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American Morning

NYC Pipe Bomb Plot Foiled; On the Brink of Failure; U.S. Imposing New Sanctions Against Iran; Ten Killed in Cairo Clashes; Michelle Obama and Jill Biden Booed at NASCAR; Republicans Prep for National Security Debate; Alleged Cyber Attack on Utility; NYC Pipe Bomb Plot Foiled; Debt Super Committee: Fail?

Aired November 21, 2011 - 05:59   ET



CHO (voice-over): He's accused of building homemade bombs and plotting to plant them in police cars. New York City police saying they stopped a terrorist in his tracks just days before the holiday season begins.

COSTELLO (voice-over): On the brink of failure. Congress already in damage control mode with the so-called Super Committee getting ready to announce that it cannot make a deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Gentlemen, start your engines!


CHO: And road rage? A NASCAR crowd apparently boos the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden on this AMERICAN MORNING.

COSTELLO: And good morning. It is Monday, November 21st. Christine is busy preparing a Thanksgiving feast for Thursday.

CHO: It's a full week.

COSTELLO: And Ali is preparing to eat one.

CHO: That's right.

COSTELLO: So they're off today. I'm Carol Costello along with Alina Cho. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: First, new details in a plot to plant pipe bombs in and around New York City. The 27-year-old Jose Pimentel behind bars this morning, arraigned and denied bail just hours ago.

Authorities say he was an al Qaeda sympathizer and a Muslim convert who plotted to bomb NYPD patrol cars, post offices and returning U.S. troops. And he was doing much more than just talking about it.

Our Deb Feyerick is here with the latest and Deb, it appears that this man was a lone wolf, acting alone. DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Not only that, but he had been under surveillance for about two years. His name is Jose Pimentel, 27 years old. He was preparing as many as three pipe bombs.

Had he built and executed them properly, a counterterrorism source tells me that he could have killed upwards of a dozen people. Now before he was arrested, the NYPD bomb experts built and detonated a similar device. You could see it right there on the screen. They showed it last night.

The device was detonated inside a car. You can see the amount of damage that it does cause, but again, it gives a little bit perspective, because they did have time to construct a similar device.

Now federal authorities were not involved in this operation, which was run entirely by the New York Police Department. New York's top cop says the suspect was radicalized by the teachings of U.S. born cleric Anwar Awlaki.

And that it was Awlaki's death by a U.S.-led drone strike in Yemen in September that accelerated the alleged plot.


COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Pimentel followed instructions from Anwar Awlaki's "Inspire" magazine to first acquire the bomb making materials and then assembled them. He relied on a particularly notorious article called "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom."


FEYERICK: And that article came from the al Qaeda-inspired magazine "Inspire." The publisher of that magazine killed in that same drone strike. You can see some of the components there that the NYPD was able to put together.

Basically, he was using a pipe bomb, a timer, he had bought household items at Home Depot including matches, about 700 matches that he was able to scrape off as part of that bomb. Again, a lot of things would have had to go right for this to detonate.

But had he placed it where he said he was going to, that is in the vicinity of U.S. Service personnel returning from Iraq, at police stations, post offices, he was going to put shrapnel it in the form of nails, it could have done great damage.

Police stepped in. They realized he was going operational. That it was not just talk anymore, but in fact, he was starting to drill the holes in that pipe bomb, and that's when they swept in. They arrested him on Saturday.

CHO: It's extraordinary because that device looks pretty crude and yet you're saying it could have done a lot of damage. Are we getting a sense of how close he was, when you say operational, how close he was to launching an attack?

FEYERICK: It's interesting. What they've told us is that he had all the ingredients and that he had started to drill the holes, which apparently according to the magazine article in "Inspire" that is one of the final stages of preparation for this, but his talk had really accelerated. He was talking much more about Jihad. He was talking about waging holy war against the United States.

And so they really felt that they could not take a chance, because, again, it's one of those things that, nobody would know whether in fact he was able to put this together now that he's been arrested.

But if he had, he could have caused mayhem and chaos. Certainly, at a very busy time of year and it would have sent a lot of panic to people.

COSTELLO: A couple of rather odd things. One, the FBI really wasn't involved, although at some point, the New York City Police Department and the FBI had conversations.

Number two, that Mayor Bloomberg chose to show a video of what these pipe bombs could do and you have Peter Bergen saying, if this is all al Qaeda has to offer, we don't worry much.

FEYERICK: And those are the things and those are excellent points. And that is one thing that you have to keep in mind, of all the terrorism cases that I have followed over the last 10 years, we have never seen a video before a trial.

Usually it happens during the trial, and usually certainly in federal cases that kind of video is safeguarded. OK, so they don't just show it. But, again, they didn't want to take a chance. It's not clear exactly when the FBI was in fact contacted.

That the mayor was very, very careful last night to mention FBI Director Robert Mueller by name and his theory on terrorism and how you stop it, but it appears that the feds were really shut out of this entire operation.

So whether the NYPD simply wanted to do it on their own or go it alone and then sort of present it to the public. But I'm sure we'll hear more about that today.

COSTELLO: Yes, I'm sure, we will. Deb Feyerick, thank you.

The sounds of surrender, it appears members of the congressional debt "Super Committee," yes, they were charged with finding ways to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget, and they have all, but failed in their mission.

With a Wednesday deadline looming, their focus is putting the most positive spin on what they could not accomplish. CNN congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan is following developments.

She is live in Washington. I was going to say to you, do you know how angry voters are? But I just think they resigned because they probably expected this.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This seems to be just one more bit of evidence that Washington, if you want to say, or Congress, specifically, is just broken, Carol.

I mean, barring an 11th-hour breakthrough of some sort, the "Super Committee" is headed towards failure today as talks have fallen apart and there's really no evidence of any last-minute negotiations taking place.

The gloomy outlook is also quite evident in the change in tone among members of the "Super Committee" themselves. Many took to the Sunday morning talk shows and much of the conversation there, markedly shifted from we're pushing for a deal and we're hopeful for a deal to who should be to blame when the committee fails.

Listen here to Republican Senator Jon Kyl as well as the Democratic co-chair of the committee, Senator Patty Murray.


SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: If you look at the Democrats' position, we have to raise taxes. We have to pass this jobs bill. The only real breakthrough here, the word breakthrough was used by my colleague Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, was the Republican offer to actually increase the amount of revenue --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just say --

KYL: -- through the tax code, which would largely fall on the upper two brackets of taxpayers.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: The truth is at this point today, Democrats have made some really tough decisions and come to some pretty tough choices that we're willing to put on the line, on entitlements, on spending cuts. But only if the Republicans are willing to cross the line on the Bush tax cuts and be willing to say, revenues have to be a part of the solution.


BOLDUAN: If they -- clearly, both sides blaming the other for not being able to reach agreement around the required minimum of $1.2 trillion in deficit savings.

The negotiations really breaking down on the same issue that has largely held up talks to this point, which is taxes. Democrats say, as you heard from Patty Murray, taxes, revenue, need to be part of any, quote/unquote, "balanced approach" as they like to say to reducing the deficit.

Republicans on the flip side, they are very much opposed to tax increases unless it's part of a broader tax reform effort that would bring down rates. And so with basically, no time left, Carol, the only question really seems to be, how and when do they make a formal announcement that they couldn't pull it off.

Many believed it will come today and that reason being it's a note where they gave. This is today, a preliminary deadline. The committee is required to post its agreement, if it had one, and also post its official debt savings estimate two days before the hard deadline, which is Wednesday.

COSTELLO: Well, I bet Democrats and Republicans won't make that announcement together, but that's just a bet on my past. But let's talk about the bottom line here, if the committee fails, what's gets cut? What gets spared?

BOLDUAN: So if the committee fails, these are these kind of across the board automatic cuts called sequestration, which everyone can forget about at 6:00 in the morning, too early for that.

But what would be cut, what would be kind of get the knife would be kind of across the board spending cuts. Defense would be hit very hard. About half of the budget cuts would hit the defense budget and other areas of spending, education, transportation, immigration.

Just to name is few would be hit, because they would automatically be hit by $1.2 trillion in deficit savings, would go into place in 2013, but some areas are exempt from kind of these very tough cuts.

And these are areas generally speaking that would help low- income families, would help the poor. Barred from automatic cuts are Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps and also including veterans' benefits.

I should also add, part of it, one area that will also be hit is also Medicare, but there's a cap on how hard Medicare can be hit. So it's hitting areas that were supposed to be painful in an unacceptable alternative that was put in place, Carol, of course to motivate them to do the job and it seems that they could not pull it off.

COSTELLO: Guess not. Kate Bolduan, many thanks. Coming up later at 8:30 Eastern, we'll talk to two key members of the debt "Super Committee," Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl and Massachusetts's Democratic Senator John Kerry.

CHO: Later today, the Obama administration plans to announce new sanctions against Iran. U.S. companies are already banned from doing business there. Diplomatic sources tell CNN the new sanctions are intended to stop foreign countries from conducting business with Iran's oil and gas industry and any nation that does will be banned from U.S. markets.

Egypt's erupting again this morning. Protesters filling Cairo's Tahrir Square for a third straight day. Ten people killed in brute's clashes yesterday. Hundreds of army officers and police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Many of the protesters brutally beaten. Military rulers say elections will go on as planned in seven days, just a week, but some Egyptians worry they traded one tyrant for another.

Ben Wedeman is live for us in Cairo this morning. Ben, good morning to you.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hello, Alina. Well, as you can see, Tahrir Square not packed at the moment, but more and more people are coming apparently groups of university students are on their way.

And, of course, they are here to protest against what's called the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces, which took over from Hosni Mubarak on the 1th of February this year. The worry of many Egyptians is that now they won't leave power. They won't go back to their barracks.

Now we did hear from a spokesman of the military council saying that the elections that are scheduled for one week from today will go ahead as planned, but already several candidates, several political parties have suspended their campaigns in protest over the crackdown in Tahrir Square.

Yesterday, we were out in the street. There are rocks and tear gas flying all over the place in the streets to the east of here, those streets, of course, leading to the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Interior still very much a symbol of repression.

Many victims recalled in the days of Hosni Mubarak. That was where people would go and would never come out, just disappear into that building's dungeon. So it really is a symbol of hate around, which many Egyptians can unify.

That's what we're seeing here in this square, really a protest against a regime that hasn't really changed fundamentally since the revolution -- Alina.

CHO: And then just very quickly, just to be clear and you touched on this. Remind our viewers what people are so mad about. We remember those massive demonstrations earlier this year that led to the fall of Mubarak. What are they so upset about now?

WEDEMAN: Well, they're upset is that they feel, they thought they had brought down a regime, but all they really did is they decapitated it. They removed the head, Mubarak, and it's been replaced by this military council. All of the members of which were obviously promoted during the 30 years of Mubarak's reign.

In fact, Wikileaks quoted, some Egyptian military officers describing the head of that council, the field marshal, Mohammed Hosen Zentalli as Mubarak's puppet -- poodle. Sorry.

They feel after all this, nothing's really changed. The regime is the same as it was on the 1th of February, after all of those massive demonstrations here in Tahrir Square -- Alina.

CHO: Ben Wedeman live for us in Cairo this morning. Ben, thank you. A viral video that has two police officers in hot water. They're on leave now after blasting peaceful -- peaceful "Occupy" protesters with pepper spray on the campus at UC Davis. Students are saying they will go all the way to the top.

COSTELLO: And a not so warm welcome for Michelle Obama, a video of a NASCAR crowd booing the first lady. That's ahead.

CHO: Did you see this weekend? If you didn't, we're going to show Jon Huntsman. He may be trailing in the polls, but he certainly hasn't lost his sense of humor.

The candidate's cameo on "Saturday Night Live" when AMERICAN MORNING returns. It's 14 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: Seventeen minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

Two University Of California Davis police officers are on administrative leave this morning after this video. I'm sure you've seen it by now. This video surfaced. And you see cops casually pepper spraying peaceful Occupy protesters in their faces at point- blank range on Friday night. The university said the officers were just trying to clear out the Occupy cast and felt trapped by the protesters.

Eleven protesters required treatment. Two landed in the hospital. Hundreds of protesters calling on the school's chancellor Linda Katehi to resign.

CHO: Well, it wasn't exactly the warm welcome the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden were expecting. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now, please welcome our grand marshals, Sergeant Andrew Berry and family, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden as they deliver the most famous words in Motorsports.

CROWD: Gentlemen, start your engines!


CHO: Michelle Obama and Jill Biden apparently greeted with a chorus of boos by NASCAR fans at the Ford 400 yesterday. They were the grand marshals of the last season - at the season's last race, rather. The two were also there to honor U.S. troops and their families and bring awareness to the First Lady's Joining Forces Program, an initiative to hire and train veterans.

Actress Mila Kunis attended the Marine Corps Ball in Greenville, North Carolina over the weekend. She was making a YouTube wish come true. And the Friday night date was Sergeant Scott Moore. You'll remember he posted a YouTube invitation back in July while he was stationed in Afghanistan. Good for him.

COSTELLO: I love those pictures.

CHO: And Justin Timberlake did the same one about a week ago with - making another YouTube wish come true. So good for them on making good on that.

COSTELLO: I know. And Mila - Mila Kunis looked so beautiful -

CHO: She did.

COSTELLO: -- and I must say her date, the Marine, looked very handsome, as well.

CHO: Pretty cute, too. All right.

COSTELLO: Let's go to Atlanta and check in with Bonnie Schneider. Good morning, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Carol and Alina.

We are looking at some wet weather this morning out in a place that doesn't usually get a lot of rain. Southern California, this time of the year you can get some downpours, but over the weekend records were shattered in Santa Barbara and in Los Angeles. Take a look at this video coming to us from L.A. and you'll see the roads covered with water in a lot of areas. Some flooding, some problems, and people cleaning up their areas, their homes and businesses due to inundation of water.

The weather will be a little better today, but note there was almost an inch of rain in L.A. yesterday. Well now we're getting rain across the northeast. It is sliding from New York City right through Long Island, into Connecticut and Rhode Island. I think just the intermittent showers today in the New York area, but you'll see more steady and more heavy downpours in the Mid-south.

So Memphis just facing a lot of wet weather. If you're driving on I-40, maybe getting an early start to your holiday week, you're going to be facing some downpours. And even the threat of severe weather, meaning we can see frequent lightning strikes, possibly hail and very heavy downpours right here in Texas.

So Dallas, as that front comes through, watch out for severe storms. They could get very strong later this afternoon with low pressure rides along the stationary front bringing the threat for flooding even to Memphis and more towards Nashville. All of this, of course, is going to impact your travel. And it's such a busy travel week, one of the busiest of the year.

Delays across the country, from New York to Texas, back out westward as well, most of this will be in the morning. However, in the afternoon, Dallas and Memphis could be facing those strong storms and that could cause some big slowdowns. We'll keep you posted here on CNN. Back to you.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Bonnie.


CHO: All right. "THE NEXT LIST" is a new CNN program focusing on some of America's most creative minds. Each Sunday, Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiles people on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. This week, Sanjay looks at someone who is pushing the culinary envelope. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A molecular gastronomist is really just someone who explores the world of science in food. We're always playing with your expectations as to what this food could be.

We use a lot of different tools - centrifuges, Sonifiers, lasers, we're actually starting to work with some super conductors. If you look at, you know, the limitations of creating new products you're only limited by the technology that you have to work with.

You know, the real thrill with the food experiments that we do is creating something that's impossible. Creating something that just shouldn't be.


CHO: Anything involving food is good for me. You can catch "THE NEXT LIST" each Sunday at 2:00 P.M. Eastern Time right here on CNN. People don't believe it, I love to eat. I'm a big eater.

COSTELLO: She eats very healthy, though, I must say.

CHO: I do and that's a good thing.

COSTELLO: Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, Mitt Romney ready to take a big gamble on Iowa. It is a move that could make or break his candidacy.

CHO: And we'll tell you why hybrids might be the best bet for keeping you safe in case of a crash, up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Twenty-two minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. Welcome back. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower open right now. Last week, the Dow dropped nearly three percent and the NASDAQ and S&P 500 fell about four percent. What's driving markets down worldwide, overnight fears about U.S. budget talks as well as the debt crisis in Europe. Spain has a new leader, Mariano Rajoy, won 45 percent of the popular vote this weekend topping his agenda preventing the debt problems in Greece and Italy from spreading to Spain. In recent days, concerns about Spain's economy have pushed bond yields closer to that key seven percent level at which other countries were forced to seek an international bailout.

Good news for drivers here in the United States, the latest Lundberg Survey says the national average cost for a gallon of gas is $3.38. That's down five cents from the past two weeks. The survey says slumping demand and lower crude oil prices helped drive prices down.

Hybrids may be your best bet for safety and this study finds hybrid cars are 25 percent better at protecting drivers from getting hurt in a crash than traditional vehicles. That's because hybrids are generally heavier than conventional cars and that extra mass is an advantage during an accident.

A first for cosmetic giant Mary Kay, the company's presented beauty consultant Jim Cundiff with its legendary Pink Cadillac this year. He's the only man ever to earn the car. The caddie is a symbol of high achievement and is presented to the top Mary Kay sales consultants.

AMERICAN MORNING will be back after a break.


COSTELLO: Who's commander in chief material? Republicans getting ready to do battle over national security, live on CNN, with six weeks to Iowa -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: And welcome back.

It is 30 minutes past the hour -- time for this morning's top stories.

A suspect arrested in a New York City pipe bomb plot. Mayor Michael Bloomberg last night announcing an alleged terror plot involving an al Qaeda sympathizer who planned to target the NYPD and returning U.S. soldiers.

CHO: Members of the bipartisan debt super committee appear ready to throw in the towel. A weekend of talks failed to produce a last-minute compromise on cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. Talks are now said to be focused on how to announce the failure to reach a deal. Officials say that announcement could come today.

COSTELLO: Do business with Iran and you don't do business with America. That sums up the Obama administration's latest sanctions against the Iranians. They'll be announced today. Diplomats telling CNN the plan calls for any country that does business with Iran's gas and oil industry could be blocked from conducting business in the United States.

CHO: With about six weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney is making a late push in the Hawkeye State while Newt Gingrich tries to make a splash with his plan to reform Social Security.

CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser live in Washington for us.

So, Paul, let's begin with that big national securities debate in Washington tomorrow night right here on CNN. Give us a preview.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is going to be just a few blocks from where these candidates, these Republican candidates hope to some day live, the White House. Our debate is going to be held in Constitution Hall, just down the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And the major candidates will all be there.

As you mentioned, Alina, yes, national security one of the top, its foreign policy as well. But, of course, the economy will also be a topic for the candidates tomorrow night right here in Washington, D.C.

It's going to be moderated by a guy -- I think you know his name -- it's Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of this show called "THE SITUATION ROOM." He's kind known in the political world and here in Washington. Yes, I think people are familiar with him.

The format: Blitzer will be asking questions coming from the audience, and those members will be from the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Those are two Republican think tanks that CNN is teaming up with to put the debate on. And, of course, we'll be getting questions from the social media as well.

So, it should be interesting. And, Alina, as you said, just six weeks to go until those first votes in Iowa.

CHO: I hope you're ready, Paul.

I want to talk a little more about Mitt Romney. You know, he's rolling the dice big on Iowa this week. He's opened up an office I understand. He's also launching some TV ads.

Does this mark sort of a departure from the last-man standing approach to something a little more direct and proactive?

STEINHAUSER: It does seem he's stepping it up in Iowa, of course, the first state to vote, on January 3rd. You're right. Up until now, it's kind of been a little more of a different laid-back format, at least the strategy for Romney. After our debate on Tuesday, he goes to Iowa. On Wednesday, as you mentioned, his campaigned has opened up a pretty large office there, headquarters in Iowa.

Why is this dicey for Romney? Because listen, even though he hasn't gone there much this year, he's doing very well in the polls in Iowa, basically tied for the lead with a couple of the other candidates.

But let's go back four years ago. He spent a lot of time and money in Iowa. It didn't work out. Mike Huckabee won in Iowa, then McCain in New Hampshire, and it was pretty much over for Mitt Romney.

So, hoes he put it on the line this time or not? We'll see. It seems like he's stepping it up there, Alina.

CHO: All right. Paul Steinhauser, live for us in Washington -- great to see you, Paul. Thank you.

And tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN, the Republican candidates for president gather just steps from the White House, as Paul said, for this debate on national security and the economy, co-sponsored by the American Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. That's 8:00 p.m. Eastern, tomorrow night, right here on CNN, and moderated by our friend Wolf Blitzer. So, send in your questions.

COSTELLO: He was at the Soul Train Awards the other day.

CHO: I know he was.

COSTELLO: I love that. Here's a picture of him online.

CHO: Wolf does everything.

COSTELLO: I know. He's a good dancer, too.

CHO: He is.


COSTELLO: I'm just laughing picturing that. But he really is a good dancer, really.

You have to hand it to Jon Huntsman. The presidential candidate has a strategy and he's sticking to it. Win New Hampshire. Huntsman has been campaigning almost exclusively in the Granite State. Over the weekend, the former Utah governor took a break and went to the Big Apple for a cameo on "Saturday Night Live" and he still had New Hampshire on his mind.


SETH MEYERS, CAST MEMBER, "SNL": You seem to be putting all of your eggs in one basket, in New Hampshire. Are you worried you might alienate the rest of the country?

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seth, I love all of America. From Dallas, Texas, to Manchester, New Hampshire. From the majestic Rocky Mountains, to New Hampshire's scenic Lake Winnipesaukee. From the innovation of Silicon Valley to the affordable outlet malls in North Conway, New Hampshire.

MEYERS: We can't help but notice you keep mentioning places from New Hampshire.

HUNTSMAN: Well, it's not on purpose, Seth. I would never tie myself to one state. I like to spread my wings and fly like the Purple Finch.

MEYERS: Which is, of course, the state bird of New Hampshire?

HUNTSMAN: You know a lot about New Hampshire?

MEYERS: I'm from New Hampshire.

HUNTSMAN: Well, that makes sense, because you're kind and good- looking. Classic New Hampshire.

MEYERS: Jon Huntsman, as a proud New Hampshirian, and I can't tell you we do not fall for easy compliments.

HUNTSMAN: That's because you're wise like a Dartmouth professor.

MEYERS: All right. Well, thank you so much for coming.

HUNTSMAN: Are your parents registered voters?

MEYERS: My mom's a Democrat and my father's an independent.

HUNTSMAN: Say hi to your dad for me.

MEYERS: All right.


COSTELLO: He has a sense of humor.

CHO: He looked good on that set, by the way. Looked pretty comfortable. Strong.

COSTELLO: He looks strong even at 1 percent but he's in there trying. He's in there trying.

CHO: He is. You got to hand it to him.

COSTELLO: Tune in to CNN 6:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman will sit down live with our John King for a preview of tomorrow night's Republican debate tomorrow. Probably talking about New Hampshire.

CHO: He'll probably be talking about the Granite State, and the Purple Finch.

COSTELLO: That comes your way at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

CHO: Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING: Were computer hackers able to take down a vital public utility right here in the United States? We're going to ask a computer security expert just how vulnerable our infrastructure is to cyber or terror attacks.

We're back after this.


CHO: Welcome back.

New this morning: it appears a deadly incident in a tailgate area outside the Yale Harvard football game over the weekend was an accident. The lawyer for the man who was driving a U-Haul that hit three women and killed one said the vehicle malfunctioned. Police say the driver passed a sobriety test. The driver was hauling beer kegs to the tailgating party when he lost control of the truck.

COSTELLO: The Canes won't be at the bowl game this year. The University of Miami announcing a self-imposed ban. The school is still under investigation by the NCAA over allegations that a former booster, a convicted Ponzi schemer gave cash, jewelry, even prostitutes to players. The team plays its last game on Friday.

CHO: In what could be his last game on U.S. soil, David Beckham is a champion. The L.A. Galaxy won the MLS Cup last night, beating the Houston Dynamo 1-0. Beckham and Landon Donovan of World Cup fame teamed up for the gold and won the cup. Beckham shocked the soccer world by coming to the U.S. to compete back in 2007. His five-year deal expires next month.

COSTELLO: He had a good season this year. So, he's going out on a high note.

Still get to gaze upon him, because I'm sure that the media will still cover him even though he's not playing for the L.A. Galaxy any longer.

CHO: I have a feeling.

COSTELLO: In other news this morning, a federal investigation under way into an alleged cyber attack that may have caused the public water system in Springfield, Illinois, to break down. There are reports the computer that hacked the utility has some trace to Russia. This may be the first successful attack of its kind.

So, just how vulnerable are the nation's water and power systems to cyber or terror attacks?

Dave Aitel is president and CEO of Immunity, a software security firm, and he's a former NSA scientist. He joins us live from Miami.

Good morning.

DAVE AITEL, PRESIDENT & CEO, IMMUNITY INC.: Good morning. Good to join you.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here.

Because a lot of people are concerned about this -- so, first off, do we know absolutely for sure this was a cyber attack?

AITEL: We don't know absolutely for sure anything about the Illinois event, but it seems likely. They're admitting that a pump broke, but they're not saying how and the DHS is sort of denying that anything cyber happened. But the case itself sounds very plausible. There's a researcher's reputation on the line.

I personally think something happened, and the scenario which he describes from a semi-classified report is extremely plausible, and it's not something you would make up.

COSTELLO: OK. So, let's assume it was a hacker that fooled with this Illinois water plant. You know, so they hacked into a remote system and burned out a water pump. But it doesn't seem any real damage was actually done.

So, could this have been just a test? I mean, why would someone want to do that?

AITEL: Well, this thing about hacking into industrial control systems is that they're very -- you had a picture earlier that sort of showed the pipes and everything. These are very complex systems. There's no one button you can hit that says, do big damage here.

So, if you're hacked a number of water plants, and you're probably going to spend time experimenting with them a bit to find out how to cause damage, how to affect them at all, and in some cases, you're going to mess up and flip the switch a few too many times and burn out the pump in question.

So, you know, there are a lot of possibilities here. We know this thing -- this sort of thing happens all the time. We know that they're not secured the way they should be, and the fact that something could happen that would affect your water supply is extremely scary, I think, for a lot of people.

And there really hasn't been a lot of discussion around the security of these things. There's no -- in this case, no supply chain security discussion, there's no discussion of what you do when something happens.


AITEL: It can be very difficult.

COSTELLO: Well, let's just talk about the computer supposedly used to do this hacking. Apparently, it was traced to Russia. Does it make sense to you that someone in Russia would do this to a water plant in the United States?

AITEL: Well, yes, but I think the fact that the computer was in Russia is probably beside the point. It could have been, you know, a Romanian going through China, through Russia and then finally into the United States. Any hacker who's looking to do real damage is probably coming from somewhere other than where they say they're coming from, which is another thing that's quite scary, because this could happen to you and you have no idea where to go next.

COSTELLO: In this case, workers detected these glitches -- glitches in the system for about two months, but I guess didn't realize what was happening. So, are they trained to look for this kind of stuff?

AITEL: I think, in this case, it's great news that someone actually discovered something was going on that was a little different from normal and then attributed it to the cyber arena. It's not normally the case that would you say, hey, our pump broke. It must be the computer hacker who did that.

So it's actually in some ways good news that someone was paying attention enough to discover something like this, which is usually very subtle. If you look at (INAUDIBLE) or some of the other versions of these attacks, they go to great depths to hide what it is they're actually doing, where they are on the systems. And that can be something that no industrial engineer would actually discover until it's long too late.

COSTELLO: OK. So, just in protecting our utilities, and maybe, even our railroads from these kinds of attacks, I mean, is there someone out there trained to do that, first of all? And secondly, I guess, are we going to see more of these kinds of attacks?

AITEL: Well, we did se one this weekend on South Houston. The city had a water/sewage plant that was connected to the internet, and a hacker named Proof, with a zero, it's hard to say, ended up posting screenshots of their control systems on the internet. So, we know this stuff does happen.

We know it's, sometimes, not secured the way it should be. I think there's, you know, a long way to go, and there are government teams in charge of securing this stuff. You're going to see ICS search, the industrial control systems community, and emergency response team.

That team is responsible for this sort of stuff, but they don't have the kind of budget that can go through and secure everybody. It's just not a solvable problem that way.

COSTELLO: Well, that doesn't make me feel any better, but at least, I understand it more. Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Dave Aitel, president and CEO of Immunity Inc and and a former NSA scientist. Thanks so much.

CHO: Twenty-six minutes after the hour.

For some people, it's more than just a game. Thousands of Americans make a living playing online poker. And now, many of those people are losing their sole source of income after a popular site has been shut down for illegal gambling. We'll have details coming up.


CHO: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.


CHO (voice-over): A suspect arrested in a New York City pipe bomb plot. Mayor Michael Bloomberg last night announcing an alleged terror plat involving an al Qaeda sympathizer who planned to target the NYPD and returning U.S. soldiers.

The partisan blame game is in fill swing as leaders of the Congressional debt Super Committee prepare to announce they have failed to reach a detail on cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

Protesters filling Cairo's Tahrir Square for a third straight day. Twenty people were killed in clashes (ph) over the weekend. Egypt's new military rulers say elections will go on as planned in just a week.

A special panel investigating the Penn State sex abuse allegations will speak today. The panel was established six days after ex-coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for allegedly abusing as many as eight little boys.

They claim they've been hacked, stopped, and slandered. Now celebrities like actor, Hugh Grant, are getting a chance to confront a British tabloid at a hearing on media standards and ethics.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hitting the road next year according to the band's website. It's their first tour in three years and the first since the death of beloved saxophonist, Clarence Clemons. Fans also hinting that a new album is in the works. Great news.


CHO (on-camera): That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


COSTELLO: It's 51 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

A popular online poker site is accused of running a global Ponzi scheme.

CHO: That's right. It's called, and it's been shut down. Former players are out thousands of dollar, some have been winnings from the site as their only source of income. So, our Poppy Harlow is here now with details. So, what's this all about, Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: You know, it's interesting. It's happened earlier this year. It wasn't just full tilt. It was a lot of these big online poker sites, and they were shut down by the DOJ. And you look at it, and you think, all right, well, people can't play the game online, et cetera, but what we found out is that for a lot of people across this country, it was more than just a hobby.

It was their job. So, we took a look at one guy who's out thousands, and he's representative of a lot of people that were betting on the game as their source of income. Take a look.


HARLOW: How much money did you make playing poker online?


HARLOW: In how long?

BUSSE: Three or four years.

HARLOW (voice-over): In the online poker world, Shawn Busse was known as Jordan Kicks.

BUSSE: On April 15th, I was playing poker like any other day, and all of a sudden, we just couldn't play anymore. The money was frozen.

HARLOW: It became known as Black Friday when the justice department seized Full Tilt Poker's operations and froze player accounts alleging the company was operating a global Ponzi scheme.

JOSEPH KELLY, CO-EDITOR 'GAMING LAW REVIEW': I think this is uncharted territory. For the first time, player moneys has been seized.

HARLOW: The DOJ says Full Tilt owed some $390 million to players around the world, including roughly $150 million to U.S. players, but had only $60 million in its coffers. And it alleges members of the company board and other owners were paid more than $440 million over a four-year period.

Full Tilt fired back saying it's in no way a Ponzi scheme and says it's committed to paying players back. Out 60 grand, though, Shawn Busse is not convinced.

BUSSE: A lot of people feel betrayed, I guess, that this was, you know, the site where they made their income. They had the relationship with people there. They trusted them, and you know, they basically sold from us.

HARLOW: French investment firm group, Bernard Tapi (ph) reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to acquire Full Tilt Poker and says it will reimburse players outside the U.S., but for American players, like Shawn, they'll have to apply to the DOJ to get their money back. Full Tilt's current owners have not yet accepted the deal.

BUSSE: I try not to get my hopes up. I consider that money lost. And if I get it back, then it will be a nice bonus.

HARLOW (on-camera): I think that the general feeling is, OK, well, people can't play the games that they like online anymore. For you, it was a lot more than that. This was your livelihood?

BUSSE: This was my job. Yes. I feel like my job's been taken away from me right now. This is my source of income for the past four years.

HARLOW: And Shawn is not alone. According to H2 Gambling Capital, about eight percent of U.S. online poker players or about 35,000 people in this country made a living off the game. Now, many of them have moved abroad, where online poker is alive and well.

What was your best day ever?

BUSSE: Playing online in 2009. I got second place for $163,000 in one tournament. Poker's been an American pastime for however many years.

HARLOW: An American pastime?

BUSSE: Sure. Everyone loves to play poker.


HARLOW: Guys, we also talked to a number of other players. Ethan Ruby, he used his winnings to start a college fund for his kids and buy a hot tub. He's in his pictures there. And then, there was another player, Ryan Moleski (ph), North Carolina, he's out $28,000. He lost a job in the mortgage industry and turned to this.

And when you look at someone like Shawn in the piece, he was in college. He's 23 years old who is making 100 grand a year. Look at the job market right now, he said, all right, poker is better for me right now than college. He dropped out to play. Upside of this, he's back in school.

COSTELLO: So, tell us how this was a Ponzi scheme, because, usually, you hear when you gamble, kind of the dealer always wins.

HARLOW: Right.

COSTELLO: So, you would think that the people on the company will be making dollars (ph), but they only have $60 million in the bank.

HARLOW: So, this is an alleged Ponzi scheme, right? Full Tilt fought back saying this isn't a Ponzi scheme. What the DOJ said when they shut the company down was, you owe American players $150 million, and we looked at your books, and you've got $60 million, and we look at what the DOJ says you've been paying out to your owners. Something's not right here.

What's interesting, all the online poker sites in the U.S. were shut down on April 15th, Black Friday. Then a number of them were allowed to operate overseas. Full Tilt Poker, itself, hasn't been able to operate at all, because unlike the other sites, the Department of Justice says not only is what you're doing in the U.S. by operating online poker illegal we think, but we think that you're operating a Ponzi scheme.

We think this doesn't smell right. But again, the company says, time and time again, it's not we're paying close attention to see if there is a settlement with the French company which could result in the U.S. players getting their money back. They're going to have to fight the Department of Justice, and you know, that could take a long time.

COSTELLO: Good luck with that.


COSTELLO: Poppy Harlow, thank you.

HARLOW: Got it.

COSTELLO: He was looking for revenge against U.S. troops who say we're coming home for the holidays. New details about a foiled pipe bomb plot in New York City and what it could say about the state of al Qaeda.