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Petraeus Investigation Details; BBC Abuse Scandal; Reviewing the President's Agenda; Syrian Conflict Threatens Region; CIA Detention Claims Untrue; Backlash Over Petraeus Scandal; Reported Atrocities of Syrian Opposition; People Still Without Electricity; Importance of Sandy Being a Cyclone

Aired November 12, 2012 - 14:00   ET


TED ROWLANDS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ted Rowlands, in for Brooke Baldwin.

Less than a week since the election, David Petraeus has commandeered the national conversation. Official Washington is racing today to determine whether the downfall of the nation's top spy is merely a breathtaking sex scandal or perhaps something worse.

Paula Broadwell, 20 years Petraeus' junior and a married mom of two, hasn't told her side of the affair, at least not in public yet, but she reportedly met Petraeus in 2006 at a public event at Harvard when Petraeus was a four-star general in charge of the war in Iraq. The affair didn't begin until late 2011, at least that is what Petraeus' former spokesman is saying, and he says he talked to Petraeus since the scandal broke on Friday.


STEVEN BOYLAN, FMR. PETRAEUS SPOKESMAN: And he is concerned that people understand that this one happened after he had retired from the Army. The affair started approximately two months after he was in the CIA. and IT ended about four months ago.


ROWLANDS: The affair was uncovered by the FBI. And that's right, the FBI, which sometime, during the summer, investigated harassing e-mails sent to this woman, Petraeus family friend Jill Kelly. That probe determined that the e-mails, which included an admonition to, quote, "back off," came from Paula Broadwell. While combing through Broadwell's e-mails, they came upon David Petraeus.

Let's stop it right here and bring in Suzanne -- Suzanne Kelly in Washington. She is our intelligent correspondent -- intelligence correspondent.

Suzanne, a lot of ground to cover here, but we have this video that has surfaced of Paula Broadwell, just last month, speaking at the University of Denver. And she's speaking here as David Petraeus' biographer about the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAULA BROADWELL, PETRAEUS BIOGRAPHER: I don't know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually -- had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So that's -- that's still being vetted.


ROWLANDS: All right. The first logical question might be, where did she hear that? Did it come from David Petraeus? And do we know if her claim is true, that the CIA was hiding captives inside a consular annex in Benghazi?

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ted. I mean this raises serious issues. She clearly says in that video that the information she was sharing on Libya and the CIA holding prisoners there hadn't been vetted. So that means she's sharing something with -- that she heard, really, with a public audience. Now that's concerning because they have to ask, what's her source? Is the source of all of her information David Petraeus? Given her extraordinary access to the former director of the CIA, it would have been a reasonable assumption. But, again, her access to him was not in any way in an official capacity. Though she did tell me this summer that she was working with the general on writing a second book.

Now, a senior intelligence official says that attention (ph) claims are categorically not true, that nobody was ever held at the annex before, during or after the attacks. But with something like this, Ted, the damage is really done just by the nature of her putting information out there.

ROWLANDS: What more do we know about his relationship with her, with Paula Broadwell?

KELLY: Well, as we heard a little bit earlier, the general has been reaching out to friends over the weekend, and even today, telling them that the relationship began a couple of months after he started as director of the CIA, but it lasted up until about four months ago.

We also know that the two were seen together about a month ago. What we don't know is if there was any conversation about the possibility of this coming out or one warning the other that this news might be coming out. But we do know they were seen here in Washington at a dinner about a month ago.

ROWLANDS: What about Jill Kelly? What do we know about her?

KELLY: Well, a government source who's familiar with the investigation confirms to CNN that the FBI probe that led to David Petraeus' resignation was launched after Jill Kelly contacted the FBI about that e-mail she said that she received. Now, she viewed it as threatening, she said, and it turned out to be from Paula Broadwell, as you mentioned. But the source said the e-mail was jealous in tone, but didn't know much more about the content or if there was more than one e-mail. The source said that Kelly went to the FBI in Tampa. That's where she lives. Despite living in Tampa, though Kelly has been known to be on the Washington social circuit as well, according to this government source who had actually met her at a Washington party.

ROWLANDS: All right, Suzanne Kelly talking to a lot of folks in Washington. And we'll hear from -- more from you, I'm sure, as this story continues to unfold.

So, the head of the CIA was conducting an illicit affair. Is that in itself a matter of national security? Well, some members of Congress apparently think it is. And they're asking why the intelligent committees weren't informed about the matter before they were. CNN's Dana Bash is live for us now on Capitol Hill.

Dana, first off, what is the reaction from people you have spoken to up on The Hill. David Petraeus seemed to command universal respect in Congress. What are people saying today, a few days now after the shock has worn off?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The shock has worn off to, I think, even more shock, Ted, because as the -- as Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence chairwoman, put it earlier today, as the layers of the onion are peeled over and over, you see more information that is perplexing to those who know and revered David Petraeus the way they did, particularly those who worked with him on Capitol Hill.

The answer to the question about whether or not members of Congress, particularly the four heads of the intelligence committees, the Senate and House, should have been told, they say absolutely, positively. In fact, Dianne Feinstein was on MSNBC earlier with Andrea Mitchell who said that it's actually very atypical for them not to be briefed and somebody had to make the affirmative decision not to do that. The other thing she said that she is really not happy about is, never mind them, but the president of the United States should have been involved. You know, we understand that he didn't know until the day before Petraeus actually tendered his resignation. So, you know, that was the day after the election.

And the reason why they're so upset about it is because they didn't give the higher ups this information until they concluded that it wasn't a security breach or security risk. Well, what about all those months where there were potential security risks or breaches while the director of the CIA was going around the world with the most highly classified information and conversations that he was having about critical, critical hot spots.

ROWLANDS: Well, Petraeus was supposed to have testified at a hearing this week on The Hill, talking about Benghazi. He will be replaced by the interim CIA director. Is there, and we've heard a little bit about this, a little rumblings, is there a chance that he will be subpoenaed and David Petraeus may be in that seat later this week?

BASH: I think the answer to the question about the -- excuse me, the hearing that's already scheduled this week, likely not. Mike Morrell, the acting CIA director, folks on Capitol Hill think he has certainly has been briefed. He's been very engaged in what the CIA did and didn't know with regard to Benghazi. And he is going to testify.

However, there is a lot of anger, frankly, at General Petraeus, specifically, again, going back to Dianne Feinstein. She said that she heard that he did a trip report on a recent trip to Benghazi and that he hasn't filed it yet and she wants to know, what was in that trip report. And she even did throw out the s word, subpoena, to say that she might have -- she might be willing to subpoena that information on the floor of the Senate.

The other thing that she said, and other sources I'm talking to on the House side said as well, is that even though he might not be there this week because, you know, they respect him as a human being and that he's going through a lot right now, they certainly intend to call him probably in a closed session to get what he knew and didn't know and his thoughts on what happened in Benghazi.

ROWLANDS: Paula Broadwell was on this very show less than a year ago in February when she was promoting the book that she wrote -- co-wrote about David Petraeus. Dana, if you will, let's take a listen to what she says about her access to David Petraeus when she was talking to Brooke earlier this year.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN: How did you manage that? How did you get this access?

PAULA BROADWELL, PETRAEUS BIOGRAPHER: Well, this project started as my dissertation about three years ago. And I was working with General Petraeus virtually doing interviews via e-mail and occasionally running with him and interviewing. And when he was selected by the president to replace General McChrystal in the summer of 2010, I decided the time was right to turn it into a book. And So I got a visa and went to Afghanistan. Actually went on a few trips and embedded both with the troopers in the field, but also at headquarters.


ROWLANDS: Dana, are members of Congress concerned about the level of access that she was granted?

BASH: In a word, yes. And part of the concern is that she kind of wore two hats. She was somebody who was a military officer. And so she, we believe, had some sort of security clearance once upon a time. But then the other hat she wore was effectively as a journalist because she was David Petraeus' biographer. But, you know, talking to people -- I do not know her, but talking to people who did know her, and knew her pretty well, it was an open secret how close she was to David Petraeus and that she could get information to him and from him pretty quickly if people who knew her could get to her and get to him.

ROWLANDS: All right, Dana Bash, as you said, the layers of the onion still being pulled back. Thank you, Dana.

Now this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): One clip is especially disturbing. What appeared to be rebel fighters curse as they fire. The man, unarmed, is gunned down.


ROWLANDS: Up next, a chilling CNN report as the Syrian government kills its own people, the rebels are now accused of war crimes as well. And there is video.

Plus, two weeks later, thousands still without power across the northeast. And now new concerns that insurance companies could take advantage of Sandy victims because of a loophole.


ROWLANDS: The parents of a missing American journalist last seen in Syria are in the Middle East to try to find their son. Debra and Marc Tice travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, but they're still no closer to knowing what has happened to their son Austin. Last time Austin spoke to his family was August 13th, when he was about to leave Syria for Lebanon.


DEBRA TICE, MOTHER OF MISSING JOURNALIST: We had no idea who is holding Austin and that is the primary reason that we have come to Lebanon is to try to find out where Austin is and establish contact with him and bring him safely home.

MARC TICE, FATHER OF MISSING JOURNALIST: Everyone we've spoken to, and we've spoken to everyone we can, has said the same thing, that they are unsure where he is. They don't know who he's with, where he is. We're hoping for answers and we're here appealing to the people in the region to have compassion on our family. To whom ever has our son right now, we ask you to treat him well, keep him safe, and return him to us as soon as possible.


ROWLANDS: The Tics say the Syrian government has told them that it has no idea where their 31-year-old son is, but the couple was encouraged by an October YouTube video showing him captive, but alive.

Focusing on the battle in Syria. The sides are now better defined. This is the leader of the newly formed National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution. The group was established in Qatar, Sunday as a way to unite the scattered forces. Its first objective and main objective, to push out President Bashar al Assad, putting on the record what's been playing out on the streets for more than a year.

This YouTube video, which CNN cannot confirm, allegedly shows anti- government forces shooting at regime choppers. The opposition group says Assad's crackdown has led to 35,000 deaths since March of 2011 and many thousands more wounded, including these victims reportedly hit in the Syrian town -- a Syrian town near Turkey. But as the opposition decries the government for brutal attacks, some of its own are accused of very similar acts. CNN's Arwa Damon has the story for us. But first, a warning, this report shows graphic video of atrocities allegedly committed by both Syrian government and rebel fighters. Some viewers may consider it disturbing.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is video from Homs shot earlier this year. Rebel fighters crawl through holes they smashed in walls and find an entire family killed by regime forces, they say. A woman's body lies on the floor. In the room next to it, bodies crowded into a corner. The slaughtered child's face, a mask of fear. More dead are in the bathroom. A small voice whimpers from another room. A child comes into view, crawling over a body. He's the only survivor.

The Assad regime has always maintained it is simply targeting foreign- backed terrorists seeking to overthrow the government. But there are a horrifying stream of daily videos, none of which can be independently confirmed by CNN, alleging to show atrocities carried out by regime forces that the opposition claims show no mercy. Not even to those already dead. Here what appeared to be Assad fighters dragging a man's body up into a truck. And in this video, corporations are used for target practice. Images like these the norm in Syria.

And now, a growing number of videos alleging to show similar war crimes carried out by rebel fighters. This video is said to have been shot in the town of Hadden (ph) in Idlib province. One clip is especially disturbing. What appeared to be rebel fighters curse as they fire. The man, unarmed, is gunned down.

In the next clip, a detainee is walked past the body. This is said to be from the town of Sarakan (ph). The men on the ground, allegedly Assad fighters, cry out. Their pleas met with a volley of gunfire. Defective Judge Talal Housham, head of the Free Syrian Judicial Council, blames these actions on the ruthless tactics of the government.

"These are isolated incidents, carried out by individual revolutionaries. The regime tactics are what created this radicalism," he tells us from his base in Turkey. "A person who has had their entire home destroyed with their family inside, has had their entire family killed will naturally become radicalized."

While the council has set up makeshift courts in some rebel controlled parts of the country, Housham admits that they can't control or monitor every single person. "Still," he says, "this is not a reflection of the revolution. Our revolution is about justice, equality, and rule of law."

Things that are sadly too often among the many casualties of war, especially one as brutal as Syria's.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut.


ROWLANDS: Well, just ahead, the small loophole that could save homeowners tens of thousands of dollars following Superstorm Sandy.

Plus, a stern warning issued for insurance companies weeks after the devastating storm.


ROWLANDS: Finally a bit of good news coming out of the northeast. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says gas rationing in his state will end tomorrow. But in New York, victims of Superstorm Sandy have been living in the cold and the dark for two weeks. More than 160,000 people across 10 states are still without power. Congressman Peter King, who represents part of Long Island, calls the recovery unacceptable.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: (INAUDIBLE) Long Island Public Authority has failed miserably. They are not doing their job. They are not communicating with the people. And I'm hoping that if they can set up a federal infrastructure led by the Army Corps of Engineers, which will have a comprehensive plan, which LIPA would be required to follow. This is an absolute disgrace. We're now two weeks into the storm and still have over 100,000 people without power and with no real estimate as to when they're going to get it back, getting misleading information, getting distorted information.


ROWLANDS: CNN's Victor Blackwell joins me now from the Rockaways neighborhood of Queens, New York. A neighborhood still in the dark.

Victor, how are people coping?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are doing the best they can. The people in this building over here, this is building three of the Ocean Village community. Fourteen floors. No water, no phone service, no electricity, no heat. There is gas. Some people are opening their stoves to let the heat out so they can heat their apartments that way or boiling water on the stove to get some steam generated in the apartment.

We spoke with several people about the conditions inside. They say the hallways are dark because, of course, there's no light. There are some people who leave the garbage in front of the door because they either don't feel safe or unable to walk to the incinerator. And, again, it's 14 flights from the top to the bottom. And there are other buildings in this community that are even taller.

Now, right over my shoulder here, there's a generator in the parking lot. There are other generators in the parking lot but they have not been connected. We met with a member of the management team. And when I say met, I met him, he met me, there wasn't much discussion. Here's what he said.


BLACKWELL: Can you tell me why the power hasn't been restored at this building? Is that something that you control?

MICHAEL PRUSH, OCEAN VILLAGE BUILDING MANAGEMENT: You're going to have to read (ph) my comment at the time (ph).

BLACKWELL: You're in management with the company?


BLACKWELL: OK. And what's your name?

PRUSH: Michael Prush.

BLACKWELL: Tell me, people have been here for two weeks without --

PRUSH: We're not going to comment on that, sir. I apologize. It's going to have to be run through the rest of our public outreach organizations.

BLACKWELL: But you understand that the frustration that they look around and everyone else has power.

PRUSH: Could you excuse me for a moment, please?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One second. What are the generators for if they're not on?


BLACKWELL: He told us that he would give us a call back. Well, we received a call, but it was from a public relations firm connected to the company. We're still waiting for a response to why the generators have not been connected and why this -- most of this community, just across the street, got power back very early this morning and Ocean Village has not received power.

We know that from LIPA, tens of thousands of people still without power, 28,000 of them here in the Rockaway peninsula. Still waiting for answers. But, again, going into the third week, no phone service, no electricity, no heat, and, for some, no running water.


ROWLANDS: And a huge pile of debris. The debris field, if you will, is just -- when you look at the pictures, it is unimaginable. You see the birds on top there. Bottom line, Victor, for these folks in the building behind you, how -- have they been told when they should expect power? Is there someone going to come and at least plug in the generators?

BLACKWELL: No. I mean it's interesting because we've gone to the people who would have those answers, the management of this building, and said, when will it happen? You saw the exchange. The residents are getting even less than that about when the lights will be put back on. And it's very frustrating. And we went inside that building. And when you walk in, down that dark hall, the first thing that hits you before the darkness is the smell when you open the door because the garbage for some people is just sitting in the hall. Fifteen days. ROWLANDS: Amazing. All right. Victor Blackwell, thank you.

Sandy broke records across the Mid-Atlantic region, highest surges, most feet of flooding and, here's a new one, the most aid need ever for the state of New York. "The New York Times" reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for $30 billion in disaster aid. And while Sandy's aftermath looks and feels like a hurricane hit, the storm system was actually considered a, quote, "post tropical cyclone" when it made landfall. An important difference that New York Senator Charles Schumer says he'll make sure the insurance companies remember. Why? Because Sandy was not a hurricane. People who filed insurance claims will be on the hook for much lower deductibles. CNN's Maribel Aber is here to explain.

Maribel, how exactly does it work? Why is it so important that the National Weather Service calls Sandy something other than a hurricane? I guess hurricane is the word you do not want this storm to be labeled if you are a victim.


Let's walk through this because, you know, it can get really confusing. For wind damage from a regular storm, homeowners have to pay a deductible of anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000. Now, if the storm is categorized as a hurricane, that number goes up to 1 to 5 percent of the home's value. So that's really a huge difference in a lot of cases.

Senator Schumer says that would put homeowners on the hook for between $15,000 to $27,000 more. Superstorm Sandy made landfall with speeds of just one mile per hour. So that's below the level that would have been classified -- the storm as a hurricane.


ROWLANDS: Senator Schumer sent out this warning to insurers not to fight this cyclone designation. Was there a specific event that triggered him to do so or he was just doing this out of an abundance of caution?

ABER: Well, Ted, you know, Senator Schumer said in a press conference yesterday that he's heard reports of insurance companies trying to change the designation by pressuring the NOAA or challenging this designation in court. Schumer said he's going to make sure that doesn't happen. He said, quote, "the state and federal government both classified this storm as a post tropical cyclone, not a hurricane, and insurance companies shouldn't try to alter reality to save money on the backs of homeowners."

And, Ted, other politicians, including governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have said they'll make sure nobody has to pay hurricane deductibles for this storm. But the president of the Insurance Information Institute told CNN Money, the insurance industry isn't trying to charge it and individual insurers like Allstate and Liberty Mutual say their customers will not, I say not have to pay the hurricane deductible. Ted.

ROWLANDS: All right, good news for them. Maribel Aber, thank you.

If you want to help storm victims in the northeast, it is easy to do. Just log on to You'll find all kinds of information on how to contribute to the relief effort.

Up next, more than a woman behind the former CIA director, Holly Petraeus. She has stood by her husband for 37 years and she is a leader in her own right. Stay with us.


ROWLANDS: We're learning now about the affair that brought down CIA director David Petraeus. A friend tells CNN, Petraeus is taking it hard and he sees his decision to have an affair with Paula Broadwell as a failure. I want to talk now more about Holly Petraeus, his wife, who until now has been seen by many as the woman behind the man. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr spent some time with Holly Petraeus. Barbara, first off, what kind of a woman is Holly Petraeus?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, as a correspondent covering military affairs, I have run into Mrs. Petraeus professionally. She is a formidable woman, and quite an expert in her own right, Ted. She works in the area of consumer finance protection for military families. She worked for a long time for the Better Business Bureau. Now works inside the federal government and her area is predatory lending, financial practices, financial health for young military families. This is something I've talked to her about. This is something she is an expert in. She a few weeks ago gave a briefing here in the Pentagon to the press corps. She may not be known much outside of Washington, but inside the circle of military families, very, very highly respected.

ROWLANDS: Yes, I read today she was one of those generals' wives that was accessible and part of the regular folks living day to day. Today we heard that David Patraeus wants to fix his marriage. Has there been any word on how she is reacting to that news? Will she stand by her husband? Do we know?

STARR: Well, we don't. I mean, let's be clear, this is a deeply personal, painful and private matter for Mrs. Petraeus. She does not live her personal life in the public eye, very professional publicly. And simply is not one of those people in Washington who lives her life out there. I can only imagine how painful this is for her.

She grew up in a military family. If you want to talk about army royalty, it's Holly Petraeus, not Dave Petraeus. Her father was a superintendent at West Point. The record of military service in her family goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War. So this is a woman who understands military life and has seen so many families go through this. I can only imagine how painful it must be for her. I talked to a friend of the family a little while ago. He says she's holding up as well as can be expected, his words, of the friend and she is right now focused on her family. We don't really know what that means.

ROWLANDS: Difficult time, really, for everybody involved. Barbara Starr, thank you.

After years of leaving it on the back burner, lawmakers including Republicans are now pushing for immigration reform. We're not just talking about small changes, but possibly sweeping reforms that could eventually grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.

Plus, we hear from survivors after a deadly explosion that rocked an Indiana neighborhood, two people are dead, dozens of homes were obliterated. Stay with us.


ROWLANDS: Well, it's been less than a week since he won a second term and President Obama's schedule is filling up. Here is what is on his agenda for the week ahead. He'll be out of sight today and tomorrow, but Wednesday he holds his first formal news conference since the election. Thursday he heads to the northeast to check on recovery efforts from hurricane Sandy. And Friday he sits down with congressional leaders from both parties to begin talks on the looming fiscal cliff. And on Saturday, he will leave for a four-day trip to southeast Asia.

As the dust settles on the election, there is a renewed effort under way to bridge the political gaps over immigration. Republican senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic senator Charles Schumer say they plan to restart immigration reform talks in hopes of getting a deal through Congress. Their plan will focus on four main points: border security, secure citizenship documents, fairer legal immigration, and a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the United States. Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is with us from D.C. Jessica, is the Obama administration saying anything about the Graham and Schumer plan as it starts to formulate here?

JESSICA YELLIN, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ted. They haven't commented on the plan so far this week, but Graham and Schumer are re-engaging on a proposal that those two senators first outlined in march of 2010, and the White House supported that proposal then. That proposal has four specific components, that includes not just tightening the border, but the key component is a biometrics Social Security card so only those here legally can be hired. That is sort of can considered the key linchpin that could get a lot of Republicans on board. Also a path to legalization, a process for admitting temporary workers. It sort of is considered a framework for a comprehensive plan that the White House said they very much would like to get done for the President in the second term.

ROWLANDS: What about the timing? Why now? Why is this being brought up after the election? There is exit polling that showed that majority of Americans want something done on this. What is pushing this right now?

YELLIN: Well, a couple of things, first of all, the President made it clear that if he were to win, he said this during the election, immigration reform would be among his top priorities in a second term. He said, quite plainly, he believes Republicans would come around to that because his words I'm going to look at it would a big reason - these are the President's words-I will a second term if he does, he said is because the Republican nominee would have so alienated the fastest growing demographic group in the country - the Latino community, and they would have a deep interest to get reform done.

The President won more than 70 percent of the Latino vote. And so I think the Democrats see an opening to build on momentum, and Lindsey Graham is perhaps seeing an opening to take advantage of what Republicans see as a failing in the election and maybe a chance to get right with this issue.

ROWLANDS: What is it going to take to get this through Congress? This could be tough.

YELLIN: I don't know. Is the saying that's the $60,000 question or has inflation made it, the $100 million question, I don't know. Because of the politics of the election, there are a lot of people who think it could get through right now. I use the phrase get right on it. On the other hand there are people in local races who think that they'll get primaried for taking a position on this in support of it and maybe just can't vote for it and we just -- we won't know the politics of it until it starts to actually play out, Ted.

ROWLANDS: Jessica Yellin, from Washington, thank you, Jessica.

A massive explosion kills two people and damages dozens of homes in Indianapolis. Today, homeowners return to see what's left. We'll hear from the survivor coming up next.


ROWLANDS: Folks are returning home today to an Indianapolis neighborhood in ruins. It was a deadly blast heard miles away, an explosion flattening one home and damaging as many as 80 others.


ANDY WAGNER, HOME DAMAGED IN EXPLOSION: Most people text me from far away. It is not just that they heard it, they felt it. It is a concussion.

DEBBIE WAGNER, HOME DAMAGED IN EXPLOSION: Yes, we thought maybe a truck had run into our house. And then I thought earthquake. Then I thought -- then I came downstairs and saw the glass shattered and thought did someone shoot at our window and went outside and you can already see the fire.


ROWLANDS: Two people died in the explosion. While authorities haven't officially released their identities, a candlelight vigil has been held for a teacher who lived in one of the homes. Next hour I'll speak live with a local fire chief about the mystery source of this explosion. Parts of the so-called floating city are truly under water today. Heavy rainfall has caused severe flooding in Venice, Italy. It affected nearly three-quarters of the city and has forced hundreds to evacuate. Flooding in Venice is common around this time of year, this one is historically bad. The high water mark hit five feet in the city, a number that was only reached six times between now and the 1800s.

Lance Armstrong is further distancing himself from the cancer support group that he created. The Livestrong Foundation says Armstrong has resigned from its board of directors. He had already stepped down as chairman, the Foundation says Armstrong made the decision voluntarily to spare the group what it called, quote, negative effects of the controversy that has engulfed his legacy. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven record Tour de France titles last month after he refused to challenge a report he orchestrated a sophisticated doping program throughout his career. Armstrong denies he ever cheated, and seems to remain defiant. Over the weekend, he tweeted this photo of himself lounging on his sofa, beneath his seven Tour de France jerseys.

Growing tension between Syria and Israel, after days of cross border fire, now Israel's president sits down with CNN for an exclusive interview about the back and forth and how his country will respond. You will hear what he had to say coming up next


ROWLANDS: Israel is warning Syria, keep the conflict internal. Israeli defense forces fired into Syria after a Syrian mortar shell hit near a military post in the northern Israeli city of Golan Heights. This is the first time Israel has fired on Syria since 1973. Senior international correspondent Sara Sidner is in Jerusalem. Sara, I know you sat down for an exclusive interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres. What did he say about Syria?

SARA SIDNER, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's talk about that, because what is happening in the Golan Heights has gone on for the past couple of weeks. There have been several incidents, five now, where either a tank has come into the demilitarized zone from Syria, but those tanks pointed back at Syria, mortars falling, bullets coming in, several sets of mortars that have fallen. The latest two incidents saw Israel responding with fire. Israel responded by firing on Sunday into Syria, saying it is a warning shot, and complaining to theN.N. about the mortars falling on the Golan Heights. They responded again today with another strike in Syria after a mortar fell near a military outpost.

But, what we're hearing from the government and from the leaders of this country is that they do believe that the war in Syria is simply spilling over and that Israel has not been targeted. I asked President Shimon Peres what he thought about what looks like more and more parts of the war in Syria coming over into Israel and what Israel would do if it escalated further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SIDNER: What will Israel do if this war becomes part of the problem in Israel -- starts to spill over more and more and affect the people?

SHIMON PERES, PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL: I hope it won't happen. I don't think they'll much understand their own limitations. But if it happens, we shall defend ourselves. That's all I can say. I don't want to exaggerate and make great declarations and bellicose intents. No, we're not interested. We understand that Syria has enough battles of their own, and doesn't give us any pleasure. But if they endanger, we shall defend ourselves. That's what they can say in a certain manner. I don't want to fire declarations because I don't like fire unnecessarily anyway.


SIDNER: So you can hear there a diplomatic answer talking about the fact that they believe this is not Israel being targeted by Syria, but simply the war spilling over into the Golan Heights and the demilitarized zone. Though, if it keeps happening, Israel will continue to respond and that may mean more fire coming into Israel and Syria.

ROWLANDS: Let's talk about the other possible threat, potentially much more dangerous one that is Iran. Did Peres talk about if he was prepared to attack Iran on his own, depending on what happens with their nuclear ambitions without involvement from the U.S.?

SIDNER: It is interesting because what was said today is different from what we have been hearing, which is much more, much more hawkish. What Mr. Peres said today was that he believed more sanctions were needed, more pressures other than strikes are need on Iran at this point. He believed that the sanctions and what the pressure that has been put on by the United States and the rest of the world is actually taking effect there in Iran and that more of that needs to happen.

He did not say anything about escalating tensions from Israel. He did not say anything about a strike, but only that he believed that more sanctions were needed and that is the way to go, whereas we were hearing a lot more hawkish speak from the prime minister early in the days before the election. Now we have heard very little about Iran coming out of Israel, but Peres did talk about the fact that sanctions are taking effect and sanctions are having an effect on Iran. He thinks more of that is needed. But did not really respond in a strong way to the idea of Israel striking Iran on its own. There have been a lot of arguments here as to whether or not Israel can do that successfully without the help of the United States, Ted.

ROWLANDS: All right, Sara Sidner with an exclusive interview with Shimon Peres, thank you.

More fallout at the BBC after a botched child sex scandal report. There is a call for a radical overhaul of the, quote, broken network. Details from London when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROWLANDS: In the UK, it doesn't get much higher than the head of the BBC. Across the pond this man, George Entwistle, is a household name. But in a shocking twist of events, he quit as BBC director general. His resignation comes after a botched report on a child sex abuse scandal. Just the latest scandal for the BBC accused of covering up the alleged sex crimes of its own TV personality, Jimmy Savile. Today, two more heads at the BBC are caught up in the same controversy. CNN's Dan Rivers has the story.

DAN RIVERS, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a scandal that has claimed the top man at the BBC.

GEORGE ENTWISTLE, FORMER BBC DIRECTOR GENERAL: I have decided that the honorable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general.

RIVERS: But the BBC remains under the spotlight, the world's media camped out on its doorstep, including BBC news crews reporting on their own employer. As more casualties of the child abuse scandal are announced, among the broadcaster's senior management, the head of news, Helen Bohdan and her deputy Steve Mitchell are both stepping aside. A man who used to be a marketing guru for Pepsi is now temporarily taking over at the top.

TIM DAVIES, ACTING DIRECTOR GENERAL BBC: Today I've announced that we are establishing one very simple line of command in news, that's the first task for me as a new acting director general coming in, so I can deliver the journalism that is trusted.

UNIDENTIFIED BBC REPORTER: Tonight, this program apologizes, a key allegation in a report about child abuse was wrong.

RIVERS: The scandal that caused such consternation here boiled down to this: a failure to broadcast allegations of child abuse about a BBC personality Jimmy Savile, followed by the rushing on air of an inaccurate report claiming a conservative politician was a pedophile. The politicians are demanding answers about who actually made those decisions.

JOHN WITTINGDALE, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: We need to find out who was consulted, who had the authority to take that decision, and on what grounds they possibly thought this program should be broadcast.

TESSA JOWELL, SHADOW CULTURE MINISTER: Will she agree that the next victim of this crisis must not be the independence of the BBC?

MARIA MILLER, CULTURE MINISTER: The only organization that can restore the public's trust in the BBC is the BBC itself.

RIVERS: But amid all the hand wringing and resignations here at the BBC, there are plenty who feel the victims of the child abuse should not be forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to do more to ensure that if a child is in difficulty, that that child's voice is heard. And that attention is paid to them because sometimes we have tended to think the victim -- we haven't listened to what the victim is telling us.

RIVERS: Reform for the way child abuse victims are cared for and reform at the BBC for the way those stories are reported. Dan Rivers, CNN, London.