Return to Transcripts main page


Abdulmutallab: Enemy Combatant or Criminal Defendant?; Interview With Reps. Harman, Hoekstra

Aired January 4, 2010 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: It's too bad that we have missed where the true source is. That's the leaders and CEOs in business. The tree of liberty could use the watering of the blood of our corporate tyrants."

Dwayne writes: "We're the only nation in the world that doesn't practice some kind of protectionism of its jobs. The stupid trade agreements of the last 30 years have destroyed the blue collar middle class."

And Ron in Clearwater, Florida writes: "Sometimes I could -- I wish we could just have a king -- no left, no right, no lobbyists, no arguing, no corruption -- just one honorable person who could straighten out the whole mess in a year."

If you want to read more on the subject -- we got a lot of good e-mail -- you can go to my blog at, where we post a couple hundred of them on each of these questions each and every day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

Stand by.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, enemy combatant or criminal defendant -- the Obama administration taking heat right now for deciding to try the Christmas Day bomb suspect in federal court -- why critics are outraged.

The bombing suspect is a Nigerian banker's son who took a path toward Muslim extremism.

We're going to take you to an outpost of radical Islam in Nigeria, where thousands are following the teachings of a militant cleric.

How far are they willing to go?

And a Taliban training base where children were taught to become suicide bombers -- that's what the Pakistani military calls it. We're taking you inside.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the Situation Room. The suspect in the botched airliner bombing is being treated as a criminal defendant, not as an alleged enemy combatant. That means a trial in federal court, with all its various legal protections, instead of interrogation by the U.S. military. The administration's decision on how to handle this case is already sparking lots of controversy.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us.

What are you finding out -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the suspect is now facing two federal charges, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A law enforcement official would not discuss with us today whether more charges might be brought against him, but there is a real controversy now over the fact that he's even in the civilian justice system.


TODD: (voice-over): He sits in a federal penitentiary in Milan, Michigan, charged by the U.S. government with attempting to destroy an aircraft. To some in Washington, that's the problem.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we had treated the Christmas Day bomber as a terrorist, he would have immediately been interrogated military-style rather given -- rather than given the rights of an American and lawyers. We've probably lost valuable information.

TODD: Another senator, Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman, calls it "a very serious mistake for the administration to place Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab under civilian criminal charges rather than treat him as an enemy combatant." Lieberman argues Abdulmutallab committed an act of war and should be interrogated like a military prisoner so another possibly imminent attack can be quickly prevented.

The president's top counter-terror adviser aggressively defends the decision to go the civilian route.


JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR COUNTER-TERRORISM ADVISER: We have great confidence in the FBI and other individuals in terms of debriefing. We have great confidence in our court system, so that we can use that to our advantage. And individuals in the past have, in fact, given us very valuable information as they've gone through the -- the plea of unit (ph) process.


TODD: Contacted by CNN, a U.S. law enforcement official would not say whether a plea bargain is being discussed for Abdulmutallab or not. Former White House Associate Counsel David Rivkin argues the problem with offering him a plea bargain is crucial time lost in setting it all up. (on camera): What could the military system produce that the civilian system could not produce in this case?

DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The short answer, it can produce things faster and better. Faster first, because you do not have access to counsel. You do not have Miranda warnings. You do not have people, in effect, telling him to clam up.

TODD: (voice-over): Rivkin says Abdulmutallab's lawyers could drag this process out for months while they strike a deal. The suspect has at least one public defender. The law enforcement official we spoke to would not say whether he's cooperating or if he was read his Miranda rights.

Eugene Fidell, who's tried several military and civilian cases, says the administration has made the right move.

EUGENE FIDELL, YALE LAW SCHOOL: Choosing a military forum rather than a civilian forum is not going to make any difference in terms of the speed with which you can extract information from a de -- from a suspect. In fact, the rules are going to be the same in both forums.


TODD: And there are indications that Abdulmutallab gave some information to U.S. officials very early on in this process. A law enforcement bulletin obtained by CNN the night of the attempted bombing says, "The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen, along with instructions as to when it should be used."

Wolf, on that very night, he spoke to someone -- some U.S. officials and gave some information.

BLITZER: Yes, but he was -- he was wounded. He had just been burnt in that incident.

TODD: True. That's true.

BLITZER: So we don't know how reliable that information was.

TODD: Absolutely. Right.

BLITZER: Given all the eyewitnesses that were aboard that plane, the forensic evidence, conviction probably is not going to be an issue. But getting intelligence quickly could be an issue.

TODD: That's the real issue here. That's why so many people are up in arms about the fact that he's in the civilian system. But the criminal conviction -- I mean you can cite examples. And John Brennan cited four examples and we'll give them to you here -- of -- of terrorist convictions in a U.S. civilian court -- the shoe bomber, Richard Reed, a case that has a lot of similarities to this case, obviously; 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; Iyman Faris, a former truck driver convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda for his role in a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge; and we all know the case of Jose Padilla. He was held as an enemy combatant for a while, then transferred into the civilian court system, convicted of conspiring to kill people in an overseas jihad and -- and also funding and supporting overseas terrorism.

Four key convictions there that U.S. Officials are now pointing to, saying this system works well.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

So should Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab have the same rights as an American citizen?

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, a former assistant U.S. attorney himself.

And looking back at this, should he be tried in a civilian court or as a mili -- as an enemy combatant?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Boy, it sure seems like the Obama administration made the right call here, mostly because military tribunals have not been used successfully in a terrorism case since World War II. This legal system is untried, it is unclear whether the Supreme Court or other federal courts will uphold any judgment in a military tribunal. That system is completely untested.

Whereas in the criminal justice system, the federal criminal courts, the district courts, we know how it works. Richard Reed, who committed an almost identical crime, was tried, entirely successfully. He pled guilty in 2003.

I don't understand why this situation isn't identical to the Reed case.

BLITZER: The argument being that actionable intelligence could be lost if you let some public defender, a criminal defense attorney get in, lawyer him up, he's not going to cooperate.

TOOBIN: Well, you can't torture someone, you can't interrogate someone against their will in a military tribunal case. I don't understand exactly what the critics think would happen that would be different. Presumably, we have learned that waterboarding is not a good idea. So they're not suggesting that.

But the differences in interrogation between the current conception of military tribunals and federal district court are not really that big. So I don't see what kind of advantage you would get in terms of interrogation. But you would have the big disadvantage of an unsat -- untested and uncertain legal future in -- in the military tribunal.

BLITZER: Now what about this notion of a plea bargain, that he could get a lighter sentence if he came clean, cooperated with federal authorities?

What do you think about that possibility? TOOBIN: Well, I -- I think it's a pretty remote possibility. This is a life in prison case. It can't be a death penalty, because, fortunately, no one died. He's not eligible for the death penalty.

But Richard Reed is serving life without parole. I -- I can't imagine this case will end any differently than that. So I don't think there is a lot of room for a plea bargain. You could talk about, you know, access -- whether he'd have access to family and see his relatives. But -- but, by and large, this case is not one that's going to be susceptible to plea bargaining. So I -- I don't think that's really going to figure in very prominently in this case.

BLITZER: We're now learning, Jeffrey, that there's going to be a hearing on Friday for Abdulmutallab to see whether he stays in jail or, presumably, is eligible for some sort of bail. And you're smiling.

TOOBIN: I'm smiling because I would say the chances of this gentleman getting out on bail are beyond remote. This is a routine practice. A certain number of days after someone is imprisoned in federal court, you are entitled to what's called a detention hearing, where you can raise the issue of bail.

But there is no chance in the world any judge in America will release this guy on bail. So this case -- this hearing on Friday, if it takes place at all, will be purely a formality.

BLITZER: A good point, Jeff, as -- as usual.

Thanks very much.


BLITZER: Jack is coming up next with The Cafferty File.

Stick around for that.

Also, it's the home of the man accused of trying to blow up that U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. It's also an outpost of radical Islam.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they attack our people -- our president...

If the attack or whatever they may be, we feel also attacked.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Who do you blame for causing Nigeria's problems?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States of America, which has interests in ours.


BLITZER: That growing threat brewing right now, Nigeria, we're digging deeper.

Also, a day in court for five Americans, accused of plotting terror in Pakistan. Details of what they told the judge. Stand by for that.

And we'll also take about the terror threat with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and ranking American, Congressman and Congresswoman Jane Harman and Peter Hoekstra.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back from vacation with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: You were off a couple weeks, as well, too.

BLITZER: I was. I had a good time.

CAFFERTY: All right. Good. Glad to have you back with us.

Politics might run in the blood in these here United States. Political dynasties have a long, colorful history -- families like the Adams, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, the Bushes, the Clintons. The newspaper, "The Hill," reports that the upcoming 2010 elections will be no exception, with the offspring of some well-known politicians trying to follow their relatives into power.

This is depressing.

Experts suggest if you have a famous and beloved name, it's "an advantage you don't want to throw away."

Now, some of the potential political dynasties in the making include these.

Rory Reid -- that would be the son of the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. Rory wants to be governor of Nevada. In this case, though, the name could be a liability. His dad is facing a tough reelection battle -- and, in fact, it's a pretty good bet he's going to lose. And his poll numbers are awful, which is probably why there are no scheduled events for the two Reids during the campaign where they'll appear together.

Rand Paul, the son of congressman and former presidential candidate, Ron Paul, is running for the Republican nomination for Kentucky's Senate seat.

Robin Carnahan running to replace Kit Bond in the U.S. Senate from Missouri. Her father was the late Democratic governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, and her mother, Jean, you may recall, served in the Senate, as well.

Others include Ethan Hastert, the son of former Republican House speaker, Denny Hastert, who's running for his father's old seat; Jason Carter, the grandson of the former president; and Beau Biden, son of the vice president. Biden hasn't said yet if he'll run for the father's old Senate seat in Delaware.

So here's the question -- are political dynasties good for the United States?

The answer is, absolutely not. But you can put in your own answer. Go to and post a comment on my blog.

You know, these things become almost a -- a rite of passage in some of these families. If you grow up with a certain name, it's just expected you'll be elected to Congress, the Senate, whatever.

BLITZER: Or president, for that matter.

CAFFERTY: Or president.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Thanks very much, Jack.


BLITZER: The suspect in that failed Christmas Day airliner bombing is a Nigerian banker's son who took a path toward Muslim extremism.

In Nigeria, CNN's Christian Purefoy found there is no shortage of those who share such views


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An outpost of radical Islam in Northern Nigeria -- these young men are among thousands of followers of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, one of the Nigeria's most militants clerics, who lives just an hour from the family home of terror bomb suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

In a rare interview with CNN, he expressed his grievances against America.

IBRAHEEM EL-ZAKZAKY, ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF NIGERIA (through translator): We feel -- we feel, also, we are attacked.

PUREFOY (on camera): Who do you blame for causing Nigeria's problems?

EL-ZAKZAKY (through translator): The United States of America, which has interests in oil.

PUREFOY (voice-over): Nigeria is the world's fifth largest oil exporter to America. But even so, 70 percent of its people live on less than a dollar a day. With promises of social support, El- Zakzaky's call for an Islamic revolution in Nigeria is appealing to many young Nigerians. It's not known how many Islamic sects there are, but with similar ideals to El-Zakzaky, they are often at odds with the Nigerian authorities. Police accuse El-Zakzaky of storing weapons at this camp, but have never found any here. Last year, there was a huge government crackdown against Islamic camps like this across the north of the country. The worst was when one sect Boko Haram, rose up against what they called the introduction of Western education and nearly 1,000 people died.

The sects use schools, as well as street protests, to spread their radical influence.

(on camera): If someone gave him a bomb and asked him to detonate it on a plane over America, would he do that?

INUWA YUNUS, STUDENT (through translator): If they told you they provoked me, they killed my brothers, they maimed my people, well, it's allowed for you to retaliate -- to fight back. That is, if you can. But me personally, I don't have the mind to do such a thing. I do not have the mind to kill myself.


PUREFOY: At another local school, local Muslim activists meet with Abdulmutallab's neighbors to try and counter what they see as a growing radicalization of the north.

AHMED: That terrorist activity can occur from the smallest part of the community. So our intention is to tell them the dangers of what transpired and for them to desist from such kind of thinking or attitude.

PUREFOY (voice-over): No sect has publicly expressed any desire to attack the West. However, warns the president of the Civil Rights Congress, such radical ideas provide an ideal breeding ground for more extreme foreign influences.

SHEHU SANI, PRESIDENT, CIVIL RIGHTS CONGRESS: And we have six groups and individuals here who have very strong views against the West and in solidarity with issues and events happening in the Middle East and other places. But they may not have the opportunity and the resources of taking their own views to the next level.

PUREFOY: With this nation's first homegrown suicide bomb suspect now awaiting prosecution in the United States, the local grievances in Northern Nigeria cannot be dismissed as mere talk anymore.


PUREFOY: It's highly unlikely, Wolf, that Abdulmutallab would have met any of these people living behind high walls with barbed wire at the family home behind me. But all of this mix of radicalism and religion was going on and is going on in the know just outside his gates.

This is the backdrop to which Abdulmutallab would have grown up -- Wolf. BLITZER: Christian Purefoy, our man on the scene in Nigeria for us.

A good report.

Five young American men accused of plotting terror in Pakistan -- now a critical new development in their case. Stand by for that.

Plus, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, he's just back from Yemen. We'll talk about the terror threat, along with Congresswoman Jane Harman. She's the chairman of the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's going on?

NGUYEN: Hey, there, Wolf.

Well, stocks kicked off the new year with a bang. The Dow rallied 156 points after a manufacturing report pointed to a strengthening global comony -- economy, I should say. Well, a U.S. trade group said manufacturing activity grew last month at the fastest pace in more than three years. However, the news was not all good. Construction spending fell more than expected in November. The 0.6 percent drop was the seventh straight month that spending on both residential and commercial projects declined. Spending on housing fell the most since June.

You've got to check this out -- this video of a train that crashes into a hotel in Finland's capital. Look at that. The train was empty at the time, thankfully. But amazingly, only a driver on board was injured. The train's brakes apparently failed and it smashed through a concrete barrier before ending up in a hallway of the Helsinki Holiday Inn -- next to a train station, of course.

Well, the bone-chilling cold being felt across much of the nation today is expected to last all week and may even get worse. It was minus seven in Minnesota this morning and just 14 degrees in parts of South Carolina. Freeze warnings extended all the way down to South Florida. And in the Northeast, more heavy snow on the way. Vermont already -- get this -- has seen a record 33 inches of snow.

Now it's cold here in Atlanta, but I am not going to complain, because we are not digging out from under that white stuff -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's cold here in Washington, DC, as well. All right -- but at least no snow right now.

NGUYEN: That's true. Stay warm.

BLITZER: It's still early.

All right, thanks. Five young Americans suspected of planning terror attacks appeared in a Pakistani court today. Police have been given two weeks to prepare their case for charging the five.

CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us from Islamabad.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those five Americans have now been transferred from police custody to a jail following proceedings in Sargodha's anti-terrorism court. A sixth man who was detained along with them and is, in fact, the father of one of the young men, has been released for lack of evidence.

Now, the chief of police, who also heads up the investigation, says that they will be charged with communicating and meeting with banned militant groups.


CHIEF USMAN ANWAR, SARGODHA POLICE: They were sending and receiving e-mails outside Pakistan and inside Pakistan with a group of people who are operating in the tribal region of Pakistan and they had offered themselves and their services and their lives to those.


DAMON: The police chief says that the five have been confident and unapologetic throughout this entire process, saying that they have gone so far as to try to convince investigators -- their interrogators -- to join them on jihad. He said that the five were found with Google maps of the areas where some of Pakistan's nuclear facilities are located, incriminating e-mails and jihadi literature.

The police believe that the five were fully intending to carry out an act of terror in Pakistan, although their defense lawyer says that they were heading to Afghanistan with no underlying motive to carry out an act of terror.

Police, however, are not buying into that concept, because they say that the militant group that the five was in touch with does not have any ties to Afghanistan, but, rather, operates in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The five are due back in court on January 18th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Arwa.

Thank you.

Arwa is in Islamabad watching this story for us.

The botched airliner bombing raising some fresh concerns about Yemen. Congressman Pete Hoekstra -- he's just back from Yemen. I'll speak with him and Congresswoman Jane Harman. They're both standing by live.

And Guantanamo detainees released and allowed to return to Yemen. Some have returned to terrorism. I'll speak about that with an attorney who's represented some of those Yemeni detainees.

And President Obama -- he's now back at the White House after a homecoming trip to Hawaii. That trip brought back some memories from some of his old pals. They're going to share them with us.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in the Situation Room.

Happening now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks publicly for the first time about the failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas. What she says the State Department is not satisfied about. Stand by.

And it's just gotten much tougher to get on an airplane now, as more names are added to the terror watch list and the no fly list. We're going to tell you about major new steps being taken to prevent terror attacks.

And is it possible there was a third party crasher at that White House state dinner last year?

What the Secret Service is now saying after the Salahi security breach.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Is the United States looking at a new front in the war against terrorism?

After the failed airliner bombing plot, there are now new concerns about Al Qaeda finding a -- a real haven in Yemen.

Joining us now from Los Angeles, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of the Homeland Security Committee.

And joining us from Grand Rapids in Michigan, Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra of the Intelligence Committee. He's just back from Yemen.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

What's the most important thing, Congressman Hoekstra, you learned in Yemen?

REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: Well, I think the most important thing is exactly what the president has identified -- Yemen is a new front in this threat from al Qaeda. The al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula is a real threat. And I think the other thing that we learned is that the detainees that were released from GITMO are kind of the core group of the al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula and they, along with Awlaki, the American-born radical imam, have kind of made as a priority for al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula attacking the United States of America. BLITZER: Is it time, Congresswoman Harman, for the U.S. to sent troops to Yemen as the U.S. has gone in Afghanistan, for example?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA), HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE.: No, I don't think so, but we have ratcheted up our cooperative arrangement with a very weak Yemeni government. I tried to go to Yemen also in November, but because my itinerary changed at the last minute, they did not welcome the visit of me and several other members of Congress. I'm glad that Peter got to see it.

Peter and I have traveled to all the garden spots like the tribal areas of Pakistan and Syria and I think he was on the North Korea trip and Libya over the years. It is impressive to see what our intelligence community and particularly the CIA does abroad. I want to send my condolences again to the families of the seven CIA agents who were blow up by a suicide bomber in east Afghanistan.

But let me say about Yemen. I agree that, and as I put it, Yemen is the new Fatah, it is the new -- another new dangerous ungoverned area for al Qaeda and other terror groups. That does not mean all our attention has to be focused there, because al Qaeda is a global threat. It's a different threat from 9/11. It's not a top down organization anymore. We've decapitated a lot of its top leadership, but it is equally dangerous and it is trying to recruit Americans as well. So yes, our attention has to be paid to al Qaeda and to Yemen.

BLITZER: Fatah being that area in Pakistan, the federally administered territory where al Qaeda, the Taliban, have established a significant base. Congressman Hoekstra, have you been briefed by the Obama administration about what's going on since that failed airliner attack on Christmas day?

HOEKSTRA: We've had a couple briefings since that time. I had one in Washington, D.C., and then obviously of course when I was in Yemen. I will tell you, Wolf, that I don't believe that the administration has been as open with Congress and briefing us either on what happened in Detroit, but more importantly they haven't been as open with us as what I'd like on Ft. Hood. We really have not had any briefings on Ft. Hood since that tragic occurrence almost two months ago. That also had ties to Yemen, it has ties to Awlaki. I think that we need to be able to get the full picture.

I think as you listen to the dialogue between Jane and I, the hopeful thing for America is even though as individuals we may - individual policies we may have differences of agreement, but on foreign policy, we find ways to work together and to get things done and do it in a nonpartisan way, because in fighting al Qaeda in this new threat in Yemen, we need to do this together, Republicans and Democrats, and working with the white house.

BLITZER: Jane Harman, we just got a picture in of the president meeting with his counterterrorism adviser, there you see John Brennan, 25 years in the CIA, a career professional. Do you agree with Congressman Hoekstra that the administration is not briefing you adequately? HARMAN: No, I don't. In fact, I'm surprised to hear Peter say that. I've been in classified briefings since Ft. Hood by the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center and other groups, and I remember bipartisan attendance at those briefings. I'm not sure whether Peter was there. I haven't been in Washington since the Christmas bomb plot, so I haven't had the classified briefing, but I sure have had conversations with key administration officials by phone. I know I'm not the only person and I know it's not Democrats only who have been briefed. I'm aware, for example, that Senator Susan Collins has had briefings since that. So I don't think so.

I also want to commend the president for ratcheting up actions against al Qaeda on his watch in the last year, and I think that we have foiled a lot of important plots. Obviously this one we didn't foil. Kudos to the passengers on that plane for stopping the plot, but an engaged citizenry will always be part of our arsenal. I'm glad they were aware of what was happening, but, for example, the Zazi plot in Colorado and New York was foiled. The Headley plot in Illinois was foiled and I just heard on your broadcast, Wolf, that the five folks from Virginia, who were perhaps planning to carry out attacks in Pakistan on Pakistan as part of a Taliban plot have been arrested there, and I'm sure we're cooperating there. So we've had successes, Peter knows this, and I want to commend or intelligence community for trying to get it right.

BLITZER: Congressman, we don't have a lot of time but I've got to ask you this question, because you know you're being slammed by a lot of Democrats, even some others, for using this issue, the Obama administration's record in fighting terrorism, for fund-raising. You want to get the Republican nomination to be the next governor of Michigan. Looking back on that letter you sent out seeking funds, was that a mistake, you think, so quickly after this incident?

HOEKSTRA: Well, it's kind of interesting, Wolf, you're right, they're slamming me. They don't like where I've taken them on policy, but if you look at the president's own campaign website, use on one side it's the president talking about national security. Right next to it, it says "Donate now." What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If they think I did something wrong, then the president is doing the same thing. You know, I think. Let's talk about the policy here. There are major policy differences that I think we can work through together in a bipartisan way, we need to focus on the policy, we can do it and the American people expect us to work through this.

HARMAN: Wolf, can I comment on that?


HARMAN: Well, Peter, let me just say to you, this is your friend Jane talking to, we have worked on a bipartisan basis for years, I didn't know anything about this letter until I heard about it on a news broadcast. I have it in front of me, you talk about the brazen and naive pledge to close Guantanamo Bay, as one you've worked with, I think if we really want to do counterterrorism right, we have to eliminate one of al Qaeda's top recruiting tools, that's Guantanamo Bay. I think we need to close it, as the president has promised, and I think we carefully need to evaluate where all the detainees go. I'm against sending them back to Yemen.

HOEKSTRA: As we've talked about, Gitmo is one of the policy areas where you and I disagree. I don't believe bringing these people to the United States will lessen the recruiting tool by changing the zip code from Guantanamo Cuba to either Michigan or to Illinois. If you go to the al Qaeda website or if you go to Awlaki's website, he doesn't talk about Gitmo, but other things he's using to recruit radical jihadists.

HARMAN: Gitmo has used worldwide, as you know, as a recruiting tool for those who would harm us and it doesn't have a zip code. It's outside the reach of U.S. law. We never had a careful legal framework around how to detain and interrogate people. Now I hope we will get one. I'm not talking about everyone coming to the U.S., but I'm saying that anyone who goes to Yemen has to be detained and kept in custody, which the six people sent by this administration, have been. So I think it is appropriate to consider moving all the activities at Gitmo under the rule of law. I think that that projects our values, and I think --

BLITZER: But Congresswoman, you don't want to send some of those detainees who are Yemenis back to Yemen, do you?

HARMAN: Not now. I've read that John Brennan wants to reserve the right to do it at some point. I agree with that, but I want to note that the six Yemeni detainees sent during the Obama administration are in custody in Yemen under careful agreement that we have struck and they are not on the loose and not organizing.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But Congressman Hoekstra, you think it was a blunder by the Bush administration to send some of those detainees to Saudi Arabia or Yemen? It's because some have become leader of al Qaeda in Yemen.

HOEKSTRA: I think it's an ill-advised strategy for the Bush administration to have sent them back. I think sending the six back a couple weeks ago was also a mistake. Jane said it in the beginning. They have no authority. Some of these may have been -- my expectation is they will find their way to the battlefield. The president should release the studies, the detailed studies that have been completed by the military on the recidivism rate to how many people we have released under the Bush administration and the Obama administration have found their way back on the battlefield. I think that we would all find those numbers to be of great concern.

BLITZER: We're going to have a major discussion in the next hour with a lawyer who represents many of those Yemeni detainees still at Guantanamo. Congresswoman Harman, thank you, and Congressman Hoekstra, we're glad you're back safe and sound from Yemen. Thank for you joining us as well.

It's a controversial ban that kept thousands of people with HIV out of the United States. Now the ban is lifted.

Also, two of the most powerful men in the world hit the slopes, but there's more to this ski vacation than meets the eye. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Betty, what's going on?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. The U.S. has lifted a more than two-decade travel ban for people who are HIV- positive. Foreign nationals with the virus previously had to obtain a special waiver to get a short-term visa to visit the United States. The end of the ban follows a U.S. ruling in November removing HIV infection from the definition of communicable disease of public health significance.

The former Mississippi prosecutor hailed as a hero for winning a conviction in the infamous Medgar Evers murder case has landed himself behind bars. Bobby DeLaughter who went onto become a judge is serving an 18-month sentence. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a judicial bribery probe. His hip triggered the reopening of dozen of civil rights cold cases.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin hit the slopes together. They spent part of the holiday skiing and snow mobiling together at a Russian resort where the 2014 winter Olympics will be held. The Russian government plans to spend more than $33 billion on preparations for the games. It looked like they did pretty good on the slopes.

BLITZER: Yeah, that's a lot of money in Russia or anywhere else. These guys like snow. Thank you, Betty.

A Taliban training base where children were allegedly taught to become suicide bombers. We're taking you inside.

We'll also take you to what's now the world's tallest building. It towers half a mile high, and it's in Dubai.


BLITZER: For many viewers, it was here in the United States and then in Asia, now Dubai is home of the world's tallest building. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is there.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It reaches half a mile into the sky, 168 stories making it the tallest structure on earth. Today, after six years, $1.5 billion, and a last-minute name change, the Burj Dubai, now the Burj Khalifa is open for business. During a glitzy celebration Monday night, the full sculpt of the Burj was finally revealed. It's an astonishing feat of engineering. The architects say it's inspired by the shape of a desert flower. Built in the shape of a letter "y," its elevators can travel 1600 feet in two minutes and its twice the height of New York's famous Empire State Building, the temperature in Celsius at the top is up to ten degrees cooler than at the bottom. It boasts 828 meters worth of luxury apartments and offices, four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani. It will also have the most elevated place of worship in the world, with a plan for a mosque on the 158th floor.

MOHAMED ALABBAR, CHAIRMAN, EMAAR PROPERTIES: It's a reflection of the people who live in the city, it's a reflection of the environment in this city, that's optimistic, that's happy, that's cheerful. It's also a reflection of the leadership and the attitude that the leadership have here, which is yes, it can be done.

JAMJOOM: But Dubai tries to focus on the Burj, the debt crisis is making headlines around the world. In November Dubai shocked investors when it asked for a freeze on payments toward its $26 billion debt, then took a $10 billion bailout from its neighbor Abu Dhabi. Dubai will likely survive its financial woes and the developer of Burj Dubai is confident his investment will pay off.

ALABBAR: There's a life to live and there's activities to be done, and, you know, the slowdown has been here with us for over 15 months. You know, we expect that we should be on the way back to, you know, gradual growth and gradual activities.

JAMJOOM: Perhaps the Burj will provide the jump-start this so desperately need. The developer says the building is already 90 percent sold.

Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN, Dubai.


BLITZER: And the Burj Dubai as Mohammed just said, it's now called the Burj Khalifa, reaches half a mile into the sky at more than 160 stories, almost 2,625 feet, about the length of eight football fields. It towers over many other buildings that were once the world's tallest -- in fact, the Burj Khalifa is twice as tall, twice as tall as the Empire State Building. That's tall.

Children trained to become suicide bombers. We go inside a training center, where kids as young as 12 are being brainwashed with promises of a false paradise.

And the Cafferty File right after the break.


BLITZER: Let's go to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is -- are political dynasties good for the United States? They date back to the 1700s with John Adams and that crew.

Mike in New York writes, "Dynasties create a sense of entitlement. Remember the recent mess when Carolyn Kennedy was campaigning to be appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat? There was expectation that even with no qualifications, the name was qualification enough. It seems rarely the talent gets transferred in the genetic crapshoot."

Gigi from Minneapolis, "Having a famous name isn't going to insure a seat in the Senate and Congress. Hubert Humphrey's son and grandson have both tried. I see nothing wrong with running if they are qualified."

Robert writes, "Every time I hear the word Jeb, I have a panic attack."

Dennis in Ohio says, "Come on Jack. You know it's good for the country. The siblings don't have to waste time getting to know important contacts. They can go straight to work pleasing rich powerbrokers."

Omar writes, "It is true in a democratic nation such as ours political dynasties shouldn't exist but in certain cases such as the Kennedys, some families have the power to change our country and the world for the better."

Al says, "We are a nation of political inbreeding. Look at where that's gotten us. We have to stop it."

Sam in Iowa, "Why not? At least they know the ropes."

Paul writes, "No, they are the anti-thesis of the ideas of America. America was built on not having a monarchy. Having family political dynasties only breeds incompetence, stagnation, decline and corruption."

Tom in Iowa says, "Dynasties are fine as long as the name involved isn't Bush or Palin."

If you'd like to read more go to my blog at While away the rest of the evening there. Wolf?

BLITZER: I will do that, indeed. It's cold in Washington, Jack.

CAFFERTY: It's cold here, too.

BLITZER: I know. Read the Cafferty file.

CAFFERTY: Global warming, you know.

BLITZER: Do it on a cold night.

Training kids to kill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The children were told that images like this awaited them in heaven. Here, for example, we are told is a river that symbolizes milk and honey. On its banks, virgins and heavenly creatures.

BLITZER: We go inside a school where children are brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A chilling discovery on the front lines in Pakistan. A Taliban training camp where children were shown images of paradise and allegedly taught to be suicide bombers. CNN's Arwa Damon has the story from Pakistan.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when the Pakistani military entered South Waziristan they knew the Taliban had been exerting a regime of terror but what they found defied even their expectations.


DAMON: Only a 15-minute drive from a base, the Pakistani military says children were being trained to become suicide bombers. After three days of fierce fighting the Pakistani military took over this compound. They say that they knew it was a training facility of sorts for suicide bombers. They suspected maybe children were involved. What they didn't know or realize was the level of indoctrination. The military says it learned that the Taliban used this compound to brainwash children as young as 12 years old. The children were told images like this awaited them in heaven. Here, for example, we are told is a river that symbolizes milk and honey. On its banks, virgins and heavenly creatures. Zahid Hussain has been studying the Taliban for decades.

ZAHID HUSSAIN, TALIBAN EXPERT: I have never seen this elaborate painting of so-called heaven.

DAMON: These images easily able to captivate the minds of children. They grow up in poverty surrounded by a harsh landscape with no exposure to the outside world making them easily manipulated.

HUSSAIN: They tell them, look, life is based here. If you do good things then you will die and go to heaven immediately. For a person who does not have anything to look forward to then obviously this comes as a big incentive.

DAMON: He says it's a distortion of Islam but one that the children believe.

HUSSAIN: They also believe all the Muslims who are killed in suicide bombing will also go to heaven. That is a powerful instrument of brainwashing.

DAMON: The Taliban denies the compound was under their control but says they are actively training children from Pakistan, Afghanistan, central Asia and the Middle East to be suicide bombers. The military says parents sent their children to this center for free food and religious education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they brought them here the students were confined to the location. They were kept in rooms with the photographs of heaven in there. They were not allowed to intermingle with the local population, go to bazaar or anywhere else.

DAMON: This compound housed an estimated 200 to 300 children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were taught in weapons handling and preparing of suicide jackets.

DAMON: The military says the children are now fighting on the front line or dead, having carried out their mission.

HUSSAIN: Almost 90 percent of the suicide bombers, if you look at the profiles, they are between the age of 12 to 18.

DAMON: Innocent children turned into cold-blooded killers, believing it's their only escape from a hopeless life.


DAMON: Analysts say the war on terror also has to be a war on poverty with a focus on education to prevent children and even adults from being manipulated by terrorists. Wolf?

BLITZER: Arwa Damon, thank you.