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Surgically Implanted Bombs; British Tabloid Hacking Crime Victims; Outrage Over Casey Anthony Verdict; President Obama Holds Twitter Town Hall

Aired July 6, 2011 - 18:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: We're digging deeper.

Outrage over the phone hacking of crime victims is rocking a media empire and reaching into the top levels of the British government. It all started with celebrities and we'll hear from an angry actor, Hugh Grant.

And Casey Anthony may have been acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges, but if she goes free, will Florida taxpayers still have to pay to keep her safe?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeannie Moos are straight ahead. Wolf Blitzer is off, I'm Candy Crowley and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with word of a potential new threat to air travel. First there was the shoe bomber, then the underwear bomber. Their plots to blow up airliners failed at the last moment but now an even more frightening tactic that terrorists are trying to adopt. Turn their own bodies into bombs.

Our Brian Todd is looking into this.

Brian, just when you think what next, you learn.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. That's right, Candy.

A U.S. official says terrorist groups might try to do this by surgically implanting bombs inside attacker's bodies. It is a chilling tactic designed to circumvent full body scanners and other sophisticated technology.


TODD (voice-over): U.S. security officials tell CNN of a chilling tactic terrorists might try next. Targeting commercial aircraft by surgically implanting explosive or bomb components inside the bodies of attackers.

JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: We see this as the latest iteration or the evolution of what terrorist groups are trying to do to circumvent our security layers and to perhaps defeat our societal norms.

TODD: Officials say there's fresh intelligence showing terrorists have a renewed interest in planting bombs in bodies but there's no specific or imminent threat. One U.S. official says a man suspected of involvement in this effort is Ibrahim Asiri, bomb-making mastermind for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Asiri is believed to have planned the 2009 plot to kill Saudi Arabia's interior minister by placing a bomb in the rectal cavity or underwear of his own brother. Asiri's brother was killed, but the minister escaped.

I asked Rafi Ron, Israel's former top aviation security official, about surgically implanted bombs.

(On camera): What are does it tell you about where the terrorists are versus where security officials are right now?

RAFI RON, NEW AGE SECURITY SOLUTIONS: Well, it tells me that we have exhausted the capabilities of the technology available to us. Because there's no way we can take the next step after the body scanners to figure out when a person carries out -- carries a device in his body.

TODD (voice-over): Ron and other experts say those full body scanners which we once tested out can see through clothes, can find prosthesis, breast implants, contours but cannot detect bombs inside the body.

I spoke with Dr. Jack Sava, chief trauma surgeon at Washington Hospital Center, about how terrorists might try to pull this off.

(On camera): Do you need a hospital to do this or can you do it in some kind of a terrorist field camp? What kind of training do you need?

DR. JACK SAVA, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: Well, I think again, the fundamental question is going to be how well do you want to do it? If you want to do it to 20 people and have 19 of them die and one success that you can send to -- on your mission, that will be easier. You can do that sloppy.

But if you wanted to do it well and expect them all to remain sterile, not cause infection, I think then you're largely going to be talking about a hospital or at least a clinic setting.


TODD: Dr. Sava says explosives could be implanted in the abdomen or elsewhere. It could be placed in a prosthetic device like a fake hip or a breast implant. He says a non-sophisticated bomb might lasts three to four days inside the body before complication sets in. But if it's a sophisticated surgery, maybe in a hospital or something, and if it could -- if it's in there -- if it's done in a hospital, it could last weeks, months or even longer if it's done in a hospital or if the implant itself is sophisticated with some kind of a casing around it -- Candy.

CROWLEY: I can't believe I'm asking these questions, but first how would you detonate a bomb inside your body?

TODD: Right.

CROWLEY: And second, will the fact that it's inside your body blunt the force of the explosion?

TODD: Well, there are debates over both of those points. Some experts say you would need some kind of an external detonator, maybe a chemical injected with a syringe to detonate the thing. Others say it could be ignited maybe on a timer. So that's a little bit of a point of debate there.

Now on the blunting of the impact, some experts say yes, the body would blunt the impact of the explosion. It apparently did that in the Saudi case and that it couldn't bring down an airliner, but others say it only takes a few grams of that explosive PETN to puncture the fuselage of a jetliner and if a terrorist has more than a few grams of that inside his body, which is possible, then yes, maybe with the body explosive, you could bring down an aircraft.

CROWLEY: Brian Todd, thanks so much. Appreciate the information.

Now this all started with celebrities, but now outrage over the phone hacking of crime victims is rocking a media empire and reaching into the top levels of the British government.

At the center of the scandal, Britain's biggest tabloid. "News of the World." Britain's prime minister calls this alleged hacking of murder and terrorist victims' phones, quote, "absolutely disgusting," and now media baron Rupert Murdoch has broken his silence, calling the allegations deplorable and unacceptable.

Joining me now out of CNN's London bureau, our Richard Quest.

Richard, first of all what is the newspaper allegedly -- what did they get ahold of? What kind of conversations and how did they do it?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Well, they allege to have done, indeed it's proven in many cases, is they hacked into the voice mails of royalty, Prince William, of celebrities like Sienna Miller, politicians like the former deputy prime ministers alleged.

And now in a perhaps disgusting turn of events, it's been revealed earlier back in 2002, they actually hacked into the voice mail of a murdered girl into her mobile phone while the police were looking for her.

And not only that, Candy, they erased messages from that of people looking for her because they wanted to make room for more messages. It gets worse. 7/7, the attacks, the bomb blast in London, they are said to have hacked into voice mail messages of parents of bomb victims.

And more evidence that the "News of the World" has been paying police for tips. So you get a picture of a rogue newspaper that is out of control.

CROWLEY: And so somehow I know Hugh Grant fits into all of this, fits into the totality of the story because you interviewed him. What's his role here?

QUEST: Well, he says -- obviously we know Hugh Grant for he had his own brushes with the law in the United States. He says that he has been hacked by the newspaper. This is the newspaper. "The News of the World". We can talk about in a second.

He said he has been hacked by the tabloid. He's furious about it. It's time to do something about it and he went on his own personal crusade to actually find out how bad it was and what needed to be done.


HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: It began with just personal grievance because I was a victim of hacking and then I had this extraordinary piece of luck where I ran into an ex-features editor from the "News of the World" itself and this unlikely scenario where my car broke down.

It's a long story, but anyway, he started boasting about hacking me, hacking everyone, all the dirty tricks of the "News of the World," their sinister relationship with the Metropolitan Police, their relationship with the prime minister. And I thought it was all both fascinating and utterly repulsive.

And so subsequently I went back to see him. He now runs a pub in Dover and I dropped in for a pint and a chat, and bugged him. Bugged him back. I was wearing a wire and got him talking all this stuff again, and I published it all in a British paper, the "New Statesman."

And that was the beginning of my sort of obsession with this and my outrage because, you know, it's one thing for there to be a very bad newspaper in the country. But when you start to analyze it's not one, it's all our tabloids who've been shockingly out of control for a long time. And when you realize how much collusion there has been from the police and how much collusion has been from our lawmakers, from our government who need these tabloids, especially the (INAUDIBLE) press to get elected.

You start to think I'm not proud of my country anymore. This is not the democracy I thought I was proud of.


QUEST: And what happens here, Candy? What started off as a sleazy, scurrilous scandal of celebrity has now turned into something more serious, deeper, sinister and unpleasant.

CROWLEY: Well, and it sounds like listening to that portion of the interview, broader than just "News of the World," at least as far as Hugh Grant is concerned. But tell me about "News of the World" for those of us that don't know a lot. Is it a major paper in the UK?

QUEST: This is the biggest selling newspaper, English Sunday newspaper in the world. It sells millions of copies, 7.5 million people read it. So it's a vast empire money spinning. And lots of stories. I can't -- some of the pages, well, you get the idea. Exclusive status. I love her. Basically a load -- loads and loads of stories of celebrity gossip, exactly the sort of -- and I suppose rumor and tittle-tattle that people, myself included, do love to read because you do like to see what's going on in the world in that particular world.

But the way they got their stories, and the fact that senior editors, top editors clearly didn't ask about where the stories were coming from or if they did know about them they turned a blind eye, and that's why this newspaper tonight is being seen as the cancer on journalism.

CROWLEY: Can I just ask you quickly, Richard, is it a trusted newspaper? We have tabloid here that are widely read but not necessarily trusted.

QUEST: The fascinating part about the "News of the World" is that yes, by and large -- I mean they've had some spectacular blow-ups and liable cases and the slander cases where they've got it wrong. But by and large, their fact checking is very good. Their sources are excellent.

And largely because they probably have been hacking into the phones of people. So they know it's true what they're reporting in most cases. Yes. If it's in the "News of the World," there's a fair bet, a fair good chance of what they're reporting that is actually accurate even though you can question, you can question whether it's in the public domain or whether the public really has a right to know who's sleeping with whom.

CROWLEY: CNN's Richard Quest, thanks so much.

Up next, Mitt Romney and the White House in a verbal tit for tat. Why would President Obama's team engage the GOP candidate now? I'll ask White House communications director Dan Pfeifer.

Also outrage over the Casey Anthony verdict. We'll go live to Orlando where the former defendant could be released tomorrow.

Plus, the unexpected discovery that cracked a cold case wide open and led to an arrest after more than half a century.


CROWLEY: Jack Cafferty is back here with the "Cafferty File" take two -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There you so. Something to wrap your mind around. The leading British scientist says the first person who will live to be 150 years old has already been born.

Dr. Aubrey De Grey, the chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research also thinks the first person to live to be 1,000 years old could be born in the next two days. That's right, 1,000.

De Grey made these comments in an interview with Britain's Royal Institutions Academy of Science. So far the longest living person in the world on record lived to be 122. But Dr. De Grey says we have a, quote, "50-50 chance" of bringing aging under medical control within the next 25 years.

He thinks that aging is really nothing more than the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage in the body over a lifetime and that some day doctors will be able to go in and undo the damage. We'll all just go to the doctor for a maintenance check like we take the car in now for a tune up. The visits will include gene therapy, stem cell therapies and immune stimulation.

De Grey does have his critics. In 2005, the "MIT Technology Review Journal" offered $20,000 to any molecular biologist who could prove Dr. De Grey's theories were so wrong they weren't worthy of debate. But you know what? Nobody ever won the money.

Here's a question. Would you want to live to be 150 years old or maybe even older? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

I think I already have, Candy.


CROWLEY: That's not so.

CAFFERTY: Some days it feels like it.

CROWLEY: You know a healthy 150 is one thing. And -

CAFFERTY: That's the key. Right?

CROWLEY: Yes. Right. You know?

CAFFERTY: I don't want to be cleaning the oatmeal off my sweater. That's --


CROWLEY: OK. We're ending the conversation here. Thanks, Jack. We'll be back with you.


CROWLEY: Sentencing tomorrow for Casey Anthony who is expected to be released after being found not guilty of murdering her 2-year- old daughter. A verdict that has sparked widespread outrage.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Orlando, Florida, for us. Martin, what is the latest there?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, ever since that verdict came down, emotions have been running very, very high. That was true yesterday, that is still true today. And as a result of that, Orange County, the sheriff's department here, has been forced to take some extraordinary security measures.

They want to make sure that nothing, absolutely nothing interferes with the sentencing tomorrow.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): First came the shock.



SAVIDGE: Then the outrage.

CROWD: Justice for Caylee. Justice for Caylee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just don't cross the line.

SAVIDGE: And it quickly spread.

SUSAN MOSS, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY & CHILD ADVOCATE: We've been O.J.'d. This is the worst thing to happen to Florida since the Hanging Chads.

SAVIDGE: The U.S. justice system, considered one of the pinnacles of American democracy, now the focus of scorn and ridicule.

VINNIE POLITAN, HLN ANCHOR: Don't get angry with the jurors. I mean we need jurors and we need people who are willing to do their civic duty and spend time in there. And their perspective is so much different than everyone else's because the judge looks them in the eyes and tells them this is the law you have to follow.

SAVIDGE: Ever since the verdict was read, authorities in Orlando have been grappling with the backlash.

SHERIFF JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICER: Please, I ask this community that regardless of one's personal beliefs about the innocence or guilt of Casey Marie Anthony, they're to maintain your peaceful resolve.

SAVIDGE: As a precaution police Tuesday night restricted traffic into the neighborhood near the Anthony home and the site where Caylee's body was found. It's just one more expense for the taxpayers of Orange County, Florida, who have been footing the bill for three years of investigation, court hearings and trial.

Court documents reveal just the housing, feeding and transportation of jurors cost nearly $285,000. And if Casey goes free tomorrow, the cost will continue as authorities say due to the high profile nature of the case and intense emotional interest, they have to give Anthony additional security, announcing, "Appropriate measures will be taken to release the acquitted into the community in such a manner so as to preserve the safety of the acquitted individual and the public."


SAVIDGE: All eyes will be focused tomorrow morning starting at 9:00 a.m. on the 23rd floor of the Justice Center here for Orange County in the courtroom of Judge Belvin Perry as they await to hear what his sentencing will be for these four counts.

But remember, Candy, they are misdemeanors. And the max for each would only be about 364 days and she has already served time. I won't go into all the complicated explanation, but the reality is she could walk out of there free tomorrow -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Martin, we can expect obviously that right after that verdict there'd be a lot of emotions on the street because this trial has just attracted so much attention. Have you seen any signs that some of this has died down?

We've heard a lot of people saying listen, it is the -- you know, justice requires the jury system. This is the verdict of the jury. Accept it. Have you seen any sign that it's died down at all?

SAVIDGE: Well, you certainly don't see, you know, throngs of people that are hanging out in front of the courthouse today. And what was interesting that there were tickets that were made available to the public so that they can go in and witness the sentencing.

Very few tickets, very people showed up to claim those tickets. So that's an indication there that perhaps sentiment is beginning to trail off. And I think also, too, what added to it was that there's was this silence from the jurors. Just people wanted to know, well, how did you come to this?

Now more and more we are beginning to hear from alternate jurors or directly from jurors themselves. So it may dissipate, but it's gone from people being viscerally angry to now people just feeling very bad about what has happened -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Martin Savidge, in Orlando. Thanks, Marty.

The murder of a little girl shatters a small town, but it is now more than 50 years later and an unexpected break in the cold case.

Plus, a deadly attack in one of the most popular U.S. national parks. A tourist killed by a grizzly bear.


CROWLEY: Tragedy at one of the nation's premier national park.

Mary Snow is monitoring that and other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM.

Mary, what have you got?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, we're just getting word that a visitor to Yellowstone National Park was killed by a grizzly bear today. The first such death in Yellowstone in 25 years. Park officials a say man hiking in the back country with his wife was attacked and killed by a mother bear who likely saw him as a threat to her cubs. All campsites and trails in the area have been closed while officials investigate.

The army major accused of killing 13 people in the 2009 Fort Hood massacre could face the death penalty. The fort commander announced that the charges against Major Nidal Hasan will be tried as capital offenses at his court-martial. The move is where the last U.S. military execution was 50 years ago. Hasan, a Muslim and army psychiatrist, was shot by police in the rampage and is partially paralyzed.

Celebrations across South Korea. It's been picked to host its first ever Winter Olympics in 2018. The city of Pyeongchang was picked over finalists Munich, Germany and Annecy, France.

The slogan for the games is "New Horizons." South Korea's president was on hand as the announcement was made in South Africa.

And Facebook is teaming up with Skype to bring video chat to the popular social networking site. The feature goes live to millions of accounts starting today, more will be added overtime.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement in San Francisco. CNN was not allowed to bring our own independent camera into the event. This announcement we shot using Facebook's camera without any CNN video presence.

And Candy, it was billed as something awesome. Some early reviews by bloggers say they were underwhelmed by the news.

CROWLEY: Yes, I don't get it. If you get -- I guess we'll have to go on and see. But if you use Skype and go on Facebook -- anyway, we'll figure it out when we get online.



CROWLEY: Thanks, Mary.

The first Twitter town hall, the president gets questions of 140 characters or less, including some from his Republican rivals. The president wants a big deal on the deficit and the debt ceiling, but what if there is no deals at all?

I'll speak with White House communications director Dan Pfeifer.

And Mitt Romney is the Republicans' frontrunner, but should he be watching his back?


CROWLEY: A few generations ago, Americans sat by their radios and listened to FDR's "Fireside Chats." And then came television and you can watch the president from your living room.

Now President Obama who used social media to campaign for office has held the first Twitter town hall. He took questions from followers and some of his Republican rival.

Let's go to CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

A whole new ball game, Dan.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, listen, some people have criticized this event as a gimmick, a chance for the White House to completely control the message.

And in fact, even before it began, you heart from Republicans who were attacking the president, really using the same form of social media. But the White House says that this was a good way for the president to reach out to Americans beyond Washington.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The Twitter questions came in 140 characters or less. The answers from the president did not.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know on Twitter, I am supposed to be short.

LOTHIAN: Before he could talk about what he had done or hopes to do, President Obama had to answer a question about what he would do- over. On the recession.

OBAMA: One would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this.

LOTHIAN: On housing.

OBAMA: I think that the continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn't bottomed out as quickly as we expected.

LOTHIAN: In his first ever Twitter town hall, something George Washington could never have imagined in the East Room, the president answered a debt ceiling question that that he avoided in his press conference last week. Whether invoking second four of the 14th Amendment, possibly allowing him to keep on borrowing past the August 2nd deadline, was an option.

OBAMA: I don't think we should even get to the constitutional issue. LOTHIAN: Even before the town hall got under way, Republicans let by House Speaker John Boehner were flooding Twitter with pointed questions on jobs and broken promises, then surprisingly Boehner crashed the forum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the jobs?

OBAMA: Obviously John is the speaker of the House, he's a Republican, and so this is a slightly skewed question. But what's right about is that we have not seen fast enough job growth relative to the need.

LOTHIAN: Beyond getting to focus sharply on his economic message, the town hall allowed the president to preach to an audience that skews toward younger voters. Some dissatisfied with what he's done for them so far.

HEATHER SMITH, PRESIDENT, ROCK THE VOTE: No, it's not rocket science to talk to them about the issues and the things that concern them.

LOTHIAN: And with new young voter who weren't around in 2008, rock the vote's Heather Smith says the president needs to get their attention.

HEATHER SMITH, ROCK THE VOTE: Young people were a huge part of his success in 2008 and part of his winning formula, I believe, for 2012 has to be the continued engagement of young people at the polls.


LOTHIAN: Now, the president dealt with a whole host of topics during that town hall, but what remains the big concern here in Washington is getting that debt ceiling raised, and that's why congressional leaders from both parties will head to the White House tomorrow. The hope, of course, is that they can find compromise as that August 2 deadline approaches -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It would be nice to do it in 144 characters or less.

LOTHIAN: That's right, but highly unlikely.

CROWLEY: Yes. Make our job easier.

Dan Lothian, thanks so much.

The White House wants a big deal on the deficit and the debt ceiling, and toward that end, the president has been mixing some public job owning with private closed-door discussions, including a hush-hush weekend meeting with the speaker of the House.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, White House communications chief Dan Pfeifer.

Dan, thanks for joining us.


CROWLEY: What did the president talk about over the weekend with House Speaker John Boehner?

PFEIFER: Well, I'll tell you about what the president said to all the leaders he's spoken to during the last few days, which is that this is an opportunity where we can make a real difference in our deficit. We can, instead of just kicking the can down the road and doing sort of the politics of least resistance, which we so often do in Washington, we can seize the moment and do something real that will forever change our...

CROWLEY: That's what Republicans say, by the way. I mean, so we get it that you all think this is a huge moment, but to single out Speaker Boehner to have secret talks with, at least secret to other leaders, there must have been a specific reason he did it.

PFEIFER: No. What the -- everyone agrees that we should deal with our deficit. The question is, are people going to be willing to make the tough choices? Are they willing to do some things that are going to make some people in their own party angry. Are Democrats going to be willing to address entitlements in some way? Are Republicans going to be willing to raise taxes on the wealthiest and close corporate loopholes? The president has been willing to make those tough choices, and he is encouraging all leaders, including Speaker Boehner, Leader McConnell, Senator Reed and Leader Pelosi to do the same thing.

CROWLEY: So, it was a -- a meeting to say, "I am willing to tick off some of my folks if you'd be willing to tick off some of yours." And by that, the code is, Speaker Boehner, you need to raise some taxes. Is that essentially what went on?

PFEIFER: Well, essentially, what we're trying to do here is have a balanced package, and that includes revenues. It includes closing tax loopholes. It includes dealing with taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. And every independent group was like, you have to do that. And they also said you have to do some stuff on Medicare and other entitlement programs. The president's willing to do all of those. He's encouraging Republican leaders to do the same.

CROWLEY: So would you agree that, in the end, this does come down, essentially, to President Obama who has to make a deal that he can bring enough Democrats with him and Speaker Boehner, who has to make a deal that he can bring enough House Democrats with him.

PFEIFER: Well...

CROWLEY: Are these the two key guys on this?

PFEIFER: No, I think they are key guys, but something has to pass the House, and it has to pass the Senate. So it has to be something that senators Reed and McConnell also are serious about. CROWLEY: Not a steep decline for you.

PFEIFER: Nothing is easy. And we don't take anything for granted. But what is clear, and you're right about this, is that whatever deal we're able it get past is going to require Democrats and Republicans. There is -- there will be no party line votes here, so we have to work together. That's what tomorrow's all about.

CROWLEY: Is there a give in the president's public -- from the president's public position to where he's willing to go?

PFEIFER: He's willing to make tough choices and willing to compromise. He has said that from the beginning. He reiterated that yesterday and is going to say it to leaders tomorrow.

CROWLEY: And tell me what would be the first thing that would happen. What's the first thing people would notice if August 2 comes and there is no deal to increase the debt ceiling?

PFEIFER: You're going to begin to see serious uncertainty concerns in the market and potential significant drops in the stock market to affect people's 401(k)s and their investments. You're going to see raise -- increases in interest rates. And the point is...

CROWLEY: You think there would be -- so in other words the markets will go crazy because it's uncertain.

PFEIFER: And this is -- we have never -- we have never done some where we're heading into no-man's land. And so either there will be an immediate reaction. And even if we are getting towards the end and we haven't shown real progress towards making a deal, you're going to see some concern. That's why we're meeting tomorrow. That's why we have to go in on this right away.

CROWLEY: Doesn't there have to be a plan B, and what is it? In other words, it's possible you can get to August 3 and not have the debt ceiling raised. Therefore, there must be a way for you all to pay bills, to take revenues you were going to put somewhere else that are more long-term into Social Security payments and Medicare payments, whatever else looks as though you might not be able to pay.

PFEIFER: Well, the truth of the matter here is that there a lot of people talking about ways in which you can avoid dealing with reality, but you can't. Basically, come August 2, the bill will be due for the congressional credit card. All the spending that we've racked up over the years, going back decades, comes due, and we have to be able to pay that bill.

And so the question will be, some people will say just pay the interest. Well, what are we going to do then? We'll pay the interest; we'll pay bond holders and China and elsewhere. We're not going to pay Social Security and Medicare?

There is no way around reality, which is why we have to make it so that we can pay our -- pay our obligations and deal with our deficit at the same time. That's -- it's critically important. There's not -- there is no other path to doing this. There's only -- there's only reality.

CROWLEY: There's some short-term paths. Is the White House, no matter what, opposed to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling or sort of completely ignoring the debt ceiling using the constitutional argument that the 14th Amendment says we can't have a debt ceiling. Are both of those unacceptable?

PFEIFER: Both of those are untenable, because every time we kick the can down the road it gets harder. There's no reason why we can't deal with this right now, and we should do it right now. There's no reason we should be having the exact same debate about the exact same issues 30 days from now or 60 days from now. So let's deal with it now. We have time to do it. We can do it; we should do it.

And in terms of the constitutional argument, we don't have time to resolve that. Come August 2, the bills come due. We're not -- this is not a time for a constitutional class.

CROWLEY: I asked you that because it was -- your treasury secretary that brought up the possibility of the 14th Amendment kicking in and saying, "Look, we don't need to have an increase in the debt ceiling." And I bring it up in total because you have to have a plan B here, it seemed to me. A, what are we going to do on August 3 to make sure we don't default on our debts, which you all and the treasury secretary and a number of outside economists have said would be terrible.

PFEIFER: You're absolutely right. It would be devastating, but let's do Plan A right now. Plan A is.. .

CROWLEY: Is there a Plan B?

PFEIFER: You don't need Plan B. What you need to do is do what every American wants us to do, which is get together, make some tough decisions, deal with our deficit and make it so we can pay our obligations.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a political question. There's been some back and forth with David Plouffe, senior White House political adviser, and the Romney campaign. I believe Plouffe talked about Romney being a political contortionist. Why even engage with Mitt Romney at this point? It does seem like you elevate him and like you might be wanting -- you feel the need to push back.

PFEIFER: Well, as you know, Candy, journalists often ask these questions and expect us to answer them. And that's what happened this morning. But there is a -- there's a broader point here about the argument that Mitt Romney makes on Monday and the different argument he makes on Tuesday.

What is clear is that the -- we have -- this president has taken critical steps that have changed the direction of our economy so that we are now creating jobs and growing the economy but that we have to do more. And that's what we're talking about right now.

CROWLEY: Shouldn't you sort of leave that to the campaign and let the president stay in the White House, stay kind of presidential and administrative?

PFEIFER: Well, when we get questions, we try to answer them. And this is one of those cases.

CROWLEY: Dan Pfeifer, senior communications director, thank you so much.

PFEIFER: Thank you, Candy.


CROWLEY: We are getting word of progress and negotiations between the White House and the House Republicans on a deal to raise the U.S. debt limit. We want to go straight to Capitol Hill and CNN congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan.

Kate, what are you hearing?


Well, potentially significant development a day ahead of that big meeting tomorrow between congressional leaders and the president and the vice president on these until this point stalled debt talks. What we're talking about is an era of tax loopholes that Democrats including the president have just been railing against in recent days and weeks. Things like tax breaks -- tax loopholes for corporate jet owners or tax loopholes for the oil and gas industry and others.

Democrats have long been calling for these loopholes to be closed to raise revenue as part of a debt deal. Republicans until this point have been against that resisting that as part of any debt deals, part of any negotiations to raise the debt ceiling.

Well, now today, the No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor, he's opened the door, saying that he's open to talking about closing these certain tax loopholes if -- and it's an important "if" -- if he closed the tax loophole in one place, he would have to cut a tax in another place.

A very significant, potentially, shift in message on the part of Republicans. But I should say that it is unclear at this point how many Republicans share this view, Candy. The top Republican in the Senate was asked about this, Mitch McConnell today, and he did express some skepticism. While he said he was supportive of broader tax reform, he did say that cherry picking items in terms of the context of these debt negotiations would be challenging at this point. However, a significant shift in message at a very key time --Candy.

CROWLEY: They are all in the same part. They're not always on the same page. But you're right: it sounds significant. There is a little movement there, so we will watch it. Thanks so much, Kate Bolduan. Appreciate it.

A little girl murdered 54 years ago. And now a break in the cold case, thanks to a train ticket. We'll explain, next.


CROWLEY: It's a crowded pack of Republican presidential candidates, but right now, Mitt Romney is out in front. Does he still need to watch his back? CNN's Jim Acosta is watching the Republican race for us.

Romney does seem to have everything going for him at this point.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, everything seems to be going his way. He feels like the front-runner. He's running as the front-runner right now, Candy. And in of all places, Mitt Romney is in London today, doing some fundraising overseas. And why not? He is the front-runner, or as some Republicans see it, the front-runner by default.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, you guys. How are you?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mitt Romney is shaking every hand he can these days, but for Republicans, no introductions are necessary. They know their front-runner for 2012 all too well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, that's where Mitt Romney is now, and he's running, really, a strategy as a front-runner. He's not engaging the other candidates. He's focusing his attacks on Barack Obama. I think that's smart.

ROMNEY: Hey, guys. How are you?

ACOSTA: He's not only ahead of his rivals in fundraising, in the last three months picking up more than $18 million. He's way out in front in the latest poll in the first primary state of New Hampshire.

ROMNEY: How are you?

ACOSTA: The numbers are not so good for candidates like Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich who are struggling to become the alternative, the un-Romneys. So it's no surprise Romney is taking some abuse from Democrats who poke the former Massachusetts governor for his conflicting comments on the Obama economy.

ROMNEY: I didn't say that things were worse. What I said was the economy hasn't turned around.

He recognizes that what this president has done has slowed the economy. He didn't create the recession, but he made it worse.

ACOSTA: More worrisome from Romney is that key pillars of the GOP see him as a front-runner by default. Tea Party activists would like to see other choices in the race.

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS: My prediction would be that somebody emerges to fill this vacuum, this hunger for a true fiscal conservative in the race. ACOSTA (on camera): And he doesn't fit that bill.

KIBBE: I don't think he's there

ACOSTA: You're waiting for a Tea Party savior?

KIBBE: We're not waiting. We're shopping.

ACOSTA (on camera): Not all social conservatives are sold either.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: There are those who see his record when he was governor of Massachusetts was not consistent with the platform that he ran on, you know, four years ago

ACOSTA: Republicans note the GOP has a tradition of nominating front-runners when the party thinks it's their turn.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We saw that with John McCain, with George Bush, with George Bush Senior, with Ronald Reagan. On and on.

ACOSTA (on camera): Is it maybe Mitt Romney's turn? Is that what a lot of Republicans think?

HEYE: I think there are a lot of people who are banking on that. And we'll see if that holds true in this case.


ACOSTA: Another sign of Romney's strength: the president's top political adviser, as we've been reporting in this hour, in the White House, David Plouffe, called Romney a world-class political contortionist. To that, the Romney campaign responded their man would debate the president any time, anywhere.

Of course, Romney has to win the nomination first, Candy. And when I asked the Romney campaign what about this front-runner status, what do you make of that? No comment. They don't mind if we talk about it, but they don't want to talk about it.

CROWLEY: Well, and also a big old target on your back.


CROWLEY: You know, it's great to be the front-runner, but everybody's, you know, behind you. And it makes it hard.

ACOSTA: And they are gunning for him. They are gunning for him.

CROWLEY: All things considered, the front-runner is probably the best place.

ACOSTA: Not a bad place.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much. Appreciate it. ACOSTA: Sure.

CROWLEY: The murder of a little girl shatters a small town and now, more than 50 years later, an unexpected break in the cold case.

And how the world reacted to the Casey Anthony verdict. Jeannie Moos gives us a closer look.


CROWLEY: A remarkable break in a cold case more than half a century old. Now a suspect has been arrested in connection with a murder in a small town that is still shocked to this day. CNN's Ted Rowland is in Chicago with details.

Ted, what's the story?

TED ROWLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, the break in the case came last year when investigators opened their books and they just went through it one more time.

They asked an old girlfriend of one of their man suspects to go back and see if she could find a photo of her and this main suspect. She said, "You know what? I think I have one." She went back, found a picture frame. Inside that frame was an unused bus ticket. That led to an arrest last week.


ROWLAND (voice-over): The 1957 murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph still haunts the small town of Sycamore, Illinois. Bill Hindenburg was also a 7-year-old at the time his grandfather was the police chief.

BILL HINDENBURG, POLICE CHIEF'S GRANDSON: Back then, we didn't want to even think about the possibility that monsters ran around, but they sure did.

ROWLAND: Maria's disappearance made national news. Volunteers helped search, and the FBI was brought in. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover requested regular updates on the investigation. Maria's body was eventually found in a wooded area in another county. Now, 53 years later, an arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is obviously a cold case where the defendant has evaded prosecution.

ROWLAND: Seventy-one-year-old Jack Daniel McCullough, a neighbor whose name, prosecutors say, used to be John Tessier. He was an original suspect in Maria's murder, but his story that he had taken a train out of town that day was backed up by his family.

According to the criminal complaint, McCullough's alibi crumbled after an old girlfriend recently found the train ticket. The ticket was never used. McCullough was arrested last week at this retiree apartment complex in Seattle. He worked as a security guard at the complex. According to court documents, he had a career in law enforcement, once losing a job as a cop for allegedly sexually assaulting a runaway girl.

McCullough in his initial court appearance did not acknowledge that he is the same man prosecutors say he is. Prosecutors are working on extraditing him back to Illinois, where people will be watching the case very closely.

HINDENBURG: And there's never been closure on it. And hopefully now, with the trial, we'll get closure on it.

ROWLAND: A fresh rose sits on Maria Ridulph's headstone in Sycamore. People have been visiting her grave now that her murder, which will always be part of this small town's history, may finally be solved.


ROWLAND: And Candy, there was a hearing this afternoon in Seattle. McCullough waived his right to appear. Nothing was decided in terms of extradition in that hearing. His next hearing is the 20th of this month -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Wow. Ted Rowland, what a story. Thanks very much.

Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Pretty amazing stuff.

CROWLEY: It really is. Yes.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is would you want to live 150 years old or even older? A British scientist says the first person to live to 150 has already been born.

Paul in Ontario says, "No, I would not. If we all live twice as long as we do now, the pressure we'd put on the ecosystem would collapse the planet. And besides, they'd probably raise the retirement age to 140."

Cliff in Regal Park writes, "That would give us, what, 81 more years in 'The Cafferty File.' I'll need to give this a little more thought."

Paul in Arizona writes, "Wow, that would really screw up Medicare and Social Security. No, wait."

Gary in Arizona, "Jack, being 75, I'm halfway there. I have no interest in living to be 150. There are over 6 billion people on the planet at the moment, and in many parts of the world it's a mob scene. I'll take another decade and depart with fond memories and a smile."

Anthony in New Jersey writes, "Why not? Galapagos tortoises do. I'm living with an African gray parrot that will outlive my son. Give me a roomy cage with all the technical bells and whistles, have someone feed me and clean any cage, and I'll be happy as a clam."

Mark in Oklahoma writes, "Well, Jack, that depends. At what age would the senior discount at McDonald's kick in?"

Ed in Pennsylvania: "My only reason for wanting to live that long would be to dance at my great-granddaughter's wedding."

Bill in New Mexico says, "Yes, I think life is that enjoyable. If I thought I would live that long, I would have spent a few more years in college. I would have gotten another degree or two in something else. But every silver lining has a cloud. What would we do about this retiring at 65 years of age, and will our minds keep up?"

Bob in Youngstown, Ohio, writes, "You only have 49 more years to go, Jack. Tell us if it's worth it so far."

And Ogilbie writes, "I bet if you were just turning 149 the answer would be yes."

If you want to read more on this -- we got some pretty funny e- mails -- go to the blog: -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Those were great. I love those today. Your guys should go into standup.

CAFFERTY: Except for the guy who says I've only got 49 years to go. I don't like him at all.

CROWLEY: Little mean streak there.


CROWLEY: I'll write him back for you. Thanks, Jack.

For our North American viewers, "JOHN KING USA" starts at the top of the hour, and up next Jeanne Moos looks at reaction to the Casey Anthony verdict, from unusual to over-the-top.


CROWLEY: It seems that everyone had a reaction to the Casey Anthony verdict. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It only took two words to finally get a smile out of Casey Anthony, but "not guilty" was not music to everyone's ears, from Nancy Grace...

NANCY GRACE, HLN ANCHOR: The devil is dancing tonight.

MOOS: ... to the cartoonist who portrayed Casey Anthony putting duct tape around the eyes of Lady Justice. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your reaction, Geraldo?


MOOS: The verdict even had members of the FOX News family momentarily at each other's throats.

RIVERA: This was a good mother. You see the video.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Oh, bull. This is so much bull I can't stand it.

MOOS: And this...


MOOS: ... took many back to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty of the crime of murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been O.J.ed. This is the worst thing to happen to Florida since the hanging chads.

MOOS (on camera): Now, you might expect the defendant to cry when the verdict came down...


MOOS (voice-over): ... but you probably wouldn't expect a talk show hostess to choke up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The verdict in the Casey Anthony...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help me out here.

MOOS: If you think human hosts were shocked...

GRACE: A stunning blow.

MOOS: ... imagine how the animal kingdom reacted to the Casey Anthony verdict: from dogs to giraffes to apes to alpacas. And though Jay Leno tried a couple of Casey Anthony jokes, Jay learned that a murder trial joke can bomb like a closing argument.

JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Not guilty. You know what this means? This means President Obama's economic team is now only the second most clueless people in America. That's what it means. Is the mike on? You're all good. I don't think they heard the joke.

MOOS (on camera): Some folks even shot themselves reacting to the verdict as it was handed down.


MOOS: Parking themselves in front of their TVs and posting their reactions on YouTube, so tense they chewed on remotes.


MOOS: Took breaths as if at a Lamaze class...


MOOS: ... critiquing the defendant's look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First-degree eye shadow.

MOOS: There was something a little creepy about watching the verdict with a toddler. These viewers made Nancy Grace seem Zen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... find the defendant not guilty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... find the defendant not guilty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... find the defendant not guilty..


MOOS: Leave it to your toddler to lay down the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't want to say that.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.


CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will see you tomorrow. For our international viewers "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.