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New Controversy Erupts Over Captured Somali Terrorist; Casey Anthony Could Walk Free; Obama Administration Wants Texas Execution Put on Hold; Prosecutors Not Ready to Drop Sexual Assault, Attempted Rape Charge Against Dominique Strauss-Kahn; 'Strategy Session'

Aired July 6, 2011 - 17:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Happening now: A new attack on the Obama administration's handling of accused terrorists. A top Republican is blasting the decision to bring a suspect captured overseas to the U.S. for a civilian trial. Plus, Casey Anthony could walk free tomorrow. But she'll be dogged by at least one new lawsuit and the hate of many Americans. We'll talk about what's next after her bombshell acquittal in the death of her daughter.

And a top British tabloid is paying a price amid new allegations that its journalists hacked people's phone messages. The father of a terror suspect and a movie star providing new fuel the scandal.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First this hour, new evidence about dangerous links between terrorist groups in Somalia and Yemen and new controversy about the way the United States is fighting them. At issue, a Somalian suspect captured and interrogated by U.S. forces overseas. Now he is in New York, facing charges in a civilian court. And a top Republican in the Senate argues that is a threat to national security.

We want to go to our Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Candy, this really goes to the fundamental question of what will the Obama administration do with the terrorists that it captures. The president has closed the secret CIA prisons around the world, but he doesn't want to send more people to military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. This middle ground seems to be e interrogation onboard U.S. Navy ships at sea.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): In April, the U.S. Military captures a Somali citizen. U.S. officials say he's brought onboard a Navy warship where intelligence officers give subject matter guidance to the military interrogators who question him. When they finish the FBI steps in and starts over, to get information in a way that can be used in court. The suspect is then brought to New York. Two months too late, if you ask the ACLU. HINA SHAMSI, ACLU NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT: The detention on the military ship for over two months was unnecessary, it was unwise, and it was unlawful.

LAWRENCE: But it was useful, if you believe U.S. officials. They say Ahmed Abdulkadhir Warsame gave up valuable intelligence. That he fought with Al Shabaab militants in Somalia, helped to increase ties with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was looking to become more operational.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is a Somalian terrorist, captured overseas, has now been read his Miranda rights. Why? Why? Why is a man who's a known terrorist, an enemy of the United States, being afforded the protections of an American citizen?

LAWRENCE: But Democrats call the Republican charge hypocritical, considering more than 400 suspected terrorists have been tried in federal court, most under President George W. Bush.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (R), ILLINOIS: That's right, convicted terrorist, convicted in criminal court, now serving time in prisons across America, including my home state of Illinois at the Marion Federal Penitentiary. So to argue that we can't successfully convict a terrorist in United States, as Senator McConnell did this morning, is to ignore reality.


LAWRENCE: Warsame pleaded not guilty in his arrangement, but the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Rogers, says even if he's eventually convicted, it just exposes a radical enemy combatant to a even wider audience here in the American prison system, Candy.

CROWLEY: Let me go back to the part about the ship. How long do military commanders think they can keep someone onboard a ship? Obviously they're doing it on orders, but nonetheless, how long are they allowed to keep someone on a ship to interrogate them?

LAWRENCE: They say it's on a case by case basis. They say, look, anytime they're doing operations outside the main military theatres, of Iraq and Afghanistan, it becomes extremely difficult for them, you know, in terms of the rules and regulations.

They say they have to figure out through inter-agency contacts, and all the way up to the president, whether they can hold somebody and eventually put them into the U.S., for trial in the U.S. Or if they need to transfer them to a third party country. He said barring those two options, the only other option left to them is to release them. Obviously, the military commander said, that's the least attractive option.

CROWLEY: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon for us. Thanks so much.

Now to Afghanistan and the hunt for Al Qaeda forces on the move and regrouping after the death of Osama bin Laden. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is with U.S. troops and local forces along Afghanistan's border.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost a decade in the hunt for Al Qaeda in one part of eastern Afghanistan looks like this. Americans pushing the Afghans to the front, taking the high ground in hills impossible to police. The pressure for less Americans here is extreme, but the Afghans only mustered five men for this patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you shoot it's got to be five to seven- round bursts -- zmm -- and go.

WALSH: And despite this training, are barely up to policing the local villages. Let alone taking on the very terrorist network America came here to eradicate.

(On camera): Well, it is here that Afghanistan's future looks a lot like its past. American control does not extend up into this valley. And high up on those ridgelines they found safe havens for Al Qaeda.

(voice-over): U.S. and Afghan officials have revealed to CNN they located here Al Qaeda fighters, using the secluded alpine villages for training and planning.

In June hundreds of Americans were airlifted in, 9,000 feet up, but they faced fierce resistance and a longer and nastier fight than planned. U.S. officials say they killed 120 insurgents and top leaders, many Taliban, but several of them Arabs linked to Al Qaeda, damaging their network.

Yet the clashes reveal that Al Qaeda, for years said mostly to be across the border in Pakistan, is again a concern back where they started in Afghanistan's hills.

We push down into the Wetterpur (ph) Valley, still an insurgent stronghold. High tech American attack helicopters buzzed overhead until militants shot at them from up the valley.

SECOND LT. TREY VAN WYRE, 25th INFANTRY DIVISION: It's uncharacteristic for the Taliban I know from around here. They're getting pretty gutsy. Right past there, usually our patrols don't push it too far past that, because if you push up any farther past that, you're going to take enemy contact, that's pretty certain.

WALSH: The Afghans clear about who lay in wait for them ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is very dangerous. There are Taliban, Arabs, Pakistanis there.

WALSH: At the foot of valley, the American base is often hit by pot shots, sometimes from lone gunmen up high who they then mortar. Al Qaeda's return to these remote hills could tie America's hands, making it harder to justify pulling back from here. The terrorist network that made America's case for invading slipping back in, just when America makes its case to leave. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kunar, Afghanistan.


CROWLEY: Now to America's debt crisis. President Obama is urging congressional negotiators to be open-minded when he sits down with them at the White House tomorrow. He spoke about the standoff today during a town hall event, featuring questions posted on Twitter. Members of both parties are staring down an August 2 deadline to raise the legal limit on the federal debt or face the possibility of serious consequences for the U.S. economy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners, or oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars, because the price of gasoline has gone up so high.

I'm happy to have those debates. I think the American people are on my side on this. What we need to do is to have a balanced approach where everything is on the table.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: Well, everybody is going to have to contribute to it one way or another. We have debt as big as our economy. We look a lot like Greece already. It's going to have to have broad impact on every aspect of our society in order to get this problem under control.


CROWLEY: Let's bring in our Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, what are your sources telling you about tomorrow's meeting?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, the goal of the meeting is to jump start this process as the clock ticks, until the U.S. hits this debt ceiling. And it is counting down. And all sides that I speak to are hopeful that they can actually get a deal accomplished in the next two weeks.

Now, don't expect a deal tomorrow. The goal is to sit down, the first high-level meeting, a big high-level meeting with the president, to discuss true specifics and set up, hopefully, a process, probably with smaller meetings in the coming days, and weeks, to solve this once and for all.

Now, the positions, Candy, remain the same. Republicans want to cut spending an equal amount to the amount that the debt ceiling will be raised. Democrats are insistent that must be paired with revenue changes, you could call it tax loopholes closing, tax increases, call it what you will.

What is new is that people close to the negotiations on both sides of the aisle are telling me today that they now like the idea- get this-of a bigger deal; a deal between $3 trillion to $4 trillion. Now, that's a pretty surprising change, because just a week ago, right here in the White House, the president held a press conference talking about the difficulty getting to a $2 trillion deal. So, why the possibility of something bigger, as big as $4 trillion? Well, some Democrats close to negotiations say something bigger, while it would include pain for all sides, would include more of what each side would like. It would signal true leadership, accomplishment on all sides. And they could go home saying they've done something.

Clearly there's a lot of politics, big expectations being set up here and another possibility being set out there, so they could compromise probably-possibly-for the smaller option that they've been discussing for all these many weeks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Jessica, we are now hearing people, and have been hearing them in private, talk about cuts in Medicare that would include cuts for the wealthy. Like maybe they would have to pay more, or get less out, that kind of thing. It strikes me that would very much change the dynamic for 2012.

YELLIN: Such a good question. And a key component of that would changing how providers, hospitals and the like, are reimbursed. It is such a good question because as you know, already Democrats have been running ads against some Republicans over what we call the Ryan budget. The proposal by the House Republican to dramatically change how Medicare is structured. And Democrats have been using this to argue that Republicans want to take away your Medicare, or end your Medicare in the political environment.

This is going to be an issue that Democrats want to use going into 2012. Well, if as part of this deal, Democrats are also going to vote to alter Medicare that clearly diminishes the pain that Republicans would feel over this issue. Certainly whatever is included in this package would not equal what was in the Ryan budget, but it would diminish this as an issue for 2012, potentially, and make that harder for Democrats, Candy.

CROWLEY: The confluence of politics and policy is always very interesting and very tricky. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin, thank you.

She's arguably America's most famous defendant right now. Casey Anthony is due back in court tomorrow. We're looking at her sentencing for lying to police and whether she'll walk free after being found not guilty of murdering her daughter.

And why the Obama administration wants to put a hold on the execution of a man who raped and murdered a 16-year-old?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, welcome back.


The warnings continue, if the debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2nd, the U.S. could default on its debt. That's less than a month away.

If we default, the already weak economy could get its legs knocked right out from under it.

Tomorrow, the top two leaders from each party will meet at the White House from the House and Senate. They'll go talk to the president and see if they can reach an agreement. Good luck.

Nothing much has changed. Republicans want spending cut, huge ones. No tax increases. Democrats want to avoid big cuts to social programs. They want to get rid of tax breaks for wealthier Americans.

There is no reason to expect that one side or the other is suddenly going to say, you know what? You're right. Let's do it your way. That won't happen.

And to complicate matters furtherer, there's now a growing group of Senate and House Republicans who say their vote to increase the debt ceiling would be contingent on caps on federal spending and the passage of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget every year.

That may sound good, but it would be an uphill slog, amending the Constitution, you need a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress. That means if all 47 Republican senators supported the amendment, they would still need 20 votes from Democrats. They would have to join them.

And even if it passed Congress, the measure then has to be ratified by three fourths of the state legislatures. That could take a long time.

The Senate and House versions of this proposed legislation require a balanced budget, beginning in 2018. Both also mandate how it must be done. Federal spending would be capped at 18 percent of gross domestic product -- that spells major, major cuts. And two thirds of Congress would have to vote to approve any tax increase.

That may be difficult math to do down the road. And once again, they're talking down the road, 2018.

Here's the question: is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution a good idea? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

It might be a good idea if they paid any more attention to that than they do the rest of the Constitution. CROWLEY: I'll be interested in your answers, because I think, In general, people say, well, yes, we should have a balanced budget. But it's actually a trickier question than it seems.

CAFFERTY: It is. But people are increasingly fed up with the lack of any sort of fiscal responsibility in Washington and they're looking for any sort of a solution that might solve the problem.

CROWLEY: We'll get back with the answers. Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Good. All right.

CROWLEY: In a Florida jail cell right now, Casey Anthony still has legal troubles to deal with, after being declared not guilty of murdering her daughter.

CNN has learned that Anthony was subpoenaed last night by a woman suing her for defamation. The woman was investigated in connection with Anthony's claim that a nanny had kidnapped 2-year-old Caylee.

Anthony was convicted yesterday of four counts of lying to police about Caylee's disappearance, but she could walk free when she's sentenced tomorrow.

We want to bring in our legal analyst Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor who contributes to "In Session" on CNN's sister network, truTV.

Sunny, when she comes back to court tomorrow, what happens? What are we going to see?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we're going to see the defense ask that she'd be allowed to go free, go home tomorrow. We're also going to hear from the prosecution and they're going to make their recommendation as to which or what sentence the prosecution thinks is appropriate.

Ultimately, it's up to the judge, Candy, to determine her sentence. Now, she has some exposure here. She's looking up to four years in prison because she was convicted of four counts of lying to a law enforcement officer.

And I have to say, so many people are saying she's going to be a free woman tomorrow. I don't know.

This is the same judge that sentenced Matthew Bartlett, the young man who flipped the bird at the prosecutor in this case, to six days in county jail. Even on his birthday.

And so, I would imagine after having listened to this entire case and the recommendations of both parties, this judge could very well sentence her to four years in prison. Of course, she served at least three, but that still leaves her about a year in prison. So we may not see her go free tomorrow.

CROWLEY: And do we -- does she have to have -- I guess if she's free, she's free. Do we know anything about where she would go?

HOSTIN: Well, we know from her attorney, Cheney Mason, that she will not be going home to the Anthony home. We do have a statement from the Orange County Corrections Department that says, usually, they would release a jury-acquitted inmate from the courthouse under normal circumstances. And we see that a lot in movies. People are just sort of let free and they walk down the courthouse steps.

But in this case, they say because of the high profile nature of this case and intense emotional interest by the public, appropriate measures will be taken to release her into the community in a way that's sort of secretive to preserve the safety of Casey Anthony and the public.

So, if she is released tomorrow, we won't know where she's going, Candy.

CROWLEY: And, Sunny, I want to read you something. We finally did hear from one of the jurors about why they didn't speak to the media. This was juror number three who ABC identified as Jennifer Ford.

And she said this in an exclusive interview to ABC: "We were stick to our stomach to get that verdict. We were crying, not just the women. It was emotional and we weren't ready. We wanted to do it with integrity and not contribute to the sensationalism of the trial."

And then this juror goes on to say, "I did not say she was innocent. I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be."

What -- it sounds to me they got hung up on how did this child die.

HOSTIN: It does seem that way. And it's really interesting that she's said that because I've been saying all along, a not guilty verdict is just that, not guilty of the charges. It doesn't mean that someone is innocent. And it's clear that this jury heard the same evidence that we heard. And so, why while they may have believed something criminal happened, they clearly believed that the prosecution did not meet its burden.

And that burden is very high, Candy. As you know, it's beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm a former prosecutor. I know that the prosecution shoulders that very heavy burden. People have interviewed Jeff Ashton. I'm going to speak to him tomorrow.

And absolutely, it's a very high burden. And I'm sure these jurors did not just reach this decision arbitrarily.

CROWLEY: Sunny Hostin, thank you so much. I'm sure we'll be talking about this for several days to come, thanks.

HOSTIN: Thanks. CROWLEY: A violent outburst in Afghanistan's parliament. A fight breaks out between two female lawmakers. We'll show you exactly what happened.

And a pilot with a major emergency on his hands contacts air traffic controllers. Hear the audio tape of their intense conversation, next.


CROWLEY: Mary Snow is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including Whitey Bulger back in court this afternoon.

Mary, what do you have?


Well, reputed mobster James "Whitey" Bulger pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, including allegations he took part in 19 murders. Prosecutors say the 81-year-old headed up the South Boston Irish gang before fleeing a racketeering indictment in 1995. Bulger was on the run for 16 years before he was captured last month in California.

Newly released FAA recordings reveal a dramatic exchange between air traffic controllers and a Southwest Airlines jet making an emergency landing in April. The pilot of flight 812 put the plane into a rapid descent after a five-foot huge hole developed in the jet's fuselage, de-pressuring the cabin 34,000 feet in the air.


PILOT: Apparently we have a hole in the fuselage in the back of the airplane.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER 1: We need like 10,000 feet. Can you approve that?

He's doing it anyway.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER 2: Yes, yes, approved.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER 1: Sending to 10,000.

PILOT: Probably going to turn around and go back to Phoenix.


SNOW: He didn't know. Yuma, Arizona, was closer so he landed there. No one was hurt. An initial investigation blames metal fatigue for the fuselage hole.

And now, a sight you don't see often. Two women in an all-out brawl in Afghanistan's parliament. One lawmaker threw her shoe. The other hurled a water battle. They began punching each other until lawmakers dragged them apart. The fight began over disagreement about rocket attacks blamed on Pakistan.

Candy, we thought the fighting in Washington was bad.

CROWLEY: Wow. That's something you don't see every day. Thanks, Mary.

A Mexican man convicted of rape and murder is about to be executed in Texas. But Obama administration says that could put many Americans in danger.

And, are prosecutors any closer to dropping assault charges against the former head of the International Monetary Fund? A case in crisis, ahead.


CROWLEY: Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley.

Stories we're working on for our next hour.

Terrorists are zeroing in on frightening strategy to blow up planes. We'll tell you what it is and how the U.S. is responding to the threat.

A hacking scandal involving a major British tabloid grows deeper. Hear who journalists are accused of targeting.

And President Obama holds his first Twitter town hall. We'll have the tweets and the president's answers here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


CROWLEY: A Mexican man is scheduled to be executed in Texas tomorrow for the rape and murder of the 16-year-old girl. But his lawyers, the Mexican government, and the Obama administration want that execution put on hold.

Here to tell us why, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty -- Jill.


Well, this is a case of one murderer from Mexico. But if Texas Governor Rick Perry doesn't stop this execution by tomorrow, Thursday, only the Supreme Court will be able to delay it. And what happens could have implications for Americans who are arrested in other countries.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): It was a crime of shocking brutality. In San Antonio, Texas, 16-year-old Adria Sauceda was raped, tortured, strangled, bludgeoned to death with a chunk of concrete.

Mexican citizen, 38-year-old Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr., was convicted in Texas of that 1994 murder and sentenced to death. But there's a hitch.

When Leal was arrested, local police did not inform him that he had the right under an international treaty signed by the U.S. years ago to be visited by consular officials from the Mexican Embassy. If he had, his lawyers claim, he might never have been convicted.

Now those lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution and decide a broader legal question: what rights do death row inmates from other nations deserve? The Obama administration argues Americans arrested abroad could be hurt if states don't respect the treaty.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPT. SPOKESWOMAN: We could face reciprocal denial of access for our consular officials when American citizens find themselves arrested or detained overseas.

BILLY HAYES, AMERICAN ARRESTED IN TURKEY: I was arrested in 1970 at the Istanbul Airport.

DOUGHERTY: Billy Hayes had his story made into a movie, "Midnight Express." This American arrested in Turkey on a drug smuggling charge.

HAYES: I hope that every Americans realizes, particularly in the state of Texas right now, where they're going to execute this man, that you did not grant him the rights that he's guaranteed, and it threatens the rights of other Americans who might travel in foreign countries.

DOUGHERTY: Hayes is not alone. The State Department says more than 3,600 U.S. citizens were arrested abroad in fiscal year 2010. But Texas is adamant -- no foreign court or U.S. president can tell a state how to conduct its legal proceedings.

TED CRUZ, FMR. TEXAS SOLICITOR GENERAL: The question is not should a foreign national have the right to contact their consulate. The question is, years later, after they've been tried, after they've been convicted, after it is clear, like Humberto Leal, that they are a vicious, child rapist and murderer, should you come in and set aside that conviction?


DOUGHERTY: Now, there is a bill pending in Congress that could change the equation. And that bill would give federal courts the right to hear appeals from those death row inmates from other countries. And it would also give them the right to enforce that international treaty that gives such people the right to meet with their counsel from their embassies -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Jill Dougherty, at the State Department.

Thanks, Jill.

Prosecutors in New York say they're not ready to drop sexual assault and attempted rape charge against French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn. They met today with lawyers for the former head of the International Monetary Fund. Defense attorneys describe the meeting as constructive.

The case against Strauss-Kahn is in doubt after questions were raised about his accuser's credibility.

Our Mary Snow has been following this case and what's gone wrong with it -- Mary.

SNOW: Candy, legal analysts say prosecutors are looking for ways to salvage the case after learning the alleged victim wasn't truthful about her past and her whereabouts immediately after the alleged attack. Now, former prosecutors on the outside looking in say whatever the outcome, there is damage way beyond this case.


SNOW (voice-over): Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn now moves freely around New York. It's a dramatic shift from when he was arrested nearly two months ago and spent several days on Rikers Island. And there are many questions about how prosecutors missed credibility issues with the maid who alleges Strauss-Kahn sexually attacked her as she tried to clean his suite at a Manhattan hotel.

For starters, former prosecutor, now criminal defense attorney, Paul Callan, says he was surprised by the move to indict so quickly.

PAUL CALLAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You could have gone to the defense attorney and said, we're looking to charge your client. However, if you agree to keep him in the country under house arrest for a period of a week while we investigate the case, we won't proceed with our grand jury presentation yet.

SNOW: Following Strauss-Kahn's arraignment, prosecutors had five days by law to indict him or they would have had to set him free, and they didn't want a repeat of what happened with movie director Roman Polanski, who fled the U.S. for Europe after pleading guilty in 1977 to having sex with a minor.

Linda Fairstein, former head of the Sex Crimes Unit at the Manhattan's DA's Office, says while there are hard lessons learned, she doesn't find fault with the way the case was handled.

LINDA FAIRSTEIN, FMR. HEAD, SEX CRIMES UNIT, MANHATTAN DA'S OFFICE: It seemed like they had a credible witness believed by co- workers, police, medical personnel and social workers. So prosecutors made the fifth body of experienced people who found her very credible and supported by forensic evidence, and they were in the unique circumstance of having a foreign national who could leave the country and go to a country that has no extradition treaty with us.

SNOW: The DA faced a tough choice, says Callan, and would have faced criticism if Strauss-Kahn fled the U.S. But he says, regardless, there is damage.

CALLAN: I think if, in the end, Strauss-Kahn's case is dismissed, I think the hopes of a lot of people who thought this case would be an example of how a democracy brings even a rich man to justice on the charges of a very poor woman, that sort of view, a very favorable view of our system, has now been destroyed.


SNOW: Callan says, though, on the other hand, the fact that the credibility issues did come to light proves the system does work. But Linda Fairstein says this case will probably have a chilling effect on some rape victims who may now be afraid to report a case. And she says, sadly, for some period of time, prosecutors will likely look with distrust on victims coming in -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Mary Snow.

Ads are now being yanked from a British tabloid accused of hijacking the phone messages of politicians, celebrities and even crime victims. Actor Hugh Grant tells CNN about his connection to this scandal.

And Republicans test-drive a new line that the president is driving America off a cliff.


CROWLEY: Republicans are about to blast the airwaves with a new ad blaming President Obama for the bad economy.

Here to weigh in on that in today's "Strategy Session," CNN political analyst Roland Martin and contributor David Frum, who also heads up from

Thank you, Gentlemen.

Let me just give you and our viewers a little taste of this ad to come.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Left turn after left turn. America's headed the wrong way fast. Six million foreclosures, $14 trillion in debt, $500 billion in higher taxes, and the worst long-term unemployment in generations.

Don't let Obama drive us to disaster. Change direction.


CROWLEY: OK, that's an ad, but let me put up some factoids here.

January, 2009, when the president took office, unemployment was 7.6 percent. Now, 9.1

Black unemployment, 12.6 percent when he took office, 16.2 now.

The national debt was $10.6 trillion when he took office. It's $14.3 trillion now.

All of which is to say, is he pretty vulnerable here when it comes to these economic statistics?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, obviously, if you look at 1992, President George H. W. Bush, 92 percent approval rating in 1991 after the war, but a year later he was packing. But one of the issues that you hear Democrats lay out is that you can say the unemployment rate had gone up, but we lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008, 500,000 in December alone. And then you saw that frankly stop, and you saw incremental increases, if you will, in jobs being added.

So, look, you can dance around it, but obviously the economy is going to be the critical issue. And he said himself in 2009, I will be judged on reelection based upon the economy.

DAVID FRUM, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: He's super-vulnerable. This is the worst recovery from the 1930s.

Much of what we remember as the Great Depression was technically --

MARTIN: I wasn't here, so I don't remember.

FRUM: -- an economic recovery, at least according to the numbers, but not according to the experience of people. And what I think what has really hit this president hard is he does seem to have run out of ideas sometime back in '09.

And although he did very grudgingly and belatedly add a payroll tax cut as part of the 2010 extension of the Bush income tax cuts, even then it was small, it was late. And, of course, all of that was instantly devoured by the increase in energy prices. So people are not better off.

I think Republicans go too far when they say that President Obama made it worse, but it's certainly true he has not done a good job making it better.

MARTIN: Here's the problem, Candy, that I see. When Republicans will say, well, the president, you haven't done enough for the economy, but then they will turn right around and say government can't add jobs, and so you're left with the question -- one second. But you're left with the question, OK, so which is it?

And so, therefore, what role does government actually have? This recession that we also have been in is far different than any one that we've been in before.

FRUM: There are things he could have done that he has admitted to do. For example, we could have had -- we need a much -- still, much more stimulative monetary policy.

MARTIN: Not going to pass.

FRUM: It can pass. The Federal Reserve can do it if President Obama had not left seats vacant on the Federal Reserve. Now, people say, well, the Republicans obstructed him, to which I would say, I guess you're saying when you say that, the job is too hard for you.

CROWLEY: Let me move on to something I think will interest you.

David, you wrote in your latest column on -- your latest column for CNN -- and we'll put up a full screen here -- "Obama has played nice again and again in treating his Republican opponents to emulate his example and play nice too. Why don't the Democrats rebel? Presumably, they elected Obama to stand up for their shared principles, but he's not standing up, he's rolling over or being rolled."

So are you suggesting that the president get tougher?

FRUM: I think he needs to signal more clearly. My point is not -- I don't agree with his agenda, but we are playing with this debt ceiling, with the financial equivalent of nuclear weapons. And it's very important that you clearly signal intentions.

One reason that we are so close to the wire here is Republicans believe that the president will cave because he so often does. If he's not going to cave, he has to signal that, because nothing -- nothing is more dangerous than suggesting you going to cave, inviting people to push you and push you, and then at the last minute, when you're at the edge of the cliff, turning around and saying now I'm ready to fight, and at that point, there's so much momentum, over we all go.

CROWLEY: Well, in fact, Roland -- and yes, I want you to comment on this. But the fact is that even Democrats were afraid he was going to cave when he got involved in the debt ceiling. They're still afraid he's going to do that.

Why hasn't he pushed Republicans harder?

MARTIN: Because, first of all, they base that upon what we saw when it came to the tax increases where you get the compromise in December. The nature of this president is not to get involved in what he considers to be the typical D.C. bickering back and forth. And so even during the campaign, he sort of operated sort of above all that.

Remember during the campaign, Candy, people were saying, when are you going to get tougher with Senator Hillary Clinton? And he said look, I'm playing this my way. And then, a few days before the inauguration, he said guess who was the one being inaugurated?

And so this is who he is. He simply does not like to play the partisan back and forth because I believe, politically, he's appealing to independent voters.

FRUM: You don't get to play the way you like to play. You play the way you need to play in order to succeed. And the way this president plays -- and look, I'm not going to make any defense here. The Republicans have behaved very irresponsibly with this debt ceiling. But the fact is he is the president, he is the ultimate authority here, and he has played this in a way that has moved the whole country terrifyingly close to a financial brink.

CROWLEY: Well, the debt ceiling debate at least is going on. He hasn't caved yet, we don't know what he's going to do. A big meeting tomorrow. I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about further on down the line.

Roland Martin, David Frum, thank you so much.

MARTIN: Glad to be here.

CROWLEY: The city of Phoenix, swamped by a monster dust storm. The pictures are amazing. Could there be another one tonight?

And Casey Anthony won't go to prison for the death of her daughter. So what will her future be like? Ahead, how she could pay and how she could profit.


CROWLEY: Just two more days until the end of an era in America's space program. That's when Atlantis is scheduled to launch the final shuttle mission. We are counting down to that historic event.

And Joe Johns is here to help us go in depth -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, the Magic Wall tells a story here.

It's hard to believe this is the last mission of the shuttle. It's called STS-135. "STS" stands for Space Transportation System. I never knew that.

Launch date, of course, July 8, 2011. That could mean another time simply because we're hearing there are weather problems down at the cape.

Twelve days it's supposed to last, and this is the crew. They're calling themselves and some headlines are calling them the "Final Four."

They have very interesting and varied backgrounds, including Chris Ferguson, the commander. He is a former top gun pilot.

Sandy Magnus also has a very interesting background as well. She is a stealth engineer, a former stealth engineer for McDonnell Douglas.

Now, we just want to show you one of the coolest graphics loaded onto the Magic Wall in a long time. There you go, distance traveled by each shuttle over the years, over the duration of the space program.

As you can see, Discovery had the longest duration, 148 million miles traveled. After that, Atlantis, 124 million. And then Columbia and Endeavour are pretty much tied, around 122 million apiece. Of course, Challenger traveled the least miles, 27 million, ended up in that tragic crash in 1986.

One other point here on Atlantis. It's pretty clear that Atlantis has not finished its work yet. So we don't know exactly how many miles it's going to end up traveling. Nonetheless, pretty clear to say it's not going to travel 24 million miles in one trip.

So looking forward to this launch. And we'll see if the weather holds out.

Candy, back to you.

CROWLEY: Joe, I feel kind of sad about this.

But stay with CNN to follow NASA's 135th and final shuttle mission. Our coverage of the Atlanta launch is scheduled to begin Friday morning at 10:00 Eastern, here on CNN.

Jack joins us now again with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, I hope Friday you have a shuttle question, but today we're talking debt.

CAFFERTY: I'm kind of sad about it, too. And it sort of, in a strange way, seems symptomatic, doesn't it, about what's going on all around the landscape?

The question this hour: Is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution a good idea?

Lou writes, "To run a country this big, you've got to run it on credit some of the time. Giant corporations can't even run their businesses solely with cash on hand. Putting it in the Constitution may sound like a good idea, but it will really be something that ties our hands when we can least afford it."

James in North Carolina writes, "No. Leave the Constitution alone. Not too many folks are following it as it is these days, so more amendments would likely not do much good."

Bud writes, "From what I here, no. A balanced budget amendment, not a good idea. Unlike the states, the federal government has to make room for contingencies like wars, recessions, bailouts and such."

Annie in Georgia says, "No. The last thing we need is more political gains which this type of amendment would just increase. Speaking for myself, personally, I'm sick of the games, the hostage- taking, the terrorism, and borderline or full-on treason all for political gain."

Keith in Ohio writes, "Yes, it's a good idea, but what makes you think it will do any good? They are disregarding or trashing the Constitution now. Adding this amendment won't fix Congress or the administration."

"Current politicians regard the Constitution as something that was appropriate 200 years ago. They have better ideas about what is best for us now. Nice try, Jack."

Alan in Maine writes, "The language in the proposed amendment is a recipe for fiscal gridlock worse than the current situation. Take out the super-majority required to raise taxes and the 18 percent cap on the budget and make it a clone proposal. Then maybe there is something to talk about."

Donald in New Mexico says, "Sure, Jack, as long as there plenty of loopholes for the rich, for the corporations, and all the special interest groups. Wouldn't want to put a burden on the top two percenters."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So, Jack, mostly no did you get? It sounds like?

CAFFERTY: A little of this, a little of that. I mean, it's not a black-or-white question because of the contingencies and the conditions under which it would work. So you get all kinds of answers based on what people see as a workable solution or not.

CROWLEY: Yes. And also, I think people now look at so much through a political prism because that's the prism so much of Washington is played out in at this point. It looks like another gimmick to them.

CAFFERTY: Well, and it does. And one of the reasons it does is because every time they look at Washington, it's like looking at Mount Rushmore. Nothing moves. And so they are saying, let's amend the Constitution, let's do something to make some things begin to move and to happen.

CROWLEY: Always fun to talk to you, Jack.


CROWLEY: Talk to you later. Bye.


CROWLEY: Terrorists bent on blowing up planes may be focusing on a bizarre and frightening strategy to get by security. The story is coming up.

And a huge dust storm envelops parts of Arizona. Those amazing pictures, next.


CROWLEY: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Spain, a man is tossed in the air at a celebration to mark the beginning of the San Fermin Festival. Every year thousands of people pack the streets for the running of the bulls.

In India, children gather in prayer to celebrate the Dalai Lama's 76th birthday.

In Russia, two men check out a car that's been transformed into a plane at a motor show in Moscow.

And in South Korea, crowds celebrate their country being chosen to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"Hot Shots," pictures from around the world.

It may have looked like a scene in an apocalyptic movie. In fact, it was a massive dust storm that ripped through parts of Arizona, turning day into night in an instant.