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Campbell Brown

Investigating the Christmas Day Terror Attack; Obama Administration Downplaying War on Terror?

Aired December 30, 2009 - 20:00   ET



CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered.

On the trail of missed signals and the Christmas Day bombing plot, tonight, new clues about what the government knew, when they knew it, and why there was such an utter communication breakdown. What will it take to make sure we never see another failure like this again?

The White House under fire. Has the administration downplayed the war on terror and made us vulnerable in the process? We will tonight's newsmaker, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He joins me to talk about all those missed concerns.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What did the officer write up? Was it accurate? Was it complete? Where did it go? How quickly did it go?

BROWN: Plus, a radical imam in Yemen linked to the suspected Christmas bomber and the man who opened fire on Fort Hood, is he inspiring a new generation of radicals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He reminds me of, for example, Osama bin Laden and also Ayman al-Zawahri in terms of he is soft-spoken and at the same time the knowledge that they have, the foundations that they have.


ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.

BROWN: Hey there, everybody. We are going to start tonight as always with the "Mash-Up." We are watching it all, so you don't have to.

And all the latest on the investigation into the Christmas Day bomb plot coming up, but our top story tonight, a deadly day in Afghanistan. Eight Americans are killed in a suicide attack on a U.S. base.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: According to U.S. officials, they were not members of the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where it happened, a well-fortified combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan. Somewhere, a suicide bomber was able to bring his explosives on the base, walk up to a group of American civilians and blow himself up.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are conflicting reports as to whether the bomber walked into the dining facility or the gym at that base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Local witnesses say they heard a loud explosion coming from the base in Khost, one of Afghanistan's most violent provinces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This base is near a Taliban stronghold where militant goes back and forth into neighboring Pakistan freely. There are hundreds of American civilians working in this area, including intelligence agents.


BROWN: And a number of civilians were also wounded in the attack. The military is still trying to piece together the details tonight.

Over to the Christmas bomb plot, investigators tonight scrambling to connect the dots as we learn about more clues that may have gone unheeded.


MALVEAUX: U.S. officials say as far back as last August, they knew of communications between extremists in Yemen and a person called the Nigerian. They don't know if that person was indeed terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In late November, a vague bit of intelligence was picked up, claiming that al Qaeda was planning an attack for Christmas, though it did not say in what country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Confusion between the Counterterrorism Center and the State Department over whether or not Abdulmutallab's name was in a national terrorist database. One agency thought the other was checking, and nobody did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On November 11, a Somali man walked into the Mogadishu International Airport with an explosive device remarkably similar to the one that failed to detonate on Flight 253. ABC News has learned U.S. intelligence is now scrambling to see if the arrest means there is a broader plot involving multiple operatives in multiple countries.

MALVEAUX: All passengers on flights from Amsterdam to the United States are going to have to undergo full body scans. Dutch officials expect that to start in about three weeks or so. Officials in Nigeria say they also will upgrade their airline security system to include body scanners.


BROWN: We're have much more on this story tonight. I will ask former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the communication breakdown. He is our newsmaker coming up a little later tonight.

To Iran now, another day of unrest and of massive protests, but this time in support of the government. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at this, hundreds and thousands of supporters Iran's regime taking to the streets Wednesday, this day, in a show of force against the opposition. Now, state-sponsored rallies were held in cities right across Iran, including Shiraz in the south, Arak, Qom, Tehran, and several other cities, and state television showed footage of people swarming downtown areas, including Tehran's Enghelab Square.

Now, I want you to compare these images to those coming from amateur video of anti-government protest back on Sunday in Tehran. There was a police van you will see in just a moment. It drives right into that crowd and then it reverses out and then to the side, to the left-hand side there, you can see another police van as it comes in and it mows into the crowd there right over the top of that person on the road. You can hear people screaming there. The witnesses move in to collect that person.


BROWN: It's just brutal video to watch. Tehran's police chief vowed that anti-government protesters will be crushed.

We go now from Tehran to Texas, where a prominent football coach was fired today amid accusations he mistreated one of his players. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach got the axe this morning.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, as Leach's attorney, Ted Liggett, was getting ready, walking walk into the courthouse the university representative shows up and serves him, the lawyer for the coach, with termination papers for Leach, essentially saying your client is now fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leach was suspended two days ago for allegedly mistreating a player, wide receiver Adam James.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coach allegedly locked him in a room and made him stand for several hours while the rest of the team practiced. The player, Adam James, is the son of ESPN football analyst Craig James.

CRAIG JAMES, ESPN FOOTBALL ANALYST: It's the actions that the coach took against Adam that forced us as a family to do what we did. There's not a mom or a dad in this country who wouldn't have done what we did, if you knew what we knew about our son. We did it for his safety. We did it for the safety of the future for him and for his teammates. We didn't ask to go through this, I promise you.


BROWN: Leach's attorney says the fight has just begun.

And now for an update on the Christmas miracle mom. Today, Tracy Hermanstorfer took to TV to talk about her near-death experience. And you may have heard some of her story. She was in the hospital last Thursday. She was getting ready to give birth and then she suddenly stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating. The doctors seemed to be giving up hope.

They removed her baby by Caesarean. And he too appeared dead. And then miraculously, they both came back to life. Today, the family told their remarkable story.


TRACY HERMANSTORFER, MOTHER: I got really tired and I just decided to close my eyes. And I don't remember anything else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was holding her hand and it started getting cold. And I looked down at her fingertips and her fingertips were blue. And one of the nurses noticed that her face -- the color on her face was completely gone. She was as gray as a ghost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About 30 to 45 seconds after I got in the room, he heartbeat actually did stop and we started making preparations to do an emergency Caesarean delivery right there in the room in the event we were not successful in bringing Tracy back.

When I delivered him, he was limp and appeared completely lifeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half of my family was laying right there in front of my in my hands, there is no other way to say it, but dead.

The first time that I held Coltyn, he still wasn't breathing. They actually got him started right in my hands. I didn't get to cut his cord, but I got to be there for that first breath, literally.


BROWN: And mother and baby both healthy, both doing really well. And that brings us to the our final "Punchline" of 2009, and that dubious distinction goes to Mr. David Letterman.

As we all know, the late-night guys on vacation this week, so enjoy this golden oldie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Over the week, Michael Jackson's sequined glove was sold for like $500,000. For a glove, for God's sake. And the guy, some business guy in Hong Kong, and I looked at the thing and I said, geez, I wonder, is that really -- I mean, here's the glove. Did he get swindled or not? Did he get taken?


LETTERMAN: Really, is that it?


BROWN: David Letterman, everybody. Happy new year to him.

That is the "Mash-Up."

Coming up: the very latest from the investigation into the plot to blow up Flight 253. We are learning of even more missed warning signs. Plus, our newsmaker tonight, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, tells me what steps we can take right now to try to make Americans safer. But they are causing a lot controversy tonight.


CHERTOFF: We could deploy the scanning machines that we currently are beginning to deploy in the U.S., that will give us the ability to see what someone has concealed underneath their clothing.



BROWN: From terror in the skies on Friday to anger on the ground today. Tonight, we have learned about even more missed connections between intelligence agencies in the months leading up to the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

And here with the very latest from Washington, we have CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joining us as well.

Jeanne, it feels like everybody is sort of waiting for the next shoe to drop. And there were more possibly missed red flags I guess revealed today. Give us the very latest information you have.


We have learned from a U.S. government official that the U.S. had intelligence that between August and October of this year, extremists in Yemen were talking about operations. Someone known as the Nigerian was mentioned and they had a partial name, Umar Farouk. Of course, that could have been put together with the Nigerian father who went into the embassy talking about his son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. That information was passed on to the NCTC. His name was put on a watch list. But, of course, the final CIA report about him wasn't disseminated to the wider intelligence community. We also know now that the intelligence community was picking up vague information about possible holiday attacks.

And today we also learned about an attempted hijacking -- or attempted bombing, rather, in Somalia, where a man was picked up boarding a flight there. He had on a powder, liquids and syringes. It bears some similarity to what happened here. We don't know if the U.S. government was told about that attack.

We do know that the Department of Homeland Security wasn't told about it. And they of course are in charge of aviation security. And, Campbell, even though this is being talked about as very much an information-sharing, intelligence-sharing operation, it had a big impact on the Department of Homeland Security, because without the information, they couldn't adjust their security posture to meet the threat -- Campbell.


BROWN: ... not.

And, Candy, the Obama administration held two secure briefings today. This was for congressional staffers to bring them up to speed. I know you have been working the phones a little bit. Do we know anything about what happened at these briefings?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, more importantly, a number of people I talked to that are familiar with these meetings said, for all that security, and they do it behind closed doors, they really left with a lot more questions than they got answers.

They feel that, at least some of them that I talked to -- I clearly didn't talk to everyone -- felt that it didn't tell them much beyond what they had either, A, already suspected or already knew from what has been out there in the reporting.

So, this isn't going to stop. This going into hearings next month. You will see both sides in fact looking at this, what went wrong. The sorts of things that Jeanne is now reporting is going to catch even more attention, because it just has this -- as one person in the meeting said to me, it has this flashback feel to it, and of course all of them thinking about 9/11 and all the money that has been poured into connecting the dots, which clearly at least didn't connect this particular set of dots.

BROWN: And, Jeanne, we have been talking so much about this lack of communication that we still can't seem to solve, this problem of lack of communication between government agencies.

But, today, there was also news of -- about another communication breakdown coming to light involving what the government told airline pilots on Christmas morning. Tell us what you can about that as well. MESERVE: Well, the Department of Homeland Security says it did notify 128 flights through the airlines about what was going on and told them to take security options. All of them were flights that were coming to the U.S. from Europe.

They say this was an intelligence-based and risk-based decision that they made. But some pilots are saying, hey, what about us? There were something like 3,500 flights in the air over the U.S. at that point in time. The pilots say, how did you know another attack wasn't in the offing. We all should have been told, so we could adjust the security on our flights -- Campbell.

BROWN: Well, why? I was going say, why? Why so crucial for them, if they were not flying overseas planes, to be aware and to know quickly?

Because al Qaeda's hallmark is to launch almost simultaneous attacks. Look, they did it on 9/11. And if you look back to 9/11, you remember Flight 93. The people on that plane found out about what had happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That's why they went into that cockpit, took control of that plane, and put it into the ground. So, you can see that is one concrete example of why relaying information to people in the air can be crucial.

BROWN: And a fair point there.

And, Candy, let me just get a little bit into the politics. Republicans launching kind of this three-prong attack on the president today. You heard blistering words coming from Newt Gingrich, from Boehner, John Boehner, from Vice President Dick Cheney.

They do see a real opening here, don't they?

CROWLEY: They do, and from Newt Gingrich as well.

And here is what I think you are going to be hearing at the hearings, the congressional hearings that I just talk about and on down the line. Let's remember, 2010 is an election year. There is nothing more potent than the safety and security of Americans.

So, here is how Republicans size this up from a political point of view. And that is that, A, a number of these issues now come back into play, Guantanamo Bay prison. As you know, Republicans have said it's the wrong time to close down Gitmo. The president seems intent on doing it. But they note all the prisoners from Yemen that are still there and should not be shipped back and they don't think should come into the U.S.

You will also hear more about the terrorist trials that the Justice Department has decided to hold in New York in a couple of years, however long the litigation takes. They think that is a bad idea. And you are going to hear a lot, Campbell, about profiling.

This is something that in my rounds of calls that I hear a lot of conservatives talking about, saying, rather than all of these innocent people now you're putting through these machines that you can look, these sort of digital strip-searches, as they're called, it's time to profile. This is getting ridiculous.

So, you will hear a lot of push and pull about privacy vs. the need to know who is getting on that plane. And Republicans do see some openings here under the broad umbrella of, does the president have a plan to keep America secure, what's the overarching theme of that plan, and is he tough enough?

BROWN: All right, Candy Crowley for us tonight, and Jeanne Meserve as well.

And to Candy's point, when we come back, we are going to talk about exactly that. Could profiling keep passengers safe from terror attacks in the sky? It is a huge political issue. And former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff actually has an unusual take on this. He's our newsmaker tonight. Stay with us.


CHERTOFF: Actually, this individual probably does not fit the profile that most people assume is the terrorist who comes from either South Asia or an Arab country.



BROWN: Tonight's newsmaker knows better than most the challenges of protecting us from terror attacks. Michael Chertoff has seen the homeland security system from the inside, running the department from 2005 until January this year. Tonight, he weighs in on the failures that left us so close to disaster on Christmas Day.

Take a listen.


BROWN: Joining me right now from Washington, Michael Chertoff, who was homeland security secretary for President George W. Bush.

Mr. Secretary, welcome to you.

Over the last 24 hours, as I think you know, it's become pretty apparent there was a massive failure by so many of the systems that were put in place post-9/11. Are you surprised by just how much was missed here?

CHERTOFF: Well, I don't think we have the full picture of exactly what was available, how clear it was, how precise it was. So, I don't want to rush to judgment.

I think that, you know, the administration is now looking at all the leads that came in, trying to evaluate whether they were clear, and if so, whether they were properly integrated.

And so, it probably makes sense to wait until we have an accurate picture, as opposed to what appears to be a dueling series of leaks. BROWN: Well, that said, I think we do know -- I think the president has said very explicitly -- that there was a pretty big communication breakdown here among various sectors or various parts of the bureaucracy, if you want to describe it that way.

I mean, when you left the federal government a year ago, did you think that these problems had been fixed?

CHERTOFF: Well, you know, we found during the time I was there, that we had a very good information-sharing system. It was linked together with communications. We have computers. We created a National Counterterrorism Center. So, the basic structure has been there for quite some time.

I think what the current administration is going to be looking at is, was there human failure, either in the initial reporting or in the initial decision about what would be set up the chain of communication, or in the ultimate determination by the intelligence community about whether this was significant enough to warrant preventing this person from getting on an airplane.

BROWN: But what the president said, though, was systemic failure, you know, bigger than one guy dropping the ball. Or at least from what he seems to know -- and presumably, he knows more than any of the rest of us.

So, talk me through some of the specifics, given what we know. How do you think the system should have worked?

CHERTOFF: Here's what -- here's the way it should work, and normally does work.

You get all kinds of intelligence or information from the field. Some of it is very unreliable or questionable. Some of it is much more reliable.

Whatever it is, it has to be written up in a report and sent by a reports officer up the chain to headquarters, and then through the National Counterterrorism Center, which is the agency set up a few years ago by Congress, to collect and integrate all the information. All the various scraps of information are brought together.

And then an evaluation has to take place. Is it reliable? Is it specific? Does it suggest that some action has to be taken? And then, of course, if it is sufficiently specific and reliable, action should be taken.

So, at any point along that chain, people have the responsibility for making sure that they are accurately and fully reporting what they've learned.

And then there are going to be some judgments that have to be made about whether and what action ought to be taken, based on the information.

BROWN: Bigger picture, what do we do to protect ourselves? Clearly, the systems in place didn't work, if somebody was able to get that far in the process.

When we talk about screenings at the airport and other protective mechanisms along the way, what should we be doing that clearly were not?

CHERTOFF: Well, Campbell, the strategy recognizes that there's always going to be human error in any system. You can't count on perfection. And that's why we built a strategy at the Department of Homeland Security of what we call "layered security" -- a number of different layers, so that even if one fails, another one gets picked up.

It's complicated here, of course, because the actual screening took place overseas, where the U.S. ability to control what goes on is obviously not the same as it is here.

But there are a few things we could do to make things better.

First, we could deploy the scanning machines that we currently are beginning to deploy in the U.S., that will give us the ability to see what someone has concealed underneath their clothing. That has been vigorously opposed by the ACLU and privacy advocates. The House of Representatives voted to prevent us from using it.

But I think now there's been a very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery.

BROWN: OK. Can I stop you there for a second?


BROWN: I know you've been an advocate of this technology for a long time.

CHERTOFF: Correct.

BROWN: But just, in the interest of full disclosure, I also want to point out, in your current role as a security consultant, you are representing some of the companies who manufacture that technology. Correct?

CHERTOFF: Absolutely correct, yes.

BROWN: OK. Go ahead.

CHERTOFF: A second thing is, it apparently is the case the British did revoke the visa for this individual earlier this year. That information may not have been communicated to American authorities. Why is that? Because the European Union has been very, very adamant in refusing to share information about immigration problems that they discover with American authorities.

So, we've got to go back to the E.U. and fight this fight all over again, and tell them that their exalting privacy over security could very well have resulted in a tragedy that would have killed Europeans as well as Americans. So, that's another measure we could put into place to help cure this problem.

The third thing is, we're going to have to go back and see whether we need to light a fire under some of the people involved in the reporting process, to make sure that they move with urgency and with accuracy when they get reports of the kind that we saw apparently came into the Nigerian embassy.

BROWN: There has also been a renewed debate about racial profiling here. I know you have been opposed to this. And it's not for civil liberties -- or not only, I guess, for civil liberties reasons -- but largely because you don't think it's effective.

Explain your reasoning.

CHERTOFF: Well, the problem is that the profile many people think they have of what a terrorist is doesn't fit the reality. Actually, this individual probably does not fit the profile that most people assume is the terrorist who comes from either South Asia or an Arab country.

Richard Reid didn't fit that profile. Some of the bombers or would-be bombers in the plots that were foiled in Great Britain don't fit the profile. And in fact, one of the things the enemy does it to deliberately recruit people who are Western in background or in appearance, so that they can slip by people who might be stereotyping.

So, I think the danger is, we get lulled into a false sense of security, if we profile based on appearance.

What I do think is important is to look at behavior. And that's something that we are doing and should continue to do more of.


BROWN: We are going to take a quick break. But, in a moment, I will ask Chertoff what he thinks of his successor, Janet Napolitano. I will also ask him about Dick Cheney's new war of words with the White House -- when we come back.


BROWN: Welcome back. More now with Michael Chertoff. He was the secretary of Homeland Security during the last four years of the Bush administration. The question now, where should the suspect in the Christmas Day terror plot be prosecuted. Is a traditional criminal court appropriate? Take a listen.


CHERTOFF: Well, I think it depends upon whether the authorities believe they've gotten all the information that he has that's of value.

We did Richard Reid in a criminal court, because we felt that we had obtained all the information we could get from him, and therefore, it was perfectly fine to go ahead with a criminal prosecution.

If there's a belief that we need to get more information out of him, and that interrogation needs to continue, then I think the authorities have to look at another option.

But, you know, we, frankly, successfully did quite a number of criminal prosecutions for people arrested in the U.S. under the Bush administration. So, I don't have an objection in principle, if we've gotten the information we need in this case.

BROWN: Give me your assessment on the current secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. How do you think she's handling the crisis?

CHERTOFF: You know, I think it's a baptism by fire. I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for what it's like the first time one of these emergencies hit. And I think, like everybody else who's been in the job -- and there have only been two other secretaries -- you learn through the experiences that you have.

I think she's dedicated. She's recovered from maybe an initial misstep. I know she's very determined to work on fixing the problems that have been discovered here. And I know that she's leading a department where every one of the 220,000 people of you protecting the country as mission number one.

BROWN: Do you think she's the right person to lead the department right now?

CHERTOFF: Look, I've known Secretary Napolitano for a long time. I think she's got a terrific skill set.

Nothing quite prepares you to be secretary of Homeland Security. There's no other job that meets that description.

But I think her background as a prosecutor and as a governor will stand her in very good stead. And I know her heart is in the right place.

BROWN: Former Vice President Cheney, who you worked very closely with, released a very harsh statement today, saying that President Obama is, quote, "trying to pretend we are not at war."

Do you think that kind of rhetoric is useful, it's productive right now?

CHERTOFF: You know, I didn't see what the vice president said. And I'm loathe to speak for other people, or comment on other people characterizing what yet other people believe. I can just tell you what I think.

I think we are at war. I think that the president needs to be unambiguous in making it clear that we have an enemy, which is an Islamist, extremist conspiracy, that this enemy has to be dealt with in a military way, as well as using other tools. And that we are going to be focused as job number one on protecting the country. And that means, by the way, supporting our CIA agents and everybody else who does dangerous work.

And we can't afford to muddle that message.

BROWN: As somebody who knows better than almost anybody how the Bush administration handled terror threats, is there any difference in your eyes between how the Obama administration handled this Christmas terror attempt and how it would have been handled a year ago?

CHERTOFF: Now, I can't -- first of all, I obviously don't have visibility to everything the current administration has done. And I'm -- as one who's been in the cockpit, so to speak, I understand how difficult it is making real time decisions.

I will tell you what we did when we were in office. There was a great deal of focus on any potential threat, or even hint of a threat, that was collected anywhere in the intelligence community.

The president made it personally clear to all of us -- and we met on this at least once a week -- that he wanted to make sure we didn't put our head down on the pillow until we had resolved or addressed with action any material threat to the well-being or lives of Americans. And so, that was our marching order.

And I think that that was infused all the way down the intelligence community, all the way down the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

I know the people in this administration are dedicated, too. I know many of them and have worked with them previously. And I'm going to assume that they bring the same passion to the job as we brought to the job when we were in office.

BROWN: Secretary Michael Chertoff joining us tonight. Appreciate it.

CHERTOFF: My pleasure.


BROWN: When we come back, we're going to take a close look at the man that many are calling the new Osama bin Laden. He's a Muslim cleric. He is living in Yemen. His sermons are turning young men into radicals. He also happens to be an American. We'll talk about that.

And also up next, one of Star Trek's most beloved cast members about to be knighted. We'll explain.


BROWN: Some breaking news to tell you about right now. This just coming in to CNN.

A senior U.S. official telling CNN that the eight Americans killed today by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan are believed to be all CIA employees. Investigators believe the suicide bomber attacked just after a convoy was ending or beginning which accounts for the high number of casualties here.

Again, a senior U.S. official telling that those eight Americans, all believed to be CIA employees. This happened at the Chapman Ford operating base in Afghanistan. We'll have more on this for you as we get additional information. Randi Kaye, though, right now joining us with other news in tonight's "Download."

Hey, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Campbell. A British computer expert is freed tonight after 2 1/2 years of captivity in Iraq. 36-year-old Peter Moore was handed over to Iraqi authorities this morning.

Insurgents captured him along with four British bodyguards back in 2007. Three of the guards were killed and the fourth is feared dead. But Moore, we're told, is in good health.

The Treasury Department doled out another big lump of bailout money today. GMAC Financial Services got $3.8 billion to cope with losses in its home mortgage unit. That's on top of 12.5 billion, in case you're counting, the government already pumped to GMAC.

The music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" made history today. It was named as one of the 25 motion pictures that will be preserved as part of the national film registry. It is the first music video ever added to the Library of Congress's collection of film treasures. Also going in, "The Muppet Movie and Al Pacino's "Dog Day Afternoon."

And make that Sir Captain Pickard. Buckingham Palace announced this morning that the queen will bestow a knighthood on actor Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Stewart, who is 69, says the honor embraces the actors, directors and creative team to, quote, "help fill my life with inspiration, companionship and sheer fun.

BROWN: Quite an honor.

KAYE: Yes, it is.

BROWN: Congratulations to him. Randi Kaye for us tonight. Randi, thanks.

Straight ahead. An in-depth look at a Muslim cleric whose words may be inspiring new terrorists and he is an American. That when we come back.


BROWN: The suspect in the Christmas Day bombing attempt on that Northwest Airlines flight, it has been reported, may have been in contact with a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen. And he is the same cleric who has been linked to the Fort Hood shooting suspect. Anwar al-Awlaki is a U.S.-born imam now living in Yemen and it's believed he is radicalizing many of the Muslims we've talked about.

Joining us now is CNN correspondent Mohammed Jamjoom in Dubai, and terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank who is in London for us tonight.

Paul, I know you've been talking with your sources about the ties between the suspect and this radical cleric. What can you tell us?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there does seem to be a potential link between Anwar al-Awlaki, this U.S. cleric now based in Yemen and Mutallab, the Detroit bomber. MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, their top line of inquiry tonight, Campbell, is links between Awlaki's associates here in London and Mutallab. So there's a belief here in the UK that there may be a link between Mutallab and Awlaki.

Now Awlaki is a very inspirational figure for a generation of radical leading Muslims on campuses, and Mutallab was the president of the Islamic Society at the University of College London here in the UK. So it's already possible that Mutallab at the very least was very influenced by Awlaki's ideas, Campbell.

BROWN: And Mohammed, let me to go to you on this, because Awlaki's influence has been compared to Osama bin Laden and he's inspired a number of terrorist attacks. Why -- you know a lot about him. Why he does hold so much sway with young Muslims?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, the reason for those comparisons seems to be mostly because of surprisingly style. A lot of his followers say this is somebody who's soft spoken. This is somebody who seems friendly a lot of the time when he's preaching even this radical sort of hatred and they say that's like what bin Laden was like early on.

Now also what's interesting about Awlaki is he's embraced social media. This is somebody who was blogging from Yemen when he moved back there in 2002. This is somebody who has a lot of DVDs out in the market that are still being sold to this day. A very popular figure in that regard. Also, he has a Facebook page. He has over 5,000 friends. So because of that, because he's so media savvy, because he's so web savvy, because he's embraced all these new technologies, and because he seems so gentle in his approach, even though at times he can be just as fire brand as bin Laden in his approach, people say he's like him. He's become a very, very popular figure and very respected among this new generation of radicals, Campbell.


Paul, the Yemeni government has targeted him, I mean, last week in an air strike. Intelligence officials though do believe he survived this. How much pressure are they under right now to get this guy?

CRUICKSHANK: The Yemenis are under absolute huge pressure right now to get this guy, but the Yemenis have very little capability. It's the poorest country in the Arab world. A lot of the area, outside the capital Sana'a, a no-go area for them. They need the cooperation of the tribes when they're launching strikes. And all the tribes think that people like Anwar al-Awlaki are Mujahideen. They don't want the Yemeni government to go and strike them. So it's proving very, very difficult for the Yemeni government to find these people, locate them and take them out.

But yet people like Anwar al-Awlaki are extremely dangerous right now for the United States because they're inspiring people to launch attacks. Awlaki says that it's not just legitimate to fight jihad against America, but it's a duty for all Muslims in the world and that's an extremely dangerous message, Campbell.

BROWN: And, Mohammed, just kind of bottom line this for us and give us your take. I've heard him a number of times now compared -- or not only him but the situation in Yemen, really, compared to Afghanistan, sort of pre-9/11. Do you feel like that that's what's developing here?

JAMJOOM: It looks as though it's developing that way. I mean, Yemen right now is a real hub for militancy. Because it's a dangerous country, because the borders are so porous, and because fighters and militants have been coming there for so many years, Yemen is under increased pressure to try to do anything about this problem. But perhaps it's gone on too long.

Right now, the Americans are saying that they might join in with the Yemenis in order to plant some retaliatory strikes. Yemen's government is saying they're going to go full war (ph) against Al Qaeda. They're going to continue with their air raids. But the fact is, Yemen's government has been trying to go against Al Qaeda for a while now. They've been asking for help for a while now. They've been receiving help. They haven't really been able to do much.

Al Qaeda there is very resurgent. It's very powerful. There are a lot of pockets in a lot of places, and Yemen's government is dealing not just with Al Qaeda. They're dealing with a separatist movement in the south, and they're dealing with a Shiite rebellion in the north. Taken all together, those are a lot of problems and that's what's causing a lot of analyst to say Yemen right now is in danger of really being a failed state and not being able to keep its problems under control. Because of that, it's a real danger not only to the region but to the U.S. as well -- Campbell.

BROWN: Mohammed Jamjoom joining us tonight from Dubai, and Paul Cruickshank who has been with us as well. Thank you both for staying up so late. I appreciate it. I appreciate your expertise.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starting in just a few minutes. Larry, what do you have for us tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, the president is blaming human and systemic failures for the attempted bombing of flight 253. So whose failures let this happen? We're going to talk with the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean. Also, what has the United States learned since 9/11? We're going to talk with three people who lost family members that day. They're speaking out.

Plus, everyone's talking about actor Charlie Sheen's arrest for allegedly assaulting his wife on Christmas Day. Well, his wife's attorney is speaking to us exclusively tonight about what happened and what might happen. It's all ahead on "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Larry, we'll see you in a few minutes.

Stay with us. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, has also been looking into the cleric that we were talking about a few minutes ago. He's continuing our in-depth look at what's he's preaching. Why he has such a big and potentially dangerous following. That when we come back.


BROWN: We just told you about the radical cleric believed to be linked with the Christmas Day bomb plot. Well, our Nic Robertson is on his trail and has tonight's "Breakout" report. Take a look.


ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: It was victory.


AWLAKI: Rain (ph) was mercy.

ROBERTSON: The radical Yemen-based preacher seen here online. His followers in Britain (ph) say he's like Osama bin Laden.

ABU MUWAZ, HEAD SALAFI YOUTH MOVEMENT: He reminds me of, for example, Osama bin Laden and also Ayman al-Zawahiri (ph), in terms of he's soft spoken, at the same time, the knowledge that they have, the foundations that they have.


AWLAKI: And he said hand me over your scrolls.


ROBERTSON: This is the same Anwar al-Awlaki who exchanged e- mails with Major Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood. After the killings, Awlaki praised Hasan on his Web site, calling him a hero. The Web site is down now.

Six years ago, he moved from the U.S. to London. Abu Muwaz was one of thousands who flocked to his lectures. MUWAZ: To some people, he was well-revered. The people loved him. People loved his classes. People loved the way he explained things.

ROBERTSON: For these radical Muslims in London, Awlaki was God's messenger.

ABU NUSYABH: He doesn't say fight until there's no more corruption left. Awlaki says that. So in reality, he may call a verse. It's the verse that inspires the people, not Imam al-Awlaki.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And Awlaki is still getting his message out. Because even though his Web site is down and he's in hiding from Yemeni authorities, DVD box sets of his teachings are still for sale openly, taking a prominent place in bookstores like this in London, keeping his radicalizing message alive.

(voice-over): In London, court transcripts reveal that at least some of the group that conspired to blow up passenger jets en route to the U.S. in 2006 were Awlaki devotees. So, too, terrorists in Toronto convicted of planning to blow up targets in Canada. And in the United States, the six men arrested in May 2007 and convicted of planning to kill soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever since I heard this lecture brother, I want everyone to hear about it. You know why? Because he gives it to you raw and uncut.

ROBERTSON: What you are hearing, three of the four Fort Dix plotters praising Awlaki. Why Awlaki is so influential is a combination of birth and upbringing. He was born in the United States. His father was a minister in the Yemeni government. He is smart and privileged. He preached in Imam Johari Malik's mosque in Virginia.

IMAM JOHARI ABDUL MALIK: Young, handsome, Californian. Has the benefit of English without an accent. And who also is proficient in the Arabic language. In fact, he is technically an Arab. What better mix.

ROBERTSON: He doesn't agree with Awlaki's extreme views and denounces the killings of Fort Hood. But it was here at Malik's mosque Awlaki met Major Hasan, as well as two of the 9/11 bombers.

The 9/11 Commission reports that even before this, he was on the FBI's radar. According to the commission, by the time we sought to interview him in 2003, he had left the United States.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


BROWN: And coming up next, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." Would you believe people actually call 911 when fast food restaurants mess up their orders? They do. When we come back.


BROWN: Larry King starts in just a few minutes. But first, tonight's "Guilty pleasure." It's something you should never do at a fast food restaurant, call 911 if they mess up your order. Yet people actually do that as Jeanne Moos shows us.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fast, dial 911 for fast food. A burger, McNuggets, now shrimp or leaving police dispatchers fried.

CALLER: I always get the shrimp fried rice so I said I'm going to get extra meat this time.

MOOS: A woman who ordered take-out shrimp fried rice at this Texas restaurant was the latest to enter the fast food 911 hall of shame.

CALLER: But he didn't even put extra shrimp in there. And I asked him can you give me extra shrimp or can you give me my money back and he sort of hollered.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, well, I'll get somebody out there.

CALLER: In how long?

911 DISPATCHER: I don't know how long -- as soon as I can.

MOOS: And she wasn't the only one acting shellfishly (ph). Remember the unhappy meal drama when this woman called 911 three times from a Florida McDonald's.

CALLER: The manager just took my money and won't give me my money back. They're trying to make me get something off the menu that I don't want.

I ordered chicken nuggets. They don't have chicken nuggets.

MOOS: But why are 911 operators so cooperative when these people call? We ask the senior dispatcher in Folsom City, Texas when a shrimp fried rice emergency occurred.

(on camera): So if I went to say, McDonald's, and ordered a quarter-pounder and came out it only had an eighth of a pound, if I called 911, you would still be nice to me and send a police officer?

911 DISPATCHER: I would have to, yes.

MOOS: Police worry a minor food fight could escalate into a food rage incident.

911 DISPATCHER: Our policy is not to have the sarcasm.

MOOS (voice-over): But an Orange County California dispatcher didn't get the memo when she answered a call from a Burger King. CALLER: I asked them four different times to make me a Western Barbeque Burger.

911 DISPATCHER: Ma'am, we're not going to go down there and enforce your Western Bacon Hamburger.

MOOS: Six years later, former dispatcher Lynette Carroll is still laughing.

VOICE OF LYNETTE CARROLL, FMR. 911 DISPATCHER: Oh, dear Lord, I don't understand people, why are they calling the police for this.

MOOS: Lynette didn't get in trouble for how she handled the call.

CALLER: You're supposed to be here to protect me.

911 DISPATCHER: Well, what are we protecting you from? A wrong cheeseburger?


911 DISPATCHER: Is this like it's a harmful cheeseburger or something? I don't understand what you want us to do?

CALLER: Just come down here. I'm not leaving.

911 DISPATCHER: No, ma'am. I'm not sending the deputies down there over a cheeseburger.

MOOS: Now that's a nugget of wisdom even someone with a mind of a shrimp would get.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BROWN: And that's it for us, big good luck to our friend, Albert Lueton (ph).

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.