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Senate Leader Apologizes; CIA Double-Agent in Taliban Video

Aired January 09, 2010 - 19:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Randi Kaye, sitting in for Don Lemon.

He successfully navigated President Obama's signature legislation through the Senate. But today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is apologizing to the president and all Americans for a comment he made about Mr. Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

We're learning more about the quotes which appear in a new book on the 2008 campaign called "Game Change." Reid is quoted as saying then- Senator Obama had a good chance of winning the White House because he was, quote, "light skinned" and his speech had what Reid described as, quote, "no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."

The damage control operation is in high gear now. And today's statement, Reid says, quote, "I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments."

Let's talk more about this, Senator Reid's comments, of course, with April Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. She's joining us now by phone from Baltimore.

April, good to have you with us.


KAYE: First off, your reaction to Senator Reid's comments.

RYAN: Well, as a journalist, it is newsworthy, I can say that. You know, I've been talking to some people on Facebook and I just got off the phone with Reverend Jesse Jackson just before we started talking. He said incredible.

You know, and there are others who are reminding from this that we heard something like this before, articulate and clean, speaking of president -- then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. And they were saying that person indeed was then-Senator Joe Biden who was now vice president. And, you know, the president, then-candidate -- presidential candidate Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Senator Joe Biden, they talked at that time and smoothed it out.

But you have to remember that this administration still tries to stay above the fray. And for President Obama to come out and make a statement on his own, he's saying -- you know, he's dealing with this, it's done. They don't want to amplify the issue of race.

KAYE: Well, let me -- let me read that statement from the White House, from the president directly here. "Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years."

He goes on to say, "I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I'm concerned, the book is closed."

Why is it so important here to close this book, April?

RYAN: The issue of race in this country, no matter what side of the circle or square you stand in, it's a very hypersensitive issue. And it's something that cannot be just dealt with in a matter of a statement or just hashing out in a couple of hours after it's found, that you said something in a book.

And this administration knows there is a very fine line. When this president was running, he was running as a man who happened to be black. And he gained the Oval Office.

And just recently, I sat down with the president in December and we had a very long, free-flowing discussion about race, where he was embracing race, using words like "us" and "we." He realizes and understands he's an African-American, but this is not what defines him and this is not who he is.

So, that is the issue. They're trying to move beyond this. Race is not the issue. This is what this administration is trying to do, whether it is good or bad, what Harry Reid had to say.

You know, many African-Americans are surprised. I was getting e-mails from many of my African-American Republican friends saying, why is this not a big deal? And, of course, we understand there are some politics in that, but for many people in the African-American community, it's like, "Wow. OK, here we go again."

So, you know, I'm getting it in so many different ways. People are talking about it in the African-American community. And they're talking about it especially as we have our first African-American president.

And, you know, as we are in the month of January, approaching the time of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, what did he say, "Judge me by the content of my character, not the color of my skin," and I think that's somewhat what this administration is trying to deal with, pushing race aside and let's deal with the issues.

KAYE: Do those you've spoken with and how about yourself, do you think that the president's statement and the acceptance of this apology goes far enough, or do you think more should come from this?

RYAN: Well, again, as a journalist, I mean -- you know, I'm the one reporting on it, but if there is more to come -- yes, there's going to be a bigger deal. You know, if civil rights community leaders come out saying things, that's when, you know, it becomes a bigger issue. When you hear people in the House, Democrats come up, that's when it becomes a bigger issue and it's pressed (ph).

But if the community comes out and starts really saying, "Look, this needs to be handled and tackled," that's when it becomes a bigger issue.

KAYE: And...

RYAN: And we're hearing about it, but we'll see how the groundswell happens. And that's where it goes. You know, it depends upon the groundswell and how the president handles it really is the way it's guided.

KAYE: Right.

RYAN: He's steering this right now.

KAYE: And how do you think this is going to play in Nevada where Senator Reid is facing a tough re-election. He's at 40 percent in the polls there. But he was also critical in bringing in African-American voters for then-candidate Barack Obama.

So, how do you expect this is going to go over there?

RYAN: Well, again, Senator Reid, he is in a tough race and, you know, the African-American community in Nevada who he has to deal with, and it comes out at a very bad time for him. So, he has to deal with public issues, the public sentiment. But he also, really, has to deal with the people who are going to keep him either in Washington or bring him back home.

So, he has to face the fight (ph) with whomever in Nevada and talk to the African-American community, just be very transparent with them and we'll see what happens. But right now, it's very early. But, you know this does not bode well for him. And, again, Randi, this is in a book and people can pick up a book and keep that book and they can always reference it.

KAYE: All right.

RYAN: We're in a time where we can see it on a computer and see it in a book. So, we'll see what happens.

KAYE: All right. April Ryan with us tonight -- thank you for your insight.

RYAN: Thanks, Randi. Take care.

KAYE: Civil rights activist Al Sharpton is also weighing in. In a statement, he says he has spoken with Senator Reid about what he described as the senator's unfortunate comments. Sharpton goes on to say, quote, "While there is no question that Senator Reid did not select the best word choice in this instance, these comments should not distract America from its continued focus on securing health care or creating jobs for its people. Nor should they distract from the unquestionable leadership role Senator Reid has played on these issues or in the area of civil rights."

Reverend Sharpton ended his statement by saying he looks forward to working with Senator Reid whenever possible.

Snow in Florida. It seems no place is safe from this brutal cold spell that has teeth chattering nationwide. In a state known for its sunshine, freezing temperatures have people scrambling to stay safe and warm.

Martin Savidge is live in Plantation, Florida, for us tonight.

Martin, you look pretty chilly there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Randi? It was just yesterday that I was freezing in St. Louis, where it really was cold. But the cold that you're finding here in south Florida tonight is just so much more strange. And what I mean by that is it's so unexpected, the sights you see.

And when you talk to people, they just describe it as historic. And what they mean by that is not that it's so severely cold, they had cold snaps before, it's that it's been cold for so long now, nearly a week. And every day, it's gotten progressively worse.

And tonight is going to be the real test. And for many people, that test is going to be: is it going to freeze?

Here's something you hardly ever hear of done here in south Florida. They have a wind chill advisory that goes into effect in two hours. So, it really means that tonight from, say, midnight on to the early morning hours, the question will be: will it freeze? And the problem is: you can see perhaps that there is a light rain that's falling. If that turns into any sort of freezing rain, it will trigger chaos down here.

Meanwhile, folks have been trying to prepare one of the busiest people you'll find anywhere in south Florida, is the heating and air conditioning repair guy. He isn't fixing the air conditioning. I can tell you that right now.

They've had desperate calls from hundreds of homeowners as they report that their furnaces aren't working. Well, the reason is, many people have not used their furnace in years. They turn it on this week only to find cold air coming out.

Space heaters, you can't find them in south Florida. They're flying off the shelves. And that is going to put a greater load on the electric grid. They saw a record on Tuesday, likely to break their winter record again tonight.

And then, on top of that, the other guy who is very busy is the man who will sell you wood to fire. The wood business is booming as many people are using their fireplaces, not just as a nice way to spend an evening, but as a main way of staying warm. There are houses down here that do not have heat.

Randi, it's going to be a real test tonight.

KAYE: Oh, yes. A long night and maybe a long -- another long week.

All right, Marty, thank you so much.

Jacqui Jeras, a lot of people around the country, especially there down in Florida, are looking for some relief. Is it on the way?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's coming. You just have to be patient, and as Marty said, tonight, we're really going to bottom out with some of those temperatures across parts of the south. And we are already seeing those freezing temperatures moving into Florida.

Look at Jacksonville, 32 degrees; Orlando and Tampa, not too far away from that. You're certainly going to get down well below that freezing mark for tonight. And Miami, we'll think that you'll stay to the -- just above the freezing mark.

Now, the radar picture here is showing you that we've been getting some moisture across the region as well. In fact, earlier this morning, in places like Orlando, into Melbourne into Ocala, we have reports of sleet. And this is the first time that we've seen this much widespread sleet in central Florida since 1977. So, do the math. That's more than 30 years.

And recently, just in the last hour, we've been seeing it around West Palm Beach and Palm Beach area. So that green little strip that moved on through there, that's probably what we call bright banding on the radar.

Let's show you some of those pictures out of the Orlando area right now and you'll see those pellets as they came down. Yes, and so sleet is when it's rain coming down and it freezes before it ever hits the ground. So you get those pellets and you can see there's a little bit of rain mixed in that area as well.

So, yes, the big money question now is: how bad it's going to be tonight? Well, we've got those wind chill warnings in effect across pretty much the entire state, teens into northern Florida. You'll be down to the 20s and 30s across southern parts of the state.

When will those temperatures moderate? Let's go back to the map and we'll show you what's going on with our weather pattern here. And you'll see that jet stream is going like this. A big dip, and so, that's allowing all that cold Arctic air to filter in while we're seeing temperatures tend to 30 degrees below that average.

Now, the ridge is going to be moving in over the next couple of days. The upper Midwest, by tomorrow, could see temperatures five to 15 degrees above normal. We'll still be below normal in the southeast. By the middle to the latter part of the week, we'll see much better conditions.

Now one of the other big concerns with these freezing temperatures tonight is that we've seen a lot of freeze/thaw going on. Check out these pictures out of Atlanta, Georgia. This is from yesterday where we had the snow and icy streets across the area. It caused multiple accidents. In fact, there was a 27-car pileup and people in the south, for the most part, just don't know how to drive in this type of conditions.

Just one other note to show you how gradual that warm-up is going to be, here's Tampa, Florida. You can see those temperatures here for tomorrow in the 40s. We'll be pushing the 60-degree mark by the middle of the week.

So, touch and go still across the south. Be patient. Things are going to be getting better, but use a lot of caution if you have to travel in this part of the country over the next couple of days yet -- Randi.

KAYE: All right. Jacqui, thank you.

Well, when it is this frigid, most of us cope by staying indoors, bundling up and cranking up that thermostat. But that's not an option for the nation's homeless.

Catherine Callaway is in Atlanta, showing us how people who need heat are finding shelter from the cold.


TOYIA METCALF (ph), HOMELESS: You know, just trying to stay with people and when you have kids and things, it's kind of hard.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a month ago, Toyia Metcalf (ph) had a job and a home, a safe refuge for her four children. Today, two of the kids are living with relatives. The younger ones are here with her at Gateway Center for the Homeless. She was working in customer service, and in an instant, her job was gone.

METCALF: All of a sudden, one day, they just came in and said we're going out of business. And a month later, I was unemployed and I started receiving unemployment, but it wasn't enough to keep my bills and the rent paid.

CALLAWAY: She's been at Gateway about two weeks, receiving food, diapers and a warm home base. But the work of finding a job in this weather and in this job market is brutal.

METCALF: It took, like, 15-, 20-minute walk to the library in the freezing cold so that I could go and prepare my resume. And by the time we did that, I didn't even want to go and try to fill out applications with my kids because it was so cold.

CALLAWAY: Gateway Director Vince Smith says Metcalf's story isn't uncommon in homeless shelters today.

VINCE SMITH, GATEWAY DIRECTOR: The result of foreclosures, and evictions and job loss in this economic meltdown our nation is held in, the homeless individuals that we work with are oftentimes they are homeless because they were the first to lose their jobs and they feel the pain of this economic struggle most intently.

CALLAWAY: Metcalf is confident she'll find another job, but is trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again.

METCALF: I think maybe if I had a -- had something to fall back on, I didn't see this happening, so maybe had I saved money.

CALLAWAY: Smith says homelessness is a situation anyone can find themselves in.

SMITH: This is someone's son or daughter. This is someone's brother or sister. This is someone's child. And they need an opportunity and I hope that the Gateway can be that opportunity to move them from the desperate situation that they're in into a new beginning and new opportunities, and ground them with a new sense of hope.

CALLAWAY: Metcalf is grateful for the help she's received, but says it is up to her to get out of this situation.

(on camera): Do you -- do you remain hopeful?

METCALF: I do. I do.

CALLAWAY: Catherine Callaway, CNN, Atlanta.


KAYE: A suicide bomber vows revenge in a newly released video. Unfortunately, the CIA thought he was one of theirs. The mistake cost them dearly.

And an arrest in last weekend's security breach at Newark Airport. It turns out this is just the tip of the iceberg in security lapses at U.S. airports.


KAYE: New video from the Taliban in Pakistan confirms who was behind last month's suicide attack in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA officers. It shows Jordanian doctor, Hammam al-Balawi, seen on the right there, sitting next to the head of the Pakistani Taliban. Al- Balawi supposedly was working for the CIA, but as the video now confirms, al-Balawi was a double agent working for the Taliban.

Here's CNN's international correspondent Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, until this video came out, all that was really known was that this Jordanian doctor, Dr. Balawi, had gone to Afghanistan. When he got here, he'd told Jordanian intelligence operations that he could close to the al Qaeda leadership, that he could provide them -- provide them with information. Jordanians brought the CIA on to help them verify that information. But what is said in this video makes it very, very clear. He was working as a double agent. When he got to Pakistan, he said he went straight to the Taliban, told them about the CIA and the Jordanian intelligence and the planned this attack against the CIA base.

And he says very, very clearly in this video that it shows that money cannot buy off somebody's faith, somebody's faith in their God. He said he -- he implies that he was offered millions of dollars. It's not clear if that's true or he's exaggerating of what inducements he was offered. But he said that is not enough to put a man off from supporting his God and that was a very clear message.

We see him sitting next to the Pakistani Taliban current commander, an indication there that this was a Pakistani Taliban-led operation, an indication of just how closely they're working with al Qaeda. And he said that he took this act against the CIA base in revenge for the killing last year of the Pakistan Taliban commander.

HAMMAM KHALIL AL-BALAWI, SUSPECTED SUICIDE BOMBER: This jihadi attack will be the first of the revenge operations against Americans and their drone teams outside of the Pakistani borders after they killed the Emir of Tehrik-I Taliban Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud.

ROBERTSON: So, for intelligence analysts in this region, a very clear indication of just how close al Qaeda and the Taliban are working. This was a prestigious operation for al Qaeda, a very important target -- a key operative able to get inside this base and it was given to the Pakistani Taliban, clear indication of how closely they're working together.

And also for intelligence analysts here, an indication that lessons will have to be learned that they will have agencies -- intelligence agencies will have to go back and re-examine the allegiance of the spies they have working in the region and this is going to slow down the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Amman, Jordan.


KAYE: Back in the U.S., a not guilty plea today from a suspected collaborator in last September's alleged terror plot in New York. The 25-year-old Adis Medunjanin is a Muslim immigrant from Bosnia accused of getting trained by al Qaeda. He's also an alleged associate of Najibullah Zazi, who's charged with plotting an attack in New York that would have coincided with the eighth anniversary of 9/11.

Medunjanin's passport was taken away on Thursday. He was arrested later that night after a traffic accident in New York. Another man is also pleaded not guilty in association with the Zazi case.

He's considered the mayor of a place most people probably hope to avoid. We'll take you inside one man's determined crusade to clean up Los Angeles' Skid Row.

And the human cost of government budget cuts -- how one state's efforts to reduce spending are taking a toll on the most vulnerable.


KAYE: It is a place that attracts thousands of people every year. People who are homeless and many who are without hope. One man who experienced life on the streets himself is making it his mission to try to change things.

Our Jason Carroll walked the streets with L.A.'s only homeless public official.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a haven for crime and the homeless, attracting thousands from all walks of life when their luck runs out. This is Skid Row, Los Angeles.

JEFF PAGE, SKID ROW ACTIVIST: Not only are the people homeless, they're hopeless.

CARROLL: Jeff Page landed here three years ago, after his career as a rap promoter fizzled. A mission for the homeless became his new home.

PAGE: To actually be in the community for a long extended period of time and actually see day after day after day the living conditions of the people here and how deplorable the conditions were, and it really started to seek home of how close on that fine line I was to actually -- to becoming one of them.

CARROLL: So, he launched a one-man campaign to turn not only his life but his new world around. He started small, organizing street cleanups, mural paintings, connecting with the community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you. I've seen you from the newspaper.

PAGE: Yes.


PAGE: Yes.

CARROLL: That's "General," just in case you missed it, a nickname the homeless gave him that's followed him to the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood counsel. Elected two years ago, he's L.A.'s only homeless public official.

PAGE: I'm determined to succeed. I'm a finisher. So, I will see this through no matter what the odds.

CARROLL: But the odds are stacked against the "General." In 2009, there were almost 1,000 violent crimes and more than 13,000 arrests in Skid Row, and its surrounding area. And while crime overall is down, it's still dangerous.

(on camera): I want people to realize that even as we're walking through here, we're not alone. I mean, behind the photographer right here - let's turn around -- we've got security here. so, we're -- so, that's...

PAGE: And you hear the sirens.

CARROLL: But I think people understand -- need to understand that even though Skid Row, you say, is better, it's still -- it's far from where it needs to be.

PAGE: Oh, no, of course. It's in -- we look -- we look at it, as we're -- we're in the early stages, the beginning stages of the transition period.

CARROLL (voice-over): Page has lobbied for shelters that can accommodate families and better relations with police. His proudest accomplishment: the renovation of this park.

PAGE: There was a lot of drug dealing, prostitution, you know, murders, I mean, you know, the beatdowns. I mean, there's the whole -- everything.

CARROLL: Page used his old sales skills as a promoter and got sponsorship from Nike to return the park to the people.

PAGE: They brought a whole breadth -- a whole lot of life to our positive movement.

CARROLL (on camera): Something as simple as a basketball court.

PAGE: Simple as a basketball court.

CARROLL (voice-over): Now, even L.A.'s mayor is paying attention.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: People like General Jeff are saying we need more and he's right. We need to provide for a safety net, to address the hunger, and homelessness.

CARROLL: But much like his own life, Skid Row still has a long road ahead to become the place General Jeff envisions.

(on camera): Do you see Skid Row as a transitional place for you? Because you are still living here.

PAGE: Yes, I'm still here, but technically, no, because I'm here trying to plant roots and I'm trying to establish this as a community just like any other place in America.


KAYE: That was Jason Carroll reporting for us in Los Angeles.

Three scares at nation's airports in a matter of weeks. Now, the TSA is under the microscope. We're talking airline safety and what needs to happen going forward.

And a teenage girl gets a big surprise, one I'm pretty sure she'll never forget.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Senate majority leader Harry Reid is apologizing for comments he made during the 2008 presidential campaign. A new book called "Game Change" quotes Reid as saying then Senator Barack Obama could win the White House because he was, "light skinned, and" had "no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."

President Obama has says he accepts Reid's apology. CNN's Dana Bash reports tonight Senator Reid is reaching out to civil rights leaders and African-American members of Congress, including Julian Bond, Wade Henderson and Representatives Jim Clyburn and Barbara Lee.

A machine gun attack on the Togo National Soccer team has left at least two people dead. The team's bus was sprayed with gunfire near the border between Angola and the republic of Congo. The bus driver and an assistant coach were reportedly killed. The team was headed to Angola for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. A separatist group in Angola claims responsibility for that attack.

At least 15 people including some tourists reportedly have been injured in another acid attack in Hong Kong. China's news agency says an attacker dropped a bottle of acid from above a crowd today, more than 100 people have been injured in a series of acid attacks over the past 13 months.

Federal prosecutor say he tried to blow up a U.S. airlines on Christmas day but Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's lawyers say he is not guilty. The plea was entered Friday in federal court in Detroit. The 23-year-old Nigerian was shackled at the ankles saying little except that he understood the six count indictment he faces.

The most serious of the charges, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction on board Northwest flight 253, which was carrying nearly 300 people. A conviction could land him in prison for life.

Security scares in the terminal and in the air, not once but twice yesterday. Unruly passengers forced unscheduled layovers when airline pilots decided to play it safe. Friday's Air Tran flight 39 from Atlanta to San Francisco had to make a pit stop after a reportedly intoxicated man locked himself in the bathroom. Two F-16s escorted the flight to Colorado Springs where the FBI arrested Muhammad Abu Tahir (ph). Officials say he's likely to face charges for interfering with a flight crew.

Same day, different flight, a Hawaii bound plane had to land in L.A. after a man was accused of harassing a woman on board. He was removed from the jet but not arrested. Officials say the woman did not want to press charges.

And then there is the earlier incident at the busy Newark Airport. The TSA is under the microscope for its handling of that situation. I'll walk you through why.


KAYE (voice-over): On Sunday at Terminal C in Newark Airport, a man slips past a security checkpoint. A TSA worker is distracted and doesn't notice. Even when a passenger alerts officials, the TSA waits more than an hour before alerting airport police to the security breach. If this was a real threat, that's precious time.

And when the TSA tries to view security tape of the incident, it discovers the cameras are running, but not recording. And we have learned that's not unusual. The union representing airport police tells us the TSA routinely informs them of illegal activity long after the fact. The TSA says it accepts full responsibility for the failure and has placed the employee involved on administrative leave.

The unidentified man, no trace. Keeping them honest, what's going on at the TSA and who is in charge?

(on camera): The man nominated as its head has admitted improperly accessing a government database 20 years ago to run a background check on his ex-wife's new boyfriend. The nomination has also been held up because of Republican concerns he would allow TSA workers to join a labor union and there are other problems.

(voice-over): The TSA spent $30 million on its fancy puffer machines, which blow air on you to release explosive material. They didn't work and are being phased out. One security expert says TSA pat down practices miss all sorts of things.

BRUCE SCHNEER, SECURITY TECHNOLOGIST: Any pat down that you experience that doesn't embarrass you physically is one that is not very effective.

KAYE: Even the agency's animals seem out of sorts. In Philadelphia, three of the TSA's bomb sniffing dogs failed consecutive tests. The dogs were responsible for checking cargo at Philadelphia international. Ten other airport dogs did pass the tests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: they don't retrain them. They got to retrain them. It is not the dog's fault. The dog can't say I can't smell a bomb.

KAYE: TSA's response there are more than 700 dog teams at airports in mass transit hubs and all are supposed to be recertified occasionally. Back in December, when the TSA inadvertently posted its screening procedures manual online, a leak that might aid terrorists, five employees were put on leave.

Just this week in Bakersfield, California, the airport was evacuated, shut down for five hours, after two TSA workers found what they thought were traces of explosives on a bag in bottles. They complained they felt sick after smelling fumes from the bottles. It turns out, the bottles contained honey. Officials are still puzzled.

On its web site, the TSA says its vision is to, "continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security." A vision that to some seems blinded by mishaps and confusion. And since I reported that story, there has been an arrest in last weekend's security breach at Newark Airport. A graduate student from China is accused of ducking under a security rope when a TSA guard had left his post. 28-year-old Haisong Jiang is charged with defiant trespass. Jang's roommates say his friend made a mistake but meant no harm.


HUI, SUSPECT'S ROOMMMATE: This is my friend. He's a nice guy. And he did something, you know, he did something inappropriate. But I'm not a lawyer, I can't say is that wrong or not, right?


KAYE: Jiang, who goes to Rutgers, apparently was at the Newark Airport to see his girlfriend off to Los Angeles. He may have ducked under the rope to say one final good-bye to her. Jiang was arrested yesterday in Piscataway, New Jersey. He's due in court next week.

The federal government says it will install 300 body scanners at U.S. airports this year. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano says there are also plans to add more metal detectors, explosive detection technology, sniffer dogs and uniformed and undercover agents.

Joining us now to talk about these security breaches and most importantly a way forward in what needs to be done to keep us safe is CNN contributor Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director. Tom, good to see you.


KAYE: Let's start with this, the six-page summary that the president talked about this week found that the U.S. government had sufficient information before this Christmas day plot to actually stop the plot. So what happened?

FUENTES: Well, I think it is clear that, you know, the proper people weren't notified and therefore he wasn't placed on the no fly list and therefore he wasn't prevented from getting on the aircraft. That's one weakness with the intelligence system.

The second weakness is that the safety of Americans is still going to on occasion be in the hands of foreign governments. So people entering an airplane in a foreign country bound for the United States or in the United States bound for anywhere are going to have to rely on the measures in place for screening and control of safety of the passengers.

KAYE: We know that in the Christmas day bombing case, the suspect's father had actually warned authorities that the U.S. embassy in Yemen that his son may have been radicalized and may be up to no good. But I guess in the transferring of that information to the folks in Washington, D.C. and the intelligence there, his name was actually misspelled. So how does this happen?

FUENTES: Well, that's a very common problem, particularly with Arabic names that the alphabets don't match up identifically to translate names into English. And we have had cases where four or five members of the same family with the last name Mohammad have it spelled a different way when it was translated into English.

And of course, the computers, you know, may not be able to pick up that because there are so many variations possible. So that's a critical problem and that's why the idea that we can ever completely rely on intelligence is not going to happen.

KAYE: The president has ordered four key reforms and one of them is to strengthen the criteria that it takes to put somebody on the no fly list. So is that enough. I mean, how do you feel about this list? Are they working?

FUENTES: Yes. It will help, of course, but if we take those case specifically. If the father died of a heart attack five years ago, we'd have a multi-millionaire young man who would never, his name would never have been given to the U.S. embassy and he'd be able to fly anywhere he wants in the world and have the means to do it.

So, the reliance on having enhanced databases is helpful but it's not going to be the complete answer and as earlier stories even today on CNN, we have 12-year-olds in Pakistan by the hundreds being taught to be jihadist. They're not going to be on anybody's database until it is too late.

KAYE: How about profiling, good or bad idea and does it work?

FUENTES: It is a bad idea and it doesn't work. And members and affiliates and sympathizers of Al Qaeda are from every ethnic background, every racial, from every major country in the world. So the idea of trying to single out a certain segment of a certain population is just - it is not going to be effective because we're going to miss people and they're not going to focus on other people that could very easily be recruited by Al Qaeda.

KAYE: In the Christmas day case, where is the accountability? Are you surprised that nobody is losing their job over this?

FUENTES: I think I am a little bit surprised. I mean, the president said he's accountable and it is his fault. Unfortunately, he doesn't come up for a performance review until 2012, if he chooses to run for re-election. We need a system where it is not that you want to have a witch-hunt for heads to roll just for the sake of it, but there does have to be accountability.

And I think it is a sad situation when the head coach of the Washington Redskins football team is held more accountable for his failures than government officials who are responsible for our lives.

KAYE: All right. Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director. We will leave it there. But good insight for us tonight. Thank you.

FUENTES: Thank you. You're welcome.

KAYE: A financial lifeline severed for some Maryland families. Why the cost of caring for this toddler is suddenly soaring all because of state budget cuts.

And a manatee group hug. Well, not quite. We'll tell you why these Florida critters are finding strength in numbers.


KAYE: Hard times, tough choices. Critical services are being cut in Maryland and the ripple effects will be devastating. Here's CNN's Kate Bolduan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy found toys.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four-year-old Carson Brewster has a rare chromosomal disorder. Her mother Michelle left a contracting job four years ago to care for Carson full time.

MICHELLE BREWSTER, MOTHER: She can't care for herself. You know, we've got to change her clothes. She gets food fed through a tube. She's got over 22 doctors, so -

BOLDUAN (on camera): 22 doctors?


BOLDUAN (voice-over): With $13,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses last year alone, Brewster said supplemental funds from the state of Maryland have been essential to her family's financial survival for years. But the economy has struck even this vulnerable segment of the population. Faced with a $700 million budget shortfall, Maryland cut nearly $30 million from the state's Developmental Disabilities Administration.


BOLDUAN: For the Brewster's, that means painful decisions. The extra help for things like diapers, medication and physical therapy dropped from $2,500 to just $300.

(on camera): What does that really mean for you guys?

BREWSTER: A struggle. A struggle to figure out how we're going to help, you know, how to help our daughter and make sure that we have the moneys to make sure our other children get too. Mom and dad, me and my husband, we can wait. Our daughters can't. That's what it's all about.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Outraged by the state's action, advocates for the developmentally disabled launched a statewide campaign, holding town halls to fight the budget cut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think people realize how this can just totally devastate your family.

BOLDUAN: State officials say they understand, especially in this sluggish economy, every cut hurts someone but they defend the governor's budget decision. CATHERINE RAGGIO, MARYLAND DEPT. OF DISABILITIES: He was able to protect services for people with disabilities throughout most of the budget-cutting rounds. But the choices are getting much more difficult to make. It's not easy anymore.

BOLDUAN: And not easy for states across the country. A recent report by the Pew Center suggests state's budget troubles are having far reaching impacts on residents.

SUSAN URAHN, PEW CENTER ON THE STATES: As the states face increasingly severe budget troubles, the public is going to feel it. They'll pay more taxes. They'll pay higher fees.

BOLDUAN: With the $2 billion budget shortfall projected in Maryland for 2011, Brewster said she has no idea what's in store for her family's financial future. She only hopes more cuts aren't on the horizon for her daughter and so many others.

BREWSTER: They didn't ask to be disabled. We're not asking for hands out. We're just asking for a little bit of help. That's it.

BOLDUAN: Kate Bolduan, CNN, Frederick county, Maryland.


KAYE: It was anything but an average day at school for one teenage girl. It is a story you have to see. And we'll bring it to you, next.


KAYE: A teenage Florida girl gets a very special and unexpected visitor to her high school classroom. Vickie Pierre with our affiliate WJXT in Jacksonville has the story.


VICKIE PIERRE, REPORTER, WJXT (voice-over): It's been 10 long months since Ashley Couillard has been able to hug her dad. The 10th grader had a hard time letting go. She had no idea she would be seeing her father so soon.

ASHLEY COUILLARD, SURPRISED BY DAD: I was really surprised because I thought he was going to be coming down Sunday. Because he said he's counting down. And I didn't know he showed up in school. So I was really excited that he showed up in the class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I did over there, we work with the ANA, the Afghan National Army.

PIERRE: Chief Petty Officer Eddie Couillard has spent the last 10 months as a medical mentor in Afghanistan. He has been teaching both the Afghan National Army and the National Police how to run a hospital and as proud as Ashley is of her father, she says spending time apart from him wasn't easy.

ASHLEY COUILLARD: Because I'm really close with him and it was hard to say bye to him and stuff like that.

PIERRE (on camera): Well, now that her dad is back we asked Ashley what she wanted to do. And of all places she says eating here at the Waffle House.

Why Waffle House?

ASHLEY COUILLARD: Because that is where ate before he left. And I promised him the day after he left that we would go back.

PIERRE (voice-over): Now Ashley is happy she's going to have a lot more time to spend with her dad. Her dad says he can think only think of one word to describe the experience.

EDDIE COUILLARD: Priceless. Everything that we do builds up to seeing the family again and any reaction that we get is just phenomenal.


KAYE: Severe winter weather in the deep south is even affecting sea creatures. Check it out. These manatees are causing quite a stir in Florida as they huddle together for warmth.


KAYE: Well, have you ever cuddled up for warmth or maybe you're not the only one if you haven't but people are cuddling up for warmth and apparently so are about 100 manatees. They've snuggled up in this Florida canal apparently to combat the cold.

The problem is they have been hanging out there for about a week or so and munched away on most of the vegetation. So eventually they're going to have to wander off back to that cold water to find some food. Warm-blooded animals like manatees are faring better than Florida's cold-blooded critters apparently.

Iguanas are falling out of trees. Turtles are stuck in lifeless stun and that has animal lovers jumping into action. Carli Segelson is a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. And she's live on the phone with us from St. Petersberg. Carli, good to have with you us.

First tell us how are the manatees doing and which have been hit so far? In what areas?

CARLI SEGELSON, FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION: Well, the manatees are faring OK. Exposure to water temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods of time can lead to a condition called manatee cold stress syndrome. That can eventually lead to death. So manatees will, what they'll do in these type of situations is they will gather in warm water habitats like the canals and the power plants and the springs here and they get into these warm water areas where they basically stay there until the water temperatures rise enough for them to be comfortable out in the open water.

KAYE: And two of them, I understand, have been rescued. How do you go about rescuing them?

SEGELSON: Well, we have biologists here that are very well trained in rescuing manatees. You will be very impressed with what they can do to pull those guys to safety. We rescued a couple last week, one of them was right here in St. Petersburg. We rescued a young female manatee from a canal. And she was actually in water that was about 53 degrees. So got her out of there. Got her to one of the local rehab facilities here. So now she is safe and rehabilitating.

KAYE: I know you understand the manatees have gone towards this power plant in Florida where the water is much warmer. So they are in, I guess, certainly spa-like conditions, but what about the turtles? Do they have any natural sense to do anything like that and how are the turtles doing?

SEGELSON: Well, the turtles right now, unfortunately, they go through what is called like a cold stunning event. And what happens is they become very lifeless. They almost appear as if they are dead but they are actually alive. And our biologists are going out with the help of several agencies and volunteers. It's a multigroup effort and going out there and rescuing these guys, basically taking them to rehab facilities here in Florida and keeping them there until the water temperature warms up and then we'll be able to release these guys into the water again.

It's kind of overwhelming because there's a lot of turtles. We got 470 from the gulf side of the state and about 375 so far from the East Coast. So it is a lot of turtles but we're optimistic because most of them are anticipated to survive.

KAYE: Well, Carli Segelson, you certainly have your hands full. Good luck with that and be sure to keep us posted.

SEGELSON: Thank you very much.

KAYE: All right. We are going to check in over here with Jacqui Jeras and see what is going on here at the weather center. It is an unbelievable story, isn't with those animals down in Florida.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. A lot of different things that you don't always think about.

KAYE: Yes, when you're talking about cold weather. I like the manatees in the spa.

JERAS: I like that too. Not a bad idea. Well, you know, our i- reporters have been out there in full force dealing with those cold weather and they've been sending us those incredible pictures. We're going to go ahead and start out over here in Florida and this is in the panhandle of Florida where i-reporter, This is outside of Pensacola area. They woke up, freezing temperatures in the 20s.

KAYE: Look at it.

JERAS: The sand box turns into the icebox.


JERAS: Exactly. Having a little fun there.

KAYE: She doesn't care look at that.

JERAS: Look at that, spinning around like a ballerina. Mom's hand was in that shot, by the way. So hopefully she's getting a little bit of help on that. That was from Stacy Duncan from Milton, Florida.

All right. Let's go ahead and show you another one. Let's see what we have here. This one is in Marietta, Georgia, and this one kind of cracks me up. Because it's like when you have a half inch of snow on the ground -

KAYE: Let's take the sleds out.

JERAS: You know, it's slim picking actually there. This is from Adrianna Maxwell in Marietta and she put together a nice little montage.

KAYE: Wow.

JERAS: Special effects. I love that. So kids having a good time doing their best.

KAYE: A little extra work there.

JERAS: I know. And then last but not the least, we got from Ocala, Florida. They got some sleet there. We have been talking about the conditions in Central Florida. They built a snowman. So they got some of the sleet and snow that occurred in that area, built a snowman out of that.

It was like a 10 foot. It would be four blocks worth of it.

KAYE: Those are pretty good.

JERAS: It was. I do want to mention one other thing.


JERAS: This is not an iReport, but a potentially serious situation. We just had an earthquake which occurred off the California Coast. About 25 miles offshore. So far no reports of damage or any injuries. No tsunami watches or warnings.

KAYE: All right.

JERAS: But we just want to alert our viewers that we're keeping an eye on this.

KAYE: We'll keep an eye on that. We'll have much more on that coming up at 10:00. And we will see you back here at 10:00.