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Joe Paterno Diagnosed With Lung Cancer; Molestation Claims Rock Syracuse University

Aired November 18, 2011 - 18:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off tonight.

And tonight, breaking news at Penn State University, which is still reeling from a sex abuse scandal that has taken down the college president and legendary football coach Joe Paterno. We're now learning that Paterno, who is 84 years old, has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In a statement, Paterno's son Scott said -- quote -- "Last weekend, my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. He is currently undergoing treatment and his doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery. As everyone can appreciate, this is a deeply personal matter for my parents, and we simply ask that his privacy be respected as he proceeds with treatment."

CNN contributor Sara Ganim, a reporter for "The Patriot-News" of Harrisburg, is in State College for us tonight.

Sara, what is the reaction there? Was there any hint of this at all or is this a complete surprise?

SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, no, there was no hint of this kind of detail.

Joe Paterno's 84 years old. There's long been speculation about health problems. He's had -- he had kind of like on intestinal bug during the last season. He's been hit a few times either on the sidelines or in practice, leading to health problems like broken bones.

But as far as this lung cancer news, this is completely -- really a complete shock that this was something that he was dealing with. And apparently, according to his family, it was something that he just learned about over the weekend as this scandal has been unfolding. It's really been quite the week for the Paterno family.

CROWLEY: It really has, a crushing week for them, I know.

Sara, now we know that the NCAA is launching its own investigation into the Penn State scandal, how Penn State handled things, et cetera, et cetera. What is the implication of that?

GANIM: Well, what they want to know is by December 16, they want certain questions answered about what Penn State's policies are, how they comply with NCAA policies and whether or not these rules were followed.

And there's a set of questions that they have given to the university. And like I said, they need to be answered by the 16th. I think that's when we will know where we're going from here.

CROWLEY: Sara Ganim, thanks so much.

It isn't just Penn State anymore. Tonight, another major university, Syracuse in New York State, is doing damage control because of allegations of sex abuse. Syracuse placed associate men's basketball coach Bernie Fine on administrative leave after accusations that he inappropriately touched two boys more than two decades ago.

Fine just put out a statement saying -- quote -- "Simply put, these allegations are patently false in every respect. The fact is these allegations have been thoroughly investigated multiple times."

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in the university for us now.

Ed, what has the coach said about these allegations?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is standing by his longtime assistant, Jim Boeheim, the head coach of the basketball team here at Syracuse University, has been here for more than three decades. As one student put it to us today, Jim Boeheim is to Syracuse what Joe Paterno is to Penn State.

So everyone around him paying very close attention to his words. He is vehemently defending his assistant coach. This coming in the wake of the allegations that two former ball boys for the Syracuse basketball team told ESPN -- you could hear from one of them -- one of the men who is now 39 years old, Bobby Davis, described to ESPN the interactions that he had with the assistant coach, saying that he was molested by the assistant coach hundreds of times during a period covering 16 years, between the 1980s and 1990s.


BOBBY DAVIS, ALLEGED SEXUAL MOLESTATION VICTIM: If I had just shorts on, he would just put his hand -- first, he would start rubbing my leg. And he would sit next to me and rub my leg and then just gradually put his hand down my pants and try to grab my penis. And if I resisted, which I did all the times, most of -- just, like, he would get more aggressive.


LAVANDERA: Bernie Fine, the assistant coach, is a highly respected, much-cared-for basketball coach who's been around here at Syracuse for many, many decades. He also went on to say in this statement that he released this afternoon, saying: "Sadly, we live in an allegation-based society in an Internet age where in a matter of minutes, one's lifelong reputation can be severely damaged. I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the latest review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously."

And what he's referring to there, Candy, is that when this was investigated, brought back up in 2005, it was investigated by the Syracuse Police Department. They said that the statute of limitations had run up on this and they couldn't investigate it further.

The university says it hired a law firm to investigate and they spent four months investigating this case and couldn't find any evidence to corroborate what Bobby Davis was saying at the time and that they're confident that Bernie Fine is someone who has withstood the scrutiny already and that they're hoping this case will essentially go away once again.

CROWLEY: Ed Lavandera in Syracuse tonight, thanks.

Allegations of sex abuse first at Penn State, now at Syracuse, no doubt have parents asking about their own children's safety.

Here to talk about the warning signs and the scandals, Marc Klaas, a child safety advocate. His daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered in 1993. Also joining us Dr. Charles Sophy, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Gentlemen, thank you both.

Mark, first to you.

One of the things that the coach at Syracuse is saying about his assistant coach and about the whole situation is, listen, we have looked at all of this, there was no substantiation of it, sort of a he said/he said. And he thinks that the Penn State prompted these men to bring these allegations up again and that they're looking for money.

Is it true and do you see an increase in the number of people that come forward during a time when this issue is so much in the news?

MARC KLAAS, PRESIDENT, BEYOND MISSING: Well, sure, because what happens is awareness is raised.

That having been said, the numbers of sexual abuse accusations have gone down tremendously since 1993. But, sure, this brings things to the forefront and certain victims show courage in coming forth and talking about things that have done with -- done to them. And that empowers other people that have gone through similar circumstances to take a similar stand.

CROWLEY: Dr. Sophy, I know that you are in this business, as it were, and certainly know about -- a lot about allegations. Is there any way to tell? I mean, what is the defining moment when you have a he said/he said?

It just seems that you do run up against this sometimes. It's not true in the Penn State allegations, where they have a witness that testified before the grand jury, but certainly at Penn State -- we're now dealing with a he said/he said of a now grown adult. How difficult is that to get to the truth?

DR. CHARLES SOPHY, CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRIST: It's often very difficult to get to the truth because, at a certain point in their life, they were a 10-year-old child. And how and what they perceived may be very different now.

And as they evolved and grow, like was said earlier, that maybe they are at a point where they feel more courage, they feel safer, they have been able to really resolve within themselves the guilt and the shame and now they want to do something so that they can protect others and feel that they're even protecting themselves.

It does get down to he said/he said. However, it does have to be a general belief of where that person is. Also, looking at how their life has been up to this point, have they been a pretty solid citizen, are they a stable person, that gives credibility to who they are and their allegations of today.

CROWLEY: Marc, is there any telltale sign that you know of, of someone who is a danger to one's child? It seems to me that, in the end, the most that a parent can do is certainly be watchful and when something strikes you as wrong, it probably is.

But is this more a matter of children speaking to their parents -- I'm sorry -- parents speaking to their children about what the danger is or are there telltale signs of bad situations?

KLAAS: Well, certainly the best thing you can do, Candy, is make sure that your children understand you unconditionally love them and that they can come to you with absolutely anything that is bothering them or threatening their safety.

That having been said, sure, there are telltale signs. If an adult spends an inordinate amount of time with children, if they are too good to be true in your life, if they come and they want to baby- sit your kids all the time, they want to take them on unsupervised trips, they want to lavish them with gifts, then there's probably something wrong with that.

If an adult has a special child friend that changes from time to time, that's another red flag. If you observe any of this kind of aberrant or abnormal behavior, then you definitely need to pay attention to it and take advantage of the tools that are out there. Search the Megan's Law Web site. Find out if this individual does have a past history.

CROWLEY: And, Dr. Sophy, we have come to believe, we have been told that young children don't volunteer this sort of information in a lie, that, in fact, mostly we have come to believe that children will tell the truth.

But what about an adult that comes back at 25, 30, 35, 40 and says, this happened to me? Is there a -- do we also naturally think, no one comes forward with this if it's not true?

SOPHY: No, I think absolutely you have to take what someone is saying, listen to it, look at the bigger context of who they are as a person, how they live their lives, and were those allegations a possibility back at that point in their life? Did they have that experience? Were they at that camp? Did that adult really spend that much time with them?

To be able to see, are you able to support a lot of those logistical kinds of things and then see, is that somebody who is a solid person that really hasn't had any problem in their life and usually does tell the truth? Most likely then, at that point, they have worked themselves through an emotional place that they are now safe to come forward and not feel bad about what they need to tell us.

CROWLEY: I need a real quick answer from both of you.

If you had a young child right now, would you send them off to camp, football or otherwise, because I think that's a question a lot of parents are asking themselves tonight.

First, quickly to you, Dr. Sophy?

SOPHY: I would say, you know what, mom and dad, go check out that camp and follow your gut.

CROWLEY: Marc Klaas?

KLAAS: Well, you know, President Clinton signed the Volunteers for Children Act that allows institutions to run background checks on individuals who have unsupervised access to children. If they followed those strictures, then I think you're probably in a good place.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Marc Klaas, Dr Charles Sophy. We appreciate it.

Next, troubling revelations that hackers may have staged a dangerous new cyber-attack using computers in Russia.


CROWLEY: One of the greatest fears about terrorism may be a reality tonight, a cyber-attack on a vital public utility. Federal investigators confirm they are gathering information on whether hackers, possibly from Russia, are to blame for a breakdown at a public water system in Illinois.

Here's CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been unheard-of inside the U.S., hackers compromising infrastructure. Now, federal officials confirm they're investigating whether a cyber-attack may have led to the failure of a water pump at a public system in Springfield, Illinois area earlier this month. A local official discussed the incident. DON CRAVEN, CURRAN-GARDNER PUBLIC WATER DISTRICT: There is some indication that there was a breach of some sort into a software program.

TODD: Cyber security expert, Joe Weiss, disclosed the possible hacking on his blog after he obtained a government report from the state of Illinois' terrorism and intelligence center. We asked Weiss what the reports said about the incident when he says hackers breached the so-called SCADA system, the tech controls of water pump machines.

JOE WEISS, APPLIED CONTROL SOLUTIONS: When the SCADA system was showing abnormal problems, they called in an IT company if you will check out the computer. And sin the process of checking out the computer, in other words, the computer logs of the computer, they found I.P. addresses that were located in Russia.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, the Department of Homeland Security said it's looking into all of this, but DHS cautions it hasn't reached any conclusions about whether the pump was damaged by hackers or something else.


CROWLEY: We heard from cyber-security expert Joe Weiss in Brian's report. He joins us now, along with cyber-security consultant Mark Rasch, who used to lead the Justice Department's Computer Crime Prosecution Unit.

So let me start with you, first, Mark. When you hear this story, do you automatically go to, oh, hacking?

MARK RASCH, CYBER-SECURITY EXPERT: Well, that's the first thing that you're going to look at, especially when you have this indication that there's been these I.P. addresses or these attacks from a particular address coming from Russia.

So, what you start looking at is, did these come from an attack and did these come from a foreign government or a foreign country?

CROWLEY: Joe, how is it that -- we now know that the feds are looking into this. You were the first actually to report it on your blog, as I understand it.

What is the lesson here? What do I take away from this? What should viewers take away from this?

WEISS: Well, the first thing is that these systems are systems that really weren't designed for security. And they also don't have the conventional logging that a traditional I.T. system would have.

So one of the first things to take away from this is that it can take a long time, and you can only, if you will, unintentionally stumble on to the fact that there are people trying to hack into these, because one of the things that came out is there were problems with this system for two to three months before they found it. CROWLEY: And so we do know that Joe has been a frequent critic of Homeland Security and that it just hasn't wrapped its arms around this. And we're talking about water supply in the U.S., electricity, any number of things.

Is the fear real? Is the system as vulnerable as it sounds? And what's, then, the real threat, that someone could literally stop the water supply in the U.S.?

RASCH: Well, there's no doubt that there are a lot of vulnerabilities in these so-called SCADA systems.

And the SCADA systems are what control things like water, power, utilities. And they were never designed to be networked together. But then for convenience, we networked them together without fixing them. So we definitely have to address that issue and we are addressing the issue in the country, but we're not addressing it fast enough or as thoroughly enough.

The real harm here is that if somebody can take over a SCADA system, they can cause a lot of physical damage, which is hard to do in cyberspace, shut down water plants, shut down electrical power grids, things like that.

CROWLEY: Joe, you think this hacking came from Russia. Can you go the next step with me and say, is this a practice run? Is this -- it seems to me, there are many possibilities. Somebody kind of messing around seeing what they could do. Is there a way that they, A., know what they did, that they were able to kind of burn out a pump by turning it on and off, hacking a computer, turning it on and off, or is it a practice run?

WEISS: Well, I'm an engineer. And I can tell you what things are. You're asking me to speculate. And I can tell you what my speculation is.

CROWLEY: Thank you. I will go with that.


WEISS: OK. The first point is these are a bunch of very small, small water districts. Normally -- and these are also districts that would have very little security and very little logging.

So my feeling is, yes, this is probably some form of test run, because they didn't want to go after bigger, if you will, more instrumented systems. But the other thing...

CROWLEY: You know, Mark...

WEISS: I was just going to say one other thing.

This also strikes me as, in a sense, the RSA attack against control systems, because what they did is they went to the SCADA vendor, software vendor, and they got the user I.D. and passwords from the systems that this vendor provided. So this was a very targeted attack to go after very specific machines, and a lot more than just one. It's very disconcerting.

CROWLEY: And so they meant to do it?

WEISS: They meant to do it.


CROWLEY: Let me read what the Department of Homeland Security told CNN -- quote -- "At this time, there is no credible, corroborated data that indicates a risk to infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety."

It seems to me they're playing it down. Obviously, that's their opinion. One hopes that they're not actually playing it down. But why would they? They don't seem to see the threat that we're talking about here.

RASCH: Well, the investigation is in its early days. And so one of the problems is that they only have this one report, although there was another report today coming out of Houston as well.

The real harm here is not that somebody did this. It's that the systems are vulnerable to these kinds of attacks. And as Joe just pointed out, if you grab the user I.D. and password from the manufacturer, you can go after many, many different systems.

We need a better way of sharing information and a better way of encouraging the companies that have these kind of SCADA systems to really lock them down and monitor them, whether you're a huge company or a small municipality.

CROWLEY: Mark Rasch, Joe Weiss, thank you both so much tonight.

Next up, Washington's deficit cutting wars, it's your money, trillions of dollars, and an all-important deadline is just around the corner.


CROWLEY: On Capitol Hill today -- and this is going to surprise you -- it's been all talk and no results. The House of Representatives failed to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Members of all-powerful super committee huddled behind closed doors amid growing pessimism they will make a deal by Wednesday on cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit.

Republican strategist Ed Rollins is in New York. And here with me in Washington, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Ed, first to you. They're not going to make this, right? Is there New York pessimism, as well as Washington pessimism?


ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You're close to it, but I don't see any signs whatsoever. Republicans don't want to raise taxes. Democrats don't want to cut entitlement programs.

It's where we were six months ago. I think most of them think, we will go through an election, we will see where it comes out, we will make whatever adjustments we can so the defense and entitlements won't take the big cut, so the entitlements won't take the big cut.

And I think at this point, there will be a turkey on Thanksgiving and a turkey in Washington, but it won't be a bill.

CROWLEY: Well, first, let me just get you quick to both say, do you -- are you both as pessimistic?





CROWLEY: Then I can go on to say, what in the world -- I love this, that we're going to let an election decide it, because every time we have an election, we still are going to get divided government.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: It seems to me, we are now playing with, at least we were told, oh, my goodness, the world markets would go crazy, no one's going to trust Washington, it will thrust us into a second recession. They don't seem to think that's going to happen.

BEGALA: Yes, the debt risk is real. The debt threat is real.

And there's been enough independent, credible people who have looked at it. So I don't people should pooh-pooh that. I do have a slight problem with what I think is the false equivalency.

I talked to somebody very close to the committee who said -- a Democrat, of course, but said, look, we're ready to do the hard things, meaning cut entitlements, things that Democrats have never been willing to do. And this source said to me, the Republicans won't even do the easy things. And there are easy things that poll popular. There are popular -- there are popular -- it's unpopular to cut entitlements.

CROWLEY: They won't raise any revenues.


BEGALA: They won't raise taxes on the rich, which is what they need to do. It's a simple deal. And actually raising taxes on the rich is very popular with the American people. Cutting Medicare and Social Security is very unpopular.

(CROSSTALK) BORGER: Yes, but it's not popular with Republicans.


CROWLEY: I mean, is it totally the Republicans?

We can sit here and talk politics, and I would love to politics, but aren't we talking about a very deep-rooted policy problem?

BORGER: It's not a policy problem at this point. It's theology.


BORGER: It's gone beyond politics.

CROWLEY: Darn near biblical proportions here, yes.

BORGER: Right. It's gone beyond politics.

At a certain point, politicians can get in a room and cut a deal, but not if it's a theological issue. I think it's become that. You have 72 House representatives who send a letter and say, you know what, no tax increases, no way, we're not going to support any deal. Then the speaker would have to go looking to Democrats, and just couldn't happen.


Ed, let me move you on to Herman Cain. The good news for Herman Cain is that we aren't talking about sexual harassment allegations anymore. We're talking about various blunders along the way in terms of foreign policy, one of them being that in an ed board meeting this week that taped, editorial board meeting with a newspaper that was taped, he seemed to not quite understand when they said, do you agree with the president about Libya?

And he seemed to be trying to grasp in his mind like what he had been told about it. And today he had a news conference, and here's how he explained that very long pause.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What part? Do I agree with the part where we intervened with rockets and missiles? Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that Gadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you have got Taliban and al Qaeda that's going to be part of the government?


CROWLEY: OK. So the basic thing is, gee, there were so many parts to the question, I didn't know exactly what it was.

But here he's talking about the Taliban and al Qaeda becoming part of the Libyan government, which is not -- it's wrong -- we don't know that to be true. Maybe al Qaeda, I don't know.


BORGER: No Taliban. No Taliban.


CROWLEY: No Taliban in Libya, right.

BORGER: Taliban, Afghanistan. OK? But al Qaeda, there is a fear that al Qaeda could start to look at Libya as a safe haven.

CROWLEY: Sure. Sure. And also there's lots of weaponry in there that al Qaeda would like to get their hands on.

BORGER: But not Taliban.

CROWLEY: Right, but not the Taliban.

Ed, my question to you is -- and I spoke with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today. And I asked her if foreign policy experience mattered in a president. And I just want you to take a listen to what she said.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would say to the candidates, yes, you don't have to know the ins and outs of foreign policy, because nobody would expect that kind of exposure.

But the basics of foreign policy, you can master those during the campaign. And it's important for the American people to know that you care enough about these issues to do that.


CROWLEY: So, the question is, do the American people care if Herman Cain or any other candidate -- and there have been others who have had some foreign policy flubs -- does it matter?

ROLLINS: Yes, sure, it matters. In this day and age of world crisis, economic and the Middle East being in a turmoil, you've got to have some basic knowledge. I mean you certainly don't have to be Condi Rice or Henry Kissinger. But you ought to at least have some knowledge. And what Herman Cain has is a lot of words.

He may be very bright as a businessman or what have you. But his knowledge of foreign policy is disturbing. And I think to a certain extent, you know, even if you read a newspaper every day or "TIME" and "Newsweek" at the end of the day, or watched CNN, you would be very knowledgeable about what's going on around the world and that's the basics.

I don't even think he has the basics.

CROWLEY: And Paul, I wanted to move you on because we're down to a couple of minutes here, because I wanted to talk about the current -- the current not-Romney candidate who's bumbling up, and it's Newt Gingrich.

BEGALA: Right.

CROWLEY: I believe in fashion we now call that a -- you know, a vintage. It's very -- it's a very good thing. Vintage is very good in fashion and apparently in politics. The question is, does Newt Gingrich have so much baggage that we know about and maybe some that we don't that this is going to be another one of those flash in the pans?

BEGALA: Probably yes, in terms of baggage, although I'm -- if I worked for him, I'd be even more concerned about this sort of desperate need he has to self-destruct. We know there's a lot of bad stuff that's happened in his career and a lot of good stuff, too. I mean he's accomplished a lot in his life.

But every story with Newt ends the same way. We know how this one will end. With Newt and a can of gasoline and a Bic lighter.


BEGALA: Sets himself on fire.

BORGER: OK. So in order to avoid that, his campaign this evening has put out an eight-page document saying, "Answering the attacks," with subtitles such as, "personal life, extramarital affair during Clinton impeachment, and relationship with Freddie Mac."

CROWLEY: Twelve pages?

BORGER: Eight pages.

CROWLEY: Eight pages.

BORGER: In which they outline all the answers to the questions that Democrats will be asking and other Republicans.

CROWLEY: We'll be back to you tomorrow. I got to end it there, Gloria.

ROLLINS: I'm sure Newt wrote that in five minutes having lunch today.


CROWLEY: He's a former college professor.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: That's true.

ROLLINS: He has -- he has a lot of knowledge.

(LAUGHTER) BORGER: You got it.

CROWLEY: Gloria Borger, Paul Begala, Ed Rollins, we love you down here. Good luck in the future. We appreciate it.

BORGER: Yes, Ed.

ROLLINS: Thank you. Thank you very much.


CROWLEY: Next, the latest on the suddenly reopened investigation into one of Hollywood's most shocking deaths.


CROWLEY: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Late this afternoon, Joe Paterno's family announced the former coach has lung cancer. We want to quickly go to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

They describe this as curable lung cancer. Hard to do from afar, Elizabeth. But what's the prognosis hearing that?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Candy, I think the word that they used was treatable. And treatable doesn't really mean anything medically from the doctors that I've been speaking to. Because you can treat anything. The question is, can you treat it successfully?

And lung cancer is a really hard disease to beat, Candy. If you look at all white men who are diagnosed with lung cancer, only 15 percent are alive five years later. And a lot of it is dependent upon how early the disease is caught. If you catch it early, then the man has a 50/50 chance of being alive five years later. If you catch it late, it's more like 4 percent.

CROWLEY: And we don't know that part about the timing of it.

COHEN: Right.

CROWLEY: But what can you -- this is a man under enormous stress. How does that affect the totality of one's health?

COHEN: Right. I mean this has obviously been a terrible week for -- terrible couple of weeks for Joe Paterno. And they said that the diagnosis came -- I think, it was last weekend. You know stress doesn't give anyone cancer but certainly it makes it harder to fight a disease when you're under stress because stress affects hormones, it affects your immune system. So it is never a good thing to be under stress when you are trying to fight off cancer.

CROWLEY: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you. Also in the news tonight, tens of thousands filled Cairo's Tahrir Square today protesting plans for a constitution that would shield Egypt's military from public oversight.

A plane crash in Arkansas killed four people including Oklahoma state's women's basketball coach, Kurt Budkey, and one of his assistants. They were on a recruiting trip.

Tonight, Los Angeles authorities say actor Robert Wagner is not a suspect in the newly reopened investigation into the 1981 death of his wife, actress, Natalie Wood. But a sheriff's department spokesman says there is substantial new information about what happened the night Wood fell off a boat and drowned.

Tonight's number is only approximate but it is still impressive, 17,000 hours, the estimated time TV host Regis Philbin has been on the air and a world record according to Guinness. And it's a record that won't be increasing quite as fast anymore. Regis ended his 23-year run in national syndication with this morning's show.

Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" is coming up at the top of the hour. And Erin is here with a preview.

I know you are following allegations, Erin, against an associate basketball coach at Syracuse.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "OUTFRONT": That's right. We are following that story -- one young boy who had come forward a few years ago, Syracuse said they looked into it. Didn't find anything. But now a second man has come forward.

On our program tonight, we're talking to a man who had played football up at Syracuse and knew the assistant basketball coach, Bernie Fine, very well. He's known him for 25 years. Comes outfront and talks about who this man is and whether he thinks he could have been a pedophile.

Plus we have a passionate plea tonight, Candy. Passionate plea to the Super Committee. Because you know what? This is a really important moment. They really can make a difference. I know down in Washington they're coming, it looks like, to a point where they say, we don't need to do a deal and we can get rid of these automatic triggers.

But the implications for this country could be huge and great for all Americans. And there's still time for them to get it done. So we've got that coming up, top of the hour. Back to you.

CROWLEY: There it is. And you know politically, Erin, the good news is they always work better under pressure and it's there so --

BURNETT: That's right. Let's hope so.

CROWLEY: Yes. Thanks so much. We will see you --

BURNETT: Thank you. CROWLEY: -- at the top of the hour.

Is Syria on the brink of civil war? Next up, why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won't rule it out.


CROWLEY: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Syria may be headed for a civil war. She tells NBC it would pit the government of President Bashar al-Assad against what she calls a very determined, well-armed and eventually well-financed opposition directed or influenced by Syrian armed defectors.

With us is Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend, who was President Bush's homeland security adviser. Both of them join us from New York tonight.

I want to talk to you because I think what is lost sometimes in this conversation, people say, oh, this is going to be a civil war, this is going to be a civil war. And most people look up and they think, it's been a war now for six months, what is it?

Now we started out with peaceful demonstrations but increasingly this has been one where the opposition is also armed.

What are the dangers, Mr. Ajami, of a civil war in Syria that is different from a danger when it's not in a civil war?

FOUAD AJAMI, SR. FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you, Candy. I think the question is the old question of Shakespeare. What's in a name? I don't really like the expression a civil war. Because this really isn't a civil war. It's the Russians who have been peddling this notion that Syria may have entered a civil war.

This is a popular rebellion. This is a desperate population trying to overthrow a despot, a despot who killed so far 3,500 people. That's a very low estimate. Who has something like 70,000 prisoners and who has wrecked his own country and tormented his own population.

A civil war requires some balance of forces. This really isn't the case. This is what it is. It's a popular upheaval.

CROWLEY: And it certainly isn't a balance of forces. Certainly the forces at this point are on Assad's sides.

Fran, I want to kind of extrapolate from what Mr. Ajami just said, which is the Russians are pushing this, I would guess, because they don't want to get pressured to interfere and try to get Assad to back down.

If it's a civil war, then it's something you don't have to do anything about. It's sort of an internal thing.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. I mean the pivotal fact that we now know is that there are forces -- Syrian forces who have defected from the regime and begun to crumble underneath them and put themselves, align themselves with the opposition.

That really is an indication of the weakening of the Assad regime. And I think that does make the Russians very nervous. After all, they were of a standing almost alone, certainly China was with them in moving against the U.N. Security Council resolution that merely was acting to condemn the violence in Syria.

They're now worried that there could be unilateral action. They're making statements that any action against the Syrian regime would have to come with a U.N. resolution, which of course we know they've blocked in the past.

I mean Russia has aligned themselves with the Iranians on this issue and they're very far out there, away from the rest of the international community, especially the Arab League which we've seen now take action.

CROWLEY: And so, Mr. Ajami, in other words, a civil war -- Russia throws that out to put out sort of the big red flag and say, well, don't interfere in this internal thing because it fears that the U.N. or the Arab League, which has already taken at least some diplomatic action, will do something against a regime that the Russians want to have stay in place, is that correct?

AJAMI: Well, I think Fran is right. I mean this -- you know the argument that the Russians have put forward, to describe it as a civil war is to imply some kind of equivalence, violence on both sides, right on both sides. This is nothing of a civil war.

I'm a child of Lebanon. We know what those civil wars are like. This is, as we said before, the Assad regime is on the ropes. The Assad regime has tried in every way it can to suppress this noble rebellion against it.

And the third largest city in Syria, Homs, is in open defiance and has really almost walked out of the authority of the regime. And Bashar Assad, I think, in a way his time is up. And the idea that this is a kind of two equal sides and there's an argument that could be made between them is completely untenable.

CROWLEY: In fact, I want to show our viewers some video. This is from Daraa, Syria. And this is a -- there was a mock trial of President Assad. And you can see very anti-Assad crowds in this video. Take a look.

So what you're -- you're seeing "Assad must go", and you're seeing him being hung in effigy.

AJAMI: Right.

CROWLEY: We also see today Syria says well, they accept in principle what the Arab League has requested, that they all allow observers to come in to make sure that peaceful protesters aren't being killed which they are being killed.

Do you -- do you believe Assad that he's going to let these observers in and everything is fine?

AJAMI: Well, I think Assad will never do so. I mean, first, he's been asked to release prisoners. Second, he's been asked to turn the lights on in his country. He has not allowed foreign observers. He has not allowed foreign journalists.

And I think the idea that somehow another Assad will accept a kind of cease-fire is completely untenable. He's killed nearly 400 people since this Arab League peace initiative went into effect. So I think all the cards of the Syrian regime are on the table.

And what the poor Syrian population really now have, they are gripped with the case of what I describe as Libya envy. They are eager to have someone come to the rescue. Someone come to help them as indeed the international community and NATO came to the help of the Libyan population.

CROWLEY: And Fran, if he's just buying time by sort of agreeing in principle to what the Arab League has asked him to do, the Arab League nations, what makes Assad leave? How does he go? Where's the pressure come from that makes him leave?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think it's really significant. The two things that have come together is both this defection from his own forces.

You know, dictators don't survive, Candy, without their militaries behind them. We've seen this play itself out again and again with defections in Egypt and Mubarak fell. And so you've got that along with the pressure of the Arab League. If the Arab world -- remember, that was the turning point in the -- again, in the Libyan conflict, was when the Arab world came behind the international community to take action.

This is a step along a path that if Bashar al-Assad merely delays the Arab League and they walk away from him, it really does open the path for the international community to take more aggressive action. And so this is -- this is really, I think, the beginning point where we will -- we're likely to see a change and a severe weakening of the Assad regime to make him go.

CROWLEY: Fran Townsend, sounds like we'll have more opportunity to talk about this. Thanks so much.

Also to Fouad Ajami tonight. Thank you.

You're -- I'm sorry, didn't mean to say good-bye to you, because, guess what, you're going to stick with us for the next segment.

And up next, a Taliban video surfaces, apparently showing suicide bombers preparing for a bloody attack on a luxury hotel. We'll all be right back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Tonight, a rare and disturbing look at a terror group linked to the Taliban. The Haqqani Network is blamed for a brazen and deadly attack last summer in the heart of Afghanistan's capital.

Here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh with a look at video that just surfaced online, showing preparations for that attack and the frightening mindset of the suicide bombers.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But now CNN has gained a unique insight into how that raid was planned. The Taliban have posted online a lengthy propaganda video, they say, about the seven men behind that attack.

This is a display, what they want us to see of their skills and planning. CNN can't prove it's genuine, only that it shows how sophisticated their message and media are after a decade of war.

Ambush somewhere else seems to let insurgents steal military uniforms. One hotel attacker speaks about his wish to die.

"My message is life is too short," he says. "You can die of cancer or a car accident. If you want god's blessing, be a suicide attacker."

The preparations are elaborate. Here they sit, we think only the faces of the dead visible, in front of a model of the hotel, discussing tactics.

"Those view machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades," the tutor says, "get on the roof and use it as a control tower so the enemy can't enter easily."

Then there's footage of the attack itself.

In a war about perception of victory, the Taliban have an increasingly sophisticated voice.


CROWLEY: Joining us again, Fouad Ajami and Fran Townsend.

Mr. Ajami, is -- are we supposed to be impressed by this? Is it more important what we saw or that we're seeing it?

AJAMI: Well, I think it's important that we see it. In fact, what we know about this terror world is really for show and tell, in many ways. The video camera has transformed this terror trail, but there is one thing that I just want to say, attached to this video, which is, in fact, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network -- they are working in a very permissive environment in Afghanistan.

And even our ally, Hamid Karzai himself agitates against the Americans, and I think creates the conditions where this kind of work isn't so unusual. Just yesterday or so, he gave this remarkable statement about Afghanistan, and he said the lion doesn't like it if a foreigner intrudes into his house. The lion doesn't like it if a stranger enters his house. The lion doesn't want his children to be taken away by someone else in the night. And the lion will not let this happen.

So the Afghanistan -- the Afghans are lions and the Americans are intruders. And if this is the culture in which we operate in Afghanistan and if this is the ally we bought with our money and our sacrifices, it tells you that there is running room for the Taliban and for the Haqqani Network.

CROWLEY: You know, Fran, I think that's a point that many Americans sort of see. Certainly the rhetoric from Karzai has been pretty amazing lately. He talked about, well, if the Pakistan and the U.S. go to war, which we don't think is going to happen, you know, that the Afghans would join the Pakistanis. And you're thinking, wait a second, he's saying this while Americans are still dying on behalf of Afghanistan.

What do -- is that what you take away from this? That they are allowed to just do this so freely, we assume, in Afghanistan, that it is -- it says something about Hamid Karzai?

TOWNSEND: Oh, absolutely, Candy. And you know it's interesting, the release of this sort of a video is really a play out of the al Qaeda playbook. You know, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, they may not all share the same goals as al Qaeda, but what they do share is tactics. And so video releases like this, martyrdom videos, the successful attack videos, we've seen it in Iraq, we've seen in Afghanistan, we've seen it from al Qaeda corps.

And so this tells me, it is a very sophisticated, well-entrenched networks, and it's meant not only to intimidate Americans, but also to intimidate Afghans.

CROWLEY: So let me just ask you quickly, Mr. Ajami. When you look at this, do you fear that when U.S. forces pull out, we will see a much stronger presence, the Haqqani Network, and certainly the Taliban, which remains in Afghanistan?

AJAMI: Candy, they will inherent their country. It's their country. We are strangers in their country. And this is the point that Karzai reminds us of every day. There is no gratitude. Even on the part of our allies in Afghanistan. I think our sacrifices, in my opinion, alas, in Afghanistan, will be in vain.

CROWLEY: Fran, you've got literally 15 seconds to reply to that.

TOWNSEND: Well, look, we have left a stronger Afghan security force, a stronger Afghan army. What you hope is that all that training and all of that investment will allow it not to become the safe haven it was prior to 9/11. And if we just accomplish that, we're lucky.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much. Our Fran Townsend and Fouad Ajami for joining me tonight. And that is all from us. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.