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tv   Campbell Brown  CNN  January 3, 2010 8:00pm-9:00pm EST

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that business, and they're moving everyone back out to the main area where the ticket counters are that kind of thing until they can rescreen them. >> it is all happening on the same day they announced enhanced security measures for people coming into the country. a very busy travel day for people coming back from the holidays. susan candiotti on top of the security breach at newark international airport. we will follow it here on cnn. i am don lemon. meantime, "state of the union" starts right now. i'm gloria borger. john king is off today. and this is "state of the union." growing questions in the wake of the christmas day terror plot. >> it was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential cat traffic breach of security. >> how did we miss the signs? and how will the administration make sure it doesn't happen again? we'll put the questions to
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president obama's top counterterrorism adviser john brennan. then exclusive reaction and perspective from the man who wrote the book on preventing another terror attack, the former chairman of the 9/11 commission, thomas kean. and two leading senators weigh in on how the u.s. should try this case. republican jim demint of south carolina and democrat claire mccaskill of missouri. then our american dispatch from salt lake city, utah. where the mayor's attempt to liberalize liquor laws is get something local push back. the last word from michael scheuer. this is the state of the union report for sunday, january 3rd, 2010.
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we begin today with the latest on the failed christmas day bomb plot. joining us is the man reporting directly to president obama about what went wrong and how to fix it. john brennan, welcome to state of the union. before we get to that christmas day bomb plot, there's breaking news this morning that we need to talk about. and that is just hours ago the u emba -- u.s. embassy in yemen closed in response to threats from al qaeda. we know you've been briefed by general petraeus and others and general petraeus was of course just in yemen. is there an imminent threat to all americans there? >> i spoke with our ambassador in yemen, the ambassador, both this morning and last night, and there are indications that al qaeda is planning to carry out an attack against target inside of saana, possibly our embassy, and what we do is to take every measure possible to ensure the safety of our diplomats and citizens abroad. so the decision was made to close the embassy, we're working
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closely with the yemenee government and taking the security precautions. >> is this type of imminent threat there evidence of a ramped up threat by al qaeda generally to move to american soil as we saw on christmas day? >> i think what we've seen over the past several years in yemen is increasing strengthening of al qaeda forces in yemen. there are several hundred al qaeda members there, and from the very first day of this administration, i traveled out there twice. we've concerned about al qaeda's continued growth, but they're not just focusing on yemen as was evidenced by abdulmutallab's efforts. to bring down the plane. they're looking to the west. so that's why we have to get to this problem in yemen now. >> is this ramped up? should we be more concerned today than we were three weeks ago? >> i think what it is is showing that there's a culmination of the effort here of al qaeda to carry out these attacks. we stop a lot of these attacks and a lot of these plans long before they get to the execution phase. but what is clear is that al qaeda, whether it's al qaeda in the arabian peninsula or other, they're continuing pressing and continuing their attempts.
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>> so the answer to that is yes. >> i think we see attempts. al qaeda is determined to be successful. we keep thwarts their attacks, but they keep pressing. >> the director of national intelligence sent a memo top ployies, in it he says, i am quoting here, saying efforts are being diminished. but a statement that said al qaeda continues to refine their methods. so which is it? is it diminished or is it more sophisticated? >> it is both. we have made quite a bit of progress in degrading the capabilities of al qaeda organization. we've taken the battle to them, we have eliminated a number of their senior leaders and operatives. but that doesn't mean they still don't have capability to carry out attacks. and that's what they're doing. they're continuing to look for vulnerabilities in our system to get their operatives either here to the united states or in other places to carry out these attacks. >> should we raise the threat level here? are you thinking about it? >> we have a system in place in place that allows us to strength en
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the security measures. that's what happened right after the attempted attack on december 25th. we didn't have to raise the threat level to red or another different color that is out there. what we did was we immediately strengthened security precautions on planes and other places. so we feel comfortable we are well-poised now. right, you feel comfortable. but let's get back to the christmas day plot. something went very wrong there. you are going to bottom line this for the president, you've received reports from every agency responsible for counterterrorism. as you bottom line this, how severe was the failure? >> i think what -- clearly the system didn't work. we had a problem in terms of why abdulmutallab got on that plane. there is no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there that said he was a terrorist, he was going to carry out this attack against that aircraft. we had bits and pieces of information. let me just take a moment -- >> wait a minute. there was no smoking gun the father went to the embassy in nigeria, he's a well respected banker, and said i've gotten these terrible text messages from my son.
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isn't that -- that's not a needle in a haystack. >> that was certainly an alert that came to our attention. he said he was consorting with extremists in yemen. he didn't know what he was doing. he was concerned about him and he wanted our help. that was one set of data. had other data that didn't give us the clarity we needed to be able to map it and attach to abdulmutallab. what we need to do as an intelligence community and as a government is be able to bring those pieces of information together so we prevent mr. abdulmutallab from getting on the plane. >> for our viewers, i want for put up a time line here. you can see it over your shoulder. we see that mr. abdulmutallab was on the radar about last may when the united kingdom revoked his visa to travel to britain. by the summer, into fall, nobody the national security agency, national terrorism center, and homeland security all had pieces of this puzzle. as you said, nobody put the information together. he bought a ticket for cash.
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he boarded an airplane in amsterdam without a checked bag. and he had explosives in his underwear, what got in the way? >> first of all, when the british turned down mr. abdulmutallab for a visa, it was because of immigration concerns because he put on his form a school that he wasn't -- didn't exist. so that was not related to terrorism at all. we did have the information throughout the course of the summer and fall about al qaeda's plans to carry out attacks. we had snippets of information, we had information about faruk, but we didn't have anything, information that allowed us to identify mr. abdulmutallab. the system didn't fail. >> but as i said -- >> a lot of people buy their tickets in africa with cash. that is the way in fact things are done because there's so much fraud there. so that wasn't a necessary bell. people in the airport didn't know that he had bought the ticket for cash. he did bring on carry-on luggage. so there are a lot of things
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that were out. we're now doing the diagnosis, we're figuring out how we could have stopped this early on. >> are you saying there isn't a way could you have stopped it? >> i'm saying there was information in the system that should have allowed us to stop it and that's what the president is to make sure -- >> what was the information that was -- where? where? >> as you mentioned, the puzzle pieces. there were a number of pieces out there, but for whatever reason, they weren't brought together. we, as a government, need to make sure that we're able to bring those pieces together. every day there are millions of pieces of the puzzle that come together on many people. >> but it sounds, with all due respect, an awful lot like 9/11. pre-9/11. and my question to you is who is going to be held accountable? >> first of all, it's not like 9/11. there was no indication that any of these agencies were intentionally holding back information. and i can point to -- >> no turf battles? >> there were lapses, human errors, the system didn't work the way it should have. >> sloppiness? >> i think there were human errors and lapses and so what i'm going to do is to tell the president exactly what i think went wrong, but there wasn't an effort to try to conceal information.
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i can point to many different examples this year, that the fbi, department of homeland security, and intelligence community combined to stop attacks. >> can you give us something that we don't know about? >> there's a lot of classified information and a lot of information that relates to people overseas that have ride to come here but they've been able to stop people. >> can you tell us about one? >> azzasi, david headley, other individuals that were captured, the five guys that left northern virginia, when their parents brought if to the attention of the fbi, that's exactly how the system should work. we went out there, we contacted the pakistani authorities, they're currently in prison. and what we're doing is trying to ensure that the system works as well in all of these cases as in future events that come up. >> let's switch now to the larger terror threat. b which we were talking about at the beginning of the show. cnn is reporting that there's a radical american cleric born in yemen, very well-known to you, anwar al awlaki, that had contact with both the shooter
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at fort hood and the christmas day bomber. if there's a link, do you now consider the ft. hood shooting a terrorist attack? >> i think what -- what we are clear about is that mr. awlaki was in touch with major hassan, and there are indication s that he had direct contact with abdulmutallab. mr. al awlaki is a problem. he is clearly a part of al qaeda in the peninsula. he is not just a cleric. he is in fact trying to instigate terrorism. what we need to do now is make sure that we can identify other individuals or other activities of mr. awlaki, so we can stop it before it comes through. >> is he alive? >> al awaki? we are continuing to press, m n maintain pressure inside yemen, there are a number of operatives that are alive that weren't last month. >> so is ft. hood a terrorist attack? >> we're still taking a look at that.
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in my mind, major hasan carried out this attack. it was inspired, i think, by some of the ranting and rhett rick of some individuals like al awlaki. so they're looking at this right now. >> it is? so it was? >> it's certainly an act of murder. it was wanton slaughter of u.s. military officers. >> let's talk about guantanamo then, too. because there are reports that at least one prisoner released from guantanamo, in 2006, al rubash is called the theological guide, if you will, to al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. he was involved in the christmas day plot. does it make you rethink your decision to release six prisoners back into yemen last month from guantanamo? >> no it doesn't. that was the result of a rigorous action because that was the result of very meticulous and rigorous process that we've had in place since the beginning of the administration. last administration released 532 detainees from guantanamo. during this administration we
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have transferred in fact 42 of these individuals overseas. i have been in constant dialogue with the yemenis about the arrangements in place. several of those individuals were put into custody as soon as they returned to yemen. so we're making sure that we don't do anything that will put american citizens in yemen or here in the states at risk from our decisions about transferring detainees. >> so you have 90 prisoners remaining in guantanamo from yemen. half are slated to be sent back home. there is word now they are not going to be sent back to yemen. what are you going to do with them? are you sending them to illinois? >> we haven't stopped the process of what we'll do with them. many will be prosecuted. some under the article 3 courts and some in military courts. some will be transferred back to yemen at the right time and right place and in the right way. >> so they still will go back to yemen. and what did you mean at the right time and pace? >> we made a decision that they would send back six because we were very pleased with the way of yemeni government handled the one individual we sent back eight weeks ago. we are making sure the situation on the ground is taken into
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account, and we continue to work with the yemeni government and we do this in a very common sense fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close guantanamo. guantanamo has been used a propaganda tool by al qaeda and others. we need to close the facility. we are determined to do that. those that are appropriate to go back will be transferred back, but those that need to stay in detention, we will do that. >> so these 40 or so that are -- let me make this clear -- 40 or so that are slated to be sent back to yemen, they still will be sent back to yemen? >> we make a decision about when they're going to be sent back, how they're going to be sent back and under what conditions. >> has this slowed it down is what i'm asking? >> the attempt add take by umar abdulmutallab on christmas day was a unique incident. we have been monitoring the situation over time. that one incident on december 25, doesn't change the situation on the ground in yemen one bit.
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we know that al qaeda is out there. we know we have to be mindful of that and we know that we have to take our steps with those detainees in a manner that is not going to put our citizens at risk. and we are not going fto do tha? >> so they will be sent back? >> we're going to do it in the right way and at the right time. >> okay. okay. now, the president has said that we are at war with al qaeda. you have said that. if we're at war, why not treat abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant? >> because over the past number of years, we have been able, very successfully, to charge a number of terrorists in court. look at richard reed, the shoe bomber, he was tried, convicted and sentenced in court. we try to adapt the tools in the right way, we are also a country of laws, this was an individual who was arrested on u.s. soil. if we decide at some point that we're going to charge and hold somebody under the enemy combatant status, it's a tool available to us. we made a decision to do this. we have great confidence in the fbi and other individuals in
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terms of debriefing, we have great confidence in our court system so can we can use that to our advantage. and individuals in the past have, in fact, given us very valuable information as they've gone through the plea agreement process. >> and let me just ask you one more question about mr. abdulmutallab. because there is a report in "newsweek" this morning that you personally received intelligence against from saudi officials that al qaeda might try to use an explosive hidden in underwear. that's what mr. umar abdulmutallab did. what did you do with that information when you got it? >> i think the report or referring to is the attempted assassination attack in late august. in fact, within a week of that attack, i was out in saudi arabia. i met with the prince. i want to the room where the attack took place. we worked closely with the saudis to get that information and we shared it completely throughout the government. petn was the substance used in that attack. we were looking very carefully at that. there was no indication that
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at that time, there was going to be an attempt against an aircraft. we need to try to stay ahead of it. >> was the faa put on alert about this, that people might be coming through airports with explosives in their underwear? >> there was nothing that -- in that assassination attempt against the prince, indicated aviation was a target. we were very concerned about the possible assassination attempts. so we have been taking steps as we get this information -- >> so the faa didn't know? the faa didn't know? >> the faa -- they get all the information available to the intelligence community that relates to terrorist threats. we have that system working well. but clearly in the case of abdulmutallab, the system didn't work the way it was designed to. >> and in conclusion, i'd like to talk about the president for one moment. three months ago on october 6th, he said this at the national counterterrorism center. just listen to this. >> you are setting the standard, you're showing us what focused and integrated counterterrorism really looks like. and the record of your service is written in the attacks that never occur. because you thwarted them.
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>> now, on tuesday, it was a very, very different president obama who was a lot less complimentary about the intelligence services. listen to this. >> when our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so this extremist words a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. and i consider that totally until acceptable. >> what does the president know now that he didn't know months ago? >> well, first of all, the president takes a solemn responsibility to protect the well-being of the american people very seriously. i see it every day, i hear it every day. and he wants to make sure that we do everything possible in that regard. what i think the president understands today is that the system is a very complex one, that there are ways to strengthen it.
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he is determined to strengthen it. we're very fortunate to have the people dedicated to doing this on a day in and day out basis. when americans were enjoying the holidays with their families and able to sort of watch football games and other thing, there were very dedicated americans at the national counterterrorism area, department of homeland security and fbi working around the clock to protect their fellow citizens. but the president wants to make sure that that system in place is as good as it can be so that we don't ever have another instance when an individual gets on a plane anywhere in the world with a bomb trying to bring down an aircraft. and he's determined to do that and i'm going to make sure that i do everything i can to support the president's wishes in this regard. >> thank you very much for being with us today. and up next, the former chairman of the 9/11 commission will tell us what lessons we have yet to learn. ( laughs, click ) when you hear a click, ( clicking ) you know it's closed and secure. that's why hefty food bags click closed. hefty! hefty! hefty! so you know you've helped lock in freshness and lock out air...
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to help prevent freezer burn. be sure it's secure with hefty food bags. just one click and you know it's closed. hefty! hefty! hefty! ( click, click, click )
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joining me now talk more about the foiled terror plot and the state of our homeland security is thomas kean, former republican governor of new jersey and former chairman of the 9/11 commission. thank you so much, governor, for being with us this morning. you heard what john brennan had to say on the christmas bomber plot. what's your general reaction to his responses? >> well, they were a bit defensive and i guess that's probably understandable given all the circumstances. but this guy in some respects looking at it in retrospect probably did us a favor. we had an administration which was not focused as it should be on terrorism and that's understandable. they were focused on health care and global warming and the economy. that's very understandable. secondly, we weren't focused on yemen and the terrible things happening there. now we are.
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and that's a good thing. and thirdly, there were holes obviously and the system wasn't working well, and we found out the system wasn't working well and the president understands it isn't working well and we're focused on fixing it. so all over, thanks to god there wasn't any serious injuries, but the guy probably did us a favor now. now we're going to be a little more alert. >> you heard what mr. brennan said, he said this was human failure, it was not a failure of people fighting each other on turf. but when i asked him the question that you've been asking this week, which is about why not pay attention to abdulmutallab's father, a wealthy nigerian banker who walks into the embassy and is worried, he seems to say that wasn't a direct clue. >> well that alone, given who that father was, his prestige in the community, his connections with the united states embassy, that alone should have been enough. because think for a moment if you're a father or a mother for
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that matter and what it takes to go in there to a foreign embassy and actually turn in your child. this was an act of tremendous courage by this man. >> but brennan's response was, he didn't say his son was a terrorist. >> that isn't good enough. that isn't a good enough response. >> that should have put everybody on alert, and, again, he said there were pieces of information, he's absolutely right, but he's wrong when he says this wasn't like 9/11. because what we pointed out in the report, again and again, is that there were a lot of pieces of information that they've been put together then we might have deterred that plot. this is the same thing, a lot of pieces of information, if they've had been shared, shared by the intelligence agencies the way they should be, and the way the system congress set up is designed to compel, then this guy would never have gotten on the plane. >> we've been spending a lot of time this week re-read ing the 9/11 report and we also
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which i happen to have here, and we've also been re-reading that final report card when the 9/11 commission did an update on where we were on security issues. and this was in december 2005. let me show this to you a little bit. airline passenger pre-screening. you gave them an "f." airline passenger explosive screening. you gave them a "c." government-wide information sharing. a "d." have the grades improved? >> i think they have improved some. >> still an "f" in airline passenger pre-screening? >> no, i'd give them a little higher grade now, but still not good enough. we've got to be -- we've got to be -- we've got to reach an "a" in that level. we cannot allow our people to get on a plane and not feel safe. so it still is not good enough. but now thank goodness perhaps due to this incident we'll get to where we should be. >> let me ask you about the role of the president here.
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has the president led forcefully enough, do you believe, to demand the sharing of information between these intelligence agencies? >> the president now is saying the right things. and i believe he'll follow through and do the right things. the problem is not now, but the fact before that this administration i think was distracted. that's understandable. for heaven sakes, if you're in this huge health care fight and worried about the economy and global warming, all that sort of thing, that's what they were concentrating on and they weren't giving this enough attention. it's understandable, but not acceptable. >> so you're saying the president was not giving this enough attention? >> i don't think the whole administration was. there are good people there. if you look at the cabinet secretaries, the people involved in counterterrorism, they're good people. they're good people. but they need support, they need coordination. the president needs to supply the leadership. and no matter what else is going on, this has always got to be number one. >> governor kean. thank you so much for your
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perspective on all of this, this morning. thank you for joining us. and it was a war of words this week on who is to blame for the security breakdown in the detroit terror plot. up next we'll hear from two senators with very different views on that. so stay with us. relief! oh, it's like night and day. can i keep this? (announcer) afrin. why suffer?
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welcome back to "state of the union." i'm gloria borger filling in for john king. with us now, two top u.s. senators, democrat, claire mccaskill and tim demint. both are joining us from their home states. thanks for being with us. let me start with you, senator demint. your reaction, please, to john brennan. he seemed to say that this was a
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failure of human error, not turf. >> i was concerned before i heard him talk and i think i'm a little more alarmed because he seems to have a hard time saying that this is an act of terror, that ft. hood was an act of terror, that the christmas day bomber was an act of terror, and unless we're willing to recognize this as a global war in many cases against the united states, i'm afraid we'll fail to take the actions that we need to. the most important point now is that this threat is real. and we need to make some very real changes from the last administration, from this administration, we need to get the politics out of it and focus on security. but i was concerned that he would not give you direct answers particularly about whether these were acts of terror or not. >> senator mccaskill, we also spoke about the prisoners in guantanamo.
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and half of those 90 prisoners are now slated to be sent home to yemen. and john brennan made the case that eventually at some point the administration believes that it will be able to send them back to yemen. is that a good idea? >> well, first of all, i think what he said was we are being -- they're very being careful about how they're releasing any of these people. the previous administration wasn't quite as careful, frankly. this administration, the people that have been released back to yemen are in custody and i think the full range of tools are being used, military courts, civilian courts, successfully. and make no mistake here, he did not say that the act on christmas was not an act of terror. what he said was this administration from day one, from the inaugural address, president obama said very clearly and very forcefully that
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there is a war against terror and violence that is a vast network. and we have been taking it to that network through the intelligence community, through additional resources in somalia and yemen. unlike a myopic focus on iraq, this administration is going worldwide in this war and is focused on it and i think it is unfair and frankly political to take pot shots at the president as we respond to this failure in our system that we've got to get fixed. >> senator, very quickly, how should we be treat ing abdulmutallab? as an enemy combatant? >> i think that as they go forward with this investigation and develop leads -- as a former prosecutor, i can tell you they will be using this individual to try to get to more terrorists. and as they work with this terrorist, they will make a decision on how to move forward. the shoe bomber is sitting in a
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prison in colorado right now after going through a trial in our civil system and receiving severe punishment along with dozens and, frankly, hundreds of other terrorists. so that we have prosecuted in this country. we're not saying there shouldn't be military trials in some instances. what we're saying is the military and justice departments should have choices as to how we can get these guys and get them with force and with the force of the american law. >> senator demint? do you want to respond? >> gloria, if we had righted -- if we had treated this christmas day bomber as a terrorist, he would have immediately been interrogated military style rather than given the rights of an american and lawyers. we have probably lost valuable information. it does come down to a decision of whether or not this is an act of war, an act of terror, or just a criminal act. so they're some real implications of the direction being taken. i agree with senator mccaskill,
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we need to take the politic s out of this, but there's no question that the president has down played the risk of terror since he took office. he is investigating the cia -- rather than -- senator demint, how has he downplayed the risk of terror? >> it begins with not even being willing to use the word. >> aside from the semantics. aside from that? >> aside from the semantics, he's been completely distracted by other things as has already been mentioned and he is not focused on building security and intelligence apparatus of our country. the last administration, president bush made a huge by sending the yemenese back, the core of al qaeda is made up of those folks who were at the gitmo prison. we can't make that mistake again. so it's not just about the administration, it's about losing our focus on security and i'm afraid politics and political correctness has become front and center of this debate.
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>> that is just not true. this president is focused like a laser on how to keep this country safe. his commitment in afghanistan, even though there are those in his party that were, that were, very critical of the position he took. he took the time and the energy to determine that us ramping up in afghanistan should have been done a long time ago. that's a breeding ground for terrorists. this is a president that is taking strong action and is building up our intelligence community. >> senator demint, senator mccaskill, thank you for being with us. >> up next, a quick check of today's headlines. and then the man who spent years tracking osama bin laden and al qaeda, former cia analyst, gets the last word.
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we are following breaking news. newark international airport, terminal c, closed. after a man walked through the wrong side of the checkpoint without being screened. a spokesman for the tsa says police are looking for the man and reviewing video from airport security cameras. we want few go to our correspondent in the middle of it all. what do you know? >> there is utter confusion. i got off the flight from fort lauderdale at terminal c, continental hub where this happened. huge crowd trying to get back so they can be rescreened through security. i talked to several people on flights for more than an hour. at one point the pilot got on the intercom made an announcement saying there has been a security breach. everybody has got to get off the plane. including this one couple i
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spoke to from staten island headed to mexico when i asked them "what now?" they said we are headed for a three month vacation, couple hours won't make much of a difference. you can imagine, a busy travel time. >> i can see it there. and the pictures you took with people waiting, waiting to get luggage. some people waiting to get in and out. a long night for the folks. we will update you at 10:00 p.m. i'm don lemon. and "state of the union" continues next. ( clicking ) ( laughs, click ) when you hear a click, ( clicking ) you know it's closed and secure.
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that's why hefty food bags click closed. hefty! hefty! hefty! so you know you've helped lock in freshness and lock out air... to help prevent freezer burn. be sure it's secure with hefty food bags. just one click and you know it's closed. hefty! hefty! hefty! ( click, click, click )
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14 news makers, analysts ant reporters were out on the sunday morning talk shows. only one gets the last word, that honor today goes to the former chief of the cia's osama bin laden unit, thank you for being here and getting the last word. we want to draw on your expertise. john brennan told us that we "are going to eventually repatriot some of our guantanamo detainees back to yemen." i want to play for you what he said and get your response. >> we haven't stopped the process as far as dealing with them. many are going to be prosecuted some under article 3 courts and some in military courts. some individuals are going to be transferred to yemen at the right time, right pace, and right way. >> is there a right way? can they be rehabbed?
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>> no they can't. the saudis, the yemenis know our system better than we do. they know we like the idea of people being rehabilitated. we send them back to saudi arabia and yemen and they play records for them and teach them how to paint supposedly and then ship them off to kill our soldiers in afghanistan or iraq. the repatriot idea is nonsense. they want to be released not the to be free but few go back to the battlefield. mr. brennan, like the last administration, is really portraying something to the american people that is the farthest thing from the truth. >> when you look at this right now and see what is going on with al qaeda in yemen, see the embassy closing just today, do you believe that the threat now is greater than it was just a couple weeks ago? >> it's greater than it was a couple weeks ago. more importantly it is much greater than it was on 9/11.
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we have killed some of the al qaeda leaders and every dead al qaeda leader is a success. but all we have is a body countch we now have al qaeda, the main al qaeda and the pakistan theater in afghanistan theater. we have a fully fledged wing in yemen. we have a fully fledged wing in iraq. a fully fledged wing in north africa and in somalia. how can it be less threatening to us? >> is the threat from al qaeda greater from yemen than afghanistan now? >> no, certainly not. the threat overall from al qaeda is melded together. it is an international organizationch we tend to forget that a decade ago we knew that al qaeda was in over 50 countries. they're in far more countries than that today. >> well, let me play for you, something. i asked john brennan if al qaeda in fact was diminished? or more sophisticated. let's hear what he had to say. then you can respond. >> we have made quite a bit of progress this year in degrading the capabilities of al qaeda
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organization. taken the battle to them. eliminated a number of their leaders and operatives that doesn't mean they don't have capability to carry out attacks. that's what they're doing. they're trying to look for ways and vulnerabilities to get their operatives to the united states or other places to carry out the attacks. >> mr. brennan is blowing smoke. you have some dead bodies. i agree, all to the good. but no impact on the overall organization. >> so you don't think that it is at all diminished? >> no, as i said, i think it is stronger than it was at 9/11. certainly because the support and opposition across the muslim world to american foreign policy is far greater today than it was in 9/11. >> our plan right now is to double our aid to yemen which is still not a large amount of money, say $160 million. do you think that will matter if we -- if we help the regime there try and get rid of al qaeda? >> no.
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i think we tend to forget that one of the first people here with his begging bowl, after 9/11 was the yemenee president, we have been dumping money and ordinance into yemen. al qaeda has done nothing but grow. mr. brennan said there are perhaps 300 al qaeda operatives in yemen. i would say if you doubled, tripled or quadrupled that number you might get 1/10 of what is there. yemen is bin laden's ancestral home. more yemens fought against the soviets there would have been more yemenese in the 9/11 attack yemen is an al qaeda country. more than that, al qaeda helped to put the president of yemen in power when there was a civil
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war. there is no way the president of yemen can exist if he moves to crush al qaeda. >> what do we do? >> roosevelt said "fear god and take your own part. "we stop depending on surrogates. we stop depending on pakistan. we stop depending on yemen. and use our own strong right arm. there is no, no clause in the constitution that says president obama can dell gaegate defense america to a yemen dictator. >> before you leave. i have to ask you about the cia deaths this week, you spent of course, 20 years at the cia and you know what a great loss this is for, for the agency. how does this affect both morale and strategy as the agency expands its role? >> well i think it hurts morale to a certain extent, naturally, because of the deaths. but it hurts morale even more because one of the officers who got killed had had arranged an operation in 1998 that would have killed or captured mr. osama bin laden. and mr. brennan is instrumental in preventing that operation from occurring.
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instead he said the americans should trust the saudis to take care of bin laden. so it is a painful, a painful death, but more importantly it is a death that didn't need to occur had mr. clinton, mr. brennan, george tenet, and mr. burger had the courage to try to defend americans. >> i wish all the gentlemen were here to defend themselves. >> i would delighted any team to talk with them in public, in any forum, ma'am. >> hopefully we can arrange that some day. they would want to answer your charge. >> thank you for being here. >> up next we get out of washington and head to the beautiful state of utah where john king caught up with one mayor looking to change the status quo by changing the local liquor laws. i can breathe through my nose immediately. afrin has made me happy. is that a silly statement? (announcer) afrin. why suffer?
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every week on state of the union, john king travels to a different state. in this week's american dispatch he set his sights on utah. known for its strong mormon values. as john learned there are also those looking to shake things up. >> reporter: sunrise makes the great salt lake all the more spectacular and the bison wandering state park lands are another reminder of the wonders
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and rugged terrain that greeted the early explorers. mormon temple is a more modern landmark, symbol of faith and conservative thinking that often defines salt lake city's image, some times to the consternation of its nonmormon mayor ralph becker. >> we have a diverse culture here, we live in as beautiful, natural setting as anywhere in the world. and part of what we need to make sure people understand who come to visit here and look to locate their businesses here and live here is that everyone is welcome here. >> reporter: the mayor's attempt at an image makeover includes liberalizing city alcohol policies gone is a rule that allowed no more than two bars per city block. there is a change, bar owner, dell vance calls overdue but also meaningless unless the state agrees to issue more liquor licenses. >> like everything here, a day late and six-pack short. the state is out of liquor
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licenses so even, even if, somebody wanted to open another bar on this block they couldn't. there is no license available. >> went to the university of utah. >> reporter: the state controls liquor sales and to vance it is proof the church of latter day saints still dominates utah politics. >> obviously you, know, utah is associated with more mmons they don't consume alcoholic beverages. i don't understand why if i don't do something i have to make it more difficult and aggravating for the person who does it. >> for this couple, the anti-alcohol crusade began with a phone call. >> i get a call from my daughter. she simply said dad we have been in a very serious accident. then, john, i guess the most poignant time in my life is when i had to watch my daughter, my son-in-law, pull life support off that baby, 24 hours before was a loving family, and then had to say good-bye, watch the
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baby turn color and then walk out of the room. >> reporter: matthew was 2 months old, killed by a drunk driver. >> he had been ser sched over six hours, 21 drinks, over 21 drinks. when he got rowdy, threw hem out. got in his car, drove around and hit our daughter. three times the legal limit. >> reporter: brown heads the mothers against drunk driving chapter and to taupe's laws are among the toughest in the nation and resources for the fight against underaged drining but he says allowing bars downtown and in residential neighborhood is dangerous. >> the more probability that is going to be an upward pressure on their choices to drink. and if they see that you are willing to put it next door to them, that it is pleasurable, the thing to try, it's, there is no downsides to it, it really ups their risk to trying this stuff. >> reporter: mayor becker disputes the link.
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>> i certainly understand and respect art brown and others points of view that having a place that serves liquor is an inducement for minors to drink, i just haven't found that to be the case in my own experience. i don't think the information and studies supports it either. we're providing for what people in neighborhoods want. they want to be able to walk to their neighborhood restaurant and have a drink with dinner, not everybody. but some people do. and we need to provide for everybody in our community. >> reporter: the mayor, the question is quality of life in a changing city where the majority is now not mormon. to others, it's time to reflect on values they were would not yield to shifting demographics and changing times. one of the goals here at "state of the union" is to get out of washington as much as we can. we made it our pledge to travel to all 50 states in our first year. and you just saw john in state


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