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THE SITUATION ROOM
Security vs. Privacy; Interview With Texas Congressman Ron Paul
Aired November 22, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: security vs. privacy, the nationwide uproar over airport pat-downs and body scans. As millions are starting their Thanksgiving travel, I will speak with TSA Administrator John Pistole and Republican Congressman Ron Paul.
An Iraq war vet gets an A. for a very graphic college essay about his addiction to war, but now he is barred from campus.
And Sarah Palin's P.R. campaign almost seems like the start of a presidential campaign. Former first lady Barbara Bush says she should stay home in Alaska.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news and political headlines are straight ahead.
Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Well, there are two million holiday travelers that are expected to fly on each of the next two days. And some will face those intimate body scans or pat-downs. While most passengers actually seem to favor the stepped-up security and most screenings go off without a hitch, there are horror stories about insensitive treatment of cancer patients, children, and others.
And some of these episodes have gone viral through online videos. For travelers and the TSA, it's a tug of war between privacy and safety.
Want go to straight to CNN's Deborah Feyerick.
Deb, what do we know about this struggle? And where do passengers see themselves falling in this just two days from now?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, absolutely.
And, you know, it's the horror stories that are making this new technology a really hard sell, especially to people who may not have had the most positive experience with certain TSA agents. But having spent $170 million on these new scanners, the TSA is doing as much as it can to make sure they stay.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Airport body scanners, those who hate them call them an invasion of privacy, an outrage, a boundary violation, knowing their naked images are getting the once-over.
The TSA is on the defensive, trying to balance passenger sensitivity with heightened security, triggered by the recent cargo bomb sent to the U.S. from Yemen and last year's attempted Christmas- day attack, its potential threat simulated here by FBI explosive experts.
JOHN PISTOLE, ADMINISTRATOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: That's exactly the reason that we put these into place, to make sure we don't have other people like this Christmas Day bomber trying to kill hundreds of people on passenger airlines.
FEYERICK: In a recent CBS poll, 81 percent said they were in favor of the scans and enhanced pat-downs. The Department of Homeland Security calls their screeners the last line of defense and says only a small percent of air travelers will get the enhanced screening, even fewer, the enhanced pat-down.
JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is all being done for the protection of the traveling public. It is being done in as minimally invasive a way as we think appropriate, given the risk.
FEYERICK: Still, one group is calling for passengers to opt out. Another privacy group has filed a lawsuit.
MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: If it was the case that it would make air travel safe, I think a lot of the criticism would go away. But the flaws are known. The devices are defective. They don't work. And the privacy invasion is very real.
FEYERICK: While the TSA is modifying certain aspect of the screening process -- for example, pilots are now exempt -- it is unlikely the devices will go away any time soon. Roughly 490 full- body scanners have been bought using stimulus money.
FEYERICK: Now, an expert on human behavior and safety says that terror threats have already made people very nervous about flying. So you add in the naked scanner images, the enhanced pat-downs, anxiety really rises.
Right now people are at the start of the learning curve on these new procedures, but after repeated exposure, it's likely that they will become routine just as really it did with original screening procedures. But a lot of people who show up at the airport, they are already on edge and they're looking kind of for a little bit of a fight. So it's got to be on both sides -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right, Deb. And we're going to have much more on the pat-down debate that is gripping the nation. I'm going to speak with TSA Administrator John Pistole and Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas about this controversy.
Well, we are now also talking about terror on believe it or not a shoestring budget. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula says it spent just over $4,000 to plant explosive packages on cargo planes headed to the United States. The plot is laid out in the group's rather sophisticated English-language journal.
Our Brian Todd has been looking into that.
Brian, it's surprising just to know that there's such a magazine, a journal, put out by al Qaeda. What do we know about this?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this looks like the slickest of Western publications. And, indeed, it has some very strong Western influence.
Its latest edition lays out some shocking detail of the recent plot to bomb cargo planes.
TODD (voice-over): In unprecedented detail, al Qaeda's branch in Yemen reveals the anatomy of a terror plot, seemingly for the world to see. It comes in what looks like a glossy online travel publication. Inside the innocuous cover page of the so-called special issue of "Inspire" magazine, jarring information on the recent plot to place bombs inside cargo planes.
The plot had a name, Operation Hemorrhage. It involved -- quote -- "three months of work for a team of less than six brothers" and a grocery list, two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two H.P. printers, $300 each, plus shipping, other miscellaneous expenses, for a total bill of $4,200, provoking Western nations, they say, into spending billions in new security measures.
I went over some other extraordinary detail with Ben Venzke. His group, IntelCenter, is a contractor that provides counterterror support to the U.S. government.
(on camera): They talk about emptying the toner cartridge and filling it with PETN, connecting the wires from the circuitry to the cartridge. Isn't that just revealing too much detail to Western intelligence?
BEN VENZKE, FOUNDER & CEO, INTELCENTER: The point they're trying to make it even by telling you all of this detail, you still can't prevent this kind of attack and we're going to share this with other groups, so it's going to happen again and again and again.
TODD (voice-over): A U.S. counterterror official tells CNN the posting from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is authentic and is -- quote -- "par for the course for that group."
And if it has the look of a Western publication, there's a reason for that. Intelligence officials believe the driving force behind "Inspire" magazine is an American citizen now living in Yemen named Samir Khan. This is not just a technical how-to. It deals with broader plans as well, calling these smaller, more frequent operations "the strategy of 1,000 cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death, literally and economically."
I asked Brian Fishman, an expert on al Qaeda's strategy, about that.
BRIAN FISHMAN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: It has been forced into that strategy. It wasn't a choice. It didn't have another option, because it doesn't have the option to conduct these major attacks in the way that it used to.
TODD: Now, Fishman says that does not mean this new al Qaeda strategy is not dangerous. He says it's just taking a different form now from the grand 9/11-style attacks having been forced to adapt to Western counterterror operations -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Brian, tell us a little bit more about this American who now runs this al Qaeda magazine?
TODD: A fascinating story. Samir Khan, he was a blogger based in Charlotte, North Carolina, until recently. He fled to Yemen, we believe in the summertime. He wrote on article in a previous edition of "Inspire" magazine, the article entitled "I am Proud to be a Traitor to America."
Think about this. This now means that two American citizens, Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki, are key figures in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most dangerous branches of al Qaeda in the world, two Americans.
MALVEAUX: And Americans.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Brian. Certainly shocking. Appreciate it.
She recently said that she thinks she could actually win in 2012. So with a new TV show, a new book, is Sarah Palin already campaigning?
Our Mary Snow has been looking at the former Alaska governor's P.R. blitz.
Mary, what do we know? What do we think?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, even if you're not following Sarah Palin closely, it's hard to miss her. The next chapter in our media blitz is a 16-city book tour kicking off tomorrow. And it's only stoking questions about what may be in store for 2012.
SNOW (voice-over): Of all things Sarah Palin, there's the reality show on TLC.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: A couple of my girlfriends threw me my baby shower right here in this shooting range, my first baby shower. And I love to share that story because it gets the liberals all wee-wee-ed up.
SNOW: And then there's her book. Generating her own buzz, Palin releases an excerpt on Facebook just before it hits bookstores. Also keeping her in the spotlight, daughter Bristol going to the finals in "Dancing With the Stars," which potentially draws well above 10 million viewers. And, in between, there are hints about 2012.
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama? If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?
PALIN: I believe so.
SNOW: While politicians and pundits read the tea leaves trying to decipher whether Palin will run for president, Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, ties the start of her campaign to the kickoff of her reality show.
JULIAN ZELIZER, EDITOR, "THE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH: A FIRST HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT": It's not what we expected of presidents. And this has been something we heard for a while. When Bill Clinton played saxophone on late-night TV when he was running for president, people said, that's not presidential. And we keep seeing candidates appear where we don't expect them. So, I don't know what presidential is anymore.
SNOW: Adding to the speculation of presidential campaign ambitions, Palin's book tour will take her to Iowa and South Carolina, two states posing critical early tests for a candidate.
With more attention, more people are weighing in, like former first lady Barbara Bush.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": What's your read about Sarah Palin?
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER LADY: Well, I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful. And I think she's very happy in Alaska. And I hope she will stay there.
SNOW: Media critic Howie Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," says, for the most part, Palin's strategy right now is working. She's getting a lot of attention and she's controlling her message.
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The second that Sarah Palin decides to run for president, if she does, then she steps out of this protective cocoon. Then she can't only go on FOX. Then she can't only script her family's image through a TLC reality show. She may not want to put up with that kind of scrutiny. But even for Sarah Palin, that's going to be the price of admission to start campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.
SNOW: But Sarah Palin is already indicating that, should she run, she won't repeat something she did in the last campaign, and that is to do an interview with CBS's Katie Couric. In 2008, Palin stumbled over a number of Couric's questions. Fast-forward to today, speaking of FOX, Palin calls Couric biased and says she wouldn't waste her time with another interview with her -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Mary, we know that Bristol Palin is going to be on "Dancing With the Stars" tonight. So I'm sure a lot of people are going to be watching that as well.
SNOW: Yes, the big finale. And tomorrow night is the winner. So, these are two big nights that a lot of people will be watching.
MALVEAUX: All right, I'm sure we will be talking about the Palins tomorrow, don't you think?
MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Mary.
Well, raising taxes, Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" to talk about it.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Before we get to that, one of the things we will do tomorrow is we will show you the real reason that Sarah Palin may not want to do another interview with Katie Couric.
Rich people should be paying a lot more in taxes. That's a quote from one of the richest Americans out there. Billionaire Warren Buffett told ABC News that taxes for the lower, middle class and possibly even upper middle class ought to be cut further. But he said -- quote -- "I think people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we have ever had it" -- unquote.
Hey, so send them a check. Write it out, mail it into the U.S. Treasury. Buffett says the rich always insist if their taxes are lower and they have more money in their pockets, they will spend it and then it will trickle down. But he says that hasn't happened for the last 10 years. Buffett is not the only super-wealthy person to advocate paying more taxes. A group of 45 people who call themselves patriotic millionaires agrees. They're asking President Obama to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of this year for incomes over $1 million.
Critics of the political motivations of this group are several. In any case, if Congress does nothing about the Bush tax cuts -- and so far that's what they have done, nothing -- there are 39 days left until the largest tax increase in American history will go into effect, New Year's Day.
Democrats in the House and Senate say they will hold votes after Thanksgiving to extend the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year. But it's unclear if they have got enough votes in either chamber to pass only the middle-class tax cuts. They may need to find some middle ground with the Republicans, who want to extend the tax cuts for everyone.
So, here's the question. Warren Buffett says rich people should be paying a lot more in taxes. Do you agree with that statement? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right, Jack, thank you.
We're going to get more on the controversy raging over those airport security pat-downs. The head of the TSA is going to join us this hour. And Congressman Ron Paul will be here as well. He's proposed a bill that could have TSA employees facing charges.
Also, panic and horror at a massive festival. Hundreds of people are killed in a stampede. And we are getting new details.
Plus, an Iraq war veteran barred from a college campus because of what he wrote for a class assignment -- up next.
MALVEAUX: Witnesses describe a scene of complete and utter panic, hundreds of people killed in a stampede during a massive festival in the Cambodian capital.
Now, these pictures, I want to warn you, are just -- they're horrifying.
Steve Finch, he is joining us on the phone with the details. He's a journalist there to explain how this happened. Steve, can you kind of walk us through with what we're seeing and what we understand happened here?
STEVE FINCH, "THE PHNOM PENH POST": Yes, hi. Sure.
So, it was around 10:00 p.m. yesterday evening. There was a situation in which there was a large buildup of people on a bridge in central Phnom Penh. And this quickly turned into a situation in which people were being crushed. And we had reports where the policemen started firing water cannons at the crowd to try and get them moving along. And that's when we had people saying that there were people on the bridge that were electrocuted, and then they fell into the river.
These still aren't confirmed yet. We have government officials denying that this was what happened. But doctors who saw the bodies come in at one hospital, they said that they have seen that people were electrocuted and suffocated in the melee the that happened on the bridge there.
MALVEAUX: Steve, I don't understand. How did this start?
FINCH: Well, reports coming out were that the bridge has actually got electric lights on either side of it. And so once the water cannons were fired at the crowd, then that then caused electric shocks across the crowd.
And, also, some witnesses were saying that police were also shot. And that's when people started falling in the water. We have the authorities pulling people out of the water and taking them to a hospital. It was -- it was chaos.
MALVEAUX: Does Cambodia have the kind of supplies or infrastructure to deal with this kind of tragedy that we're seeing here?
FINCH: I mean, it doesn't. It doesn't have a very good health care system.
But certainly the police and the ambulances that arrived were doing a very good job at ferrying people away from the scene. And there were a lot of emergency vehicles coming down to the bridge where it took place.
I was at one of the hospitals. And that was definitely overcrowded. And it's one of the main hospitals in the city. So, yes, we saw that the hospitals were struggling to cope last night, for sure.
MALVEAUX: All right. Steve, I know this is a difficult story to cover. We really appreciate your giving us these details. And we certainly hope that survivors will be able to carry on.
Again, really, just a tragic story out of Cambodia.
Appreciate it, Steve.
Well, he wants the controversial airport security pat-downs banned, but that is not all. Congressman Ron Paul also says that those body scanners need to go as well. He is here to explain why.
Plus, WikiLeaks, the controversial whistle-blower Web site that has leaked hundreds of thousands of war documents, says its biggest leak is yet to come.
MALVEAUX: Again, we are talking about aggravation at the airports. Are pat-downs just something that you're going to have to put up with? I'm going to talk security vs. privacy with TSA Administrator John Pistole and Congressman Ron Paul.
And he got an A. on his college essay that discussed his addiction to war, but now that Iraqi vet is barred from campus.
MALVEAUX: Well, between body scans and frisking, airport screeners have touched a nerve among the traveling public -- the result, an uproar over pat-downs.
Joining me here is CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend. She was homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush and serves on the Homeland Security Advisory Board. And from Texas via Skype, Republican Congressman Ron Paul.
Thank you so much, both of you, for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I want to start off with you, Congressman. There is -- the TSA has put an announcement out for travelers who are traveling over the holiday weekend, saying, if you have to have one of those enhanced pat-downs, it would take place in a private area, and that they could be accompanied by someone to watch what was actually happening, what was taking place.
Does that give you any comfort in thinking that perhaps people would not feel as violated, as disturbed by that intimate process?
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Well, I think they should feel violated. All you have to do is look at some of the pictures. And the people are outraged over it.
I mean, they don't -- they're not feeling safer because of it. They just feel like the government has overstepped their bounds. They don't want to be X-rayed. There's still some questions about X-rays. There's questions about malfunctions of the X-rays. And there's no evidence that this is going to make anybody any safer.
And, actually, there's some -- been some pretty good bomb experts that actually testified that the bomb from the underwear bomber, the material he had, he had a long way to go before he would have ever been able to explode something. Yet I would say this is an understatement that we have overreacted to what happened a year ago.
MALVEAUX: Fran, you understand security intimately from the ground up. Tell us, does this make a difference here? Is the congressman right when he says this really doesn't matter?
TOWNSEND: No. I mean, let's be clear. The same bomb-maker who made the Christmas-day Detroit attempted bomb, the guy with the bomb in his underwear, is the same one who was behind this most recent package -- packages coming out of Yemen.
It's a sophisticated bomb-maker. And the government is rightly worried that, as he adapts, that they may not be able to catch it.
And so while there's been many problems with the way the government has gone about explaining what they're doing and training their employees to do it properly, let's be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. That is, we do have to be very careful during a period of increased threat to make sure that we're appropriately screening.
Now, I think the government understands they haven't gone about this very well. And John Pistole went out on Sunday and issued a statement saying they're going to be mindful to try and be less -- as least intrusive as possible. I think they've got a long way to go to convince the American people this is right. But what we don't want to do is intimidate them into not doing it at all.
MALVEAUX: Congressman, you're shaking your head. Why?
PAUL: Well, you know, we're dealing with a created problem. It's a manufactured problem. I mean, we got to look at it in the proper perspective. First, you can't have perfect safety.
Another thing is the odds of any person in this country getting killed by a terrorist is less than getting struck by lightning. I mean, just think. In the last ten years, things have done pretty well because they put a gun in the cockpit and they locked the door. But to destroy our liberties, throw away the Constitution, don't care about the Fourth Amendment and cavalierly say, well, the people want to be safe, it's good to sacrifice our liberties and on and on.
But, you know, there's no going back on this. This one -- the government gets away with a lot. They won't pay attention to all the killing going on overseas. They get confused about the financial crisis.
And I'll tell you what, this prodding, the people have had it, and they're not going to put up with it. I think it's a great issue to call the attention to the American people how abusive our government is. They're supposed to protect our liberties. They're not supposed to be engaged in destroying our liberties.
MALVEAUX: Fran, those are pretty serious accusations.
TOWNSEND: Well, Suzanne, let's be clear. The congressman says that this is a manufactured problem. It's a problem manufactured by our enemies and al Qaeda, who have been trying to blow up airplanes, whether it's in the cargo...
PAUL: Why? Why do they want to come after us? Did you ever ask that question?
TOWNSEND: I don't really care why. If I'm flying on a plane, I want to be safe.
PAUL: You've got to ask that. That's why we're not getting anywhere. You've got to find out why.
You know, that we're over there fighting a war against the Taliban. The Taliban, they're not even part of the al Qaeda. But we're -- we're spending trillions of dollars trying to kill Taliban, creating more al Qaeda. If you don't ask that question...
TOWNSEND: The Taliban is very closely aligned to al Qaeda and to their methods in terms of attacking and targeting the United States. Look, when I say that, I don't care. We have to be clear that this is -- they have obsessed -- al Qaeda is obsessed with aviation. They want to target it, and they want to kill Americans. And so the government has an obligation to act against that.
MALVEAUX: Congressman, you -- you're talking about the...
PAUL: ... without our clothes on, then. That's what you're doing. The kids are having to take their clothes off. Why does a woman have to remove her breast implant in order for somebody to be guaranteed that she's not a bomber? This is insanity. This is not logic.
TOWNSEND: Congressman, I agree with you that those examples are egregious. Congressman, I agree with you. Those examples are...
PAUL: ... throw out the baby with the wash -- with the wash.
MALVEAUX: Let's let Fran respond, please. Fran, go ahead.
TOWNSEND: I agree with the congressman, Suzanne, that those examples that he cites are egregious. And what we hope that -- is that those are the exceptions.
And TSA has got a responsibility to ensure those are the exceptions and that action is taken against the most egregious violations that are not consistent with their own policies. They've got to make sure people are appropriately trained and that these -- these searches are not an opportunity for abuse. So he and I are in agreement on that. The government has a very severe responsibility to ensure that.
MALVEAUX: I'm going to have to leave it at that. Congressman Ron Paul, we appreciate your time, as well as Fran Townsend. And we want to let our viewers know that we will be able to speak with the head of the TSA, John Pistole, very shortly after this break.
MALVEAUX: An Iraq war veteran wrote in graphic terms about his addiction to war. He received an "A" on his essay at a Maryland community college, but after it was published in the school newspaper, he was barred from campus. I want to go live to our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, tell us what this is all about. Do they think this guy is dangerous, or how did this come about?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Charles Whittington is an Iraq war veteran. He saw combat there, came home and is attending the Community College of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland.
He wrote an essay for his class. It was published in a school publication entitled "War is a Drug." Now he finds himself banned from the college campus.
Let me read just a little bit of what he said in this very graphic essay. He said, quote, "Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. I had a really hard time with this problem when I returned to the United States, because turning this addiction off was impossible. To this day, I still feel the addictions running through my blood, throughout my body, but now I know I have to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind."
When the college administrators saw this, they became concerned about his state of mind and said he had to stay off campus, out of his classes until he got a psychological violation. We went to Baltimore and spoke to Charles Whittington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES WHITTINGTON, IRAQ WAR VET: I'm not saying I'm going to do anything. I'm not. I was just telling -- trying to spread awareness and self-, I guess, therapy for myself, you know. Trying to help myself cope with things and get over things.
I'm not a threat at all. I mean, I'm not there to cause anyone harm or to threaten anyone. I'm there for myself so I can graduate college and move on with my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: This combat veteran writing very graphically says he is not a threat, but the campus wanted the psychological evaluation, a spokesman tells us, because they say in this post-Virginia Tech world, they have to be assured of campus safety. You'll remember Virginia Tech, the massacre in 2007 that killed more than 30 people on that campus.
STARR: But this young soldier, this young veteran says he's not a threat to anybody, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK, Barbara. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
We are going to get more on the controversy raging over the airport security pat-downs. The head of the TSA is going to join us live, up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Back to our top story: the backlash over tough security measures at the nation's airports. Some passengers will face body scans. Others may get patted down by screeners. Now, while most accept these measures as necessary in the face of an ongoing terror threat, others are outraged.
Joining me now, TSA administrator John Pistole.
Thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM. You were at the White House this afternoon. Tell us why.
JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, the whole purpose is to address the current threat environment that we're dealing with and the security protocols that we have in place to address those security threats, trying to make sure that we are doing everything we can while respecting the privacy of the traveling public. So that blending of privacy and security and how best do we calibrate that in each situation?
MALVEAUX: Who did you talk to? Can you tell us?
PISTOLE: Just senior advisers at the White House and other agencies.
MALVEAUX: Is there -- was the president involved in these conversations?
PISTOLE: The president was involved in conversations about this, but I was not in that conversation.
MALVEAUX: Is the president happy with the job that you've been doing, in communicating these kind of screening measures and why they're necessary?
PISTOLE: Well, I would, of course, defer to the president on that. But what's been related to me is, of course, that we are doing everything we can, again, to provide the best possible security, to make sure that people have a high level of confidence, that they will arrive at their destination, especially this week, with Thanksgiving, they'll arrive there safety and that we are doing all that while we're trying to respect the privacy of those individuals who have concerns about that.
MALVEAUX: I was in Lisbon, Portugal, at the NATO summit when the president was asked about this. And he said that he has been in constant communication with the TSA, specifically over the sensitivity of this issue, and trying to strike a balance.
What is your understanding about the president and how he feels about the job you've been doing and what needs to happen to move forward?
PISTOLE: Well, look, the president is obviously focused on the security of the American people, to make sure that they don't get blown up in an airplane. And so that's -- that's the bottom line. The challenge is how can we do less invasive type of security at airports, as the president talked about? How can we do that in a meaningful fashion? So that's what I am reviewing now, to assess whether the current pat-downs are the best opportunity for doing that, using the best technology, the advanced imaging technology machines, to make sure that we are providing that best opportunity to detect and deter terrorists from committing catastrophic acts.
MALVEAUX: Will passengers see anything different during this holiday season and this very busy Thanksgiving travel that we're going to see over the next couple days? Will these enhanced pat-downs and these scanning take place, or will there be changes?
PISTOLE: No, the -- the public will see what we have been working on the last several weeks, in terms of they have the option to not go through the advanced imaging technology in the 70 or so airports where we have those machines. If they do opt out of that, then they receive a thorough pat-down to make sure we don't have a Christmas-day-type bomber. A non-metallic device concealed on his body.
But I think if people go to the TSA.gov Web site, they'll have a lot of helpful information that will help prepare them. Because the best-informed traveler is the best way to get through the checkpoints safety, securely and on a timely basis to make sure they can make those flights.
MALVEAUX: Have you any intelligence that would indicate that these enhanced pat-downs are necessary at this time of travel, the timing of this, the fact that this is now the vacation, the Thanksgiving holiday?
PISTOLE: Well, of course we've been informed by a number of inspector general and GAO reports about successful covert testing, where undercover agents have been able to get through security over the last five years.
And one of the issues is what steps have we taken, because one of the common findings is -- one of the common findings were -- was that we were not being thorough enough in our pat-downs.
MALVEAUX: Do we think that there's a threat that would happen during this period of time, this...
PISTOLE: So we know there is a current advisory for travel to Europe, and we know the same people who have an interest in attacking Europe have an interest in the U.S.
We've seen a clear aviation focus, given last Christmas and then, of course, the cargo plot just here in the last month by the same bomb-maker. And so that is the concern, that they are targeting a holiday period. That's what we're dealing with.
MALVEAUX: I want to bring up the fact -- and I'm sure you've heard some of these stories. You know, obviously, there are TSA employees who are trying to do their jobs in a very dignified and professional way.
There have been horror stories, quite frankly, from others who have experienced what they feel is sexual abuse and insensitivity. One man, in particular, who had bladder problems says that he had a pat-down by TSA officials. Here's what he told us on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" about his experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS SAWYER, RETIRED TEACHER: It was embarrassed. I'm -- it's been three years for me, so I'm used to my urostomy now, but it's not something I like to show the world. I think one of the biggest fears for all urostomy patients is that we'll have a leak in public, let alone in an airport.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Now, I understand that, because of the way that he was treated, he says he was covered in urine. It was very embarrassing for him. Have you reached out to him? I understand there are others that perhaps are due an apology.
PISTOLE: I did reach out for him, Suzanne, because I was concerned when I heard this report, because we -- our goal is to treat each and every traveler with dignity and respect. And if that doesn't happen, then obviously, I want to take corrective action.
I wanted to get all the facts about the matter, so I did reach out for him. And his concern was that he tried to explain the situation to the security officer who did not want to pry into his personal life, and so he actually offered at the end of the conversation to help provide training to our officers from the standpoint of -- you have been informed if you encounter somebody like this with this type of external medical device, here's how you can best engage them. So it was a very helpful conversation.
MALVEAUX: OK. John Pistole, thank you so much. Head of the TSA. Good luck in this -- this week. Obviously, it's going to be a challenging one all around. Thank you. Really appreciate it.
PISTOLE: Thank you, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Warren Buffett says that rich people should be paying a lot more in taxes. Well, we want to know if you agree. Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.
MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with "The Cafferty File." Hey, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, the question this hour: "Warren Buffett says rich people ought to be paying a lot more in taxes. Do you agree?"
Jeff in Minnesota: "We need to go to a tax code that is simpler and straightforward. I think a graduated flat tax approach with few or no deductions would be the best way to get this done. That way everyone pays their share. There's little or no paperwork to filing your taxes, and the government doesn't have to invest in super computers to process our returns every year."
Dane in Fort Lauderdale writes, "The rich should pay more taxes. They've had these tax cuts for a long time now, and it obviously hasn't done any good for the economy. They're just greedy, and we're just stupid for putting up with it. Unfortunately, our legislators don't work for us. They work for them, so I doubt their taxes are going to go up any time soon."
Agatha writes, "If Buffett feels he should pay more taxes, then I think his share will more than compensate for the shortage of already wasted taxpayer money. As for me, I would prefer to waste my own money that I work so hard for, rather than let Congress and the White House waste it. They don't know the value of someone else's dollar."
Ray in Georgia: "Yes, of course, rich people should give poor people a job, pay them wages, pay their unemployment benefits, Social Security, health benefits, make their house payments, et cetera. And if it doesn't all work out, then give them everlasting unemployment checks. Why work at all if you can get it for free?"
Al in Delaware writes, "The Republicans favor the rich. The Democrats the middle class. The contrast couldn't be clearer. With Warren Buffett behind him, President Obama has a chance to take a strong stance on something the majority of the people would back him on, but knowing him he'll probably wimp out and let the rich people's party have its way."
Joanie in Wisconsin writes, "The rich invariably find a loophole. However, what is stopping Buffett and his pals from sending more money to the treasury. Put your money where your mouth is."
Richard writes, "Why shouldn't the rich pay more? What's left of the middle class has been paying more than our share of taxes for years."
And Michael in Virginia: "Leave the rich alone. When was the last time a poor man offered you a job?"
If you want to read more on this, go to my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
MALVEAUX: All right, Jack. Thank you.
Up next, Sarah Palin's new book, we've got the excerpts.
MALVEAUX: Sarah Palin's new book comes out tomorrow, but we have managed to buy a copy, and our Brian Todd has been going through it.
Brian, what are we learning about this new book that's hot off the presses?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've busted down the doors of every book store in town. No, our intern did, truth be told. The intern made it back. We did buy a copy of it.
Interesting quotes, though, in this book, "America by Heart." Sarah Palin just out with this, and we did buy a copy of it today.
What is interesting is a little bit of self-blame on the part of Sarah Palin for, I guess, the period where her daughter Bristol got pregnant. I'll read you a quote here. "When my then-17-year-old daughter dropped the bomb on Todd and me with her announcement that she was going to have a baby, our little world stopped spinning momentarily. Bristol was a good girl. This was not supposed to happen."
And what was interesting, kind of later in that same passage, she said, "I assumed that Bristol was making only wise decisions while staying with my sister in Anchorage. I kick myself to this day for my selfish assumption. I made a mistake." Some kind of refreshing self- blame there on the part of Sarah Palin.
She also, of course, as you would expect, kind of slams the Obama administration for that Arizona law that was passed on immigration, checking the status of people who are arrested in Arizona.
Quote, "As soon as the Arizona law was passed, the Obama administration shifted into a familiar mode, apologizing for America before foreign audiences."
So some political charge here in Sarah Palin's book, some personal revelation. Interesting to see someone who's in the public light talk about a very painful episode in her family.
MALVEAUX: And you're just beginning to go through this. When you look at some of those excerpts, who do you think her audience is? Who do you think she's speaking to? It sounds like perhaps those who already know and like her.
TODD: I think so. I mean, look, she is very good at playing to her base. It does look like she's playing to those people who are her followers, who really like her, people who are going to watch her reality show. Those are the kind of people that she wants to kind of expand upon and play upon.
Now, you know, again she's dropping some serious hints about running for the presidency. This book is well timed in that regard to kind of get the interest going. And I guess we're going to be exploring this in the days ahead.
MALVEAUX: Timing as well. Her daughter is going to be on "Dancing with the Stars," so obviously, she's been in the audience, very supportive of her daughter, and she's taking some of the heat for some of the mistakes, so...
TODD: That's right. That's right. MALVEAUX: Timing as well. Good for them all around, I think. Brian, thanks. Can I get a copy of that?
TODD: You got it.
MALVEAUX: Thank the intern, as well.
Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM and with me over at the White House, on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Twitter.com/SuzanneMalveaux.
Also, visit our blog, "The 1600 Report," at CNN.com/1600Report.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.