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New Revelations About bin Laden Raid; Protests in Syria

Aired June 24, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm Joe Johns. John king is off tonight.

New revelations from the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden and new doubts about Pakistan's reliability in the war on terrorism. All day we've been watching the reaction come into a "New York Times" story about a cell phone recovered during the raid.

It belonged to Bin Laden's trusted courier, a man who also died in the raid. The times quoting senior American official says when the U.S. started tracing calls on the phone, it led to members of a militant group that has ties to Pakistan's intelligence agency.

That militant group went out of its way to deny the story today. But from Washington to Pakistan to its neighbor Afghanistan, plenty of questions are being asked.

Joining us now from Camp Bostock, Afghanistan, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. Nick, is the latest information about the cell phone a smoking gun?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's clear it's not really a smoking gun, which people sensed Bin Laden's death had been looking for. Let's break down what the story in "The New York Times" said.

It says that Bin Laden's courier who had the cell phone that led the Navy SEALs to where Bin Laden was, that he had made calls to people and there are militant groups allegedly created by the Pakistani Intelligence Services to help fight in the Soviet war in Afghanistan that are still functioning, who still have links with Pakistani intelligence services.

That's according to the "New York Times." That doesn't suggest that bin Laden's courier was talking to Pakistani intelligence officers. That would be the smoking gun frankly. It's just they have a mutual acquaintance in this militant group.

Pakistani intelligence official I spoke to said I have no comment on "The New York Times" story. Of course, we deny all links to militant groups. They're fighting them as hard as the Americans are.

We're still sharing information with the Americans at this point on issues relating to terrorism. The militant group themselves have told CNN they admire Bin Laden. They love to work with him, but are unaware of particular detailed help like is suggested in the article. Joe.

JOHNS: Nick, how much more information do we have about this Pakistani militant group and its alleged connection to the government.

WALSH: It's all incredibly murky. This is all about cells within cells or operatives that are perhaps distant from the main core of Pakistan's intelligence service. Let's take it back a little bit.

In the end of the Soviet War here, there were many militant groups that helped create a fight that in the (inaudible) that continue to receive their support. Many saying they wanted these militants around in the event of an all-out war with India.

They could use them in kind of a symmetrical warfare almost terrorists attacks. Now Pakistan has denied, said they've now turned on all these militant groups and see them very much as the enemy within.

But frankly the suspicions are still there and that's really where the story comes from. People since Bin Laden was sitting in that compound for about six years right under the nose of the military have been looking for an explanation and trying to link the two somehow.

Link Bin Laden to Pakistani intelligence services, but so far the smoking gun has not come along on this "New York Times" story does not appear to be it. Joe --

JOHNS: A lot of questions that have to be answered there. Nick Paton Walsh for us in Afghanistan tonight. Thanks, Nick. Stay safe.

Now what you might call a tale of two Syrias. Tonight an activist group is telling CNN at least 10 people died in today's anti- government protests with clashes and security forces. Protests marches against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad are reported in at least six cities as well as some neighborhoods in the capital of Damascus.

Yet in Damascus itself, you might never know there was a crisis. After months of requests, the Syrian government has finally allowed CNN crews inside the country. Even though she's being supervised, CNN Hala Gorani was allowed to talk to people after their Friday prayers.


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT, CNNI: This young man just came out of the mosque and he said he doesn't want any trouble. They're a small group of pro-government demonstrators expressing their support for the regime. This young man is saying people are paying money from outside in order to ferment this unrest.


JOHNS: Joining us now from Damascus, CNN's Hala Gorani. Hala, what kind of activity did you see in Damascus today? GORANI: Well, really, Joe, it's interesting, it's a tale of two Syrias over the last more than three months now, we've seen these Youtube videos that activists say show the brutality of the Syrian forces against their own people.

We've seen bloodshed, we've seen death. We've seen mass graves. But then you travel to the capital of Syria, Damascus and it's an entirely different picture. Life continues to tick on more or less as normal.

It is quieter, there are almost no tourists and we're accompanied at all times by government minders who want to show a different picture of Syria than the one that we've seen on cable news networks over the last few months around the world.

So they took us to the old city of Damascus. Our range of motion being quite limited, it has to be said, and there we saw a small pro- Bashar Al-Assad demonstration.

And the common thread between all of those demonstrators is that they say they believe that foreign interference is the reason for the crisis in their country, that western countries, that even cable news channels are responsible for what's going on and that in fact, almost all Syrians support the regime. Joe --

JOHNS: Foreign interference. It's been several years since you were in Damascus. Can you give me some sense of how it's changed since the last time you were there?

GORANI: You know, this is very significant what's going on. That said, unlike Egypt, we're not the seeing millions of people topple the regime in a little more than two weeks.

If anything happens here, it will be over the much longer term because the pockets of uprisings around the country are smaller. They're spread out to be sure, but they're not enough to put that kind of pressure on the regime that they feel in any way threatened in the shorter term.

The big, big question, Joe, going forward is what happens to this economy. What happens to the middle and merchant class that is in many ways benefited from this government when the economy continues to suffer?

There are no tourists. Investment is down. Growth prospects and forecasts for the country have been lowered. If the regime loses that vital merchants class, then things might change drastically.

This country according to many and from what I've seen today will not go back to what it was. The question is what timeline are we looking at and it might be much longer than what we saw in Egypt and in Tunisia.

JOHNS: Hala Gorani in Damascus for us. Thanks so much.

Back here in the U.S. tonight, what was supposed to be a major show down between two branches of the U.S. government has turn into an embarrassing mess and what can only be described as mixed messages about congressional support for President Obama's military operation in Libya.

The House rejected two conflicting measures. One of them expressed support for the president. The other would have cut funding for most of the operation. So what kind of message does that send? Even members of the president's own party were, frankly, not sure tonight.


REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER (D), MINORITY WHIP: The message will go to Moammar Gadhafi, the message will go to our NATO allies. The message will go to every nation of the world that America does not keep faith with its allies. America must lead. We must not give equivocate.

REPRESENTATIVE BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I want to send a message to our allies and I don't think we are pulling the rug out from under them. Look at these wealthy populous nations of Western Europe.

I believe it is a good thing to get rid of Gadhafi, but does America have to do everything? People say we're the indispensable nation. That's a terrible burden to impose on ourselves. We can't afford it and it cannot be done effectively.


JOHNS: CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us from Capitol Hill. Now, Dana, a little confusing, what do we suppose to make out of this?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with the first vote that actually failed. That was to say that the president has authorization from Congress to go ahead with this Libyan mission.

Now, that actually was a rebuke to the president the fact that this did not pass. Especially the fact that 70 of the president's fellow Democrats, which is a good chunk of the Democratic caucus in the House, they voted with Republicans to say we're not going to give you authorization for this mission in Libya.

In part, Joe, it is because of the fact that there just that they're just is opposition to the mission itself, but it is also in large part particularly from the perspective of Republicans.

That they are angry in trying to express their anger about the fact that they do not think President Obama has handled this well regard to the way that he has consulted or more of the point not consulted Congress in terms of going ahead with this mission in Libya.

JOHNS: And then ultimately the Republicans failed to block funding so again the mixed message question. What kind of message does this send?

BASH: That's right and this second vote happened just a couple hours later. And this is actually the vote that Republicans really thought that they had the president on. This is the one they really thought would be the big whammy if you will.

That this really tries to send him the message that they are not happy that he has not consulted adequately with Congress and it didn't work because what this would have done was actually would have been to take away the money.

Use the power of the purse of Congress to take away the money from at least the combat portion of the mission in Libya and say it's not going to happen anymore because we're going to express our authority here.

Republicans actually got caught off guard at least the leadership because they thought that that was going to pass. It didn't because of various reasons inside the Republican caucus.

But it does show you, first of all, how uncertain and confused this whole Congress is even within each party about exactly how to go forward with this Libya mission, but it also does show that even Republicans who think that they are more lock step on this issue are maybe not as much as you think.

JOHNS: Yes, a little chaotic. It seems like people are just all over the place right now. Thanks so much, Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

BASH: Thank you.

JOHNS: Stay with us and get an early heads up about a revolution coming in U.S. politics. It's so big it's redefining who is a Democrat and who is a Republican.

And later, what happened today when an alleged mob boss came back to his old stomping ground.


JOHNS: U.S. may be in the first stages of a profound change in its national politics, as significant as the changes during civil rights era of the 1960s or the Reagan revolution of the 1980s.

And race is at the center of this change. The brand new census shows minorities now make up about 37 percent of the U.S. population and nearly half of Americans under 18. That change and white voters reactions to it will affect elections for years to come.

These are numbers both parties really need to pay attention to and to help us make sense of it, we're joined by CNN contributor and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and "National Journal" political director and columnist Ron Brownstein.

Ron, you wrote about this demographic shift in "National Journal" and one of the things that really struck me is that if I get it right, whites look at the situation in the country and they say minorities have too much influence.

But minorities inside the system look and say we don't have enough influence. So there's some kind of a disconnect there.

RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Right. Well, first of all, as you say, the demographic change going on in the country is one of the most profound in American history and it is fundamentally reshaping our politics.

When Bill Clinton was elected, 13 percent of the electorate was non-white. When Barack Obama was elected, it was 26 percent. That's a very different country. It's a very different electorate.

Barack Obama is the first president in American history who lost white voters by double digits and actually won the White House. It's a very different country. Now as we're living through this change, there are different reactions to it.

JOHNS: It's perception.

BROWNSTEIN: And you know, it is a very -- diversity is not only deepening, it's broadening. More states are affected. The minority share of the population increased in every state from 2000 to 2010. The Census Bureau tells us.

So the reactions to this, we have a quarterly poll that we do in "National Journal" called the heartland monitor and recently we asked Americans how they feel about this change.

Not surprisingly, Hispanics and Asians were the fastest growing groups were saying by and large this is good for America, much more ambivalence among Whites and African-Americans.

And the whites who are the most resistant to the change about 53 percent of the white population in our poll also expressed the most conservative views on a whole range of other issues including President Obama's performance.

So there is kind of an interconnection now between attitudes toward demographic change and broader assessments of the political landscape.

JOHNS: Now, Cornell, obviously this is what you do and you're looking at this and seeing we're having this broad demographic change. How does that affect the party of this president?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I think more broadly than it affects the party of this president, I think it affects both parties.

It's going to affect politics into the future as both parties are going to have to compete more and more for this population. And as our population moves west browner and blacker out west, so are the battlegrounds are moving that way. Also, I think if you look at -- I would argue if you look at where the Republican Party is and where the Latino or Hispanic vote is right now, their position is not tenable long term politically.

I mean, they are turning off the Hispanic base in a way that's going to put Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and perhaps even at some point, Arizona out --

JOHNS: Immigration reforms --

BELCHER: Immigration reform were also just - well, one of their candidates say that they wouldn't have -- they're uncomfortable with minorities in their cabinet.

Their position is they're going to have to compete for these minority votes more and more and they're going to have to press the Democrat to compete more and more as well.

JOHNS: And you make a point that Republican candidates in presidential races really don't rate much more than 12 percent historically. As you look at the field right now, do you see any Republican who might be able to break out and improve on those numbers?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I mean, the opportunity for Republicans is less in the evolution of their message than in the reaction to the three years of President Obama.

The problem that President Obama has is many of the groups, these minority group that he's counting on, that are the core in many ways of his coalition have been suffering the most in the recession.

You've elevated the unemployment among Hispanics and African- Americans and there may be an opening to some extent there. But in the larger sense, it's not only the issues that directly relate to minority communities like immigration or some of the affirmative action or things like that.

There is a profound racial gulf on the role of government. One of those important things in our politics right now, minority communities by and large are much more open to the idea that government can be a positive force in the economy and in the society.

You're seeing much more skepticism among whites, older whites. So as long as Republicans are in this very intense small government argument as we saw in that debate, in that CNN debate in New Hampshire, that itself is a barrier to broadening support among minorities.

BELCHER: Quickly to sort of pivot on that point is part of that, if you delve deeper part of that has to do with them thinking that government quite frankly has done too much for minorities and they've been hurt by what the government has been doing for minorities. So I think that's part of that conversation.

JOHNS: But also just to sort of break out that point a little bit more, you've got the first African-American president and if you look closely at minorities in the Democratic Party, they don't think they have enough influence. So what's up with that?

BELCHER: That's a classic within battle within the Democratic Party. There's not enough respect given. There's not enough -- you have congressional black caucus right now coming out sort of hard at Democratic leaders and the president on the whole jobs issue.

So it is a strain within the party itself also to also reach out to your base and make sure you're taking care of yours base, but right now, you know, the president still enjoys large approval ratings among minorities as well as young people.

BROWNSTEIN: It's not an irrational response. I mean, if you look at the first two years of the Obama presidency, certainly I think immigration reform was put on the back burner for fear how it would affect white members of the House and Senate particularly the House.

And (inaudible) white districts where it was seen to be unpopular and Democrats to some extend do have to make a choice about whether they will invest their energy in their coalition of the past or what may be their coalition of the future.

JOHNS: Yes, last night President Obama got heckled actually from some gay and lesbian supporters in a fundraiser in New York. Do we have time to listen to that?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That's why I ordered federal agencies to extend the same benefits to gay couples that go to straight couples wherever possible. That's why we'll keep fighting until the law no longer -- I heard you guys.


JOHNS: So this is about the liberal base and the president in 2012. Do you think he's going to be able to fire them up given the fact that to them he looks much more like a moderate than the guy they thought they were electing?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, they're doing what they're supposed to do. Both sides -- closed mouth doesn't get fed. The truth of the matter is, if you look at health care reform, you look at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," if you look at Wall Street reform, a lot of people out there think, you know, progressives have done pretty good over the last two years.

BELCHER: In modern American politics, the other side tends to be the one that fires up your base. Obama's best weapon to fire up the Democrats will be the Republican nominee just as Obama will be the best weapon to fire up the Republican base.

JOHNS: Ron Brownstein, Cornell Belcher, thanks so much for coming in. Have a good weekend.

There's been a fiery collision between a big truck and a U.S. passenger train, details coming up next.

Plus, the first lady wraps up the official part of her trip to Africa and now comes the safari.


JOHNS: After four days in South Africa, Michelle Obama moved to Botswana today. She helps paint a mural on the wall of an education center for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic and had lunch with a group of young women leaders.

Before heading off for a weekend safari, the first lady sat down for an interview with CNN's Robyn Curnow who joins us now. Robin, thanks for joining us. You asked Mrs. Obama about her preparations for the 2012 elections. Let's take a listen to what she said.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When it comes to the campaign, you know, we're ready to work hard. We did before and we'll do it again. So we're rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it.


JOHNS: What else did Mrs. Obama have to say about the upcoming campaign?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The interesting thing is I said very bluntly to her, you know, looking long term do you and your husband talk about perhaps that you might lose and she said no, they don't talk about it.

They're not focusing on the election per se, but they're focusing on the day to day planning and working of the campaign. She said that distracts them from perhaps that final election and what might or might not happen.

JOHNS: Did you talk to her about raising the children in the White House?

CURNOW: I did talk to her about that. She was quite guarded on many levels obviously not wanting to share too many sort of tidbits of information that might land up in the tabloids or such. So she was quite guarded on that level.

But she seemed quite confident and quite certain that they were protected. As I said, very grateful for the part that the media seems to play, that there's some sort of (inaudible) in terms perhaps pushing the girls into the limelight.

She was very keen to stretch that she was using this trip to educate them, to show them the world and I think to give them a sense of history. And I think she was very much insistent that they did understand apartheid, for example, that they listened to the stories of the victims of apartheid. And they understood their visit to Nelson Mandela and she said in a way perhaps they wouldn't really understand the true experience of sitting there, listening, talking to Nelson Mandela, you know, for another few years yet.

But she seemed very proud and she said she was, that this trip for her as a mother was wonderful because she watched her children just sort of suck this atmosphere of Africa up. She told me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

JOHNS: Robyn Curnow reporting for us from Botswana tonight, thank you so much.

Here's the latest news you need to know right now. At least two deaths are reported after a tractor trailer hit an Amtrak train at a rail crossing near Reno, Nevada today.

We learned today that actor Peter Falk who played the TV detective "Columbo" died this week at age 83.

We're waiting for word on when New York State will vote on legalizing same-sex marriage. A major hurdle preventing the vote was cleared late this afternoon when lawmakers agreed on how to protect religious institutions from potential lawsuits.

And we're now five weeks in to the Casey Anthony murder trial with defense attorneys working to try to undermine the prosecution's theory that Anthony killed her 2-year-old daughter, stored the body in a trunk then buried it in some woods.

And today's testimony, Casey Anthony's brother said he saw stains in the car trunk years before the little girl died.

Mobster Whitey Bulger back in Boston and now he says he wants back the more than $800,000 confiscated by the FBI. He wants that returned to him so he can pay for a lawyer. The latest from the courtroom coming up next.


JOHNS: In Boston this afternoon, a family reunion that was 16 years in the making. Alleged mob boss Whitey Bulger got away from his brother, Billy, who used to be most of the most powerful state lawmakers in Massachusetts while his girlfriend got a smile from her own sister, but this afternoon wasn't about smiles and waves. It was about murder and jail time.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick was at the courthouse today. Deb, what happened?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it was, there were two hearings today essentially. One of them an initial appearance in which the judge told Whitey Bulger that he didn't have to make any statements and if he did make statements, those could be used against him. Another was an arraignment, but the judge cut it short because Whitey Bulger doesn't yet have a lawyer. During both of the hearings, Whitey Bulger was very respectful.

Remember this is an alleged Irish mafia plan, a mobster accused of murdering more than 19 people and attempting the murder of many others. You know, when he was talking -- when he was standing up in court during the whole proceeding, the judge asked him, "Can you afford a lawyer?" And Whitey Bulger said, "Well, I could if you gave me my $800,000 back." And he was referring to money the federal seized from his Santa Monica apartment during the raid when they finally caught him after 16 long years.

Prosecutors were having none of it. They want to seize whatever property they can get that belongs to him. They believe that, in fact, he is going to get financial help from his family including his brother, a very respected politician here in Boston. They also feel that Whitey Bulger has more money.

In the words of the prosecutor, he said, you know, Whitey Bulger didn't make 800 grand by working a paper route along the Santa Monica boulevard.

So, a little bit of, you know, a little bit of back and forth between the two of them. Whitey Bulger certainly showing that he certainly hasn't lost any of his feistiness, Joe.

JOHNS: You know, hearings like this can range from somber and subdued all the way to circus atmosphere, anything in between. Paint a picture of sort of the mood for me, if you will, around the court today.

FEYERICK: Well, you know, Joe, this court was packed. There was a huge overflow room. There was a crush of people from the public, reporters, family members, trying to get into that courtroom. People wanted to be there at this moment in history especially if you live here in Boston because it is so dominated almost the psyche of parts of Boston, certainly south Boston especially.

The family members that spoke afterwards -- there's still a great deal of anger, there's still a great desire for justice. One grown son said he wants the chair for Whitey Bulger. There were members of the task force, from the FBI, who searched for him for 19 years. So, really a lot of people just wanted to get a glimpse of the famous Whitey Bulger, Joe.

JOHNS: Deb Feyerick at the courthouse -- thanks for that reporting.

This is just a fascinating case involving the mob, corruption, politics, murder.

And now with us is Glen Johnson, "Boston Globe" reporter who's been covering Boston politics for years and years. Also, he was in the courtroom today.

Glen, you've covered Bulger's brother, who was a long time president of the state Senate. He was in court today.

Did you see any interaction between them?

GLEN JOHNSON, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Sure. When Whitey Bulger was first brought in, one of the first things he did was look out in the gallery and there in the second row was his brother, William, flanked by his two sons or two of his sons, William, Jr., and Christopher, immediate contact there.

And then the last thing on the way out of the court was look back at his brother then, too.

JOHNS: One of your tweets just fascinated me and it was about people's reactions after seeing Whitey after all these years. You can give me some sense of what you were seeing in people's faces?

JOHNSON: Well, the thing you got to remember around Boston, Whitey Bulger is an almost mythic figure. Obviously, it's for the wrong reasons, but the fact that he's been on the lam for 16 years, there's just been this pregnant question hanging over this city for all these years -- will he ever be caught? Will he ever be brought to justice? And when will that occur?

Well, that occurred today and it happened ironically right in South Boston, in the same neighborhood where a lot of these crimes were perpetrated, in this brand new, gleaming courthouse, right on the edge of Boston harbor. And there, his brother came in and there, you know, the family had a mini reunion of sorts.

It was -- one woman I talked to in line waiting to get into the courtroom said to me, this is like seeing Al Capone for kind of a generation.

JOHNS: Feels like a celebrity trial.

JOHNSON: Well, I guess so in that regard. I don't think anybody really forgets the underlying problem here. There's at least 19 murders of which he's accused. I mean, the charges, you know, they're talking technical terms like RICO and extortion and things like that.

But then they're talking about possession of machine guns, possessions of weapons with obliterated serial numbers. The fact that he had over 30 weapons allegedly in his possession when he was caught, that he had 800 grand in cash. That he was paying all his bills in cash.

Obviously, this is somebody who is facing some serious charges and has been accused of some very serious crimes here. But again as I said, around here, it's almost lore about the Bulgers and these two brothers and the completely different paths that they took in life.

JOHNS: Yes. Let's talk a little bit more about that. Obviously, we know who Whitey was. But talk a little bit more about that his brother Billy, his role in the state Senate. How powerful was he? JOHNSON: He was very powerful. He was the kind of person that could look at you and people would wilt. James was James, Jr., the oldest son of this family. Billy was much younger. And their father had an industrial accident, lost an arm. And a lot of people say that Whitey, even though it was a life of crime, ended up supporting the family while William went on to be what's known around here as a triple eagle.

He went to Boston College High School, Boston College, Boston College Law School, very studious, quotes Shakespeare, speaks Latin phrases, always instructs reporters about how to do their jobs better. He was a kind of guy -- he was just a real compelling figure here and he rose to the top of the Senate and he controlled it with an iron fist. Anybody around here didn't really mess with him, in part because he was powerful and also because there was always the specter of Whitey hanging over the Bulger family.

JOHNS: Well, you know, that sort of creates the nature versus nurture question, if you will. Why is it that Whitey and Billy sort of chose such different paths?

JOHNSON: You know, Billy himself has struggled with that question. When he testified before Congress in 2003, his opening statement was very long on this point. He said he tried to, you know, help his brother at points to get away from a life of crime, but he can't force somebody to be what they don't want to be.

You know, it's just two different paths that people took. And the family and friends make the argument that Whitey was forced to do, you know -- to descend in to this life of crime because he was trying to care for the family as the oldest child, and that created some buffer for Billy down the road to go on the more studious pursuits and to live life on the straight and narrow.

JOHNS: You know, we've always been led to believe that Billy and Whitey were pretty close. But was there any sense being in the courtroom that this was a strain in the relationship now? Any way to tell?

JOHNSON: Certainly not. I mean, you know, there was tension in that courtroom before the door opened and Whitey walked in. I mean, I could feel my heart pounding. I know everybody around me felt the same way.

What was he going to look like, was he going to be this sort of demonic figure that people have come to expect. And his brother sat there straight, had his hands clasped, and didn't really move.

But the fact was he was there. They have a large family and Billy was the one that chose to come with his two sons. And that was, you know, in my estimation, not just some coincidence. He really wanted to make a statement he stood for his brother. He has never really made a critical comment about him.

He disagrees with his life. He knows there's victims of his brother's crimes. But he has said, blood is thicker than water, and he's not going to walk away from his own family member.

JOHNS: And he's certainly been very intensely questioned in a variety of forums about that relationship.


JOHNS: Thanks so much, Glen Johnson with "Boston Globe," for giving us insights on the Whitey Bulger and his brother.

JOHNSON: Good to be with you, Joe.

JOHNS: Next, a presidential candidate who wants to legalize pot and cut Medicare by 43 percent.


JOHNS: The Republican presidential candidates are all over the map this weekend.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is in New Hampshire tonight to attend the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Freedom is a big part of Johnson's pitch. If you know anything about him at all, it's probably that he favors legalization of marijuana. Johnson admits he isn't well-known nationally, but likes to point to a poll showing that of all the 2012ers, he's the most popular in his home state.

Before heading to New Hampshire, Johnson stopped by for a conversation.


JOHNS: Gary Johnson joins us now.

And, Governor, appreciate you coming in.


JOHNS: One of the things we've noticed is that some of your positions on social issues distinguish you from a lot of people who are also seeking the Republican nomination. So, can you tell our viewers what your position is on the government allowing abortion?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I believe that the best government is the government that rules the least. I think that the best that government can do for you and I as individuals is to empower you and I to make decisions that only you and I should make.

So, in that context, I support a woman's right to choose up until viability of the fetus. As governor of New Mexico, I would have -- I signed a bill banning late term abortion. I've always favored parental notification. I've always favored counseling. I've always favored the notion of no public funds used for abortion.

JOHNS: So, should the decision on abortion be made at the federal level or the state level? By the federal courts or by the state courts? JOHNSON: Well, I think the decision, when it comes to abortion, should be a woman's choice. But the big issue should be states. States should determine that issue.

JOHNS: All right. Now, what about gay marriage?

JOHNSON: I support gay unions. I think the government should get out of the marriage business completely leave marriages to the churches. And grant civil unions to gay couples, grant civil unions to a man and woman.

JOHNS: Should the federal government recognize civil unions and allow payments through the government in support of that?


JOHNS: Marijuana. This is one of the issues -- one of your signature issues when you were governor.

JOHNSON: What I would like conservatives -- first of all, I'm opposed to the drug war A through Z. But I think from a conservative standpoint, I think it's important for all of us to recognize -- and this is staggering, Joe, half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and prisons is drug related. What are we getting for that?

JOHNS: So you would legalize the sale, marketing and possession of marijuana?

JOHNSON: I would, yes. And, of course, it will never be legal to smoke pot, become impaired, get behind the wheel of a car. It's never going to be legal for kids to smoke pot or buy pot like alcohol.

And I would argue if you've got to produce an ID to be able to buy marijuana, is that not going to be more difficult than the situation that exists today where marijuana is for sale everywhere and the person that sells marijuana also sells harder drugs?

I've come to the conclusion that 90 percent of the drug problem is prohibition related, not use related. And that's not to discount the problems with use and abuse, but that ought to be the focus.

JOHNS: Now, when I listen to you, you sound more and more like a libertarian. Why aren't you running as a libertarian?

JOHNSON: Well, I've always been a Republican. And when it comes to the drug war, as I just go back to the drug, when it comes to everything I did as governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost benefit analysis.

The reason I'm a Republican is I think Republicans do a much better job of balancing the checkbook than Democrats and right now, we're bankrupt. We've got to fix this and I happen to believe that only the Republican Party is capable of fixing this right now.

And that in lieu of the fact that Republicans, last time they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, ran up record deficits and passed a prescription health care benefit -- all things that I was embarrassed of as a Republican.

JOHNS: So what would you do about entitlements if you were the president of the United States?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I think that there are those that are truly in need in this country and that perhaps government is the only entity that can help those truly in need.

JOHNS: You've suggested block grants.

JOHNSON: Well, I suggest that when it comes to Medicaid and Medicare, that the federal government cut Medicaid and Medicare by 43 percent. Of course, everybody --

JOHNS: Wait a minute, 43 percent?

JOHNSON: Yes, exactly, 43 percent. So everybody goes, whoa, wait a minute --

JOHNS: Wouldn't that throw people out of hospitals?

JOHNSON: No, no, no. So, do away with the strings and the mandates, give Medicaid and Medicare back to the states. As governor of New Mexico, I would have reformed Medicaid, I'm saving a lot of money. If the strings and the mandates were to have been taken away when came to Medicaid, I would have been made to make Medicaid work in New Mexico for 43 percent less. If Medicare were given to me as governor of the state, I could have made Medicare happen.

JOHNS: I would imagine, though, that people out there watching this who are going to be eligible for Medicare very soon would say, am I going to elect a guy who is saying he's going to cut the program 43 percent?

JOHNSON: Well, not if you think -- not if you don't think that you're going to get essential health care. But the idea would be to actually deliver essential health care.

This is what I heard that this was going to happen in New Mexico given that I was governor. I'd like to point out, Joe, that there was a study or a survey here, a poll two weeks ago, that of all of the candidates running for president, I'm the only one that has favorability in their own state. And I'm the only one.

So, all of these things that I'm talking about, which I talked about as being governor of New Mexico -- the scary things didn't happen. We did a good job. We did a good job of running state government.

And I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think that, number one, I could do this job as president of the United States and do a good job at it.

JOHNS: So you're spending a lot of time in New Hampshire these days? JOHNSON: A lot of time in New Hampshire. I'm putting my chips on the table in New Hampshire. You can go to obscurity to prominence overnight with the good showing in New Hampshire.

Retail politics, that's good. Going out to meet everyone and everyone in New Hampshire takes it on themselves, to meet and talk and discuss the issues with every candidate. That's a great environment.

JOHNS: Governor, thanks so much for coming in.

JOHNSON: Joe, thank you. Thank you.

JOHNS: We'll certainly be watching you.

JOHNSON: All right. Good. Thanks.


JOHNS: Coming up next, we have a very special visitor right here in the studio. The Jim Clancy. And we're going to talk about a global scandal, human beings bought and sold.


JOHNS: Human trafficking is a dire issue around the globe most Americans may not realize it's a serious concern right here as well.

Next Monday, the U.S. State Department releases its annual trafficking in persons or TIP report.

CNN International anchor Jim Clancy has been following this very closely. He joins me now.

So, tell me about this TIP report. What does it mean? What is it? And does it change anything?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The most comprehensive global look at human trafficking that we have. It's a name in shame time really. It holds governments accountable.

They gather up data, Joe, from embassies, from NGOs, from aid groups, and even individuals in these countries. They have an email program now where individuals can send in their stories. And it's fascinating.

They get all of this. They look at the number of prosecutions that they have. They look at the number of convictions that they may have had. They see how serious each and every country is about addressing the problem.

And for the first time last year, we saw them ranking, putting in the United States. And they rank all of these people by people that are in trouble, people that aren't doing enough, and people doing absolutely nothing. But it's controversial. It's going to raise -- is the United States doing enough? JOHNS: Well, are we? I mean, I have to tell you, we've heard about trafficking problems here in the United States for years and years and years, and it's always been one of those things that sort of flies under the radar. Is the United States taking it seriously?

CLANCY: Well, you know, you look at --

JOHNS: Prostitutes being moved around from city to city and stuff like, right?

CLANCY: Well, you got 17,000 people estimated coming into the country. But then you've got, nobody knows, tens upon tens of thousands of runaway girls of every age. You know, it could be very young that are getting involved in this.

It is a serious problem and the question is this: yes, we have laws. Yes, we admit this is a problem. But is the spending commensurate?

You know, I spent the last couple of days here in Washington. That's why I'm here, Joe, because of the report coming out on Monday. And Mira Sorvino, one of the people, one of the experts, she's a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. on this topic -- listen to the way she describes the lack of commitment that we have.


MIRA SORVINO, ACTRESS: A very disturbing fact is that the U.S. government spent twice as much on one month on U.S. military marching bands than our entire budget to fight human trafficking.


CLANCY: All right. Now, if your daughter is at risk, you've got to ask, what's Mira Sorvino talking about? Is it really that bad? Even at the ambassador at large admitted that, you know, the budgets between the war on drugs and any war on human trafficking, it's just far -- there's no comparison between the two.

JOHNS: So, what's the next step? I mean, if you want to like spread the word, give the authority some information, what do you do? How do you reach out to the government?

CLANCY: All of that information, Joe, is out there. And people, you, anyone in the audience that are watching now, particularly in the minority communities, may know of a case of someone who's being abused, a passport may have been taken away, they're being forced to work. Children are being taken from truck to truck to truck stops.

There's a hotline number. I want to share that with you right here. It's the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. It's run by the Polaris Project. The hotline number is 1-888-3737-888. You need to think of it -- you know, easily, the 3737 translates into DRDR. So, 1-188-doctor, doctor-888.

And, you know, it's a call for help. It's an incredible resource.

Mira Sorvino took me there today and showed me, you know, the operators. There's more than 150 languages that they can translate in. Talk to the people there. You can see it at the center as she talked with them.

You've got nurses calling in. You've got doctors calling in. You've got victims calling from pay phones. They link them. They've got a whole national grid and they can link them up to the local police officer who's given them a cellphone number because I'm interested, I'll come and help them.

JOHNS: This has been an issue for Mira Sorvino for a long time, has it not?

CLANCY: Because she was involved with Amnesty International, women's rights. But with this U.N. project, a couple years. And you know, yes, she won an Academy Award, but she's also from Harvard. She's very savvy, knows this problem well, and there's a lot of people that are concerned right now.

And we have to ask the serious questions of ourselves here in the United States. Are we doing out enough? Are we looking out enough for these people?

JOHNS: And you've been looking at this on the front lines, really, the people who are out there doing the work. Any of it -- what struck you?

CLANCY: Well, what strikes me is that we're talking about someone else -- it's time, Joe, to talk about ourselves and get our own house in order. Be an example for the world.

That hotline number, that's one of the best examples. It's the best hotline service in the world. It's not being used enough.

JOHNS: Jim Clancy, thanks so much for coming in and talking to us. And we appreciate your reporting on this important topic.

CLANCY: Thanks, Joe.

JOHNS: Sex trafficking is a global problem and CNN's in-depth look continues as we focus on Nepal, actress Demi Moore joins the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year to take you inside the fight to end modern day slavery. "Nepal's Stolen Children: A CNN Freedom Documentary" airs Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern.

That's all from us tonight. I'm Joe Johns. John King back on Monday.

"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.