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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN
Death of U.S. State Department Officer in Violent Libyan Protests; No Deal Yet for Chicago Strike; Anticipation for Unveiling of iPhone 5
Aired September 12, 2012 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. diplomatic compounds targeted in two Muslim countries. A State Department worker killed. The U.S. flag torn down.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: No deal in Chicago. Striking teachers and a school board still miles apart in talks, leaving kids out of school now for a third day.
ROMANS: And the wait is almost over. Apple is just hours away from unveiling the new iPhone 5.
Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christie Romans, in for John Berman this morning. He's going to be around in about two hours in "STARTING POINT."
SAMBOLIN: We are happy to have you, Christine.
ROMANS: Thank you.
SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 5:00 a.m. here in the East. Let's get started for you here.
And we begin with the attacks against two U.S. diplomatic compounds overseas.
First, Libya where militants staged a protest outside the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, leading to violent clashes with security forces and the death of a State Department officer.
The other powder keg is in Cairo, where several men managed to scale the walls of the U.S. embassy. Take a look at this. They tore down the American flag, all the anti-American anger, stemming from an amateur online film that has offended millions of Muslims.
Ian Lee is live from Cairo this morning. I want to start with what has caused all this outrage.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, it all focuses around a film. And the film, like you said, is very amateurish. It's a mishmash of clips. It's really incoherent. I have watched the clip.
But it has a lot of things the Muslims would find offensive about their prophet. So this is what sparked the clashes that we saw last night when thousands of people gathered outside the U.S. embassy where a handful of protesters actually breached the embassy compound, tore down the American flag like you just saw and ripped it apart.
And these protesters are also calling for more protests against the U.S. embassy. A question we are wondering is where were the security services? The embassy issued a statement well before the demonstrations, warning citizens not to go near the U.S. embassy. Egyptian intelligence also warned that there could be large protests at the embassy.
The security forces eventually did arrive and this morning, I walked by the embassy to check out the scene and there were riot police in front of the embassy as well as military, but the question now -- officials are wondering why it took so long to secure the embassy when the protesters first arrived, Zoraida.
SAMBOLIN: And are there still protesters on site? Can you see that or have they all been cleared away?
LEE: Well, it's not clear whether the protesters were cleared away or they just went home. There were a dozen or so protesters milling around outside the embassy, but there are calls for continued sustained protests to go out against this video.
SAMBOLIN: Ian, there was also a protest that turned deadly in Libya. What can you tell us about that?
LEE: Well, witnesses are telling us that a group of radical -- a radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia was the ones that were at the compound, the U.S. compound, during the time of the attack. The U.S. State Department official was killed during that attack.
Hillary Clinton came out condemning the attack, saying that she's also working with diplomatic missions around the world to ensure their security. The Libyan government also came out condemning the attack, saying that they are going to investigate the matter.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Ian Lee live in Cairo this morning -- thank you very much.
ROMANS: All right. In Chicago, many parents now losing money and patience. It's back to the bargaining table in Chicago. There's no deal yet to resolve the teacher strike.
This strike now entering day three with the teachers union now saying there's a considerable way to go before there's a deal.
Casey Wian is all over the story from the start for us. He's at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters.
Casey, what's the latest?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Christine, is that the two sides are talking or will be talking again beginning at 11:00 this morning. The Chicago Public Schools negotiators said they presented what they call a comprehensive proposal, a new comprehensive proposal addressing all of the issues at stake here to the union yesterday, and what they have requested is either a written response from the union this morning or some sort of a comprehensive counter- proposal.
The union says, however, that the two sides remain miles apart even though the school district says that a deal is within reach.
Now, there's good news for parents in the fact. That these school sites that the district has made available as sort of temporary childcare facilities for four hours in the morning while the strike has been going on, they will start being open for six hours beginning tomorrow, from 8:30 until 2:30. And they have the capacity for about 150,000 students, about 40 percent of the students affected by this strike. That's the good news for parents.
The bad news is that it appears the school district is preparing for a prolonged strike, Christine.
ROMANS: Preparing for a prolonged strike. And the union you say did not give a counter proposal or counter-points to the city's proposal.
Any movement on the two sticking points at the heart of this -- teacher evaluations and a provision about jobs for laid-off teachers?
WIAN: Well, there has been a little movement on both fronts. The jobs provision, giving the principals the authority to decide which teachers are rehired after teachers have been laid off when schools are closed, that's something the union is not legally allowed to strike over. But there still has been some movement by the school district to allow 500 teachers to get their jobs back.
The other contentious issue is this teacher evaluation proposal that would rely partially on standardized testing scores. The union still says that even though there's been movement on that issue, that 28 percent of its members would be in danger of losing their jobs within two years if that plan goes forward.
Here's what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to say about that union claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, (D) CHICAGO, IL: It's about ensuring that over a period of time we have a way to raise the quality of the teachers and we have excellent teachers in our schools, they do a great job, they work under very difficult circumstances. But it's mandated, we have to do this, federal and state, we are doing it and it's whether it has rigor. I believe the teachers will pass, as I said yesterday.
This was designed by 2,000 teachers over the last year. It was designed by teachers for teachers to take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIAN: Now late yesterday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who used to be head of Chicago Public Schools, released a written statement, urging the two sides to bargain and come together for some sort of a deal. But a lot of folks here think it's going to take his boss, President Obama, to actually step in and get this deal done.
I don't know if that's going to happen any time soon.
ROMANS: And it's the law, they have to -- I mean, it's federal and state law, Rahm Emanuel is right about that, that they have to evaluate teachers. Has the union put forth an alternative way to evaluate teachers or they just don't like this way?
WIAN: They say they have. But it is not acceptable to the school district.
What clearly these teachers are upset about is the standardized testing. Their claim is that when a teacher works in a low-income area where test scores are lower, that teacher has unfair -- it's not fair in terms of the way they are evaluated.
ROMANS: All right. Casey Wian -- thanks so much, Casey, in Chicago. We'll check with you again next hour.
SAMBOLIN: You know, Arne Duncan is the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. So he's intimately familiar with this particular fight.
ROMANS: There are those who are arguing that if you're in a low- income neighborhood, you have to show improvement for the child. So it is based on what you're working, right? If you are showing improvement or even keeping the child in and engaged, that can show up on the teacher evaluation, too. So --
SAMBOLIN: Yes, they are implementing some really new and innovative programs there to try to address those issues. So, we'll see how it works out.
At the end of the day, the kids and families are suffering greatly here, as are the teachers.
Eight minutes past the hour.
Israel's prime minister is turning the screws on the White House to crack down on Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu publicly criticizing President Obama with the way he is dealing with Tehran and its nuclear program. The prime minister wants the White House to deliver an ultimatum that includes a specific time table for military strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The world tells Israel, wait, there's still time. And I say, wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: The White House says Netanyahu and President Obama spoke by phone last night to hammer out their differences. The Obama administration is also trying to downplay reports that it snubbed a request by Netanyahu to meet with President Obama later this month, at the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.
And another warning about the fiscal cliff -- this one from Moody's -- which is threatening to follow in the footsteps of Standard & Poor's and downgrading the government's AAA rating if Congress doesn't deal with the debt problem. The trouble is lawmakers are not at all sure they can strike a deal and avoid going over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I'm not confident at all. Listen, the House has done its job on both the sequester and on the looming tax hike that will cost our economy some 700,000 jobs. The Senate at some point has to act. On both of these, where's the president?
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I was disappointed when my friend John Boehner said today that he has no confidence on a budget deal. I think we have to look at the glass being half full not half empty all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Deja vu, right? The so-called fiscal cliff is the combination of automatic cuts to federal programs scheduled to take effect in January and tax increases that would result from expiration of all the Bush era tax cuts at the end of this year.
ROMANS: Hot pursuit in Miami ending in a spectacular air-born spinning wreck. The suspects taking off from their car after it came to a stop along an exit ramp on I-95, but they didn't get very far. All three suspects were arrested. They were wanted for burglary. The chase reached speeds of 100 miles an hour.
SAMBOLIN: I hope no one else was injured there as you saw another car spin there.
All right. Today is the day for the big reveal. Everyone is talking about it. Apple officially unveiling the iPhone 5 just a few hours from now folks. A look at what is in the store coming up.
ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START.
In just a few hours, Apple is expected to unveil the next big thing, the iPhone 5. And, of course, there's plenty of speculation about just what the newest smart phone will offer. Anticipation for the Apple launch is building, to say the least.
CNN's Dan Simon is live in San Francisco for us this morning. Dan -- I mean, I'm told maybe the case is going to be different. There's going to be a bigger screen. What kind of teaches might we expect?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. You know, we'll talk about those in a second. But first of all, let me just say, here we go again. I've been coming to this thing since 2007 for the first iPhone. And I don't think the buzz has ever been this intense for iPhone 5. This is expected to be the biggest selling smartphone of all time, shattering all previous records set by Apple.
Now just for a little context, when we were here a year ago, the initial reception for the last iPhone, the 4S, there was a little bit of disappointment. There was a lukewarm reception because it was sort of a modest upgrade, sort of a speck bum, but that doesn't matter given the sales.
But the new iPhone 5 is expected to sport a whole new design. So, let's take a look at the features.
You talked about a larger screen. We're talking about a larger four- inch diagonal screen. That's a half inch bigger than all the previous versions.
4G LTE compatible. What does that mean? It means that it will run on the faster cellular networks.
A new dock connector.
In general, a phone that's thinner, faster and lighter.
A headphone jack that's moved to the bottom, as well as newly-designed Apple headphones.
So, Christine, the question becomes, might there be some other features that are not on that list and could there be some other products coming out today? That's what we've got to wait for.
ROMANS: And, you know, this industry has changed so much in the last few years. I mean, this is the sixth version for Apple. But other companies have hundreds of smartphones.
I mean, they have sort of reinvented the industry, haven't they?
SIMON: No question about it. You know, the bar has been raised. Everybody's doing these touch-screen phones now.
That's one of the reasons why you saw Apple take on Samsung with this lawsuit. You know, the competition is very fierce. The stakes are very high for all of these companies.
So the question is, can Apple sustain its momentum? And most analysts believe that they actually can. That's why you're seeing that stock price remain where it is and why the company is now the most valuable company on the planet. And, again, this is going to be the biggest selling smartphone of all time. According to the analysts, it could sell 5.5 million units in the first three days, which would just be absolutely unheard of -- Christine.
ROMANS: I know. That's why, you know, like JPMorgan is saying, it could actually add to American GDP -- a consumer product could add to GDP, unbelievable.
Dan Simon, have fun this morning.
SAMBOLIN: It is 17 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date on this morning's top stories.
Two U.S. diplomatic compounds are under siege.
In Libya, a State Department officer was killed during a violent clash between militant protesters and security forces near the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
And in Cairo, several men scaled the walls of the embassy and managed to rip down the flag. Take a look at your screen.
The anti-U.S. sentiment fueled by an amateur online film produced in America that millions of Muslims consider offensive to Islam.
ROMANS: Back to the bargaining table for teachers after taking to the streets of Chicago. There's no deal yet to resolve the teacher strike. Talks entering day three with neither side expressing optimism that an agreement is near.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says two sticking points remain, teacher evaluations and how to handle jobs for laid off teachers.
SAMBOLIN: Part of President Obama's approval rating has cracked the 50 percent barrier. Take a look at the latest CNN/ORC survey. The president's approval rating at 51 percent. That's up three points from last week's CNN poll, which was conducted before the Democratic convention.
And when voters were asked who has the advantage in next month's debate, 59 percent picked the president, 34 percent went with Romney.
ROMANS: It is 19 minutes past the hour. We've got an early read this morning in your local news making national headlines.
Let's start with a story in "The L.A. Times." City officials are reviewing a proposal to let undocumented workers use library cards as ID. The L.A. program would help about 300,000 people who are in the country illegally who don't have documents, who aren't able to get bank accounts or a driver's license. It would be a form of ID for them, the library card.
SAMBOLIN: Yes. And the criticism here is that the undocumented would then stay in the United States. So some people not liking this. A single mother of four losing big time against the big-time record labels in the Minneapolis "Star Tribune." That's where we find this story.
An appeals court reinstating a jury's decision to level -- listen to this -- a $222,000 judgment against Jamie Thomas-Rasset. The music industry has appealed after the court reduced damages to $54,000. The recording industry accused her of illegally downloading more than 1,700 files.
ROMANS: All right, while you were sleeping, a decision made thousands of miles away that will have a dramatic affect on the world economy and your stock portfolio. Yes, a court half way across the world that holds the global economy in its hands. The story is coming up.
SAMBOLIN: Twenty-three minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.
Issues 2012 now -- CNN going in-depth this week to the economic issues facing this country. And today, a big decision from a court in Germany that could affect our economy here in the United States.
That ruling already has U.S. stock futures up and European markets are up sharply right now as well.
Christine, tell us about that ruling.
ROMANS: So this is a German high court, a big court that was looking into the legality of Germany being involved in something called the European Stability Mechanism, the ESM. This is a $500 billion permanent rescue fund for the European Union bail, 500 billion euro.
Now, this court has ruled, you're seeing them there, they ruled that the permanent bailout plan for the European Union is constitutional. This is so key.
Imagine if this high court in Germany has decided, German taxpayers have too much exposure to the bailout in Europe and we are going to say it is illegal for Germany to participate anymore. It would be disastrous.
Germany has been a leader in trying to figure out how to get out of the debt crisis.
Now, there's a catch here for Germany. Germany's financial exposure to the fund must be approved by the Germany parliament so they are putting strings on it here.
Again, the ESM is incredibly important. That's sort of the nexus of all these rescue efforts for Europe and for its debt crisis. And a German court was deciding whether or not it would be illegal to the German participation on this to this level.
Now, why is this so important? You're not hearing anything about Europe on the campaign trail. And I'll tell you why. Because whoever is going to be the next president is going to be watching very closely as other people have a very big say in the future of the American economy.
Here's why. The European Union in the U.S. is the number one trading partner. We have a trillion dollars-plus in direct investment in the E.U., $2.7 trillion in financial commitments. I mean, it's remarkable, remarkable, to close ties between these two.
In Europe -- most of the countries in Europe are in a recession. Some are in a double-dip recession. They still have very serious debt problems in this country. This German court ruling critical on the E.U. and its bailout.
That's why futures and stocks up this morning, because it looks as though this potential legal hurdle had been crossed.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
SAMBOLIN: It is 26 minutes past the hour.
The water came without warning. Coming up, whole neighborhoods swamped after a dike holding back a rain-swollen pond bursts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN (voiceover): Fury in the Muslim world. Security beefed up around the world this morning after mobs attack two U.S. compounds.
ROMANS (voiceover): His first word since Facebook stock flopped, Mark Zuckerberg saying the future is mobile. But can he deliver?
SAMBOLIN (voiceover): And the waiting is almost over. Apple expected to unveil the new iPhone in just a few hours and make your old one uncool in an instant.
ROMANS (voiceover): If you buy into all the hype, right?
SAMBOLIN (voiceover): Which iPhone lovers tend to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.
ROMANS (on-camera): I'm Christine Romans in for John this morning. It's 30 minutes past the hour.
We're following a dangerous situation right now in North Africa this morning. Late last night, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, confirming that a State Department official at the U.S. consulate was killed during an angry protest in Benghazi, Libya. The protests are over a web video that protesters called anti-Muslim.
A similar scene in Egypt where protesters tore down the U.S. embassy's flag after protesting an all day protest in Cairo. This hour, fundamentalist protesters continue to stand right outside of the embassy walls under watch from Egyptian security forces. Those protesters also say the web video is why they're protesting.
Mona Eltahawy is a journalist on the phone from Cairo. She's been with us over the past year as we follow the Arab spring and now the slow, steady steps towards democracy there. Welcome to the program. Tell me a little bit about what you know is happening there in Cairo and what sparked all this.
VOICE OF MONA ELTAHAWY, EGYPTIAN COLUMNIST: Hi, good morning. What sparked it was several days of clips from this film being shown on some TV stations in Egypt and calls by ultraconservatives to go and protest outside the U.S. embassy. But I just want to make it very clear that those calls were made by an ultra right-wing fringe group who do not represent the majority of Egyptians.
Just as a majority of Americans are not represented are the people who made this film. Freedom of expression is absolutely to be respected (INAUDIBLE) into protest. But the question that many of us hear in Egypt is why did they choose the U.S. embassy?
This film has nothing to do with the U.S. administration. So, it's very, very important not to be dragged into a dangerous situation by fringe elements on either side.
ROMANS: And it's quite amateurish and clearly not any kind of a professional documentary or anything. It does show, however, that sometimes the freedom of speech or the freedom of expression can be overrun by, quite frankly, the desire to keep holy -- anti-Islam is very, very dangerous.
ELTAHAWY: You know, the point you make about the film is important as in also the point that many people demonstrating have not even seen the film. I mean, I compare the situation to that in 2006 when we saw protests erupt in many countries over the Danish cartoons, but several months after those Danish cartoons that depicted Prophet Muhammad in what some people thought was an insulting way were published.
But it is very, very important to notice that there's a political manipulation at play. This manufactured outrage to use people's anger to make a political point. Now, what concerns many Egyptians as well is that our president, Mohammed Morsi and prime minister were very silent yesterday, which is very dangerous again.
Because we must not allow this right-wing fringe element on the right wing -- in Egypt to set the agenda. We had a resolution last year, which was for social justice and liberty, and that resolution would not be derailed by these right-wing extremists on either side.
ROMANS: All right. Mona Eltahawy, American-Egyptian journalist in Cairo. Thank you. Thank you very much.
SAMBOLIN: It is 33 minutes past the hour.
Muddy water unleashed on a Utah town after a dike breaks open.
SAMBOLIN (voiceover): Homes, schools, businesses near a retention pond in Southern Utah were forced to evacuate. That break sent floodwaters surging through residential streets there. About 30 homes and a dozen businesses in Santa Clara were damaged. Steady heavy rain saturated the ground and it overwhelmed the dike. That's messy.
And more than 100 people have died in a garment factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan overnight. Authorities say all of the victims, including a child were factory employees. Dozens of people may still be trapped in the basement of that building as well and officials still don't know what caused the fire.
ROMANS: All right. Thirty-four minutes past the hour.
Now, that the 9/11 remembrances have passed, we can expect the president and his Republican challenger to resume the bashing. President Obama will campaign this afternoon at a rally in Las Vegas. It will be his seventh visit to Nevada this year. And Mitt Romney is in the battleground state of Florida. He'll be holding a rally in Jacksonville this morning after attending a fundraiser.
SAMBOLIN: Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is speaking out for the first time since taking the social network public. Zuckerberg was interviewed at a tech conference in San Francisco yesterday. Look at him there. He addressed concerns about Facebook's freefalling stock and the company's long-term future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: You know, I mean, the performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing, right? And we care about our shareholders and the commitment that we made is that we're going to execute this mission of making the world more open and connected. And, we're going to do the things that we think are going to build value over the long-term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Zuckerberg also says a top priority for Facebook going forward is its mobile strategy.
ROMANS: All right. That drawer with all your old gadgets about to welcome a new addition. Apple is expected to officially unveil the iPhone 5 in a few hours. Will the phone be slimmer? Will it be smarter -- what we can expect, next.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News. ROMANS: We've been telling you about the violence against U.S. facilities oversea in Cairo and in Benghazi. We can now tell you, according to Reuters and AFP, America's ambassador to Libya has been killed in this violence. His name is Chris Stevens. This again is reporting from Reuters and AFP.
We are working with our folks to confirm it, but Ambassador Chris Stevens who just came into that post in May. He was brought into that post in Tripoli in May was killed yesterday in those attacks on our facilities in Benghazi. Now, the State Department confirmed last night the death of the State Department official.
At the time, last night, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, said our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who suffered in this attack at that time. We just knew it was a State Department official. You are seeing video of him right now, Chris Stevens. Now, Reuters and AFP are saying that it is, indeed, the American ambassador to Libya who perished in that attack on our embassy.
SAMBOLIN: And again, his name is John Christopher Stevens, and he was born in Northern California in 1960. And he came to Libya for a second time in April of 2011 arriving on a cargo ship. The U.S. government sent him to rebel headquarters in Benghazi to serve as a special representative to the Libyan National Transitional Council there.
And all of this violence really escalated and stemmed from a movie. An anti-Muslim movie that was created by an American, and it was actually circulated on Facebook.
SAMBOLIN: And there was a call to action to go to the U.S. embassy in Cairo and to protest, and that is precisely what happened and the protest there got violent. And, we had heard yesterday that an American was killed in Libya, and this is who the American turned out to be.
ROMANS: In Benghazi. And he has a long history -- you know, I have to say, that I mean, just reaching into my memory and I cannot member a sitting ambassador being killed. So, this is obviously something -- there's security in all of these facilities.
It is something -- obviously, it's very, very serious for this -- what it pretends for the safety of Americans around the world, but most immediately in Egypt and in Libya, but this is a man who had a long history sort of in the region. He was a peace corps volunteer in Morocco from 1983 to 1985.
He's had previous overseas assignments and obviously knows the region very, very well. And again, we've known that there was a State Department death -- State Department official was killed late yesterday. We didn't know who. And now, it is Reuters and AFP who are reporting that it is the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, who died in that attack. SAMBOLIN: Yes. And they actually say it's a U.S. ambassador and three staffers that were killed in the militia attack on the Benghazi consulate. And we just talked to a reporter not too long ago in Cairo who said that, you know, there was a lot of violence, but this is not the way that all of the Egyptians feel.
And at the end of the day, she wanted Americans, in particular, to understand that this was not a call to action for all Egyptians, but it really is a specific group of people that engage in this type of violence.
ROMANS: Yes. I want to bring in Mona Eltahawy again. She's a journalist who's in the region. She's in Cairo right now, in particular. And you know, there are two different situations here. So, there's Libya. There's the consulate in Benghazi, and that's where this particular attack happened.
Then, there's also Cairo which -- with burning of the American flag, a little different tone and tenor, two different situations stemmed, we believe, by the same -- I think to call it a movie, Mona, might be -- it was sort of a video, a homemade video that really has sparked a lot of violence among the right-wing groups. Tell us a little bit about that.
ELTAHAWY: Yes, exactly. It's a really badly made film that most people have not seen. I mean, I cannot emphasize this enough. This is more than a film. It is more about political manipulation of outrage.
It's about manufactured outrage, and it's about a right-wing fringe element that is trying to assert itself at a time when we have a president who, himself, belong to a movement that used to be on the ring wing in Egypt but is now trying to be more center.
When you look at the Libyan situation, you're also talking about a group that is trying to assert itself at a time when Libya is trying to move on with its resolution. So, this is a very, very exceptional and tense moment for those countries (INAUDIBLE).
ROMANS: Mona, let me jump in here, because the Reuters reporting is that the U.S. ambassador and three of the staffers were killed in a rocket attack. That takes it to a different level in the protest you were seeing where you are in Cairo. A rocket attack that targeted his car in Eastern Libya, city of Benghazi.
Obviously, CNN is trying to confirm all of that, but that is the Reuters reporting. AFP is also reporting that it is the Libyan ambassador, the American ambassador to Libya who has been killed. What do we know about groups that may be targeting American officials at this point? That implies a slightly greater level of sophistication, I would think, than what you're seeing right now in Cairo.
ELTAHAWY: Absolutely. The situation in Cairo was unarmed people. I didn't hear of any protests (ph) in Egypt using any weapons. The most that we heard of what people scaling the embassy compound. What happened in Libya speaks more to the situation there about the availability of weapons to various groups there since the resolution began and ended with the death of Gadhafi and the handover of power to new government.
What happened in Libya is absolutely outrageous and I'm hearing from many Libyan who are very saddened by the death of the U.S. ambassador and embassy staff. And they were saying this is not what our resolution was about. And in fact, this is worse. This is an insult to the resolution and an insult to the very topic (ph) of Islam that people offensively are trying to defend here.
ROMANS: A distinction, I think, that extremists don't make, Mona, right?
ELTAHAWY: No, absolutely. What these extremists are doing is that they plan to speak on behalf of -- you know, the millions of Muslims around the world. They do not speak for me as a Muslim. They do not speak for the majority of Libyans and Egyptians.
And I cannot emphasize enough to your viewers that the people responsible for the attack in Libya and the people responsible for the protest in Egypt belong to a fringe minority on the right wing who do not represent the majority of people in Egypt and Libya.
ROMANS: OK. Stick with us, Mona, because this is obviously still developing. We want you to be with us and give us your perspective in your context, but we're going to move on here quickly.
SAMBOLIN: Yes. Elise Labott is actually standing by. And Elise, what can you tell us? We know these are very late-breaking details, but what can you tell us?
VOICE OF ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, everybody is coming -- all the reports right now are coming out of Libya, the State Department and the Obama administration as a whole really mum many sources of meetings right now.
They don't want to speculate on whether it's true, although, obviously a lot of reports that it is, but even if the embassy was -- this consulate was working to restore that compound even as they reported the death of one U.S. official and didn't mention that person's name, they were still trying to secure that compound.
So, they thought that everything was going to be OK, even several sources telling me last night that the immediate danger was gone, but certainly, it doesn't look that way this morning.
ROMANS: Elise, tell us a little bit. So, you've got the compound in Benghazi. It comes under attack as there's this sort of this wave of anger about this homemade video. It comes under attack by gunfire. Presumably they would try to, and I don't want to speculate, but you would think that they would move them to a safer location. Tell us a little bit about the American facilities in Libya that you know.
LABOTT: Well, I've been in Tripoli, Libya. I haven't been in Benghazi. And in fact, when I was in Libya in 2007 last, Chris Stevens was the U.S. (INAUDIBLE), if you will, the head of the mission in Libya. And they were fortified facilities. Now, the reports coming out of Libya is that he died of smoke inhalation.
It seems as if last night that the building itself was secured, and perhaps, some of these people have made it to get the building as the reports say set it on fire. But, the first thing in any U.S. mission is to secure the actual facilities where these people are. Sometimes, if the compound isn't necessarily safe, you have U.S. marines on the ground, you have U.S. diplomatic security on the ground.
And the first role is to secure that facility. So, it doesn't look as if, you know, again from these reports, because we're speculating right now that these people were shot, that gunmen were able to get to them, but as we said, the first thing is to secure that facility. And it seems that, right now, that maybe it was smoke inhalation.
ROMANS: Well, the Reuters report is there was a rocket attack on a car. So, clearly, we don't know all the details yet and the State Department who will give us the final say on what exactly happened. You say you knew him or he'd been there when you were there in Libya. What's his reputation?
LABOTT: I have known Chris Stevens for about ten years. He's considered one of the top, really top diplomats of the State Department, really a Middle East hand that has been all around the region, really sought by people as someone who really knew the region, spoke Arabic fluently. And also -- Libya.
And as I said, he was in Libya several years ago as the head of the U.S. embassy to Libya. As the U.S. was trying to regain its footing with the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, he was there trying to rebuild both political and economic ties, but really touched the Libyan people. He used to speak so fondly of the Libyan people there.
And then, when all this happened, he was hired, when everything happened with the conflict in Libya, he was hired as the special envoy because he has so many contacts on the ground. He was able to help the people in your native language, knew the country, and he was seen as being so effective in helping gain the trust of the Libyans with the United States.
And so, when Moammar Gadhafi's regime was over and they were talking about putting an ambassador there, he was really the only choice. And I was at the swearing in and several parties for him as he was -- he was so very excited to get back to the country that he loved so much.
SAMBOLIN: Do you know anything personal about him? We do know that he was born in California in 1960. Anything about his family?
LABOTT: Born in California, really had a lot of ties to the Northern California area. In fact, we used to talk both about wanting to retire there. Single, in his 50s. I met his parents, really lovely people and so proud of him as he was getting on. He was really known as one of the shining stars and very popular in the U.S. for his service. And everyone really liked him. He was just really a nice person, really caring about you. If something happened to you, when my father died earlier this year, he gave me a call. So, I mean, really trying to reach out to everybody, really known as one of the most popular people of the State Department.
ROMANS: And Elise, as someone -- you cover the State Department, you've known the ambassador, now ambassador for some ten years, to have this -- this is obviously a tragedy. We're still awaiting confirmation from the State Department from the administration about exactly what happened here and the names and the identities of the people who were killed.
But to have personnel killed in an attack like this, I mean, tell me what happens next in the State Department standpoint. I mean, at some point, they're going to have to come out and confirm this and give us more details.
LABOTT: Again, we don't want to suspect what happened, but if these reports are true and the fact that everybody is kind of undercover right now, it might suggest that they are. The first thing is to secure not only the facilities in Libya but also the facilities under diplomatic personnel of the Mid-East at large.
And you saw Secretary Clinton's statement from earlier this morning emphasizing that point, that not only was the U.S. working to secure that compound in Benghazi, but also all of the facilities around the world, because as we saw what happened in Cairo yesterday, a lot of anti-American sentiment and there's been a lot of anti-American sentiment during this whole resolution.
This whole Arab spring, obviously, it was not about the United States, but even though the United States tried to help out where it thought it could, certainly, it's not on the winning end of this and seems to be very unpopular. So, right now, really closing -- trying to secure the facilities. And then, I think that there's going to be a lot of sadness at the State Department, a lot of (INAUDIBLE).
It's not all going to be -- once in a while, you hear about a foreign service officer killed and there's a ceremony at the State Department and everyone speaks about that, but not to make light of any particular person, but it's usually one or two people, someone killed in action, sometimes a contractor, sometimes someone from -- someone who is so know, so well-known by so many people in the United States, in the State Department and around the world.
I think there's going to be a lot of shock today at the State Department as they try to make sense of what went wrong. The U.S. was really working to help build the new Libyan country as it got off its feet. And he was one of the early people of recognizing the opposition. And speaking about right now, this whole revolution.
They thought that they were helping these Democratic movements. We've seen an Islamic movement have swept into power, and obviously, in some cases, we don't want to stereotype about the generality of an Islamist movement. They're not (INAUDIBLE) United States. And obviously, some of them are violent, but I think there's going to be a lot of side (ph) up Syria right now.
Who can we trust? Who can we represent? Who can we help because there's a lot of uncertainty in Syria right now about Islamic movements. And I think something like this is really going to make people, unfortunately, only think twice about doing anything further in Syria.
ROMANS: Elise Labott, we're going to check with you again in just a moment.
I want to reset for the viewers in the United States and around the world who are joining us what's happening here. Reuters and AFP are reporting that America's ambassador to Libya has been killed in that violence we've been telling you about in Benghazi, at the consulate in Benghazi. It's unclear exactly how that happened.
Reuters is reporting it was a rocket attack on his car that there were three other State Department personnel who were killed. We do know there was a fatality with the State Department confirming that for us last night telling us that a State Department official have perished in the violence there in Benghazi at the U.S. consulate.
But now, Reuters and AFP are reporting that, indeed, it is the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Someone who took that post in May, someone who is a long Libya hand, Middle East hand. Elise Labott from our State Department producer telling us that, indeed, she's known him for ten years, knows him and his parents.
And he's a career member of the senior Foreign Service. He was appointed by President Obama and arrived in Tripoli in May 2012 to serve as ambassador to the new Libya, the new post-Arab spring Libya. He was a special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council during the Libyan resolution.
Someone with a great deal of respect and experience in the region. Reuters and AFP are reporting that he has been killed, an American ambassador killed in the violence against the U.S. consulate.
SAMBOLIN: We are waiting for the State Department to confirm those details.
In the meantime, we have Jomana Karadsheh. She is a CNN reporter. She is live in Tripoli, Libya, for us this morning. What can you tell us?
VOICE OF JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. embassy in Tripoli has been very tight-lipped. They are not confirming these reports at this point. Like you mentioned, news agencies were reporting that Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in that attack in Benghazi.
Libyan officials to the foreign ministry here is also not confirming this news yet, but we are hearing from the Libyan government that they will be holding a press conference in about one hour with the prime minister and the speaker of the Libyan parliament. This absolutely is not going to look good for the new Libya, especially as it is trying to bring back foreign interest and foreign businesses into the country, its inability to protect such missions like the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as it was attacked, again, back in June when a bomb exploded right outside the consulate.
And there have been a series of attacks claimed by Islamic extremists in that area, in Eastern Libya, one targeting the British ambassador. His convoy was hit just a couple of months ago. So, this entity to protect western interest here definitely does not reflect well on the (INAUDIBLE), but many Libyans here are condemning this attack.
Regular people and top officials are issuing statements condemning this violence saying that this is a small group, a minority group, and this is not the way Libyans feel about the United States and those western that helped them last year in their revolution to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
SAMBOLIN: We're talking about this as we're also talking about what happened in Cairo overnight. Is there any connection between these two?
KARADSHEH: At this point, there has been no clear connection between them. The group that starts it, this demonstration outside the U.S. embassy yesterday, is Ansar al-Sharia. This is a radical militant group. They are heavily armed. They are operational in the eastern part of the country.
We have seen them taking to the streets of Benghazi with heavy weaponry in the past calling for Islamic Sharia law in Libya and establishing Islamic. They are clearly anti-western. And, it is not clear if this was coordinated in any way, but it does -- from speaking to an eyewitness who was by the consulate yesterday, they said that they were out by the -- to protest against this film.
They said that they had no intention of turning it violent. They said they turned up there in a peaceful demonstration. And Libyan security forces were opening fire on the protesters and made that -- that's what made them go back to get their weapons and engage in hours of intense serious clashes with the security forces.
ROMANS: Jomana, let's talk a little bit more about that film, because you laid out a long list of attacks on western -- or attempted attacks on western interests there. And then, there's this film, this -- I think calling it a film is actually giving it too much credit. It's more like a video, a homemade video that was insulting to Islam. Was that just, I guess, the fuel to an already crackling fire?
KARADSHEH: It does seem so. It does seem like -- some people were saying that maybe many Libyans I spoke to last night said there are -- the people who went out to protest outside the embassy had not even seen this video, but they had heard of it and decided to go out and protest. Again, these are small groups.
These are minority groups, but they are strong. They are powerful. And they have been able to carry out attacks like this. Libya is a country with weapons. They have not been able to collect the weapons and disarm the hundreds of militias across the country. So, this really underscores the fragility of the security situation here.
While it seems to be relatively safe, you see attacks like this that really have the risk of destabilizing the country and sending a message to the west that Libya is not the country that they hoped would emerge from this revolution.
ROMANS: Just quickly, Reuters and AFP are reporting that the Libyan ambassador, the American ambassador to Libya has been killed in the violence against U.S. consulate in Benghazi. And now, CNN has some reporting to give some more contacts to this. A Greek contractor with the U.S. mission in Benghazi, that facility that was attacked yesterday.
This Greek contractor with mission is telling CNN that he identified the body of the U.S. ambassador to Libya this morning in a Benghazi street. This contractor does not want to be identified by name for fear for his safety, but he knew the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, before he knows who he is and identified that body.
That's coming into CNN. That's the detail we can give you from those AFP and Reuters reports.
SAMBOLIN: Yes. And we'd like to welcome all of our viewers from around the state and the world this morning as we share this news with you. One of the things that we've been talking about, in particular, is whether or not there was this correlation between what is happening in Cairo, what happened overnight in Cairo and this film.
And as I was reading some of the details online, particularly the youth in that area, they were saying that in the United States, we really value here our freedom of speech, but for them, this is a religious issue. And at the end of the day, it is more important to them than the freedom of speech.
ROMANS: Our coverage continues right here on EARLY START.