Return to Transcripts main page


Anti-American Protests Spread; Libyan Authorities Make Four Arrests; "Full Court Press" To Protect U.S. Embassies; Obama Pulling Ahead; Riot Police Rush Protesters In Cairo; Fed Moves To Boost Economy; Hostage Situation Over; Strike Talks Go From Sitter To Optimistic

Aired September 14, 2012 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Egypt erupting again overnight. Live pictures from Cairo here. New fury of the violence spreading as Friday prayers are ending as we speak. This is a traditional time for protests in the Muslim world.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And new developments in the Benghazi, Libya, attack. Four people now under arrest, all four victims now identified as we learn new details about how they were killed.


ROMANS (on-camera): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans for you this morning.

KEILAR (on-camera): And I'm Brianna Keilar. John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin are off this morning. And this is a big news day, 6:00 a.m. in the east. Let's get started.

ROMANS: Great to have you this morning, Brianna. Okay. New this morning.


ROMANS (voice-over): More protests erupting in more countries overnight as what began as outrage over an anti-Muslim movie made in the U.S. maybe turning into something more. As we speak, Friday prayers are ending in several countries, and that has U.S. embassies around the world bracing for potential trouble.

Overnight, protests spreading to 11 countries from as far west as Morocco to as Far East as India. The worst of it in Yemen where at least five Yemenis were killed after protesters stormed the American embassy in Sana'a. Protesters destroying cars and property as the Yemeni military brought out water cannons to control the crowd.

In Egypt, more clashes as dozens set fires and chanted slogans in Cairo where the protests, of course, first erupted three days ago. And in Libya, news overnight that four people arrested in the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, three other Americans. We now know the identities of the two other American victims in that attack, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, former Navy SEALs, who were acting as security.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, this morning, more U.S. firepower has arrived. The President vowing that all necessary steps to protect U.S. citizens around the world will be taken. And new information on the mysterious filmmaker who duped his cast and lit the match.

We are covering this important story the way only CNN can. We're live in Libya, Egypt, and Washington, D.C. We begin at the flashpoint for all the anti-American outrage, Libya, where four Americans were brutally killed earlier this week. And four people have now been arrested in connection with those murders.

Let's go now to Tripoli, Jomana Karadsheh joining us live by the phone. Jomana, what do we know about these suspects in custody? It sounds like they may not be directly responsible for this. But perhaps can lead to some information about who is?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN REPORTER, TRIPOLI, LIBYA (via telephone): This is what we're hearing today from a senior Libyan government official, saying that these individuals who were detained, four of them, may have not been directly involved.

But they have ties to the extremist group that carried out this attack that is suspected of carrying out this attack. Again, we're are still hearing conflicting reports on that because yesterday we did hear from the prime minister, speaking with CNN in an interview.

Saying that the individuals who were detained were detained based on photographic evidence collected from around the scene. They had some people come forward and identify those people, giving them the names, and that is how the arrests have played.

The Libyan government here is saying that it is very serious in its efforts to track down the perpetrators of this attack. We heard yesterday the prime minister speaking with CNN's Christiane Amanpour and here's what he told Christiane Amanpour yesterday.


MUSTAFA ABUSHAGUR, LIBYAN PRIME MINISTER: Since the acts that took place yesterday, this criminal act, we immediately started the investigation trying to find out who are the ones who have committed this crime.

And up to now we have -- some individuals have been already arrested, and the investigation continues until we found out all who has been involved with this act. And clearly, they are going to be punished for their actions.


KARADSHEH: And, according to our Arwa Damon who is in Benghazi right now the latest development, this is a major development we are hearing from senior Libyan officials, the head of the General National Congress, that is Libya's parliament, visiting the site of the attack today at the consulate.

Saying now that this was a pre-planned attack, they believe, to create maximum damage. It was a deliberate attempt by these groups to create a rift between Libya and the United States.

KEILAR: And what do we know, Jomana, if much, I know we don't know a lot about it, but are we learning anything about why the Benghazi Airport may be shut down?

KARADSHEH: We are getting different reports on why that has happened and it's not clear yet. But, it's definitely clear that the airport was closed for security reasons. No specific reasons given yet, but we'll continue to look into that matter.

KEILAR: All right, Jomana Karadsheh for us in Tripoli keeping us up to date. Thanks for that.

Meantime, the Obama administration is in full-court press mode this morning, they're beefing up security at all of the posts in the Mideast and anywhere else the demonstrations may pop up.

Foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, is following this angle for us from Washington. Elise, the concern here is really Friday prayers, which are wrapping up as we speak. If there's going to be some boil- over, the thought is this is where it could happen.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: That's right, Brianna. For the last 48 hours since the attack in Libya, President Obama ordered all U.S. facilities around the world, but particularly in the Middle East and Muslim countries where Muslims, where Friday prayers could be a flashpoint.

To review their security and make sure that before these Friday protests, prayers, and bracing for protests, that the U.S. diplomatic facilities have enough personnel, that they have enough equipment, and that they have everything they need from their local host government to make sure those embassies are safe.

But then the U.S. is also going out, fanning out across the globe to imams, to credible voices, to these local governments to say listen, we've stood by you throughout this whole Arab spring, you need to stand by us now and start speaking out against these type of violent protests -- Brianna.

KEILAR: So, let me ask you about this, President Obama, he's offering this cautious nuanced take on U.S./Egypt relations. Let's listen to it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, 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.


KEILAR: So, break this down for us, Elise, because we heard him saying not an ally, not an enemy, and a lot of this is diplo speak, if you're not someone who knows it fluently like you, it kind of doesn't make sense. So you're the translator. Explain it to us.

LABOTT: Well, President Obama speaking, and when you hear it around the world you think, Egypt isn't our ally. He misspoke a little bit because Egypt is considered, as you saw in the earlier hour, as spokesman of the State Department said, a major non-NATO ally.

The U.S. has relations with countries. They don't have relations with governments. And you've seen in these things with Syria, with Libya, with all of these dictators that the U.S. helped get out say listen, we're allies of this country, we're not allies of any particular government.

And so right now, I think what President Obama was trying to do was send a message to the Egyptian government of President Mohammed Morsi who was seen as kind of foot dragging a little bit in terms of helping the U.S. out.

Speaking out against these protests, helping protect facilities to say listen, we give you major support and that support is not guaranteed, but the U.S. is an ally of Egypt. We'll just have to see what happens, how these two governments make their way going forward.

KEILAR: All right, Elise Labott, our foreign affairs reporter. Thanks, Elise.

ROMANS: I want to bring you some live pictures of Cairo right now where you're seeing scattered gathering of people there. These are live pictures in Cairo as Friday prayers are just ending. A protest, of course, was called by the Muslim Brotherhood.

That's just beginning here. Scattered protests at this point as people are leaving the mosques and coming in to the squares and the areas around those mosques. Violent protests, of course, raged through the night.

Riot police carrying shields and batons rushing several hundred protesters. Similar calls for protests in Iran and the Gaza Strip and large protesters are expected in Baghdad and Iraq's second largest city Basra, as well as Amman, Jordan.

Ian Lee, of course, has been following developments for us in Cairo. We've seen those live pictures now. People starting to come out after Friday prayer and they're beginning to gather. What's the scene looking like where you are?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, we have a lull in the violence. The protesters and the police really not engaging each other as Friday prayers continue. But we are expecting people to trickle in to Tahrir Square. Although the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have told their followers to stay away from the square, they don't want to see clashes in the square, or around the U.S. Embassy.

They're calling for peaceful demonstrations. But right now, we're still hearing the Friday prayers, and we do have a lull in the violence. One of the first times since the clashes began Wednesday night.

ROMANS: Ian, overnight Egypt's state-run news reporting 37 people arrested in connection with the U.S. Embassy attacks. What are the details that you know?

LEE: What we're now hearing is that out of those 37, 30 are being charged, and they're being charged with thuggery, attacking police forces and destroying public property. These 30 we're hearing also that out of which four are Islamists, but these 30 are what the police are saying is them showing that they are taking responsibility.

Those that broke into the embassy, they're trying to find them and prosecute them for breaking in there. So this is what the police are saying, it's them showing accountability.

ROMANS: These pictures you're seeing on your screen right now, folks, this is taped. This is not what's happening right now. As Ian is reporting there's a lull in the violence right now. What you're seeing is taped from earlier. Ian, what is President Morsi saying about all this now?

LEE: Well, like you were saying earlier, President Morsi was dragging his feet and finally did release a statement. He is -- he did say that they will protect diplomatic missions and this is more of what he had to say.


PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI, EGYPT (through translator): We assured President Obama that we will be keen and we will not permit any such event, any such occurrence in our country against the embassies in our territories.


LEE: And so far President Mohamed Morsi has made good on this promise. We've been seeing the police around the embassy. We're also seeing the army building concrete walls around the embassy, about 10 feet high to block protesters from gaining access to the roads leading to the embassy.

ROMANS: All right, Ian Lee for us in Egypt. Thanks, Ian.

KEILAR: And we have experts weighing in all morning long as Friday prayers lead to new riots in the Mideast.

Later on EARLY START, we're talking to Peter Brookes, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and then later on "STARTING POINT" former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Jamie Rubin, Middle East analyst Robin Wright, Obama campaign foreign policy adviser, Ambassador Tim Roamer, and also Ambassador Richard Williamson.

ROMANS: All right, straight ahead on EARLY START, we're also watching this morning's markets. Stocks are soaring around the world on word of more stimulus from the Federal Reserve. But will stimulus from the Fed mean jobs? We're going to break down this bag announcement and what it means for your money.


KEILAR: Stocks rallied to five-year highs yesterday. You can thank the Fed for that. Policymakers announced a new round of stimulus designed to give the economy the kick it needs, but this is the third round of stimulus. So the question, of course is, is it actually going to make a difference?

ROMANS: Will it work?

KEILAR: Is three times the charm?

ROMANS: They call it QE3 and those who say, Brianna, quite frankly, without this stimulus where would the economy be right now? Because you don't have governments around the world doing anything, you have central banks doing it.

Look, this is about -- this is about the law diminishing returns, right? With each dose of stimulus the effect lessens. Bernanke acknowledged that in June and said policymakers are taking that into account that they have to keep going.

Yesterday he admitted this new dose of stimulus can help, but it's not going to fix everything.


BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: I want to be clear that while I think we can make a meaningful and significant contribution to this problem to reducing this problem, we can't solve it. We don't have rules strong enough to solve the problem.


ROMANS: Yes, because unemployment is too high. It's too big of a problem and the Fed can't fix it alone.

Yesterday, Ben Bernanke reiterated his concern about the fiscal cliff. That's Congress. There's so much the Fed can do but there have been a lot of concerns coming out of the Fed about Congress and analysts say that the Fed, the Fed's power pales in comparison to what Congress can do.

For now, the Fed is pledging to keep support for the economy for the next few years. They're going to keep interest rates low until mid 2015. They're buying up $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month with no end date. That's the QE3 part of it. That starts today, by the way.

The goal is to revive confidence, to boost lending, to spend -- encourage companies to spend money.

The question, of course, from, from critics is, could this push us inflation. But the Dow and the S&P and 500 aren't worried about that right now. They hit five-year highs, Brianna. The NASDAQ hit a 12- year high.

This is a really -- this is a really kind of tough position, because critics will say it hasn't worked. The Fed will say, can you imagine what would have happened if the Fed hadn't been in there supporting the markets this whole time? We barely have growth and you've got unprecedented support from the Fed.

It is the Fed keeping money going in the economy, where banks aren't lending, and where companies are skittish, they're sitting on their money, and where Congress is paralyzed. All Congress can do is come back to work, and pass a bill to keep the government going. Let alone fix our problems. The Fed is the only game in town.

KEILAR: But as you said, the economy needs a square meal, and this is, what, donuts?

ROMANS: This is a box of donuts.

The economy needs a square meal. The Fed can't give it the square meal. The economy has got to produce that on its own. This is a box of donuts. A bit of a sugar high but it will get us through.

KEILAR: All right, Christine, thank you.

Sixteen after the hour. Let's get you up to date now.

Anti-American fury spreading like a wildfire around the world. Protests breaking out across the Middle East. North Africa, and even in places like Morocco, Kashmir and Israel, all over a crude 14-minute movie produced in the U.S. that has infuriated millions of Muslims.

In Libya, authorities announced four arrests on the attack on the U.S. consulate that killed four Americans earlier this week and Benghazi's airport is shut down for security reasons.

And Mitt Romney won't be out of the national security loop much longer. You may recall we found out he wasn't getting briefings. Well, the GOP nominee will be getting regular intelligence briefings from the Obama administration beginning next week. That is customary for presidential challengers in the late stages of campaigns.

ROMANS: A video posted on YouTube appears to show Syria's military shelling a town in the Damascus suburbs. The video is a bit shaky but you can see a plane firing what may be a rocket over the town of Yabroud. Smoke is seen rising from buildings below. The opposition says nearly 60 people were killed yesterday in the area surrounding the Syrian capital. Talks have turned from bitter to hopeful in the Chicago teachers strike and today could signal the end of that standoff. The teachers union and school officials, they do have a vote scheduled for 3:00 p.m. today. The earliest classes will be back in session is Monday.

Brianna, that means kids in the third largest school district in the country, they lost a week of education.

KEILAR: All right. And we're keeping an eye, of course, at -- keeping our eye on unrest around the world, particularly in the Middle East. These are live pictures in Cairo.

You can see some protesters gathering there. We'll continue to monitor this to see if, perhaps, things develop following Friday prayers. If protests move in to more violence. Or if things remain relatively calm. Still to be determined.

We'll be right back.


KEILAR: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Diplomatic missions across the globe are on high alert this morning as the U.S. braces for more violent demonstrations in response to an anti-Muslim film. All four Americans who were killed in the attack in Benghazi, Libya, have now been identified.

And Barbara Starr live for us at the Pentagon.

Barbara, what are you learning about the two other victims that were previously unnamed?

STARR: Well, now we do know who they are. And both men are former U.S. Navy SEALs, highly decorated military veterans. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified them as 41-year-old Tyrone Woods and 42-year-old Glen Doherty. Both of their mothers have now spoken.


CHERYL BENNETT, MOTHER OF TYRONE WOODS: Ty would not want to be seen as a hero. He would want to be seen as a guy on his team who did his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did it well.

BENNETT: And did it well, did it the best he could. Obviously, obviously, and unfortunately, and I'm sure -- I'm sure my son went down fighting. I don't know the ins and outs of it, I haven't been told, but I'm sure he went down fight. I'm sure he did. And I just hope his last moments weren't painful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glen was an amazing human being, and we're devastated. He was a great friend and brother and really good at his job, and it's a huge loss for everyone.


STARR: Glen Doherty was in Libya as part of a mission to search for missiles and weapons left over from the Gadhafi regime and the other Navy SEAL, Tyrone Woods is survived by his wife and three sons, one of whom was just born a few weeks ago -- few months ago, rather. And of course the entire U.S. Navy SEAL community now in mourning one more time for their fallen -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara, it's just terrible to hear about that.

Let me ask you this, changing directions a little bit, U.S. warships and Marines, they're moving into the region. Are they now in place? And what role will they be serving?

STARR: The U.S. Marines are, of course, as we've said so many times, just 50 Marines who are at the embassy in Tripoli for embassy security. Part of that effort to make sure security of embassies around the world is fully beefed up. They're already in place -- the warships, again, one already on station off the coast of Libya. Another one will arrive, we are told, in the next day or so.

Part of the message. Part of the signal that the administration is sending, the U.S. military is watching what is going on.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr, live from the Pentagon for us -- thanks, Barbara.

ROMANS: Next on EARLY START, we're watching the situation in Egypt where Friday prayers are ending. And a march called by the Muslim Brotherhood is supposed to be starting, looking at live pictures. Right now, we're seeing just scattered movements. Certainly not the violence we saw overnight.

We're going to continue to monitor this for you. Bring you a live report from Egypt, next.


KEILAR: Live pictures from Cairo as Friday prayers are winding down, and what was expected to be a massive protest there may not happen. The Muslim Brotherhood telling people now to stay away from Tahrir Square this morning and asking for a peaceful march in other parts of the city, instead.

ROMANS: And new developments in Libya. The airports in the city of Benghazi where four Americans were killed this week is now shut down for security reasons, that as four people are now in custody in connection with those killings.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans for you this Friday morning.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

New this morning the massive protests expected in Egypt as Friday prayers come to an end. So far not materializing. The Muslim Brotherhood urging people not to gather in Tahrir Square and instead urging peaceful marches in other parts of the city.

Now that wasn't the case there last night as fighting fires and violence erupted throughout the city. Meantime protests spreading to 11 countries from as far west as Morocco, to as far east as India.

The worst of it in Yemen where at least five Yemenis were killed after protesters stormed the American embassy in Sana'a. Protesters destroying cars and property as the Yemeni military brought out water cannons to control the crowd.

And in Libya, news overnight that four people arrested in connection to the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

We now know the identities of the other two American victims killed in the attack. Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs who were acting as security.

ROMANS: Meantime this morning, more U.S. firepower has arrived. The President vowing all necessary steps to protect U.S. citizens around the world. And new information on the mysterious filmmaker who duped his cast and lit the match.

We're covering this morning story only the way CNN can. We're live in Libya, Egypt, and Washington, D.C.

First to Cairo, where violent protests raged through the night. Riot police carrying shields and batons, rushing several hundred protesters. Calls this morning by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood for peaceful marches. Also calls for protests in Iran and the Gaza Strip. Large protests expected in Baghdad and Iraq's largest city Basra, as well as Amman, Jordan.

Ian Lee has been following developments in Cairo.

Lee, what's the scene like right now? I know they were constructing a perimeter wall. Are police pulling back from that at this point?

LEE: That's exactly right. The police have pulled behind that wall. And, Christine, we were just talking a little while ago about how there was a lull. Well that lull is over. Police and protesters are battling it again.

But the police have moved behind that wall. That wall is a concrete wall that's roughly 10, 15 feet high. They're using tear gas behind that wall to disperse the crowd.

And this wall is about 30 yards from the embassy. So it really is the last stand for the police before protesters will be at the wall of the embassy. So things have once again picked up. Tahrir square is relatively small compared to Egypt standards. A few hundred in this square who are peacefully protesting, the violence right now is around the embassy.

ROMANS: Overnight, we know Egypt's state-run news reporting some 37 people arrested in connection with the embassy attacks. What are the details of those arrests?

LEE: Well, out of those 37, 30 are charged with thuggery, assaulting police officers, and destroying public property. The Egyptian government's way of telling people that they are holding people accountable for the breach that happened Tuesday night when we saw protesters scale the U.S. embassy wall and tear down the American flag.

ROMANS: All right. Ian Lee in Cairo -- thank you, Ian.

KEILAR: All right. The anti-American rage seemingly spreading like a wildfire. In Iran, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran shouting, "Death to the United States." The Swiss embassy handles U.S. interests in Iran, and is being heavily guarded by police.

Demonstrators are calling for all U.S. embassies in Muslim countries to be suspended. And in Iraq, hundreds taking to the streets of Baghdad, burning American flags, and denouncing the U.S. as the enemy of the people.

Iraq's prime minister denouncing the U.S. film that's sparking all the outrage, calling on, quote, "all divine religions" to go after the, quote, "racists" and stop them from spreading their dangerous thoughts.

ROMANS: Let's bring in now, Peter Brookes who is a former member of Assistant Secretary of Defense and currently a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Nice to see you again this morning.


ROMANS: What should be the American response at this point?

BROOKES: Well, I think the American response has been appropriate so far. Obviously we have to secure our embassies. Make sure that they are not breached. We have to call upon the governments that are responsible, Christine, for security outside of the embassies.

I mean, this is something that is part of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. They need to make sure outside of the embassy that it's secure and American personnel and diplomatic missions.

We also have to call on these governments to tamp down the violence, to call on people to restrain from violence. And we also, I think, have to, especially in the case of Libya, you know, think about, you know, getting the perpetrators of these terrible acts that took place at the Benghazi consulate.

Now, obviously we've got to figure out who did this. You know, that's the important thing. You've got to be able to figure out who do it.

It seems to me that the people who were probably arrested in Libya were probably folks they were able to have pictures of, and were involved in some of the violence there. Whether they're involved in the horrible violence that led to the death of four Americans is unclear at this point. Or whether they're part of a radical or terrorist group is unclear.

But I think, you know, we have to, you know, start making declaratory statements and then take actions when we know where we should be -- which direction we should be going.

ROMANS: I mean, you wrote an op-ed that was such an interesting point about this warning in Cairo and Tripoli. I want to read it.

"Both in the formative stages of forming permanent governments, the warning is twofold. Don't get too close to Washington and don't think of veering too far from the Islamist hard line."

What we saw in Benghazi, what we saw in Cairo, one was a mob, one was a very well-armed attack on a U.S. mission. But politically, you say that there's a real clear choice happening here.

BROOKES: Yes, I think so. I mean, especially if you look at Egypt. A very, very important country in the Arab world. A very, very important country to the United States.

I mean, this is -- you have a government in there that -- whose leader is an acolyte of the Muslim Brotherhood but there are much more hard- line groups in that country, political parties. And I think some of these protests are telling the -- telling these leaders, don't get too close to the United States.

Remember, Egypt was close to the United States. It's not so close anymore. You heard what the President said the other day. And you better pay attention to what we want you to do, in terms of politics, in terms of social policies.

And I think the same thing -- you're right, it's probably more Egypt in that case. But I think the same thing we're seeing around the Muslim world, and I think these are warnings to these new governments, that they better pay attention to the hard-line parties in their country.

ROMANS: I want to play quickly what President Morsi said about the attacks. On the other end, tell me was that enough? Is he moving in the right direction? Listen.


MORSI (through translator): We assured President Obama that we will be keen and we will not permit any such event, any such occurrence in our country against the embassies present in our territories.


ROMANS: Is it enough?

BROOKES: Well, it's four days late, isn't it? I mean, that's the first thing that comes to mind. We're in the fourth day of this crisis. A lot could have happened in the previous three days in Egypt. We could have ended up in a situation like we had in Benghazi.

So, yes, it's about time he came around on this. And he probably was very -- he's very concerned about what he's hearing out of the United States, out of Congress in particular, about the relationship between U.S. and Egypt. So I think he should have come out much, much earlier, Christine, with saying that.

And whether it's going to be enough, we'll have to see. We'll have to see whether his security forces are able to provide for security for the U.S. embassy -- as your correspondent just noted, things are starting to get hot there again.

ROMANS: All right. Peter Brookes, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, former Assistant Secretary of Defense -- thank you.

BROOKES: Thank you.

KEILAR: Well, it's not looking good in some must-win states for Mitt Romney's chance of winning the White House. We have new polls from key battleground states. And we'll talk about what they mean, coming up.


KEILAR: We've got an early look here at the White House in Washington, D.C. -- 65 degrees now, going up to 85 degrees.

ROMANS: Nice day. It would be a nice day in D.C.

KEILAR: It has been a beautiful week in Washington, D.C., I have to say.

ROMANS: After a brutally hot summer.

KEILAR: It feels like California there, I'll tell you.

So, with just over seven weeks remaining in the race for the White House, the President appears to be pulling ahead. Just take a look at the latest national CNN poll of polls, 49 percent of likely voters now backing President Obama, 46 percent for Mitt Romney.

And CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser joining us now live from Washington -- because, Paul, what we really want to know is how is he doing in these battleground states? Looking pretty good, right?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Exactly. And you know, of course the race for the White House, as you know, Brianna, is a race for the states and their electoral votes. That's why, like the national polls, we really pay attention to the state polls. A slew have come out in the last 24 hours. Let's get right to them.

These are from NBC, Marist and "The Wall Street Journal." Ohio, such a crucial battleground state. The President now with a seven-point lead according to this poll. Another new poll that came out had it much tighter in Ohio.

Florida and Virginia, also very important states, you can see the President with a five-point advantage. That is within the sampling there.

Take a look at this other poll, this one really sparked my interest. Michigan, Epic/MRA, also brand new. And all these polls conducted after the Democratic convention.

In Michigan, a ten-point advantage over Mitt Romney. You remember, Brianna, you were there with me in Charlotte at the Democratic convention they spent a lot of time talking about those auto bailouts and how the President was for them and Mitt Romney was against them. That may be hurting Mitt Romney a little bit in Michigan, the state where he was born.

KEILAR: Yes. And we also heard a lot of talk about how -- yes, the economy is not doing great. But, President Obama and his surrogates saying it's not his fault. That they look to the Bush administration, and I guess it's no surprise when you look at some of the economic polling that you have, right?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, let's spell it out. You're absolutely right. Remember the message from the ones after their convention was: are you better off now than you were four years ago? Well, we asked that in our new CNN/ORC national poll. This is among registered voters, you can se that 44 percent said I'm worse financially than I was four years ago, 37 percent say they're better off. And about one in five say, I'm about the same as I was four years ago.

As to your specific question, look at the next number. Here we are, almost four years into the Obama presidency and people are still blaming President Bush and the Republicans for getting us into this economic mess, about 35 percent say it's the President and the Democrats' fault.

Brianna, of course, the economy still the top issue on the minds of Americans voters.

KEILAR: Of course. Paul Steinhauser, I will say, sir. You are chipper this morning. We appreciate having you.



KEILAR: I know.

ROMANS: Forty-four minutes after the hour.

Let's get you up to date. Protests expected in Cairo, so far not materializing as Friday prayers have ended and people have gathered peacefully so far in Tahrir Square, live look now at the square. Overnight, however, new demonstrations breaking out across the Middle East, North Africa, even in places like Israel, Morocco, Kashmir -- all over a 14-minute movie produced in the U.S. that has outraged Muslims.

In Libya, authorities announcing four arrests in connection with the attack on the U.S. consulate earlier this week that killed four Americans, including the American ambassador there.

KEILAR: Mitt Romney will not be out of the national security loop much longer. You may remember he wasn't getting briefings. But the GOP nominee will now be getting regular intelligence briefings from the Obama administration beginning next week. That is customary for presidential challengers in the late stages of campaigns.

And a guard who was taken hostage by prisoners in a maximum security prison in South Carolina is a free man this morning. Officials say he was rescued without incident by armed officers around 9:45 last night after being held by prisoners for about five hours at the Lee Correctional Institution. The guard suffered cuts on his arms and face, but he was able to walk out by himself.

ROMANS: In Chicago, talks have gone from bitter to hopeful in the Chicago teachers strike. And today, today could signal the end of the standoff. The teachers union and school officials have scheduled a vote at 3:00 p.m. today. The earlier classes will be back in session is Monday.

ROMANS: A whole week these kids had not in the classroom. Not at least learning in the classroom.

Let's bring in Brooke Baldwin. She's in for Soledad this morning. Brooke, what's coming up on "STARTING POINT"?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, ladies. It's a lot of what you've been talking about. We're going to obviously go to the Middle East as we have the last couple of mornings. The fury still very much spreading there. The U.S., securing embassies not just in this corner of the world, but worldwide.

And now, Libyan officials say four people, four have been arrested in connection with this week's deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. We're all over this. We're covering this live constantly here in a way really CNN can with our tried and trusted correspondents stationed around the world. We're live from Libya and Egypt.

Also, from the Pentagon this morning and our news bureaus throughout Washington to talk about the politics of this story. And only on CNN, take a look at our panel coming up. Expert guests coming in to just break down and analyze what this means, the anger, the politics, what does the future hold as far as, you know, relations between the U.S. and Middle East countries.

So, we have two former Assistant Secretary of States, Jamie Rubin and Richard Williamson. Also, U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer, Robin Wright, and a highly respected Middle East export "Time" magazine's editor, Bobby Ghosh. I'm sure you've seen the cover of "Time" magazine. We had the international editor on yesterday. So we'll just continue the conversation between the Middle East, this film, and the politics, as well. KEILAR: Did you watch a little bit of that film?

BALDWIN: It is so amateurish. "Cartoonish," I think, is what someone said from Washington.

ROMANS: The fact that lives could be lost over something that's so poorly done.


KEILAR: And the cast and crew is just appalled, completely feel like they were duped by the producer. They had no idea what they were doing.

BALDWIN: And the character was George (ph) and then it was duped to Muhammad. They have no idea.

ROMANS: You think about an adventure movie. You think about how social media helped the Arab spring, and now, it's something that could be spread on YouTube that's actually hurting Arab spring.

BALDWIN: See you at the top of the hour.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Brooke.

KEILAR: Thank you, Brooke. And up next, the Islam bashing filmmaker identified. New information on the man who made that short, shoddy and offensive film that sparked these deadly protests across Muslim nations, and we go to his house. CNNs Miguel Marquez with the details ahead.


ROMANS: Fifty-one minutes past the hour if you're running out the door. The man behind the anti-Muslim film that sparked much of the Mideast violence identified, but he isn't coming forward.

KEILAR: Miguel Marquez knocked on the filmmaker's door after digging into his shady past.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the house that CNN and all the media has tracked the man that we now know to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. He's hunkered down in there, he's not coming out, and CNN knows why.

(voice-over) He's the shadowy maker of a low-budget anti-Islamic film who has a criminal past and many aliases, clearly, someone who doesn't want to be found, and as we discovered, for good reason. In 1997, Bacile, his real name, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula spent a year in prison convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine. In 2010, he spent another year, this time, in federal prison for fraud.

(on-camera) These are just some of the documents for criminal cases against Sam Bacile or Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. It is clear by going through these that investigators had a hard time tracking him down as well. The guy had several addresses, many social security numbers, and lots of names.

(voice-over) Court documents showed he used at least 17 different names, including Sam Bacile, Kritbag Difrat, PJ Tabacco (ph), and Thomas Tanas.

(on-camera) Anyone having anything to do with Sam Bacile is scared to death right now across Los Angeles. This is a neighborhood in Long Beach. A man who lives here says that Nakoula Basseley used his address to get credit cards and conduct some of the fraudulent activity that he carried out. He found out about it, called the police, and hasn't seen since.

(voice-over) Numbers associated with Bacile's many identities turn up nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The number you dialed is not a working number.

MARQUEZ: Even anti-Islamic activists who work with him say they were never exactly sure who he was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sam was not his real name. I knew that.

MARQUEZ: The same true even for actors in his own movie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told me he was from Israel. He told me he was going to show the movie in Egypt. And either I assumed he was from Egypt or --

MARQUEZ: He led you to believe he was Egyptian?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because that's what I believed.

MARQUEZ (on-camera): Well, this is the best address we have for Sam Bacile or Nakoula Basseley, whatever you want to call him. You can see all of the media is camped out here. We're going to try one more time to talk to him.

Mr. Bacile? Mr. Nakoula? It's Miguel Marquez with CNN.

(voice-over) This house, the center of an intense search for answers from a man who has many questions, hanging over his head.

(on-camera) There were reports out there that Nakoula was Israeli American. It seems that he may have put out that information himself. CNN has confirmed that Nakoula is actually Egyptian, and he belongs to a Coptic Christian church here in the L.A. area.


KEILAR: That's CNN's Miguel Marquez reporting from California.

And still ahead, remembering Chris Stevens, not just the diplomat, but the person.


ROBERT COMMANDAY, STEPBROTHER OF SLAIN AMBASSADOR: Instinctively and intentionally and through his training, he was about bringing people together.


ROMANS: The family of U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, talks for the first time about his life and his death in the Benghazi consulate attack. You're watching EARLY START.


ROMANS: All right. What's happening right now, the Muslim Brotherhood, they've canceled nationwide protests across Egypt. This coming to us right now. This is according to the official Twitter account of the Muslim Brotherhood. They announced that the protests will only be in Tahrir Square in Cairo to demonstrate against that film.

But they have said that they would like peaceful protests. They, you know, they would just a protest only in Tahrir Square, but they do not want nationwide protests in the country.

KEILAR: And it's quite the change, because initially, we saw after the attacks in -- after the attacks in Cairo and in Benghazi, we saw the Muslim Brotherhood actually praising those attacks. And there's a lot of concern that as Friday prayers wrapped up today, this was going to be the logical time that we could see a flashpoint that maybe the violence would not only continue but grow.

So, this is the news that actually the protesters are not materializing as we thought they would.

ROMANS: OK. That's it for us on EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar. "STARTING POINT" begins right now.