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John King, USA

Attempted Terrorist Attack in Times Square; Preparing for the Future

Aired May 04, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with news just in to CNN about the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. CNN has confirmed that President Obama talked today with Federal Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood. Also a source close to Wood tells CNN she had to abruptly cancel her Tuesday afternoon class at the University of Chicago. Wood is now the fourth person we know the president has interviewed for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens (ph). More on that if it comes in to us tonight as developments warrant.

But now we move on to our top story -- new details, but also new questions tonight about the brazen attempted weekend car bombing in Times Square. The suspect in custody says he acted alone, but authorities are dubious. Faisal Shahzad also told interrogators (ph) he trained in Pakistan's notorious Waziristan region an al Qaeda and Taliban hot bed. A law enforcement source I spoke with earlier today says there is some evidence of some training in Pakistan but this and other sources aren't sure about the suspect's Waziristan claim. This much is certain. An Obama administration that initially hesitated to label the attempted attack terrorism now has no doubt.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Make no mistake although this car bomb failed to properly detonate, this plot was a very serious attempt. If successful, it could have resulted in a lethal terrorist attack causing death and destruction in the heart of New York City.


KING: Shahzad was arrested late Monday as he attempted to flee the country and by sunrise the perhaps inevitable political debate was in full force. Shahzad is a naturalized American citizen but some of the president's Republican critics immediately questioned why investigators read the suspect his Miranda rights. The president clearly had those critics in mind when he talked about the arrest earlier.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people can be assured that the FBI and their partners in this process have all the tools and experience they need to learn everything we can. That includes what if any connection this individual has to terrorist groups and it includes collecting critical intelligence as we work to disrupt any future attacks. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In a moment, the New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly will give us his take on the investigation and his take on whether he agrees with conservatives who say this Democratic president has a softer approach to terrorism.

But first the latest from three people who have been working their sources or receiving sensitive briefings throughout the day. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is on the Select Intelligence Committee. CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend served as President Bush's homeland security adviser. Also here our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve and Jeanne let me start with you. In terms of this evening as we speak, what is the latest on what we know and what are the biggest question marks?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, he didn't appear in court today. We had expected that. But he didn't appear because he's talking, saying some of those things that you mentioned. He admitted that he did drive that SUV into Times Square. He claims that he went to Waziristan and he got training there. And there were some arrests in connection with this case made in Pakistan today -- several we're told.

We don't know the exact number. In addition, we saw the complaint today. And the complaint tells us a little bit more about the charges against this individual. The evidence they have against him. They say that in this car, this SUV that they found in Times Square, in addition to the bomb, they found a set of keys; amongst the keys, one to his House, one to his other car. In addition they say there was a cell phone that was recovered that had received calls from Pakistan in the days when he was buying that SUV. In addition, they say there was a search of the garage at his house where they found fertilizer and fireworks, the same sorts of things that they found in that bomb in Times Square.

KING: And so Senator Chambliss, help us out. We get that information from Jeanne's sources. In terms of your briefings on the Intelligence Committee, are they convinced he acted alone as he said or how doubtful are they? Do they know of any ties on this last trip to Pakistan or in these cell phone conversations, conversations with anybody who they can connect to a terrorist organization or terror group?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well it's still very early, John, but there is information that has been gathered with respect to cell phone numbers that he used, with respect to his travels back and forth to Pakistan and information with regard to what other individuals might be involved. It's still up in the air. There was apparently some indication that other passengers were taken off the airplane.

He apparently has said that he knows of no reason why they should have been taken off the plane. But there again, that's one of the unknown answers to questions that are being asked right now. The fact is this guy is what we're really afraid of. And that is a U.S. citizen who has ties to terrorist-sponsoring nations that give him the opportunity to travel to a country like Pakistan and to get training and experience in bomb making and bring it back home -- very frightening.

He's very amateurish. That's obvious from the information as Jeanne said was discovered today, but it's a very, very serious situation and presents something going forward that we've got to do a better job of figuring out these folks that are under the radar screen. It makes it very difficult on the intelligence community as well as the law enforcement community.

KING: And, Fran, as the senator says, we've got to do a better job figuring out these people. Once they did identify this suspect, the attorney general today says they were pretty comfortable keeping track of him all the way from when they first identified him until they grabbed him at JFK. Let's listen quickly to the attorney general.


HOLDER: I was here all yesterday and through much of last night and was aware of the tracking that was going on. And I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him.


KING: That public line of confidence, is that supported by what you're hearing?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NAT'L SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: No, John. Well, look a senior counterterrorism official had said to me that at one point during the surveillance, the physical surveillance of the suspect, the FBI surveillance squad lost him on the way to the airport. Now I should -- I hasten to add when I talked to the FBI they rightly point out, look, we have redundancies. We have to stay back because you don't want the suspect to know he's being followed.

And after all, he didn't get on the plane. But that's the sort of thing -- to say you never had doubt that you might lose him when in fact you know you did, those are the sorts of things that we -- when you do these investigations, it's not unusual. But those are the moments you really hold your breath and hope that the redundancy in the system will pull you through. It did in this case.

KING: That was the attorney general at the Justice Department earlier today. Another person on hand was the New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. And I had a conversation with him just after that briefing beginning with the question we're trying to solve here was this suspect acting alone.


KING: To the best of your knowledge, was this part of something bigger? Was this guy acting by himself? Did he have accomplices?

COMM. RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: We'll have to see. Obviously, the investigation is continuing. I would say at this juncture we have no information that indicates that there's anybody else involved in this plot, but as we go further it may very well prove to be otherwise.

KING: Your guys dismantled the car, the explosives and the device. From what -- your take on it obviously it was rudimentary but that's not necessarily a sign that there wasn't training involved, there wasn't coordination involved. What's your sense?

KELLY: I think we have to factor in the idea that it was very difficult to get explosive material in the United States, which is a good thing. So we've seen these jury-rigged (ph) attempts in the past, so you don't want that to diminish the danger here. It means that somebody could try it and come back again. Luckily, we caught this individual. So I wouldn't have characterized it as being amateurish or -- the danger was real. Certainly the intent was real. The intent was to kill lots of people right in Times Square. That's what we're concerned about.

KING: Was he known to you beforehand? Did his name ever come up on any list --


KING: Not at all?


KING: And the attorney general said that he's cooperating in the investigation. Do you have any sense of his motive, his grievances?

KELLY: No, not at this time, no, no. He's being -- talked to him and he's cooperating and hopefully that will come out in the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: As the guy whose job it is to keep the people of New York City safe, what are your questions now that you have this one suspect in custody? Obviously that's a relief and you talked about how quick law enforcement and everybody got together to identify him, trace the car to him and get him. What are your questions now?

KELLY: Well the questions obviously have to do with -- as you asked, is there anybody else involved in this plot? What were his motives? Where did he get his supplies? Where did he get his training? What did he do overseas? We want to get lessons learned here so we can thwart another attempt, because unfortunately, New York is the top of the terrorists' target list.

KING: What does your gut tell you about this? Is this a guy you think maybe with one or two friends acting alone or is this somebody who's been in touch with some organized terrorist group or somebody who's had training?

KELLY: That's the $64,000 question and that's what we want to know and it's right now too early to make that determination. KING: Let me ask you lastly about your assessment of the threat. You mentioned 11 attempts on New York City since 9/11. Obviously everybody worries about another spectacular 9/11 style attack. Most of what we have seen since has been a more smaller isolated targeted attack. What is your sense when you get up every day and stress about this and worry about this as to what they're trying to do to you?

KELLY: That's a good question. I think you know the intelligence community and law enforcement community has to make this assessment. Does this mean sort of (INAUDIBLE) 1,000 flowers bloom and send lots of people over here trying to do what they can or does this exclude a bigger plot, a larger event? We simply don't know at this point in time. So we're trying to get a handle on that. We've had these cases -- Abdulmutallab, we've had Najilbalazazi (ph) and we've had (INAUDIBLE) Shahzad in a relatively short period of time.

I think one of the things that has to be done is just assess their motivation, try to go back and find out who they spoke to, who trained them and get a better sense of what this means. And I don't know if we ever can because they seem to come at us at different fronts. You know we're concerned about al Qaeda (INAUDIBLE). We're concerned about the al Qaeda surrogates and then you have this sort of home-grown terrorism that can come in lots of different shapes and sizes. So that is the challenge of it. That's what makes it so difficult to try and get your arms around the threat and (INAUDIBLE) no easy answer here.


KING: That's the New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Jeanne Meserve, when you hear him talk about the $64,000 question was this guy acting alone, what did he do on his trip overseas, what are the big things they look at? He did travel to Pakistan for a period of several months. He's a naturalized U.S. citizen so he did have to go through a process, did he not?

MESERVE: He did go through a process and he passed the background check and I will say there was one benefit. They had a picture of him and they had fingerprints and those came in useful during this investigation. But it raises a question. He was naturalized just one year ago. Was he a plant? Did he become a U.S. citizen simply so he could move more easily and blend in a little bit more?

That question was asked today at the press conference. Officials refused to tackle it, which leads me to believe it's probably something they're looking at pretty closely.

KING: And a question we will keep under consideration. Want to take a quick break here -- when we come back Senator Chambliss and Fran Townsend will stay with us. We'll continue our conversation about this investigation and about this administration's approach to the terrorism issue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: (INAUDIBLE) our conversation -- Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is on the Select Committee on Intelligence and Fran Townsend, our CNN security contributor was former President Bush's homeland security adviser. When you listen to Ray Kelly there, Senator to you first, and he describes the questions he has, what did this guy do when he was overseas in Pakistan, did he receive training, have you been given any of those details or are those your questions as well?

CHAMBLISS: Those are still questions that are out there John that haven't been answered yet. Just finding the guy was a major accomplishment, number one, finding him in the time frame that they did. Unfortunately, we have hundreds of -- excuse me -- thousands and thousands of individuals who come and go to Pakistan every year. We had last year about 10,000 Pakistanis who were naturalized in America.

So this is a large number of individuals that come and go. But thank goodness they were able to identify who this guy was before he got on that airplane. And these questions with reference to what he did while he was in Pakistan, some of those will be answered by him. But others are going to have to be answered by investigators on the ground in Pakistan and our colleagues and partners over there.

KING: And when the police commissioner says he was not a person of known interest -- meaning he wasn't on anybody's list -- keep an eye on this guy -- he spent several months in Pakistan. He was born there. He's a naturalized citizen now. So is that OK, well that's his right to do that or should in this environment that -- just that be a red flag or would that be inappropriate profiling?

TOWNSEND: Well it seems -- it seems to me, John, they've got to go back and look in this instance were there things that should have triggered their interest like -- it's not the question of going back to Pakistan when you were born there. It's spending five months there. How did he earn a living? What did he -- how did he pay his bills back here at home.

What are the kinds of things that ought to trigger their interest and it's not clear whether or not they should have, but they'll learn some lessons from this. These are the most difficult kinds of cases to uncover where otherwise it looks like a law abiding citizen who is going to be naturalized. We need to understand what the signs were that we missed.

KING: Discuss some of the political conversation, but first, Senator Chambliss, one quick one -- in the briefings today, were there any indications that they have any evidence, any chatter, anything learned in the last 24 hours -- yesterday people were saying this seemed like an isolated incident. This guy, whether he had help or not was trying this, but was it connected to other things -- anything to change that?

CHAMBLISS: Still seems like at this point in time it was probably an isolated incident. That we don't know whether he was specifically trained to try to do what he was attempting to do. Don't know whether anybody else either inside the United States or outside was involved right now. But those are questions that are still ongoing and will be answered hopefully in the short term because as Fran said, what you have to do with these instances is you have to learn from experience.

And we've got to figure out a better way of picking up individuals like him who come and go to Pakistan, stay in Pakistan for five months. Not totally unusual maybe where you've got a wife and I understand a child he has in Pakistan. But there had to be signals of some sort that he was putting out there.

KING: Let me ask you lastly about the political climate. He's arrested late last night while many Americans are sleeping. We wake up this morning and before the sun can hit the sky, Senator McCain is on the radio saying why did they read him Miranda rights. Other Republicans come out -- here's one -- Mike Rogers, a Republican on the House side, also on the Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent. He says "the outcome is that we're playing catch-up all the time, trying to catch terrorists after the fact rather than developing the intelligence to prevent them from successfully launching an attack in the first place.

That's part of his argument that this administration has a softer, more law (ph) enforcement approach to terrorism. This administration would tell you first they questioned him, then they did read him his Miranda rights and then they questioned him a whole lot more and he's cooperating so much that they delayed the court appearance.

And they would also say -- Senator -- they would use it's a tough standard to use, but the same standard your administration used when people -- when some Democrats said you were over the top in your approach to terrorism. That yes, there have been attempted attacks but there have been no successful attacks. By that standard, the Bush administration standard, aren't they doing a good job?

CHAMBLISS: Well we were lucky here. We were lucky that no explosion occurred. If it had, if he had known a little bit more about what he was doing, it would have been a very, very terrible day in New York City over the weekend. But what you do have to look at here is with Abdulmutallab, we read him his Miranda rights after he was arrested and charged and he immediately clammed up. He may have given us information before then that was significant, may have given us some after that.

But basically, he did clam up and yet we didn't take away from the Christmas Eve incident a lesson learned about Miranda rights. Now, all Miranda rights means is it's an exclusionary rule process. It doesn't mean you can't prosecute the guy if you don't read him his Miranda rights. It just means you can't use any statement that he makes prior to giving him his Miranda rights.

He was being held in a perfectly legal way as being an imminent threat to public safety. We could have held him for an extended period of time and questioned him without having to give his Miranda rights. But I think that's one of those lessons that should have been learned Christmas Eve. Thank goodness it doesn't look like it has hurt us this time around, but it may next time. KING: All Right, Saxby Chambliss, Senator Chambliss, Fran Townsend, thanks for joining us. We'll continue this conversation in the days ahead as the investigation unfolds.

And when we come back we'll go "Wall-to-Wall" to give you a detailed timeline. How did this suspect go from a student who hardly anyone recognized on campus now to a terrorism suspect behind bars?


KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, a closer look at Faisal Shahzad, what we know about him and how this incident unfolded. Let's take a look first what we know about the suspect. He came to the United States on a student visa, has since traveled to the Middle East including his native Pakistan, has a Karachi ID card, was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in April 2009, 30 years old, married with two children and an MBA.

Now let's walk over to the "Magic Wall" for a bit of a timeline on how all of this played out in recent days. And we start right here with a little bit more background, as we bring this up. Before the attack from mid 2006 to June 2009 he worked at a media group. From May 2009, his home in Connecticut you see it there was foreclosed. In June 2009, we know from the records that he traveled to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

In recent weeks he purchased that Nissan Pathfinder that was in Times Square and also increased his international calls including those cell phone conversations to Pakistan. Come over here and let's see what happened. Here's how this all played out on Saturday evening. Of course the Nissan Pathfinder was left near Seventh Avenue right there in the heart of Times Square and at 6:30 p.m. police were alerted to the car by vendors in the area who saw smoke and heard some popping sounds.

Then on Sunday, of course, overnight the bomb squad was at the scene. At 2:00 a.m. Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed there was indeed a bomb in that Pathfinder. At 6:00 a.m. and you see the scene there, the vehicle was wrapped and towed away. And at 10:00 a.m., the VIN -- the VIN number -- vehicle identification number was found under the engine block. That was a key moment in the investigation.

Then as things unfolded from there on Monday the president was briefed six times. At 10:00, he was identified, we were told the potential suspect was a Pakistani American. And about that time Shahzad was arriving at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York trying to get on that United Arab Emirates flight out of country. At 11:45 he was arrested and overnight his Bridgeport (ph) home was searched and there are still search operations going on now.

On Tuesday, it was 12:00 a.m. when President Obama was informed just about midnight that the arrest had taken place up in New York. At 1:00 this afternoon you had the Justice Department briefing with federal officials, New York City officials detailing what they would discuss publicly about the case. Now that he is in custody we know he was questioned, read his Miranda rights and then questioned again, is said to be cooperating fully with the investigation.

He claims he acted alone and that is one of the claims that investigators are quite dubious about. And as they try to figure that out, what they're trying to figure out is this. He also told investigators when he was in Pakistan for a period of five months he went up to Waziristan. There are al Qaeda camps up there in the past, Pakistani Taliban camps up there in the past, other terror organizations up here.

He says he went there. Investigators are trying to determine if they can corroborate that information with sources in Pakistan and elsewhere. This is a key part of the investigation to determine whether he was acting alone and whether he had any cooperation and support from any international terror groups, a key point to follow in the weeks ahead. As part of the investigation, police poured through tapes from the 82 -- 82 surveillance cameras in Times Square looking for clues. Later on in the broadcast our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick (ph) will look at how you feel about so many of your moves being watched.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you draw the line on those cameras? I mean I can't bring my camera crew to your house, can I?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We knock on the door, you'll invite us in --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on -- come on in.







ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: This afternoon Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told reporters the edges of the Gulf Coast oil slick are grazing Louisiana's Chandelier (ph) Islands. It's been two weeks now since the oil rig explosion that started the spill. While the administration keeps saying BP will pay for the clean-up, there are still plenty of questions.

The state senior Senator Democrat Mary Landrieu here with us to go "One-on-One" -- let me start with the briefings that folks are getting on the Hill today about how bad this could still get, how much worse this could still get. I know you had some briefings from BP today. Ed Markey (ph) on the House side came out of his briefing -- and I want to show our viewers these numbers -- he said if they're unsuccessful -- they are trying to put this new dome over the spill and they think that will take maybe a few more days to a week to get that in place. But he said if they are unsuccessful the worst-case scenario is that the amount of oil gushing out could rise from 5,000 to as much as 60,000 barrels a day and the most likely scenario around 40,000 barrels a day. Is that what you were told?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA), ENERGY COMMITTEE: Well, John, one of the other ways to understand this is in the last 10 years we've only had 7,000 barrels of oil spilled in the gulf in the whole decade not counting hurricanes which account for some but 7,000. This well is spewing that amount every day and a half. So relatively speaking to the other wells that have been drilled, this is spilling a huge amount of oil and it is uncontrolled to date. I do know that the company has been trying to plug it from day one. The people of Louisiana and the gulf coast and the whole nation of course very upset about this spill. And we should be, because this shouldn't have happened. And it did. And we've got to find out why.

KING: Again, I want as specific as you can be with your meetings with the BP officials because the president, everyone in the administration says this is BP's well, BP is accountable, BP will pay for this. But the law as you know say they're only required to pay a $75 million limit on other kinds of damages. That is put in the law. While the BP officials said they will pay one of the executives was on Capitol Hill today and our reporter Brianna Keilar caught up with him. I want you to listen to this exchange.


BRIANNE KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will BP pick up the full cost?

DAVID NAGEL, EXEC. VP, BP AMERICA: We said we'll pay all legitimate claims.

KEILAR: What does legitimate mean?


KING: What does it mean in the sense that as you know, whether it's the fishing industry or tourism industry or shrimping industry, so many other people will end up in court. Those could take years. Has BP committed up front to pay all of the obvious on-their-face legitimate claims?

LANDRIEU: You'll have to ask those dealing directly with BP.

KING: I assume Louisiana's senior senator pressed has them on it.

LANDRIEU: I have pressed them but I'm not negotiating the details of it. They have told me that they're going to pick up 100 percent of the costs. That they feel not only obligated but mandated by the law to do so. Now, there's some question among some people's minds whether that's the case or not but I can promise you and assure you that both the White House, Congress and as far as I know BP has an understanding that they're going to pick up this cost. So we're going to push forward. What I suggested today when I met with Tony Hayward is people want to have confidence the claims they'll make will be paid quickly and in full. Perhaps we should think about a parallel effort so that some government agency that's appropriate -- whether it's commerce or small business or homeland security -- be there with them so when people call, they have confidence that they're going to get the right decision made. I believe that's what BP wants to do. I'm going to make sure it's done.

KING: People also want to have confidence in public officials when it comes to accountability. You know the narrative that's emerging. Critics of this industry say senators from the Gulf States including senators like Mary Landrieu are too cozy with this industry. Your states get a lot of revenue from this and this industry essentially regulated itself because in Democratic and Republican administrations the enforcement and regulation of the government is not at the level it should be. Is that a fair criticism?

LANDRIEU: That will be examined. I don't believe that's a fair criticism. I think this industry has very tight regulations and good regulations. But you know what John? We learn after every accident. We learn after the three mile accident with nuclear. We shut that whole industry down. That was a mistake. We should have regulated it better and continue to lead the world in nuclear.

KING: When those who say this is a wake-up call, shut this industry down --

LANDRIEU: They're wrong. They're absolutely wrong. I'll tell you why. Because that's not going to do anything to clean our environment. It's not going to do anything to create jobs. We'll lose jobs. And it's not going to do anything to make America safe independently -- energy independent. Those are the three things we need to do. Moving this industry off of our shores on to other shores where they don't have the kind of tight regulations, where they don't have the kind of court system where we do, where they don't have the kind of trains parent government we have would be wrong and it would be a mistake. I want to make this point, two things. We use 20 gallons of -- I mean 20 million barrels of oil a day. We only produce 9. So we've got to produce not less, but more. We have to do it safely. Again, I hope we can do that in a fashion that's respectful, we investigate, we hold people accountable and move forward.

KING: Let me ask you lastly. When something like this has people look back at political relationships. Of the top 20 recipients from the oil and gas industry ever in the Congress, you rank number 14th. In the 2008 campaign you were the number one Congressional candidate in terms of receipts from BP after only President Obama and then candidate for president Senator Obama and Senator McCain. There are some who say if you're going to be the watchdog you should give that money back.

LANDRIEU: I'm not trying to be a watchdog for BP. I'm trying to be a good senator for this country and for Louisiana and to bring a balance to our energy policy, which is protecting our coast, fighting for energy security and a clean environment. I want to say again, John, this is important. We've drilled 1,000 deep-water wells in the gulf successfully. 1,000 except for this one. So the fact that do you it 999 right and then 1 wrong doesn't mean you throw up your hands and run in hysteria. What you do is find out what went wrong --

KING: Even if an ecosystem is destroyed for ten years?

LANDRIEU: It may not be destroyed for ten years. We'll see what happens. I know there will be environmental challenges but we believe we have the technology to clean it up to compensate for people. Look, if New Jersey wants to give up their oil, if Florida wants to give up their oil, fine. But they're going to have a crash in their economy. We've got to transition to cleaner fuels, but we need to have the oil industry safe. Transition, use natural gas as a transition and then transition to wind and solar. Even the secretary of energy, who briefed us today in a speech, said it may take 50 years. It's 50 years, not 5 years or 3 years, not 10. It's 50 for this transition. Revenue sharing which I've been saying the leading advocate of saving our wetlands and saving our coast, this is a perfect example of why I think I've been right and the senators along the gulf coast to say we do receive 100 percent of the risk. Let us share a portion of those revenues to preserve our wetlands, to invest in technology and hold the industry accountable.

KING: Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana here tonight; obviously strongly held views on this issue. We'll keep in touch.

Later in the program you'll want to listen to Rush Limbaugh's conspiracy theory about the oil rig explosion we're talking about.

But first we talked with billionaire Florida Senate candidate Jeff Greene. He became very wealthy betting the housing market would tank. Hear what he has to say about that now that he's running for public office.


KING: Today's most important person -- people in this case -- you don't know made sure there was a VIN number, a vehicle identification number in the SUV used in the Times Square bombing attempt. A lot of people get the credit. In the beginning, individual carmakers used their own numbering systems. But in 1972 a committee of the society of automotive engineers created a standardized number. In 1981 the government ordered manufacturers to start using it. A VIN is 17 digits numbers and letters. Every position gives you specific information, the country of origin, the manufacturer, model year and more. You'll find decoders on the internet. VIN's go in at least three places sometimes more and that's important because the Times Square SUV dashboard VIN had been removed but a harder-to-find one on the engine block was still there and it was critical to the investigation. I'm joined in studio by Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher and Republican Kevin Madden. You both know where to find the vehicle identification number.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: My father was a mechanic. I knew where to find the VIN. I had to go in and match it against the book when ordering a part.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well look government regulation actually doing some good. Surprise, surprise.

KING: On message, Democrat on message here. Let's go through a few stories on my radar. One of them is this Florida Senate race which is endlessly fascinating. I had a chance to talk to the new Democratic candidate Jeff Greene. He's a billionaire that made his money by speculating against the housing market which of course collapsed in Florida.


KING: You said this in October of 2008 in an interview with "Forbes" magazine. I got into real estate very much by accident but I've never had more fun than now. One week before that interview the Dow plunged by 778 points, the biggest single-day loss ever.

JEFF GREENEE (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I was never shorting the Dow or having fun -- I never have fun watching the Dow drop or people losing their homes. That's not fun. That's not what this is about. What this is about is the future of Florida and jobs. That's why I'm in this race. When I got involved in these investments against Wall Street power brokers and against the Wall Street investment banks I was trying to protect my own investments and the jobs of the people that worked with me in those investments.


KING: First in a Democratic primary. Then if he succeeds in a general election, even if he's telling 1,000 percent the truth, can he sell that in this economic climate?

BELCHER: First of all, I need to get me a candidate in Florida because it's a lot of fun in that state right now. It is sort of a tough sell for you to come up, just be straight shooter for you to sort of be in that environment, be connected to business and Wall Street and investing and sort of have this happen. It is a tough sell. However, I like his chances in the general election against the tea party guy.

MADDEN: Look it says more about the candidate. These private sector candidates, many of them are very good. I worked for a very good one. A lot of them look at the political system that we have and the way we run campaigns and they think it looks easy and think that looked like an answer where he was winging it. That's something where you have to have a message discipline, you have to have a narrative you want to deliver to voters about why they ought to vote for you and what your vision for the future is. There is nothing in that answer that told us that.

KING: If he gets better at delivering the message or if gets help with the message he's estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion. I asked him how much he's willing to spend of that money to get elected.


GREENE: John look, I will spend whatever it takes to get my message out and be competitive against these career politicians who are funded by special interests and lobbyists. Let me tell you this, though. I won't take one penny of special interest money. Not in the primary or the general election, not after I'm elected, never.


KING: That could be trouble. Whatever it takes could be trouble for Kendrick Meek. Let's look at the numbers here. The Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek who was considered to be the guy who was going to win the Democratic nomination has about $3.7 million on hand. The last competitive Florida Senate race in 2006 there was $19 million total spending. If this guy is going to spend whatever it takes no matter who wins, if Kendrick Meek can survive the primary he'll have a couple of pennies left.

BELCHER: We never like to see a bruising primary though. This ultimately does help the Republican. Could see a bruising primary especially with a guy who is unlimited. However, as you can see, you have a candidate working on his message development and willing to spend whatever amount of money. Kendrick Meek has a strong record there in Florida. Hopefully he can sell it even disadvantaged by the money.

MADDEN: And if he uses that money to get through a Democratic primary and then builds an image that is poison in the general election, it will to the Republican advantage.

KING: For the entire interview if you want to watch it it's on One more story. Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and the owner of the Phoenix Suns says his team will do something special to honor the Mexican holiday and to protest Arizona's immigration law. The Suns will wear their "Los Suns" jerseys for Game Two of the playoffs series against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league. A sports team getting involved in the political debate over the new immigration law.

MADDEN: It's like the National Basketball Association is now the international basketball association. I wonder if this would happen in Boston if the Celtics would all of a sudden start using Gaelic on their uniforms, your hometown of Boston. I think the NBA is in this business and so is the owner of the Phoenix Suns to make money and they understand there's a very vibrant and important Latino community out there. And to burnish their image with them and show solidarity with them I think is an important business decision but also probably an important personal decision for somebody who cares deeply about this issue.

BELCHER: Phoenix is a beautiful diverse city and I think it's a beautiful thing that they're doing to sort of show that diversity even stand up with the diversity of their community. I think it's a great thing.

KING: Maybe if the Celtics spoke Gaelic. Lebron wouldn't be able to figure them out and get to the next round. All right. Kevin and Cornell are staying with us. When we return "play by play." We break down political tape of the day including one Senate candidate happy to come to Washington for some money and some advice but just ask him. He's going to keep his distance.


KING: Time for play by play. You get the drill. We show you action on tape. You've probably missed some of it and then use our experts. Kevin and Cornell are here to help us with some deep analysis. I can't speak English today. Marco Rubio, the conservative candidate for the Florida Senate race who was running against Charlie Crist saying he's establishment, I'm an outsider. Now Charlie Crist gets out. He's running as non-party affiliated. He's not on the primary. Rubio comes to Washington today to get some advice, to talk to some people who are going to help him raise some money. Our Mark Preston caught up with him at their airport though. Listen to this guy say I'm here but ...


MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Ultimately although Washington and some in Washington may embrace me, I don't embrace Washington. One of the reasons I'm running for U.S. Senate, and I ran when I was 30 points down and all of the interest groups and all of the leadership lined up behind Charlie Crist is because I believe what is coming out of the city is broken.


KING: Is it a tougher message to sell when suddenly you are embraced by the entire establishment?

MADDEN: It is. But look, let's remember that what we collectively know about Marco Rubio over the last three months is informed by him being somebody who was 30 points down, who was the insurgent, who was the outsider, who is not seen as the incumbent. He is not seen as the chosen candidate of the establishment. So it's entirely consistent with where he is. The trick is now still trying to run as an insurgent from here on out, all the way to the general election. Running against Washington, running against the status quo. Make Kendrick Meek look like he is the protector of the status quo and the incumbents in Washington.

BELCHER: I think it's tough because I still don't know who Rubio. He is one way when he has to indicator to the right wing, and now he is moving to the middle, he is against Washington, but now he can come here in Washington and get the money and get the expertise and advice.

MADDEN: It reminds me of the Texas race. We had an incumbent governor who made Kay Bailey Hutchison look like the incumbent, looked like the protector of the status quo. And it worked. I suspect it's going to work for Marco Rubio in Florida.

BELCHER: He better stay out of Washington if he wants to be the insurgent.

MADDEN: Florida back drop for all of his Washington.

KING: Carry around a little sunshine. Here is what we're going to listen to. The oil spill is tragic. And there are a lot of questions about is this industry regulated enough? Why did this happen? What kind of an accident. We don't know a lot of the answers to the questions. But if you listen to the radio today, Rush thinks he knows some.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Regime is open to the idea that this is not an accident. The regime is open to possibility this could well have been on purpose. Don't forget the original earth day 40 years ago was inspired by the river in Cleveland catching fire. 40 years later, the day before earth day this year, the gulf is on fire. Coincidence? Jury still out. The regime is on the case. Soon to tell us what happened.


MADDEN: Wow. I personally don't believe that there is a conspiracy here. This has all the makings of an accident. But I do think that in an area where talk radio and blogs, where we are in a media structure where there is oftentimes information comes as quickly from the bottom up as it does from the top down, that these sorts of questions are continued to be asked. Where as they used to old n Anderson an old media structure just die, now they continue to be part of a political and public conversation.

BELCHER: That was well thought out. But I don't know why the leader of your party.

MADDEN: Oh, he is not the leader.

BELCHER: Is talking such craziness. The leader of your party.

MADDEN: An important voice for a lot of conservatives.

KING: That's one example of some noise, or some conversations, some controversy from the right on this issue. It's not the only political part of the argument. I want you to listen to an ad now., a liberal organization from the left sees this bill as an opportunity as many critics of offshore oil drilling do to put some heat on president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama, will you lead our country into a clean energy future, or will we see more of this? President Obama, reinstate the ban on new offshore drilling.

KING: These guys are not shy from the president's left of kicking when they think they have reason to kick.

BELCHER: No. And this is going to be really tough because what Moveon is trying to do is clearly sort of energize and organize the left part of our base. And what the president has been trying to do is move to a moderate middle of the road sort of stance on this where all the options are on the table moving this country forward, making us nor energy dependent. What move on is trying to do is energize the left wing of the party.

MADDEN: Depending on the day the president is centrist and depending on the day sometimes he is trying to be center left. I think what we have seen the left has gotten softer and softer as the energy issue has come to the forefront.

KING: Kevin, Cornell, thank you so much. We'll bring you back another time. Coming up, Pete on the street. Ever feel like somebody's watching you?


KING: Just a couple minutes away from the top of the hour and Campbell Brown. Let's head up to New York to get a sense of what is coming up. Hi, Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there John. Tonight we are covering every angle of the failed Times Square bomb plot. What the suspect is telling investigators right now, his Pakistan connection and the case that authorities are trying to build against him. We will also update you on the massive oil spill in the gulf that made landfall today. Tonight new questions about whether BP is really doing all that it can to clean up what is a growing environmental disaster. We've got that and more coming up at the top of the hour. John?

KING: Looking forward to it, Campbell. Thanks.

Surveillance. Good thing, bad thing? Who better to find out than our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Being Pete on the street, have I paparazzi following me everywhere, of course. I want to ask people what they cared more about, security or privacy.


DOMINICK: There is cameras everywhere. If there is cameras on top of cameras on top of cameras this guy taking a picture of this woman taking a picture of that man taking a picture of a security camera taking a picture of me. Is that even digital? What are you 100 sir? Come on.

Are you worried about the security cameras watching us as we speak?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To a certain degree. You do have to have a little privacy in our lives.

DOMINICK: You would rather not have cameras everywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not everywhere. DOMINICK: You don't want people to know you're eating a giant cookie.


DOMINICK: Let's all lift our shirts up. You know that camera is watching you right now as you're trying to get intimate. Is that bothering you? Give a kiss. All right, easy. Me, sir. Me. Blow a kiss that way. One, two, three. Some lilacs. Sure there is nothing in there? Maybe a terrorist? See if the cops come. No cops yet. I guess you're all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think they're looking for me?

DOMINICK: I think they're looking for your shoes to return them to 1988. What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they're very soft and comfortable.

DOMINICK: Hey, it's Glenn Beck.

GLENN BECK: Absolutely. I've got some things on my mind.

DOMINICK: Does it bother you, Glenn, that all the cameras are taking a picture of you?

BECK: Yes, a little bit.

DOMINICK: Is this your wife, friend? I don't know.


DOMINICK: Well, they didn't seem to care, John King.

KING: No, they didn't. Pete, a little quick snap. Perfect. All right, Pete. Thank you. That's all the time we've got tonight. "CAMPBELL BROWN" starts right now.