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Plane Hits IRS Building; Tea Party Movement; Freed Missionaries

Aired February 18, 2010 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news from Texas right now. A pilot flies straight into an office building in Austin, the state capital, a suicide attack that stuns and horrifies the city and the nation.

Right now law enforcement officials are looking closely at the pilot's apparent grudge against the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS had offices in the building and last word one person was unaccounted for. It appears everyone else, except for the pilot got out alive. This is the man the FBI now identifies as the pilot.

His name Joseph Andrew Stack (ph), he's a software engineer, and he left what seems to be a suicide note on his Web site. It rails against the government and especially against the IRS. In another bizarre twist, a federal official says the pilot set his own house on fire before flying into the building. Listen to some of the chilling accounts from people who were nearby when that plane hit the building and all hell broke loose.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shot right across that light, and right across the highway, went right into the building directly, exploded in a fireball. The fireball is probably 50 feet each side of the impact. It shook me, and the people from the restaurant said it shook the whole building, I found out later. And then the windows began to fly out of the building.

There must have been a shock inside, a shock wave. The windows flew out and there are pink insulation pads flying all around. Imagine this. Then the Venetian blinds start to wave out. They go out with a shock wave. Then the fire started. It began curling out the first floor and the second floor. Then the fire guys arrived. They were here in seemed like minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in the FBI building next floor with online training academy and the entire building shook. When we evacuated we witnessed the other building being evacuated as well. Some people were running, some people were peeling out of their cars and we could see smoke coming out of the back end of the building. It was very traumatic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a big shake, didn't know what it was. Ran outside, all the windows were blown, there is fire coming out and just smoke everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know working away, and the building shook and the lights went off and then the lights flashed on, and then the roof came in and felt like stuff fell on top of us, all kinds of stuff fell on top of us. I jumped underneath the desk, and then another explosion went off, so that's when we went out the back side door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like it was coming right in my window to start with. There was very little time from when I first noticed the impact. It was just like I see a plane coming in, the whole plane going over, wait a minute, it's not going over. Wow, that guy is flying really low. Oh my God, he's going to hit, bang.


BLITZER: A lot of people are wondering why it's still apparently so easy for a plane to slam into a building over eight years after the September 11th attacks. I'm joined now by CNN's national security contributor Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser to President Bush. Also Tom Fuentes, a CNN contributor, former FBI assistant director.

Is there an easy answer to that question? Why is it so easy for someone to get into a small piper, Dakota, whatever this plane was, loaded with fuel and slam into a building?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well this has been a concern for all the homeland security secretaries that have run that department, Wolf. It's very difficult, though, if you imagine all the screening measures you might put in place and someone could get past them because, of course, what you've got is the fuel on the plane. If someone diverts suddenly and decides to slam the plane, it's a matter of seconds. And even if you had jetfighters scrambled, you couldn't have stopped it and so you don't want to put unnecessary measures in place that wouldn't have made a difference.

BLITZER: I'm sure the FBI they have been worried about these kinds of incidents for a long time.

THOMAS FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, Wolf. I mean they had the guy that flew the plane into the front lawn of the White House a couple of years ago and couldn't be stopped.

BLITZER: That was in the Clinton administration. It was more than a couple of years ago, I remember that because I was the White House correspondent, but go ahead.

FUENTES: Well same principle. It couldn't be stopped then. That should have been the wake-up call that if there was any effective measure that could be taken, it would have been taken. The fact is there is no effective measure. There is no way to stop this. If a pilot takes that plane and diverts it from normal flying, he could have filed a flight course. He could have done any number of things. The amount of time it takes to veer off course and crash a plane is seconds and there's no way he could have been followed -- BLITZER: What you're saying is even if there had been TSA officials at some private little airport near Austin where he took off from, and even if he had gone through metal detectors, once he is flying solo in a small plane like that and decides to go into a building, there is really nothing anyone can do.

FUENTES: If you had a jetfighter plane from "Top Gun" following him at the time he veered off course, maybe they could get a rocket launched soon enough to stop him. Short of that, you're not going to be able to stop this.

BLITZER: I guess the other option though is more thorough background checks for pilots.

TOWNSEND: That's right, and sort of I think you'll probably see some congressional oversight and administration look at what is the mental health standards, how often do we check that, what are the backgrounds. You know the FBI does monitor Internet postings, but is there -- what's the likelihood they would have put it together with this pilot before he took off -- probably not good.

I would say Tom references that incident during the Clinton administration. There are a whole number of countermeasures that are now in place that would make it very difficult for that plane, a little plane to land on the White House lawn anymore --


TOWNSEND: That's protected quite differently than the rest of the country. But typically anywhere else in the country, it is very difficult to stop a pilot who would want to do this.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend and Tom Fuentes with us. Some witnesses to the crash describe it as a very disturbing wake-up call, so what can we learn from this? Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You've been asking questions all day, and you have a guest who may have some answers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, former managing director of the NTSB, Peter Goelz, Wolf, is with us -- Peter thank you for coming in. Let's pick up a little bit on Wolf's discussion a moment ago with Fran Townsend and Tom Fuentes about how to prevent this thing from a security standpoint.

We're going to talk about Reagan National Airport, have an animation here, kind of showing the approach to Reagan National Airport. A very unique situation security wise for small planes that want to land at Reagan National Airport, talk about what they have to do before they even get into this zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well there is a security zone that in which generally the aviation, any aircraft not approved, can't fly into and for a general aviation plane to land at Reagan, you have to stop at one of a -- maybe half a dozen pre-approved portals where you land, a law enforcement officer joins the flight, the pilot is re-screened to make sure that he's the appropriate pilot in place, baggage is searched, passengers are examined.

TODD: I imagine you would say that's not necessarily practical to do at a lot of other airports around the country like Austin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. And you know it's really limited the number of planes coming into Reagan National, private planes. There are just maybe a few a week. It's a very restrictive space.

BLITZER: Because right after 9/11 you couldn't fly a private plane into Reagan National Airport. You had to go to Dulles Airport or someplace else. It was just considered too dangerous.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIR., NTSB: That's right and today the overwhelming majority of private aviation business jets land out at Dulles or at some other airport, Manassas (ph).

TODD: We want to ask about the plane in question today. A piper Cherokee PA-28 (ph), just like this one here, a small plane, what, how many bathtubs full of fuel we're talking about here --

GOELZ: Well we're talking about the initial aircraft had a 35- gallon tank --

TODD: Right.

GOELZ: -- and you know the plane was popular. It had changed over time. At the end, some of the variants had 80 gallons, but that's still a very limited amount of fuel.


BLITZER: A Cherokee or piper Dakota?



TODD: Cherokee PA-28 (ph), and the key question here, how does a plane this small with that somewhat limited amount of fuel cause damage like we saw in Austin today? Look at this --


TODD: -- an amazing amount of damage.

GOELZ: That is -- that is a very perplexing question. Because one of the arguments the general aviation community has made for not having increased security at general aviation airports is that these planes really can't do much damage. You look at these pictures, boy, that's a lot of damage and --


GOELZ: I'm going to look -- if I were an investigator, I know they're looking at accelerants, was there something else on that aircraft that caused this kind of damage, was there something in the building, but it certainly is very disturbing.

BLITZER: Because if -- and this is hypothetical -- we don't know -- let's say there are four fuel tanks on a small plane like that and one of the fuel tanks is just regular fuel to fly a limited amount of time but the other three are filled up with accelerants, with explosives or whatever, that could cause quite a bit of damage.

GOELZ: You're really -- you're really talking about a real suicide plane, and you know he could have loaded the back of the plane up with accelerants, so this is a very disturbing picture.

TODD: And you had looked up a statistic on suicides among small pilots -- small plane pilots in some of these --

GOELZ: Well I remember at the NTSA (ph) it was not that common. Maybe a couple per year over the past 10 years. There's about 20 that have been identified as suicides and then a few more where a perfectly good aircraft with a perfectly good pilot, you know nothing wrong, just --

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) investigation, the NTSB, the FBI, local authorities?

GOELZ: Well it starts with the FBI. The NTSB and the FBI confer before every accident on scene. If it looks like it's going to be a criminal investigation, they hand off the lead to the FBI. In this case, probably they've already done it, but they provide technical support to the investigation.

BLITZER: Peter Goelz thanks very much. Brian Todd thanks for your reporting as well, lots of questions and we'll be getting a lot of answers in the hours and days ahead.

Relief aid (ph) American missionaries as they arrive back in the United States, but two remain behind bars in Haiti accused of child kidnapping. We have the latest on their situation and an alarming report from a United Nations watchdog on Iran's nuclear intentions.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Sarah Palin is telling the tea partiers they've got to pick a side, either Republican or Democrat. Speaking to Republicans in Arkansas, Palin began by praising the Tea Party, calling it a grand movement that she loves because it's all about the people. She was quick to say Tea Party candidates will not win in our two-party system unless they join an established party. No surprise which one Palin thinks they would be better off with, either.

Meanwhile, there is a new poll that sheds some light on who actually makes up the Tea Party movement. CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that activists are mostly male, rural, college educated and overwhelmingly conservative. The survey shows about 11 percent of Americans say they've actively supported the Tea Party, either by giving money or going to a rally.

Another 24 percent say they favor the movement but have taken no actions to support it. That's a total of 35 percent who could be described as Tea Party supporters, and that's not an insignificant number, which is exactly why it could be a problem for the GOP. If the Tea Party movement succeeds in getting candidates on ballots they could wind up splitting votes with the Republicans and ultimately wind up helping the Democrats win, which is probably why Sarah Palin is asking them to choose a side.

Meanwhile, not such great turnout for Ms. Palin at that Arkansas event, reportedly less than half of the lower level seats were occupied in the 18,000-seat hall, and the entire upper level was covered in black drapes. No wonder she doesn't want any news coverage. And at the last minute, the $175 tickets, they were going for $20. And the place was still less than half full. But I digress.

Here's the question. What do you see as the future of the Tea Party movement? Go to where the blog for the moment seems to be working and post a comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: People will do that. Thank you, Jack.

Eight American missionaries accused of child kidnapping by Haiti are now back in the United States. Four of them arrived in Kansas City greeted by cheers and hugs, but two fellow missionaries, including their leader, are still being held in Haiti. They appeared in court today and spoke afterward to CNN's John Vause. Let's go to Port-au-Prince. John is standing by. John, what happened?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this morning, Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter (ph) were taken from their Haitian jail cell because the judge in this case wanted to question them about a trip they made to Haiti in December last year. He wanted to know what they were doing here. As Laura Silsby arrived, I asked her, what would she tell the judge and she said that she came to Haiti in December because she was visiting an orphanage, she was giving out toys and other supplies. But she didn't get to say that to the judge because today the translator didn't show up.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Laura, how did that meeting go?



SILSBY: We trust in God for all truth to be revealed --


SILSBY: -- and believing that God will reveal truth through the Haitian justice system. They are seeking the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you miss your colleagues who have left?

SILSBY: You know I'm glad they were able to go earlier than me. That is good. I trust in God.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you happy with the Haitian judicial process as it's currently happening?

SILSBY: They're doing the best they can.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) what the judge will decide in all of this, Laura.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She will be free.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea when you might go home --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When will you be free, Laura? When do you think the judge --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, may God bless you. I'm with you. You will be free.




VAUSE: Now Judge (INAUDIBLE) has rescheduled this hearing again for tomorrow. And another development which may stretch this bail hearing out even longer lawyers for both women say that Judge (INAUDIBLE) now actually wants to physically travel to the Dominican Republic because he wants to look at the orphanage which Silsby says that she was establishing there in the Dominican Republic, he wants to see the buildings and the facilities of the New Life Children's Refuge (ph). That's where the group was heading when they were stopped at the border by Haitian officials with those 33 children in a bus, and if Silsby's plans are any indication that facility should be able to house more than 100 kids because she told CNN just days after she was arrested that she wanted to come back to Haiti and collect 70 more children -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Vause on the scene for us at Port-au-Prince. We'll check back with you. Thank you.

A chilling warning -- a U.N. watchdog now says Iran may be secretly working on a nuclear warhead, also a hero tells his story of how he helped rescue people in the wake of that suicide plane attack in Austin, Texas.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency says Iran may be working on secretly developing a nuclear warhead. A draft report released today contains the strongest language yet from the agency on Iran's nuclear activities. The White House says it demonstrates that Iran is failing to live up to its obligation. There is no immediate response from Tehran.

And a federal judge today sentenced former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik (ph) to four years in prison. Kerik (ph) earlier pled guilty to tax fraud and six other felonies. He has also admitted to lying to Bush administration officials when being vetted for a possible nomination to serve as secretary of homeland security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story that is. Thanks very much, Lisa.

The Dalai Lama was over at the White House earlier today, is declaring that he's very happy about his talks with President Obama. The administration kept the session relatively low key hoping to keep China's outrage to a minimum. The Dalai Lama has met with every U.S. president over the last two decades. In 1991 he met privately with then President George H. W. Bush, the first ever meeting between a spiritual leader and an American president.

Bill Clinton met with the Dalai Lama on different occasions, including this one back in 1998. President George W. Bush also met with the Tibetan monk several times, including this -- this one in 2007, when he awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal.

A suicide plane attack yields stories of heroism. We're going to hear from one man whose ordinary work turned out to be rather incredible in an instant, plus the writings the pilot left behind part manifesto, part suicide note. We're going to show you what he posted online.


BLITZER: Imagine you're minding your own business driving down a road or walking down the street. Suddenly, suddenly, you see a plane flying into a building. That's what happened to Robin DeHaven.


ROBIN DEHAVEN, WITNESS/RESCUER: During my normal workday, I was heading north to do a -- replace a window up in north Austin, and I saw the plane flying up there, and it seemed out of the ordinary, because the airport is about 20 miles southeast of where I was. And as the plane -- I thought it was a toy plane at first by just the odd nature of it, being kind of low and kind of erratic flying like -- like it was trying to come in for a landing or something. And I saw it turn and start heading -- heading down like it was diving to come in for a landing but there is no landing, so I knew it was going to crash and --

BLITZER: Did it look like -- Robin -- did it look -- excuse me for interrupting -- did it look like that plane was deliberately heading toward that building, or was it just some random crash that was happening?

DEHAVEN: It looked like they were -- they were trying to aim. Like at first you know I didn't know anything. It looked erratic like he was aiming for something and was trying to go down. It was flying slow like it was preparing for -- for a crash landing by its behavior. And then after I found out it was the IRS Building, it seemed a lot more deliberate.

BLITZER: Was that well known that that building --


BLITZER: Was that well known that that building housed about 200 employees of the IRS?

DEHAVEN: I did not know it was even an IRS Building until eyewitnesses there -- they were at the crash site told me it was an IRS Building.

BLITZER: How intense -- how close did you actually get to the building from your vantage point?

DEHAVEN: I -- well during the rescue, I actually entered the building.

BLITZER: You did. So how intense was that fire?

DEHAVEN: I did not actually -- I was not near fire. It was filled with smoke. When I arrived, I pulled into the parking lot and they said they needed -- people said they needed my ladders on my truck because there was people stuck on the second floor. And so I pulled over nearer to the building where I could see the people. We pulled my ladder off and then I -- I tried to secure it to the building and I could not do it very well, and the people were kind of in a panic wanting to get out, quickly of course and so I climbed up into the building with them -- with just smoke and no flames -- I did not even see the remnants of the plane at this point. I just knew it hit this building and I was worried about the people not the plane --

BLITZER: So you actually got involved in the rescue operation in your own way; is that right?

DEHAVEN: Yes. Yes, I climbed up into the building and then we tried to secure the ladder and a safe place to get everybody down. In the process we broke out another window to a better spot where we could do this and then we moved the ladder to a secure area near a ledge and propped against the building and I helped all five people out of the building.

BLITZER: Well good for you.

DEHAVEN: Physically -- physically held their waist and I put my arm around their back so they would not fall out as they climbed out the windowsill, which was maybe waist high. They had to climb up over a windowsill and onto my ladder.

BLITZER: Robin, Tom Fuentes (ph) is a former assistant director of the FBI is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us. And I want him to pose a question to you. Tom, if you were an FBI agent -- and you were an FBI agent for a long time, but they sent you immediately to Austin to this building to start investigating what happened and you came upon Robin and he's an eyewitness, what would you ask him? What kind of question would you try to get him to answer?

FUENTES: Same thing you just asked -- what did he see, what was the aircraft doing. Did it look like he was trying to make an emergency landing? Did it look like it was deliberate? Was he gaining in speed or diminishing speed? As an eyewitness you would be looking for that kind of information.

As an investigator arriving at that scene, the first individuals in charge of that location would be the rescue people. Are they able to save lives prior to that becoming a crime scene? That's going to be the first concern. And of course, now you're going to have investigation at the scene. The evidence response people will have to wait until it's safe, the building is determined to be safe enough to enter and cooled off enough to be able to go in and get the residue to determine was it only the fuel used to operate the aircraft, was there other gasoline or incendiary devices on that aircraft already. You know you had the individuals in London and Scotland a couple of months ago that loaded up gasoline in a car and tried to detonate it in front of a disco, so did he have extra gasoline on that car, which may have been used for that kind of purpose. These are all questions that you want --

BLITZER: Those are all good questions. I wonder, Robin, have you been interviewed by authorities on the scene based on the fact that you were not only an eyewitness but you got involved in the actual rescue.

DEHAVEN: No, I have not. I've only been interviewed by news people. I arrived about 30 seconds after the plane crashed and no emergency people were there yet. And then the building was not engulfed in flames yet, just filled with smoke, and I guess after I left and got the people down, the fire department came. It really engulfed in flames later, I was told.

BLITZER: Let me read a statement that we just got in from Governor Rick Perry of Texas and I'm going to read this statement in full.

"In true Texas form first responders and everyday citizens responded to today's plane crash with selfless acts of heroism, securing the area, evacuating the building and controlling the fire and are to be commended."

He goes on to say, "My office continues to communicate with local, state and federal officials on this incident which is currently an open criminal investigation. With details still emerging, it is important to refrain from speculation and let the law enforcement experts determine what exactly unfolded."

If you were still, Fran Townsend, working at the White House right now, what would you want to know as far as a federal official reporting to the president of the United States is concerned?

TOWNSEND: Well, the first thing you do is talk to the secretary of Homeland Security. The Transportation Security Administration. Are there random measures we can immediately put in place until we better understand the facts, the answers to the questions Tom mentioned.

And we can put them in place right now to give people comfort that we're doing extra screening, that we're looking for copycats, other people who may be mentally unstable and may use this as an excuse. And so what you want to do is put some extra security in place right now to protect the flying public.

BLITZER: You know, Robin, I think the governor was referring to you and several others who were there on the scene when he commended the first responders and everyday citizens -- that would be you -- that engaged in selfless acts of heroism.

You were not afraid. You rushed into that building even though you saw the smoke. What was going through your mind?

DEHAVEN: My army training. I spent 6.5 years in the army and two tours in Iraq was going through my head, and I figured I could do something. I've had some experience in triage and battlefield with IEDs and RPGs and gunfire.

And that was my first thought, was maybe I could help because I'm more used to dealing with traumatic situations like that. I have a clear head and a calm head to try to help those people, and luckily I did.

BLITZER: And thank God you did, and we want to thank you for your service. Did you think for a moment when you saw what was happening in Austin, Texas you were back in Iraq?

DEHAVEN: No. Just that it's home. It still feels like home. You feel like you're helping your neighbors more than somebody in another country. It just felt more and more comfortable.

BLITZER: Robin Dehaven, thanks very much for joining us.

The disturbing writings of a troubled man. What the pilot wrote and posted online before he flew his plane into that Texas office building. We're taking a closer look at what amounts to his manifesto.


BLITZER: It's six pages of anger and frustration, clearly the rant of a very disturbed man. We're looking closely at the apparent suicide note left by the pilot who flew into that Texas building today.

Lisa Sylvester is joining us with more on that.

Pretty, pretty outrageous some of the things said in there.

SYLVESTER: Yes, indeed, Wolf. You know Joseph or Joe Stack, as he called himself, posted his political manifesto online. Now this was a guy who was a software engineer. At one time he was a student in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and he had a lot of financial setbacks in the 1990s and then again after the dot-com bubble burst.

The note was on his Web site for his small software business called "Imbedded Art." And in it he rails against the Catholic Church, calling it corrupt, against President Bush, calling him a presidential puppet, but most of all, his venting is against a government system where he says there is taxation without representation.

I'm reading a quote here, quote, "While very few people -- working people would say they haven't had their fair share taxes as can I in my lifetime, I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything that I have to say."

But his big gripe was a provision -- specific provision in the IRS tax code was a change made in 1986, section 1706. Now this section essentially reclassified some technical workers, making it harder for them to qualify as independent contractors.

Instead many of them fell under the category of an employee, and this provision is controversial because there's some debates over -- there are companies who were less likely to hire these independent contractors without some kind of broker or third party.

Now his rant was clearly written as a suicide note, and he finishes it by modifying the famous quote by Albert Einstein. Quote, "I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over, and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother, IRS man, let's try something different. Take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

And at one point he references an audit, and we know that the building that was targeted is where nearly 200 federal tax employees worked -- Wolf?

BLITZER: I know he was 53 years old. What else do we know about his personal life?

SYLVESTER: Well, he was married. In fact, this was his second marriage, and he did have a daughter. And he also -- I mean there is some interesting details coming to light. And he was at one point in a band, and his bandmates, at least one former bandmate, was telling CNN, you know, this was a guy who just really loved music, and when he was around him, he didn't seem to really have a political agenda and he'd certainly didn't see that side of him.

Of course, we're finding all kinds of new details, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll learn a great deal about him in the coming hours and days.

Lisa, thanks.

Let's bring in psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren. What do you think? I mean it's obviously someone very disturbed and very angry.

DR. LISE VAN SUSTEREN, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, clearly. And it sounds like this has been getting worse for some time. He even acknowledges that in the manifesto. And some of the issues that or a particular concern over whether or not this is politically motivated, and I don't think so.

I only see signs that this was a very deranged man who was actually trying, I think at times, to put things together, but all of his own in securities and his failures made him see the world as persecuting him.

BLITZER: Because he hated the IRS. He blamed the IRS for taking his money away.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, this is the hallmark of someone who has a deep-seated rage against authority, and yes, his financial problems were re probably in some ways worsened by a relationship with the IRS.

But people like that find something to be furious about. In his case it's the IRS and then he said, kind of gratuitously, something about the Catholic Church.

BLITZER: Yes, he -- he hated the Catholic Church because he said they were getting tax exemptions and were becoming wealthy at his expense.

VAN SUSTEREN: Exactly. These people will find something to rail against and the government is as good an authority figure as any.

BLITZER: What makes someone -- I can understand maybe, you know, suicide. But this was also, apparently, not just suicide, but homicide if he takes a plane, and if -- especially if, and we don't know if he did -- if he had extra explosives or whatever on that plane and tries to kill other people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's definitely revenge. And how he sets it up in his mind likely is that the IRS thought they had power over him. Well, look at what just happened. I have power over you. You're under my heel, I'm not under your heel. It's his way of gaining some semblance of power back. BLITZER: And if, in fact, he decided to burn his own house, set his own house on fire before going to the airport, getting on that plane and crashing it to that building, because he did apparently get -- try to burn down his own house, what does that say?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it could be any number of things. One, it could be that the IRS was threatening to take this house away from him. That's one possibility. We don't know anything about his personal relationships. Maybe there's something going on between him and his wife. Maybe it's her house. Maybe he wanted to take it back from her.

There may be a number of different things. That we can't really say for sure.

BLITZER: Is there any way -- you're a trained psychiatrist. Is there any way to spot these individuals and prevent them from doing these kinds of things? Obviously, the tragedy is intense.

VAN SUSTEREN: There are ways. The question is whether or not we put our ways together with the people who are suffering. And by that I mean he was complaining about health benefits and things, and I always wonder did he have access to any really good help for some of his psychological problems?

Now somebody like him might not be willing to get any help --

BLITZER: You mean like take medications?

VAN SUSTEREN: Take medications, get some therapy, have somebody talk to him about it. A series of failures all through his life. This is what is characteristic of him. So that's one of the questions. The other one is, I don't really know a lot about this, but does the FAA regularly make sure that the people who have licenses to fly, who are private pilots, do have some sort of clearance for their mental state?

And I know that's an easy thing for me to say and quite hard, actually, to accomplish but there should be some issue for that.

BLITZER: They go through a physical exam every year when they get their pilot's license renewed, but as far as a mental exam, that's another issue.

Lise, thanks for coming in.

Lawmakers get stuff tough on Toyota. New demands from the head of a House committee investigating Toyota's massive recalls.

And President Obama creates a commission to tackle the nation's skyrocketing debt. Very blunt words from the co-chairman. They're here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All right. Good morning, everybody.



BLITZER: Let's go back to Lisa. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, Congress is turning up the heat on Toyota. The head of the House committee investigating a series of safety problems that the automaker is now demanding documents from the former top attorney for Toyota's American operations.

The attorney, who no longer works with Toyota, has reportedly suggested that the automaker had attempted to hide evidence of defects. Meanwhile, Toyota's president today agreed to testify before that House committee later this month.

A United Airlines plane diverted after a threatening letter was been found on board has been searched by federal agents and cleared to continue to its destination. The flight was en route from Denver to San Francisco when it was forced to land in Salt Lake City this afternoon.

Airline officials are not disclosing the contents of the contents of the note but say that the threat was considered credible.

Homeland Security officers have lost 179 firearms because they didn't properly look after them. A report by the inspector general says the weapons were lost between fiscal years 2006 and 2008 after being left behind in restrooms, cars and other public places. The DHS says it's taken immediate action to correct deficiencies identified in the report.

And Britain's National Trust may step in to save the famed Abbey Road Music Studios where the Beatles recorded many of their classics. The studios are being sold by the music company EMI. Now the heritage protection group says there's been a, quote, "astonishing outpouring of support," for the idea of protecting the site.

I know, Wolf, you're quite the Beatles fan.

BLITZER: I know. It's a historic site. They've got to do something to protect it. No doubt about that.

All right. Lisa, thank you.

The future of the tea party movement. Jack Cafferty with your e- mail. That's coming up. Also, we'll talk to the two men heading up the president's new debt commission. When might they start in tackling the nation's record debt?


BLITZER: Earlier today President Obama signed an executive order officially creating a controversial bipartisan commission on debt reduction. Today the federal debt is nearly $12.4 trillion, and it goes up every second.

Take a look at this chart that shows the federal debt amount since 1995. You can see the line steadily rise then take a sharp turn upwards at the beginning of the millennium. The projected gross federal debt for this year is around $13.8 trillion, and by 2015, it's projected to come close to a staggering $20 trillion, the nation's debt by then.

Heading up the president's new debt commission are former Clinton White House chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, and former Republican senator, Alan Simpson.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us, Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson, you guys have an important assignment right now the president has given you, but Senator Simpson, what teeth do you really have that these recommendations, any recommendations, that you'd make will actually be implemented?

ALAN SIMPSON, CO-CHAIR, NATIONAL DEBT COMMISSION: I haven't the slightest idea in the world. All I know is when the president of the United States asks you to join up for some suicide mission like this, you do. You respect the office. And here we are.

I have no expectations. All I can tell you is that when Erskine and I first visited they said, oh you're going to be a scapegoat, you're going to be a stalking horse for taxes, you're going to be this or that.

I said I'll tell you what we are. We're a stalking horse for our grandchildren. And if anybody can't wake up and smell the coffee about where this country is headed, while all the things you cherish are being wiped out by an engine with no brakes.

BLITZER: Why is this a suicide mission?

SIMPSON: Because we'll be called everything. You know we'll be called -- well, we have some names we were inventing.


SIMPSON: We will be -- you know, I'll be called a toady of the Republican Party. I think Rush (INAUDIBLE) is after me day and night now, of course, the way he did with McCain. There's no telling what (INAUDIBLE) -- anyway, we will be accused of toadying, of selling out, of tax stalking horses. It just goes with the territory.

Both of us have been in public life long enough to have our skin ripped off but it grows back double strength. And we're ready to go with good humor and good faith. BLITZER: Because you know, Erskine Bowles, in order to deal with the deficit either cut spending or you increase taxes.

ERSKINE BOWLES, CO-CHAIR, NATIONAL DEBT COMMISSION: Yes, I'm pretty good at arithmetic. But what I can tell you -- here's the good news. You know when the president talked to both of us he made it -- he made two things really clear.

First, that this was going to be bipartisan. And he set up a commission that's darn well going to be. And Alan and I are going to be great partners. Second, he said everything's on the table. And that's important because you can't start by taking things off a table and get to battle.

BLITZER: You say everything's on the table. Entitlement spending including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. You're ready to deal with that?

BOWLES: Wolf, everything is on the table.

SIMPSON: Everything. We're ready.

BLITZER: You're ready to make recommendations potentially --

BOWLES: Everything.

BLITZER: -- to cut Social Security?

BOWLES: Everything's on the table.

BLITZER: Are you ready to potentially recommend, Senator Simpson, tax increases?

SIMPSON: When I was here in the Senate, this is not some new epiphany for me. When I was here I had a hearing on the AARP once where they shrieked like a gun-shot panther. Nobody came to the hearing but I was there. They have to get in the game. We've got 40 million people out there in that little organization and they're interested in marketing stuff.

BLITZER: Tax increases on the table?

SIMPSON: Everything is on the table. But when you say -- if you're going to use flash words all day long, this is your country, too. You can use all the flash words you want. The reason immigration reform failed is because every time we tried to get a more secure identifier, it was called a national ID. Then parodied all day along.

If you want to just mumble taxes all day or cutting children or veterans and benefits, well, hell, you won't go anywhere but we're going to go somewhere.

BLITZER: Because at stake our children and grandchildren, they're going to be in debt and the country's solvency, economically, is at risk, right? BOWLES: Wolf, it's unbelievable how rapidly this debt is going to grow over the next 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. And if we don't attack it now there's going to be no money for those who want to invest in education or innovation or research so that we can be competitive in a knowledge-based global economy.

There's going to be no money for capital for small businesses to grow and create jobs. We have got to address this deficit. We've got to do it now. And we've got to put everything on the table and we've got to tell the truth.

If we do that we've got a good chance to take it forward.

SIMPSON: Last time they did the corrective work on Social Security they did raise the payroll tax by .1 percent or something. It was a total tweak. That was Moynihan and company, and Bob Dole, great patriots.

We're not in it as Democrats or Republicans, we're in it as Americans. But if they're just going to shrieks of pain (INAUDIBLE), the shrieks of pain for our grandchildren are going to be like the keening wail of a wolf.

BLITZER: It sounds to me like you're going to have deal with potentially the entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.


BLITZER: You're going to have to deal with defense spending, too. Is that right?

BOWLES: You're going to have to deal with everything. Everything is everything.


BOWLES: And if you're not willing to do that, then we're not going to get there.

SIMPSON: I just had a vision. I come from cattle country. We're going to slay every sacred cow in the field.

BLITZER: But you raised an interesting point earlier. You're going to be the target, not necessarily from Democrats, but from fellow Republicans.


BLITZER: If you go ahead and recommend some tax increases.

SIMPSON: Well, if --

BLITZER: You're ready for that?

SIMPSON: I don't know what's coming. But all I know is that if we're just going to mumble the word "taxes," those are flash words. And we don't need to do that. We need to talk about your children and the people you care -- or every program in government that you love is going to disappear because of this rudderless engine sucking it up.

BLITZER: What worries me, and let me know if it worries you, long term, not now, not in the short term, like a year or two, but longer term, if something isn't done, inflation, and people's net worth simply disappearing.

BOWLES: Not just inflation but hyperinflation. It could be really bad. That's why we've got to step up, put our big boy pants on, and really go after this and go after it hard.

BLITZER: We're counting on you guys to come up with some solutions because the stakes are enormous right now. Thanks very much. And good luck.

BOWLES: Thank you.

SIMPSON: Our pleasure.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Campbell to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on, Campbell?


We are following some new developments in that Austin plane crash. Authorities have just confirmed finding a body in the building that the plane hit.

Also if you've ever seen one of those late-night commercials that promise you can get cash now without waiting for your lawsuit to be settled, you may have wondered if they are actually on the up and up.

Tonight, Wolf, we have a CNN special investigation that gives us some pretty eye opening answers. We'll share that with you as well.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Campbell. Thank you.

So what's the future of the tea party movement? Jack Cafferty and your e-mail, that's coming up next.


BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: What do you see as the future of tea party?

Steve says: "The tea party movement will continue to grow as more and more Americans reject the overreaching bureaucracy of Washington. For far too long liberal politicians have been whittling away at our freedom and our liberty. From now on there's an independent force that can brew up conservative power against any challenge to our country's founding principles."

Edmond writes: "Who really gives a rip about the so-called tea party or Sarah Palin? The tea party's nothing but an angry bunch of middle age, middle class dumb, white racists who are mad that an African-American is president of the United States."

David in San Diego: "I think it will damage the Republican Party a little and eventually fizzle out by being absorbed into the GOP. As I recall most Republicans who thought term limits were a good idea when campaigning became career politicians once they were elected. Earmarks become meeting the needs of my district. Outsiders lose steam once they use their outrage to get on the inside."

David in Texas: "I fit the profile, college educated male, I live in rural Texas. I feel the tea parties give us a chance to voice our opinion beyond the office of our elected officials. My hope is the rest of Washington will get the message. Additionally maybe the liberal left will realize that we can think for ourselves and we don't agree with the tax and spend policies that we see happening in Washington."

Marie writes from Portland, Oregon: "The squeaky wheel always gets the grease. That's the nature of the news cycle. But most Americans don't go with candidates on either the far right or the far left. That in itself will lead to the tea party's eventual demise."

A puts it more succinctly from San Francisco: "Fizzle, fizzle, crash."

If you want to read more on this you can go to my blog at -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll do it. See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you very much.

That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "CAMPBELL BROWN."

ANNOUNCER: CNN Primetime begins right now.