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THE SITUATION ROOM
Balloon Boy's Parents Sentenced; Blackberry Breaks Down Again; Madonna: Malawi Chose Me; Being Black in China
Aired December 23, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HATCH: We should be thinking of what's best for our country, not what's best for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. And look, when you look at it -- I lived through this whole thing. I'm on the appropriate committees. The Health Committee, I -- I listened to Senator Harkin say how they worked with us Republicans.
Give me a break. We -- we actually -- every vote that was substantive in that committee, after they did the bills solely by themselves with the White House, every vote was voted down on a party line vote -- all substantive votes.
The same thing happened over in the House...
HATCH: ...the Pelosi bills completely Democrat, no Republican input whatsoever. And then they come to the Senate...
HATCH: And -- and Harry Reid puts together a bill between the two of those. Even the Democrats weren't involved in that bill.
MALVEAUX: You're going to go home to your core -- your constituents. Obviously, you're going to talk to them.
MALVEAUX: The latest CNN poll shows that more than half of Americans think that the Republican leaders are moving the country in the wrong direction.
When you come back, do you have a change of plans here -- a different strategy to work with Democrats so you're not just the party that's on the sidelines?
HATCH: Well, I don't think we're on the sidelines in any way, shape or form. But I'll tell you, there has to be a desire by the Democrats to work with us. You know, they have 60 votes, they can do whatever they want. And there's an arrogance of power here that I've been talking about that, literally, they think that they can do whatever they want regardless of what's right or what's wrong.
And, look, I've made the point, if, on a bill this important, involving one sixth of the American economy, if -- if you don't get 75 to 80 votes -- like we did on the SCHIP bill, like we did on -- on the Hatch-Waxman Bill, like we did on some -- like we did on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and -- and -- and others, then you know the bill is a lousy bill. If it's just a straight partisan bill that's this important, then you know it's a lousy bill. And I can tell you, this is one lousy bill. They can be very proud of what they've done, except that what they've done could wreck our country. And I think we've got to all stand up and start letting them hear from us.
MALVEAUX: All right. I expect that we'll hear more from you, as well...
HATCH: You will.
MALVEAUX: ...many of the Republicans.
So thank you so much, Senator Orrin Hatch, for joining us.
Have a good holiday.
HATCH: You, too.
MALVEAUX: Merry Christmas.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a holiday terror alert that had millions of travelers on edge. Now there is a shocking report that it was all based on bogus intelligence that duped the federal government.
Also, Iran more defiant than ever as the clock ticks toward a deadline to give up its enriched uranium stockpile.
What options does the Obama administration have?
Well, I'll ask former Defense secretary, William Cohen.
Plus, their hoax made headlines -- now their punishment is, as well. Sentencing day for the parents of the so-called "balloon boy," facing jail time for their publicity stunt.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It was one of the most tense holiday travel seasons of the decade, with the Department of Homeland Security warning Americans of a high risk of attack, just as millions of people were about to fly off for the holidays. Now a stunning twist -- a report claiming that much of the fear and anxiety was based on false intelligence.
Our CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us -- and, Brian, what are we finding out about this?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, this was six years ago, just before Christmas of 2003. At the time, the terror threat level was raised, flights were grounded, all because of specific information on targets picked up by the U.S. intelligence community -- information based on technology that may not have even existed.
TODD: (voice-over): The closing days of 2003 -- a period of heightened travel during the holidays and heightened tension. Intelligence officials knew that two years after 9/11, air travel was still a prime target for Al Qaeda. On December 21st of that year, the terror threat level was raised from yellow to orange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM DECEMBER 21, 2003)
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Recent reporting reiterates -- and this is a constant stream of reporting -- that Al Qaeda continues to use aircraft as a weapon.
TODD: Fran Townsend, the White House deputy national security adviser at the time and now a CNN contributor, says this about the information.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: It seemed that the intelligence community was producing, on a running basis, ongoing basis, information to specific planes that may be targeted, specific locations. And so it was being taken very seriously.
TODD: Townsend said some commercial planes were grounded, others diverted. But within days, she says, the White House learned this about the intelligence.
TOWNSEND: In retrospect, it was not credible.
TODD: A major disruption in holiday air traffic based on bogus intelligence.
Where did it come from?
An investigation by "Playboy" magazine traced it back to a Nevada software company called eTreppid and a programmer there named Dennis Montgomery. Two former employees of eTreppid tell CNN Montgomery claimed to have developed technology that he said could decode Al Qaeda messages hidden in secret bar codes transmitted unknowingly by the Al Jazeera TV network -- codes that supposedly gave specific information on airline flights. The employees we talked to say people widely believed within the company to be U.S. intelligence officials came to eTreppid to look at Montgomery's programs. But the employees say they never saw the technology and placement site sources say no secret Al Qaeda messages ever existed on Al Jazeera and Montgomery's alleged technology apparently didn't exist, either.
In Washington, doubts about the information got around quickly.
(on camera): How did this all start to unravel?
TOWNSEND: Well, as the threat begins to unfold and there's massive disruption and chaos at international airports around the world, our -- our allies are asking us more questions and putting greater pressure on us to really understand the source and credibility of the intelligence.
TODD: (voice-over): In the end, Townsend says, none of the intelligence held up.
Our repeated attempts to reach Dennis Montgomery and the CEO of enterprise were not successful. But in court documents filed four years later, Montgomery defended his overall work, claiming to have provided the government specific target coordinates and flight numbers, which helped to disrupt a different threat.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Now contacted by CNN about the original reporting about those original threats back in late 2003, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA all declined to comment. Our inquiries to the office of former homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, were not returned.
Fran Townsend says she still does not regret the action she took to ground and divert those flights because it was based on information they thought was credible at the time. She says at the White House, they did what they had to do based on that information to save lives -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Brian, did she give you a sense of how tense things became with U.S. allies, as well, during those days?
TODD: She says it got very tense. The British and the France, in particular, raised early questions -- very heated questions about this. They had to ground some of their own people -- some of their own passengers, keep their flights on the ground. She says that at the beginning, U.S. officials were not transparent with the British and France about the source of the intelligence, but later shared more information. But it got very tense in those days.
MALVEAUX: OK, Brian.
Thank you very much.
A fascinating story.
Lithuania is now admitting to -- that it operated two secret prisons for the CIA -- prisons where suspected terrorists held outside the law and some say subjected to torture.
Our CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, he is following developments from Moscow -- Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this was always one of the most controversial aspects of the former Bush administration's response to the 9/11 attacks and its war on terror. This global network of secret detention centers operated by the -- the CIA, a lot of controversy surrounding them. Now, for the first time, one European country, Lithuania, has confirmed that these so-called "black sites" did exist on its territory.
Take a listen.
CHANCE: (voice-over): In this quiet suburb close to the Lithuanian capital, one of two secret detention facilities the country's parliament says were used by the CIA. Its report says this former writing school near Vilnius was equipped in 2004 to detain as many as eight suspects captured by U.S. agents. It says another facility was set up in 2002 to house just one prisoner -- part of a global network of secret detention centers where suspects were held and subjected to what the U.S. called "advance interrogation techniques" and possibly torture.
BOB AYERS, FORMER CIA AGENT: There were flights that were coming in from the battlefields in Iraq or Afghanistan. There were flights that were coming in from other nation states in which we were not at war, but we were collaborating with, for example, Egypt or Jordan, where suspected terrorists were picked up and brought to the interrogation centers where they were interrogated.
CHANCE: The practice of extraordinary rendition -- capturing suspected militants in one country then rendering them to another without judicial oversight -- was among the most controversial aspects of Washington's war on terror.
Lithuania is the first European country to admit secret detention centers, or black sites, operated on its soil.
(on camera): But that tiny U.S. ally, a member of the European Union and NATO, is by no means the only country in question. Other European states, like Poland and Romania, have been accused by human rights groups, even European officials, of housing secret CIA prisons and of colluding in extraordinary renditions. This parliamentary report in Lithuania may put more pressure on other states to come clean.
(voice-over): But there are lingering doubts about how thorough aspects of this Lithuanian report really are. It blames the Lithuania security services for providing the CIA without the facility without the knowledge of the country's political leadership.
Analysts say that seems unlikely.
AYERS: To think that any -- any national government would have foreign aircraft flying into its air space, people being taken from aircraft and moved to controlled facilities somewhere within their sovereign territory and neither the central government, the police, customs, air traffic control -- no one knew anything about this except for the head of the security service, that's just not believable.
CHANCE: If it is true, human right advocates say it's high time European governments review and tighten civilian control over intelligence and security agencies. It's not enough, they say, for governments to claim that they did not know what their security operators was up to.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHANCE: There is a sense of outrage now across Lithuania about this -- about the findings of this parliamentary report. The country's prime minister has said that no matter how strong the Lithuanian alliance with the United States, it cannot, in the future, be used as an excuse for activities such as this -- back to you, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Matthew.
Well, Iran is showing no signs of backing down from its nuclear defiance. Now with the clock ticking on Western demands, what options does the Obama administration have to keep Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon?
I'll ask former Defense secretary, William Cohen.
Also, a hostage crisis is unfolding right now inside a post office -- a disabled man holding five people at gunpoint. We are getting new details.
Plus, why this man says one popular brand of computer is racist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, (INAUDIBLE). Look, it's not following me. It's not -- Wanda, get back in the frame.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It follows me wherever I go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The end of the year may mark the end of U.S. patience with Iran. The Obama administration, along with the United Nations, is demanding that the country give up its enriched uranium stockpile. But Iran remains defiant.
Let's talk about that and more with former Defense secretary, William Cohen.
Thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Obviously, you're very much aware of what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said... WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, CHAIRMAN OF THE COHEN GROUP: Right.
MALVEAUX: ...not only is he not going to go along with this deadline by the end of the year, by the U.N. and the U.S., he's now said that he's going to build 10 more enrichment uranium facilities here and he doesn't care about that deadline.
You had, in an editorial, three different points -- approaches that the U.S. could take -- one of them pushing China and Russia for tougher economic sanctions.
Speaking with senior administration officials, the president has met with those presidents of those countries and they haven't really gone as far as they need to go in getting those sanctions.
How realistic is that?
COHEN: Well, It's going to be difficult. Unilateral sanctions or those with limited countries will have limited impact. Russia is key because it has a relationship with Iran; China, also, but Russia, first of all. And they both say that they're opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapons capability. Both are hesitant to really take kind of at -- the kind of action that needs to be taken.
So unless they join in, I think the sanctions will be limited in effect. This leaves you with two other options. If you're not going to impose sanctions, then the next issue, are you going to support a military operation?
MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk about that, because a lot of people see that the United States, if they were to give their blessing for some sort of strike, that Israel would -- would strike these nuclear stockpiles in Iran or even join in that strike, that there would be clear escalations.
COHEN: Well, I don't think there's any question, number one, it would be very hard to carry out. You need absolute precision in exchange the operation itself, great intelligence. And then you have to deal with the aftermath -- namely, the predictable response on the part of the Muslim community, as such, globally. And that has untoward consequences.
So it carries its own dangers. It may be the only thing left on the table after all else has been exhausted, but it carries its own dangers.
The third option is the one that we live with a nuclear Iran. That's the option we seem to be on the course of.
Now what are the consequences of that?
Number one, Iran becomes even more predominant in its influence in the region. It is now armed with nuclear weapons. Other countries look at that with great apprehension. You'll see the proliferation of nuclear weapons, possibly in Saudi Arabia; possibly Egypt and other countries. So we're going to see a proliferation of nuclear weapons.
What does that mean?
It means the potentiality for nuclear materials to get in the hands of terrorist groups becomes that much greater. And so everybody is endangered by that option. But that's the one we seem to be on the course of if Russia and China don't join in and really come down hard on Iran.
MALVEAUX: Why do you suppose that the Obama administration, in taking a completely different tact than President Bush, this strategy of engagement -- why do you suppose that hasn't worked?
COHEN: Well, maybe it is working. We're building, apparently, a better relationship with -- with the Russians, after the cancellation of the change in the missile defense system. So maybe there's something going on that we are not aware of at this point, that Russia will come in at the last moment and really come hard down on Iran.
But I was just over in the region. I was in Bahrain at a security conference. And I had a chance to confront the Iranian foreign minister, Mottaki. And it was really interesting because I asked him if there a peace settlement between the patis -- because they are constantly saying that this is the -- the source of all trouble...
COHEN: ...would they recognize Israel as a -- as a legitimate state?
And the answer was we will recognize Palestine, not Israel.
So that's what you have, a revolutionary government that will try to expand its influence in the region, then armed with nuclear weapons.
What does that mean in terms of stability in the region?
I think it will only enhance the price of oil because of instability and run the risk that nuclear materials get in the hands of terrorist groups.
MALVEAUX: Let's talk about the region and what's been taking place on the ground. Obviously, we saw today, as well, eruptions on the streets in -- in Iran. We also saw the ayatollah, who -- who died, Montazeri, just recently -- thousands -- tens of thousands of mourners coming out, but they turned into protests.
Are we seeing some sort of revolution occur on the ground in Iran and is it going to make any difference in moving forward and changing Iran's behavior?
COHEN: Well, we don't know what the impact will be of the increased sanctions. Others argue to the contrary. But if the sanctions were targeted against the Iranian Republican Guard corps, they are the ones who are really running things right now. If we could target the sanctions against them and make life that much harder for them and the financial institutions, maybe there's an opportunity for the current leadership to change internally and say we're going to get rid of some people and try a different course of conduct.
That's probable. I mean, the probability is not high. But don't forget, the Iranian people overthrew, you know, a leader way back in 1978...
COHEN: ...in terms of, you know, the ability of the Iranian people to -- to rise up. So we shouldn't...
MALVEAUX: Do you think it's making a difference, these street protests?
COHEN: Well, I don't know that it's making a difference. There is great controversy taking place right now. There is turmoil. Whether that's going to turn into a different sort of Iran or it's simply going to be a continuation of what we're seeing. But, again, the Shah was overthrown. The people can rise up. Even in a revolutionary state, there can be a counter-revolution.
MALVEAUX: Secretary Cohen, thank you so much.
Have a great holiday.
COHEN: A pleasure.
Well, a nationwide BlackBerry blackout left millions of Americans out of touch for hours, including myself. Today, the company is scrambling to figure out what went wrong, how it happened and why it could happen again.
And the parents of the so-called "balloon boy" are getting jail time -- hear what the father said in court today.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Alina Cho is monitoring the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- hey, Alina.
CHO: Hey there, Suzanne.
Unfolding right now in Virginia, a hostage situation. Evacuation orders issued for downtown Wytheville. Police are negotiating with a disabled man who may have taken as many as five people hostage at a post office there, three employees and two customers. It all started around 2:30 this afternoon. There are some reports that the man may be wearing some sort of device and that his car is outfitted with another device. One shot was fired. But police say at this point, they have no reports of injuries.
No comment from Bernie Madoff's lawyer after the financial scammer was moved into a prison medical facility in North Carolina. A Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson says Madoff was transferred on Friday, but would not elaborate on his condition. The 71-year-old has been behind bars since March, after pleading guilty to what's considered the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
A member of the Afghan parliament was accidentally gunned down in a shootout between his bodyguards and police. Here's what happened. Authorities say police were trying to catch militants believed to be transporting a wounded Taliban commander when the lawmaker's car unexpectedly drove into that area. Police opened fire at the vehicle after failing to stop it. President Hamid Karzai is now calling for an urgent investigation.
And get a load of this. Chimps at this zoo in Rome prove to have some, shall we say, sophisticated tastes in beverages. The animals seem to love a hot tea to beat the chilly temps -- and they're eating, too. One caretaker says those chimps are generally very excited to receive the drink, which they sometimes get with some hot pasta or rice on the side. We are, after all, talking about Italian chimps.
MALVEAUX: It sounds delicious.
CHO: You bet.
MALVEAUX: Well, a BlackBerry blackout -- users across North America were unable to access e-mail -- in some cases, for the second time in a week.
The question is, what went wrong?
Also, can computer technology be racist?
This lasist -- latest viral video says yes.
Plus, the parents of the so-called "balloon boy" facing jail time for their elaborate hoax. We've got details of their sentences.
MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a miraculous escape for everyone on board this American Airlines jet. Passengers describe the screams and panic as the jet skidded badly on landing in Jamaica and then broke up. We've got that incredible story.
Plus, a father gets the best Christmas present he could ever hope for -- the long legal saga over his son's custody may finally be over.
And celebrity philanthropist -- superstar Madonna opens up about her latest project and how it's changing her.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
FALCON HEENE: You had said that we did this for the show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: From the mouth of the so-called "balloon boy" himself -- how his innocent statement blew the lid off his parents' elaborate hoax. And now they're facing jail time.
His father, Richard Heene, was sentenced to 90 days in connection with the publicity stunt. His mother got 20 days -- both for claiming that their son was trapped in a giant balloon adrift high over Colorado.
Now, a national TV audience watched transfixed as federal and local authorities scrambled to rescue him. But then it turned out that the boy was home and the Heenes were merely trying to get attention in hopes of landing a reality TV show.
Richard Heene apologized in court today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HEENE: I'm very, very sorry and I want to apologize to all of the rescue workers out there and the -- the people that got involved in the community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: We want to bring in our CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom, who's been following this story.
And the news today, we see Richard Heene got 90 days in jail. His wife got 20 days.
What do you make of their sentencing and the difference between the two?
LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it was a very interesting plea bargain. The plea bargain was that Richard Heene pled guilty to a felony of attempting to influence a public official and his wife pled guilty to a misdemeanor of making false statements. They did that because she's a Japanese national and if she pleaded guilty to a felony, she could have faced deportation. So they were allowed to do it that way to preserve the family.
He got 90 days, as you said. Sixty of that can be in a work release program. As to her 20 days, she can serve it broken up. She can serve weekends, for example, for 10 weeks. The judge was concerned about having some child care for those children and not really devastating the family even further.
MALVEAUX: Do you see this as a -- as a reasonable outcome here or does it look like the judge was trying to make an example out of them...
BLOOM: I do think the judge...
MALVEAUX: ...so this doesn't happen again?
BLOOM: I do think the judge was trying to make an example out of them. The judge said this is all about exploitation -- exploitation of the media, exploitation of your own children and deception. And he doesn't want others out there following this lead, coming up with some hoax that causes rescue workers and local authorities to scramble around just so that people can get a reality show.
So I think the judge was trying to make an example out of them, while also being reasonable -- 90 days, 20 days -- and making sure there was some care available at all times for their children at all times.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Quite a difference between the sentencing of both of these and the wife was clearly involved in this hoax from the very beginning I want you to take a listen and take a look to her role in all of this.
Do you think that she should have gotten more jailtime? She was clearly very active participant in this from the very beginning with her husband.
BLOOM: It was a convincing performance, wasn't it, at the time. We all followed this story very carefully. We thought this was a mother that was in great distress of her son floating away through the sky. But, ultimately, this was a plea bargain that was a global plea bargain and it was designed to keep this family together while also punishing them. Why, yes, you could say she deserved a harsher sentence, she called 911 and she is a grown woman whether she's under the influence of her husband. She will serve 20 days behind bars and also these two will serve some community service and serve probation. So, I think it's a fair sentence.
MALVEAUX: Lisa Bloom, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BLOOM: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Well, Blackberry addicts, of course, all of us forced cold turkey. E-mail service wiped out to users across North America. Details of a glitch that caused a Blackberry blackout.
Plus, webcams and race. Does some tracking technology have trouble following African Americans. A viral video sparks a controversy.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: It was a continental communications blackout for the second time in a week, Blackberry users, all of us, found ourselves cut off from e-mail. But this glitch lasted longer and impacted every single user in North America. Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is working that story for us. Allan, tell us what happened.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, yet another Blackberry outage. An electronic crisis for those on e-mail on the go by what they call their Crackberries. It was a communication break down.
CHERNOFF: Life without a Blackberry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm addicted to Blackberry.
CHERNOFF: The Led Zeppelin love song was a song of suffering last night for lovers of the Blackberry smart phone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything just completely shut down and took away all my contacts and everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was not happy about it.
CHERNOFF: From 6:30 Eastern Time through the middle of the night for eight hours there was no e-mail and no messaging service on Blackberries, for the second time in a week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gets frustrating.
CHERNOFF: Online the pain was palpable. Why did Blackberry technology turn off? The maker of the Blackberry, Research in Motion, known as R.I.M., said it was a flaw in two recently released versions of Blackberry messenger that caused an unanticipated database issue. New software messed up the company's computer servers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People think of their Blackberry service as air, water or sunlight and they think it works like magic and it's 100% reliable. No computer is 100% reliable and this is just computers.
CHERNOFF: Blackberry e-mails and messages rely on a middle man, R.I.M. giant computer servers that transmit to a user's mobile phone carrier. A new version of Blackberry messenger had bugs that scrambled data in the server forcing a service outage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have an emotional attachment to their Blackberries and if they feel they're not working they feel blind or deaf like they lost one of their senses.
CHERNOFF: While an evening without Blackberry service was stressful for some, calmer heads saw it as a welcome return to simpler days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't get frustrated over a Blackberry, no. It's part of life.
CHERNOFF: It's especially helpful to keep this in perspective because technology experts say it's likely to happen again. Research in motion will upgrade their offerings which will have glitches sometimes. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
I want to bring in Nick Thompson, senior editor of Wired Magazine and he joins us from Boston. Nick, you know, I have my Blackberry here and I thought it was just me last night. I had no idea this was happening to everybody else and I thought I will have to go in tomorrow to IT and check this out and then I realized 2:25 when everything came in it was everybody it happened to. Are the Blackberries vulnerable because all the e-mails are processed through one system that comes out of Canada?
NICK THOMPSON, WIRED MAGAZINE: Right. And that's supposed to be what makes the Blackberry reliable. The proposition is that it's reliable and it works and for the businessman who needs to send e-mail and it is managed by research in motion. It's actually a real problem for their business, you know, idea, and the way they perceive themselves physical this keeps happening.
MALVEAUX: Anything they can do to change that so that somehow all of our e-mails aren't being processed through this one system?
THOMPSON: Well, you can make it more dispersed, you can make it so Research in Motion doesn't manage all the data applications on the Blackberry, but they're not going to do that. They've built this system this particular way. They think it has huge advantages and in general it has a very good record of reliability.
MALVEAUX: So could this happen again?
THOMPSON: Oh, it absolutely could happen again and I think that the people who sell iPhones will be jumping all over it. If you go and type in Blackberry outage there is an ad at the top that will try to sell you an iPhone.
MALVEAUX: I have an iPhone, as well, but I had problems last night.
THOMPSON: Different kind of problems.
MALVEAUX: You brought up the idea that people do business on this. We communicate and also defense. There's all kind of things that are now connected to this technology here. Is this a warning that perhaps if we rely on this one system that we could find ourselves in a lot of trouble just over one simple glitch?
THOMPSON: Well, I mean, you can make that argument and people have been saying, look, 500,000 government workers who use Blackberry s and if it goes down, we are too dependent on it. Reasons why you would want to have backup systems in place in case this were to happen again, certainly for people in extremely critical situations. If you have a job that requires you to have access to your Blackberry you should have access to two different services.
MALVEAUX: Nick we're going to talk to you about another subject. That is a webcam that only detects certain faces. It has the internet buzzing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White Wanda appears, the camera moves. Black Dezi gets in there, nope, no face recognition any more, buddy.
MALVEAUX: The viral video causing major embarrassment for computer giant Hewlett-Packard.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: The latest viral video on YouTube and the man behind it is making a surprising allegation. He says that Hewlett-Packard computers are racist. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My co-worker Wanda and I are sitting in front of an HP media smart computer, state of the art computer, wouldn't you say?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're using the face tracking software so it's supposed to follow me as I move. I'm black. I think my blackness is interfering with the computer's ability to follow me. As you can see, I do this and no following. Not really, not really following me. I back up, I get real close to try to let the camera recognize me, not happening. Now, my co-worker, Wanda, is about to slide in the frame. You immediately see what I'm talking about. Wanda, if you would, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, as you can see, the camera is panning to show Wanda's face, it's following her around but as soon as my blackness enters the frame, which I will sneak into the frame. I'm sneaking in, I'm sneaking in, I'm in there and there we go. It stopped. My hands are here, Wanda, please, get back in the frame. Get back in. As soon as white Wanda appears, the camera moves. Nope. No face recognition any more, buddy. The worst part is, I bought one for Christmas.
MALVEAUX: I want to bring back Nick Thompson senior editor of Wired Magazine. He brings a sense of humor to this when he talks about this issue. Clearly, you can see the difference in what's happening with this camera. What do you make of this? THOMPSON: Well, it's a fascinating video. I mean, the way the technology works is it looks for the lighting differential between the eyes, nose and cheekbones and apparently they didn't configure it right and in low light the Hewlett-Packard webcam can't track African Americans. Dezi has put out a very funny, telling video.
MALVEAUX: Hewlett-Packard put out this statement. "HP has been informed of a potential issue with facial tracking software consistent with other webcams proper foreground lighting is required for the product to effectively track any person and their movements. As with all our products, we continue to explore refinements which help to optimize their use." Is this a problem that can easily be fixed?
THOMPSON: Yes, this problem can be fixed. I know that Logitech makes webcams where this works in low lighting. HP will have this fixed very quickly. But it actually leads you to, big question here and we're beginning to get to facial recognition technology and a lot of people are afraid that the cameras going up in cities all over the world will track every person and where they go and what they're doing and what this shows is that that technology is really, really hard to do.
MALVEAUX: I think also, too, I mean, it strikes me that perhaps the folks who did the research maybe there was a lack of diversity and understanding, you know, different complexions of different people and how that would apply different with the technology. Have a diverse group of people recognize that. You covered the technology industry and you have for years. How much of a PR problem for Hewlett-Packard is this, do you think?
THOMPSON: Because the YouTube footage was made and it will not end up being a serious problem. They responded well and they responded clearly, kindly and haven't responded defensively. Critiques that computer industry is too white and the computer industry is very white it and it doesn't test all its products in the right way and legitimacy to that concern, but this is a storm that passes fairly quickly.
MALVEAUX: OK. Nick Thompson, thank you so much, appreciate your time.
THOMPSON: Thank you very much.
MALVEAUX: Want to go straight to Chad Myers who has breaking news here about a big weather event that is happening. Chad, what do you have for us?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know we get tornado warnings all the time. Most of them are just Doppler indicated and something's rotating on the radar. But this morning here near Long View, Texas, 80 and the loop, which is really on the east side of Longview, there's a report of a tornado on the ground by a hand rail operator and also by the airport personnel also looking at that tornado on the ground. If you're in Longview or any place to the northeast of Longview, you need to be taking cover now inside the buildings, away from the windows, a basement, if you have one, although most people there probably don't the way they build houses there but inside the smallest room of your house away from windows and glass. This will be over in about 15 minutes. But right now, this tornado is on the ground -- Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: OK Chad. Thank you so much for that warning.
Madonna talking candidly for the first time about her efforts to help an impoverished African country. She goes one-on-one with CNN.
Plus, a mixed race TV personality sparks a conversation exposing some disturbing prejudices in China.
MALVEAUX: Now in her 50s, Madonna is still the queen of pop and still pushing the boundaries, but the superstar has a new cause these days, one she says has changed her. Alina Cho is joining us with a look at the celebrities and philanthropies. Alina, it is a great series to watch and really interesting.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: You had a chance to talk to her one-on-one and what did you find out?
CHO: Yes you know, it was a really thrill for me, and a lot of people know, Suzanne, that Madonna adopted two children from the small African nation of Malawi but some thought she would never go back. Well guess what? They were wrong. She is now building a $15 million school for girls and for the first time, she is talking about it.
CHO: She is a woman who needs one name. So, you're Madonna.
MADONNA: No, I'm not.
CHO: Yes, you are. Madonna has spent most of her life being provocative, but these days nothing is more important than her children, two of them adopted from Malawi, a small African nation where more than half of the children are orphaned by AIDS. All of those orphans I mean a million ...
MADONNA: I would love to take them all home, yes, if I could.
CHO: Because she can't, and because she is a Madonna, she made a documentary about the country.
MADONNA: People always ask me why I chose Malawi and I tell them, I didn't. It chose me.
CHO: She also founded the charity "Raising Malawi" to help the orphans she can't bring home.
MADONNA: We found a lot of people sick and dying of HIV and with no medical help, and it just felt like a death camp. It was astonishing. On the other hand though, everybody I met was also very brave. It is a very confusing paradox.
CHO: Because Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa, and even though there is so much suffering, there is a great spirit of the people.
MADONNA: Yes, on the one hand I thought I have to help save these people, and I thought, wait a minute, they may be saving me.
CHO: Why do you say that?
MADONNA: Because they will help you to get an appreciation for life and for what you have.
CHO: A new appreciation for life and a new sense of responsibility. Her latest project, breaking ground on a $15 million boarding school. The "Raising Malawi Academy for Girls" is slated to open 2012
MADONNA: I never intended to go to Malawi and sort of dump a bunch of aid on people, and flee the country. It is not like that.
CHO: And every dollar for "Raising Malawi" and she will match it.
MADONNA: Match my dollar and I will match it or match my $100,000 and I will do it. I am like a cockroach, match my resiliency.
CHO: But it is helpful in philanthropy?
MADONNA: Yes, it is. You have to be pretty tireless.
CHO: Her tenacity was on display in 2006 when many people both in Malawi and around the world accused her of using her celebrity and money to buy an adoption. She won. David, now 4, calls Madonna, mom.
MADONNA: It seems that everything I do end up being controversial even when I don't mean them to be.
CHO: Does it hurt your feelings?
MADONNA: I don't know if it hurts my feelings, but think that sometimes, I am pretty prepared often for some of the things I say and do, and I know it will freak some people out, but other things like adopting a child who is about to die, I don't think I will get a hard time for and I do.
CHO: Yet Madonna says she will take the criticism if it means that one more child in Malawi gets to go to school, survive and thrive.
Do you ever get overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done, because you help one kid and 1,000 more are standing in line, and it can be overwhelming?
MADONNA: Yes, it can. And sometimes it will stop you dead in your tracks, and you think I can't do this, but then I see the success rate. I talk to the people in Malawi whose lives have been change and that helps me and keeps me going.
CHO: Many people asked why Malawi and a few years ago Madonna got a phone call from a woman who was born and raised there. She said, you are a celebrity with a voice, and please help us, because we are desperate. Madonna told her she didn't know where it was, and the woman hung up on her. Imagine that. So Madonna decided to go to Malawi herself and she was so moved by what she saw, Suzanne, she decided to do something about it.
Another thing we talked about is why an academy for girls and she said when she went to Malawi the first thing she noticed is that women were doing all of the work and they were the ones with the babies strapped to the back and raking all of the dirt, and she said, they were doing all of the work and yet no opportunities for them to be educated and she felt it was wrong, so that is why she felt to build a school.
MALVEAUX: Very interesting. Excellent story, Alina. Thank you.
A plane full of passengers are thankful to be alive. We have the details of that crash landing of an American Airlines jet.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: A reality TV show is sparking a debate in China and revealing some disturbing attitudes about race. CNN's Emily Chang has that story.
EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It started with the lure of the glitz and the glamour and the dream of being China's next pop star, but it had its consequences. She was born in Shanghai to a Chinese mother and an African father who she has never met.
Growing up with a single mom, 20 year old LoU Jing says she had a normal life and good friends and only rarely felt out of place.
LOU JING, TALENT SHOW STAR (through translator): Sometimes people on the street would say, why do you speak Chinese so well. I would say, because I'm Chinese.
When she stepped into the national spotlight on a Chinese reality show called "Go Oriental Angel," she got attention not because of to a talent. But because of how she looked. Hosts fondly called her chocolate girl and black pearl. The Chinese media fixated on her skin color. Angry netsans (ph) vented online saying she never should have been born and get out of China sparking a bitter debate about race.
In many respects China can be considered a very homogeneous society. More than 90% of the population is Han Chinese, and so people who look different stand out.
At first I tried a lot and then I became national gossip. Lou Jing's background became national gossip. Show producers convinced her mom to appear on air and the most private details of their life becoming painfully public. Lou Jing didn't ask me about her dad until she was 16, she told the audience and I cried and she never asked me again. But as the show went on, so did Lou Jing, listening to Beyonce, her favorite artist, hanging out with classmates and going to school.