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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Suicide Bomber's Plot Foiled; Syrian Crisis; Approval Ratings; Google under Fire

Aired February 17, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks John. Breaking news, a suicide bomber's plot foiled, his target, the U.S. Capitol. Remembering Whitney Houston, friends and family prepare for her funeral and "Under Surveillance" tonight Google, they have been tracking every site you visit.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Tom Foreman in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight breaking news. A suicide attack stopped just short of the Capitol steps. New details emerging at this hour about the plot, authorities say the would be bomber had conducted a test explosion in West Virginia, chose the Capitol after considering a bomb attack on a D.C. restaurant and allegedly told investigators he wanted to kill people, quote, "face to face with an AK 47".

If the investigation had not gone well, if detectives had not done their jobs, our lead story tonight would in short be a calamity. Instead the FBI and the U.S. Capitol police stopped it cold. The suspect Amine El Khalifi was arrested in a sting operation when undercover FBI agents posing as al Qaeda operatives gave him a fake suicide vest. It contained no explosives, so the public was not in danger.

But tonight the 29-year-old would be bomber is behind bars. Brian Todd is in Alexandria, Virginia, outside the federal courthouse where Khalifi made an initial appearance today and was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Brian, I know you have been on this all day long with new details coming out the whole time. What are you hearing this evening about this alleged plot?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, some very interesting new details according to court documents. FBI affidavits and other documents filed today, you mentioned a couple of different phases of his plot and that's kind of really the interesting part of how this developed. According to law enforcement last month, they had been tracking him actually for a couple of months, but they say that last month, one of the phases where he handled that AK 47 was the phase where he was allegedly planning to attack a restaurant.

And as part of that plan they say he not only handled an AK 47, but also handled an explosive as an example of what could be used in that attack against the restaurant. He conducted surveillance to determine the best place and time for a bombing of that restaurant and that he purchased materials as part of that plan. At about that time, he met up with people who he believed were al-Qaeda operatives, but in fact, they were law enforcement people. They were undercover.

They were working him throughout this alleged operation. Now, according to an affidavit, about mid January last month, he modified his plans and stated that he wanted instead to attack the U.S. Capitol building and the same day that he informed his undercover contacts who he thought were al-Qaeda operatives of that, he did go to that quarry in West Virginia that you mentioned. They said he dialed a cell phone number that he believed would detonate a bomb placed in the quarry, the bomb did explode and at that point, according to law enforcement, according to this affidavit he stated that he wanted a larger explosion for the attack. He also told them that the planned date for his operation to explode a bomb inside the U.S. Capitol, February 17th, today, he planned on doing that. So this morning, he was taken down -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Terrific information, Brian Todd. I know you've been on this all day. I want you to stick around because we may come back to you for more of that information. Joining me now, a former FBI assistant director and CNN contributor Tom Fuentes and Steven Kleinman national security expert and former military interrogator. Tom let me start with you. As far as we know this guy had no actual ties to any terrorist group, he is a classic, lone wolf, terrorist like we've talked about. How on earth do you suppose they found out about him?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well Tom normally in a case like this, what you're looking for is that the lone wolf or the lone individual is unable to carry out the attack that he wants by himself, so even though he's thought up this idea himself, he's intent on carrying out an attack. Somebody has to help him. So, he has to reach out. Whether it's in the community or on the Internet, reach out and try to find someone who can help him with the explosives, with the vest, with the firearm, with the ammunition, with some aspect of the plot that he is unable to do all by himself.

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: And at that point that's where the community outreach of law enforcement, in this case the FBI, really makes the difference because when that person that lone wolf reaches out hopefully somebody in the community reports it to authorities and says this person is going to do something bad. We need you to look at him.

FOREMAN: Steven in some ways, I can't help but wonder if his plan to switch to the Capitol may have been helpful in a sense because that is such a big, hardened target that attracts so much attention whereas if you're hitting a restaurant in a city we've often said those soft targets are really so much more vulnerable.

STEVEN KLEINMAN, SR. ADVISER & STRATEGIST, SOUFAN GROUP: I think that's a safe assessment. If you look at the so-called lone wolf, it's all about intentions and capabilities. Somebody with the intention but no capability is just ranty (ph). Somebody with the capability, which we have 300 million people that could potentially have capability, but no intention, that's safe. So there's an individual and Mr. Fuentes pointed out, is when an individual with intentions sought out a capability. That's when law enforcement was able to interdict.

FOREMAN: Steven, when you look at the level of planning that we see here, the fact that he apparently had done things with explosives, had at some point had an AK 47, was actually trying to make contact with people. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being an operative plan, zero being just somebody with fantasies about things, where would you put this sort of plan?

KLEINMAN: I would put that up in the seven or eight category because if you think about it, looking at a model or contract-board (ph) tracking these people, it's not unlike perhaps suicide. Now psychologists can give us certain indicators, symptoms of somebody who is at risk and law enforcement and intelligence can give us indicators of somebody at risk where as Mr. Fuentes pointed out that community outreach is so critical.

FOREMAN: Tom, let me ask the same question to you about the Capitol versus a restaurant or something. Washington, D.C. we both know has so, so many places that could be hit. Is it in some ways fortunate that he turned his attention to something that draws so much attention?

FUENTES: Well I think you know the Capitol is chosen because it ensures maximum worldwide media coverage. We've had restaurants, bombings in restaurants all over the world. They happen all the time. In some cases, they get attention. Here in the U.S., they don't get attention unless U.S. citizens happen to be in that restaurant and victims of that. So hitting a restaurant, a bus stop, a discotheque, a library, we've seen that all over the world. There's only one United States Capitol in the entire world. If you commit an attack on that, that's significant.

FOREMAN: Brian, let me bring you back in briefly. Are there any indications when we might know more about the operational plan here and how the FBI and the Capitol police got on to this guy?

TODD: Well, Tom, we do know from documents and from law enforcement officials that he first came under their radar a little more than a year ago. They became a ware of him in January of 2011 apparently from a human source who had confided to law enforcement that he had some ill intentions, so they had actually been tracking him now for more than a year. Now, as far as the hard, undercover working of this guy, that seems to have unfolded really in kind of a hard form over the last few months and really in material form over the last two months.

In December and January is when they really started to kind of work plans with him. You guys mentioned a little bit about some of the other targets. He apparently in January also had plans to hit a military installation in addition to the restaurant and again was discussing those plans with the people who he thought were al-Qaeda operatives.

FOREMAN: All right, Brian Todd, thank you so much, Steven Kleinman, Tom Fuentes. Again, again, as we always say, this whole issue of the lone wolf out there being the one that is maybe the most dangerous because they're the hardest to get on to. Thanks to all of you for being here. We'll be on this story all weekend long. Make sure you stick with CNN for all of that.

Still OUTFRONT a desperate plea from Syria, we will talk to reporter Ivan Watson, who is in harms way on the ground there. The president riding high, he's winning the war against Congress. Is he unstoppable going into the election or will high gas prices run him out of fuel?

And dramatic new video of the Italian cruise ship crash. We're going to take you inside that panicked ship's command center like never before. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: It just doesn't stop. In Syria tonight, the government is expanding its brutal crackdown on opposition forces. Syrian security forces continued heavy shelling of the besieged city of Homs, but antigovernment protesters defiantly staged public demonstrations across the country. Opposition activists report that at least 61 people were killed today. CNN's Ivan Watson is in north Syria in an area that is emerging as an opposition stronghold up there. I asked him what he saw earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Syrian uprising has been going on for 11 months. More than 6,000 people have been killed in the ensuing government crack down on these protests and yet every week, Syrians come out into the streets in what has become a ritual of defiance. And that's what we see here in the north when we visited the small town of Vinish (ph), which is in an opposition enclave. You had men who gathered for Friday prayers.

They paid their respects to one of their neighbors who was killed they said by a sniper in a nearby city of (INAUDIBLE) and then they poured out into the streets chanting (INAUDIBLE), God is great and there under a freezing, winter downpour this crowd engaged in a furious rally denouncing the Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad. These people are people who know very well the threat of the Syrian security forces firsthand.

Tanks and security forces have made previous deadly incursions into their village. Everybody can tell you the name of people who were either arrested and subsequently tortured or people who were killed in these incursions and Syrian tanks are parked about five minutes' drive away and yet, they continued with this. We also got reports unconfirmed that similar rallies like this in towns to the south of Vinish (ph) were attacked by Syrian security forces. This is the face of the Syrian revolution.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: It is astonishing how it just goes on and on over there. We will stay on top of it through all these coming weeks. Thanks again to Ivan Watson over there. You know international affairs is one of the things that has gone pretty well for the Obama administration from the start and this is shaping up to be quite a President's Day weekend for Barack Obama.

The economy is doing better at least a bit. The Dow ended just shy of 13,000 today. That's a nice, high mark. His approval rating is on the rise back at 50 percent and today, a big political victory. After months of ripping the Capitol Hill crowd as a do nothing Congress and pushing for an extension of the payroll tax cut, the president got what he wanted. The bill passed. He'll sign it this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a big deal and I want to thank members of Congress for listening to the voices of the American people. It is amazing what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing instead of just playing politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: OUTFRONT now John Avlon is with us and Reihan Salam -- Reihan let me start with you. You know just a couple of months ago Republicans were just like this over the election, let's go, let's go, and Democrats were sweating bullets. Now it's almost like it's changed. The Democrats are saying bring on the election and Republicans are struggling. What do you make of this?

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST: I think that's very true and I think that it partly reflects the fact that we've had an economic environment that's improved. And the bigger thing is that it's improved in the right places and ways for the president. That is in the Midwest the manufacturing sector has been relatively healthy. A lot of swing voters there.

When you look at other areas, you know if you look at these upper middle class, college educated voters who tilted towards the Republicans in 2010 after tilting towards President Obama and the Democrats in 2008 they're also doing a lot better. So it's those swingy, swing voting constituencies that are doing better, whereas it's a lot of the president's core constituencies like African- Americans for example, kind of a lot of folks, less skilled voters in urban areas who are still hit very hard, but they're not about to go and vote for Republicans.

FOREMAN: John, let me bring you in here though because you say it's better somewhat. It is somewhat better, but housing prices are still terrible. Unemployment is still over eight percent.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But the trend is the president's friend and that's the most important thing. It's one of the things we saw in Reagan's '84 campaign. Unemployment is still high, but moving in the right direction. GDP growth moving in the right direction, so it's the issue of whether people feel like morning is coming in America that we've been through the worst. That's actually the significance of, for example, that Clint Eastwood Chrysler Detroit ad. Yes, times are still tough, but we're through the worst.

We're coming back out of it. That's the narrative the president wants to run and Reihan is exactly right, but he's half right. It's half the story because the other thing I think the president's benefiting from is this drawn out Republican primary. Where it's this sort of reality show cage match and the president really looks good by comparison. The longer this goes on, the more negative ads that are thrown the better the president looks by comparison. We've seen that in some recent polls, especially CNN polls showing independent voters swinging back --

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: Back up the machine. You know you're backing up a few years, that's exactly what they said about the Democrats. They're dragging out the Republican and winning the election. There is a long time, Reihan, between now and November.

SALAM: Well this is a very different primary race. Part of the reason is that when you're looking at the primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton it's something that forced them both, as John has said in the past, to compete for a lot of those working class white voters, voters that the Democratic nominee would have to compete for come the general election.

Whereas now, both of the Republican -- the major Republican candidates right now, there are of course more than two, but they're competing for these solidly conservative voters who are going to vote Republican no matter what. So you're fighting for these guys who you'll already have in the bag --

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: Right, this is the problem with polarization. I mean this is you know you reap what you sow and we're seeing this problem right now. It's all going to be about a fight for the right. When Mitt Romney says I'm a severe conservative to CPAC, that message does not resonate with Independent voters. It alienates rather than attracts, so it becomes a real problem.

FOREMAN: Let me ask you about something related to all of this that I think is kind of a wild card out there that presidents actually only have so much influence on. Gasoline prices last year were the highest they've been ever over $3 a gallon on average all year long. Look at that chart over there. They're ticking back up again right now. People are talking about over $4 a gallon, maybe pushing up toward $5 a gallon. I think if they are that level in July and August, nobody's going to care what happened in January and February.

SALAM: The president is already preparing for that, however.

(CROSSTALK)

SALAM: One of the most potent messages that Republicans have had is this idea that we're for energy from any and all sources. Now the president has actually co-opted that language. He hasn't co-opted the substance. He still has a very different policy mix, but he's recognized that's a very potent political message. Let me take it --

FOREMAN: Yes, but he also said I'm an energy president. John, if this happens in late summer, I think he's got a problem.

AVLON: Look a week is a long time in politics and of course we are still a long way out. And if gas prices are high in the summer, it will ad to that sense of irritation --

FOREMAN: And again I'm not saying it's the president's fault --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no --

FOREMAN: -- because any president would have a problem dealing with that.

AVLON: This is what's fascinating about the political times we're living in. I mean the president only has so much control over the economy because the economy is so fundamentally interconnected. We're dealing with a global economy. A French finance minister has an enormous impact on the American election.

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: We have to have you guys back to talk about the French finance minister another day.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: Thank you Reihan and John, always good to have you in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Tom.

FOREMAN: New details are coming out tonight, really interesting material about the death of Whitney Houston. Our Don Lemon has been on the case. He is joining us with the latest and "Under Surveillance" Google, they have been creeping and they have been peeping and maybe at you. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: "Under Surveillance" tonight, Google creeping and peeping, the Internet giant apparently slipping around your privacy settings to see what you're up to online. A "Wall Street Journal" investigation reveals Google circumvented privacy settings in Apple Safari system to spy on people's computers and phones to see which Web sites they were surfing.

Google says that's not the way it was at all. "The Journal" report mischaracterizes what was actually happening and they stress that Google was not collecting personal information. They have however stopped this type of tracking, so what is really going on here? I have no idea. Rafe Needleman fortunately joins us now, editor-at-large at CNN. He's going to tell us about this. Rafe, what exactly was Google doing?

RAFE NEEDLEMAN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNET: Well, Google one of their advertising subsidiaries had figured out a way to circumvent a privacy protection feature of Apple Safari browser, the browser on the iPhone and the iPad. The browser is supposed to prevent advertising companies or any company from putting a cookie, which is a way to track you as you go from site to site, on your browser. Google circumvented that so that the advertising companies could learn more about what you were doing online so that they could serve you better advertisements.

FOREMAN: So, this was just a case of advertising, in effect getting information saying oh, he's looking for canoes therefore I should push canoe paddles at him, maybe he'd like to buy those too.

NEEDLEMAN: Right, because you're browsing to various canoe sites. The thing that makes this so interesting is that Apple Safari browser had a specific block against the easy way to do this, so Google had to find a way to circumvent the Apple mechanisms for blocking the collection of third party advertising cookies. What makes this even more fun is that the code that is behind the Safari browser is called Web Kit (ph) and Web Kit (ph) was written by engineers working for Google.

FOREMAN: I have to say, Rafe, I've just reached the point now where I just kind of expect someone to be tracking everything I'm doing on the Internet. Is that a fair way to look at it or is it reasonable for people to say come on, our privacy should be safer than this.

NEEDLEMAN: Both. I think you're reasonable to expect that people want to track that because of the economic incentive for an advertising company or for any company to know what you're doing on the Internet is so high. But there were companies like Apple and on the other side of the coin, Google who are trying to protect you and your privacy to an extent. I mean Apple did build a tracking prevention tool into Safari to prevent other companies from doing exactly what Google on the other hand -- other side of the campus did.

FOREMAN: All right, Rafe, thank you very much for explaining it to us. I have the feeling we'll be revisiting this topic an awful lot of times. Good for you to be here.

Next on OUTFRONT dramatic new video and audio from inside that Italian cruise ship after it slammed into rocks and we have new details tonight about Whitney Houston's final hours as her friends and family prepare to honor her this very weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting and we did the work and we found the "OutFront 5".

Up first, authorities say a suicide bomb plot has been stopped, the target, the U.S. Capitol. The suspect, Amine El Khalifi was arrested in a sting operation when undercover FBI agents posing as al Qaeda operatives gave him a fake suicide vest. We're told it contained no explosives, so no one was in any real danger. Khalifi appeared in court late this afternoon and was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Number two, Anthony Shadid, an award-winning "New York Times" reporter died yesterday while covering the conflict in Syria. He was 42. It's believed he died from an asthma attack while traveling from Turkey into Syria. Shadid spent decades covering conflicts in the Middle East.

His father Buddy Shadid spoke to CNN today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUDDY SHADID, FATHER OF NYT'S ANTHONY SHADID (via telephone): The world lost an amazing journalist and I lost a beloved son that I never asked anything of him that he didn't do. And so, he was the best at everything he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: He was indeed a terrific, terrific reporter. "The New York Times" photographer Tyler Hicks carried Shadid's body out of Syria and back into Turkey.

Number three: new video from inside the deck of that Italian cruise ship after it ran into the rocks off the coast of Italy. Take a look at this.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

FOREMAN: This leaked video shows the chaos on the bridge as the crew calls to abandon ship. That order did not come for more than an hour after the collision. Experts are investing the cause of the disaster. But the Discovery Channel say the ship's captain had no reason to be so close to shore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BURNS, MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY: There is good, deep water further away from the island, which he could have translated through without any incident. So that was one of the questions we had. Why were they so close to shore and why did he feel the need to take a greater risk than was necessary?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Thirty-two passengers and crew members did not make it off of that ship. You can see more of the video. Plus, an intensive investigation into the disaster, Sunday night on the Discovery Channel. "Cruise Ship Disaster, Inside the Concordia," it airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Number four: U.S. crude oil futures hit $104 a barrel today. Up $5 for this week. John Kilduff, an oil analyst and founder of Again Capital, told us that will translate into a 15 to 20 cent increase in the price of gas at the pump. Drivers could see that as soon as next week.

Crude oil prices have gone up partially because of uncertainty in Iran.

And it has been 196 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? That's constantly the question.

Consumer prices rose by two tenths of the percent in January, coming in lower than economists expected.

You know, one of the other huge stories that we've been covering all week and will be magnificently I think emotional and moving this weekend is the story of Whitney Houston and the net is spreading fast this evening in the investigation into Whitney Houston's death.

This hour, detectives are scrutinizing hotel surveillance video, seeing who was with her, they're studying her television appearances right before her death, to see how she was acting and authorities have contacted doctors and pharmacies all across the country for information on who gave her what kind of pills and if anyone else should be blamed for her death.

Our Don Lemon has been all over the story.

In many ways, Don, authorities seem to be trying to confirm many of the things that were reported all week. There were a lot of people around her.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the first time I've actually gotten back, gotten the chance to sit back and pay attention to this story because I've been covering it so much.

FOREMAN: Sure.

LEMON: And just having you read that before, there's vast amounts of information that they are dealing with now as we're preparing to memorialize Whitney Houston tomorrow.

As you said from coast to coast, from east to west, they are tying to have subpoenaed pharmacies and doctors to try to figure. It's a death investigation. They don't believe there's anything criminal about it now, but what they are learning, Tom, is that one thing leads to a next. When they contact one pharmacy, that leads them to another pharmacy. When they contact one doctor, that leads to another doctor or a dentist or another specialist.

They don't believe that she was doctor shopping or pharmacy shopping at this point, but it's just amazing at the amount of information that they're having to deal with, and dotting their I's and crossing their T's because of Michael Jackson. There are so many celebrities in Hollywood who died because of doctor shopping.

FOREMAN: And we still don't have any idea, for sure, what her cause of death. We won't for a while.

But you're right. That clearly colors the whole concern here to make sure.

LEMON: Absolutely. And we don't know the cause of her death and also, the circumstances surrounding her death are even more at question now because no one official according to a source I spoke to close to the investigation, no one official ever saw her in the bathtub or in the bathroom.

FOREMAN: No one at all?

LEMON: No. Well, the person who found her and the person who tried to, who pulled her out of the tub, the staff member and person who tried to revive her in the beginning saw her, but they are taking those two at their word that that's exactly how she was found. The fire department didn't see her. The coroner's office didn't see her in the room. When they got there, she was face up on her back in the hotel room, not in the bathroom.

FOREMAN: One of the things that has fascinated me about your coverage this week is that you have run into people who were friends, who want to say she was great, she was fine, everything was wonderful.

LEMON: Yes.

FOREMAN: But you also met plenty of other people who in recent years who have looked, have been around, who have this person was not fine at all.

LEMON: And I think that's natural. I mean, you and I know each other, just because we work together. And I would want to protect you as a colleague.

Now, imagine if I were a family member or friend or someone who worked with you, I mean, someone who loved one. You would want to protect them in some way and that is a lens you're viewing the situation through.

But if you're an addict, admittedly, you probably should not be drinking alcohol. You shouldn't. And if you're on prescription medication, which was confirmed in her room, I don't know -- do you know one prescription medication that says OK to take with alcohol? Not one.

FOREMAN: Good point.

LEMON: So, there are people who are around her and, if you're a friend, you go, oh, Whitney, you look great -- and you want her to be well.

FOREMAN: And you talked to her voice coach.

LEMON: I've spoken to her voice coach. The person who represents what everyone wanted from Whitney Houston, and that was for her to come back and be the star that she was. He's met her in 2005 and what he saw, he said was just horrific.

Gary Catona -- take a listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY CATONA, WHITNEY HOUSTON'S VOICE COACH: I was shocked at her condition, her vocal condition. She had no voice. Her speaking voice was virtually gone. Her singing voice was gone. She had maybe one note and he'll register.

And she, look, she was skinny, disheveled. I went there because I was told and it was true that she wanted to make a return, a comeback.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: When you hear that, Don, and you talk to the people around her, I mean, clearly, you're getting a much more complex picture than just she's fine or everything's awful.

LEMON: Absolutely and it's let's just put it right out there. It's because of lifestyle choices that she didn't have a voice and regardless of the cause of death, her state when she in the days and hours up to her passing, it was because of her lifestyle choices that she was acting that way. And I'm sure it's going to be something whether or no it's directly something to do with years of abusing her body.

FOREMAN: Is this timeline on the autopsy still the same? Still several weeks away.

LEMON: Originally, they said six to eight, maybe eight to 10 weeks. Now, they're hoping four to six. They expedited the toxicology report.

FOREMAN: I know you'll be on it, Don, and it's been really, really interesting.

Let's bring in Narada Michael Walden.

This is all coming on the eve of Whitney Houston's funeral. Excuse me, we're going to the reverend here in just a moment here.

But I want to mention, this is all coming on the eve of Whitney Houston's funeral in Newark, New Jersey, which is going to be this weekend. It's going to be quite an emotional affair. Many of the people, some of the biggest names in showbiz will be there performing at this funeral. They gathered today. There was a viewing today.

Joining me now from the church where this funeral's going to take place, Reverend Deforest Soaries, who was attending tomorrow's service. He's known Whitney Houston since she was 14 years old.

Revered, when you listen to all the reporting Don has done this week, you hear all these conflicting reports about who she was, what was going on with her, the people who are around her. What are your thoughts?

REV. DEFOREST SOARIES JR., LONGTIME HOUSTON FAMILY FRIEND: Well, my first thought is that Don has done an excellent job. He's been balanced. He's been serious. He's been fair. And I just want to commend him.

Thank, Don, on behalf of those who knew Whitney for so long.

The other thing is this -- every life leaves lessons behind, but there is a protocol that we pretty accept in our community and that is until the celebration of life, which will happen tomorrow, we try to not only celebrate the good, but also to encourage the family.

Right now, our focus is to help this child, and this mother and these brothers really get through a very painful moment. Beyond that, we'll have the rest of our lives to dissect the facts, discover the lessons and to attempt to grow from what we know.

FOREMAN: Reverend, let me ask you one of the question about this in particular. You know, your religious communities all over speak often about our responsibility to ourselves, but also, a responsibility to the people around us.

At this time, as you look at the people around Whitney Houston who you knew from such a young age, what are your thoughts on that?

SOARIES: Well, I'll tell you frankly, no one really knows from the outside how much help Whitney did receive from the people very close to her. I can tell you story after story about her mother, about other people close to her, who really worked hard to not only help Whitney, but also worked hard to get Whitney to help herself.

And so, we don't know the depth of her challenges. She was very public about the demons that she wrestled with. We don't know therefore the level of struggle that she engaged. Fact is, we live in a society that is exposed to tremendous challenges, both famous and not so famous. And I'm not prepared to say that she did not get help.

Now, all of us could perhaps get more help, but I think many people would be surprised to know how much help she's really received and how much love she really received, how much challenge she really received.

I mean, there were people who supported and challenged her. And so, let's not assume that all of the people around her turned a blind eye to the challenges and her struggles.

FOREMAN: All right. Reverend Soaries, thanks so much for joining us. I know we'll be talking to you probably tomorrow around the service as well.

SOARIES: Thank you.

FOREMAN: Don, I want to return to you quickly with that little thought. This must be for all the people who talked to, also, a very conflicted time. LEMON: It is.

FOREMAN: People in one breath saying I want to defend her, I want to be her friend, I want to support her. But there must be many of them saying to themselves, did I do all I should have done?

LEMON: And that's always the case. Let's just be honest here. People don't want to -- they're in denial in many ways. And many African-Americans are because drugs hit the African-American community disproportionately are in denial about abuse, illegal drugs and prescription drugs.

And having to have dealt with something similar to the Whitney Houston story in my own family, my family member is still here, but having to deal with that, we were in denial for a long time. People don't want to talk about it -- oh, she's just fine. Well -- and you do everything.

Until someone wants to change themselves, there's nothing really you can do. Until they hit rock bottom or they get to a place and say, you know what? I don't want to do this drug anymore. This pipe or this drug or snort this in my nose is not doing any good. There's really nothing you can do. And they're a grown person.

FOREMAN: You brought up a great point earlier on, too, that of all the points I've heard, one that has to be remembered. When somebody has a problem with alcohol or something, I heard people saying, oh, she was at a party, she was drinking, she was fine.

LEMON: Yes, they can't.

FOREMAN: They have a problem -- they can't be at a party.

LEMON: They can't be at a party. And you can be on the wagon for years and then say I'm going to have a little glass of wine and next thing you know, you're in an alley. That's a reality of it.

FOREMAN: Let's go bring in the fellow I want to bring in Narada Michael Walden, the Grammy Award-winning producer and songwriter who produced some of Whitney Houston's biggest hits.

I appreciate you joining us here to talk a little bit about this. You knew her from so far back and you saw so much talent. Tomorrow is going to be such a day of emotion.

What will you be thinking as this day comes?

NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN, AWARD WINNING PRODUCER, SONGWRITER: You're talking to me now, right?

FOREMAN: Yes, yes.

WALDEN: For me, I'm thinking about my love for the great Whitney Houston. She was a beautiful woman in every way and I am here to celebrate her life and to inspire everyone to feel the love that she gave us. Very, very happy to be here. FOREMAN: From the beginning, you were just overwhelmed by her talent. I mean, you knew that you were in the hands of somebody remarkable when you started working with her.

WALDEN: Yes, I was talked into working with her by Gerry Griffin. He said, stop working with Aretha for a moment and work with Whitney Houston. I said, who's Whitney Houston? Now, when you hear her, you're going to know why.

So when I heard, I go, oh, yes, OK. We actually recorded a song, "How Will I Know" and she was phenomenal recording "How Will I Know."

There's a boy I know, he's the one I dream -- wow, this power in this women, and so thin, so gorgeous. You had the whole package going on. So, it was fantastic for me to meet her and work with her and she's extremely confident. And her mother, Cissy, is so beautiful.

So, it's all a love fest.

FOREMAN: Yes, it's been quite an extraordinary thing. Now, you have also -- and one of the big questions everybody keeps asking about her, as we look at the extraordinary life and the legacy she left, you know, one of the real focuses continues to be on her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and the talent she has because we've heard she's interested if getting into the music business at all.

Any particular thoughts?

WALDEN: Last year this time, at Clive Davis party, I met Bobbi with Whitney and Bobbi said to her mother, well, mom, I want to sing, and she looked at me as if I can produce her. Ands I said, well, whatever your mom wants to happen, we'll do.

But in her future, God bless, Bobbi. I want to say prayers for her, her heart is healing. And we all are trying to heal. So, we'll see what God wants for us in her future. Yes.

FOREMAN: Yes, there's no question about it. Narada, thanks for being here.

Don, thanks for being here.

And again, absolutely right -- thoughts have to be with any teenager out there who lost a parent. Just a terrible, terrible thing. It's going to be a difficult weekend for the whole family.

LEMON: It's really sad. It's very emotional now just sitting here. I know tomorrow's going to be just unbelievable. It's starting to sink in now, one week. Can you believe --

FOREMAN: Let's watch all weekend. It will be interesting to see.

Let's check in with John King. He's in for Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "360" -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Tom.

Exclusive video out of Syria. That's ahead on "360". Fierce fighting from the front lines leaked by the troops carrying out the killing.

CNN cannot independently verify this video, but it appears to show the Syrian military firing on the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs.

Also ahead, the breaking news out of our nation's capital -- the arrest of a 29-year-old Moroccan man accused of plotting a suicide bombing. But will it hold up in court? Both sides and the sting operation, ahead.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Tom.

FOREMAN: All right. Thanks so much, John.

Up ahead, we're going to go back to this notion of the responsibility in the death of Whitney Houston -- indeed, for anybody having this type of trouble, how much blame, if in any, should be placed on doctors and medical professionals?

And Whitney Houston's impact on the music industry continues even after her death. You won't believe it. "Billboard:" magazine changed their own rules in response to her success over the past week.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: All week long, Whitney Houston's death has raised serious questions about the use of prescription drugs and how much responsibility falls on doctors who prescribe them.

Joining me now, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and CNN legal analyst, Dr. Paul Callan.

I'm glad you can both here.

And, Dr. Kapoor, let me start off with you. When something unfortunate like this happens and I want to point out, we don't know at this point what happened in Whitney Houston's death -- but when these questions arise about possible prescription drug problems or interactions with alcohol, how accountable should be the doctor who prescribed it?

DR. SANDEEP KAPOOR, ANNA NICOLE SMITH'S FORMER DOCTOR: Well, I certainly think that responsibility of the physician prescribing of any medication is there. We have to prescribe medications and tell people about side effects and potential interactions. The pharmacy also has a responsibility to give patients information about the medication that they're taking.

But ultimately the responsibility is a joint process. The patient is ultimately the one who's taking the medication, and the patient basically has the -- taking it in their own system, they have an obligation and they need to be truthful about what medications they are taking, what other medications they may be taking, and what other doctors they may be seeing -- whether it's a dentist or any other doctors that may potentially interact with the medication that the doctor is prescribing.

FOREMAN: So, Paul, let me bring you in here. When does it cross the line, though? A doctor or a pharmacist, what do they have to do? You were also a prosecutor, what would they have to do for us to start saying as a culture, no, no, no, this is beyond the pale?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it does cross the line at some point. I think we saw in the Michael Jackson case, the prescription of Propofol to help Michael Jackson sleep, totally inappropriate. It was a drug meant for the operation room.

Cases though where Xanax is abused, or another types of opiates are abused, it's harder to draw the line. Was the patient in pain? Was the prescription appropriate?

But I think when you look at someone who is a known drug addict, a lot of celebrities, they have a public history. So, a lot of doctor who is might not know a stranger coming in off the street would know that a particular person had a long history with drug abuse.

If you prescribe opiates, if you prescribe some kind of dangerous addictive medication to a drug addict in that situation, you may be bordering on criminality. And that's where the line gets drawn, I think.

FOREMAN: Dr. Kapoor, what do you look for when you deal with patient who come in -- because you must have a lot of people who aren't celebrities who come in, who you talk to them, you visit them, and you say this person has a problem.

KAPOOR: Well, I think certainly knowing your patient is the key.

And I disagree that we, you know, we are physicians. We don't generally come at patients with -- thinking we're going to commit a criminal act. It's really hard, if I were -- if some patients were on television as a celebrity to see them and say, well, they must be drunk, or they may be acting out. It's just not -- we can't do that with every patient.

So, the main issue is that the prescription drug abuse is a nationwide crisis. In 2007, we had 28,000 deaths were attributed to prescription drug overdoses. And that's a serious, serious number, that it doesn't just affect celebrities, it affects everybody, neighbors, things. And it doesn't have to have fame or money.

So, it's not just about abuse, it's about misuse, it's about use and misuse. If it becomes abuse, only if A, the patient is doing it to get high, or doing a different --

FOREMAN: Let me jump back to Paul here, real quickly, for one last question because we're running out of time here. But, Paul, here's the other question in all of this -- as investigators look at this, as they look at doctors, as they look at pharmacies, as they look at the people around Whitney Houston, if in fact it is found to be an abusive situation, I'm guessing what they're looking for is: was anybody a facilitator, a knowing facilitator, who knew she was in trouble and kept leading her down that path?

CALLAN: Yes. Anybody who knew she was a drug addict and she was abusing drugs, if they helped her get those drugs and those drugs caused her death, that is criminality. If it's a doctor, if it's a friend, it can be anyone of those people, that kind of conduct is criminal and prosecutors will look at that. Because these are hard cases to make because, you know, in the end, we're trying to protect people from their own misconduct and there's only so much that we can do to protect people from themselves.

FOREMAN: Paul Callan, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor -- thank you both for being here.

Almost a week after her death, Whitney Houston continues to impact the music industry. "Billboard" magazine forced to make a numbers change because of her success.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Whitney reentered the "Billboard" top 10 this week with her version of "I Will Always Love You," landing at number 7 on the "Billboard" 100 singles chart. It's been almost 20 years since that song topped the charts for a then record 14 straight weeks.

During its original run, it was certified four times platinum, a first for a female artist. It helped make "The Bodyguard" the number one sound track of all time.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, the return to the charts is due to a massive increase in radio airplay and digital sales following her death this past weekend, which brings us to tonight's number, 6,723 percent. That is the increase in sales Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" experienced this week alone.

Just how big is that jump? So big, it's forcing "Billboard" to change its rules. In the past, catalog songs, tracks that continue to air on the radio after they debut, were ineligible for the hot 100 once they spent 20 years on the chart and fell out of the top 50. But according to the "Billboard" director of charts, quote, "Going forward, we feel that it is the proper to allow older titles posting enough activity to the hot 100 if ranking in the chart's upper half."

That is right. Under the brand-new Whitney Houston rule, classic songs that sell enough copies or get enough air play to crack the top 50 can now make a triumphant return to the hot 100, years after their initial popularity. Unbelievable.

Whitney Houston, of course, will be laid to rest on Saturday following a funeral at her childhood church in Newark, New Jersey, that will celebrate her life and music. The funeral will include a eulogy from Pastor Marvin Winans, and tributes to Clive Davis and her bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner. Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder will sing.

The celebration of Whitney Houston's life begins on CNN, on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. with "Whitney Houston: Her Life, Her Music" hosted by CNN's Don Lemon, Soledad O'Brien and Piers Morgan. The special will include live coverage of the funeral and a look back at the singer's talent and it concludes with CNN Presents "Death of a Diva," which airs on Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m., hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Randi Kay. It includes Don Lemon in all of that, too.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. We hope you have a lovely President's Day weekend and stay with us for all the news and events throughout.

I'm Tom Foreman.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.