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Taliban Retreating in Pakistan; Drug War's Front Lines; Credit Card Companies Viewed as Legal Loan Sharks by Some Consumers; Meghan McCain Slamming Karl Rove and Dick Cheney; Trendy Retailers Catering to Bigger Teens

Aired April 24, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and thanks very much for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. It's April the 24th. It's a Friday. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We have a lot going on this morning. Here are the big stories we're breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

A Taliban retreat. New video just in to CNN showing militant fighters loading up their trucks and moving out of the Pakistani district of Buner. The move means that Pakistan after - it comes after Pakistan issued a final appeal for the militants to withdraw from that area. Forces were deployed to Buner to prevent the Taliban from advancing to the capital.

The White House now ruling out the possibility of an independent panel to investigate the way terror suspects were interrogated during the Bush administration. Spokesman Robert Gibbs says that the president is concerned it would deteriorate into a political tit for tat. The administration last week released a set of classified Bush memos detailing harsh interrogation techniques used on some detainees and the legal justification behind them.

And North Korea says that two American journalists accused of "hostile acts" will stand trial. Laura Ling and Euna Lee work for Al Gore's Current TV network. They were arrested in March near the North Korean border while reporting on refugees living in China.

ROBERTS: We begin this morning with breaking news and new photographs that could change the course of the political uproar over allegations of torture during the Bush administration era.

We have learned that sometime between now and May the 28th, the Defense Department will release another batch of photos the ACLU says show prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of American personnel.

CNN's Barbara Starr is tracking the story for us this morning. She's live at the Pentagon.

What do we know so far about these pictures, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, all of this comes in a letter from the Pentagon to a federal judge saying they are giving up. After years of fighting the ACLU in court, they will release 44 photographs showing the potential abuse of prisoners detained by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, of course, we all remember the notorious pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but this will be the first time the public has seen any photographs of prisoners in detention in Afghanistan. That has not come to light before.

Now the ACLU says in their statement, "the disclosure of these photographs serves as a reminder that abusive prisoners in U.S.- administered detention centers was systemic." The Bush administration had fought all of this for years saying it was worried it would spark outrage in the Arab world if these photos were seen - John.

ROBERTS: So we've got these photos coming out right after the CIA memos were made public. Do you expect that there's going to be a multiplier effect here when you add the two of these together?

STARR: Well, you know, I think that's what a lot of officials worry about because it's not over yet. Clearly, there are other matters that the administration has under review to be possibly be made public, transcripts, other testimony that's been taken. We saw a big report come out on the Hill earlier where people who were involved in the interrogation told in great detail some of the really horrifying practices that were engaged in against these detainees. So an awful lot more still to come on all of this, John.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr for us this morning at the Pentagon following this important story. Barbara, thanks so much.

CHETRY: And Attorney General Eric Holder is kicking the door open now on possible prosecutions over alleged torture. Yesterday he went before Congress promising to hold people accountable and promising that it wouldn't be a political witch hunt either. Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, pressure is building for President Obama to investigate the Bush administration for authorizing interrogation methods that even some Republicans say amount to torture.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is my responsibility as the attorney general to enforce the law.

ACOSTA (voice-over): For the Obama administration, it's the question that won't go away. And Attorney General Eric Holder is refusing to rule out the possible prosecution of high-level members of the Bush administration who authorized harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists.

HOLDER: If I see evidence of wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law and I will do that in an appropriate way.

ACOSTA: Some Democrats are turning up the heat on the White House to name a special prosecutor who could bring indictments.

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW: Attorney General Holder needs to appoint a special prosecutor.

ACOSTA: Law professor Jonathan Turley says the president has no choice.

TURLEY: You have insurmountable evidence that we ran a torture program. President Obama has the constitutional authority to pardon President Bush and Vice President Cheney and these other individuals. He does not have the authority to obstruct an investigation to a war crime.

ACOSTA: Democrats point to this Senate intelligence report released this week. It states then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and then-National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice were briefed by CIA officials in 2002 that the agency was considering alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding. An international Red Cross report found waterboarding was used saying it induced a feeling of panic and the acute impression that the person was about to die. Former POW John McCain has called the method torture.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's in violation of the Geneva Convention. It's in violation of existing law.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This government does not torture people.

ACOSTA: Two years ago, President Bush stressed Congress knew about the program.

BUSH: The techniques that we used have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress.

ACOSTA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she was only told waterboarding might be used.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We were not - I repeat, we were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did work. They kept us safe for seven years.

ACOSTA: Bush administration officials are firing back, including former Justice Department official John Yoo, who advised the former president the Geneva Convention banning torture does not apply to suspected terrorists.

JOHN YOO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPT OFFICIAL: This wasn't worth it? Well, we haven't had an attack in more than seven years.


ACOSTA: President Obama has come out against one option, that is naming a 9/11-style independent truth commission to investigate allegations of torture. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the president did not want the issue to become what he called a political back and forth - John and Kiran.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta for us, thanks.

Also, the attorney general telling Congress that he is willing to release as much information as possible about the interrogation saying he won't "play hide and seek" with secret memos about the harsh interrogations and their effectiveness - John.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, two U.S. journalists being held in North Korea for more than a month now will stand trial. They're being charged with entering the country illegally and conducting "hostile acts."

Laura Ling and Euna Lee from Al Gore's Current Television network were arrested after allegedly crossing the North Korean border while reporting on refugees living in China.

We're tapping into the global resources of CNN to bring you the very latest on this developing story. Our Sohn Jie-ae is live for us this morning in Seoul, South Korea.

Good morning, Sohn.


We have heard today that, indeed, North Korea has made public the fact that they are going to bring these two U.S. journalists to trial for what they said was alleged illegal entry into North Korea as well as for what North Korea calls hostile acts.

Now the concern here is not just that the legal action is being taken against these two U.S. journalists, but they could be a pawn in a much greater political game that is being played. This is a fact that was pointed out also by the U.S. association that dealt with the safety of U.S. journalists. Bob Dietz also pointed out in a statement that the state of these two women, the fact - the action being taken against these women actually may have -may be having a role in a much more larger picture that has to do with North Korea's nuclear activities, the missile program, and the North internal succession issue as well. And that the fact that these two women could really be playing some sort of role in this overall political game.

Now what he's referring to seems to be that while all these actions are being taken, North Korea, which is normally one of the most secretive countries in the world is making this public. So you have to ask the question, why now?

ROBERTS: Sohn Jie-ae for us this morning in Seoul, South Korea. Sohn Jie, thanks very much for the update - Kiran.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is still in the hospital in Los Angeles. He checked himself in yesterday with what's being described as a "mild illness." An NBC spokesman says Leno is in good spirits. He's been testing out monologue jokes on the doctors and nurses. Leno has apparently missed a taping - has rarely missed a taping during his 17-year run on the show. He's expected to be back at work on Monday.

A surveillance video from a convenience store in Evansville, Illinois, shows the clerk wrestling away a machete from a would-be robber. Police say that the suspect came around the counter, attacked the clerk with his large knife. The clerk fought back, and the suspect ran away without getting any money. He was then arrested a short time later, now charged with attempted robbery, aggravated battery with a machete.

And breaking news, an apparent victory for Pakistan and its standoff with Taliban militants within striking distance of the country's nuclear-armed capital. We're live in Islamabad with news of a Taliban retreat this morning.

It's eight minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Eleven minutes past the hour. We fast forward through the stories that will be making news later today.

At 1:30 p.m. Eastern, President Obama will speak about student loans and higher education. He'll be specifically focusing on how hard it is for students and families to get a loan for college.

At 10:00 Eastern Time, former Vice President Al Gore will be talking climate change on Capitol Hill. The House Energy Committee has been focusing on the environment all week examining energy legislation proposed by House Democrats in a new climate bill.

And CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus appears today before a House Appropriations Committee. That's happening at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. He'll be discussing supplemental funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's likely he'll also cite the spiraling cycles of violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bolster his case.

And that's what we're following this morning - John.

ROBERTS: Developing right now, Pakistan's prime minister says military troops can stop the surge of Taliban militants toward Islamabad, and he insists the nation's nuclear weapons are safe. This morning, militant fighters are retreating from the Buner District, some 60 miles from the capital.

These are new pictures of mass Taliban militants withdrawing just an hour ago. The Taliban's recent land grab has raised global concerns. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Pakistan has failed to deal with the Taliban problem, but the United States is also partly to blame. She says not that long ago, we weren't fighting the Taliban, we were funding them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan. I mean, let's remember here, the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago. And we did it because we were locked in the struggle with the Soviet Union. They invaded Afghanistan and we did not want to see them control central Asia. And we went to work.

And it was President Reagan in partnership with the Congress led by Democrats who said, you know what? Sounds like a pretty good idea. Let's deal with the ISI and the Pakistani military and let's go recruit these Mujahideen. And that's great.

Let's get some to come from Saudi Arabia and other places importing their Wahhabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union. And guess what? They retreated. They lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. So there is a very strong argument which is it wasn't a bad investment to end the Soviet Union, but let's be careful what we sow because we will harvest.


ROBERTS: We are live on the ground in Islamabad this morning following developments. CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now from the Pakistani capital.

And, Ivan, we see these pictures of the Taliban. It looks like they're moving out, but can the Pakistani government trust that they will make good on their pledge to vacate the Buner province?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a very good question, John. I just got off the phone with the spokesman for the Taliban, Moslem Hahn (ph). He did say, in fact, that the Taliban had orders to withdraw from that district.

The question will be will they withdraw completely? The pictures seem to show the militants pulling out of one compound that they had occupied. Will that be a complete withdrawal?

And then the next question, John, will they withdraw from other districts where Pakistani local officials say the Taliban have moved into in force, in violation of an agreement that was signed with the Pakistani government last week? In the wake of the signature of that agreement, the Taliban went ahead and challenged the legitimacy of the Pakistani government, John. They said the government, the system of justice was un-Islamic and that anybody who disagreed with their version of Islam was not a Muslim - John.

ROBERTS: Sounds like they still have some pretty deep differences. Ivan Watson for us this morning in Islamabad. And coming up in just a few minutes here on the "Most News in the Morning," we'll check in with Gary Bernstein. He was the former CIA officer who led the charge against Tora Bora back in the Afghanistan war. He'll be joining us with his thoughts on what's going on in Pakistan - Kiran. CHETRY: People drowning in credit card debt. This morning, the growing outrage and what the president is doing to protect you from surprise fees.

And Michelle Obama taking questions from kids at the White House. It was "Take Your Child to Work Day," and the first lady opening up about the family's new dog, Bo.

It's 15 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

The numbers are staggering. Right now collectively, Americans carry nearly $1 trillion in credit card debt. And with sky-high interest rates and fees, it's no surprise consumers are pretty outraged against the credit card industry and it's growing.

AMERICAN MORNING's Jason Carroll joins me now with more on the anger and what the White House is hoping to do about it.

Now, people know OK, if you charge something, you owe that money. But they're getting hit with these fees, things are being jacked up. And it just seems like...

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And not happy - and not happy about it, really upset about it. And the president is stepping in to try and help. Congress is already debating a credit card bill of rights. This after they heard from a growing number of people who have had it with their credit card companies.


CARROLL (voice-over): We heard the anger on our phones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically, the government is letting the credit card companies be nothing but legal loan sharks. Credit cards are the bane of our society.

CARROLL: There is outrage on the streets.

NANCY VON HELLENS, HAD CREDIT LIMIT DROPPED: But this is my credit card, this has been my credit card since 1997, and I - I really feel, pardon me, shafted.

JANE CANELLI: As far as I'm concerned the bank should be eating this, not the rest of us.

CARROLL: Card holders fed up with credit card companies, tired of excessive fees and high interest rates, out of patience over what some consumer advocates call deceptive tactics.

JOE RIDOUT, CONSUMER ACTION: You take out a car loan and you miss a phone bill payment, your auto lender can't turn around and raise your interest rate. The credit card companies do this every day. It's fundamentally unfair to consumers because credit card companies are essentially given a license to steal.

CARROLL: President Obama says enough. He has been a strong proponent of improving practices of the credit card industry and met with executives from the American Bankers Association.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our administration is going to be pushing for reform in this area. We think it's important that we get input from the credit card issuers as we shape this reform.

CARROLL: The president wants more protection for consumers, including banning unfair rate increases, clearer statements with less fine print, and easily accessible contract terms.

The American Bankers Association released a statement saying, "The president did raise concerns about certain issues surrounding credit cards. The card executives listened carefully to those concerns and agreed to work with the administration to address them."

The Federal Reserve already put in place new rules expected to take effect next year to help protect card holders. Some bankers worry more legislation could make economic matters worse by making it harder for banks to offer credit. But some consumer advocates say that argument is just more financial spin.

RIDOUT: We hope that lawmakers will listen to what the public and the president are saying and ignore the calls of banking lobbyists to let them play fast and loose with the rules.


CARROLL: Well, the banks say despite what consumers call high credit card fees, they are still losing money. The president says his economic team will work with the banks and Congress to try and come up with tougher legislation to help consumers.

It is somewhat of a balancing act, though, right? Because you need the legislation according to some, but you also, according to the banks, don't want to make it so strict that they stop, you know, extending credit.

CHETRY: Right. And they say that there's just been a record number of people with defaults and people who haven't paid, and so they're struggling with that as well.

Thanks, Jason.

CARROLL: All right.

CHETRY: Well, it may be proof that they're either burning the midnight oil at the Treasury Department these days or the finer points of the financial crisis can get a little boring. Take a look.

Yesterday, President Obama's top economic adviser, Larry Summers nodded off during the president's meeting with credit card officials. And this is not the first time Summers has been caught on camera taking what appears to be a catnap. He also dozed off at a fiscal responsibility summit back in February.

ROBERTS: He's got quite a history of this as well. He dozed off at a Harvard dinner one day as well. He was described as putting his head down on the table and then stayed there.

CARROLL: You told me that those catnaps were supposed to be healthy.

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: This is the way Thomas Edison...

CARROLL: I'm not saying you do it during a meeting. I'm just saying.

ROBERTS: The way Thomas Edison lived his life.

CARROLL: There you go.

ROBERTS: Yes, 45-minute naps.

Larry Summers is not the only one losing sleep. First Lady Michelle Obama telling about a hundred boys and girls that their new puppy is keeping her up at night. It was just one of the secrets she let them in on during a tour of a lifetime yesterday.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The East Room looked more like the press room, a gaggle of children firing questions at the first lady, on issues most pressing to them like the puppy.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What would happen if Bo were to run away? What will happen?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, yes. What would happen if Bo ran away?

I would be very sad first of all. But hopefully someone would find him and bring him back.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What does your dog like to do?

M. OBAMA: Oh, he is a crazy dog. He - you know, he loves to chew on people's feet.

KAYE: This is Bring Your Child to Work Day, White House style. Sasha and Malia Obama were at school. But in their house, more than 100 children, sons and daughters of White House staff.

(on camera): Mrs. Obama isn't the first first lady to celebrate the event, but she made it her own with a theme she's passionate about. Celebrating service, country, community, and family. The first lady told her young audience, you don't have to wait until you work in the White House to be a public servant.

(voice-over): But this group, ages 7 to 14, seemed far more interested in the sleeping arrangements here.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: When your kids have friends over and they stay a night, where do they stay?

M. OBAMA: Sometimes they sleep in the girls' rooms, or sometimes they sleep upstairs where there's a TV.

ADVANTAGE (ph): My name is Advantage (ph). And where do you sleep?

M. OBAMA: Where do I sleep? In my room.

KAYE: They also wanted to know what Mrs. Obama would do if something terrible happened in the world.

M. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I'd wake my husband up if it were at night. And I'd tell him, hey, buddy, you're the president. Get down to the Oval Office and call some leaders. And then I'd go back to sleep and ask him how it turned out when I woke up the next morning.

KAYE: The mom-in-chief urged the children to work hard in school and left them with this advice.

M. OBAMA: Make life easy on your parents. OK? All right. Go back and give them a hug. Tell them that they're great.

KAYE: She later joked this was her first official press conference. If so, these kids will be happy to know they just made history.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: She really handles it well, doesn't she?

CHETRY: Yes, she's great with the kids.

ROBERTS: Totally.

Fires raging across coastal South Carolina and South Florida. Tens of thousands of acres have burned. Rob Marciano tracking the extreme weather for us this morning.

And the Taliban on the retreat in Pakistan right now, but the nuclear nation still facing the threat of collapse. We'll talk more about this coming up.

It's 25 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Firefighters in South Carolina working now to gain control of a raging wildfire. It destroyed dozens of homes near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Rob Marciano is tracking the extreme weather for us. You know, a popular place to go for spring breakers as well. And boy, what a mess.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, spring breakers - huge golfing community. You know what kind of money they pour into that - those facilities there. And so they're struggling to battle this thing.

They do have it at about 40 percent contained. But as you mentioned, dozens of homes. They count now to about 70 homes completely destroyed, another 100 damaged by this fire, 31 square miles all in all. And obviously the aerial footage here, dramatic.

Because of the wind shift in the last - and the winds are light. Because they have shifted, it seems like the fires are going to be going away from the most highly populated or highest dollar or where they get the most tourism bang for their buck communities. So that's good to know. But they're trying to get a handle on this thing.

All right. Down south of Florida, Alligator Alley has been shut down now for a couple of days. About a 55-mile stretch of it, you know, connects Naples to pretty much Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They are going to decide today whether or not to reopen that. So we'll give you a word on that as soon as we know it.

Here it is, Alligator Alley. Interstate 75 which makes it way to Fort Lauderdale and Miami. As we said, it is closed until further notice.

No rain in the forecast for Florida. There were a couple of thunderstorms that popped up across the central and South Georgia last night, somewhat pretty rough and tumble. As far as South Carolina is concerned, should remain dry as well.

The winds were westerly. They're going southwesterly and now they're going southerly. And that may bring in a little bit more humidity which is a good thing but temperatures today will be - will be fairly, fairly warm.

Some showers working their way toward the northeast. Just to give you an idea of how warm it's going to be - 75 degrees today in D.C., 60 in New York but you'll be in for the lower 80s I think in the Big Apple as you head towards Saturday and Sunday. So enjoy that.

CHETRY: All right. And the good news is at least so far, no injuries in the South Carolina situation. Firefighters working hard though to get it under control.

MARCIANO: They have done a remarkable job so far. That's for sure. CHETRY: All right, Rob, thanks.

MARCIANO: You bet.

CHETRY: Twenty-nine minutes after the hour. Checking our top stories now.

North Korea says two American journalists will stand trial for unspecified crimes. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were reporting on refugees living in China for Al Gore's Current TV network when they were arrested last month. Pyongyang claims they entered the country illegally and conducted "hostile acts."

It was a bloody day in Iraq. At least 30 people were killed in two suicide bombings in Baghdad. Officials say the number of dead is expected to rise. Today's attacks come after 83 people were killed in two bombings yesterday making it the deadliest day of the year in that country.

And the White House now ruling out the possibility of an independent panel to investigate the way terror suspects were interrogated during the Bush administration. Spokesman Robert Gibbs says that the president is concerned it would deteriorate into a political tit for tat.

ROBERTS: We're following developments in Pakistan this morning. New video in to CNN in the past hour showing Taliban fighters moving out of the contested Buner District just 60 miles from Pakistan's capital of Islamabad.

It appears to be a victory for the Pakistani government, but can Taliban militants be trusted to keep their pledge to return to the Swat Valley and stay out of Buner and other districts for that matter?

Joining us now to talk about it, former CIA officer Gary Berntsen, also the author of "Human Intelligence, Counterterrorism & National Leadership."

So Gary, would you trust the Taliban to move back and play nice in the Swat Valley?

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, not at all. And clearly, they may pull back just slightly for, you know, reasons of propaganda and to get the film footage. They're not going anywhere. These guys have a desire to seize control of Pakistan. And that is the Taliban and other militant organizations. And there's at least, you know, 25 to 30 militant organizations in Pakistan.

ROBERTS: Yesterday at Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was testifying. She accused Pakistan of abdicating responsibility of taking care of the Taliban and other extremist elements. She pointed some fingers at the United States.

Let's listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: We're wondering why they don't just get out there and deal with these people. But the problems we face now, to some extent, we have to take responsibility for having contributed to.


ROBERTS: You get some thoughts about that?

BERNTSEN: Well, clearly, in her statement, she also stated that the United States created the Taliban or participated in the creation of Taliban, which is a ridiculous statement. We created and worked with the Mujs, you know, a decade before that...

ROBERTS: Mujahideen, yes.

BERNTSEN: The Mujahideen, and they were defeated by the Taliban, which were created by ISI.

And the Taliban...


ROBERTS: You're speaking of Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistani military?


BERNTSEN: Inter-Services Intelligence, directly to the Pakistani military. And, of course, the reason the Taliban were created was that there was a civil war going on among factions within the Mujahideen that had come to power.

ROBERTS: But I think the broader point she was making was that the U.S. disengaged from the region.

BERNTSEN: The U.S. did unfortunately disengage. We're paying a price for that. But one needs to be careful when you're talking about the forces that are laid on the ground out there.

There are former Muj commanders like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani that are working with the Taliban right now, not because they believe in the seventh century-style of Islam that the Taliban believe in, but because they're ambitious men that want to come back to power. That's one of the reasons.

ROBERTS: She also talked about the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban. Prime Minister Gillani said this morning that these nuclear weapons are safe. They're in the hands of the military. But the secretary of state said they're also dispersed throughout the country, as opposed to being centrally located, which could present a problem.

Do you think that that heightens the danger of one of these weapons or more of these weapons falling into the hands of militants?

BERNTSEN: I don't think you're going to have a situation where they fall into the hands of the militants. That would only happen if the government completely collapsed and if the military collapsed.

I don't think you're going to see a military collapse in Pakistan. I think what you're going to see, though, is - the likelihood is that the civilian government won't survive over the long haul. And the military may reassert itself, come back to power and have a violent suppression of the Taliban.

ROBERTS: There's another part of this issue that you're pretty fired up about, and that is the - you say Pakistan does not have the manpower to effectively fight the Taliban, because they're arrayed through Kashmir along the Line of Control in that long - decades-long standoff with India. They're also in other areas along the border between Pakistan and India.


ROBERTS: Does India - if India wants to get rid of this problem, too, does it bear some responsibility?

BERNTSEN: The Indians are going to need to assist the Pakistanis by reducing tensions and the Indians should pull some of their forces off the line of actual control and the border, which is south of that, so that Pakistan itself can reduce its numbers and use those forces inside Pakistan to suppress the Taliban.

ROBERTS: So you're saying this is everybody's problem?

BERNTSEN: Richard Holbrooke was named to be the Afghan-Pak sort of representative. He needs to be the Afghan-Pak-India rep because India is going to play into this huge.

ROBERTS: All right. Gary Berntsen, it's always great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

BERNTSEN: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Also, Mexico's drug war is killing thousands of people, and the violence is spilling over to the U.S. This morning, a journey to the front lines of Mexico's drug war. We're going to talk with a congresswoman who just returned from the danger zone.

Also new information just released on bird strikes that take down airplanes. Of course, we saw it with the famous flight that ended up landing in the Hudson River. But why did the FAA want to keep those details secret?

It's 34 minutes after the hour.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A community comes together to build a playground with some unexpected materials. 84 percent of this playground is made from recycled milk jugs - 41,000 jugs that won't end up in a landfill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to do something that's green. THOMAS BROWN, ATLANTA FALCONS: If you want the earth to stay the same way it is, you've got to get out here and actually put a hand in to doing it.

BALDWIN: It starts when milk jugs are taken to recycling centers to be sorted and bailed. From there, they're shredded, washed and turned into pellets. The pellets are then heated and molded into plastic lumber capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds, and the material itself is sustainable.

BOB GREDYS, SAFEPLAY SYSTEMS: When you're done with your playground, we want it back. We take that product and put it back into - through our process. The material can be reused 17 times.

BALDWIN (on camera): But that's not all. Once this project is finished, the surface of this playground will look like this, which is made up of the rubber of thousands of old athletic shoes and recycled tires.

(voice over): Thousands of playgrounds like this one have been built across the country and around world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I know that there's actually something being done with recycling. That's neat to see that they can turn in what we're recycling into playground equipment.

BALDWIN: Brooke Baldwin, CNN, Atlanta.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Right now, the drug violence in Mexico is pushing our neighbor to the brink. And President Obama recently promised to beef up security along the U.S.-Mexico border and try to do our part to eliminate the flow of guns and cash going into Mexico.

Well, California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez just returned from a trip to the border with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and she's with us today to talk more about what she saw there firsthand.

We talked about - welcome, by the way. Great to see you.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Thank you. Always great to be here.

CHETRY: You know, there's a lot of worries about the security risks as well, not to mention the human toll, the violence that we've seen at the border.

Is the U.S. doing enough right now?

SANCHEZ: Well, actually no. But we're working on it. You know, it always takes money, it takes a policy, it takes a vision of what we need to get done. And I think we're beginning to work better with our Mexican counterparts to enable us to help them.

The violence, for the most part, is really occurring on their land. And so, it's a little presumptive, I think, for us to say, hey, you know, get your act together or let us come in and take care of this.

The Mexican government really needs to take care of it. And the reason it's escalated so much is because you finally have a president, President Calderon, who has said, enough is enough, I'm putting troops up there, I'm going to do what it takes. And the cartels are fighting back.

CHETRY: Right.

Well, you say it's presumptuous, but we are giving them a lot of money and we are trying to help train their - their military in things like seizures and in helping secure their border as well. It really is spilling over also into our border towns. A lot of people living in those border towns say that because of what's been going on, it's really made the quality of life dismal.

SANCHEZ: Well, if you actually look at the statistics, you'll see that, for example, El Paso, which is connected right there with ciudad Juarez, where so many of those deaths and things have happened on the Mexican side is actually one of the safest cities in the nation that we have.

So - I mean, it feels like you're under attack. But the reality when you look at the statistics, it bears out a difference. Who is involved? Whoever is involved with drugs are basically the people that are being targeted. Whether you're selling drugs, buying drugs, moving money - if you're involved in this, yes, your life is really at risk.

Now, if you're not involved in the drug trade, then you stand a chance of being an innocent bystander. But it's like anything else.

I mean, I wouldn't walk in certain places in Los Angeles at night without an escort or what the heck am I doing there anyway? So, you always have to take a look at your surroundings, whether you're in a different country or whether you're on your own hometown.

CHETRY: Also, Phoenix, that's a town that's certainly been hit hard. They are second in the world in kidnappings. They're supposedly 400 reported victims last year alone.

Are we paying enough attention to the human smuggling problem of this as well?

SANCHEZ: Well, this people who do drugs, it's all about money for them. If the drug demand isn't there, then the smuggling is there. If they're not making money off of those two, then they're going to start kidnapping. But the kidnappings we've actually seen in Phoenix, again, have been the cartels against the cartels. Remember that they're just not in Mexico. They've actually infiltrated in 260 cities in the United States. If you're a drug lord, for example, it's a high probability you don't want your kids to go to American schools, you might even have papers, documents, you might even be an American citizen. And you might have your family up here in some nice town in the United States and you won't have them down in Mexico. So what we're seeing in Phoenix is actually this whole issue of drug cartels going after each other.

CHETRY: So you're saying we should focus in our country before we start worrying -

SANCHEZ: No, I'm saying that we are helping Mexico. And we're doing it in several ways. We're training their people, we're helping them with their institutions, do they have the right laws, do they have the right prosecution system so that they can go after these people. Do we have treaties with them in order to bring them back to the United States if, in fact, they've done something in the U.S.

We're also helping them with technology, aerial - unmanned aerial surveillance of what's going on. So we're - we're really working with them. And the biggest issue right now for us is how do we stop the guns that are going into Mexico? Because 90 percent of the drugs - of the guns that we find from these drug cartels are coming from the United States.

CHETRY: Well, this is a - this is a statistic...


SANCHEZ: They've got huge power against that.

CHETRY: Right. Well, this is a statistic that's also being argued right now. There are others who say that it's not 90 percent. But 90 percent of the guns that get sent back for tracing, because a large number of the guns, either are obviously not U.S. guns or they don't get sent back.


SANCHEZ: Look, when I've seen - when I've seen this...

CHETRY: So there's a slight - there's a slight difference in that statistic.

SANCHEZ: When I've seen this firepower, I mean, it's coming in from the United States. So, when you see 7,000 legal gun stores within two miles of the Mexican border, 7,000 gun stores. Then you think to yourself, where are these guns going? A lot of them are legitimate.


CHETRY: Oh, it's a problem.

SANCHEZ: But there are some people we need to crack down on because obviously they're feeding. It's about making money for a lot of these people.

CHETRY: Well, it's great talking to you.

Loretta Sanchez, congresswoman out of California.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. Always, thank you.

ROBERTS: Good to see you.

Attorney General Eric Holder hit from both sides over Bush era memos. What will his words mean for officials behind the CIA's controversial interrogation program?

And Meghan McCain surprising comments about Republican guru Karl Rove.

Does she really think that he should just go away?

It's 44 1/2 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Singer and actress Beyonce taking on a new challenge. Her latest movie "Obsessed" opens today. And it's the 10-time Grammy Award winner's first non-singing role.

Well, Beyonce sat down with Larry King last night, and talked about starting a family, and even weighed in on how she thinks President Obama is doing.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": The Barack Obama presidency - what does it mean to you?

BEYONCE KNOWLES, SINGER AND ACTRESS: I'm so proud. You know, I've - I've always said it, I never thought I would live for this - you know, to see this moment, especially, young people. We never felt like we were being spoken to, and now we do. And now it's cool to be involved and to do other things for other people.

And even to - to - you know, even on - with Twitter and CNN and - it's just wonderful the movement that's going on with my generation.

KING: What do you think about - everyone talks about her - the way Michelle Obama dresses?

KNOWLES: Oh, she's so chic. And she - one thing about her, she knows how to - to dress appropriately. Wherever she is, she is just - her lines are always clean. She knows how to dress for her body. Very timely. You see her pictures years from now, they will never be out of style or out of fashion. And she's very, very classy, of course.

KING: You've accomplished so much - do you want to be a mother?

KNOWLES: I do. Yes, definitely. I have the best mother in the world. And my mother is literally my best friend. I respect her so much. And I admire her and I had a wonderful - a great example. She was very hard-working. And I can trust her with anything. So, of course, I want to be a mother.

I do feel like I have so many things to accomplish, and I'm still young. I'm 27. And I feel like I've accomplished a lot of things, but I haven't seen the best of myself. And the world hasn't seen the best of me. So I - when it's time and when it happens, when it is meant to be, it will. But I'm in no rush.


ROBERTS: Well, the respect that she has for her mom and what a great role model she was for her.

CHETRY: Yes. Both of her parents are very, very involved in her professional career as well. And it's all worked out. So...


ROBERTS: Nice that you can be such a big star and still, you know, have good relationship with your parents.

CHETRY: Exactly.

Well, the FAA releasing new details about recent bird strikes. Why they fought to keep that information under wraps. And why the airlines are not happy.

Also, word out of Washington that the Pentagon will release, quote, "a substantial number of photos showing detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Where are they are coming from, and why now?

It's 49 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

In the past, plus-sized teens and young adults didn't have much of a choice when it came to fashion. But that's all about to change. There are some trendy fashion retailers about to launch a new line for young women that were often ignored by the industry.

Here's CNN's Lola Ogunnaike.


LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As companies across the country are downsizing, some in the fashion world are upsizing.

HEIDI CANALIZO, REGIONAL MANAGER, FOREVER 21: If you're going to hide anything in that midsection...

OGUNNAIKE: Forever 21 and Target will launch teen plus-size lines this spring.

CANALIZO: In the past, we had extra large sizes and we would sell out of them so quickly. It's just something we've been hearing from our customers for a very long time. And even I have trouble fitting in our sizes sometimes. This is great. I'm going to buy these pieces. No more buttons popping open.

OGUNNAIKE: Forever 21's line will have sizes ranging from extra large to 2X and Target line will go all the way up to a size 30.

It's about time, say some shoppers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I go through it. I mean, I have curves, I have hips, and it's tough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, I'm a curvier girl, so I definitely like clothes that are meant for my size as opposed to the size divas that are walking the runways. You know - I mean, who is a size zero anyway?


OGUNNAIKE: Industry observers say that catering to bigger teens could mean bigger bucks for the fashion industry.

MARSHAL COHEN, CHIEF INDUSTRY ANALYST, NPD GROUP: Well, you're looking at an under $2 billion business that could easily grow to a $4 billion, $5 billion business within a relatively short period of time like within a year or two.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It glorifies obesity. It normalizes obesity. Obesity is not fashion.

OGUNNAIKE: But not everyone is loving the new lines.

Mimi Ralph (ph) heads up an advocacy group that is dedicated to reversing what she calls an obesity crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's terrible message we're sending kids. Worrying about fashion rather than worrying about the food is a horrible message.

OGUNNAIKE: But plus-sized model Emme believes these clothes will help empower young full-figured women.

EMME, SUPERMODEL, EMMESTYLE.COM: How are you going to go parties with your friends when you're younger and feel like you fit in? That all has to do with self-esteem and body image, and I think having the clothes available only helps the individual accept their curviness.


OGUNNAIKE: So historically, some of these girls, Kiran and John, had to wear either their mother's clothing or men's clothing. And so people in favor of this are really excited that these girls have options, finally.

These bigger girls don't have to shop in these places that aren't really for them or out of their age range or their sexuality range - their sex range - excuse me, not their sexuality range, sorry.

It's really early. But they feel like they're empowered, and why not? Why shouldn't they be able to wear the trends? But people who are against this say that it's just promoting obesity.

CHETRY: But those junior sizes are tiny. An extra large in juniors is very small, still.

OGUNNAIKE: Especially in Forever 21. They do skimp on the clothing. But some of them - I have to say, some of those pieces are very cute and very trendy. So, there are going to be some curvier women out there who are very happy.

CHETRY: Nice. All right. Lola, thanks.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: The attorney general leaving the door open for prosecution of Bush White House officials. We're looking at the heated debate on Capitol Hill over the CIA's interrogation program and the memos behind it.

The Taliban promises to retreat in Pakistan after inching just 60 miles from the nuclear nation's capital. The latest on the ground and reaction from the secretary of state just ahead.

It's 55 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

A major buzz this morning about Meghan McCain slamming Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. The daughter of the former GOP presidential nominee went on "The View" and what she said about Republicans who criticize the president might surprise you.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I wrote a post about how Karl Rove following me on Twitter was creepy and it was more of a metaphor for Karl Rove trying to be sort of the spokesperson for the Republican Party right now. And it was basically saying him twittering is not going to make young people, you know, come to the Republican Party. And I don't think any person my age is going to think that's cool. And the DNC actually just did an ad and it has Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney as the new faces of the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, that's scary.

MCCAIN: Well, I mean, it's hard for people like me that really want new energy and new blood. When they - it's very unprecedented for someone like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to be criticizing the president. It's very un-president. Former vice president and obviously, you know, Karl Rove. And I just - you know, my criticism is just, you know, you had your eight years - go away.


CHETRY: Left us all frozen.


CHETRY: You had your eight years, go away. She's quite outspoken, you know. She is like a - she's a little maverick like her dad, you know.

ROBERTS: Yes, she is.

CHETRY: You know.

ROBERTS: Maverick in the making. We got her dad coming up this morning, too.

CHETRY: Yes, we're speaking to him in just about 55 minutes - Senator John McCain. We're actually going to talk to him about the release of the CIA interrogation memos. But, you know, it would be interesting to see what he thinks - I bet he is proud of his daughter, because she is, you know, she's really going out there and speaking her mind and talking about what she believes in.

ROBERTS: Last time he was on, he said, I love my daughter, I disagree with her from time to time. But I love my daughter.

CHETRY: Every dad and daughter does, right?

ROBERTS: Absolutely. I love my daughter almost all the time. I hardly disagree with her.