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Aired January 05, 2010 - 09:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, guys. And good morning to you, everybody. Here's what's going on in the CNN NEWSROOM today.

A lot to tell you about. In fact, new details about that deadly attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan. The suicide bomber was courted as a double agent, but instead he carried out a double cross.

National security experts meeting at the White House today. Where exactly did the system fail in the attempted bombing of Flight 253?

And a deadly shooting at a federal building in Las Vegas. Why did the retiree walk in and just start firing a shotgun?

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. It is Tuesday, January 5th, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

All right, let's get straight to it this morning. First off, we're going to be talking with Barbara Starr from the Pentagon this morning. She's got some amazing details about that deadly CIA attack we're talking about.

And also to the White House with Suzanne Malveaux who's going to be telling us a little bit more about how the president could possibly announce some new airline security procedures today.

And then meteorologist Rob Marciano, I think just trying to keep warm and inside today because there is bitter cold once again gripping much of the country.

A trusted double agent now being blamed for the bombing in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA officers. The bodies of those officers arrived back at the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base late yesterday.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us now live in Washington with the latest.

Barbara, good morning to you. The CIA thought this suicide bomber was reformed, right?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, by all accounts it appeared so, Heidi. We've spoken to a former senior U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of what transpired, who says by all accounts this person had been a militant in Jordan, had been arrested. The Jordanians thought he was rehabilitated, was working for them and the United States on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

And this tragedy occurred when U.S. intelligence operatives met the man off base, did not search him by all accounts, drove him back to the base, Forward Operating Base Chapman, and it was there that he detonated his suicide vest killing eight -- seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian military officer.

By all accounts the U.S. and the Jordanians thought this man was a trusted agent because in the past he had given them valuable information that they thought was verified and accurate. But looking at his identity, this man whose name is al-Balawi came from the same small town in Jordan as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the one-time leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

The full investigation, Heidi, remains under way.

COLLINS: Yes, and it really speaks to how the U.S. must have trusted him because they didn't search him at all, but I imagine that a lot of that sort of investigation or that relationship was built-up even before with the Jordanians. I know King Abdullah is of course a big U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Could this have some sort of impact on the relationship between the U.S. and Jordan?

STARR: Well, you know, as you say, the Jordanians don't speak about it publicly, but King Abdullah and the Jordanian government -- for years -- helped the United States very quietly, very covertly in the war on terror. Hoping to hunt for the highest level al Qaeda targets.

In fact, this instance they thought the man had information about Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's number two.


STARR: That may go to why they were so anxious to talk to the man. The Jordanians have first-rate counterintelligence services. They are a valuable ally to the U.S. in the Middle East peace process, so this puts King Abdullah in a very delicate position because on the one hand he is helping the United States. He is helping with all of this.

But on the other hand he is well aware the Jordanians have a militant presence in their own country and of course they have a very large Palestinian population. So this puts the king in a very delicate position, especially, Heidi, because the Jordanian military officer that was killed in this incident was a cousin to the king.


STARR: A cousin to the royal family, and had been working undercover, according to U.S. accounts, to try and help get information from this man. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right. We'll continue to follow it, obviously. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, this morning.

The attack is putting new focus on security procedures in Afghanistan. Wondering if changes could be on the way.

CNN's Atia Abawi is joining us live this morning from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Atia, what is the security like right now? Have you seen any changes?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, when you look at the security in Afghanistan, it depends on how you look at it. It has progressively gotten worse, the situation in Afghanistan. It's much worse than it was a few years ago.

When you look at the bases in Afghanistan, I spoke to the military official here and he says that whenever a situation like this occurs, the one -- as the one that we saw at Forward Operating Base Chapman that killed the seven Americans, they do dissect exactly what went on, how the security was manipulated to have this man coming on base without being checked, being in the presence of such high officials, and detonate a suicide invest.

He said that new guidance has been sent out to various bases but he couldn't, for obvious reasons, go into what kind of details and what kind of changes were made. Heidi?

COLLINS: Understood. All right, Atia Abawi. Thanks so much, live from Kabul, Afghanistan this morning.

We have an update on the U.S. embassy in Yemen now. Today it is back open and ready for business. Washington closed the embassy, as you know, on Sunday because of the threat of an al Qaeda attack. A senior administration official says intelligence suggested that four al Qaeda operatives may be planning an attack on the compound. Today the embassy says the Yemeni security forces have addressed those specific concerns.

Revisiting the terror aboard Northwest Flight 253. Why wasn't the attempted bombing prevented completely? And what needs to happen so we are safer now?

That is the focus of a meeting today between the president and his national security experts.


THOMAS KEAN, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: He's been focused on health care. He's been focused on climate change. He's been focused on the economy, and he should have been. It's just when you're so focused and you're a brand-new president on your first year, you can't sometimes look at everything at once.

And this is reminder that there's nothing more important than the safety of the American people. And I feel -- I like the people he's appointed in these positions. And I think the president has taken the right response now and (INAUDIBLE) he's going to do a good job.


COLLINS: CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joining us now live.

Suzanne, what are we going to see coming out of this meeting today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going to see the president, first and foremost. He's going to talk about some changes -- at least some initial changes -- that are going to be made to the watch list, so that those kinds of lists will net the names of people who are potentially dangerous. Something that did not happen in this last case.

Around the table of the situation room, Heidi, it's going to be a very impressive group, really the top level security team. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, as well as the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, as well as the CIA head, Leon Panetta.

The attorney general, the head of the FBI, all of them essentially giving initial reports to the president about the areas that they've looked at and areas in which they can improve.

A senior administration official describing kind of a lessons learned, if you will. They're focusing on a number of things. But first the terror watch list, as I had mentioned before. Already there are some initial changes that are going to be made to those watch list so they can net a broader group of people and actually make sure that they are alerted to any potential threats from those individuals.

Intelligence gathering process. The fact that there were certain individuals and agencies that should have been talking to each other, that needed to talk to share -- and share information, to make sure that that is happening.

Also, how to stop future terror attacks, and then finally, what we have been discussing a lot, we've seen a prescreening, passenger screening on those airlines, the TSA, the new regulations that have come out in drips and drabs.

But we're going to take a look and the president is going to present some of those changes that are going to be permanent, that are going to be long-lasting, and clearly are going to affect everybody's life in terms of how they travel, where they move and whether or not you may actually get stopped at the airport because of the change in some of those watch lists as well -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. And it's a fine line, too, it seems that they're all walking and how much they release coming out from a meeting like this at such high levels. Don't want to be telling the general public too much about what types of security measures could be put in place, especially regarding a terror watch list. MALVEAUX: Absolutely. I mean it's a balancing act. But one thing that the senior administration official told me this morning is that the president does need to come out and show the American people that he's paying very close attention to the issue of terrorism.

This is something a lot of people have been talking about. The economy, clearly, health care, those are very big priorities of the administration. But, you know, folks are nervous. They see something like this kind of attempt on an airline. They want to make sure and be reassured that this administration is paying attention to that as well.

And that is why you're going to see the president now talking about it front and center today.

COLLINS: Absolutely. Quickly, Suzanne, are we expecting any resignations throughout all of this?

MALVEAUX: We certainly don't expect any resignations today. Senior administration officials say the president is not going to come out and say there's going to be a big shake-up in any way. It is really preliminary. They are still getting all the information together.

You know, whether or not that happens in the future, we don't know. If it's going to be -- you know, at what level. But certainly today is all about here's what we know, here's what we should have known. And then we'll see what happens from there.

COLLINS: Understood. All right, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House this morning. Thanks, Suzanne.

A hail of gun fire, though a witness said it sounded like popcorn. Federal marshals chased a gunman into the street after he opens fire without warning.

Plus, this.


AUSTIN FORMAN, ANGEL'S OWNER: She was my best friend but now she's even greater to me, like, she's more than a best friend now.


COLLINS: Loyalty. Saving a life. A boy's best friend jumps into the action in the nick of time, stopping a big cat in its tracks.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And good morning, again. I'm meteorologist Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Another day of frigid temperatures and there is more even colder temperatures on the way. Weather is next after the break. Stay with us.


COLLINS: A deadly shooting in Las Vegas. And police say the gunman was angry about his Social Security benefits. This video posted on YouTube captured some of the gun fire and commotion. One security officer was killed, so was the shooter.

Police say 66-year-old Johnny Wikz opened fire with a shotgun when he walked into the courthouse yesterday.

Here's how one witness describes the shooting.


BOBBY SCOTTLAND, WITNESS: The gentleman who went into the courthouse, I passed him as I was walking to the Foley courthouse. Went through security. Was talking to my attorney on a matter. And we heard the gun shots.

It sounded like popcorn. It wasn't as loud as the video shows because we were in a building. But we -- you know, I walked outside to the foyer of the entrance of the Foley building. Looked out the bay window and saw five marshals and a couple of parole officers with their guns drawn shooting -- well, they had just finished shooting towards where the perpetrator was.


COLLINS: A deputy marshal was also shot by Wikz. He is in stable condition. Police say Wikz was upset over losing an appeal for more Social Security benefits.

At least four people are dead in Tennessee as a result of the bitter cold weather. Nashville police believe an 81-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease wandered outside in his bathrobe and froze to death. That's according to a report from a Tennessee newspaper.

Police say three other people also died from hypothermia, including a 68-year-old man found dead inside his home because neighbors say he did not have the heat on.


BEN TENNORT, NEIGHBOR: Somebody came by to bring him some food, and when they came back the food that they'd left for him was still there. We don't know exactly, you know, what his reasons were for not having the heat on, because he did have utilities in the house.


COLLINS: There is a winter weather watch now from Memphis to talk about this morning, and probably some other places that are going to be very, very cold.

Again, today, our Rob Marciano is working those maps and is joining us now from the weather center.

Yes, and I know at least here even it's colder than I have ever felt. MARCIANO: Yes, and the problem is, the pattern really isn't changing. So we're talking not so much the intensity of this cold, but the duration of which it will last for a good chunk of -- really the eastern half of the country from the Dakotas all the way down to Florida.

And we're talking about, you know, citrus crops that could be affected and people just trying to stay warm. And that's going to be an issue everywhere from the homeless to people trying to heat their homes with, say, space heaters and that could lead to fires and that kind of things.


COLLINS: Does that mean it will warm up then because...

MARCIANO: Yes, it will.


MARCIANO: Because we have it scheduled to warm up around about April 1st.

COLLINS: April 1st.


COLLINS: All right. Whatever. Hey, listen, I want to show you this next story because I think everybody has been looming an eye over it in the NEWSROOM today.

We all know dogs are called man's best friend, of course. In this case, this story, it's a boy's best friend. This 18-month old golden retriever saved the boy from a hungry cougar jumping in, just says the cougar was ready to bite into the 11-year-old boy. Listen.


FORMAN: The dog obviously knew something was up because she ran towards me just at the right time, and the cougar ended up getting her instead.


COLLINS: Unbelievable. The dog named Angel suffered a few bites and bumps, you can see some of them there, but is definitely going to be OK. The cougar was shot and killed. Can you imagine that scene?

MARCIANO: My goodness. That is some puppy dog. We could -- a lot of young men could use a puppy dog like that around them when being attacked by cougars, for sure.


COLLINS: Marciano. You're killing me.

MARCIANO: They told me to stand here, that's what you get.


MARCIANO: I'm sorry.

COLLINS: All right. Well, I'm not bringing you into these little stories anymore. You're supposed to share the joy. All right.

MARCIANO: It was joyful.

COLLINS: Rob, we'll check back later. Maybe.

It's been 10 years. Time for the U.S. to do another headcount. What the government is doing to entice you to fill out that census form.


COLLINS: Time now to check some of the top stories that we're watching this morning.

The Obama administration is open to talks with Iran. Even though Iran didn't respond to the president's request for movement on lessening the nuclear threat by January 1st.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our approach, as you know, is already -- always preceded on two tracks. We have an engagement track and a pressure track.

And as I said the results of our efforts to engage Iran directly have not been encouraging. We want to keep the door to dialogue open. But we've also made it clear we can't continue to wait.


COLLINS: Senator John Kerry had asked for permission to go to Tehran for talks, but according to an Iranian news Web site, an Iranian parliamentary committee said no, turning the request by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune is dead. Thirty- year-old Casey Johnson was found dead in her West Hollywood home. Police say there is no evidence of foul play. But toxicology tests could take several weeks.

The socialite made headlines over the years for her friendships with Paris Hilton and reality TV star Tila Tequila.

An hour-long power outage delayed travelers at Reagan National Airport outside Washington. The power problem shut down half the security screening checkpoints. The planes could still take off and land thanks to a backup generator. The equipment failure was blamed for an outage.


COLLINS: It's only 10 questions long and you only have to fill it out every 10 years, but some people still resists doing the U.S. census. The government is hoping to change that this year.

Christine Romans is joining us now live from New York with more on this.

Hey, Christine, so the census says it's 10 little questions, it's 10 minutes, but counting over 300 million people, obviously a huge project.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is. And they're getting started right away with this national road show trying to tell everyone, look, it is your obligation. In fact, in the United States Constitution, it says the government will count everybody every 10 years and they are getting ready to do that.

It is a snapshot of what this country is, how it is changing, and it also has an awful lot to do with power and influence in Washington.


ROMANS (voice-over): In New York's Times Square, the launch of a road show. Not a Broadway show, but a national tour sponsored by the U.S. government to get America ready for the 2010 census.

GARY LOCKE, COMMERCE SECRETARY: It will have enormous impact on communities and people all across America.

ROMANS: Commerce Secretary Gary Locke heads up the agency that's supposed to count every single person in America.

LOCKE: It's a responsibility of every person living in America, whether they are a voter or not, whether they're registered as a voter or not, or even weather or not they are a natural U.S. citizen.

ROMANS: The government is spending more than $340 million, including a massive ad campaign in 28 languages, to get people to fill out this census form. At stake? Power and money.

Congressional seats are doled out depending on a state's population, and so is $400 billion in federal funding.

LOCKE: If you want your fair share, be counted because this is money for schools, for and human services, for medical services as well as for transportation.

ROMANS: Things got so contentious during the 2000 count that Utah sued the Census Bureau.

PAMELA PERLICH, SR. RESEARCH ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH: In the end, we were 856 persons short of having that congressional seat.

ROMANS: The Supreme Court ruled Utah couldn't count missionaries serving overseas since congressional seats are limited to 435, the extra seats, instead, went to North Carolina.

PERLICH: Who knows exactly what that would have meant as far as dollars and cents and programs and policies, but at the margin, to have one more person there in the Congress working on behalf of Utah does make a difference.

ROMANS: This time around Utah is likely to get that House seat. According to one projection, eight states in the south and west are expected to gain at least one seat after the big 2010 census. Texas could gain as many as four.

Ten states, most located in the northeast and the Midwest, may well lose at least one House seat. Those numbers could have been far worse.

LARRY SABATO, DIR., CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: The recession has actually frozen a lot of people in place. And so people who might have left the north and Midwest and gone south or west stayed. They stayed where they were. And that saved some seats for the north and the Midwest.

ROMANS: All of this depends on how many people actually fill out the form. Historically, counting minorities has been an issue and the Census Bureau is working hard to combat mistrust.

(On camera): There are some, a local minority, I would say, who've been cautioning against some people in the Latino community actually participating in the 2010 Census. What do you say to that?

LOCKE: You don't obtain political empowerment unless you're counted, so that we know exactly how strong and how large you are. So I think that boycotting the census is actually counter productive to their goals of greater political participation.


ROMANS: Heidi, the Latino demographic is obviously the most quickly growing over the past 10 years. Just how accurate this census count is will show us just how fast-growing that demographic is.

Thirteen million people will receive this in the mail, in Spanish and English. And there are five languages altogether. That this census form will be sent to mailboxes across the country. If they're not turned in or they're turned in incomplete, then the Census will send a worker to people's homes to make sure they get all the information that they need -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Have you ever filled one out? I mean we're just talking about it in the NEWSROOM. I've never had one. I feel like I'm pretty easy to find. I never had one.

ROMANS: Did someone in your household fill it out? Because one person in the household can fill it out for everybody.

COLLINS: Right. Right. Not that I'm aware of, but I will definitely check on that. And I have been around more than 10 years. I wonder, why is there resistance for some people filling this out? And why is it 10 questions? Shouldn't it just be like your name, your address, your race and you're done with it?

ROMANS: It's basically those 10 -- basically 10 questions, they're going to ask you about homeownership and asks you about other people living in your home, the children, but it's 10 simple questions.

It used to be this form was a lot more complicated in years past. They're trying to keep it quite simple so people can -- they can streamline the information that they're getting. Some people have been resistant in the past, and particularly minority groups, new arrivals who come.

And in some of their home countries, a knock on the door from the government is not something that you really welcome with open arms. So that's something the Census has to overcome. Also, what they'll be doing, Heidi, is they'll be really careful about finding people who have been displaced by homelessness and foreclosure crisis.


ROMANS: They have some specific things that Census workers will be doing to make sure that they can find people through forwarding addresses and whether living with relatives to make sure they're counting people who have lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis.

So some interesting wrinkles to make sure that they try to count every single person, man, woman and child, in America.

COLLINS: Wow. OK. Thanks, Christine.


COLLINS: We'll continue to follow that, obviously.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Before Barack Obama even took the oath of office he faced his first terrorism scare. We'll tell you about the alleged plot that secretly loomed over his inauguration.


COLLINS: Stocks kicked off the New Year with a bang, but after that wave of buying yesterday, investors are ready to take a break today, apparently, as we hear the opening bell.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with a preview of the trading day.

Yes, we ended up like 155 yesterday.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very nice start to the year, Heidi. It's a different kind of open today. We are not really expecting a whole lot of action, although reports on factory orders and pending home sales at the top of the hour could influence trading sentiment and so could some deal news.

Kraft is selling its frozen pizza business, which includes Tombstone, DiGiorno and California Pizza Kitchen to Nestle for nearly $4 billion. Kraft is using the proceeds to raise its offer for British candy maker Cadbury, still going after Cadbury Heidi. But Cadbury quickly rejected the offer and the buyout effort hit another roadblock because Kraft's biggest share holder, Warren Buffett, yeah we heard of him. He voted no on the plan to issue more shares to buy Cadbury and the saga continues.

Meanwhile, another airline has filed for bankruptcy. This is Mesa Air Group. The carrier plans to continue operations during its restructuring but it ran into trouble after United did not to renew its deal for Mesa to run some of its regional flights.

A new smart phone could soon be hitting the market. Google expected to unveil its first smart phone today called the Nexus One for all you gadget lovers. The Nexus here as well, we're seeing some (INAUDIBLE) The Dow and the NASDAQ down, just slightly. Finally, Heidi, just let me tell you about the top U.S. tourist destination. You know this as well.

COLLINS: It's New York and New Jersey.

LISOVICZ: Well Frank Sinatra thought so. With 45 million visitors, the big apple reclaiming the top spot for the first time since 1990. Las Vegas or Orlando have been number one for the past two decades. Lots of people come here both from the U.S. as well as overseas, I hear. And because the dollar is so week, they bring lots of empty suitcases, because New York and the U.S., for that matter, is on sale.

COLLINS: Absolutely, buying a lot of those snow globes with the empire state building in them and so forth. All right, Susan Lisovicz, thanks.

LISOVICZ: See you later.

COLLINS: Satisfaction is not guaranteed for America's workforce. A new poll shows an increasing number of workers are unhappy with their jobs. Only 45 percent in fact are satisfied with their work. That's down 4 percent over last year. The Conference Board business research group commissioned this poll. They say the recession is partly to blame. The poll also found only 51 percent of American workers like their bosses. We want to know, are you getting enough job satisfaction? I am waiting to hear the Rolling Stones in the background. It's the question on our blog this morning. We'd love to hear from you. Just make sure you post those comments, You can go ahead and get online there and take a look at, a little bit more about that study and then tell us what you think. We'll read some of your responses coming up in the next hour right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: The American embassy has now reopened in Yemen. The embassy had shut down over the weekend over fears that al Qaeda was planning to attack it. It reopened overnight after Yemeni forces killed and captured some of the suspects. But the embassy does warn threats are still high in Yemen. Several other countries have stepped up security at their embassies.

It's no secret terrorist groups operate in Yemen. To what extent though? Intelligence agencies are still learning about that. CNN's Jill Dougherty looks at the growing threat and U.S. plans to counter it.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The American embassy in Yemen under terrorist threat.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: That is in response to on going threats by al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, so-called AQAP that have been on going. They certainly predate this holiday season and they are aimed at American interests in Yemen.

DOUGHERTY: That terror group, the same one President Barack Obama blames for orchestrating the Christmas day failed bombing of a U.S. airliner. U.S. officials tell CNN eight al Qaeda suspects were planning to bomb the embassy. Yemeni forces killed three and captured one more wearing a suicide vest. Four other terrorists were still at large. Yemen has been a hot bed of terrorism going back at least to the October 2000 bombing of the "USS Cole" that killed 17 American sailors and the embassy has been the target of numerous attacks. Yemen's ability to combat the threat Secretary Clinton says in crucial.

CLINTON: We see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by al Qaeda in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region.

DOUGHERTY: Which is why the U.S. is more than doubling its aid to Yemen, $160 million in development and counterterrorism assistance over the last two years. Barbara Bodine, former U.S. ambassador to Yemen says it's a fragile state, on the brink of becoming a failed state. But the U.S. should not turn it into a third front after Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight against al Qaeda.

BARBARA BODINE, FMR US AMBASSADOR TO YEMEN: Yemen would be a very difficult environment for the U.S. forces to operate in. And so I think the president's statement that we are going to be assisting and supporting the Yemenis to do this is really a much smarter way to go about it.


COLLINS: Jill Dougherty joining us now from Washington. So Jill, Secretary Clinton of course is going to be at the White House today for this meeting with the president. What's she going to be telling him? DOUGHERTY: One of the main things that she is talking about of course is the State Department side of that and that's visas. So the State Department already quickly went into action when they changed the way that they deal with these cables, the visas viper cables that we have been reporting on, the one that had the information from the father in Nigeria of the suspect. They are including information, does the person have a visa, a crucial point that was never included by regulations in those visas.

They are also going to be looking at different ways of notifying airlines about the fact that somebody's visa has been revoked. There are interesting things like as it stands right now, they often notify airlines by letter, not even electronically. So you can see there is some electronic things that have to be done. And then, you know, we were talking to some officials who said as they can see it, the State Department did basically everything correctly, according to procedures. But those existing procedures have big gaps and that's one of the problems here, that what was in place really is not working. And this was unfortunately maybe a test run but that's what's going to come up we're led to believe at the White House.

COLLINS: And I keep asking the question, we may not have the answer, but I imagine they will be talking about with regard to the terror watch list and so forth about some sort of global database that will allow that information to be disseminated not only faster but more far reaching.

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely, because there are different (INAUDIBLE) and there are different requirements for putting somebody on a different watch list. It usually requires a lot to get them on let's say a no fly list. That might be able to be speeded up. That's one of the things that's been looked at, too because after all, the State Department sends the information in, but they don't make that immediate determination as to whether somebody goes on the list. It's the national counterterrorism center. So all of these procedures have to be looked at very carefully.

COLLINS: Yeah, definitely. All right, Jill. We will be watching it. Thank you.

Even before President Obama took the oath of office, the threat of a terror attack loomed large. The "New York Times" reporting intelligence officials were worried that Solami terrorists were plotting to detonate explosives during the event. The threat turned out to be bogus. It was apparently fueled by a false rumor planted by a rival terror group.


VOICE OF PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are terrorist threats regularly that the government is investigating like this one and like this one, some of them don't turn out to be real. This turned out to be what we call a poison pen, what the intelligence people call a poison pen.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what really fascinated me, (INAUDIBLE) John Brennan, who is now Obama's top counterterrorism official called it this poison pen which is basically a rumor planted by one extremist sect in an effort to kind of get the U.S. into attacking one of rivals. Is that correct?

BAKER: Right, exactly, exactly. He sensed early on this had the possibility of being that kind of thing. What that really tells us is just how difficult it is when you are president, whether it be George Bush or Barack Obama, trying to figure out what is real in this murky world of terrorism and extremism, what's not real and I think that came to light again on Christmas day. How do we know which passengers who are in a system of 550,000 names might be somebody who might be a genuine threat as opposed to somebody who just that happens to be in the system because of some random bits of information. That's what the government is trying to wrestle with even now this week.


COLLINS: As you would imagine, the report was taken so seriously at the time that officials debated what to do if terrorist attacked as millions of people gathered on the mall to watch the inaugural festivities.

Tortillas are a staple at many Mexican meals, but you could be seeing less of them, just one sign of tougher times ahead.


COLLINS: Checking our top stories now. It turns out Tareq and Michaele Salahi weren't the only ones who crashed that White House state dinner in November. The Secret Service now says a third person who wasn't on the guest list got in with the Indian prime minister's delegation. A State Department officials will only identify that person as an American man. But supposedly he did not have any contact with the president or first lady.

A TSA officer has been reassigned to non-screening duties after a man was able to go into a secure area at Newark's Liberty international airport. Sunday night's security breach will be just one of the topics discussed later today when President Obama meets with his top security and terrorism officials. The man in the Newark security breach by the way was later seen on the security tape leaving the terminal.

A warning now. This one us going to make you animal lovers cringe. A dog apparently used for target practice in Kentucky. This 11-month-old black lab was found wandering around town with an arrow sticking out of its body. But animal workers were able to take it out and save his life. No word on who shot the arrow.


COLLINS: Cold weather stretching from the Midwest to the northeast; with that deep freeze comes snow for some states. In South Bend, Indiana shovels and snow blowers are basic necessity now. People are digging out from several inches of snow there and more is expected.

A record-breaking snow in Burlington, Vermont; 33 inches which got people out on their cross country skis there -- nice. Rob Marciano joining now from the weather center...


COLLINS: So more snow apparently on the way for some of these areas?

MARCIANO: Yes, there is, you know what, we were just talking about here, because Miami, it's 51 degrees. That's with the wind chill right now, which will feel warm compared to what will happen tonight. Temperatures will actually drop on that Orange Bowl tonight, Georgia Tech taking on Iowa.


MARCIANO: Can you imagine going to school in Iowa all year long and thinking I get to go to the Orange Bowl in Miami...


MARCIANO: And the temperature's going to be in the 40's at game time. That's just a little bit of irony -- irony that's tough to swallow.

Four degrees is what if feels like in Memphis right now, minus 12 St. Louis, three degrees in Chicago; those are the wind chills and things will only get a little bit closer.

I want to show you this iReport coming in at us, Jen and Molsam sent this to us from Omaha. But I saw a similar picture out of -- out of Atlanta but I guess these pictures are prevalent across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country, with temps staying well below freezing...

COLLINS: You bet.

MARCIANO: ... with waterfalls and fountains that would typically be running nicely.

COLLINS: It looks like a big wedding cake.

MARCIANO: It does, it looks very -- quite delicious, as a matter of fact.

Some lake-effect snows today to a lesser mounts -- some of them will pileup especially west of the western slopes of the Appalachians in West Virginia, parts of the high country of the Carolinas as well.

32 degrees expected high temperature in Atlanta today. That's the high expected, 28 degrees in Memphis and 20 in Chicago.

Front number one down through Miami tonight. Front number two coming across the border tonight also and driving south towards Central Florida by Thursday and Friday. And this will have even colder air, 20 to 30 degrees temps below average. So everywhere east of the continental divide will remain in the grips of this cold snap. And I don't think the pattern is not going to change a whole lot through the weekend.

And it might even last through next week.

So a very, very cold start to this year, cold start to the decade.

COLLINS: Yes, you know, I'm getting really tired of my friends who are vacationing in the British Virgin Gorda (ph) , something, something because it's really warm and toasty, and sunny there. I'll pick an e-mail.

MARCIANO: Well, you should hang out -- you should hang with me and my friends we just go to the Florida coast line.

COLLINS: Oh, ok.

MARCIANO: You know, Dustin...


MARCIANO: Red-neck Riviera...

COLLINS: Cold there though. What are you talking about?

MARCIANO: I thought that kind of place. Bring it down a little bit, Heidi.

COLLINS: I didn't say I was there. I was there and I was annoyed with the e-mails of the lovely weather.

All right, thanks Rob. We'll check back later on.

MARCIANO: All right, yes.

COLLINS: Tiger Woods looking rough and ready on the cover of the new "Vanity Fair" magazine. Here's the picture, it was taken before the whole front yard crash incident and the revelations about his numerous affairs. But there are new allegations in the accompanying article.

The magazine claims Woods routinely paid $5,000 to $10,000 a month in hush money to different women. "Vanity Fair" also claims Woods married for show and was tired of his wife. He has largely kept out of sight since the incident though that hasn't kept him out of the spotlight.

It's being called the Christmas miracle, many lives changed in a heartbeat or two for that matter. A mother and her new born child apparently die and are now celebrating a second chance at life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: In Mexico, the minimum wage is $5 a day and about 40 percent of its people live in poverty. And as CNN's Rafael Romo tells us, those tough times are about to get tougher.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR EDITOR FOR LATIN AMERICA AFFAIRS (voice- over): Tortillas have long been a staple at Mexican dining tables, but prices have just gone up on the familiar then round of unleavened corn meal. Teresa Jimenez says it's going to hurt her family and others.

TERESA JIMENEZ, CONSUMER (through translator): Tortilla prices should remain the same. We already have to limit the amount to appeal we eat and we don't have extra money to afford the new prices. We don't have jobs.

ROMO: The increase in tortilla prices is just one result of the higher taxes put in place January 1st by the Calderon government. The sales tax on most products went up by one percent to 16 percent as well as income taxes on workers with a fixed salary.

GABRIELA VILLANUEVA, CONSUMER (through translator): I'm angry because our president is not helping people in need. He raises salaries for bureaucrats and we the people are only getting a three- peso raise.

ROMO: The higher taxes are pushing up the cost of gasoline, which creates a domino effect.

PEDRO CAMPOS, CONSUMER (through translator): Wages don't go up as fast as prices. Ideally they would keep up with inflation, but they never do.

ROMO: Mexicans are also seeing price hikes in other basic food products such as eggs. Electricity and propane gas are also more expensive now.

ISAIAS FERNANDEZ, CONSUMER (through translator): The rise in basic food products and fuels is higher than ever. It's really ridiculous.

ROMO: Mexicans have a name for the kind of inflation that seems to hit the country at the beginning of each year. They call it the January slope.


COLLINS: Rafael Romo, our senior editor for Latin American affairs joining me now to talk a little bit more about this. So put it in perspective for us if you would when we talk about these tough times. How hard is it for Mexicans to actually afford just those basic necessities that you mentioned in your piece?

ROMO: Well Heidi, we were just talking about the minimum wage being $5 a day. In some parts it's only $4.50 a day. COLLINS: Yes.

ROMO: I was looking at the latest prices. And for example, gasoline is $2.32 a gallon. You may say well, here in the United States it would be a bargain. But keep in mind if you need to buy gasoline and you're paying $2.32 a gallon...

COLLINS: Well, sure.

ROMO: And you only make $4.50 a day you can just imagine how difficult that would be. The kilo of tortillas is nine pesos, which is about 70 cents but when you're talking about just that one basic food item for a family of four, taking up about a seventh of your daily take-home pay you can also imagine how difficult it's been for Mexican families.

COLLINS: Yes, quite frankly a tortilla doesn't really give you much in the way of nutrition anyway. Just something to start with really...

ROMO: And the other worry, Heidi, is that Mexico's Central Bank is predicting that by the end of the year inflation is going to grow higher than five percent...


ROMO: ... so a big problem for families in Mexico.

COLLINS: Yes, no question. All right, well, we appreciate you putting it into perspective for us. Rafael Romo, thank you.

ROMO: Absolutely.

COLLINS: A busy morning. As you know right here in the CNN NEWSROOM all of our crews are standing by to bring you details on the stories that they are working this morning.

Let's begin with CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Hi Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi. Well, President Obama is going to be meeting with his national security team in the situation room. There will be about 20 people at the table obviously taking a look at that foiled terror plot, the Christmas terror plot from top to bottom.

And the big question is, of course, who is going to be held accountable. I'll have more of that at the top of the hour.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. And now it looks like it was a double agent responsible for one of the worst days in CIA history. We'll have that at the top of the hour.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Severe cold driving down again from Canada, this is the third batch of cold air. It's even colder than the last. This year certainly starting-off pretty chilly. Full forecast next hour -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, great, thanks guys.

Also ahead, the call for increased security at airports, but is the TSA prepared to handle it? And who will pay for it? We'll talk with a former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security to get some answers.


COLLINS: Back from the dead: it's an amazing story. A mother who dies during childbirth, the child also lost but then, heartbeats catching doctors by complete surprise.

Our Tom Foreman had more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 5:00 a.m. on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve and Tracy Hermanstorfer is surprised to find herself going into labor. The baby is not due for two weeks. Her husband, Mike, rushes her to the hospital just a few miles from their home and by mid-morning, they are settled into a room awaiting delivery.

Tracy is given a strong painkiller called an epidural around noon. Then she falls asleep. But a half hour later mike notices a dramatic change.

MIKE HERMANSTORFER, HUSBAND: I sat there with my wife's hand in mine, ice cold. She was completely and totally blue.

FOREMAN: 12:35, her breathing and heartbeat have stopped. The medical team swarms trying for a pulse, a reaction, anything.

DR. STEPHANIE MARTIN, MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: She was dead. She had no heartbeat. No breathing. She was as gray as her sweat suit. No signs of life.

FOREMAN: For five frantic minutes they work on Tracy, then Mike hears a doctor call out, "We're taking the baby now." Moments after that emergency C-Section, Tracy is rushed into an operating room.

But Mike is facing more horrible news. The baby, too, is limp and not breathing. No sign of life. Even as the medical team struggles to bring the baby around, Mike believes all is lost. Then at 12:46, Colton Hermanstorfer cries out. He's ok.

M. HERMANSTROFER: That is an amazing feeling.

FOREMAN: Thirty minutes later, more unbelievable and great news. Tracy's heart had restarted right after the birth. Within the hour she is in intensive care, but stable. The family calls it a miracle.

TRACY HERMANSTORFER, MOTHER: I got a second chance on life.

FOREMAN: By Monday, everyone was home. They celebrated Christmas late with their two other sons and gave thanks early and often for the first surprise gift of the season.

Tom Foreman, CNN.


Great picture. An amazing story. But we still have some questions on this. It's incredible. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us next hour to tell us more about how this could happen.