Return to Transcripts main page


Terror in the Skies; CIA Bombing Tragedy; Most Absurd Politics of 2009; President Obama's 2010 Challenges

Aired January 1, 2010 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, a rough start to 2010.

Tonight: putting the pieces together on the alleged Christmas bomber. How a rich kid from Nigeria got on the road to radical Islam and allegedly attempted mass murder. Did an Internet cleric lead him down that path? A cleric, who may also have ties to the Fort Hood killer?

Also tonight seven more names on the CIA's memorial to fallen agents and officers killed in Afghanistan by a single suicide bomber. How did the bomber get on to the U.S. base without being searched? New information tonight, we're "Keeping them Honest."

And later, "Up Close", some of the moments from last year and last night that we can all laugh at with two of the funniest people on television.

But "First Up": a potentially deadly connection, the attempted Christmas airliner bombing. We have new information now coming to light. I want to bring you over to the wall, show you what we know and try to piece together the pieces of the puzzle.

We're talking about this man, the alleged bomber. The Nigerian who went from being a wealthy son of a rich banker to a radicalized would be killer.

His name is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But what we may -- what may be most important tonight is the connection he has to this man. Take a close look now at this next picture we want to show you, Anwar al Awlaki. He's an Imam, a Muslim cleric. He lives in Yemen but was born in America.

Now, the reason he's important is that he's become a kind of Internet Islamic televangelist preaching violent jihad, preaching murder. Take a close-up look at him.

Now what's really interesting is that not only is that there's a possible link between the Nigerian and the cleric in Yemen, but this cleric is also believed to have exchanged e-mails with none other than Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood killer.

So what is the possible connection between the Nigerian and this cleric? Well, he's believed to be one of several Internet imams who the alleged Christmas bomber may have turned to for spiritual guidance and to justify murder. We're going to talk to Peter Bergen about this clerical connection shortly.

But first I just want to walk you through exactly what we know about this alleged bomber and what may have led him to being on that flight, Flight 253, allegedly with an explosive device hidden in his underwear.

So let's begin in what we know. 2005, in a posting online as Farouk1986, the Nigerian man praised another radical cleric who is later accused of inciting the London subway bombings; now that's according to "The New York Times".

Now, at the time Abdulmutallab was going to school at the University College of London where he was president at the school's Islamic Society and invited radical speakers to lecture about jihad.

All right.

So we move forward now to June of 2008. He was -- we now know that this man was granted a two year multiple-entry visa to the United States and spent the month of August in Houston. Then what should have been the first warning flag, May 2009, Abdulmutallab is denied a new British student visa reportedly because the school he says he's applying to, doesn't even exist.

So just two months later in August of 2009, he goes to Yemen and they see his U.S. visa there on his passport and they let him in because they think, ok, well, if he can get into the U.S. he can get into Yemen. He stays in there until December. And now it's during that time that American officials now say there were communications between terrorists in Yemen and a person called "The Nigerian".

Now, November 19th, Abdulmutallab's father fearing his son is preparing for a suicide mission meets with CIA officials at the American embassy in Nigeria. His name is added to a terror watch list but not to the no-fly list. And then December 16th, 2009, he buys the one-way ticket to Detroit at an airport in Ghana with cash, clear warning signs that were missed.

So that's the timeline.

Let's bring in national security analyst Peter Bergen, one of the few Westerners who has actually met and interviewed Osama bin Laden.

Peter, this cleric what do we know about him? Anwar al Awlaki, apparently he had contact with both the Nigerian as well as Major Hasan.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, he was frequenting a mosque in northern Virginia in the post-9/11 period. At that time he was supposed to be not particularly militant according to the Imam of the mosque now. He seems to have become more radicalized, perhaps a stint in a Yemeni jail in 2006 may have pushed him down that path. What I think is very interesting, Anderson, is that by this cleric's own account on Al Jazeera, just a day before he may have been killed in a Yemeni air strike on December 23rd, he says that Major Nidal Hasan contacted him on November 2008 saying, was it ok to kill Muslim soldiers -- fellow soldiers as a Muslim?

So, Major Nidal Hasan was asking that question very directly to this Yemeni cleric. Now, it's not clear what the Yemeni cleric said back. But clearly that's a rather direct question.

It raises an interesting question also about the FBI. After all, the FBI has said that they were aware of these kinds of back and forths between Major Nidal Hasan and this cleric and they thought they were kind of innocuous.

But the question: is it ok to kill fellow soldiers doesn't seem particularly innocuous to me.

COOPER: How easy is it for somebody who wants to, to try to contact some radical cleric? I mean, he's not the only radical cleric out there who is online. Is it -- I mean, is it a two-way street? Are these clerics contacting people who are posting things or are these people, you know, making a big effort to contact these clerics?

BERGEN: I think it's the latter. It's people reaching out to these clerics looking for sort of religious sanction for whatever they're planning to do.

So in the case of Major Hasan, it appears that he was looking to this cleric to give him some kind of religious guidance on the issue of was it ok to kill fellow soldiers and other issues about suicide attacks and so it's more somebody like the Major reaching out to the cleric, not the other way around. There's never -- go ahead.

COOPER: And there's never -- I mean, as far as we know there's no connection between this alleged bomber and Major Hasan? It's just they may have this same person in common?

BERGEN: Right. No connection at all. And we still don't really know what the connections are between the Detroit bomber and this Yemeni cleric other than the fact that they may have been in communication. But is it -- was it a face to face meeting? Was it over the Internet? I think that's still not exactly clear.

COOPER: And this cleric, do we know for a fact he's dead? Or may he still be alive?

BERGEN: He may well still be alive. The strike happened on December 24th. He may have been -- some family members and reporters say he wasn't killed. He hasn't reappeared. The longer he doesn't reappear the more credible it is that he was actually killed. But he's had plenty of opportunity to sort of get on a phone to a TV station and say, you know, look, I'm not dead, but he hasn't taken that opportunity.

COOPER: And how easy is it for U.S. officials to track this kind of online activities of these clerics?

BERGEN: I mean, it's pretty easy but the problem is there's so much volume and different material. The United States can track every electronic communication it wants, but the problem is the one of volume.

And I've talked to people at the bureau who say, the problem about the communications with this Yemeni cleric is there are quite a lot of people asking these sorts of questions, not all of whom are necessarily violent.

Some of these are, you know, much more sort of routine. So that's not to excuse the fact that Major Hasan fell through the cracks. The point is that there is just a vast amount of this material out there. You can't monitor everything.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, I want you to stay with us because I want to talk to you about the terror attack on CIA workers in Afghanistan. We're going to do that after the break.

Disturbing details about how the bomber was allowed on to the U.S. base. If you want more on the airline story, about the Nigerian, you can go right now to, where you can actually listen to one of the suspect's teachers talking about the kind of student that he knew; the kind of student he was.

Also there, you can join in with Erica and me in the live chat. Join in with others who are watching the program right now around the world.

Also later on in the program, a look ahead at what President Obama's biggest challenges are and a look back to last night. We have behind the scenes at our New Year's evening with Kathy Griffin.


KATHY GRIFFIN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: I got freaky with you.



COOPER: Unspeakable brutality to report tonight. A suicide bomber managed to steer a pickup truck loaded with explosives into the middle of a volleyball match at a crowded playground in northwest Pakistan. Now, one of the things that's so significant about this particular attack is that it happened in a part of the country that Pakistani troops tried to clear of Islamic militants late last year.

Today's bombing being called revenge for that government action. At least 75 people have been killed. Dozens more wounded.

Across the border in Afghanistan, investigators trying to figure out what led to a suicide bombing that killed seven employees of the CIA; the worst single tragedy for the CIA since the Beirut embassy bombing in 1983. So were basic security procedures not followed? "Keeping them Honest" tonight, Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's a remote CIA base, surrounded by a watchtower, barricades and barbed wire. So how did a suicide bomber get inside wearing a vest full of explosives? Some reports say the bomber was being recruited as a potential informant, but that doesn't explain the security failure.

KEN ROBINSON, FORMER INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: In normal incidences, they are checked from top to bottom, head to toe.

LAWRENCE: Ken Robinson is former Special Forces and CIA officer. He says there should have been multiple rings of security between CIA officers and someone being brought on base for interviews.

ROBINSON: These are the questions that will be answered in the next 24 to 48 hours as to what specifically broke down or whether this person had already been vetted and was already trusted and was already a member of the Afghan National Army.

LAWRENCE (on camera): The Afghan Defense Ministry says none of its forces were involved. But there were reports the bomber was wearing an Afghan Army uniform over his vest but a Taliban troop claims it used a local CIA operative as a double agent to infiltrate the base.

The uniforms, themselves, are not hard to come by. In Afghanistan we saw Americans chastise some Afghan Forces for being careless with their gear, making it easy to steal.

Intelligence sources tell CNN the main purpose of a CIA base here is to recruit potential informants and plan covert operations like unmanned drones. And that may have made it a target for retaliation.

An official says one of the prime suspects in the suicide bombing is the Haqqani network, led by Sarraj Haqqani. They're based across the border in Pakistan where the U.S. has dramatically increased its drone attacks. The bombing is a devastating loss to seven American families including Harold Brown (ph), who was killed in the explosion.

But as intelligence officials answered tough questions about security they told us, quote, "This attack will be avenged. There are some very bad people who are going to have a very bad day."

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: And "Digging Deeper" now, let's bring back Peter Bergen. Also joining us CNN executive producer Suzanne Simon, who's written a history of the private security from Blackwater, now known as "Z". Two of the fatalities are believed to be contractors for "Z." With us, as well, former CIA officer and hunter of Osama bin Laden, Gary Berntsen. He's the recent author of "Human Intelligence, Counterterrorism & National Leadership: A Practical Guide."

Gary, how does a guy strapped with explosives get on to a U.S. base?

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, in that particular case it's likely they were doing a debriefing of some type and they failed to search him before he went on the base which is it's hard to believe that someone who may have been, you know, a prospective informant or someone who was actually an actual source wouldn't have been searched.

It would always be procedure. Any time you deal with someone like that you would be searching them. This is an area which is well known to be, you know, full of IEDs, full of suicide bombers, right across from the Haqqani Network.

The Haqqani Network just three months ago used five men with suicide vests with police uniforms on against the police station where they detonated at the hard line, then inside and then deeper and deeper into the police station.

So they must have known the threats in that area.

COOPER: Yes, I mean Peter, as you well know from being there plenty of times, it's a region where just because some person is wearing a uniform doesn't mean they can be trusted.

BERGEN: No. And the other point I think which is -- well, there's a very sad irony here which is the Haqqani Network which we're talking about was, of course, supported by the CIA in the '80s.

COOPER: What is this Haqqani Network? I mean, a lot of folks who haven't been following this closely, I mean, who is Haqqani? Why are they significant -- Peter?

BERGEN: Well, Jalaluddin Haqqani (ph) was basically the military commander of the Taliban. He's older now and maybe either ill or, even perhaps dead, it's not clear. But he was the most effective military commander in the Taliban. He was also a very effective military commander against the Soviets which is why the CIA supported him in the first place.

Now his two sons have taken over. They were the group that kidnapped David Rohde "The New York Times" correspondent. They're the group that is recruiting many of the suicide bombers that attack in Afghanistan both against NATO targets and other targets.

So this is a very formidable fighting force. This is not, you know, just some local militia.

BERNTSEN: Haqqani initially was a, you know, under Ayush Haliz (ph) and then later he switched sides when the Taliban did take power was the governor of Khost who was also Minister of Tribal Affairs for the Taliban. He knows the area. He knows everybody there and so do his sons. So he has very, very deep roots in that area.

COOPER: Suzanne, how much of an effect is this going to have in the way the CIA is operating on the front lines? And I mean, to the extent we can say, what do we know that they are doing there?

SUZANNE SIMON, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Well, it's interesting that you ask that question. Because I was talking with one of the former directors of the agency last night and he said this is one of those things where you just -- you suck it up.

These families are coming to Washington to receive the bodies of the dead. I mean, it's a very different life of course, living in the CIA. You can't talk about it. You can't grieve publicly.

However, at the same time they're saying, we're going to say our good- bye, say thank you for the service you gave to our country and get right back to work again. I mean, you really can't downsize any more than you already have. You're already dealing with a very small agency and the contractors have come into play quite a bit because they make up a big part of these small teams that go out and look for more sources for human intelligence.

COOPER: So a company like Blackwater which is now called "Z", they are actually working -- I mean, they're actually working alongside CIA officers? Gary?


BERNTSEN: Well, there might be security people who are contractors that are assisting, you know, for security, physical security at the base but they're not going to be running sources or involved in source handling at all. They may be former retired officers that might assist in something like that but not contractors for "Z" or anybody else.

They just -- we never use them. I was a chief of station three times. You would not do that.

COOPER: The role of the CIA is constantly evolving. And in Afghanistan, I mean, it's incredibly dangerous and more on the front lines than we have seen in previous decades.

BERNTSEN: Well, of course, you know, 30, 40 years ago in CIA we worked against the Russians. And if they ran a double agent at you, they fed you false information for years. If someone runs a double agent at you now, that person is going to be wearing a suicide vest. It's a much, much more dangerous business.

But the business is the business of human intelligence. You need to have contact with, physical proximity to the people that you're running and our case officers are vulnerable.

COOPER: And again and I mean, they're basically running a war in Pakistan as well as all over Afghanistan. I mean, they are on the front lines of the war just as the Marines are.

BERNTSEN: The CIA and its case officers go where the military goes. They support the military there and with the military surge I'm sure there was a surge of agency case officers to support increased activity in Afghanistan. COOPER: Peter Bergen, I mean, the sad fact is we are probably going to see more fatalities like this as more civilians are surged into this operation as well.

BERGEN: Well, that's true, Anderson. I mean, the civilian surge which has been slow in coming as opposed -- about 300 now. It's supposed to be 900 relatively soon. So, you know, you're kind of caught in a dilemma because to be effective you have to go outside the wire and you have to take some risk.

If you're just sitting by your desk in Kabul inside the maximum security compound there, how much are you going to really know? So these CIA officers who are on fort, on Chapman in Khost they were sort of outside the wire in a sense even though they were inside a base. And obviously the risks are higher in those sorts of areas. But if you don't take the risk you're never going to find the intelligence.

COOPER: And Gary, in terms of the conditions, I mean, when you hear about CIA officers on a base, you kind of think, well, living on a huge base as Peter indicated in Kabul, I mean, this is frontline stuff.

BERNTSEN: These are austere bases. Some of them, some of these places that are popping up, people take a shower once a month right now and there...

COOPER: Right, these are patrol bases where you can walk from one end to the other within a minute.

BERNTSEN: Right, you've been to some of those patrol bases, I know.

COOPER: Right.

BERNTSEN: And they're out there on the front lines with soldiers in some of the most difficult and dangerous places.

COOPER: Yes. Gary Berntsen, I appreciate you being with us; Suzanne Simon and Peter Bergen as well.

Straight ahead tonight: terrorism just one of the challenges facing President Obama in the year ahead. What are some of the others? Our political panel weighs in.

Also, welcome chance to laugh a little on this serious night, at least at me. Take a look.


GRIFFIN: Is the dude from Univision yelling at us? Oh, screw you, buddy. Last time I checked I'm here with Jack Cafferty, or whatever.

COOPER: Let's check with Don...


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Coming up a behind-the-scenes look at our New Year's evening with Kathy Griffin, it was far from dull. First, let's check some of tonight's important stories. Erica Hill has the "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. A new and significant milestone in Iraq; there were no U.S. combat deaths in December. Now, this is the first month with no such deaths since the war began nearly seven years ago. There were, however, three non combat-related fatalities.

Meantime, the Iraqi government objecting to a U.S. judge's dismissal of charges against five Blackwater guards in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007. The American judge rules the constitutional rights of those guards had been violated.

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh released from a Honolulu hospital. He says doctors aren't sure what caused the pain, the chest pains that led to the health scare.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: I had an angiogram which is a catheter treatment through the heart and they found absolutely nothing wrong. It was a blessing. No arterial disease. No coronary disease whatsoever.


HILL: And the Words (INAUDIBLE) at Lake Superior State University have unveiled their 35th annual list of words they say should be banished. 35 years running, 15 words making the cut this year, topping the list, shovel-ready. It's a phrase used to say a project is ready to implement. Also on their hit list, chillaxin....

COOPER: Ai, ai, ai.

HILL: A combination of chilling and relaxing.

COOPER: Somewhere Matthew McConaughey is weeping.

HILL: He might be but he can still use it probably. He might be the only person allowed to get away with it. Apparently it's been nominated several times over the years but they weren't shove-ready until this year.

COOPER: Oh, touche.

HILL: And despite the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, both un- friended and tweet on the chopping block. The Tweet on the chopping block...


HILL: Good luck with that.

COOPER: Maybe touche should be on the chopping block, too.

HILL: Maybe.

COOPER: Perhaps.

HILL: 2010 could be the year.

COOPER: That's right.

Monday on 360 -- Erica I don't know if you've heard about this story it's being called a Christmas miracle. It's just remarkable. Young Colorado mom died giving birth to a stillborn baby on Christmas Eve. That's the mom right there. She had no pulse, no breathing, nothing.

But amazingly the mom and the baby came back to life, according to doctors, as the stunned father sat there watching. Both mom and baby are doing great now, we're told. They're healthy, no signs of problems. Monday on 360 we're going to talk with the new mom and the dad as well. Amazing, yes.

HILL: Great story.

COOPER: At Christmas, it's just incredible.

Coming up tonight on a night with a lot of serious stuff: some items to make you smile before heading off to bed. Two very funny people here: Andy Borowitz and Joel Stein with a look back at their most important stories of 2009.

And also behind-the-scenes last night in Times Square with Kathy Griffin.


GRIFFIN: Would you like to hear a fan question?


GRIFFIN: Ok. Do you know where Lou Dobbs' body is buried and why did you get him fired?



COOPER: All right. We came, we tweeted, we waited in the freezing rain and we're still kind of recovering. I'm a little chilled -- still chilled. We joined about a million of our closest friends to watch the ball drop in Times Square last night. I don't know if you were there. I hope you were. We definitely got "Up Close" with New Year's Eve.

Take a look at some of our favorite moments including some behind-the- scenes footage none of us saw the first time around. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Hey welcome, we're in Times Square. Just a couple of hours before we are actually going on the air; we have to get here early to get through, frankly, to this spot.


GRIFFIN: Turn off Ryan Seacrest now. Do it. It's part of a conspiracy.

Is the dude from Univision yelling at us? Screw you, buddy. Last time I checked I'm here with Jack Cafferty or whatever.

You got very like nosey and squinty there.

COOPER: I just...

GRIFFIN: Have you ever considered just buying sunglasses? Just once, one time.

COOPER: I've had this line since I was 10 years old.

GRIFFIN: I don't have it anymore. You know what I'm saying. I paid a lot of money to have that line go away.

Would you like to hear a fan question?


GRIFFIN: Ok. Do you know where Lou Dobbs' body is buried and why did you get him fired?

Every time I call him Andy instead of Anderson you have to drink and if you're my mother, you empty that box of wine.

Name one person in politics you've ever even talked to.

COOPER: President Obama?

GRIFFIN: Doesn't ring a bell. Is he on "Jersey Shore"? I love that show.

If I could have my own ticket it would be the Nancy Grace/Suze Orman for president ticket.

COOPER: I texted Kathy just saying to her "Happy Thanksgiving".

GRIFFIN: It was a really sweet text.

COOPER: And you know what she texted back? "Are you drunk?" that's what she responded.

GRIFFIN: Keeping him honest.

COOPER: Not even Happy Thanksgiving. Just, "Are you drunk?"

GRIFFIN: Keeping him honest. I noticed the series that you did "Black in America", "Latino in America: -- I was wondering would you and John King ever do "Dreamy in America"?

If Anderson Cooper was a dessert item what would he be? I'm going to say vanilla-covered strawberry.

COOPER: What does that mean?

GRIFFIN: I don't know. I'm keeping you honest.

I think you should know that I went to Cher's for Christmas.

COOPER: Cher's really cool. You know...

GRIFFIN: She's cool. She watches you. She's a giant news junkie.

COOPER: She is and she watches C-Span. Every now and then she'll call into C-Span.

GRIFFIN: She calls.

COOPER: Yes and she'll be like...

GRIFFIN: It's really her.

COOPER: And she'll be like, "I'm calling from Malibu."

GRIFFIN: "I have a question about the government".

COOPER: The guy will be, "Is this Cher?"


COOPER: We're really bonding, aren't we?

GRIFFIN: It's a little scary for me. Andy. How quickly can you get reassigned?

COOPER: Live from Times Square...

GRIFFIN: Hello, Ed Henry, it's me. Take me away.

What's your salary tonight? What are you getting tonight?

COOPER: I'm not getting anything. I don't want to know how much you're being paid for this.

GRIFFIN: You know what? All you need to know it's more than you. That's how much I make.

COOPER: I have no doubt about that.

I got a Twitter from Bill who says, "Will you be quieter so Anderson can get a word in edge wise? You don't need to run your mouth all the time."

With that in mind...

GRIFFIN: Wow, I guess you're keeping me honest.


COOPER: Kathy Griffin.

Joining me now: two very funny people as well. Andy Borowitz, creator of "The Borowitz Report" and "Time" magazine columnist Joel Stein in Los Angeles.

Guys, thank you very much for being here. What did you do -- first of all -- what did you do for New Year's Eve?

ANDY BOROWITZ, "THE BOROWITZ REPORT": What did I do? I was watching -- I guess it was Kathy Griffin and Anderson -- oh, here we are again. Amazing.

I was chillaxin (ph). I'm going to say that one last time. I was chillaxin and Tweeting. That's what I was doing...

COOPER: Somewhere Matthew McConaughey is smiling because you used that. Joel, what did you do for New Year's Eve?

JOEL STEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I was watching Andy chillaxin tweet.

COOPER: So Joel, in terms of looking back on 2009 -- and by the way, thank you both for participating in the Tom Foreman look back. It was very funny.

But you Joel, you selected Sarah Palin quitting as governor of Alaska or leading by leaving. Here's her explanation of what she was doing.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Though it may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down and plod along and appease those who are demanding, "Hey, just sit down and shut up," but that's a worthless easy path out. That's the quitter's way out.


COOPER: It's an oldie but a goody, no, Joel?

STEIN: Yes. You know what, watching it again it makes more sense now. I kind of think that quitting is the way to work hard; and that not quitting is quitting. I'm convinced. I think she makes a point.

COOPER: And Andy, you picked -- did you like the -- were you a big fan of Sarah Palin's?

BOROWITZ: You know I was actually one of the ones who wanted her to sit down and shut up. I was sort of in the minority there. I actually wish that I had an iPhone app that would have translated what she was saying. It would have made it much more helpful.

COOPER: I actually interviewed her spokesperson after that on that night and I got very confused by the sports analogy. I couldn't remember if...

BOROWITZ: If a boy's a point guard.

COOPER: There was a ball and there was a net and I couldn't tell who the ball went...

BOROWITZ: A point guard shoots the home run.

COOPER: Which is completely lost...

You picked, Andy, one of the most important moments or greatest moments of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, that whole thing.

BOROWITZ: Right. Sanford and John Ensign; they have these two things in common which is they're both, you know, infidelity, marital infidelity. They also have this deep love of tanning because, you know, John Ensign, they're the branch of the Republican Party I actually refer to as the orange party. They have these deep tans and Sanford also loves tan lines.

I think it was interesting -- I'm digging a little deeper now, actually, Anderson -- which is that you know, part of the health care thing was this tax on tanning beds. So you can see why the Republicans did not vote for that bill.

COOPER: Joel, you're out in L.A. Do you tan a lot?

STEIN: You know Sarah Palin had a tanning bed put into the governor's office. There may be something with the Republicans and the tanning. I think we should look into that on AC360.

COOPER: Maybe so. Maybe so.

I notice that Joel didn't answer whether he tans or not. But we'll just leave it.

STEIN: I don't go to the booth. I get the guy come to my house with the spray.

COOPER: Ok. We're going to have more with Andy and Joel after the break.

You can join the conversation as well. The live chat is up at

After the break we'll talk about Tom DeLay, the hammer and being on "Dancing with the Stars" and some other great moments from the last year.

And also later, serious stuff: terror, health care, the economy, three of the big issues; what President Obama's top priority in 2010. We'll talk to our political panel about that ahead.


COOPER: All right. We're back up close with our look at some of the best moments of the last -- in the last year. With me: Andy Borowitz of "The Borowitz report" and Joel Stein from "Time" magazine.

Joel, you were intrigued by Rod Blagojevich, as, frankly, just about everybody was.

STEIN: Yes. He's a tremendous figure. I can't believe it all happened this year. From the moment we learned his name and saw his hair to when he couldn't go on that reality show. He was enough of a celebrity by the end of the year to not be allowed to go on a reality show. It was a great year for him.

COOPER: I don't know what's worse punishment is like, being forced out of office or being stuck on NBC's "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" with those two dreadful people.

STEIN: Heidi...

COOPER: And what's her face.

BOROWITZ: You know -- but I thought that was -- this is a year where politicians' marriages took such a hard hit. This was really a great marriage, you know, because his wife actually did that reality show in his stead.

I just got married. My wife, actually -- and I included that in our vows -- which is if one of us is indicted the other one is going on a reality show to bail out the family.

COOPER: That's very sweet.

BOROWITZ: Our vow was, to quote balloon boy, "We did it for the show." That's our vow. That's our vow.

COOPER: One of this year's most famous interruptions, Andy, Joe Wilson yelling out at President Obama. Let's just remind those who can't remember it. Let's take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.


OBAMA: That's not true.


BOROWITZ: That is known as Congress interruptus. It's a very -- you're not supposed to do that. Actually and you know...

COOPER: Is that a term? I didn't know that.

BOROWITZ: That is the term. And you know, you, of course, have very good manners. You know when you're about to interrupt somebody, a guest, the first thing you say is I'm going to let you finish then you interrupt. If we've learned one thing from this year it's that politeness is important.

COOPER: Joel, the other guy known for politeness, of course, is Tom DeLay. For some reason he appeared on "Dancing with the Stars" which I'm still trying to figure out what he was thinking.

STEIN: I don't know, but he looked great. I don't know who did his costumes or where he learned those moves, but that's clearly the gayest thing of 2009. I mean, I didn't know I had a little bit of gay in me but I'm in love with Tom DeLay now.

BOROWITZ: I like the air guitar thing. The air guitar thing he did was amazing.

COOPER: I don't understand why the dancers -- I don't watch this program but why -- I see him on the (INAUDIBLE) so I feel like I watch it. Why dancers and -- same as ice skaters -- have to wear ridiculous costumes.

BOROWITZ: Well, in his case it was to cover the electronic ankle bracelet. It was an important thing. Flair pants did a great job with that and they make a style point there. But it was great.

It was a really kind of a daring choice to be on a show where you had people like Tonya Harding, you know, and Tucker Carlson.

COOPER: Tonya Harding had been on "Dancing with the Stars?"

BOROWITZ: I believe so. Joel, you would know.

STEIN: I am friends with Tonya Harding but she has not told me about all of her appearances.

BOROWITZ: Ok. We will effort that and we'll get back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: How did you become friends with Tonya Harding, Joel?

STEIN: We both like to skate. I don't know. We have a lot in common.

COOPER: What about the beer summit, Andy?

BOROWITZ: The beer summit -- well, this was the low point in the Obama presidency thus far. This was maybe the worst party that has ever thrown in the White House. If that were a dorm party and you walked in and you saw that, you tell me you wouldn't just leave right away.

What was Biden doing there? He didn't arrest anybody. He's sitting at the table having a beer. It was terrible. I'm amazed after that that somebody would want to crash a party at the White House. It's shocking to me.

COOPER: Joel, what about those party crashers? They sort of dropped off the radar but I'm sure they'll pop up soon. STEIN: That's my favorite political scandal of the year that people can just walk into the White House. People like that? I just -- I think it's great. I think that reality TV has brought all these people out into the fore that kind of just hung out in back before and now they're just -- we basically let them do this stuff now because we then make them famous. We'll get more of that next year.

COOPER: This is actually my favorite moment that we're showing right now. When she -- they're walking the line. They're walking the line. He's going to continue in -- they're continuing on and she like pulls him because she wants to be photographed more. Wait, no, no, no. That's my favorite moment right there.

STEIN: It's true. She's watched enough Red Carpets that she knows exactly how to do it. It's amazing.

COOPER: The other thing I don't understand on the Red Carpet why people stand in a certain way like with one leg forward. It's very odd. It looks very unnatural to me.

STEIN: You choose your best side, show your cheek.

COOPER: Is that how it is?

BOROWITZ: Clearly Joel has moved to Los Angeles.


STEIN: That is such an L.A. answer. You know that.

COOPER: I'm making a vow that any network that gives them a reality show I will never watch that network again. That's my resolution.

STEIN: Ok, that's fine.

HOROWITZ: What if it's HLN?

COOPER: If it's HLN? Ok. Yes. Now, that's -- I don't know how to answer that question.

Guys, I appreciate you being on the program. It was great. I appreciate you looking back at 2009 with Tom Foreman for our special. Joel Stein, Andy Borowitz. Have a great New Year.

BOROWITZ: Thanks a lot.

COOPER: All right. At, we also have more. You can look at behind the scenes how Kathy Griffin and I rang out the year and my look back at the decade. Check that out.

Up next, 2009 started off strong for President Obama. Ahead, our panel weighs in on what should be at the top of his to-do list for 2010 and how things look for him now.

And what are these people thinking? Polar bears. Not part of our "Planet in Peril" when 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've already spent some time laughing about 2009 in the last 90 minutes of it down in Times Square alongside Kathy Griffin. Now, a serious look at the challenges facing President Obama in the New Year; the "Raw Politics".

Here to talk about it: "Huffington Post" contributor Tanya Acker; "Washington Post" columnist and former G.W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson; and senior White House correspondent Ed Henry, still on punishment duty on Waikiki beach.

Ed, the president has been so focused on health care and the economy this past year. But after the Christmas Day terror attempt it would seem terrorism is front and center.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESONDENT: It is. And when you talk to top White House aides they insist, look, it's been front and center since the very beginning of the year. You can go back to his inaugural address. He talked about the threat and has talked about it throughout the year.

Nevertheless, they are stepping up their public relations on this.

Just tonight they put out a photo of the president here in Hawaii working with one of his top national security aides, Dennis McDonough. Tomorrow's Saturday radio address, Internet address typically is about the economy, health care. They just put it out today ahead of tomorrow. It's going to be all about national security, terrorism.

They want people to know that he's on top of this. If you think about the first thing he's going to do when he gets back to Washington early next week. On Tuesday, he's having a big meeting in the situation room; CIA chief, all the national security bosses to basically find out what went wrong so they can prevent a future terror attack.

He realizes there's a lot riding on this. They came so close to having a terror attack on their watch. They can't let that happen again.

COOPER: Michael, I guess one of the dangers of trying to do a lot and, you know, there was all that discussion in the beginning of 2009 about whether President Obama was trying to do too much is that you then open yourself up to criticism when something like this terror incident happens.

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I agree with that. I think it's worse than that. I think they've spent actually a year downplaying the war on terror. Treating it mainly as a criminal justice operation and continuing that approach in this circumstance where they took this Nigerian suicide bomber and read him his rights and told him he had a right to remain silent.

That -- if that approach doesn't work, if it fails in the future, this coming year, the president will have failed at his most primary constitutional responsibility, protecting the American people and there won't be any forgiveness.

COOPER: Are you saying they shouldn't read him his rights and treat him and sort of enter him into the justice system?

GERSON: Well, you have a choice in this circumstance. You can treat someone as an enemy combatant. He's not an American citizen. He was involved -- not wearing a uniform, was involved in an attack on the United States. Or you can put them in the criminal justice system.

I think that, you know, there's an argument back and forth in this case, but this is a gentleman who may have information that we need to know and right now he has a lawyer and he's going to, you know, have -- not instead of being interrogated.

COOPER: Has the president put the terrorism on the back burner?

TANYA ACKER, HUFFINGTON POST: No, he absolutely hasn't. But I think that Michael has really touched on one of the key issues that we're being confronted with right now. Because what you're seeing is a lot of folks on the right who are suggesting that respecting the constitution means that you don't want to fight the war on terror. And that's not what the president has done.

GERSON: He's not an American citizen.

ACKER: I think that we're -- we talk about the criminal justice system. Richard Reid went through the American criminal justice system and is locked up and no longer subject to engaging in acts of terrorism. Timothy McVeigh, a terrorist, who by the way would have gone (INAUDIBLE) out of the profile, folks on the right seem to think it's necessary right now. Timothy McVeigh went through the American criminal justice system and was duly punished.

So the notion our criminal justice system doesn't work and the notion that in order to fight terrorism we have to really engage in these acts that are really not antithetical to what the American system of justice is about is a little frightening.

What the president has to do, what the president needs to do is to say that terrorism is about -- it's certainly about law enforcement, it's certainly about cooperating, cooperation amongst law enforcement authorities. It doesn't mean we have to sacrifice our values or who we are as a people.

COOPER: Michael, in this New Year do you think we have become so polarized as a nation and our -- the world of politics so polarized that it's impossible to kind of move forward on anything together. Is everything about -- on both sides I'm talking -- on Republican and Democrat, is both sides about scoring points, political points to help your party try to get an edge?

GERSON: Well, I do think we've descended into this cycle in many ways. We had a high point of expectation and hope at the beginning of this year and we're ending it within a ver different circumstance.

A lot of that in my view depends on how the president comes back in the State of the Union, the 2011 budget, whether he takes a big issue seriously like the deficit, issues of debt; whether he talks about economic growth and job creation, other things that could actually unite the country.

I'm afraid that if he goes on the path that he is right now, you know, going towards immigration and cap and trade and the other things that he's talking about, he's in for some major losses in the midterm elections. You know, I think it's very unlikely that he'll unite the country around these fairly liberal issues.

COOPER: Tanya, it does seem that it's impossible to look at it -- increasingly difficult at least for many Americans to look at things as Americans and not through some sort of political prism, whether it's what news we watch or what our politics are or what we support. Even something like a terrorist incident seems to -- would have been something which united us in past years, seems to be a cause of greater strain.

ACKER: No, it's right, Anderson and it is unfortunate. And you know, even the conversation that we've had and frankly I've had about the Christmas Eve -- about the Christmas Day attempt, it does sometimes become partisan because you know, you have folks on the one hand saying that President Bush doesn't carry about terrorists. And then on the other hand, you know the rest of us are saying -- I'm sorry -- that President Obama doesn't care about fighting terrorism. And then others of us have to remind those folks that the Bush administration had not a very good record in terms of doing things like implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.

So we really have this sort of back and forth about who did the worst job instead of thinking about what we can do to sort of move forward in a more proactive way. It's unfortunate.

COOPER: Ed, in terms of the White House is there -- I mean, do they look back -- at the New Year, did they look back at this past year and try to figure out what they have done wrong or what went wrong? Because I mean, as Michael talked about, such optimism coming into this in the beginning of this administration, and now you're entering a New Year where the president's popularity is -- we've been seeing in recent weeks and months -- in very low numbers.

HENRY: They would argue in part that was why he was trying to take a lot on when he was very high in the polls. That's when he had sort of the mandate. That's when he has the strong Democratic majorities. He doesn't know what he's going to have at the end of 2010 midterms, and that's why he tried to take a lot on.

I do think thought they're very likely to retool. We've been hearing in recent weeks from top White House aides before this terror incident. It was that the president would really focus much harder on jobs, jobs, jobs in the early part of 2010 realizing that going into a midterm election people probably will vote with their pocketbooks.

But I think their Christmas Day terror incident, again, scrambles things just a bit, because personal safety is something people vote on as well. And so you obviously can't just focus on the economy. Not that they were only going to focus on that, but they also have to think long and hard about focusing on this terror issue as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Michael Gerson, appreciate you spending tonight with us, Tanya Acker as well and Ed Henry as well. And Ed thanks again for being on last night with us. You're a good sport. I hope that you get to swim a little bit in that water. It looks very nice behind you.

HENRY: I'm going to try.

COOPER: I had a New Year's Day headache for Russian vodka drinkers. We're going to show you why you're going to need twice as many rubles to buy the national beverage.

And our "Shot" tonight. Who gave some spider monkeys Jell-o?

We'll be right back.


Coming up in tonight's "Shot", monkeys and Jell-o; need I say more?

But first, Erica Hill joins us again with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Danish police shot a Somali man who tried to break into the home of a cartoonist for his controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammad. Police say the 27- year-old man who is believed to have ties to terrorist groups was carrying both an ax and a knife. He's been hospitalized but was apparently not seriously wounded.

And after some marathon negotiations, the deal is finally done. Just hours ago Fox Networks and Time Warner Cable announcing they have agreed in principle to a comprehensive distribution agreement which would provide Fox programming to more than 13 million households. Exact terms of the agreement however were not disclosed. Time Warner Cable is, of course, no longer part of our company. It was spun off from our parent company, Time Warner last month

Partying a little more expensive in the New Year in Russia effective today -- this is terrible, well, not really -- the government has nearly doubled the minimum price of vodka. It's now three bucks for a half litter. It's all part of President Dmitry Medvedev's campaign against alcoholism.

But here's the interesting thing. Raising prices to combat alcoholism, yet typically in Russia laws against alcohol have tended to boost sales of bootleg liquor. Those prices will probably go up too.

A Tennessee Dollar Store out one coke machine. A man managed to drive away with it dragging on a chain behind his pickup. There you see it. He took off down the highway and led police on a chase before being caught and arrested. Wise move. COOPER: Any idea why? We don't know.

HILL: I don't think it was Russian vodka, but other than that I'm not sure.

And it wouldn't be New Year's day without the annual polar bear plunge, of course, here at Coney Island in New York; blurring the line between bravery and insanity. Of course you're going to tell me, "Hey people do this everywhere every New Year's."

This is true. However, in New York the polar bear club swims every week even when it's snowing.

COOPER: Do they really? Every week?

HILL: Can you imagine?

COOPER: I actually can't.

HILL: Neither can I. It's a little warmer this year than last year, but still.


Time for the "Shot"; it's actually our first shot of 2010.

HILL: First "Shot" of the year.

COOPER: I saw this last night. I found it mesmerizing, it's monkeys eating Jell-o courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society. They never had it before at the Bronx Zoo, and there's blueberries inside the yellow and apparently it helps their foraging instincts.

But take a look. Just watch and enjoy. We added that sound.

HILL: I think we did.


We didn't add that sound? Oh, ok. That was actual monkey sound.

HILL: I don't remember it earlier.

Can I say though -- here's what I find interesting, and frankly which makes me think that monkeys really are smart; I like that they kind of root around for the blueberries and don't eat the Jell-o.

COOPER: Why wouldn't they eat the Jell-o?

HILL: To think that a Jell-o salad -- doesn't a Jell-o salad creep you out? Did you ever eat those Jell-o salads?

COOPER: I don't like things encased in Jell-o but just pure raw Jell- o, I'd go for that any day of the week.

HILL: It's the breakfast of champions. COOPER: Yes.

HILL: So you have to see encased...

COOPER: I've lived on that for months at a time.

HILL: That's because you pick one food and eat it for like six months and then that's it.

COOPER: That's true. I think Jell-o is a magical treat. To me it's like magic. I don't understand what it is.

HILL: Magical treat.

Up next, AC360 brought to you by Jell-O. Sorry, Bill Cosby.

COOPER: Why are we not showing the monkeys anymore? Are we done? Are we out of time? Oh, we're out of time.

Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.