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THE SITUATION ROOM
Korea's Deadly Provocation; President: "Don't Bet Against Us;" Sarah Palin's Big Launch; Bracing for Protests & Pat Downs; Two- thirds of Americans Support Full Body Scanners
Aired November 23, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Brooke.
Happening now, South Korea threatens to strike back in a big way after an unprecedented attack from the North. President Obama and U.S. forces now are in the middle of a new crisis launched by an unpredictable nuclear power.
Also, what might be worse for your holiday airline travel, a pat- down of your body or a protest by fliers who refuse to be scanned?
This hour, what you need to know before you get on a flight.
And get in line for the Sarah Palin show. That's right, the possible White House hopeful rolls out her new book while her daughter, Bristol, helps gives her a leg up on dominating the airwaves.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We haven't seen this kind of direct and deadly attack on the Korean Peninsula since the war in the 1950s. President Obama is condemning North Korea for its artillery barrage on South Korean territory. Now, two South Korean Marines died and 15 soldiers and several civilians were hurt. Now South Korea is threatening enormous retaliation. President Obama planned to call the South Korean leader and was expected to urged a more measured response. He was briefed on the incident in the Oval Office this morning. And the stakes are very high for the U.S., with almost 30,000 troops in the region and with new evidence that North Korea's nuclear program is more advanced than some even thought.
I want to bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, to sort all of this out.
Do we know if this is something that is a real threat or do we think it's simply saber rattling?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It could be a real threat. I mean this is very serious. I've been talking with analysts who say this is probably the biggest thing that's happened since the Korean War. So, in terms of danger, it is. It's highly destabilizing. And, you know, the area where this attack happened has been a flashpoint for years between the North and -- and the South. Back in March, it's where the North allegedly torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. North Korea watchers say this is classic behavior for the North -- strike out aggressively, unexpectedly and make the world take notice.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Just what is North Korea trying to tell the world?
Buildings in flames, as its forces, claiming they were provoked by South Korean military exercises, bombard an island held by the South. The skirmish comes just days after shocking news that Pyongyang may be enriching uranium that potentially could be used in a nuclear bomb.
The U.S. scientist given a peak tells CNN the staff didn't seem happy about it.
(on camera): What was the mood?
You mentioned some pride.
You know, were they -- were they saying, basically, here you didn't believe us, this is it?
SIEGFRIED HECKER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: OK, we did not want to show you this facility, but our superiors made us do it. And so what they tried to do, then is show me the least amount possible.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): The visit, Hecker says, was meant to send a message.
HECKER: It was just to show what they're actually capable of doing.
DOUGHERTY: But the North is also suggesting it would give up its nuclear program if the U.S. promised it had no hostile intent. But U.S. ally, South Korea, is in no mood, it seems, to talk, last week throwing in the towel on its sunshine policy of peaceful engagement with Pyongyang, admitting it's failed.
And after Tuesday's exchange, South Korea is threatening to retaliate, leaving the U.S. in the middle and, for now, trying to avoid any provocation.
MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We're going to take a deliberate, slow approach to responding to this latest provocation.
DOUGHERTY: But Republicans and other critics say after the latest North Korean attack, engagement is dead in the water.
For now, the administration is staying the course. STEPHEN BOSWORTH, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY ON NORTH KOREA: From the point of view of China and the United States, we strongly believe that a multilateral diplomatic approach is the only way to realistically resolve these problems.
DOUGHERTY: But even some U.S. military are beginning to question the use of that military -- of military exercises in that sensitive region. One official telling CNN's Chris Lawrence recent exercises meant to deter North Korea are actually, instead, infuriating the North and angering the one country that has some influence with the North, and that's China -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Obviously, the administration is watching very closely to see if this escalates.
Thank you so much, Jill.
Well, now on to a crisis that is close at home -- a still very troubled U.S. economy. President Obama traveled to Kokomo, Indiana today to try to show Americans some light is at the end of the tunnel.
I want to go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- and, Ed, we know that the president has been traveling, trying to convey to the American people that things are getting better -- a real tour, if you will.
A lot of people haven't heard about this place.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, Suzanne. The reason is that there's a Chrysler plant there and there is very high unemployment. The president was there a couple of years ago, you remember, going back to the campaign. Unemployment then was around 23, 24 percent, a couple years back. Now it's down to 13, 14 percent maybe, still not great, but it's gotten a lot better than where it was.
And the president was saying, look, this is about hope and future -- hope about the future, things turning around. And he said, look, he was under a lot of pressure not to bail out Chrysler or G.M.. He thought it was the right thing to do. And he thinks that now you can see unemployment getting a little better in these towns like Kokomo.
And he said this is all about trying to turn the corner.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So here's the lesson. Don't bet against America. Don't bet against the American auto industry. Don't bet against American ingenuity. Don't bet against the American worker. Don't bet against us.
OBAMA: Don't bet against us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, the president also offered an olive branch of sorts in these remarks to Republicans on Capitol Hill, saying that the key over the next -- over the course of the next few months is whether or not Democrats and Republicans can come together to try and fix the economy. He basically said, look, I'm willing to hammer out a deal on those Bush tax cuts, extending tax cuts for the middle class, maybe even tax cuts for the rich.
But as, you know, Suzanne, there's a deadline of January 1st looming. Those tax cuts are going to expire. So far, there's no deal.
MALVEAUX: All right, Ed.
Thank you so much.
HENRY: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: A shocking discovery on board a commercial plane -- an ammunition cartridge from an automatic weapon. And it was loaded.
Also, a new test of Sarah Palin's popularity -- will her book launch help her launch a run for the White House?
And a wedding planner's dream or nightmare -- Prince William and his future princess set the date.
MALVEAUX: Sarah Palin is on Jack Cafferty's mind today.
He's here with "The Cafferty File" -- hey, Jack, on your mind only in the best way, I'm sure.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
CAFFERTY: Sarah Palin told Fox News that if she runs for president, she will not waste her time on another interview with CBS' Katie Couric. Here's why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SEPTEMBER 26, 2008)
CAFFERTY: There's a reason the McCain campaign keeps Governor Sarah Palin away from the press. I want to play an excerpt from an interview that Palin did with the CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric, where she was asked about the bailout package.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE EARLY SHOW," COURTESY CBS)
KATIE COURIC, HOST: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries, allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a -- a role in creating this mess?
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: That's why I say, I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in, where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out.
But, ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy -- helping, oh, it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and -- and putting it back on the right track.
So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans and trade -- we have -- we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today. We -- we've got to look at that as more opportunity.
All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: Did you get that?
If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old's heartbeat away from being president of the United States. And if that doesn't scare the hell out of you, it should.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: That clip has gotten more than 4,150,000 hits on YouTube.
Here's the question -- if Sarah Palin runs for president, should she agree to an interview with Katie Couric?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
MALVEAUX: All right.
Thank you, Jack.
Looking forward to seeing that.
Sarah Palin doesn't really need to do high profile interviews to get a lot of publicity right now. She was in the audience just last night as her daughter, Bristol, performed on the wildly popular TV show, "Dancing With The Stars." Well, tonight, the world will find out if Bristol manages to pull off an upset win of the competition with a little help from her mom's many fans. Right now, Palin admirers are lining up to see the former Alaska governor in person.
Our CNN political producer, Shannon Travis, he's in Phoenix.
That's where Palin is launching her new book -- Shannon, give us a sense of what it looks like there where you are.
Set the scene.
SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Well, right now, there are -- there are not any crowds around. There's no one standing in line. They all came earlier, Suzanne, to basically get wrist bands, to make this an orderly process. You can imagine the crush of people that are going to be here in an about an hour or so from now, just waiting to get their books on.
Here's the book right here, "America By Heart."
So they lined up earlier. We're getting -- we're hearing that some of them arrived around 1:00 in the morning, 1:00 a.m., to basically get these wrist bands to buy their copy of the book so that they can come back about an hour from now, get in these orderly lines and actually have their book signed.
So there's just a few people milling about right now. We've already been inside to just see what the -- what the -- what the table signing situation is going to be like. So we'll probably see people file in in about an hour or so from now.
MALVEAUX: And, Shannon, where else is she planning on going?
Obviously, some of these states very important if she decides that she's going to run for president.
TRAVIS: Absolutely. Sarah Palin isn't making many stops in blue states. They're mostly all red states.
Well, let's point out a few key states, like you just mentioned, Suzanne.
Two stops -- two stops in Iowa.
Obviously, why is Iowa important?
Because the caucus is there. Any presidential hopeful has to stop there.
Also, another stop in Ohio, which is a bellwether. You kind of need Ohio to be -- to make it to the White House.
And also, South Carolina, the first Re -- the first Southern primary for the presidential race.
So we don't know if this is -- a book -- just a book tour or it's kind of a presidential swing, but some curious stops there -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Oh, absolutely.
Well, maybe we'll be able to sort all of this out in the -- in the months to come. But clearly, she's getting a lot of attention right now.
Thank you so much, Shannon.
Well, we're seeing heavy security, full body scans and pat-downs at the airport.
So how was a loaded gun magazine left on a Southwest Airlines plane? Even more shocking, the loaded clip was only found after a child kicked it. That story up next.
Plus, bringing 9/11 into the digital age and saving lives with a text.
MALVEAUX: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Hey, Kate. Shocking discovery aboard a Southwest Airlines flight, can you tell us about it?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I could not believe this story today, Suzanne, as it was developing.
A loaded gun magazine was found aboard a Southwest Airlines plane today -- a loaded gun magazine. The plane had just landed in Phoenix from Burbank, California. Southwest says the magazine clip belonged to a law enforcement officer who had been on a previous flight. It was discovered when a child was crawling across the seats and his foot kicked it, a flight attendant then picked it up. The child, by the way, is absolutely fine.
The U.S. government is trying to bring 911 into the 21st century. It's looking into allowing emergency call centers to receive text messages and use mobile photo or video reports. The FCC says that would help in cases where people cannot talk on the phone safely. One problem, though, many 911 call centers are not equipped with sufficient technology. The FCC says it's time to change that.
And in Pakistan, a Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy may escape that sentence. Pakistani officials tell CNN Pakistan's president will pardon the woman who has been jailed nearly 15 months if Pakistan's high court rejects her petition for mercy. Prosecutors say the woman insulted the Prophet Mohammed in an argument with Muslim coworkers. She calls the allegations lies.
And mark your calendars, everyone, and be sure to RSVP if you are oh so lucky to get an invite. Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton have set a date for their royal wedding, it's April 29th at the historic Westminster Abbey in London. The Royal Family says it will pay for the nuptials. Prince William has said he wants his mother, the late Princess Diana, to be part of the moment. Westminster Abbey is where Princess Diana's funeral took place in 1997.
Suzanne, they're declaring it a national holiday for that day of the wedding. Can you believe that?
MALVEAUX: I can, and I'm waiting for my invite. Have you received yours yet, Kate?
BOLDUAN: Surprisingly, no, but I haven't been home in a few days. I'm sure it's there.
MALVEAUX: Lost in the shuffle. It will be there when you get home. OK, thanks, Kate.
Airline security officials are bracing for a new twist in the pat down controversy. Now, protesters who demand the low-tech, hands-on screenings.
Plus, the story behind the negotiator who raised false hopes for peace with the Taliban because he, himself, was a fake.
And groundbreaking new research on preventing the spread of HIV. I'll talk with an international leader in AIDS research, Dr. Anthony Fauci (ph).
MALVEAUX: Well, get ready for the worst of it. The peak of the Thanksgiving travel season is now upon us and this year the pat down backlash is putting flyers and security officials on edge. Now, tomorrow, it may get even crazier if some protesters get their way.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, she is here. Jeanne, all of the security officials more concerned about an attack this holiday period than they've been in the past years, what do we know about this particular time?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, they are more concerned and one thing that is feeding that concern is the latest edition of "Inspire" magazine. That's the online publication put out by al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula.
According to a U.S. official, the detailed instructions that the latest issue includes on building the toner cartridge bomb and the encouragement to followers to stage multiple attacks has augmented what were already high concerns because of the cargo bomb plot, the attempt to bring down a plane last Christmas and also, increased terror alerts in Europe. All of that led to these new security measures, including more enhanced pat downs and screening machines.
Now, some who object to the new very personal steps are urging travelers to opt out of going through the body scanners tomorrow, but some security experts say it could be a dangerous way to express a point of view. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(voice-over): Airport security lines are a hassle every Thanksgiving, but this year could be worse than most if a significant number of people participate in so-called opt out protests. The grassroots campaign encourages travelers to turn down those detailed body scans, which they say amount to a virtual strip search, and instead, undergo those intimate pat downs.
JAMES BABB, WEWONTFLY.COM: It's not going to be fun. It could be very uncomfortable, but it's better for your health and if enough of us do it, it could bog down their security theater. They just don't have the manpower to put their hands in everyone's pants.
MESERVE: Some aviation security experts and travel groups are urging travelers not to participate in the protests because longer lines and aggravated passengers could create a security vulnerability. Overwhelmed and rushed transportation security officers could miss a weapon, explosives or other threats.
JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: We've worked with our security officers to ensure that they are focused on exactly those things, especially components of an IED, something that may be difficult to detect, but to keep the focus on that.
MESERVE: Experts also worry that more congestion in boarding areas could make them a more tempting target for terrorists.
RAFI RON, FORMER SECURITY CHIEF, BEN GURION AIRPORT: The idea of having a very large number of people crowded at the airport becomes a target for itself. And whenever there is an attack on a large number of people, obviously, the consequences could be very high.
MESERVE: Airports have been hit before. In 1985, just a few days after Christmas, terrorists stormed airports in Rome and Vienna, and in 2007, terrorists tried unsuccessfully to ram a car loaded with propane into an airport terminal in Glasgow, Scotland.
MESERVE: TSA Administrator Pistole says his agency is exploring new, less intrusive pat-down options, but no changes for now. In the meantime, TSA is boosting tomorrow's staffing and working with airport police in anticipation of large crowds and potentially, protesters -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Jeanne, do we know how many complaint they actually received so far?
MESERVE: Yes. We have gotten new numbers, about 2 million people a day go through screening and the TSA says since it rolled out its controversial checkpoint procedures on November 1st, about 2,000 people have registered complaints with the agencies. Of course, some public interest groups say they have gotten more complaints than that -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK, Jeanne, thank you very much. Travel safely.
Top administration officials who oversee airport security tried again today to ease concerns in Congress about body scans and pat downs. Now, they held a briefing for congressional staffers, this is the second one on the Hill this week and we're told that it was a detailed explanation of imaging technology and a female TSA employee took part of a demonstration of an invasive pat down.
Now a former and possibly future presidential candidate is throwing down the gauntlet on this pat-down controversy. Now this is Republican Mike Huckabee and here's what he had to say.
He said: "President Obama is defending the humiliating and unconstitutional electronic strip searches by machines that are making its manufacturers filthy rich and the flying public hopping mad...Mr. President, I issue a challenge -- if you don't find anything wrong with these practices that presume the guilt of an American before he or she proves innocent, then I ask you to take your wife, your two daughters and your mother-in-law to Reagan International Airport and have them go through the full body scanner and then be subjected to the same and full body grabbing grope by the government agents that you authorized to do it." That was a quote.
I want to bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. I've never heard --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What does he really think?
MALVEAUX: Boy, I tell you , that is something else.
BORGER: He does not like those, does he?
MALVEAUX: We have seen in just the last couple days there are a lot of people weighing this, this notion, this idea of being able to fly and being protected and having the government do so and their own civil liberties and sense of privacy. There is a balance here.
MALVEAUX: What do most people think about this?
BORGER: You know, the public wants to be safe and they're not quite sure what makes them safe and they're really struggling with what the right balance is as they travel.
BORGER: And "The Washington Post" and ABC News did a poll on this today and the results are interesting, because when you ask people specifically about those body scanners that Mike Huckabee was talking about, two-thirds of the American public, you see 64 percent, almost two-thirds, support those body scanners.
But when they were asked about the pat downs, that seems to be a step too far for majority of the American public. Fully half say that it is not justified. Now, the White House, Suzanne, is saying, look, there's an evolution going on of the security procedures. We, of course, are going to have the input from travelers going forward as we have had in the past. But, when you ask what the alternatives are, one thing keeps coming up and that is this notion of profiling. In the same "Washington Post" poll 70% of Americans said that they think profiling is fine.
MALVEAUX: So they approve of profiling.
BORGER: Right. But as you know and I know, this is very politically controversial. Really a hot potato because you pull out certain passengers for more screening because of what they call available information. Well, what's the available information? How you look or is it what's in your record? I mean, we're just not sure about that. So, profiling is a really, really big step.
MALVEAUX: It's very comfortable for a lot of people to think about that. Although you say most people --
BORGER: I'd never be profiled, that's what they say. But they don't know. Exactly.
MALVEAUX: How does this relate to the movement, the overall movement we're seeing whether it's the tea party or other folks who are independent that say they want less intrusive, less big government. Is that playing a role in what we're seeing now with these pat downs and these scanners?
BORGER: You just had Ron Paul on the show and he says people aren't feeling safer, they just feel that the government is getting out of control here and all of this won't make them any safer. They're cynical about what the impact would be. For example, the Christmas bomber last year had the stuff in his pants, right. Well, would a pat down have gotten that? We don't know, right? People are asking these questions. OK, what is the pat down going to do? What can the scanner see? And how does this affect my security and don't forget about a quarter of the American public only a quarter of the American public trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time.
MALVEAUX: Right, because Rand Paul was calling for independent contractors. That's a good question you bring up. Whether or not the enhanced pat downs at the airport would that have actually caught that explosive in his underwear and if the answer is no, does that mean the government will take it a step further?
BIRGER: Also, are the people coming from abroad getting the same kind of pat downs that we're giving here?
BORGER: He wasn't traveling to New Jersey to San Diego. At least at the first part of his trip.
MALVEAUX: Safe travels to you, Gloria. Very good information. Now that Prince William has set the date to get married, you can bet that the royal wedding planners are getting all ready busy. We'll talk about the big event with an editor of "People" magazine.
And we're looking into the revelation that a Taliban negotiator was actually a fake. What does that mean for peace efforts in Afghanistan?
MALVEAUX: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories that come into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Authorities say they uncovered a terror plot that is targeting Belgium. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. 11 people under arrest in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands following a month's long undercover operation. Police say the suspects were using a jihadist website to plan an attack. They don't know where or when the attack was going to happen, but police say they do know the target was somewhere on Belgium soil. A counterterrorism official tells CNN potential targets may have been Jews in Belgium and NATO vehicles.
Also, the packed field of contenders for Chicago mayor may even be getting a little more crowded. Outgoing Illinois Senator Roland Burris is considering jumping into the ring. You may remember Burris was appointed to fill President Obama's Senate seat by disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. If he does run Burris' competition will include Mr. Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun.
He has an election victory under his belt and soon Senator-Elect Rand Paul will be at a book store near you. His book "The Tea Party Goes to Washington" is scheduled to hit shelves in February. Its release will coincide with the new session of Congress. The book outlines Paul's plan for the tea party. His publisher calls it a blue print of ideas on how to fix what's ailing the country.
And a stunning prediction regarding diabetes. This is really stunning. The insurance company the United Health Group says half of all Americans may be diabetic or pre-diabetic as soon as the year 20. It says treating the disease will take up almost 10% of all health care spending. It's estimated ten-year price tag more than $3 trillion. But doctors say you can lower your risk by losing weight, watching what you eat, exercising and finding a support group. All good advice, as we head into Thanksgiving.
MALVEAUX: And it's wonderful to know that diabetes, many forms of it is actually curable. If you live a healthy lifestyle, you can make yourself much better.
BOLDUAN: Exactly. So important especially when you see these statistics.
MALVEAUX: Don't eat too much turkey, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Come on, don't tell me that.
MALVEAUX: All right, one day, one day is OK. We can get away with it.
President Obama makes his case for the economy and takes his pitch to Kokomo, Indiana. But is it too late to convince worried American workers? We'll explore in today's strategy session. That up next.