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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Protests against Anti-Islamic Film Break Out Across Middle East; Interview with Mike Rogers; U.S. Consulate Worker In Berlin Falls Ill; "One Of The Saddest Days In My Life"; Trading Tear Gas And Molotov Cocktails; Mass Protests At U.S. Embassy In Yemen; The Smear That Ended A Career

Aired September 13, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. Once again, a very, very busy news morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. Soledad O'Brien off all this week. Our "starting point" today: breaking news, chaos spreading across the Middle East this morning. New clashes erupt overnight in Iran, Yemen, and in Egypt right outside the U.S. embassies. We are live in each of those locations with the latest.

BALDWIN: All of this as the U.S. is amping up the hunt for a killer mob. We now have Marines on the ground and Navy destroyers moving in after those ferocious rioters stormed the U.S. embassy in Libya as well as killing four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

BERMAN: And was that deadly attacked planned and organized well in advance before these violent protests? Were the attackers using the protests just as a diversion? We will get the answers to these key questions this morning.

BALDWIN: It is Thursday, September 13th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Breaking news here this early Thursday morning. We have Iran, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya. We're talking about all four this morning new clashes now and anger. It's really spreading throughout the Middle East in the overnight hours.

CNN reporting mobs, protesters outside a Swiss embassy in Tehran, Iran, which handles U.S. interests there and at the U.S. embassies in Sana'a, that is the capital of Yemen, and of course, in Cairo in Egypt.

BERMAN: We want to get right to Iran right now. We are on the phone with Shirzad Bozorgmehr, who hopefully can tell us what's going on in Tehran. What is the latest, Shirzad? SHIRZAD BOZORGMEHR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John the protests against this new anti-Islam film took about two hours. It started about noon local time, about two-and-a-half hours ago, and wrapped up about half an hour ago. There are only about a dozen riot, anti-riot police still stationed around the embassy compound, but I didn't see anything move inside or inside the embassy at all, I couldn't see anything. I don't know if there's anybody in there at all or not.

But the protests are very peaceful. The crowds of university students were kept well away from the embassy compound by the police and anti- riot police. There were no arrests made. There were no violence whatsoever. It was a very peaceful demonstration and the students read a statement at the end that supported their Egyptian and Libyan brethren in their recent acts and they said that they sympathize with their feelings. But other than that, the whole thing was peaceful.

BALDWIN: And that's great to hear, given the other scenes playing out in other parts of the Middle East. Shirzad, this is Brooke, and I wanted to make it clear, if people were wondering why it is they're protesting outside of the Swiss embassy, that represents U.S. interests in Tehran. And just final question to you, as you were there and you were talking to these students protesting peacefully, what are they saying specifically about Americans?

BOZORGMEHR: Well, I didn't -- I wasn't there when that was at the height of the protests. I got toward the end of it and they were just wrapping up. But as usual, they blame the United States, Israel, and the west in general. And the main protest was, again, as you said, the recent claim that was made that it appeared to be anti-Islamic. And they issued statements in support of their federal students in Egypt and Libya.

BERMAN: All right, Shirzad live on the ground in Tehran this morning, where the protests in front of the Swiss embassy there do appear to be over. As we said, there were other protests around the region overnight, much larger protests in the capital of Sana'a. Mohammed Jamjoom joins us on the phone right now. He is in Beirut, but he has been watching the developments in Yemen very closely. What is going on right there, as far as you can tell?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, eyewitnesses on the ground there in Sana'a tell us that most of the crowd has dispersed. It was initially between 2,000 to 3,000 angry demonstrators, angry over this film that had emerged through the U.S. embassy in Sana'a earlier today, but now it's only in the dozens.

What we were told by eyewitnesses witnessing all of this is that this was an angry crowd and that at least five or six members of this crowd had been able to breach the compound's security, had been able to get to one of the main gates and break one of the windows. But initially Yemeni security forces shot into the air to try to disperse the crowd. But then more Yemeni security were deployed in and around the embassy. We're told about a thousand member of the Yemenis security forces came out to protect the embassy and eventually employed a water-cannon as well. Now, one of the key things we heard today from officials was the Yemeni security, that they were very concerned that this crowd could turn more violent and more angry and were trying to calm the situation down. At one point, they were trying to push the crowd back by using batons, rather than threatening with their guns or their rifles, because they didn't want to anger the crowd even more than that.

BERMAN: We've been watching the pictures all morning, and this did appear like a very large crowd. It was tumultuous. As you said, it was the Yemeni security forces who ultimately turned them back. Was this difficult? Were U.S. forces involved at all from inside the embassy?

JAMJOOM: John, we've not been able to reach U.S. officials. We don't know yet if they were evacuated the embassy or what's been going on inside the embassy. They've not issued any statement as to what the security situation is within the U.S. embassy right now, or if any of the U.S. security officials inside the embassy compound were involved in trying to repel that crowd. We don't know at this point.

We do know, however, that the Yemeni government was quite concerned. We've already seen a statement by a spokesperson for the Yemeni embassy in Washington. He says the situation has calmed down sufficiently. The Yemeni government also strongly condemning what happened today, saying the situation needs to calm down. They were quite concerned, and glad there have been no casualties in what happened today.

But, essentially, the Yemeni government has deployed more security around the situation in Sana'a because their afraid the situation could become more volatile. You're talking about Yemen, the capital, a place in the last couple of years, it's been quite commonplace for protests to break out within moments. It's very easy for people to organize there and sometimes protests become more violent. There is a concern that they could try to rally again later in evening and that's what they're going to be watching.

BERMAN: We're looking at some pictures right now, some tape pictures of what these protests look like overnight. And they got up very close to the entrance of the embassy. And as you said, some, a handful, even breached the outer wall there. That's got to be of immense concern to embassy officials there.

JAMJOOM: That's a huge concern, especially for the Yemeni officials we've been speaking with today. I've been to Sana'a many times, I've reported from there many times. I've been to the U.S. embassy compound many times. That is one of the most heavily guarded compounds you will find in the capital of Sana'a and, arguably, within the entire country. You have Yemeni security around there. You have embassy security around there.

The question I've been hearing most from the people I've been speaking with is how could an angry crowd have gotten that close to the embassy? How could they have been around to get that close? How could five or six or even ten be able to breach the compound and get that close? Those are the questions right now. We've heard those questions the last couple of days about other embassies as well.

But when you're talking about a city where the security situation is as concerning as it is in Sana'a, what's happened so that an angry mob that is marching the towards the U.S. embassy could get as close as they did and breach the perimeter of the embassy and that's something that's going to be much discussed and much analyzed in the hours to come.

BERMAN: Thank you very much, Mohammed Jamjoom, following the developments for us in Yemen this morning.

BALDWIN: The first mob scene, first it was Egypt, then it was Libya, and now we are watching Yemen. I want to talk to you specifically about Cairo this morning, where there is still more fallout and really new fury there on the city streets. You see the smoke. They're trading the tear gas, tossing Molotov cocktails. This is just outside the U.S. embassy.

We have Ian Lee once again for us in Cairo. Ian, before we talk about specifically what President Morsi has finally said, just set the scene for me right now.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, right now we have a few hundred protesters, if you can see behind me. They're battling it out with the police. Like you said, we're seeing tear gas, seeing rock throwing, seeing at times Molotov cocktails. This has been an ongoing battle for over 12 hours now. It has not died down. It's still pretty heavy clashes.

But this is a very isolated incident. If you look in other directions around me, in other parts of Cairo, life is going on as normal. This is really just 300 people going up against security forces about 100 yards outside the U.S. embassy. These protesters are shouting anti- American slogans and their same seems to be like to go toward the American embassy.

But still, it is right now a really war of attrition. Neither side really is committed on pushing further. And the police don't seem very committed to crushing this, ending this. They seem very content on just continuing the status quo. The protesters seem very content on continuing the battle with police. So there's ongoing battle. We're past the 12-hour mark and it still has not seen any -- like it's going to die down at all.

BALDWIN: That was my next question. If anyone whatsoever was trying to restore order to this chaos that is still playing out, as you mentioned, 12 hours later in Cairo. We've talked a lot, Ian, about reaction or lack thereof from this new leader in Egypt, Mohammed Morsi. I know that finally, unlike the situation in Libya, where they immediately came out and condemned the attacks in Benghazi, there was a moment before the Muslim Brotherhood put out a statement on Facebook. Now we've heard from the president in Brussels. Tell me what President Morsi has said.

LEE: Well, this has been an ongoing thing. After Tuesday night, when the protesters stormed the embassy, we immediately heard from the foreign ministry theory in Egypt, condemning the attack. But it was really the higher level of government remained quiet. Finally the prime minister came out condemning the attack against the embassy, but the first message that President Mohamed Morsi issued was harsh condemnation against the film that sparked the demonstrations, but really had no harsh criticism of the protesters who broke out into the -- or the protesters that broke into the embassy.

But today we're hearing a new tune. President Mohammed Morsi has finally come out with a statement and said that he strongly condemns those who broke into the embassy, saying these are not part of Egyptians, these are not Muslims. He also said that he is going to provide better security for diplomatic missions in Egypt to make sure that protesters aren't able to break into different embassies.

And this is something we've been watching for the last year. We've seen the Israeli embassy broken into, the Syrian embassy broken into. And last Tuesday we saw the American embassy breached. And these are, you know, this is something that shows that Egyptian security forces, up to now, haven't been able to protect diplomatic missions the from large mobs. Well, today, we are seeing the security forces on the ground, cordoning off the U.S. embassy, repelling protesters from it. Today, it looks like he's making good on his promise that protesters will not be able to go toward anymore diplomatic missions, any more embassies.

BALDWIN: Ian Lee for us in Cairo. Ian, don't go too far from the camera. We're going to come back to you. And just interestingly, we'll talk about this a little later, but in an interview with Telemundo, the President specifically said, when talking about Egypt, "I don't think we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy either." We have another number of members of Congress and a senator we'll talk to.

But let's talk right now about those Navy destroyers.

BERMAN: We've already been to Iran this morning. We've talked about Yemen and we were just in Cairo. Now let's talk about Libya again, because rate now, two U.S. Navy destroyers are heading right into position off the coast of Libya, and an elate Marines unit is heading to Tripoli to help protect the U.S. interests there. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon following this must military response. Tell us what's going on now, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Good morning, Brooke. And 50 U.S. Marines at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, at the capital for reinforcement security. They will help secure the embassy there and aid with any U.S. workers there that need help. But the big issue, of course, is that now the two U.S. Navy destroyers sailing to the coast of Libya, the USS McFaul, the USS Laboon. Why are they so important? These ships carry tomahawk missiles. This will give President Obama another option.

We already know unmanned drones flew over Libya looking for intelligence on who may have been responsible for the attacks on Benghazi, looking at al Qaeda-related militant groups, where they are located, where are the encampment, the strongholds? They will gather the intelligence.

Then two options on the table, perhaps. Libyan forces could try to go after some of these targets once they're identified, or possibly now, the President has the option. He could order those ships to fire their tomahawk missiles against those targets. The President said justice will be done. Now some of the options being put into place. John?

BERMAN: So Barbara, drones are looking for them, possible special forces action if we find them or tomahawk missiles. Do you have a sense of any time frame here?

STARR: We believe, you know, the first ship probably already, frankly, within range of any target, the Libyan coast. We know that it was very close by in port in the Mediterranean. Second ship should be there within a couple of days.

No indication of U.S. boots on the ground that we know of. This is likely to be something where the drones overhead will get the intelligence. That will be presented to the President, possibly presented to the Libyan authorities.

The problem with the Libyans being able to go after these targets, this is eastern Libya east of Benghazi. Al Qaeda strongholds and militia strongholds are throughout this region. The Libyan government has a lot of problems controlling this area, under the control of a lot of tribes. So if you could get the tribes to go after them that might be an option. But it might be the case that the President will say, OK, now I've got these other things in place.

He could also send in drones again, armed with missiles. He could use the tomahawks. It remains to be seen. The President said justice will be done, pieces in place. What will he decide to do? That's the question.

BALDWIN: Barbara, here's my question, just listening to you speaking is the fact that the, you know, security on the ground in Libya were not obviously strong enough to quell the mobs, just a couple of days ago in Benghazi. Why should we trust Libyans to then take out this potentially al Qaeda franchise in eastern Libya?

STARR: Well, we'll see if they try and get the Libyans to do that. It is going to be a problem, because, as we say, the government of Libya, not yet strong enough to really operate east of Benghazi in any significant way. This is an area controlled by tribes, controlled by militias. So it might well be that the President will decide it will be U.S. military assets that go after the targets.

But they're going to want to find -- they're going to want to be able to demonstrate, if you will, whatever target they hit, if they hit one, we want to be clear, we don't know, that if they were to hit a target, that they've got solid intelligence. And you know, they will be looking at intercepts, at communications, at eavesdropping, overhead imagery, intelligence from any militias or tribes on the ground, rather, that are reporting in about what they see. So this could take some time. They're going to want to gather all the information they can and they're going to want to find out if these people have any other plots or plans in the works and try to deal with that as well.

BERMAN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, so much information coming out this morning. Thank you so much for bringing us the latest. We'll check back with you soon.

BALDWIN: Let's talk to someone who certainly knows a thing or two about intelligence, Congressman Mike Rogers from Michigan. He's the chair of the intelligence committee. He's been thoroughly briefed about the situation that's been percolating over the last couple of days in the Middle East. Mr. Chairman, good morning to you.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) MICHIGAN: Good morning.

BALDWIN: First, let's begin with these pictures. Live pictures out of the capital of Yemen. First we had Cairo, then we had Benghazi, now Yemen. How do you interpret this?

ROGERS: We've some problems across the Middle East. We need more clarification on what U.S. policy is in the Middle East. And a little bit of strength now will be incredibly important. So the fact that we are going to pursue with all vigor the folks that perpetrated the crime against our U.S. diplomats stationed in Benghazi, the fact that there may be more to this story in Egypt about how it was coordinated, was there an information operation with some extremist groups who used the protesters to try to penetrate the embassy? And now of course what you see in Yemen, these are all opportunities that are stacking up for individuals who want to go after American stations abroad.

So this is a very important time for us to have a very clear sense and communicate that to -- across the Middle East, what U.S. policy is, how we're going to handle people who cross the wall. This is a pretty serious matter and we've got to stop it now. If we're still talking about other embassies in several weeks, we've got real trouble.

BERMAN: Chairman Rogers, you are the chairman of the intelligence committee privy to some of the information that has been coming out overnight. You have been saying that we may be close to figuring out who exactly these groups were that did perpetrate this. What can you tell us? Was it one group in Libya, a separate group in Egypt? What do you think right now?

ROGERS: Well, I don't think -- at least today, I don't have anything that would say that they were working together. The effort on the compound in Benghazi clearly was a coordinated type effort. This wasn't some folks who grabbed some rifles and said this is a great opportunity. Let's go down and shoot up the embassy.

BERMAN: Al Qaeda, do you think?

ROGERS: It certainly has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda operation or an al Qaeda affiliate. And one of the things that we've noticed over the last sixes or seven months is that al Qaeda in the Maghreb, northern Africa, have said they're really eager to strike northeastern targets. We've seen cells in Libya and Egypt starting to develop.

Of course, we knew cells in Yemen. So we knew that there were activities, and I think this was at least a high-profile example. And remember, the site of Benghazi was the target of several months ago of an IED attack. So this is not the first time that they've tried to cause some casualties and kill some Americans at this particular site. So we knew all of this was kind of putting together, and it's likely, given the signature, that it was at least an al Qaeda affiliate organization.

BALDWIN: Not the first time they've certainly been on the radar, that's an understatement. and I know intelligence folks are going to be what they call rescrubbing, looking at, you know, old, old chatter to see if there were any warning signs. Were there no warning signs that you knew of that this would have been potentially so carefully planned?

ROGERS: Well, nothing that at least we have seen up to this date. And then, you're right, we'll all go back, and we'll, as our job as the oversight committee, will be to go back and take a look at all of that information, see what we may have missed, and if so, why did we miss it?

But the interesting thing, obviously we knew 9/11 is an important date for al Qaeda and others who want to cause some harassment to the United States, so security was at least -- they did a scrub around the date, just to see if there was anything out there. It didn't seem like there was, but we're going to have to go back, a lot of questions to ask in this.

Same with Egypt -- even though it was different, it wasn't a coordinate military-style attack, we know that for months, they have been infiltrating protesters and, and these are extremist groups who have very anti-American views. We need to understand that they were trying to do more than just protest, and if 9/11 was the day to trigger this event to go over the wall into the embassy.

BERMAN: I want to talk about Egypt. The response from the new leader Mohammed Morsi has been tepid, to say the least. I think that would be a gross overstatement right now. He put a statement out on Facebook kind of half condemning the violence out there.

And then President Obama last night gave an interview where he talked about our relationship with Egypt using very, very interesting language that I have to say I have never heard before. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy. They are a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident.

I think it's still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation, what we're going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: "Not an ally, not an enemy," Mr. Chairman. Do you agree with that statement, especially in light of the fact that they're the second largest recipient of foreign aid to us -- from us?

ROGERS: Well, remember, since 1979, since the accords, they have been an ally, been a very strong ally in the region for peace, which is important. And what happened with this new election is you have a government who is prominently the majority of which is Muslim Brotherhood who has made some very interesting and I argue, counterproductive choices. They moved tanks into the Sinai, that area between Israel and Egypt that has now become inflamed with violence and weapons and all of those things. That caused a whole bunch of problems. There was some discussion, how do we negotiate bringing the tanks back out of the Sinai, very provocative.

And they've had over decisions in Egypt, including the fact that they were not very responsive on this -- on protecting our embassy in Egypt. And so they have some -- a little bit of anti-Israeli rhetoric, a little bit of anti-American rhetoric though some of their speeches and policies. So that's why right now there is a question mark. Which direction is Egypt going to go? Are they going to be a friend, an ally of the United States or are they going to go off on their own path, which is going to set up a whole new set of problems for Egypt.

And remember, some of this is for domestic politics. They have a horrible economy and it's going to get worse. And sometimes in cases like that, we notice that the easy default is, hey, you might not have a job, have no hope, but let's hate the American or the Israelis across the border. And I think there's some of that going on in Egypt right now, which is very disturbing and will lead to some serious trouble if we don't get this turned around.

BALDWIN: Chairman Rogers, one final question. And I know as Americans are waking up this morning and they're seeing these pictures play out in Yemen and other countries, and they're thinking back to the last time we saw this, a celebratory revolution, and they're wondering, is the Arab spring coming back to haunt us? What's your answer?

ROGERS: Well, I think it's too early to tell. I think there are certainly huge challenges. The problem is, in Egypt, there's a great example of the Arab spring. The people who caused the uprising, caused the change in government, caused the revolution in Egypt aren't really part of the government now. So it was the youth, it was the folks who were disenfranchised, highly educated, very high unemployment and very well-connected with social media, which is the thing that tipped this thing over. But those people weren't very organized. The Muslim Brotherhood had been there for a long time. They had a political organization. I think if you sampled the people who helped turn Egypt over, they're not -- they're feeling a little disenfranchised, the day that Morsi was sworn in. That's the problem you have in the Arab spring. And we see it kind of filtering around all over, a little bit in Libya, a smaller amount in Tunisia, but certainly in Egypt, the same in Yemen. So you see these changes where people still, on the day of the free election, still feel disenfranchised. And that's something we haven't quite gotten our arms around yet.

BALDWIN: Mike Rogers, chairman of the house intelligence committee, we'll continue this conversation I'm sure at some point.

Again, breaking news coverage continuing right here all morning long, turmoil spreading across the Middle East. Protesters furious over this controversial film about Muslims made here in the U.S. they have now stormed the grounds of the American embassy in Yemen. We're watching all the latest for you.

BERMAN: Also ahead, remembering Chris Stevens. We've hardly talked about him this morning. The ambassador that died in Benghazi, the city he helped to save. We'll talk to Libya's ambassador to the U.S. next. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. As we've been saying, there is news developing every minute here this morning. And we have still more breaking news. Right now it's out of Berlin in Germany, the U.S. consulate there. We are hearing that there was a letter delivered to the consulate, to an employee there. She opened the letter and apparently fell ill. There are people on the scene right now investigating a substance that was found near the scene. They are questioning a man who delivered the letter right now. There is developing news coming from Germany right now. We're going to get on the phone right now with CNN's Fred Pleitgen right now, who can hopefully shed some light on what's going on right there.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi, there. It really is a fluid situation. We're heading out to the scene right now. It's unclear whether or not this letter actually arrived in the mail or whether this person handed in his visa documents to the employee. But what we do know is that a man came up to this visa counter, handed in his documents, including his passport. And then an employee of the embassy then said she was feeling ill, was having trouble breathing, there was dizziness involved as well.

But we know that a white substance was found in the area, and the Berlin police department and the Berlin fire department are on the scene. There's a decontamination vehicle, a decontamination unit there as well, and they're obviously probing this substance to see if there's anything to this. And as you said, the person who delivered these documents is inside the compound in the area and is currently being questioned by police. Certainly, this is very much a developing situation right now.

BALDWIN: So, Fred, again, just quickly, the person on the receiving end of this document, this packet who's now ill, this person is an American?

PLEITGEN: Yes. That's the information we have currently right now, that this person is an employee of the embassy, is an American, and has been brought to a hospital. There's also some information that we haven't yet been able to corroborate about whether or not two additional people from the embassy have also been to the hospital as well.

The police spokesperson that I spoke to just a couple of minutes ago said he didn't have any information about that and wasn't able to confirm that yet. I'll get that to you as soon as possible.

The latest information we have is this is an American. She was in the hospital. She was feeling ill. She was there for treatment as well as observation.

BALDWIN: OK, Fred Pleitgen for us in Berlin and just given everything what's been happening at U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East. Here we have Germany certainly -- we can't link any of them, but makes us ask a lot of question.

Fred Pleitgen, we appreciate that. We want to keep talking. Of course, here we are, one day after learning the very tragic news of the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador in Libya.

He was ultimately died in Benghazi, just about 24 or 48 hours ago. I want to bring in the Libyan ambassador to the United States. He is Ali Aujali. Mr. Ambassador, good morning to you.

ALI AUJALI, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Good morning.

BALDWIN: And of course, our condolences to the loss of your friend. This is a very personal loss for you. Can you just share a story about the ambassador?

AUJALI: Well, Chris, the ambassador is a hero. He's a Libyan hero. I know him about 16 years ago. I know him when he was a member of your embassy in Tripoli. And the people there like him and the minister of foreign affairs. He's a very sociable man.

And then when he came back to Washington. He's very good at tennis. We play together on the weekend. He comes to my house and we go to the tennis court in one car, and come back and have some breakfast.

He's the man with a sense of humor. He's the man that's very sociable. He likes Libya. He loved Libya. He's tied with the Libyan in the past after the revolution. Whenever you go to Libya and you mention his name, the people there say, that's Chris. That's a very nice man. I lost him as a friend, and I think Libya lost a very supportive man, a very supportive man in a very critical time, really.

BERMAN: It is such a big loss. And there are still so many questions about how he died and who killed him, Mr. Ambassador. You've been quoted as recently as last night saying that you believe that it was associates to the former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi who were behind this attack. Do you still believe that? AUJALI: Well, it is very difficult at this time to decide who is really exactly behind it. But if we look to the circumstances and the time when the attack took place, you know, you see that we received or the chief of intelligence during Gadhafi's.

He's a Libyan, see that the September 11th, they have a connection. And you see also, for example, this week, problems not only in Libya and many Muslim countries. And Gadhafi's people are still working.

They have money, especially in the neighboring countries, and I cannot ignore that they are not part of this attack. We have to find out and I hope that very soon we will find the person responsible for this attack and bring them to justice.

BERMAN: There are a lot of observers who think that the current Libyan government is all too quick to blame the Gadhafi regime for all of its problems.

I want to read you a quote from Human Rights Watch. It says, "The Libyan government has been blaming amorphous pro-Gadhafi elements for everything that goes wrong in their country. It's a way of denying the hard truth that the biggest threat they face to their hopes for democracy and the rule of law comes from among their own fellow former revolutionaries."

Mr. Ambassador, are there threats from within the very people who helped you take over that country?

AUJALI: I believe this is right. There are some people who are responsible for the bombing in Tripoli and they are having a connection with people who are living in neighboring countries and this is true.

Gadhafi was in power for 42 years and they are associated and they have money and they are freely moving from one place to another. But I must say, we have a lot of challenge in this time. Gadhafi left no institution behind.

We have to start everything from zero. The country under Gadhafi, it has no help, the people that desecrate. Unfortunate, after the revolution, the government also have to deal with many issues in Tripoli and in different cities and Benghazi is part of it. But, of course, we cannot blame the old regime for everything that's happening in Libya.

Now we just yesterday, for the first time in 42 years, that the prime minister was elected, by the national people's congress, and this is a good sign, but until now, he has to form his new government.

Of course, we need more personnel in the police and in the army. We send a few thousand to Turkey, send a few thousand to Jordan, but they are not back yet.

BALDWIN: Mr. Ambassador, if I may interrupt you on that point, that is a huge question, right? We've been talking a lot about Eastern Libya. You very well know that there is a lot of weaponry. That the borders, a lot of these jihadist extremists are able to come into the country because the borders aren't very secure in the eastern part of Libya, near Benghazi.

There is certainly this encampment of these extremist. And with all these security forces and police as you detail out of the country, who is helping keep those groups in check, the very groups that potentially took out our ambassador?

AUJALI: Well, I think maybe the -- because of the government not in control of Libya yet, and I think this may be -- maybe this very, very small group, I must tell you, that they are responsible for this, terrorist criminal actions, they have --

BALDWIN: Very small, but potentially very powerful.

AUJALI: Very small, but powerful, you know, but they're not big group. And I was reading, you know, the comments about what happened in Libya, and you see, I don't even see one comment that they support the attack against the American consulate.

We are really shamed. I feel shamed what happened in Benghazi. This is the city I born. This is the city I grown in. This is the city I studied in. And the people of Libya, they do appreciate very much the American support from the beginning.

And without your help, without your support, without the other, the NATO countries and some Arab countries' support, I would not be here today. Gadhafi will take over Libya again, and he will kill most of the people.

But I think we need the American to help us, not only during the revolution, we need them to help us now. This is the time. We have to understand that there is no option for the Libyan, except to establish a democratic country, which we can deal with the world.

We will not ever permit this kind of terrorist group to take over of Libya and lead us to destruct our relation and the hub of our people who have been waiting for a long time.

BALDWIN: And the Libyan ambassador to the United States, Mr. Ambassador, we appreciate it. It's significant he said, we need the help then, we still need the help now.

But to Libya's credit and people are writing to this morning, they immediately did come out and condemn the violence. And if you look at the recent polls, the majority of Libyans do support Americans and Americans' efforts --

BERMAN: And it was clear the ambassador certainly does not want to see a reduction in the U.S. presence in Libya. Not now, not anytime soon.

There is breaking news from all over the region right now, all over the Middle East. Stay with us, our continuing coverage will continue in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, welcome back here to STARTING POINT. I want to begin really with just a roundup because there is so much happening globally. This new information that we're just getting here at CNN, with regard to all these clashes in the Middle East this morning, Yemen, let's begin with Yemen.

The capital, Sana'a, really the latest flashpoint in this wave of anti-American violence spreading across the Muslim world, hundreds of protesters rioted outside the U.S. embassy in the capital of Sana'a overnight.

The crowds scaled the embassy walls. They smashed windows. You see them there, hanging, banging on the burning tires. Yemeni security forces, they were firing shots into the air, just trying to disperse the crowds.

You see here on the ground. Yemen's Embassy in Washington has now already come forward, condemned this attack, and says the situation at the embassy is under control and there were no casualties.

BERMAN: Not just in Yemen either. Tensions running high in Cairo too, riot police firing warning shots there and tear gas outside the U.S. Embassy overnight, trying to keep hundreds of protesters from storming the building there.

Demonstrators angered by that anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. They were throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at the embassy. Six Egyptian police officers were injured there.

BALDWIN: Right now, en route to the Libyan coast, these two Navy destroyers. Also, as far as bolstering security, this elite Marine unit on its way to the capital of Libya, to Tripoli, to protect U.S. interests there.

An independent judicial committee has been set up by the Libyan government to investigate the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed those four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

U.S. officials now believe that attack was planned and carried out by al Qaeda sympathizers who may have used all the demonstrators simply as a diversion to carry out their plot.

BERMAN: So Yemen, Cairo, Libya and now we have new video in to CNN from Iran. The semi-official "Forest News" agency reports students have gathered in front of the Swiss Embassy to protest that anti- Islamic film.

"Forest" is reporting police have set up a five-layer security line to protect the embassy and Swiss diplomats. Now why the Swiss Embassy? The United States does not have an embassy in Tehran so the Swiss Embassy usually handles American interests there.

They reportedly planned to stay there after the end of evening prayers. A lot to talk about this morning from all over the region.

We want to bring in a special guest right now, Jim Frederick of "Time" magazine joining us here on the set in New York. And from D.C., our foreign affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is at the State Debate.

Elise, let's start with you with the latest on Yemen.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we just received a statement from the president of the Yemen just moment ago, extending his sincere apologies to the people of the United States and to President Obama for the attack.

Said he's going to launch a thorough investigation, protect the embassy, do everything he can to protect the U.S. diplomatic facilities, and make sure that the people that were responsible are brought to justice.

He describes the protesters as a rowdy group that's trying to derail U.S./Yemeni relations. And this is what's so interesting, John, is that the U.S. helped get rid of Abdelul Saleh and put President Hadi in responding to the demands of the Yemeni people.

And President Hadi knows that he has to strike a very delicate balance right now protecting that critical relation with the United States that is going to help with his country, with his fragile economic situation. But he also is a moderate president in a country that has a lot of extremism. He has to have kind of conversation with his people to reach out to the Yemenis and say, listen, the Americans are our friend.

They don't look like that to the Yemenis who are mad about this movie and also what they see is drone strikes in their country. So it's a very delicate balance that president is walking, but wanted to make clear that the Yemenis are on top of this situation.

BALDWIN: That's what we're just noticing as were the Libyans just yesterday morning. Elise Labott, stand by.

I want to bring in Jim Frederick, again, international editor of "Time" magazine. This is the cover of the magazine. I thought it was interesting, if we could just share this. Lifting the veil of why, how you chose this cover, how you knew this story wasn't going away.

JIM FREDERICK, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, "TIME": Yes, Wednesday is when we're supposed to finish the issue. We had something completely different planned. Yesterday morning, we had the morning editorial meeting, how big a story is this going to be?

Obviously, the death of the ambassador is a huge tragedy. It's not really clear how it's going, but just sort of felt like it was building and building, and let's go ahead and do it.

So we ripped up the magazine, we decided to do this cover story. Probably six, eight hours into it as the whole staff is going crazy trying to finish this. One of our very top editors said it was a great choice, because, you know, late last afternoon, he said, it's very clear that this story is going away, that the bad news is I have no idea where this story is going. So it's just changing.

BERMAN: We went to bed last night, it was Libya and Cairo. We woke up this morning, it involves Yemen and Iran. What is the scope of this, the increasing scope of this? What does that signify to you?

FREDERICK: Well, I'm glad we went with the line that we did, which is, has the Arab spring made the world more unstable and more unsafe, especially for the west and the United States.

BALDWIN: Is there really an answer? I've read the piece.

FREDERICK: It's definitely early days. These countries are in the first flower of democratically elected governments. I would say early indications are that we are entering a new world where it actually might be more unstable.

It actually might be more unsafe for the United States and the west going forward. It's -- you know, these could become fair, stable, safe, United States democracies. But a lot of the elected officials in these governments, you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, which may or may not be moderate or left of certain other groups, have not historically been the greatest friends of the United States.

Which is why I think you had President Obama on Telemundo yesterday saying, you know, we don't know if they're an ally or a foe, which is interesting considering their the second largest recipient of international aid.

BALDWIN: And we were going to be forgiving that $1 billion debt as well. There's so much to cover in this piece. It was excellent written. We'll do that. Stay with us all morning long, please, sir.

But coming up here in our next hour, to just really weigh in on all of these breaking developments, we have Senator John McCain and Democratic Whip Congressman Steny Hoyer.

BERMAN: We also have Shirley Sherrod, a different subject altogether. She was in the news so much.

BALDWIN: Remember her story?

BERMAN: A couple of years ago, the subject of race. She has a new book out, talking about her life, her struggles with some really new interesting revelations. You'll want to stay with us. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: All right, smeared, taken out of context, forced out of her job. Shirley Sherrod was attacked from all sides after the late Andrew Breitbart posted a video of her speaking at NAACP event in 2010. BALDWIN: But --

BERMAN: But --

BALDWIN: He only selected a portion of that speech, one that showed her in the worst possible light. Here is a small sample of what he posted online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIRLEY SHERROD, FORMER USDA EMPLOYEE, AUTHOR OF "THE COURAGE TO HOPE": The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm I didn't give him the full force of what I could do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Sherrod lost her job at the U.S. Agriculture Department when that video, that mis-edited video hit the internet. But Breitbart's clip did not show what came next in her speech, which was this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERROD: What I've come to realize that we have to work together. We have to overcome the divisions that we have. We have to get to the point where race exists, but it doesn't matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now Shirley Sherrod is back in the public eye with a new book called "The Courage To Hope." We both read it here on STARTING POINT, enjoyed it thoroughly, very detailed, very interesting.

Shirley, just tell us. Since this whole controversy erupted well over a year ago now, what's changed in your life? Where are you now?

SHERROD: Well, I'm right back home doing the work I had done for years prior to going to USDA, working in my community, trying to help small farmers, trying to help get a process center for vegetables started, working on racial healing project in the area so just working.

BALDWIN: In the book, you really open up the book talking about the media circus and, look, it was. I was in Atlanta and I interviewed you in 2010. I just remember -- I'm sure you were spinning because of all of it.

And I just want to read this quote from your book, "I was three days into a media storm that had blown apart my life and challenged my very identity and purpose. Maybe for some people the experience would have been just another episode in an ongoing political drama, but I had never sought or enjoyed the limelight."

I'm sure it's sort of like a love/hate perhaps with the media. We helped you get your story out there, but at the same time it was a bit of a circus. SHERROD: Right. I've never really looked for the limelight. To have my whole life, my -- well, to be cast as a racist, something I had worked against all of my life, was just so unbelievable. But it was good to have -- to be able to use the press again to help get the truth out, which is what I wanted to do.

BERMAN: You had so much contact with so many people around that time. P resident Obama called you shortly after you were forced out of the USDA. You said you appreciated that conversation at the time.

But in your book, you wrote some interesting words about the President. You said, "I was disappointed that he caved so easily at the first hint of trouble. I was sad he was so easily cowed by right wing bullies. Neither the White House nor Secretary Vilsack had even bothered to check the facts before they threw me out."

You seem disillusioned with President Obama in the book and I'm wondering if that faded at all.

SHERROD: You know, I really support the President. Yes, they made a mistake initially, in my case, but I think he has done a great job. I support him and will vote for him.

BERMAN: In the book, you talk to your husband when he was first elected about the idea of this post-racial America. And in the book you said you were skeptical at the beginning of the administration that we would see any gains during the President's administration.

We're now at the end, nearly, of his first term, maybe his only term. Where is America in terms of racial harmony?

SHERROD: You know, it's sad. You would think we had gotten beyond a lot of what's happening. The President can't say anything that -- he's challenged on everything he says. I had hoped it wouldn't be that way. But it's sad that in terms of race relations, we take one step forward, three steps back.

BALDWIN: I just want to ask you, though -- not challenge you, but I'm just curious. This moment of clarity with the President where you really do write, though, in the book, where is my audacious president? What happened for you two it almost changed your mind.

SHERROD: Well, when you look at how -- the things he has tried to do and how he is challenged so much, you can't say that he hasn't tried. But when it comes to race, when -- it's just a subject in this country we have not dealt with. And it gets in the way of just about everything.

BERMAN: I have to ask, since this all happened, Andrew Breitbart has passed away. What are your thoughts about the late Mr. Breitbart, who was central to this controversy for you?

SHERROD: Well, you know, it's unfortunate that he passed. I didn't get to meet him. I didn't get to talk to him.

BALDWIN: You never got to talk to him once the dust settled? SHERROD: No. You know, there was no apology from him. He did something to me that was wrong, but things happen.

BERMAN: Room for forgiveness in your heart?

SHERROD: Yes.

BALDWIN: You forgive him?

SHERROD: Yes.

BALDWIN: You forgive Andrew Breitbart?

SHERROD: Yes.

BALDWIN: How long did it take you to get there?

SHERROD: Not long. When you look at my life, when you look at the things I've talked about in the book, I've had these -- I call them bumps in the road. You get beyond them and just keep working. Keep going.

BERMAN: All right, Shirley Sherrod, thank you so much for joining us. We did enjoy the book called "The Courage To Hope."

BALDWIN: Fantastic.

BERMAN: Good luck moving forward.

SHERROD: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, a lot of news this morning. We are following disturbing story out of Germany, reports that the U.S. Consulate in Berlin has been evacuated after a suspicious envelope was intercepted there. We'll take you live to Berlin.

BALDWIN: Take you live to Berlin and also, we're live as chaos is spreading throughout the Middle East this morning. These pictures new this morning from Yemen, clashes there on the streets, fires, breaching the main gates, scaling the walls outside the U.S. Embassy.

BERMAN: So much going on.

Coming up in our next hour, to weigh in on all of these developments, Senator John McCain and Democratic House Whip Congressman Steny Hoyer. Stay with us. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll be back in a moment.

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