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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Anti-Western Violence in Pakistan; iPhone 5 On Sale; Romney and Obama Woo Latino Voters; Amanda Knox's Ex Speaks Out; President Pulls Ahead in Polls; Terrorism Policy of Presidential Candidates Explored; "Life after Death"; We Want You To Pick a Hero
Aired September 21, 2012 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "starting point" is tension overseas. The world is bracing for protests after Friday prayers over the publications of cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad. Embassies and schools are already closed. And this morning an already deadly situation in Pakistan to tell you about.
Plus, President Obama admits his biggest failure. Here it is:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My biggest failure so far is we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done. So we'll be continuing to work on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: He promised comprehensive reform. Did he break his word? How's that going to affect the election? We'll take a look this morning with that anchor who operated that forum.
Also, it's the day that Apple fans have been waiting for. The iPhone 5 is on sale right now. Good luck, though, getting through those lines. Yeah, that line right there in New York City. You're never going to make it.
It's Friday, September 21 and STARTING POINT begins right now.
Welcome, welcome, and welcome to our team this morning. Joanna Coles is with us. She's the new editor-in-chief of "Cosmopolitan" magazine. Richard Socarides is with us. He's a writer at NewYorker.com, former senior adviser to President Clinton. Will Cain is a columnist for TheBlaze.com. John Berman is sticking around after EARLY START, which we appreciate.
Let's start with the iPhone 5 frenzy. Oh my goodness. See those lines? Can we show those city in New York City alone? Literally millions of people around the world are waiting and waiting and waiting. You're at the end of that line, what are you thinking? They're trying to get their hands on that iPhone 5 from Tokyo to Sydney to London. The lines go on forever.
Let's get right to CNN's Maggie Lake. She's live there in New York at Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue. About two minutes ago they started selling those iPhone 5s. How is it going?
MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Soledad. And "frenzy" is a pretty good word for it. This is the moment that consumers have been waiting for. But, frankly, this is the atmosphere that the fans come down here for. I just want to show you what's going on. If it's hard to see, that's because there is a line of media, of sort of general New Yorkers, of tourists gathered around to watch what is a spectacle. That's really what it is. As people -- the employees cheer, the customers, some of whom have been waiting for eight days to get in, are finally getting a chance.
Who are these people? Some of them are die-hard Apple fans who come, regardless, every time there's a launch. Some of them are people who didn't want to wait in line but the preorders sold out. Remember, 2 million phones in 24 hours. So they were forced to come down here in person. And then you've got people who are marketing, who are ad- makers, and people who just want to sort of enjoy the fun event.
Certainly this is the best-selling smartphone ever. It's gotten pretty good reviews from everyone, the sort of tech guys that got a chance to test it out and give it a test drive. It's lighter, it is a wider screen and it's going to run on that faster 4G network. The only slight complaint seems to be about the map app, but that doesn't seem to dissuade the people here. And Soledad, some people are expecting that Apple can sell 50 million of these by Christmas. That's astonishing.
O'BRIEN: Wow, wow. And, you know, I think that's a very reasonable estimate. All right, Maggie, thanks very much. We'll going to give you a breakdown of the numbers behind that iPhone, if you're actually able to get one. It costs $649 without a contract. It costs Apple about $206 to make. Take a look. The display touch screen is $44. The memory, $20.85. The battery, $4.50. Assembly, $8.
JOHN BERMAN: Unbelievable.
O'BRIEN: So they make some serious money on each and every iPhone.
Politics now. President Barack Obama getting a chance to make a direct appeal to Latino voters. He appeared on a forum which hosted by Univision and Facebook just a day after his rival. The former governor Mitt Romney took questions at that very same venue with the very same interviewers.
The President could be way ahead with Latinos in the polls but he certainly didn't get a free pass at the event, certainly didn't get it from the anchors, Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas. Maria Elena Salinas is in Miami, joins us this morning.
It's nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. Let me ask you, Maria Elena, about the crowd first. When I was watching Governor Romney's crowd when he was being interviewed and President Obama's crowd when he was being interviewed, explain to me how those crowds were different. They felt very different.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Well, yes, they definitely were different. First of all, good morning, Soledad and happy belated birthday. I know you had a birthday this week. By request of the parties, both parties, the group was partisan. And in the case of governor Romney you had partially students from UM, but you also had a very big contingency of Romney supporters. In the case of President Obama, there were more students, they were mostly students and they were a little bit more calm.
You know, you want to think why is it that Republicans are a little more rowdy than Democrats? And maybe it's justify the fact that it's the President and there's a certain level of respect. It's not the same thing to be a candidate than to be a president.
O'BRIEN: So the candidates had the ability to fill the hall with whoever they wanted to?
SALINAS: Yes, exactly. And, you know, that kind of changed the dynamic of the interview itself.
SALINAS: I mean, you and I know what it's like to sit down and do a one-on-one interview with a politician. It's not the same when you have a crowd that's supporting you, so it really favored -- the format really favored, especially, Governor Romney.
O'BRIEN: So then let me ask you one other question before we get to the actual content. The interview time, how much time did each campaign give you with each candidate?
SALINAS: Governor Romney gave us 35 minutes and President Obama give us one hour. So the magic of television, we were able to stretch both programs to one hour. As you know, our novela went over a little bit, we had some stories, we had some commercial breaks. So we were able to have a one-hour program for both. But officially it was 35 minutes for Governor Romney and an hour for President Obama.
O'BRIEN: Okay, then let's talk specifically about what I thought was an interesting confession, if you will, from President Obama. When he was asked what's his biggest failure, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My biggest failure so far is that we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done. We'll be continuing to work on that. But it's not for lack of trying or desire and I'm confident we're going to accomplish that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: I thought the clapping was kind of an interesting thing. Do you think people were clapping because they were thinking thank you for admitting that there was a failure there? Or was it clapping because, you know, we're going to take this out on you in the election? I mean, that's kind of a big question there, right?
SALINAS: Right. I think being he was surrounded by his supporters, I believe that the clapping was you admitted it and that's a good thing. This is a question that we've asked President Obama, both my co-anchor and I, on several occasions. Every time we have an opportunity to interview him, we ask him the same question.
But I think it's important that in this particular forum, he admitted that it was a failure. And he explained why he wasn't able to make it -- to approve and to have that immigration reform in the first year. Of course, first, saying that it was exterior factors such as the economy, he needed to focus more on the economy, and then the lack of support from Republicans.
And it's funny because I remember when President George W. Bush ended his presidency and was asked what he felt was probably his biggest failure, he also mentioned the lack of immigration reform as one of the things he most regretted, which really goes to show you how difficult it is, how emotional the immigration issue is, where President Bush wasn't able to get support from his own party to put through an immigration reform.
O'BRIEN: The history of immigration reform certainly is an interesting one.
SALINSA: Right. Yes.
O'BRIEN: Let's talk about what Governor Romney said when he was being interviewed about deportation, which I know is another question that you've had for him and others along the campaign trail. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not going to round up people around the country and deport them. That's not -- I said during my primary campaign, time and again, we're not going to round up 12 million people, including the kids, parents, and have everyone deported. Our system isn't to deport people. We need to provide a long-term solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: He is trailing in the polls among Latinos. The latest one that we've seen is President Obama has 67 percent support and - you know, actually, I've go got that wrong. I'm talking about -- if you look at that Latino vote for President Obama was 67 percent and McCain was 31 percent, so already divided by party. There was a challenge there already. Does that position, what he said in that interview, does that help his him close that gap? He is trailing the President when it comes to Latino support.
SALINAS: Well, you know, he didn't really answer our question. Because our question was that students that have deferred - actually, I guess you could call them the Dreamers that are benefited by deferred action -- he would not commit to saying whether he would maintain the deferred action, whether he would deport them. He just said we will not go out and deport -- we're not going to round up, you know, 11 million undocumented immigrants and deport them.
He has said that before. He says his policy or what he would like to see is having them be self-deported or self-deport themselves. I don't think he answered the question. And that question has been asked several times, and there does not seem to be a commitment on the part of Governor Romney to say whether or not he would pass the DREAM Act. He's already said before that he would veto a DREAM Act.
So I don't think it was clear. And it just really depends on how people took that to know if it's going to benefit him or not in the polls. And there are polls that have an even wider gap, the Latino Decisions and impreMedia poll shows Barack Obama at 68 percent of the Latino support and Romney at 21 percent.
O'BRIEN: It's going to be very interesting to see whether there's --
SALINAS: Someone from the Rom -- right.
O'BRIEN: At the end of the day, you know, if they look back -
SALINAS: If they change, of course.
O'BRIEN: -- at this election to see because, of course, the Latino vote is so critical and will only continue to be more critical as time passes, with the population growing exponentially. Maria Elena Salinas, nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. We certainly appreciate it. It was a great interviews --
SALINAS: It was a pleasure, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: -- over both days, so thanks for sharing that with us.
SALINAS: Thank you so much. We're very happy about that.
O'BRIEN: You bet. Thank you. Other stories making news, John's got that for us.
BERMAN: Thanks Soledad. A new wave of anger against an American film and a French cartoon that mocks Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Demonstrations at Peshawar, Pakistan turned violent and deadly overnight. Two movie theaters were burned. Riot police opened fire on protesters, killing one person and more than two dozen others were injured. The U.S. has closed diplomatic facilities in several countries because of these new fears of new unrest.
The State Department is on its heels this morning, facing accusations that it failed to properly secure the U.S. mission in Benghazi, despite a number of red flags. The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the mission last week. Senior State Department officials tell CNN there were a lot of concerns about a rise in Islamic extremism in Benghazi and that a recommendation to close the consulate never got passed up the chain of command. A new look for the suspect in the movie theater massacre in Colorado. James Holmes has lost that shaggy orange dyed hair he wore the night of his arrest outside the showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora in which 12 people died. At the hearing yesterday, prosecutors abandoned their effort to obtain a notebook Holmes sent to his university psychiatrist before the shooting.
In just a few hours, the space shuttle Endeavour will complete its long journey into retirement. The shuttle is scheduled to touch down in Los Angeles this afternoon, headed for public display at the California Science Center. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: I can't wait for that. It's going to be great.
All right, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. It was one of the most sensational murder trials in history, "Foxy Knoxy". Remember, that's what they were calling Amanda Knox? She was accused of murdering her roommate. Her boyfriend was also accused in that murder. He's now speaking out; he's written a new book. I sat down with him. His name is Raffaele Sollecito. I'm going to talk to him, up next.
Also, don't say cheese. States banning smiles on your driver's license. Watching STARTING POINT, we'll talk about that as well. Back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: It was one of the most sensational murder cases in the past decade. American student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, charged with the brutal murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. An Italian court found them guilty, sentenced them both to prison, but last year, those convictions were overturned.
Now, Raffaele has written a new memoir. It's called "Honor Bound." I had a chance to sit down and talk to him about that.
O'BRIEN: There are many people who saw you and Amanda Knox for the very first time, and they saw images of you kissing. And they thought, considering there was an investigation into a murder, that it seemed from the get-go, inappropriate.
RAFFAELE SOLLECITO, AUTHOR, "HONOR BOUND": Well, no -- nobody realized that the cameras were over there, because Amanda, in particular, she was shocked. She was completely blown minded. She was staring in the middle of an empty space. And that's the reason why I just felt the need to comfort her, to make her feel that I was there for her.
O'BRIEN: So when the police started questioning you, what did you think?
SOLLECITO: First one was really comfortable questioning.
O'BRIEN: They were friendly?
SOLLECITO: They were friendly. I did it in a not so long time, and the last one was completely different.
O'BRIEN: The tone had changed completely?
SOLLECITO: Completely. It was the opposite. They were very aggressive. They were overwhelming me. They just wanted to confuse me.
O'BRIEN: The theory seems to be that they always thought Amanda was guilty, and they were going to push you to see if they could sort of get to that end. I think a lot of people facing solitary confinement in prison would be like, fine. What do you need me to say? What do you need me to sign? Does it get me out of jail? I'll say it. Why did you not do that?
SOLLECITO: Because on the plate, there was prison life, which is almost death. And on the other side, there was an offering of throwing Amanda under the bus. But, how can I walk on the street as a free man, realizing that I'm responsible to an innocent 20 years old girl to be convicted for prison life, all the life in prison because of me?
I cannot bear that. It's overwhelming. I almost have death for me.
O'BRIEN: Did your family give you advice? Did they say, "Listen, save yourself? Don't worry about Amanda. Save yourself."
SOLLECITO: I cannot blame my family and my friends.
O'BRIEN: Did they say that, though?
SOLLECITO: Yes, they did. And I cannot blame them at all, because I just dated Amanda for almost eight, nine days. No more. And they were just saying to me, telling me, "You don't know her. You don't know this girl."
O'BRIEN: Did you think you were going to be in prison for the rest of your life?
SOLLECITO: I was thinking, well, my life now is over. I have lost everything. If my life is still worth living, it will be for the truth, because it's just the -- the only thing going on -- all the rest is gone.
O'BRIEN: Do you still see Amanda? I know you met up in Seattle, right?
O'BRIEN: But you're not together as a couple?
O'BRIEN: Are you friendly? Do you talk? SOLLECITO: Yes, we talk. We talk a lot. We exchange e-mails, sometimes. And, yes, we talk about anything. We are really friendly with each other. We are in a good relationship now.
O'BRIEN: Prosecutors would like to continue with this case. And that, I guess, in theory, could mean you could go back to prison.
SOLLECITO: It's a little bit far away. So, it's not -- they cannot do it like that.
O'BRIEN: Are you worried about it, though?
SOLLECITO: I'm a little bit worried, but I wrote the book, because this is an opportunity to make all the people understand the truth. If all the people realize the truth in this case, then I have nothing to worry again, because I'm innocent.
O'BRIEN: Raffaele Sollecito.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, conservatives coming out criticize Mitt Romney this week, one calling his campaign a rolling calamity. Can he turn things around? Candy Crowley who's going to moderate one of the presidential debates is going to join us, coming up.
Also, states have been adopting a no smile policy for driver's licenses. They say it's for your safety. Are they going too far? We'll take a look. Back in a moment.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business."
Spain may be working behind the scene for a bailout from the European Union. That's according to a new report in the financial times. That news pushing U.S. stock futures and world markets up overnight.
Good news if you're in the market for a new home. If you're trying to refinance the one you've got, new record lows for mortgage rates, 30- year fixed rate is now 3.49 percent. The 15-year fixed rate, that's the popular refinancing tool, 2.77 percent, according to Freddie Mac.
New this morning, General Motors is recalling more than 400,000 Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn Sedans in the U.S. for a transmission gear problem. It could cause cars to roll when they're in park. Four crashes have been reported from this, but no injuries. GM says they're notifying car owners by letter to get it fixed at the dealerships, so watch the mail.
O'BRIEN: To roll while it's in park?
ROMANS: A transmission cable problem that means the car actually --
BERMAN: I think roll forward, not roll over.
O'BRIEN: Oh, roll forward.
ROMANS: Oh, yes, yes, the tires to roll.
JOANNA COLES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "COSMOPOLITAN": -- contacting you by letter. Who would open that letter? It's junk mail. Why aren't they e-mailing or texting us?
ROMANS: Good point. Well, now that you've got the news, you can check if you think --
O'BRIEN: Joan is outraged.
COLES: I'm outraged.
RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER FOR NEWYORKER.COM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: British outrage.
O'BRIEN: Better accent.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We disagree, but you make a point.
COLES: Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a conservative columnist says that the Romney campaign needs an intervention. Candy Crowley will join us to talk about former Governor Romney's rough week and whether or not he can recover from there.
Also, he's one of the infamous West Memphis three sentenced to death for the murder of three young boys, then released after years of public outcry. Now, he's sharing his story about what led to the conviction and his life after death, which is the name of his book. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: You're watching STARTING POINT. We're just 46 days away from the presidential election. Mitt Romney's campaign stumbling a little bit after those videos where he called half of America roughly victims were leaked.
In the "Wall Street Journal" this morning, Peggy Noonan is doubling down on her criticism of the campaign saying that he needs a new team. She writes this, "The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week, I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant 'rolling calamity.'" Chief political correspondent and host of CNN "STATE OF THE UNION", Candy Crowley, joins us. She's going to be moderating one of the presidential debates. Candy, good morning. Nice to talk to you. That is really damning criticism from Peggy Noonan who already, earlier in the week, gave a really harsh review of how the campaign is going. What's the impact of that?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you certainly feel the impact of that in terms of -- that's what we're talking about, that's what others are talking about, not just Peggy, but there are others out there that are saying what is wrong with this campaign? It seems tone deaf.
There have been too many things -- he hasn't been aggressive enough. He hasn't -- this always happens, shall I say, when a campaign is faltering. I don't know if you remember the final couple of weeks of the McCain campaign, but it was brutal. And this is now brutal because people sense that this is slipping away from Mitt Romney.
It comes with the territory. The criticism comes with the territory. And in the end, it's the candidate's campaign. But now what are folks looking at? They're looking at the Senate races. The Republicans really wanted to take control of the Senate this year. They're looking at house races. Nancy Pelosi, did an interview with her last week, and she said ,"I think we're going to win 27 seats, a net of 27 seats, which would give the House to the Democrats."
Now, most experts don't see that coming. I don't see that yet. But they certainly feel -- the Democrats certainly feel the momentum is on their side. That means the Republicans are feeling like it's slipping away and they see more at stake than just the presidency, if you will. You're going to get a lot of this criticism. Internally I can assure you there is also criticism.
O'BRIEN: When you say it comes with the territory, something else we clearly see coming with the territory is back and forth, every time a candidate says something, the other side, regardless of what side we're talking about, jump on it. Here is what the President said in that Univision meet the candidate forum. Here's what he talked about, what lessons he learned over the past four years. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I've learned some lessons over the last four years. And the most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. That's how I got elected, and that's how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It took about two minutes before the Romney campaign had an answer for that. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: The President today threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can't change Washington from the inside. He can only change it from outside. Well, we're going to give him that chance in November. He's going outside!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. So, does that stick? I mean, obviously, they're trying to get some leverage, if you will, in a misstatement, however you want to characterize what President Obama said, shouldn't have said it. What do you think?
CROWLEY: This is the kind of thing you're going to hear more of at this point. They always want to turn each other's words against them. And that's exactly what you see going on here.
I think the larger question that has to be asked of both of them is, no matter what you do, you're going to have to work with Congress. So you can listen to all the budget proposals and all the tax reform proposals you want. You haven't got a Congress that you can work with or that is willing to work with you, you've got nothing, because it's going to be standstill.
What the President didn't say here is that within those first two years, sure, people were mobilized, but, remember, there were pretty divided polls about health care reform. He did that with an all- Democratic Congress. So, the question is, are the days gone when you can sort of work with Republicans and Democrats regardless of who is in the White House and get something done? And the key question I think for both these men is how do you plan on working with Congress? Obviously, the President would tell you that the last two years have been difficult for him and difficult for are Republicans as well.
O'BRIEN: I hear a debate question being formed right now, Candy Crowley. Write that down.
CROWLEY: I'm just saying I think it's a question, right?
O'BRIEN: It's a very good question.
CAIN: I know we're about to lose Candy, but both John Berman and Candy brought up a good point. If I grant you the premise that Mitt Romney is beginning to fail, does that affect people running for Senate races across the country? When we're talking about Mitt Romney is not an ideological indictment, not of his ideas but of him as a candidate, do those things go downhill? Do those things affect down ballot?
O'BRIEN: Candy, what do you think?
CROWLEY: It depends on which gaffes you're talking about, there's an indictment from conservatives about how he's running his campaign. I think that the 47 percent comment, they're certainly trying to broad that out to those house races. There is nothing in those house races that has been brought up by Democrats more than Paul Ryan and Medicare. So, if you attach that to the Romney/Ryan team, then I think, yes, it could have an affect down ballot. It's not about Mitt Romney's a bad candidate but some of the things that have been said that Democrats are now trying to stick to their opponents.
O'BRIEN: Candy Crowley, got to let you go. Appreciate it.
John Berman, before I let you get to the news, what do you think of what candy just said there?
BERMAN: I think the 47 percent is more than just another gaffe. It speaks to what critics feel may be his inner beliefs, the character of Mitt Romney, which is why it may have more legs than saying something silly or making a $10,000 bet during a debate. All gaffes are not equal, and that one I think speaks more to his character.
COLES: To your point about whether or not there's a knockdown effect, this is about where the money goes, the money moves away from the actual presidential and the big supporters start targeting Republicans in specific seats?
BERMAN: That hasn't started happening yet.
COLES: It feels like it's about to. People I'm talking to say that's about to happen.
SOCARIDES: Republicans are starting to distance themselves from some of the Romney comments.
O'BRIEN: Gaffes are equal opportunity. And we have seen them on both sides and talked about them on both sides, and we have a long way to go. Let's get to the news.
BERMAN: All right, we're going to look now overseas, a protest in Pakistan over an anti-Islam film mocking the prophet Muhammad has turned deadly. Protesters have set fire in two movie theaters overnight. One person was killed, more than two dozen people injured. Protesters and police have clashed in other Pakistani cities also. The U.S. closed diplomatic facilities in several countries in anticipation of new unrest.
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan that began three years ago is over. President Obama sent in 30,000 additional soldiers have been sent in to neutralize the Taliban uprising. The last several hundred of those troops have now shipped out. At least about 68,000 U.S. personnel still on the ground stationed in Afghanistan.
Penn State has hired a high-profile law firm headed by Kenneth Feinberg to handle lawsuits filed by victims in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The university is hoping to settle all suits by the end of the year.
And this -- wipe that smile off your face, driver. New Jersey's motor vehicle commission is telling staff to not let people smile too much in their driver's license photos. The reason, they say, is that grinning and other expressions can distort the distance between your mouth and your chin. That apparently makes it harder for computers that use facial recognition technology. SOCARIDES: If you are worried about messing up the facial recognition technology, we're a hair away from "Gattaca."
O'BRIEN: I'm suggesting that there's a reason for your I.D. photo, a reasonable look of what your face is. They do the same thing in passport photos.
SOCARIDES: Don't smile. The automatons may not be able to tell who you are.
O'BRIEN: Stop it! It's Friday. I just can't take it.
O'BRIEN: All this week CNN has been looking in-depth on the issues shaping this year's presidential race. This morning we're going to focus on terrorism on terrorism and the different approaches between President Obama and the former governor Mitt Romney when it comes to keeping Americans safe. Here is CNN's intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly.
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: The killing of Osama bin Laden, undoubtedly the national security highlight of the Obama administration. Few argue it was a risky move for the President to give the order to invade Pakistani airspace and go after the al Qaeda leader. As a candidate in 2007, Romney questioned whether it was worth the time and money it would take to hunt bin Laden down, later saying, of course, he would have given the same order.
Don't expect much of a difference between the two candidates on the issue of drones either. The program started under President Bush hit full speed under Obama, who relies on the still classified missions to limit the numbers of troops on the ground by launching missiles from the air.
OBAMA: My most sacred duty as President and Commander-in-Chief is to keep the American people safe. And what that means is that we've brought a whole bunch of tools to bear to go after al Qaeda and those who would attack Americans. Drones are one tool that we use.
KELLY: Romney supports the use of drones as well, like his rival, even in a case where a U.S. citizen may be the target.
ROMNEY: If there is someone who is going to join with a group like Aa Qaeda that declares war in America and we're in a war with that entity, then, of course, anyone bearing arms with that entity is fair game for the United States of America. KELLY: But there are places where the two candidates differ, mainly over the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the use of the interrogation tactic known as waterboarding, where a detainee is made to feel as if he's drowning.
OBAMA: This first executive order --
KELLY: On the Guantanamo question, despite his 2009 promise to return the American people to, quote, "moral high ground" by issuing an executive order to close the facility, it turned out it was easier said than done for the President. Romney, on the other hand, wants to keep Guantanamo open for business.
On a question of torture, you have to know what it is to know where with the candidates stand. While both have said they're opposed to the use of torture, Romney has so far refused to characterize waterboarding as torture.
ROMNEY: I just don't think it's productive for a President of the United States to lay out a list of what is specifically referred to as torture.
KELLY: Romney's lack of a specific definition worries security experts like Bruce Riedel.
BRUCE RIEDEL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: The governor owes it to the American people to explain what he means that he won't allow torture but doesn't want to comment on techniques of torture.
KELLY: Obama literally banned the practice as one of his first official acts.
OBAMA: Waterboarding is torture. It's contrary to America's traditions. It's contrary to our ideals. That's not who we are.
KELLY: A recent poll suggests likely voters like Obama when it comes to national security issues. When it comes to terrorism specifically, 50 percent of likely voters polled last month said Obama would better handle terrorism, and 43 percent threw their weight behind Romney.
RIEDEL: Any American president at this time is going to wage a relentless struggle against al Qaeda and associated movements because Republicans and Democrats alike recognize we still have a significant threat coming from al Qaeda and its allies.
KELLY: Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office come January, the only certainty, say intelligence experts, is that the enemy will still be there, still plotting to do Americans harm.
Suzanne Kelly, CNN, Washington.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, one of the infamous Memphis Three sentenced to death, then released after years of public outcry. I'll be sharing his story in a book called "Life After Death." That's up next.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.
It was a case that shocked the country nearly 20 years ago. Three teenagers known as the West Memphis Three were convicted for the murder of three 8-year-old boys. Two was sentenced to life in prison, while the third, Damien Echols was labeled the ring leader and he was given the death penalty.
Last August all three men walked free but only after they entered an Alford plea, a legal loop hole that frees them without exonerating them. Damien Echols describes his time on death row and what led to the conviction in his new memoir which is called "Life after Death." This book is riveting, unbelievable.
Damien joins us this morning to talk about it. You don't discuss the trial in the book at all, which I thought was sort of a big missing piece. Why not?
DAMIEN ECHOLS, AUTHOR, "LIFE AFTER DEATH": Because it can reach a point, you know especially after all these years, where people see you as the trial. They don't see you as having an identity outside the trial. It's almost like you don't even become a person in the public eye anymore, you know, you become synonymous with what happened to you.
And I kind of wanted to break away from that and steer clear of it and to go into, you know, whether me and even a little bit of the other two guys, what our living situations were like before we went in and now even afterwards instead of just --
O'BRIEN: It is horrible, horrible. I mean, the descriptions of prison in your book -- how old were you when you went into?
ECHOLS: I was 18 when I went in and spent 18 years in. So half my life.
O'BRIEN: So describe for me, I mean, some of the stuff that you literally cannot say it on -- we couldn't put it on the air. So tell me about the things that you can tell us.
ECHOLS: It's you know the words brutality -- brutality doesn't even begin to articulate it in over the years that I was there. I had been beaten, I have been starved. There's almost no medical care in there at all. You know they're not going to spend a lot of time and money taking care of someone they're putting to death. So there is a lot of pain, lot of misery and a lot of suffering.
CAIN: You told us just a moment ago you spent ten years in solitary confinement. Is there any way you can help us understand what that's like?
ECHOLS: Maybe if you were to go into your bathroom and turn off the light and stand there for ten years. That's pretty much what it would be like. I was brought out once a week. I was allowed to see my wife for three hours. Other than that, I was in complete and absolute solitary confinement.
SOCARIDES: It's dark, it's dark, the room is dark?
ECHOLS: Well, there are artificial lights but I never saw any sort of sunlight, natural light, anything of that nature.
BERMAN: How hard is it to be out now? How hard is it to be with people?
ECHOLS: The anxiety can be overwhelming sometimes. Especially just things that people take for granted like navigating, finding your way just from Point A to Point B. I was in a box for 20 years and never had to find my way anywhere. So now it's extremely overwhelming.
O'BRIEN: You write a lot about your wife. The woman who is now your wife, she actually wrote you a letter and you met while you were in prison. Why would she, you said what you liked about her was that she -- she didn't -- she apologized for invading your privacy.
Tell me a little bit about how she was responsible what you'd said, to saving your life in a lot of ways.
ECHOLS: She did -- we've been together for about 17 years now. And she did -- she either did or had a hand in 85 percent of the work done in this case. She did more work than the attorneys and private investigators combined.
At one point, she took out two personal loans just to pay off legal fees. She was the one who just rallied people relentlessly, would not let people forget about this, constantly kept it out there, she kept reminding people.
COLES: I mean, when you read the book, what comes out of it is this extraordinary unexpected love story between you and your wife.
ECHOLS: You know, people ask me, is there anything good that came of this. Or would I go through it again? You know, I would. I mean there have been -- there was -- there was a lot of horror that came out of this situation, but at the same time there have been a lot of blessings in my life because of this. And she was the biggest one.
O'BRIEN: Are you mad that you're not exonerated? I mean, we talked about the Alford plea, which means that technically, you have served 18-plus years of a prison sentence for this crime and now you're out as far as like sort of technically, legally.
ECHOLS: I don't think it's -- it's not anger. To be honest, I'm just too tired to be angry about it anymore. It's already consumed almost 20 years of my life. There is something there, something that I can't even quite put a name on. But we can't rest.
You know for us, there's no sense of closure. We have to keep going. We have to keep talking about this and we have to keep doing the investigation, because the state isn't going to do anything. O'BRIEN: The book is absolutely riveting. It's called "Life after Death" and the descriptions of the people that you were in prison with, we could spend six hours on that alone. It's a tremendous book. Thank you for talking with us, Damien Echols.
ECHOLS: Thank you so much for having me.
O'BRIEN: Congratulations on your freedom, if that's the way you put that. I don't know.
ECHOLS: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: We've got to take a break. STARTING POINT back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: The Top 10 CNN Heroes for 2012 have been revealed. You could help decide who is going to be hero of the year. Anderson Cooper tells us how. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC360": Now that we've announced the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012, I want to show you how you can vote for the CNN Hero of the Year. It's very easy. This is the main page of CNNHeroes.com. Now, down here you'll see all top ten CNN heroes. Each one will receive $50,000 plus a shot at becoming CNN Hero of the Year.
And that's where you come in. Here is how you can vote for your favorite CNN Hero. As an example I'm going to randomly click on Roazia Jan over here. You can read the story about her work providing free education to girls in rural Afghanistan. Now the same kind of information will come up if you take any of the top 10 CNN Heroes.
Now once you're ready to pick the person who inspires you the most, click "vote". It's in red right over here, a new page then comes up. It shows you all top ten CNN heroes. You choose the person you want to vote for. I'm going to say here, as an example, Leo McCarthy, his photo will show up down here under your selection.
Then just enter your e-mail over here. And step two, you know enter the security code and you click on the red box right down here that says "vote". You can vote up to ten times every day with your e-mail address and through Facebook. And then rally your friends by sharing your choice on Facebook over here or on Twitter.
And remember, you can vote from your computer, your phone, your tablet, pretty much any mobile device with a browser. Just go to CNNHeroes.com. We'll reveal your 2012 Hero of the Year during the "CNN HEROES: AN ALL STAR TRIBUTE". It's a CNN tradition that promises to inspire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Time for "End Point". It's going to go to Joanna today. What have you got?
COLES: Well, Soledad, we've had some amazing guests on the show this morning. I think Damien Echols's story is fascinating. I've actually read his book. And I'm always fascinated by those women who write to men, convicted killers in jail, as his wife did. And yet this Lori Davis, who is a landscaping architect in Brooklyn wrote to him, they started an extraordinary correspondence and eventually ended up getting married while he was still in jail.
O'BRIEN: She saved his life.
COLES: And she saved his life and got him out of jail and it is the most amazing story. Two highly intelligent, articulated people and the correspondence that goes back and forth was just incredible.
O'BRIEN: The book is two thumbs up kind of thing, I recommend everybody to read it.
COLES: You really, really can't put it down.
SOCARIDES: If it weren't for her, right, he would probably still be in jail. They would all be in jail, right.
COLES: They'll still be in jail.
O'BRIEN: And we are out of time. Thank you for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.
"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday morning.
Hey Carol, good morning.