to pay it back.
BASH: Thune argues Republicans can only rebuild by uniting around a promise to control spending and mean it.
THUNE: We have to walk the walk. We have to get serious about this massive amount of spending that's coming through Washington.
BASH: His big push now? Returning unused bailout money.
THUNE: The TARP program, right now, has an over $300 billion of unspent funds. Why not end that program and apply it to the federal debt?
BASH: Thune is popular with Republicans. But for Democrats, his presence still stings. In 2004, he defeated Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in a brutal campaign.
BASH (on camera): Do you know what your nickname was, right?
THUNE: What? Tell me.
BASH: Giant killer.
THUNE: Oh, giant killer. OK. Well, yes, sorry.
BASH (voice-over): He started in the Senate with Barack Obama and the two share a love of basketball. At 6'4", Thune is considered one of the Senate's best players.
BASH (on camera): Did you ever play?
THUNE: You know, it's funny, people think we have. I'm still waiting for my invitation to play, but . . .
BASH: You haven't gotten invited?
THUNE: No. I know. Go figure.
BASH (voice-over): There's already buzz in some corners about Thune running for president himself in 2012. He won't go there.
THUNE: Right now I'm very focused on re-election.
BASH (on camera): No trips to Iowa in your future?
THUNE: No. I may go across Iowa, but it will be to get somewhere.
BASH (voice-over): For now, you'll see Thune running here, near the Capitol, for now.
Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
HARRIS: They are the aging heroes of World War II, and many have never seen a memorial built in their honor and dedicated in 2004. Honor Flight is a program that flies World War II veterans from around the country to see the memorial at no charge. Love this piece last hour. Kyra wanted to run it again. We have the privilege of following nearly 80 veterans on the trip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's awesome. It's so big. And I never imagined it would be this big.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So right now it's your memorial.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) sure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The troops are on their way.
FRANK BALES (ph), WORLD WAR II VETERAN: My name is Frank Bales and I'm from Idaho originally. August 18, 1944, is when I crashed. And that was a horrible mistake. We shouldn't have gotten down. We shouldn't have even been hit that day. We were the only plane in the group to get hit. In a single -- some German gunner must have had a moment of ecstasy. I got one. I got one.
And that was a bad day. And so four fellas were killed in the crash. Five of us survived. I almost didn't. I was declared -- reported to base as deceased, but I wasn't.
MARCUS LEE LONG JR. (ph), WORLD WAR II VETERAN: My name is Marcus Lee Long Jr. And I was a first class petty officer. And I was a ship's cook. And I -- my battle station was the number one gun turret.
We served in the South Pacific. And our first engagement was in the Marshall Islands. We went on to the Guam, and Sypan (ph), (INAUDIBLE). Went to the Lady Guff (ph) and also the Philippines and Iwo Jima.
Ah, the Lady Guff. I think that they called it a turkey shoot when they shot down over 200 Japanese airplanes that day.
These pictures we made on Guam, playing baseball over there. I look at this photo, right here, not realizing how young I was then. And I'm 84 years old today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: World War II, 1st Marine Division.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really an honor to be here today, with all those who have served.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's very important today that there is a memorial for all the fellas that didn't come back, like my brother and my stepbrother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss a lot of my buddies. And we went into the service together and they didn't make it back. And we miss them.
HARRIS: Love that piece. All right, to learn more about Honor Flight, visit our Impact Our World website. That's at cnn.com/impact. There you will find information on other organizations that honor our nation's troops this veterans day and throughout the year.