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Huge Syrian Offensive Feared Tonight; Police: Capitol Suicide Attack Foiled; Capitol Suicide Attack Suspect in Court; Interview with Peter King; President Obama's West Coast Cash Machine; Whitney Houston's Life Under the Microscope; Father Remembers Journalist Anthony Shadid

Aired February 17, 2012 - 17:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CROWLEY: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where we're following breaking news right now. A suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol stopped by FBI agents. The suspect, a 29 -year-old Moroccan man, is under arrest. He appeared in federal court just a few minutes ago.

Sources say his alleged plot was foiled after he started talking about his plans to an undercover agent.

We're following all the angles. And we want to start with our Brian Todd.

He is live at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia -- Brian, you have some new information on what the suspect allegedly did that led up to this arrest.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do, Candy. And we also have the charges that are going to be -- that have been filed against him in this criminal complaint.

The suspect Amine el-Khalifi, a 29 -year-old Moroccan national living in Alexandria, Virginia. He is charged with unlawfully attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property that is owned by the United States.

But it is in some of this information in court documents, in FBI affidavits and other court documents that we're just getting, that is very, very interesting.

According to these documents, during meetings with undercover law enforcement agents, el-Khalifi allegedly handled an AK-47 and indicated his desire to conduct an operation in which he would use a gun and kill people face-to-face. He allegedly selected a restaurant in Washington, DC for a bombing attack. He handled an explosive as an example of what could be used in the attack, conducted surveillance to determine the best place and time for the bombing, and purchased materials as part of the planned operation.

Now, law enforcement officials tell us he had considered hitting military installations, synagogues and a restaurant, but settled on the U.S. Capitol. here are some other details we know, according to one affidavit filed in this case, that on January 15th, el-Khalifi stated he had modified his plans for his attack. Rather than conducting an attack on the restaurant, he wanted to conduct a suicide attack in the U.S. Capitol Building. That same day at a quarry in West Virginia, as a demonstration of the effects of the proposed suicide bomb operation, el-Khalifi dialed a cell phone number that he believed would detonate a bomb placed in the quarry. The test bomb did detonate and el- Khalifi expressed a desire for a larger explosion in his attack. He also selected February 17th, 2012 -- today -- as the day of the operation, according to the affidavit. He was going to hit the Capitol Building today -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So, Brian, take us back from today's appearance in court and dial it back a couple of hours and tell us how did the FBI took this guy down.

TODD: Well, he -- they say -- law enforcement officials said he had been given a suicide vest and a gun, but they were rendered inoperable. He thought he was getting that equipment from al Qaeda operatives, but, in fact, he had been tracked all along by undercover FBI agents.

Here's -- here's how the operation played out.


TODD: (voice-over): Just blocks from the Capitol, the suspect was arrested, accepting what he thought was a gun and a suicide vest with explosives, a law enforcement official tells CNN. Officials say he thought he was meeting al Qaeda operatives, but, in fact, they were FBI agents. And both the gun and the suicide vest were inoperable.

We spotted FBI personnel at a parking garage near the Capitol, but they declined to say whether they found the suspect's car. A bystander said those agents cleared everyone out of the garage.

(on camera): Did they tell you why they wanted you to leave?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they didn't tell me why. Just go, leave in the outside, just for 20 minutes or for a hour. OK. I'm leaving from out -- from the garage.

TODD: (voice-over): Officials say the suspect decided to target the Capitol after first considering a military installation, a synagogue or a restaurant.

They followed him for months, they said, but in December he started, quote, "moving down the path toward conducting an attack," and eventually, on his own initiative, went out and bought potential bomb components like nails and glue.

Suspect Amine el-Khalifi is described as a 29-year-old Moroccan who was living in the U.S. illegally, in Northern Virginia. A law enforcement official said he espoused extremist views, but said they believe the suspect was acting alone. Just Capitol ago, FBI Director Robert Mueller said there was growing concern about that kind of individual, a lone wolf who is not part of a known group.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Over the last two years, what we have seen is an increase in the lone wolf activity, you know, principally because you have the Internet that can be utilized for radicalizing. It can be utilized for instruction, training, organization.

TODD: Over the last two years, for example, one suspect was accused of trying to fly explosives into Washington targets using model airplanes and another was accused of trying to bomb the DC Metro.

I spoke to Philip Mudd, a former FBI counter-terrorism official, about whether the public is in danger when officials mount a sting operation like this one and how they decide to set up a takedown.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA/FBI COUNTER-TERRORISM OFFICIAL: They ask, is he going to do something tonight, tomorrow?

Does he have access to weapons?

If you can insure that he doesn't, one of the questions you want to ask is, can we prove intent in a court of law?

At that point, as you rule the operation, you own it. He's going to come to you and say, where do I get a vest, where do I get weapons, where do I get explosives?

At that point, you own it.


TODD: A law enforcement official we spoke with said that Amine el- Khalifi has been under close surveillance for the past couple of months, again, working with undercover FBI agents. this law enforcement official said the public was not in danger -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Brian Todd at the courthouse for us today.

thank you so much.

Now, Congressional leaders have been briefed on this alleged plot to attack the Capitol.

And we want to go to our Congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan -- what -- what happened at the Capitol -- when did you become aware of this, Kate, as it unfolded, not very far from you, but not at the Capitol?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Not at the Capitol. But the news, you know, came to us, it seemed, almost before it came to many people who were working in the Capitol.

Reaction to this arrest and this operation has really -- here -- has been mostly shock and surprise at the -- when you look at the timing of this arrest, it occurred, really, mere moments after the Senate had just wrapped up its vote on the payroll tax cut extension. The House had voted on that earlier today. But the House was still in session. And I remember noticing that the Capitol was very busy with tourists at the time.

As you mentioned, a Congressional source does tell CNN that top Congressional leaders were briefed on the operation and the arrest of this man, but they wouldn't give us any further detail there.

An aide to House majority leader, Eric Cantor, says that the majority leader's office was also briefed, but this was after the FBI arrests.

I will tell you that I spoke as the news was breaking and as many people were leaving the Capitol for their week long break, as they're going to be out of session next week. I spoke with many members of Congress, as well as their aides. And most of them were unaware, and as I said, very surprised that this was all happening.

We did receive a statement from the top Republican on the Senate -- on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Susan Collins. And I'll read you what she says in her statement, in part, Candy.

she says, "The brazen nature of this plot, targeting the U.S. Capitol Building, with the aim of killing innocent people and desecrating a symbol of our democracy, is disturbing," she says. She goes on to say, "While we are still learning details, this plot appears to be yet another example of radicalized extremists attempting to attack Americans from within our borders."

And we received that statement this afternoon.

We do know, and as has been noted, the Capitol -- the U.S. Capitol Police, they were involved with the investigation and the arrest of this man. that did not happen on the Capitol, but in the -- in the U.S. Capitol area. And as Brian stressed earlier, the U.S. Capitol Police and, really, anyone involved had stressed that at no point was were any pub -- any member of the public or any member of the Congressional community in danger.

But I'll tell you, Candy, as someone who works up here in Capitol, it was a real scary reminder of what dangers could be there.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I understand.

Kate, thank you so much.

We want to pursue this a little further, because we're now joined by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Peter King of New York.

Congressman, tell us what do you know about this suspect right now.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, as was stated, has been in this country 12 years illegally. He is a Moroccan. He first came, I believe, known to the FBI about a year ago. He was meeting with some people in Arlington, Virginia, I believe. They were talking about jihad. An AK-47 was shown. And then in December of this year, though, he actually met with FBI officials, undercovers. And that's when he said that he wanted to attack military installations, he wanted to attack synagogues and that he wanted to engage in jihad.

And then on -- that was December 1st.

And on December 8th, there was a follow-up meeting he had. And, by the way, that was one day after Joe Lieberman and I held a hearing on the threats against the military in this country by Islamic terrorists.

Sometime in January, I guess, he decided to change from attacking military installations. He wanted to put a bomb in a restaurant that was frequented by military officials. Then he decided on the suicide bombing in the Capitol.

But, again, I agree with everything that's been said. This was under watch from the -- by the FBI from the beginning. No one was ever at risk.

I also agree with Susan Collins, who says this shows how dangerous -- dangerous a threat it is from within this country. I think too many people chose to -- they choose to ignore it or they don't realize the full dimensions of it, act as if this is just one more small incident.

The fact is, as -- if this had been allowed to be carried out, you would have had many Americans killed right in the heart -- right in our nation's Capitol. And apart from the tragedy, what a signal that would have sent to the world.

CROWLEY: Tell me this, does it not, in some ways, as scary as this -- and -- and reading the affidavit is -- is pretty darned scary, when you see how his mind was working and what he wanted to do and what he plotted. But this is, in some ways, our intelligence community and our law enforcement community getting it right, correct?

KING: Absolutely. The FBI has done a phenomenal job.

My only concern is, though, when I hear people saying that -- whether it's the FBI or the NYPD, that they're being too aggressive, that the threat is not as great as they think it is.

No, listen, if the FBI is allowed to do what it has to do, if the NYPD, other law enforcement agencies, are allowed to do what they have to do, then we are going to -- we have a much better chance of being safe.

My concern is if people start to lose interest, if there's political pressure brought to back off on these investigations. These type of sting operations are absolutely essential, because al Qaeda has a very difficult time from attacking us from outside. And so what you have is either people recruited by al Qaeda within the country or you have self-radicalized jihadists who are under the radar screen. That's where the main threat comes from right now.

CROWLEY: Were you briefed about this beforehand? Did you know anything about this operation?

KING: No, I did not. I've been in several FBI briefings this week. This was not brought up. I was told about it right afterwards. I got all of the details. I -- listen, I -- I have no problem with that. I'm not here to play cops and robbers. You know, they're the professionals. So long as long as I'm updated on what has happened and know all the, you know, what the FBI plans on doing, that -- that's fine. I don't have to be told day by day what's happening.

But I certainly, within a very short time, received all the details that I needed on this.

CROWLEY: I know that you have held several hearings on a variety of issues dealing with terrorism from within, that is, people who are already here, not people who are flying to the US. And, you know, I wonder if you can give me some kind of picture of how many sorts of these operations are underway. It does seem that we've heard, in past instances, a lot about these undercover agents.

Is this a -- is this fairly -- and I hate to use the word routine, but is it?

Or is it out of the ordinary?

KING: No. This is the type of threat we have to expect. We've had a number of them in New York. We've had a number in Washington and Northern Virginia. And the FBI is constantly monitoring this type of activity. Many of these turn out to be nothing, but others turn out to be potentially very serious, as in this case.

Certainly we have it in New York on a large scale basis.

Now we have an added element coming up, and that's with Hezbollah, in that -- well, not coming up, it's right there now. We have the intelligence community very concerned about that. So you have the al Qaeda sympathizers, plus you have Hezbollah.

But, you know, our police and FBI, everywhere in New York, Downstate New York, Long Island, the FBI, police departments across the country are so much alert and attuned to what could be happening. And if they're allowed to do their job, they will go such a long way toward protecting us.

This is what they live with every day. While, Candy, you know, when you and I go home and we can, you know, relax with some of our friends, the police are going 24/7, worried about these type plots and these type threats.

CROWLEY: So there is not a -- a doubt in your mind that law enforcement -- and however you define that, from, you know, local cops all -- all the way up to the CIA, if they're allowed to do their job, they're up to the task of finding what is really pretty difficult, which are individuals, as opposed to anyone tied to a group?

KING: Absolutely. I -- they -- again, they -- they have full-time squads and units working on this, whether is Nassau County, Suffolk County, New York City, state police and FBI. Then you have the CIA working, you know, with the DNI and all the other agencies, the NSA. It's there.

I mean they -- if they are allowed to do their job -- hey, there's no guarantee. I mean sooner or later, the bad guys are going to get through. We have to expect that may happen.

But the fact is that as much as humanly possible, our law enforcement agencies can do the job, if we get off their back and stop complaining, the way too many groups do.

CROWLEY: And just quickly, if I could, how did you find out about this arrest?

Was it a briefing?

KING: No. I found out -- I was actually on a plane to New York. When I got off the plane, I had several phone calls telling me what -- you know, what had happened.

CROWLEY: Got you.

OK, thank you so much.

The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

KING: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: We appreciate it, Peter King of New York.

Our national security contributor, Fran Townsend, is working her sources. She will join us with new information on the alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and the suspect now in custody.

And we will take you inside the anti-government protests in Northern Syria. CNN's Ivan Watson is in the thick of it with exclusive reporting.


CROWLEY: Syrian activists fear the al Assad regime may launch a huge ground offensive against opposition forces tonight. Thousands of Syrians protested the regime today as they have most every Friday, the Muslim holy day of prayer. Only hours earlier, the U.N. General Assembly voted to condemn the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on its opponents, but that didn't change anything on the ground.

Syrian troops seen out in force in the capital of Damascus. Activists say at least 61 people were killed in violence across the country today. The city of Homs has taken a pounding every day for the past two weeks. Activists say they received information that the military is planning a massive ground invasion tonight on the Baba Amr neighborhood, a hotbed of anti-government resistance.

CNNs Ivan Watson joins us now from Northern Syria. Ivan, I know you were in the middle of these demonstrations today. Tell us about it.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's remarkable. You had, basically, every male in the community gathering in a mosque for Friday prayer. It's the day off here in Syria. They conducted a prayer for one their neighbors who was killed, they say, by sniper fire in a nearby city.

And then, they emerged chanting Al Akbar and marched towards the town square, the village square where they held this furious rally against Bashar al-Assad underneath a freezing downpour. And this has been a weekly ritual of defiance in this village and in other towns and cities across the country.

People just continuing after 11 months after the deaths of more than 6,000 people after a siege of one of the largest cities in the country continue to insist on the downfall the dictator whose family has ruled this country for more than 40 years.

CROWLEY: And Ivan, I don't want to let you go until we talk about renowned "New York Times" journalist, Anthony Shadid. He died in Syria, apparently, of an asthma attack. I know you saw him just yesterday. First, tell our viewers who he was and why we held him in such esteem and about your visit with him.

WATSON: Well, Anthony Shadid is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. He was writing for the "New York Times." I came across him last night here in Northern Syria. He was on assignment with photographer, Tyler Hicks. They've been around here for a week. This is a man whose writing, if anybody's read his reports, his dispatches, is absolutely beautiful.

Everybody looks up to the way this man writes. He was passionate and committed to covering the Arab world, a fluent Arab speaker, and just incredibly all-around nice guy, a humble guy who was better and braver than any of us and never showed off, never showed that. And, we said goodbye to him last night.

He was going to head to the Turkish border. He'd had a hard time coming in, having an asthma attack, and almost getting stranded on a hillside in the dark, and I believe that is what got the best of him on a physically arduous trip back out of this country. And Candy, it underscores the difficulty that the people here are living in where they're trapped.

And the only way out for the opposition activists is this same journey that killed this heroic reporter, Anthony Shadid.

CROWLEY: And I think Shadid would be happy that you noted that this is about the people that he and you and so many others so bravely cover. Thank you so much, Ivan Watson. We really appreciate it.

We want you all to stand by for an emotional interview with Anthony Shadid's father. He talks about his son's dedication to journalism and how he managed to survive the toughest war zones until now.


CROWLEY: Back to the breaking news this hour. The suspect in an alleged suicide bomb plot right here in the nation's capital appeared in a court a short while ago. If he had been successful, sources say, he intended to launch a terror attack on the United States Capitol today. Now, authorities are searching a home in nearby Arlington, Virginia in connection with this case.

That's where our Lisa Sylvester is there, and she joins us on the phone. Lisa, what are you seeing?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. I'm at the 1600 block of Randolph Road in Arlington. And what I'm looking at right now is you can see law enforcement officials. They are wearing FBI jackets, the ATF, the Arlington Police Department, they're all here on the scene. And what they have been doing all throughout the afternoon is taking boxes in and out of a shed that's in the backyard of this house.

We don't know the exact connection to this case. We do know it is related, however. But they have been very busy. Just a short while ago, in fact, they put up a blue tarp to try to limit the media's access to see their comings and goings, but you can still see people coming in and out of the house. Law enforcement officials coming in and out of the house.

Neighbors that I spoke to said this activity all started around midday, around 12:30 or so. One neighbor telling me that she heard a couple of big booms. She came out. At first, she thought it might have been a car accident of some sort. And then, she came out and she saw all of the activity, all of the uniformed police officers.

This has been going on again since about midday, and we'll be staying out here monitoring the situation and bringing more information to you, Candy, as we get it. We're hopefully -- hopefully, we'll get some kind of statement from law enforcement in a little bit, but at this point, our fingers cross on that.

CROWLEY: Yes. They tend to do their work first and then tell us about it. So, I can understand that. Thanks so much. Lisa Sylvester, we will be back with you.

Now, let's bring in CNN national contributor and former Bush homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend. She serves on the CIA and homeland security advisory boards. Fran, let me ask you as you watch this unfold, as you talk to your sources, is there anything in the lead-up to the arrest, the things that were done and said that is particularly disturbing to you?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Candy, today when he was arrested, he was targeting the U.S. Capitol, the justice department has informed the media that an earlier target had been a restaurant. Now, this is not the first time we've heard that, right?

Recently, there was an Iranian plot against the Saudi ambassador that also -- where -- that he was also going to be targeted in a restaurant. That really is disturbing. Look, we don't want suicide bombers to target government facilities, military facilities, but the most difficult thing to protect are civilian targets like public places and restaurants.

Now, clearly this individual, who's in custody now, moved away from that. That was an initial plan, that, and a military installation, and then, he moved to the Capitol. But people got to remember, the fact that we were able to insert, the government is able to insert, undercover officers to understand the magnitude of the threat, the intentions of our enemies, that's really an achievement.

Ten years post-9/11, we've built the capability in the FBI that allows them to do that, and that's the good news that you ought to take from the story.

CROWLEY: And Fran, how far does this sort of investigation go up the chain as it's developing, because this really sort of came to their attention almost a year ago? So, is this something the president would have known about? Would it stop it someone like was in your position in the Bush administration? How does that work?

TOWNSEND: Oh, absolutely. It's not unusual. I think people are surprised when they hear things go on for so long. The reason they go on so long is, one, you want to make sure that the defendant, the man in custody, it was his idea, not law enforcement's. Two, you want to make sure you identify the entire web of people that he may be working with or affiliated with.

We don't know that now. It sounds like he was working alone, but that's one of the things they would have been looking for. And then, Candy, as the investigation develops, it will be briefed initially to the director of the FBI who then will brief it to the president's homeland security adviser, now, John Brennan. That was my job.

And then, we would have talked about making sure that the secretary of homeland security was briefed. and the president, ultimately, would have been kept and formed of the developments and advised when they plan to take the case down. That is arrest the individual under what circumstances. The president and his staff would have fully been informed in advance.

CROWLEY: So, we are now 11 years away from 9/11, which is quite a turning point in history for the United States. Now, trying to get a grip on how common this sort of operation is that gets carried this far, because we have heard of a couple of them over the past several months. Are there hundreds of these cases going on, tens of them? Do you have any sense of that?

TOWNSEND: Sure. You know, it's interesting, because there -- at any given time, there are dozens, most of which we never hear about, because they don't go anywhere. There's a handful of them that get the attention of the homeland security adviser and the cabinet, and the president, for that matter, but the fact is, you work very closely, often these cases are fed into the FBI through state and local law enforcement because they're closest to the street. They're closest to the individuals who may be talking or be able to identify the threat.

And as I say, Candy, I think we're hearing about them more now, we're seeing more of these cases, because in the 11 years since 9/11, we have built this capability to be able to have the feds work closer with state and local law enforcement and develop these cases.

CROWLEY: I want to tell our audience what you're looking at live. They're live pictures of federal investigators, perhaps some local investigators taking things out of a home in Arlington, Virginia.

We can make a lot of assumptions about whose home this is, but the truth is we do not know who for sure who that is and what they're bringing out. But as soon as we find out, we do have Lisa Sylvester on the scene checking this out for us.

Fran, I want to ask you something that I asked Peter King before, and that is, is there any doubt in your mind that law enforcement officials and intelligence officials are up to however broad the task is within the United States?

TOWNSEND: No. I mean, I will say my one caveat, Candy, is, of course, as you mentioned earlier, the most difficult thing is the lone actor, the lone wolf. Those are very difficult to identify in advance.

It may be that this is an example of the FBI doing that. We don't have enough facts yet to know that for sure.

They are certainly better equipped, trained and prepared to identify the lone wolf now, but we should be mindful, it's a very difficult threat. And you heard me say it when I was in government, I say it now because I believe it. They only have to get right once, and law enforcement has got to be right every day to stop them.

CROWLEY: But, in fact, you believe we should be more comforted by the ability of law enforcement to break this up than fearful of what was planned?

TOWNSEND: Absolutely. I mean, I think the U.S. attorney, McBride, in Virginia, Lisa Monaco, the assistant attorney general for National Security at the Justice Department, and the FBI agent in charge all sort of pointed to the fact they've got more confidence, more capability and more resources now to be able do this kind of job. And we ought to be comforted by that.

CROWLEY: Fran Townsend, thanks so much for your time.

TOWNSEND: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: A little politics now. President Obama is in California and raising a lot of money. But does hobnobbing with Hollywood project the right image?


CROWLEY: President Obama is wrapping up a three-day swing out West with a visit to the Boeing plant in Washington State and four fund- raisers. Seen as a cash machine for the president's reelection campaign out there.

Our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian is traveling with the president.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In sports terms, President Obama's West Coast fund-raising blitz was mostly for the sky box and courtside crowd. Events were held at lavish estates with majestic views. The invite lists, also impressive, celebrities like George Clooney, Jack Black and Jim Belushi. The ticket for entering, up to $35,800, more than most Americans make in a year.

Flying West has been good to Mr. Obama's reelection coffers. The California state director of Organizing for America was more blunt.

MARY JANE STEVENSON, ORGANIZING FOR AMERICA: There are people who say California is in the bag and we're just an ATM. And you know what? They're kind of right. California is in the bag for the president and we are a bit of an ATM.

LOTHIAN: Eight fund-raisers over three days will net the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee an estimated $8.5 million. This, on top of a big month in January, is more ammunition for critics like the Republican National Committee, that wrote in a statement, "Averaging a fund-raiser every two days, it's clear President Obama's priority is saving his own job instead of working to create jobs for struggling Americans."

It's political tightrope for the president, assailing the wealthy fat cats and casting himself as a champion for the middle class, as he did at the trip's only $100 low-cost fund-raiser Thursday night in San Francisco.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the defining sure of our time, a make-or-break moment for middle class Americans and all those who are trying to get into it.

LOTHIAN: At the same time, these high-cost elections are fueled by deep-pocket donors.

CRAIG HOLMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: It actually sends a picture that our entire system of money and politics is completely broken.

LOTHIAN: According to a "USA Today" survey, the president out-raised Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney in two-thirds of the country and all four Republican hopefuls in 19 states. While some of his opponents also hold lavish events and tap wealthy donors, the president gets more scrutiny because his trips are partly funded by taxpayers. And on this trip, just two officials events in Wisconsin and Washington State, far outnumbered by fund-raisers.

HOLMAN: It's not an attractive picture to see our president going out, raising funds from the very wealthy and from special interest groups.


LOTHIAN: White House spokesman Jay Carney said that since they were coming out West, they decided to consolidate a lot of events. He says that they are following this by the rules, using a complex formula in order to allocate the expenses to the campaign, and he also points out that this is what former President Bush and Clinton and other presidents have also done -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Dan Lothian, out in California for us.

Thanks so much, Dan.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been gaining support, but not with an elite group of Republicans, members of the U.S. Senate.

And an ominous warning about more celebrities who may suffer the same fate as Whitney Houston. Stand by for my interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky.


CROWLEY: You might think that as an ex-Senator, Rick Santorum would be getting a lot of support from his former colleagues who are still in office, but not really.

Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash has been doing some digging on the Hill talking to people about Santorum and his days in the Senate.

Hey, Dana.


Well, you know that there is one desk in the Senate that has what's known as the "candy drawer." Whomever gets that desk has to give out candy to the rest of the senators. Rick Santorum had that drawer, and still, he has gotten no endorsement from his colleagues still serving here.


BASH (voice-over): Ask Rick Santorum's old Senate colleagues about his bid for president and you get some of this --

(on camera): Rick Santorum?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I came out early for Governor Romney, and I think he's best positioned to win the general election.

BASH (voice-over): -- a little of this --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: That's not the purpose of the news comfort. BASH: -- this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don't have time. Got some votes coming.

BASH: -- and this moment from the senator who is one rank below Santorum in GOP leadership.

(on camera): Senator Hutchison, you really served with Rick Santorum. Do you have anything good to say about him?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Oh, yes. I mean, certainly a very nice person, but I'm not going to do presidential politics right now.

BASH (voice-over): Santorum was in the Senate 12 years, four years in the House, yet Mitt Romney has far Monday congressional endorsement, 77, 12 in the Senate alone. Santorum has just three House endorsements and zero in the Senate. No sitting senators have endorsed him.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Leader. I appreciate --

BASH: And Santorum was a senior member of the Senate Republican leadership. So why the lack of support? Questions about electability.

Multiple GOP Senate sources tell CNN many who were in the Senate (INAUDIBLE) Santorum like him, but don't think he can win the presidency. They recall speeches like this about gay marriage --

SANTORUM: -- as a union between one man and one woman. I think traditional marriage is good for everyone. It results in a healthier society, more stable children.

BASH: One veteran GOP leadership aide called him a culture warrior likely to turn off moderate voters.

SANTORUM: I don't believe life begins at conception. I know life begins at conception.

BASH: And GOP Senate sources tell CNN colleagues often privately point to Santorum's crushing 18-point loss in his 2006 reelection bid. But Pennsylvania's Glenn "G.T." Thompson dismisses all that. He's one of the three House members to endorse Santorum.

REP. GLENN THOMPSON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: He recognizes what the number one task and hurdle we face in this country, and it's jobs. And I like the fact that he talks about manufacturing, and small businesses in particular, as the backbone of this country economically.

BASH: And some of Santorum's former colleagues do say nice things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's knowledgeable, he's conservative.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Well, I love Rick Santorum. I think he would be a great president.

BASH: Still, no endorsement.

SESSIONS: I haven't endorsed anybody.


BASH: And Candy, I heard that from several of Santorum's former colleagues in the hallways here, that they do like him, maybe even say he'd be a good president, but they just decided not to endorse anybody in the presidential race this year.

As for Santorum aides, they are really trying to downplay, as you can imagine, the fact that he's got no endorsements from sitting senators. And they do point out something that's actually true, that Mitt Romney's high-profile endorsements haven't always helped. Let's talk about Minnesota, South Carolina and Missouri, just to name a few.

CROWLEY: Dana Bash, thanks so much tonight.

On the eve of Whitney Houston's funeral, new insights into her struggle with addiction and whether it may have caused her death. Dr. Drew Pinsky will join us.


CROWLEY: Friends and loved ones will remember Whitney Houston tomorrow at a funeral at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church. The singer's fans have been leaving flowers and other tributes all this week.

Saturday's ceremony will include performances by Stevie Wonder and Houston's godmother, Aretha Franklin. Today, the family attended a private viewing at a funeral home in Newark.

Investigators are still trying to learn the exact cause of Houston's death. Sources tell CNN the anti-anxiety medication Xanax was among the prescription drugs found in the singer's room.

I spoke with HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky about the circumstances surrounding Houston's death.


CROWLEY: Dr. Drew, let's start out with the fact that we don't know what Whitney Houston died of. We do know that she had a history of addiction, that she had been to rehab, it sounds like a couple times, if not more. We also know that it is human nature when someone dies young to blame something or someone.

When you look at this case -- let's take it out of the Whitney Houston file, because we don't know what she died of, but when you look at the case of a drug addict, whether it's for prescription drugs or otherwise, where is the blame?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, "DR. DREW": Well, boy, let me just start by saying although we don't have absolute confirmation, we have an autopsy where there are no causes of death, meaning there's no heart disease, no lung disease, no strokes. And when a drug addict, someone with a history of addiction, particularly recalcitrant addiction, dies young, I've never seen a situation -- and I mean never -- where drug addiction didn't figure into that demise.

When it comes to who's to blame, I don't think in terms of blame. But if we're going to ascribe blame, certainly the addict has some role to play in this.

They've been treated repeatedly. Abstinence is their goal. They know they are not supposed to be taking pills and drinking.

The fact that people around her also should have known that, sell we call them sycophants or even those who employed her should have known that this woman was in very serious trouble if she was seen drinking.

And then number three, I have a real concern about physicians that would prescribe benzodiazepine medications, three of which were allegedly found in her bathroom, any one of which should really never be prescribed to someone with a history of addiction. So there's plenty of blame to go around.

CROWLEY: And I want to talk a minute about the folks around -- who love the person who's in trouble here, be it with prescription drugs or other drug addictions, because I was really touched by a clip we've been seeing, and it was Whitney Houston, supposedly who had been through rehab, talking about how her mother came to her and basically sort of intervened and said, you've got to go to rehab.

Take a listen to this.


WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER: One day my mother came to my house and she said, "Let's go." She said, "Let's do this."

She said, "I'm not losing you to the world. I'm not losing you to Satan." She said, "I'm not doing this."

"I want my daughter back. I want you back. I want to see that glow in your eyes, that light in your eyes."


CROWLEY: So, basically, what we have here is the person apparently that Whitney is closest to begging her to come and go to rehab, which she did.

If the loved ones around you can't help you stick to a rehab program, what can?

PINSKY: Well, loved ones around an addict never can. So they need to get that out of their thinking.

In fact, my understanding is -- I've spoke to people who were involved in that initial intervention with Whitney, and although mom may have gotten through, the fact is, there was a show of force of everyone in her life that went in there and got her into treatment. And that's what is required, an absolute unified show of force.

Everyone in her life must be telling her the same thing, and holding her accountable in the same way. And to the extent that she refuses to do that, they must wash their hands of that individual.

CROWLEY: And so, if you have a loved one -- to anyone who is listening to this who has a loved one that has been sort of sucked into this spiral of drug addiction, your advice then sounds like you have to be willing to be tough and you have to be willing to walk away.

Is that right?

PINSKY: That's exactly right. I cannot tell you how often I tell family members and loved ones to join a codependency program, get their own therapist, go to Al-Anon work steps.

And families step forward all the time and say, "We'll do anything." I say, "Well, here's the one thing that you must do that will make a difference -- go to Al-Anon." They don't do it.

CROWLEY: Dr. Drew, thank you so much for your insights. Way too many of these cases lately. We appreciate it.

PINSKY: Thanks, Candy. And there are more to come. More to come. It's just really the beginning of a tidal wave that's rolling over us now.

CROWLEY: Yes. Very sad. Thanks so much.


CROWLEY: We have something we now want to add to our coverage of the terrorist plot broken up by federal officials.

A man apparently intent on a suicide bombing against the U.S. Capitol. No one ever in danger. He has been arrested.

This is from the principal deputy White House spokesman, who says, "The president was informed yesterday afternoon about the FBI's plans to make an arrest by assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John Brennan."

So, John Brennan, the president's top security adviser, is the one who told the president yesterday of the plot and the planned arrest.

Now a "New York Times" journalist who was captured and then freed in Libya last year ended up dying today in Syria. Up next, Anthony Shadid's father remembers the son he lost.


CROWLEY: As we told you earlier, "New York Times" reporter Anthony Shadid died in Syria yesterday, apparently from an asthma attack. Shadid's father earlier, in an emotional interview with CNN's Hala Gorani.


BUDDY SHADID, FATHER OF ANTHONY SHADID: His wife called me. She was in Turkey with their son, waiting for him to come out of Syria. They were going on a vacation, and they were all excited.

And they called her there on her cell phone and she called me. And I couldn't believe it.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm so very sorry for your loss.

SHADID: He had been in so many hotspots. They always sent him to all the hotspots and -- because he understood the language and he felt like he could cover the story better than anybody else.

And I have gone through this I don't know how many times, in the West Bank, and in Egypt, into Libya, everywhere. You know, it's always dangerous. And he always made it out.


SHADID: And I was afraid of bullets and bombs before. And to find out that he died of an asthma attack was a shock. Friends and everyone loved him. He never talked to anybody that wasn't his friend and that admired him.

And he admired everybody. He just didn't have a -- he was a humble man. He was dedicated to being a journalist.

He wanted to be a journalist all his life. He wanted to be the best. And he was the best.

GORANI: He truly was.

Buddy Shadid, these are things that you tell people when they have lost loved ones. Sometimes, you say them for comfort. In this case, we say it because it's true.

There really isn't a member of our profession who has covered the Arab world who has not said over the last 24 hours that Anthony Shadid was the best at what he did. And truly, the world has lost an amazing journalist.

SHADID: The world lost an amazing journalist, and I lost a beloved son that I never asked anything of him that he didn't answer. He was the best at everything he did.


CROWLEY: Thank you for joining us.

I'm Candy Crowley, in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.