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Yemen Steps Up Fight Against Al Qaeda; Dick Cheney's Daughter Slams Obama for Weakening American Security
Aired January 6, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Yemen stepping up its actions against Al Qaeda after the failed airliner bombing linked to extremists in Yemen. But it says it won't allow direction American intervention. We're going live to Yemen.
And new details about the double agent who killed eight people at a CIA base in Afghanistan. We'll hear from the bomber's relatives in Jordan, who say they were stunned by his actions.
And Dick Cheney's daughter slams President Obama, saying he's weakened American security. Democratic strategist James Carville -- he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's standing by live to assess.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Security forces in Yemen are hunting for a suspected Al Qaeda leader thought to be behind a threatened attack that forced this week's U.S. and British embassies to close. Yemen says it has stepped up such operations since the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing tied to extremists in that country.
But Yemen's -- Yemen's foreign minister says his country won't accept direct American intervention in the fight against Al Qaeda.
CNN's international security correspondent, Paula Newton, is now in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a -- Paula, you're -- you're there. This is not your first time to Yemen. Compare what you're seeing now to what you saw back in 2008.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Not much has changed. Two things that you notice right away, Wolf, and that is the grinding poveter -- poverty. And you can see how this place can become a sanctuary for terrorism, also because there are huge swaths of this territory that aren't even controlled by the government, Wolf.
And what does that remind you of?
You know, it sends a chill up my spine every time I fly into this country, Wolf. It looks so much like Afghanistan from the air. And when you speak to experts here on the ground and when I speak to the young people here on the streets, it's clear -- if Al Qaeda wants to hide out here right now, they can.
BLITZER: There's also this notion that the U.S. Embassy, which was closed for a couple days, the British embassy, as well, it's now reopened. But this would -- if there is an attack against the U.S. Embassy, it would not be the first time. There was another attack not that long ago.
NEWTON: I was here, Wolf, just two months before the 2008 bombing of the U.S. Embassy. And I can't see that much difference with security. Yes, you've got those security forces, Yemeni, outside of those embassies. The apparatus is in place, Wolf. But what I don't see is the fact that they're able to actually operationalize that outside the embassies. It still seems quite LAX to me -- the checkpoints not what they could be. And I'm sure that's what's unsettling officials in this city. I've spoken to a few ambassadors now who tell me that while they're not getting more specific threat information from the government and they're grateful for that, they're still pretty much on edge about the security situation.
BLITZER: Paula, how are you treated as a Westerner in Yemen?
NEWTON: Well, you know, Wolf, as I just said, an incredibly poor country. This is a deeply religious country. As a Westerner, a woman, I don't really stand out all that much. I shouldn't, anyway, from the way I look. But immediately I get stared at. A lot of that, Wolf, is because you don't really see a lot of women in the streets here and most of them are usually covered up.
The problem here -- and this is something that government officials have confided in me -- this religious conservatism that has thrived here in the last 20 years has changed the culture. And, really, when you're dealing with the kind of poverty -- this is the poorest nation in the Middle East. It's running out of water, Wolf. It might run out of water in -- within five years. A lot of challenges on the table here for the Yemeni government. The Obama administration really keeping a close eye on how things develop here.
BLITZER: Do you take that scarf, Paula, and cover your hair when you're walking around the streets there?
NEWTON: I do. And it doesn't do me much good. You pretty much have to be covered from head to toe, you know, in a burka to not stand out. And, luckily, me not having blue eyes, when I choose to wear that, I don't stand out. But that's not -- you can't say that for the crews that are around us. Believe me, there are many tourists here, I have to tell you, who do walk around freely. And they'll tell you that they meet many Yemenis who are very nice and welcoming to them.
The problem, though, is still that, in terms of trying to relate to what these people are going through here, it is very difficult to try and understand things here on the ground.
BLITZER: Be careful over there, Paula. We'll check back with you tomorrow. We'll check back with you every day.
Thanks for your reporting.
One of our courageous journalists, Paula Newton, on the scene for us in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a. There are only a handful of Western journalists there. We're happy that Paula is there for us.
For better or worse, the U.S. government has forged some unusual partnerships in its war against terrorist -- terrorists. Now a lot of questions are being raised about Yemen's president and how far he's prepared to go to help America's interests.
Our Brian Todd is looking into that.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with possible connections to the airline terror plot and the resurgence of al Qaeda there, Yemen is again a key battleground in the war on terror. The United States is devoting more and more resources to helping the Yemeni government fight al Qaeda. And part of that means managing a very complicated relationship with that nation's leader.
TODD: (voice-over): He says that ruling his own country is like dancing on the heads of snakes and he has perhaps the most fragile hold on power of anyone who's governed for so long. Since 1977, Ali Abdullah Salih has used his political savvy -- and sometimes force -- to maintain his leadership in Yemen. He's now one of the most important players in the Middle East for the United States -- launching a major campaign against an Al Qaeda affiliate that's taken hold in his country.
Analysts and former officials who've dealt with him say he's never been a completely reliable partner. But they say America and its allies are stuck with him.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: While, President Salih, dealing with him can be very frustrating and his policies on terrorism can be inconsistent, there are no good alternatives.
TODD: As a top counter-terror adviser to President Bush, Fran Townsend, now a CNN contributor, had several important and often tense meetings with Salih. As Townsend points out, he's often talked commitment...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM NOVEMBER 2005)
PRES. ALI ABDULLAH SALIH, YEMEN: Terrorism is damaging our image. It's damaging our reputation. It's damaging our economic interests. So we are going ahead to combat terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: But getting Salih to keep his word on that front, Townsend says, was often very difficult. She points to the aftermath of the USS Cole bombing, when some profit the plotters were convicted, only to be released later.
(on camera): Since your dealings with him, has he made the strides in the fight against al Qaeda that would satisfy American leaders?
Where are we now on this?
TOWNSEND: I don't -- I don't think, by any administration's standards, he's succeeded in the fight against al Qaeda. The good news is I think President Salih now knows that he's losing the fight against al Qaeda.
TODD: Analysts say Salih has had to balance the fight against terror with his own survival, fending off rebellions in Northern and Southern Yemen, keeping his grip, they say, by placing family members and some hard-line Islamists in key government posts -- a claim he's repeatedly denied. Experts say Salih has also gone to great lengths to placate the interests of Yemen's powerful tribes.
VICTORIA CLARK, AUTHOR: He's known to be extremely charming. He's got a lovely common touch. His command of the genealogy of all the country's tribes is unsurpassed. He knows everybody.
TODD: But many of those tribes, analysts say, are sympathetic to Al Qaeda and by pacifying them, he's allowed the terrorist group to flourish in his country.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Contacted by CNN to respond those criticisms, officials here at the Yemeni embassy told us their government sometimes has to use tribes to maintain order on the ground. They say combating Al Qaeda is President Salih's number one priority. As one official put it, their country has been fighting the war on terror since 1992 and the Yemenis, he says, are the ones losing blood on the ground -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd here in Washington.
He's at the Yemeni embassy.
Jack Cafferty will have The Cafferty File in just a moment.
Also, he was a doctor, a double agent and a suicide bomber -- now his family is speaking out about the attack that killed him and seven CIA operatives.
Plus, details of critical changes in airline watch lists and no fly lists in the wake of the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner.
And are U.S. defenses up to the task of stopping a future terror attack?
Jeanne Meserve spoke with the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, today. Her interview, coming up.
BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: In light of that botched Christmas Day terror attack against the airliner flying in Detroit, some are suggesting that the time has come for heads to roll in the Obama administration.
Quite a few fingers are pointed at Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. For one thing, she couldn't wait to utter that inane comment, "the system worked," right after someone tried to blow that airplane out of the sky. She later clarified her remarks, but the damage had already been done.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl, from Napolitano's home state of Arizona, told reporters he no longer feels totally safe with his former governor in charge of homeland security. Senator Kyl said this with Arizona's other senator, John McCain, by his side. Quite a different tune from last year, when both Republicans cheered her nomination.
Other Republicans are actually calling for the secretary's resignation.
Defenders of Napolitano say that it's one of the tougher jobs in government, managing 20 plus agencies and a nearly $50 billion budget.
But there is precious little in Janet Napolitano's background that qualifies her to be in charge of homeland security. At the end of the day, the buck stops at the top. It's one thing for President Obama to express righteous indignation, which he did yesterday; quite another, though, to lead by example. This president's already developing a reputation for being indecisive, wishy-washy, governing by consensus, etc. This is a perfect chance for him to break out of that mold.
Besides, if he canned Napolitano, it would likely get a lot of other people's attention inside the government.
So here's the question -- in the wake of the latest attempted terror attack, should Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano be fired?
Go for CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A good question.
We'll see what the viewers think about that.
Jack, thank you. We're learning more about the suicide bomber who killed seven Americans and a Jordanian intelligence officer at a CIA base in Afghanistan. The bomber was a double agent, the Jordanian doctor recruited as a counter-terrorism source. The man's relatives are stunned by his actions. They've been talking to senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who's joining us live from Jordan -- Nic, you're in Amman. You've had a chance to get some background on this doctor -- highly educated, a double agent and a suicide bomber.
What are they saying?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what's really interesting here, Wolf, is his family says that the conflict in Gaza last year is really what radicalized him. And he signed up with a group of other doctors here in Amman to go and offer their services to the people of Gaza.
The intelligence officers here in Amman questioned him, according to the family. And then he told the family he was going away to Turkey. Now, that was the last the family saw of him.
A well-placed source here in Jordan familiar with the investigation told us that, in fact, he had been questioned about some radical Internet postings and that he told them he had gone off to Pakistan.
But when I met with his father earlier today, his father seemed unsure of what information to believe at the moment.
(SPEAKING IN ARABIC)
ROBERTSON: Sorry to hear about your son.
ROBERTSON: You're going to go to pray?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I will pray. I...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will go to pray for the mosque.
ROBERTSON: What can you tell us about your son?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, no comment.
ROBERTSON: Why not, no comment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing sure.
ROBERTSON: You don't know for sure?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No sure. ROBERTSON: Asalam alakum, sir. Sorry.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROBERTSON: Well, he -- I also talked to his -- I also talked to his brother. And his brother told me that the father had taken a phone call in the early hours after that bombing and it was somebody, he said, calling from Afghanistan in a broken Arabic voice, who told him, "Your son is dead. He's died a hero in an operation against a CIA base."
He said, "We know that's going to make problems for you, the family, but you're just going to have to deal with it."
I asked the -- the brother if he thought it was Al Qaeda or not. He said he wasn't sure. But it was very clear to the family this was somebody very close to the operation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is this doctor, was he vouched for by Jordanian intelligence?
Did your -- the government of Jordan, through its intelligence service, did they tell the CIA this guy was legit?
ROBERTSON: This is what we're being told by a well-placed source here, Wolf. What we're being told is that after he went to Pakistan, he then sent e-mails to the Jordanian government indicating that there was a -- there was an Al Qaeda threat against Jordan and against the United States and that what the -- what the Jordanian government then tried to do -- intelligence services, with the help of the United States, was to lure him into providing more information about these e- mails.
And it's in that process that he then came to be on that base in Afghanistan. And, according to the source, they're not sure if he was actually the bomber, because the Taliban have claimed somebody else by a different name was the bomber. But they are sure that this Jordanian doctor did die in that explosion at Fort Chapman -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nic.
Thanks very much.
This note for our viewers. On Friday, we'll be speaking with the Jordanian foreign minister, who will be here in Washington. We've got lots of questions for him. That's coming up on Friday.
New developments in the case of a U.S. contractor being held in Cuba -- details of the serious new allegation he's facing.
And two Democratic power players announcing they're stepping down, endangering, perhaps, the party's Senate super majority. We're taking a closer look at the prospects for the Democrats with James Carville. He's standing by live.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.
A senior Cuban is accusing a U.S. contractor detained in Havana of spying. But parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon says the man is under investigation and has not been charged. The contractor, who has not been identified, was arrested a month ago, accused of handing out communications equipment to opposition groups.
And Iran has regained its status as the country that jails more journalists than any other country. That's according to the press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders. The organization says a total of 42 journalists are now behind bars in Iran.
And the Space Shuttle Endeavour is on the launch pad after taking a three-and-a-half-mile trip from its hangar in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Temperatures there are extremely cold, as in much of the country. As a precaution, however, NASA turned on the shuttle's heaters earlier than usual. Endeavour is scheduled to blast off on a mission to the International Space Station February 7th.
It's just too cold for anyone and any thing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very cold out there. But it -- then, again, it's January, what do you expect?
WHITFIELD: I know.
BLITZER: It gets cold in January.
WHITFIELD: That's true. But not Cape Canaveral.
Attempted murder is one of the six counts in a federal indictment issued today against the suspect in the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing. A federal grand jury in Detroit indicted Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on charges of attempted use of a weapons of mass destruction, attempted murder, an attempt to destroy and wreck an aircraft and three other counts involving a destructive device and possession of a firearm.
Are U.S. defenses up to the task of stopping a future terror attack?
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us now -- Jeanne, you had a chance to speak today with the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. What was her answer?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, since Christmas Day, all eyes have been on aviation security. But Secretary Napolitano said protective measures have been stepped up elsewhere, too.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have taken measures at the seaports and at the land ports in the United States, as well as really beefed up our communication with state and local law enforcement about things they need to be on the watch for.
MESERVE: Can you be at all specific about what you're doing at the ports and at the land borders that you weren't doing before Christmas?
NAPOLITANO: Well, one of the things we've done is we've searched personnel. We've searched -- the examination of cargo and some of the other things that are coming across those land ports and into our seaports.
MESERVE: (voice-over): I asked the Secretary about the decision to screen all citizens and travelers from 14 countries linked to terrorism.
(on camera): How targeting those 14 countries differ from profiling?
NAPOLITANO: Well, it's not profiling, it's threat-based. And profiling...
MESERVE: Isn't profiling often threat-based?
NAPOLITANO: No, I don't think Profiling is -- is stereotyping. It's just assuming because a person is of a particular race or religion that they may be bad. This is -- this is intelligence that suggests that those who seek to do ill, either in other European countries or to the United States, are -- our threats have emanated through those countries. And, therefore, to ensure the safety of American passengers and of the United States, extra screening needs to be done.
MESERVE: Let me ask you about body scanners.
How long would it take to put body imaging devices in every airport in this country?
NAPOLITANO: I don't know the total number, but certainly by the end of this year, we'll have at least 300 more in addition to the 40 that have already been deployed.
MESERVE: Are they worth the investment?
People have said the terrorists are simply going to continue to improvise and if you start scanning the body, maybe they'll start hiding them internally, maybe they'll do more to -- with carry-on luggage.
Is it worth the investment?
NAPOLITANO: I think it is. And again, look, we can't give 100 percent guarantees here. And I don't think American disagree with that. They understand that. But they also understand -- and we understand that improved technology can help minimize risk. And that's what these scanners assist us in doing.
MESERVE: We understand that in the last week, more people have been added to the selectee and no fly lists. In the past, that has sometimes created problems at the nation's airports, because a lot of people get pulled aside who have similar names.
How are you dealing with that?
Should we just expect to see some of those problems in the coming months?
NAPOLITANO: Well, we've already anticipated that and I've already directed a process to say, all right, if we're going to increase the watch list, we need to make more robust the process by which people get removed from that watch list. So that -- that project is underway right now.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: The president has said we should expect additional aviation security measures. The secretary would not tell us what's being considered, but did say there will not be any additional restrictions on carrying on liquids and powders. And she says at this particular point in time, she thinks the Department has struck the right balance between security and privacy -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: What did she say, Jeanne, about all these people who are now -- a lot of Republicans calling on her to resign because of her unfortunate comment she made shortly after the failed plot?
MESERVE: Well, she said today, as she has said before, that she could have been more precise in her comments. We should note that the president was asked about her yesterday. He voiced his support for her. And when I spoke to an aide today and asked her about the possibility of Napolitano leaving, he dismissed it as a serious consideration -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeanne.
Thanks very much.
Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent.
Like father, like daughter -- Liz Cheney takes her turn slamming President Obama, saying he's weakened American security. James Carville is getting ready to weigh in on that. And the balloon boy's dad is about to go to jail, but first he's speaking out -- what he's telling CNN's Larry King. You may find some of it simply stunning.
And a bizarre sea battle in the waters off Antarctica between a Japanese whaling ship and a high tech speedboat belonging to protesters.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a six count indictment against the man accused of trying to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. We have details of the charges he's facing and why the word terror isn't mentioned once in the document.
Also, we're digging deeper on the suspect's father who's -- who had warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria what was going on, but that warning went unheeded.
Will he be involved in the trial?
And it looks like a bat boat, but there was no sign of a superhero in a showdown with a whaling ship in the frigid waters off Antarctica. A violent skirmish in an ongoing war and it's all caught on tape. We have it for you.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up.
But first this. It was a stunning hoax that imploded right here on CNN -- the so-called "balloon boy" apparently blowing the lid on his father's publicity stunt in an interview with me as a guest host on "LARRY KING LIVE".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
BLITZER: And Falcon was really in the garage this whole time at -- I don't know if Falcon can hear me, but was he -- because I know at some point, he fell asleep in that garage. But he was hiding out because he thought you were going to punish him for something that happened earlier in the day.
Did he hear anything?
Did he hear you screaming out, "Falcon, Falcon?"
RICHARD HEENE, FATHER OF "BALLOON BOY": He's asking, Falcon, did you hear us calling your name at any time?
FALCON HEENE, ALLEGED "BALLOON BOY": Um-hmm.
R. HEENE: You did?
MAYUMI HEENE, MOTHER OF "BALLOON BOY": You did?
R. HEENE: Well, why didn't you come out?
F. HEENE: Um, you had said that, um, we did this for a show.
HEENE: You didn't come out?
F. HEENE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The father, Richard Heene pleaded guilty in connection with that incident, is about to serve a 90-day sentence, but before he goes to jail, he is speaking out in an exclusive interview with our own Larry King. Heene denies it was a hoax, and he explains his guilty plea. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities, Richard, specifically cited Falcon's word as part of probable cause they had for believing you'd committed a criminal offense. He said you did it for a show.
HEENE: Well, first off, let's take into consideration he's only been speaking English and just learned 3 1/2 years prior to that. He's 6 years old during this interview, number one. Number two, I had gotten back into the house after the initial talking to the press out in front of my house. I opened the garage door to get my family back inside away from these guys, and I looked over. There's 30 to 40 camera guys. I asked Falcon after that, I asked him, I said, why did you say that? What are you talking about? He said a Japanese camera man holding a giant camera asked him to show him how he got into the attic for his TV show. That's why Falcon answered that.
KING: He didn't mean you were doing it for a proposed TV show of your own.
HEENE: No, we had searched the house high and low, and -- I'm sorry --
KING: It's okay.
HEENE: You know, after I saw him in that craft and Bradford was telling me he went inside, I first didn't believe Bradford. I told him that perhaps he's arised. I just saw him, and.
KING: Sum and substance, you believe your son was in the craft.
HEENE: I knew he was in the craft.
KING: Well, you didn't know it.
HEENE: No, no. In my mind there was no other place, because I visualized him. I yelled at him to not go in. I'm not disputing the fact that I did have to plead guilty and when I say have to, I had to do it to save my family and my wife.
KING: How so?
HEENE: The threat of deportation was imminent.
KING: Deporting who?
HEENE: My wife.
KING: To where?
HEENE: Japan. We had applied years ago for some paperwork. Things got fouled up. We had to reapply. She should have been an American citizen by now, but anyway, I can't break up my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Officials involved in the case are simply stunned by Heene's words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF JIM ALDERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: Quite honestly I'm shocked that he would make such statements. The evidence against Mr. Heene and Mayumi at this point is really overwhelming. There's no doubt in my mind that this thing was a hoax and I really doubt there's very few people in America who don't understand at this point this was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Richard and Mayumi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. This important note, you can see the entire exclusive interview with Richard Heene this Friday night on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 eastern only here on CNN.
James Carville is standing by. We've got lots to talk about. That's coming up next.
Also, frustrated with airport security, and there's an app for that. We're going to show you how it works.
Plus a bizarre sea battle pitting a whaling ship against a boat that looks like it came right out of a science fiction movie.
BLITZER: Democratic heavyweight Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut announced today he is retiring. He's not the first. Should other Democrats be feeling a little nervous right now? Let's discuss what's going on with our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, James Carville. When you heard that Chris Dodd was announcing his retirement, what did you think, James?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I mean he really he wanted to run. He knew he was in a tough race. Senator Dodd had been in the Senate forever. I was surprised, but not shocked.
BLITZER: Is this good for the Democrats or bad for the Democrats in terms of holing onto a Democratic seat in Connecticut?
CARVILLE: To be honest, I think most Connecticut Democrats would say the term Blumenthal was running ahead of where Senator Dodd would have been running. So in terms of keeping that seat, it's hard to see how this is, quote, bad for the Democrats, unquote.
BLITZER: So Richard Blumenthal, he's a very popular attorney general in Connecticut, you assume he's going to be the Democratic nominee and will coast to a win?
CARVILLE: Well, I won't assume, but I think if he runs, which it appears to be likely, not much chance he'll be challenged. Supposedly, from everything I read, I'm told by and I'm pretty connected with some Connecticut Democrats.
BLITZER: He won't be challenged on the Democratic side, but he will be challenged by Republicans.
CARVILLE: Right. But he would be the strongest Democrat we could run, according to what my friends in Connecticut from what tell me. But can I say he won't be challenged by a Democrat? No.
BLITZER: I guess it's a tough question. Do you think that Democrats in Connecticut and elsewhere were encouraging Senator Dodd to step down?
CARVILLE: I don't know that, and I kind of doubt it. Senator Dodd is a very popular person. People -- he's very well liked. That's something people need to understand. I think he was in angst, I think he was considering and probably talked to any number of people about whether he should run or not, but I think this is a decision that he arrived at on his own. And I -- I have not spoken to him about it, I certainly do like him. I've never heard anybody that really dislikes Senator Dodd, but everyone knew he was in a really tough race, and he probably, you know, thought the better of going through with it.
BLITZER: What about Byron Dorgan, the Democratic senator from North Dakota? He announces he's retiring, which presumably sets the stage for a popular Republican governor stepping in?
CARVILLE: I was shocked by that. I was much more shocked by that that Senator Dorgan's decision than I was by Senator Dodd's decision. I was kind of surprised by Senator Dodd's decision, kind of shocked by Senator Dorgan's. Again, I know him not well, but I know Senator Dorgan casually, but I think most people were shocked by that. BLITZER: Your recent book, the headline was "40 More Years" how the Democrats will rule the next generation, were you being a little bit too optimistic?
CARVILLE: I didn't say the next election, did I? I don't think so and in the book I say, look we're not going to win every election. We're certainly not going to win three congressional elections in a row. We had a big win in '06. We had a big win in '08. It's obvious to anyone that there will be some pullback, but it depends on how many seats we lose. I actually think that if we run this right, we can cut or losses to fairly reasonably. I mean the economy is starting to get better, the Republicans have been everything and by the way, the Republican Party is held in no higher esteem today than it was a year ago. That's a fact. Their long-term problems are with them just as it was when I wrote that book. So am I bearish in the short term in the next election? Sure, I think we're going to lose some seats. I don't think it would be a wipeout, but I agree with everything I said in the book and I'm very bullish on the long-term prospects.
BLITZER: Let me get you to react to Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president. She says this. "President Obama has weakened American security by treating terror as a law enforcement matter, refusing to use every tool at his disposal to prevent attacks and taking his eye off the ball. America's homeland security and counterterrorism systems will continue to erode in the absence of strong, consistent, unwavering presidential stewardship." She's getting pretty tough with the president, just like her dad.
CARVILLE: Yes. You know because I would point out, take the eye off the ball, you know, her dad invaded the wrong country. Talk about taking your eye off the ball. They treated this guy just like they treated -- I don't really think that Liz Cheney or her father really care about the facts. They say Obama doesn't say anything about terrorism and they run seven clips of Obama saying that, or they say the treatment was the same for this guy as it was for Reid, so you go down the line. So I just think -- I don't know if they've ever said we didn't find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or 9/11 -- that Iraq didn't have something to do with 9/11. I think they're just more annoyed by facts than anything else, and I think they really believe this and that's the only reason they keep saying it because everybody keeps pointing out all of the flaws in the things that they say, and it doesn't matter so it's a free country. I guess they can say what they want.
BLITZER: We invited Liz Cheney to come on today, but unfortunately she couldn't but we're hoping in the coming days she'll be joining us. She's got a very different perspective than James Carville. Thanks very much.
Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what do you have?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again Wolf, hello everyone. The only person to have known survived both atomic bombings of Japan during World War II has died. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was badly burned when the U.S. bombed Hiroshima in 1945, and three days later he was in his hometown of Nagasaki when the second bomb hit. Yamaguchi died of stomach cancer on Monday. He was 93.
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is resigning as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. Dixon entered what's called an Alford plea. It means she agrees there is enough evidence to convict her of perjury, but she doesn't acknowledge guilt. It all stems from allegations that she did not report gifts from a developer with whom she had a romantic relationship. Last month, she was convicted of misappropriating about $500,000 in gift cards donated to the city for the needy during her time as city council president. Her resignation of mayor is effective February 4th.
An up side to the cold weather for orangutans at the Miami Zoo. They're getting treated to some hot chocolate. Who knew? They're not just relying on that to keep them warm. Of course, the animals also are bundling up under burlap blankets and hay. Temperatures in south Florida fell to about 40 degrees last night. That's very frigid for south Floridians, Wolf. But hot cocoa is always the answer in my book.
BLITZER: Now just one correction, an important correction, the gifts cards were $500, not $500,000. I just want to be precise. I think you said $500,000, but it was $500.
WHITFIELD: $500, yes.
BLITZER: OK. Good. Thanks very much.
Keeping suspects off of airliners, how the feds are making it easier to put someone on a watch list or a no-fly list. Stand by. We have new information for you.
And a bizarre battle in the waters off Antarctica. An ultra- modern speedboat crewed by conservationists, taking on a Japanese whaling ship. We have the video. You'll want to see it.
BLITZER: Since the Christmas day terrorism scare over Detroit, officials are taking a closer look at whether these screening procedures are strict enough. Now the U.S. government is also making it easier to put someone on an airline watch list that even a no-fly list. Let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. She's taking a closer look at this.
These watch lists, how have they changed since Christmas day?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You'll have to say they're making it a lot easier. Now there's a lower threshold for putting somebody on a watch list, specifically the no-fly list and revoking visas, because before, for example, they had to have multiple sources of information. Now they can have one. It has to be credible, but just one. That's important, because remember the would- be bomber on examination day. That initials came initially from one source, his father, who was talking about his son getting radicalized and going to Yemen. If that had been in effect, it could have stopped him from getting on the plane.
BLITZER: Why was this not done before? Was the system lacks?
DOUGHERTY: No, in fact you could make the argument that it was too strict. One of the problems was they had sometimes information that they didn't believe was credible. Also there's something called poison pens. That is, let's say a family doesn't want a relative to go to the United States, so they come to U.S. officials and say, hey, look this guy is doing something that's illegal or wrong. That's a poison pen. Apparently they got quite a lot of that. That was one of the reasons for asking for multiple backups.
BLITZER: And presumably if you put more people on this list there would be more mistakes as well.
DOUGHERTY: Absolutely, but they say we have to err on the side of caution. It may inconvenience people, may even get false hits, but that's the way it's going to have to be.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jill Dougherty.
Have you been stuck at an airport security line or maybe saw someone walk the wrong way through an exit at Newark Airport? Well, now there's an app for that, in light of some heightened airport security, a new application lets you rate your experiences with the TSA. Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton is here to explain.
What is going on?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we do online reviews of the restaurant we just ate in or the hotel we stayed in. Well, how about rating the guy that just searched through your bag at the airport? That's the goal of this new iPhone app. It's free. What it does is uses the GPS in the iPhone to first identify which airport you're in, and then it walks you through a series of questions about the screening experience, like, how courteous was the person that screened you? The next one how long did it take? And then as a sign of the times, a question about, should body can technology be used in passenger screening? And you can rate, not sure, yes, no, depending on what you believe. This app is not from the TSA, but from On The Spot Systems, but they used questions that the TSA has used in surveys in the past to put it together, and they say they want to give this instant feedback from passengers to the TSA to let them know how people are feeling.
BLITZER: Is it catching on?
TATTON: It's early days, the reviews are trickling in. They've just launched it about a week ago, but given the pictures we've seen in the last few days, remember this on Newark? Thousands of people stuck then. I would thousands of people stuck in Newark then, and I imagine there is a market for it. I would thousands of people stuck in Newark then, and I imagine there is a market for it. I wonder about asking all of those people about the length of time screening took?
BLITZER: Those people were not happy.
TATTON: Not happy at all.
BLITZER: And they shouldn't have been happy. All right. Thanks very much.
Boats collide at a battle at sea over whaling. The entire dramatic confrontation is caught on tape. We have it for you.
Plus the new indictment against the man accused of trying to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas day. Details of the charges and whether we will actually see him in court.
BLITZER: A violent confrontation over whaling in the waters off of Antarctica between a whaling boat and a boat that looks like something out of science fiction movie. CNN's Kyung Lah has the details of the dramatic encounter.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A clash in the Antarctic between Japanese whale hunters and anti-whaling activists, both sides shot video of the incident. The larger vessel that you see belongs to Japanese fisherman who were there hunting whales. The smaller power boat is a futuristic bat mobile-looking boat. Sea Sheppard says that boat costs $2 million, and the Japanese fishing boat is spraying it with water canons and then the two boats get close, and there is a collision. It is very difficult to tell exactly what is happening there, but we are getting two very different interpretations. Sea Sheppard says that its vessel was deliberately rammed by the Japanese and calls it an unprovoked attack and saying that its now sinking and the crew of six is rescued but one person is injured. Japan says the "Sea Shepherd" vessel went in front of its vessel and it could not avoid a collision. Japan blames the activists saying this is a continuation of Sea Sheppard's activities in the Antarctic to try to stop Japanese whaling and saying what is happening down there is very dangerous and instigated by "Sea Shepherd." Japan as a country does hunt whales despite a worldwide moratorium on whale hunting and Japan does this calling it science research, but because some of the meat ends up on store shelves and markets sold and consumed, activists say it is a cover for whale hunting. "Sea Sheppard" says it will not back down and this latest incident will escalate the activities in the Antarctic.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.
BLITZER: After the collision, it was Bob Barker to the rescue. That is another boat belonging to the "Sea Shepherd" conservation society. It was nearby monitoring the situation, and its crew plucked the crew of the damaged vessel to safety. The "Bob Barker" is named after the game show host and animal rights activist. Barker donated $5 million to help the Sea Shepherd Society buy the vessel. He says he is genuinely proud to be associated with the group. An accused terrorist is indicted with the botched Christmas day plot, details of the charges he is facing in his upcoming day in court.
And in wake of that incident should the homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano be fired? Jack Cafferty has your email right after the break.
BLITZER: Right back to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, in the wake of the latest attempted terrorist attack on the airliner on Christmas going into Detroit, should homeland secretary Janet Napolitano be fired?
Dee says, "Napolitano did a reasonable job as governor of Arizona, but she is in way over her head in her present position. You could see it by the expression on her face during the system worked comment. The head of homeland security is a major league job. So much for political appointments. Maybe Obama should put Dick Cheney in that job."
Arlene writes from Germany. I like mail from outside of the country. "No way, Jack. Her remarks were taken out of context. She has explained them. I do not expect our commander in chief to throw a qualified and competent secretary under the bus for an error not of her making."
David writes from Georgia, "I don't believe she should have ever been appointed in the first place and any excuse to fire her suits me. Her record on illegal immigration should have disqualified her. The most important thing homeland security secretary needs to do is to close borders. This lady thinks that the illegal invasion from Mexico is good for our country, and even if it is acceptable, how do we know how many come from Mexico and how many from the middle east? The smugglers are not going to screen their customers.
Troy writes from Fairview, Texas, "Janet Napolitano was never qualified to be the secretary of homeland security in the first place. Napolitano has no formal law enforcement experience, no CIA experience, no FBI experience, no secret service experience and no business being in charge of anything having to do with those issues. You don't hire a lawyer to protect America from terrorists, it is not their expertise."
Dominic from Chicago, "Am I the only one noticing once again that the FBI and the CIA are not sharing information? Sounds like the conversations after 9/11. I don't think Napolitano should not be fired. I think the FBI and CIA should play nice with the DHS and share their Intel. Isn't that what we created the department of homeland security to begin with?"
And Laura writes in Raleigh, North Carolina, "Well, Jack, it's like this. With the way things are going, she is likely to receive the Nobel peace prize, because she had good intentions."
If you want to read more on this subject, we've got a lot of mail on this, go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much. I will go back and read more later, Jack.
Happening now, the suspect in the failed airline bombing now charged with attempted murder and more. New details of the seven page indictment by a federal grand jury. Stand by.