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Florida Pastor Cancels Koran Protest

Aired September 9, 2010 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We are following breaking news this hour. Two very controversial stories inflaming tensions between Christians and Muslims have suddenly and surprisingly come together.

The pastor of a Florida church that was planning to burn copies of the Koran this Saturday on the anniversary of 9/11 has canceled his protest. Now, instead, he says he's going to travel to New York to meet with the Muslim clergyman, the imam, behind the plan to build an Islamic center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.

CNN's John Zarrella, he is live at the church. This is in Gainesville, Florida, and he is going to give us all those details.

But I first want to go to Mary Snow, who is in New York.

I understand, Mary, that you have got a statement from the imam now in New York. What have you learned?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what we can tell you, Suzanne.

His statement reads as this: "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

And as we have been reporting, Park 51, the Islamic community center, has been saying it has no plans to move, so, any kind of talk to the contrary is not true, and the imam saying that he -- only thing right now he is glad that the pastor has decided not to burn any Korans -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Mary, I apologize. I don't know the first name of the imam's wife, but I understand -- we had John Zarrella who was speaking with the Imam Musri there. He said that he spoke with the imam's wife.


SNOW: Daisy Khan.

MALVEAUX: Daisy, that's right.

Do we know -- I know he put out a statement saying he has not had any conversations with Imam Musri. Is there any sense of whether or not his wife did? Do we have any idea if there was any kind of communication?


SNOW: No. We are trying to track that down as we speak, but at this point, we do not know if there was any kind of communication between the pastor and imam in Florida and Daisy Khan, Imam Feisal's wife.

MALVEAUX: So, so far, Mary, you've heard from three people, obviously, the person who is in the center of the controversy, Imam Rauf.

You've heard from the SoHo developers. You've also heard from Donald Trump, and to your understanding, there is no deal in the works and he has not even been in contact with the reverend or the intermediary?

SNOW: Correct. Right. He said that he -- you know, he was surprised by this announcement because he has not spoken to either men.

You had just mentioned Donald Trump. Quickly, also, the developers for the Islamic center said they had no comment about that report that Donald Trump had sent a letter to one of the major investors offering to buy out his share of this property, plus 25 percent, saying that he would do so with cash, and there was a stipulation that if there was to be a mosque, that it would have to be five blocks from Ground Zero. That is further away.

MALVEAUX: And, Mary, there is another part of the story. We heard from the reverend who was saying that they were going to go to New York, and perhaps meet together as a group to talk about all of this.

We know that the third party said he had not even bought his tickets yet to go to New York. There were no real commitments on the imam's schedule to meet with the reverend. Do we know if there is any such meeting that is going to take place? Do we know if he is rearranging his schedule, or did he not bother to talk about that at all?

SNOW: We do not know about any potential meeting, and again, we just have to stress that we just got this statement from Imam Feisal, but that we don't know of any meeting at this point between those three gentlemen.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thank you so much, excellent reporting.

I want to go to John Zarrella.

I understand that John is not available at this point, so, Mary, I'm going to go back to you, if you are still with us.

SNOW: Yes.

And we're just going to read the statement one more time from Imam Feisal, just getting this in, this in response to what Pastor Jones in Florida had to say.

The imam says that: "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

And that is the statement.


MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Mary.

I want to go to John Zarrella, who is in Florida. I understand that the pastor now is speaking again or is -- he is. We are looking at the pictures now. Can we actually go to those pictures?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Suzanne, we are trying to get some clarification from the pastor right now as he is in front of all these the microphones.

He is -- right now that he is staying with what he has been told, that there is an agreement that there will be a meeting in New York on Saturday, but all of his information, of course, is coming from Imam Musri, who is walking off right now in another direction, but that that is where he was getting his information.

What he keeps saying right now, if I'm hearing him correctly, is, I am sticking with my information that I have. He is saying, I am telling you what I was told.

I asked him three or four times. "That is what I was told. He gave me his word."

And he is referring to Imam Musri when he says his word, that Imam Musri gave him his word that there would be a meeting and that there was a deal. Of course, we know from our conversation with Imam Musri that in fact there was no deal done, that all there was, was some sort of an agreement to meet on Saturday, but even that appears to be nebulous at best now given what Mary Snow is reporting out of New York, that -- the imam there.

And we knew that, too, as well, Suzanne, that he had not talked directly to Pastor Jones or to Imam Musri. So, it is -- there's a lot of disconnects in this story right now. And it just seems to be playing out here right before our cameras, moment by moment -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: John, I know you have to keep one ear on the reverend himself to try to hear what he is saying, but has he said anything else, any other details about his conversation with Secretary Gates?

ZARRELLA: No, he did not. He did not say anything more about his conversation.

And all -- what we did get with Imam Musri was that that conversation took place at about 4:15 this afternoon with Defense Secretary Gates, lasted just a few minutes, and then the pastor came back in to the room where he was meeting with the imam and they continued their discussions on this trip to New York, which he is saying again, now, that he is still planning to go there on Saturday.

I am still trying to overhear a little bit more of the conversation.


MALVEAUX: I'm going to let you listen to the reverend. Why don't you go and listen to the reverend?

I want you to bring in our own Barbara Starr, who is at the Pentagon.

Clearly, there was a conversation, some sort of phone call that happened between Secretary Gates and Pastor Terry Jones.

Barbara, what we do we know about that conversation? What happened?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has now confirmed this afternoon Defense Secretary Gates called Pastor Jones.

Front and center of the military's concerns, of course, is that any burning of the Koran would incite violence across the Islamic world and put U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq at risk.

What Morrell tells reporters is that the secretary -- quote -- "expressed to the pastor grave concern that going forward with the Koran burning would put those troop lives at risk and that the secretary urged Jones not to proceed with it."

We are told that the secretary's attitude about making this unprecedented phone call was that, if it would help save the life of a single shoulder or service member in the war zone, that it would then be worth it, if it would save a single life.

But let's be very clear, Suzanne. This is unprecedented, for a secretary of defense to call someone who is a civilian, who is essentially in the position that Pastor Jones is, and respond to the kind of pressure that Jones is putting on the Obama administration, saying earlier today that he might give up burning the Koran if he only got a phone call from the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon.

Jones puts that out there. Gates makes that phone call. Something like this has never happened before -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, the fact that something like this has not happened before, do we know if the president was involved? Did the president ask Secretary Gates, I need you to make this phone call, or do we know if it was Gates' idea to begin with, that he made his own decision? STARR: Well, no one so far -- so far at this point, no one is exactly answering that very key question, Suzanne.

What we know is, throughout today, there had been discussions at very high levels of the administration, including White House officials, Pentagon officials, State Department officials, about the prospect of making a call to Pastor Jones.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, will not say whether it was eventually Gates' idea to proceed with it or the president asked Secretary Gates to deal with it, to do it. All they will say is that this process made a determination, came up with a determination that a call would be made -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, do we know if the pastor had already made up his mind not to burn the Korans and had this discussion, you know, that he talks about with the imam, so forth, or was it Gates' call essentially that turned this situation around?

STARR: You know, I don't know think we know the answer to that.

And it may really, to use an expression, not be knowable at this point, because there is so much confusion in all of this about what Pastor Jones is really up to and what he does plan to do at this point.

He -- Jones had made the statement that the conversation with Gates was very gracious. We are not told that there was any back and forth in terms of bartering, agreements, decisions, that Gates simply stated his position. What Jones does now certainly remains to be seen, I think.

MALVEAUX: Barbara, thank you so much.

I want to bring in our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser for President George W. Bush. And she was in Kabul and Afghanistan just this past week as a part of her responsibilities on the advisory board for the U.S. military's European Command.

Fran, I would like to start with you here, because, as Barbara had just mentioned, this was an unprecedented, extraordinary move for the secretary to pick up the phone and call this guy. Nobody knew about this guy, had never heard of him. All of a sudden, he has got all this power and we hear from the commander in chief this morning, President Obama, saying, if you are listening, you know, do not do this.

How did we get to this point? How did this one man become so powerful?


FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, it is a measure of just the outrage and the reaction around the world to the suggestion of this Pastor Jones that he was going to burn the Koran.

When I was in Afghanistan, I was there not only with the U.S. military. I met with NATO ambassadors from France and Poland. People, the NATO coalition members were worried about this. There was pressure being put not only within the executive branch, but from our allies.

The State Department was worried about the safety of their civilians, and so there was no one in the U.S. government or across our coalition allies that did not share a concern that if there was something that could be done to discourage this man, this Pastor Jones, from going forward with this, it should in fact be done. And so I think the administration and Secretary Gates in particular felt that pressure.

MALVEAUX: Now, Fran, I have to ask you this. The Obama administration, from day one, President Obama has made it a point that he was going to reset the button here, the relationship with Islam, with the Middle Eastern, with the Arab world. He has made a point of doing so, improving relations.

And you have got this one guy who can turn all this around with a simple threat of potentially -- obviously a serious threat of burning the Koran. How does that happen? I mean, what does that say about the Obama's administration's ability to actually be influential in this relationship, improving relations with the Middle East?

TOWNSEND: Well, in fairness to the administration, I am not sure that we can judge their effectiveness by this.

I remember, when I was working for President Bush, twice he visited the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. He made a point of repeatedly saying this was not a war with Islam, that those who wanted to do us harm were not representative of all Muslims, but they were actually deviant from the true faith of Islam.

And I think President Obama has carried the same message. I really think when it comes right down to it, when something like this happens, this is one nut, one crackpot who wants to do a very abhorrent, offensive thing. But, in the end, we have troops and diplomats in harm's way, and in the end what we want to do is have them be successful.

And so if we can -- as Secretary Gates said, and I think rightly, if there is something we can do to protect one life, it is worth trying and it's worth doing. And he feels an -- Secretary Gates feels an obligation to those soldiers in the field.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, I want to ask you, short of Secretary Gates getting involved and potentially others, high-level officials in the administration, we know that the FBI had agents out there that were rummaging through, at least searching for some stuff either at his house or the place of worship.

Was there another avenue, perhaps a less public type of venue, to stop this guy in some sort of legal avenue that the Justice Department or the FBI could have taken?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think what he was doing was almost certainly protected by the First Amendment.

I don't think there is any doubt that a court would not have granted an injunction to say you can't burn a Koran. He was using his First Amendment rights and so were we in deciding to cover this guy. And I think that is going to be the really hard question that we are go going to have to answer about why we covered him in the first place, because, obviously, once President Obama, Secretary Gates, General Petraeus started talking about him, obviously, he had to -- we had to cover that.

But the only reason they talked about him is that we decided to give publicity to this bigot, this lunatic who does not represent anybody, except perhaps at most 50 people in Florida. I think the real question here is about the news media, as much as it is about the Obama administration.

MALVEAUX: Obviously, I think everyone is going to have a lot of soul-searching and the network has done that as well in every step of covering this story.

I want to bring in Mary back with us.

I understand that you have got some new information?

SNOW: Yes, the developer, Suzanne, of the Islamic community center has also issued a statement throwing cold water on these reports from Pastor Jones out of Florida.

Sharif El-Gamal issued a statement saying in his words: "It is untrue that the community center known as Park 51 in Lower Manhattan is being moved. The project will proceed as planned. What is being reported in the media today is a falsehood."

And of course what he is referring to is the news earlier today from Pastor Jones saying that he was going to be meeting with the imam about the relocation of the Islamic center. And we know now from a statement from Imam Feisal saying that he had not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri and he was surprised by this announcement -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thank you so much.

We are obviously going to have more details about this breaking news story at the other side of the break, but clearly fast-moving developments that are taking place, the pastor who has threatened to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11 now saying he has canceled those plans.

But there are still a lot of questions over whether or not there will be any type of meeting that's going to take place between the pastor and Imam Rauf. We have also heard from the imam that there is no plan to move the site of the Islamic cultural center and mosque from near that site of Ground Zero. We will have more details at the end of the break.



MALVEAUX: I want to go back to our top story, the breaking news that we have.

Our John Zarrella is in Gainesville, Florida, following all the latest developments on Reverend Jones, his plans to cancel burning of the Koran and some discussions that he has had supposedly trying to work out a deal, if there is any such deal at all, regarding meeting with the imam who has been planning to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site of Ground Zero.

Hey, John, what do we have?

ZARRELLA: Suzanne, well, I can tell you that when the pastor was out here again just a few minutes ago, he was pressed for some answers.

And he said that while he is planning to go to New York on Saturday, he was asked -- he said that he did not know when the meeting would take place, where the meeting would take place, or what time the meeting would take place.

But he insisted that Imam Musri, who was the intermediary in all this, had given him an absolute guarantee that the cultural center in New York would be moved.

MALVEAUX: John, do we have any idea the relationship between Imam Musri and Pastor Jones? Do these guys know each other? Do they trust each other? Have they talked before?

This seems rather bizarre that you have this individual who is in the middle of all of this who does not seem to be directly communicating with Imam Rauf in New York.

ZARRELLA: Exactly.

And he said that -- in fact, Jones said just a minute ago that he had -- that he had just recently met with the Imam Musri, that the two of them just met a day or so ago briefly, had a conversation, that he was invited -- that he invited the imam in just for conversation to be polite and then the imam came back today with this additional appeal and all of this additional information and trying to work out this deal.

But, again, Jones insisted at this impromptu presser a few minutes ago that he has a deal.

MALVEAUX: Did he talk at all about his conversation with Secretary Gates? I know that Secretary Gates actually called him and told him the seriousness of what he was threatening.

ZARRELLA: No, we do not have any details of what that conversation, what transpired in that conversation.

He did not discuss that. What was asked of him, though, was, if in fact there is no deal, what will you do? Would you go back to your original plan of burning Korans?

And Jones said: I am not even entertaining that at this point in time, because I do not believe and I don't want to believe that I was lied to.

I think that we have some sound of what he just said a few minutes ago.


PASTOR TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: I was told exactly that the imam would move the mosque from Ground Zero. I was told he cannot move it tomorrow. I said, that is fine, but it cannot be in 10 years. These are the exact words that I said. The man, said that is fine. I said, now, he has agreed to move the mosque away from the Ground Zero area? Yes, he has, that is what I was told.

QUESTION: And who told you that?



ZARRELLA: So now Jones seems to -- obviously there, Suzanne, seems absolutely firm in his belief that that was what Imam Musri told him.

But you heard Imam Musri. I did. We had him on live a little while ago. And he said, well, no, there is no deal right now, just an opportunity to talk in New York with the imam in New York, maybe, because the imam in New York has not apparently agreed to that yet either -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So it seems as if Imam Musri has very little credibility in terms of any kind of negotiating deal or communicating whatsoever.


And Imam Musri told us when we had him on that he had not talked to the imam in New York, that he had talked with the imam's wife in New York, and that they would be able to arrange this meeting on Saturday up there somewhere in New York.

But, no, and he said that he had a long history, an imam-to-imam relationship over many years with the imam in New York. But it is not -- I don't think it is a relationship where the two of them are sitting down to dinner together periodically. From my conversation with Imam Musri, that is certainly not the case.

MALVEAUX: All right, John, thank you so much for the latest.

Obviously, we will get back to you as you have more details.

We are going to take a really quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MALVEAUX: We have a confluence of two very controversial stories obviously breaking at this hour. On the one hand, you have the Pastor Jones out of Gainesville, Florida, threatening to burn Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He says that he has canceled that protest.

On the other hand, he says that he has got a deal with the imam that is planning on building an Islamic cultural center and mosque at or near the site of Ground Zero. We have heard from the imam saying that there is no such deal.

Lots of questions about whether or not there is a meeting between these two individuals, a lot of conflicting information.

And we have got our Mary Snow, who is in New York, who is following these fast-moving developments.

Mary, set the stage for our viewers. Tell us where we are with this story. What do we understand to be true and what is not true?

SNOW: Yes.

And, Suzanne, just -- Suzanne, just to set the stage, shortly before 5:00 p.m. Eastern, before we went on the air with our show, Pastor Jones had said that this deal had been struck and that he was coming to New York.

And, since then, what we have heard from the developer at this -- the proposed Islamic site, that this is untrue. And we have heard from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. We have not had any confirmation of any kind of meeting going on Saturday, to take place on Saturday.

We have a statement from the imam who says, basically, "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans; however, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

And when we tried to get to the bottom of it, you heard John Zarrella there talking to Imam Musri to say who exactly did you speak with. He said that he spoke with the imam's wife, Daisy Khan, and we are trying to get confirmation or any kind of reaction from her about whether that conversation did take place.

Now as that was unfolding and the developer again came out to say that this Islamic community center is not going to be moved, saying that all these reports were falsehoods. We have that part of the story. But then a second part of the story is that real-estate developer Donald Trump inserted himself into this controversy today. He wrote to one of the major investors of this site, offering to buy the site plus 25 percent.

He's saying that he's making this offer as a resident of New York, and a citizen of the United States, and saying that this is not because it is a spectacular site, but that this, it was a solution for this very controversial issue.

He also said that this was going to be a cash offer, and that if it went through, he said, if there were to be a mosque built at the center, that the agreement would have to be that it would be at least five blocks from Ground Zero. Right now that proposed community center is two blocks away.

Now, the developer, the investor, that is, Hasham Elzanaty, and we have not. We have reached out from him. We have not heard back from him. We're trying to get some reaction from him on whether he would even consider this offer that's now been put on the table by Donald Trump -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Mary, do we know if Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, does he have any idea about Donald Trump's offer? Do we know if he's aware of this at al? Or he has put out a statement simply saying this is going to move forward as planned. Is he aware that there are other options out there, or is that getting too far ahead?

SNOW: A little bit too far ahead. We have not heard from him specifically about this offer. We did ask a spokesperson earlier about this Donald Trump offer. They simply said they did not have any comment.

MALVEAUX: Do we have any other information? You said that -- we can't confirm at this point whether or not the imam's wife did, in fact, have that conversation with Imam Musri. Is that correct?

SNOW: Correct. We cannot confirm that at this point. We're trying to get to the bottom of that, but we can't confirm it right now.

MALVEAUX: Mary, excellent reporting. Thank you so much for keeping us posted on all these details. Obviously, a lot to sort through here. I want to talk about this with Arianna Huffington of She is also the author of a new book called "Third World America: How Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream."

Arianna, I mean, just -- you know, what's your response? What's your reaction to where we are with all of this? Do you think it says anything about our culture, the way the media has behaved, and the way the administration has behaved that we're at this point?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST: I really think so, Julianne [SIC]. It's a little bit like watching events unfold on an alternate universe. And that has not to do with what is really happening in this country, who is the plight of the jobless and people losing their homes.

And you know what? It is staggering to me that I feel a little bit as I felt when I was watching events unfold around the balloon boy. Remember? Another non-story that captivated the media, that had us all following every minute of what was happening.

The only thing I'm hoping will not happen is Reverend Jones vomiting on national TV tomorrow as the balloon boy did. But it is really stunning. This is a man who's clearly disturbed, who is clearly pulling a stunt, who believes that Islam is evil. And we're giving him all the attention.

It's really disturbing to think of what other copycat stunts we are going to be encouraging by having the secretary of defense call him, having General Petraeus insert himself in this. The commander in chief discussing what he should or should not do.

There are millions of people in this country who may at any time do crazy things. You know, he 's a nut case, and by giving him this kind of attention, by talking about negotiations, by having Donald Trump insert himself, who else is going to insert themselves in this three-ring circus, basically?

MALVEAUX: Arianna.


MALVEAUX: No, no. it's OK. Obviously...

HUFFINGTON: I'm ranting.

MALVEAUX: Well, you have your point of view there, but do you think that initially the whole debate over whether or not to build this Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site of Ground Zero set the stage, if you will, for what we have seen around the country, which is the risk to other mosques, the protests against mosque, protests against Islam, and then this pastor, who comes out of nowhere and threatens to burn these Korans?

HUFFINGTON: Well, there is definitely, Suzanne, a continuum of intolerance. You know, people who identify an entire religion as terrorists who attacked our country on 9/11. I mean, that's really where the problem starts.

The people who basically are saying that we should not allow the construction of a mosque to proceed near Ground Zero are people who are basically violating a fundamental principle of American democracy, which is the freedom to worship, the freedom the build a church or a synagogue or a mosque on private ground. And we need to stick by these principles, because otherwise, what are we fighting for?

MALVEAUX: Arianna Huffington, thank you so much. We appreciate your time here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Of course, we're going to bring you the latest on this story as new developments surface. And up next we're going to have some other important news. Obviously, Afghan civilians murdered and mutilated. Now there are 12 American soldiers who are facing charges. Was there a cover-up?


MALVEAUX: We are following the breaking news story. Pastor Jones out of Gainesville, Florida, announcing that he is canceling a protest that he had planned on the anniversary of 9/11 to burn Korans.

Secretary Gates calling the reverend earlier today to basically tell him that he thought it was definitely the wrong thing to do, and the pastor taking his cues.

There's another part of the story. Still working it out, whether or not there is a meeting or even a connection with the imam who has planned or has plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site of Ground Zero.

But I want to also bring you some other news that we are following. There are 12 U.S. soldiers who are facing charges stemming from the grisly murder and mutilation of Afghan civilians. It's a case that could complicate the U.S. mission even further.

I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence for some of these details.

And Chris, what are we finding out today?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, I mean, the charges are just stunning. You know, we've been able to take a look at them here. You know, over 70 crimes that these soldiers are accused of committing, and the concern now is, one, that the army may not have acted quickly enough to stop some of this. And also, two, in a line that we've been talking about a lot lately, what this will do and what effect it will have with the soldiers who are left there in Afghanistan.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The charges against 12 American soldiers sound like crimes terrorists would be accused of. Murdering civilians, chopping off body parts to keep as trophies, and beating those who'd speak up against them.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: The charges levied against these individuals are very serious.

LAWRENCE: The soldiers are part of a Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry. Their crimes allegedly happened near a U.S. military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Five are accused of murder: some by shooting unarmed Afghan civilians or throwing grenades at them.

The military says Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs "between November 2009 and May 2010 possessed finger bones, leg bones and a tooth taken from Afghan corpses." Some of the soldiers' families have set up Web sites in their defense. In addition to murder, Specialist Jeremy Morelock is accused of, quote, "striking a fellow soldier with his hands and feet, threatening to kill him if he spoke about hashish use within the platoon and showing him fingers removed from a corpse."

The attorney for one of the soldiers, Specialist Adam Winfield, says the suspect's father called the Defense Department and his son's home base several times trying to warn them after the first murder. Officials arrested the soldiers months later, but by then two more Afghans had been killed.

MORRELL: That's disheartening to hear, if that is indeed the case, because if someone is trying to reach out, trying to notify us, trying to head off a potential problem, that's something that we need to pay attention to and heed that warning.

LAWRENCE: Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says the charges don't reflect the majority of U.S. troops who treat Afghans with respect. But that may not matter.

MORRELL: The sad part about this is, even if these individuals are vindicated, even if they're not true, the damage will have been done.


LAWRENCE: Now, we called the -- the soldier's home base at Fort Lewis, and officials there won't confirm or deny that they were repeatedly alerted by Specialist Winfield's father, but Winfield's attorney tells us that this was an institutional failure. He claims that a complete lack of supervision on the battlefield helped contribute to this situation -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Chris.

Classes -- clashes, rather, in Los Angeles. Why the police shooting of an immigrant is unleashing some anger.


MALVEAUX: The breaking news story we've been following: a pastor out of Gainesville, Florida, cancels his protest, his plan to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11. The imam who plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site of Ground Zero insists that that will still take place, but there are questions as to whether or not these two leaders will actually meet face-to-face over the weekend.

Now, to Los Angeles and mounting protests over the fatal police shooting of an immigrant worker. Our CNN's Casey Wian is joining us from the neighborhood where this shooting took place.

And Casey, what -- what do we know about this? Why has it gotten so volatile?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this is the spot where on Sunday, a Guatemalan immigrant, allegedly brandishing a knife, was shot and killed by an LAPD officer. The scene right now is very quiet, but for the past several days, tensions here have been running high.



WIAN (voice-over): The Los Angeles Police Department is trying to calm tensions in the city's West Lake District after three days of clashes with protesters angry over the fatal police shooting of Manuel Jimenez, a Guatemalan immigrant day laborer.

CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE: Because it's the right thing to do, I promise you a fair and transparent investigation into the events of this past Sunday, but what I ask for you in return is that, while that investigation continues, we have peace in our streets.

WIAN: According to the LAPD, officers on bicycle parole responded to a report of a man threatening people with a knife. Officers said they encountered Jimenez and that they ordered him several times in both English and Spanish to drop the knife. Instead, they say he raised the knife over his head and lunged at an officer who fired two shots, killing Jimenez.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is why did they have to shoot him instead of just disarm him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't teach the police officers to take knives away from people.

WIAN: The Los Angeles police protectively in a statement blamed community activists for, quote, "attempting to gin this shooting up into a controversy. The group added that any person, whether or not they speak English or has had too much too drink, should understand that threatening officers with a knife will result is a swift and appropriate response by police and if necessary it will include the use of deadly force."

The officer involved in the shooting has been taken off patrol duty while the investigation continues. He, like the victim, is Latino.


WIAN: In an interview with "The Los Angeles Times," Chief Beck said he believes the community anger may be related to a lack of jobs and the aggressive stance his department has taken in shutting down illegal street venders in this area -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Casey, thank you.

Well, the vitamin that could keep Alzheimer's Disease at bay.

Plus, the man who tweeted his own heart attack. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.


MALVEAUX: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hey, Fred. What are you working on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, again, Suzanne.

Hello, everyone.

Well, for the first time, the U.S. military has boarded a pirate- captured ship. The incident happened off Somalia, where 24 marines seized control of a German-owned vessel and secured the safety of the crew. A spokesman says o shots were fired, and the pirates surrendered immediately. They are now in custody.

And President Obama is strongly condemning a deadly explosion in Russia. At least 17 people were killed and more than 100 wounded after a car bomb tore apart a market. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has pledged to identify those responsible for the bombing. A national day of mourning has been declared for tomorrow.

And a new study finds that daily doses of Vitamin B could help stave off the development of Alzheimer's. A two-year clinical trial shows that Vitamin B slowed the rate of brain shrinkage by as much as half in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer's. It's one of the first such studies in the Alzheimer's field to show positive results -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Great. Thank you, Fred. Good news.

Twitter mania taken to a new level. A man tweets while having a heart attack. Jeanne Moos is going to tell us all about it. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Well, you may call it a sign of our times. Jeanne Moos reports on a most unusual way that a New Jersey man let people know that he was having a heart attack.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It could have been Tommy Christopher's last tweet. After all, it was a heart attack he was live tweeting.

TOMMY CHRISTOPHER, REPORTER/MEDIAITE.COM: I got to be me. Livetweeting my own heart attack. Beat that!

MOOS: His only regret was that he wasn't wittier.

CHRISTOPHER: I could have at least said something like, you know, "I'm alive tweeting, for now."

MOOS: Tommy is a political reporter for a Web site called Mediaite. But instead of asking questions at the White House...

CHRISTOPHER: Is that what this is?

MOOS: ... he answered ours via Skype from a New Jersey hospital where he's having a double bypass.

CHRISTOPHER: Paramedics think I will live.

MOOS: The 42-year-od was driving back from the beach with family when he had the heart attack. Someone called 911. Tommy texted his 5-year-old son to say he was thinking of him. Then he started tweeting as the paramedics worked.

CHRISTOPHER: Still hurts, even after the morphine.

Do you want me to put a little pain in the voice there?

MOOS: Tommy can afford to joke, since he lived to tell about it. Also telling jokes about it was Jay Leno.

JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Doctors are not worried about him losing his life, because apparently he never had one.

MOOS (on camera): We're thinking tweeting your heart attack is the final frontier, because no one is going to be live tweeting their funeral.

(voice-over) There have been plenty of other oddball tweets. Paris Hilton tweeted when she was awakened by a guy breaking into her house with two knives. And this Kansas City woman tweeted as she gave birth to her baby boy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did it between contractions.

MOOS: And Heidi Montag live tweeted giving herself a soft tissue breast massage. Ladies, we have to keep those implants soft.

But tweeting your heart attack could give someone receiving the news a heart attack.

CHRISTOPHER: Eventually, though, my hands were shaking, and I couldn't really do it anymore. But I didn't want to alarm anybody, so I just said, "I'm going to take a break."

MOOS: Tommy did make a typo: "Going to get a cardiac cat." No, not a cat, he meant a cath, as in catherization.

LENO: What are you going to tweet about? Ooh, EKG, OMG. I'm GAO. What do you say? What do you -- shut up, shut up.

MOOS: That one even had Tommy LOL.

CHRISTOPHER: Real classy, Jay. You know, I could still die.

MOOS: But for now, his Twitter account still has a pulse.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

CHRISTOPHER: Still hurts, even after the morphine.

MOOS: ... New York.


MALVEAUX: We're glad he's OK.

Well, remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's right; I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at and also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to to become a fan.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.