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Fiscal Cliff Standoff; Susan Rice's Choice

Aired December 13, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: The president and the House speaker, they go face to face. Is either man blinking in this fiscal cliff standoff?

We now know the Ambassador Susan Rice won't be the next secretary of state -- this hour, the big announcement and the new reaction.

And a high-tech printer could be deadly. We're going to tell you how it may be able to make guns with a push of a button.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's a lot happening at the White House right now with huge implications for President Obama's second term. The president is meeting with House Speaker John Boehner right now, a new bid to break their deadlock and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. And they only have 19 days left.

At the same time, the president's short list for secretary of state is even shorter right now, now that the Ambassador Susan Rice has taken her name out of the running to replace Hillary Clinton.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, they are both standing by.

Jessica, first to you on the Obama/Boehner meeting that's going on. What are you hearing?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The meeting began 50 minutes ago in the Oval Office, and the purpose of this 11th-hour meeting is to see if they can find a breakthrough, to see if there is any way that they can reach a deal in the 11th hour, Wolf.

For the speaker, that would mean essentially if he can get more spending cuts from the president, if there is a way they can achieve entitlement reform and enough of a spending agreement that would make it worth the speaker's while and able to sell it to his base. For the president, it means, will the speaker give on tax rates, raising rates for the top 2 percent?

The White House has maintained that they will do more on spending, they will negotiate, but only if the speaker gives on rates. And that is what these two men are working on. I'm told that staff is in the room, or at least was when the meeting began. We will see if they get anywhere with 19 days to go, Wolf.

BLITZER: The other bombshell news today from the White House, the U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, dropping out for consideration to become the next secretary of state. Walk us through what the White House is saying about this decision.

YELLIN: Wolf, a painful choice for both people, the president close to Susan Rice. She began working for him in 2008 as one of his campaign advisers on national security foreign policy issues, and somebody that he personally has wanted in that position and wanted to serve for him, but now she has withdrawn from consideration for secretary of state, after a series of Republican senators raised serious concerns for comments she made in the wake of the Benghazi attacks that took four American lives.

Susan Rice acknowledging that it would be a contentious and lengthy hearing. A confirmation process would be extremely difficult, and she broke this news to Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC's evening news and here's some of what she told him in that interview for "Rock Center."


SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Today, I made the decision that it was the best thing for our country, for the American people that I not continue to be considered by the president for nomination as secretary of state, because I didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting, and very disruptive, because there are so many things we need to get done as a country.

And the first several months of a second-term president's agenda is really the opportunity to get the crucial things done. We're talking about comprehensive immigration reform, balanced deficit reduction, job creation. That's what matters.

And to the extent that my nomination could have delayed or distracted or deflected or made even some of these priorities been impossible to achieve, I didn't want that, and I would much prefer to continue doing what I'm doing, which is a job I love at the United Nations.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the president also released a statement saying, in part, "While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment, to put our national interests first."

I should say, Wolf, that you should not expect Susan Rice to leave the administration. I don't. First, she has not resigned from her post at the U.N., as U.S. ambassador, but there's also talks, sources tell me, of her taking on the role of the president's national security adviser here in the West Wing, a post that does not require Senate confirmation, where she can be highly political and it actually serves the president very well.

So expect her to continue serving there. And if I can just bring you some updated news, the president's meeting with Speaker Boehner, I'm told, has broken up. I will bring you an update on what happened there as soon as I have it, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will get back to you very soon. Thanks very much, Jessica, for that. Susan Rice clearly sounding as if, at least for now, she wants to stay on as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

And she can. She doesn't need to be confirmed once again for that position.

Now that Susan Rice is out of the running to become the secretary of state, Senator John Kerry seems to be a shoo-in to become the next secretary of state, succeeding Hillary Clinton.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, what are they saying up on the Hill first of all about Rice's announcement, and secondly about John Kerry becoming secretary of state?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, about Rice's announcement, there isn't a lot of surprise here. There really -- I talked to Democrats and Republicans who said, look, the fact of the matter is that her meetings a couple of weeks ago with -- first of all, with her chief Republican foes, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, did not go well, but, more importantly, the meeting she had with the moderate Republican Susan Collins, who is the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, that did not go well.

And, really, I'm told that she, Susan Collins, did not get answers to basic questions that she was trying to get from Susan Rice. So that certainly did not help Susan Rice. It seemed to poison the well for her even more than it was before. So there isn't a big surprise here. Even Democrats, again, who I talked to, say that she was incredibly competent, that she is very, very smart, but that there might be a personality issue that makes them reluctant to have her as the person representing the U.S. in the role of secretary of state.

But they also say that, just as Jessica said, that she might be very well suited to be the president's national security adviser, because there isn't Senate confirmation there, and it's more inherently political.

To your answer about John Kerry, there certainly is a lot of support for him here. He is a member of the Senate club. He has been for years and years. He is currently the Senate Foreign Relations chairman. And he has not really made it that much of a secret that he wants this job, has for years and years. And it's been really kind of awkward and uncomfortable, frankly, as there's been so much brouhaha over Susan Rice, questions about whether she can be secretary of state. Meanwhile, he's a senator. He's the Foreign Relations chair, and we have had to question him in the hallway about Susan Rice, and it's been a little bit awkward, I have to tell you. But if he is nominated, he would likely sail through the confirmation process, Republicans and Democrats saying nice things about him. There's an ulterior motive, a little bit, I think for Republicans, because it would also provide another open seat for them to try to get a Democratic seat back in Republican hands.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

We're standing by. We're waiting to get some results from the White House to see how that meeting with House speaker, John Boehner, went with the president of the United States. Those are the live pictures from the stakeout outside the West Wing of the White House. We will see if John Boehner goes to the microphones there or if he slips out through the side door, goes into the driveway over there and leaves the White House to head back to Capitol Hill without a statement.

As soon as we know what's going on, we will, of course, share that with you, our viewers.

Meanwhile, President Obama has invited a key international player to come to the White House.

Kate Bolduan is watching this part of the story for us.

Tell our viewers what's going on, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Another very big story, Wolf.

The president plans to meet next month with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement during his own talks with President Karzai in Kabul today. The U.S. is expected to decide soon how many troops to leave in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of forces in 2014.

The country, of course, is still struggling very much with terrorism. At least three people were killed when a suicide bomb exploded near the airfield in Kandahar today, hours after Secretary Panetta left the city. The Taliban are claiming responsibility for that.

CNN's Erin Burnett is in Afghanistan, where she had an exclusive interview with the secretary of defense, Leon Panetta.

Erin, what did the secretary say about the security situation there, especially in light of what happened right after he left?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, Kate, it was pretty amazing. We were in Kandahar today with the defense secretary, and it was about two hours after we left when this suicide bomber from the Taliban struck at the entrance to the Kandahar airfield, where we had been. The timing, as you say, very tough for the United States, which has been trying to say, look, we have been successful. We have made progress, we have made progress training Afghan forces, we have made progress fighting the Taliban and insurgents.

They actually -- General Abrams in the Southern Command in Kandahar told me, look -- specifically said they failed to attack the Kandahar airfield. Two hours later, of course, they succeeded in doing so, even though it was just at the perimeter, which I think is important to mention.

Leon Panetta, though, Kate, was emphasizing some of the progress. He wants to try to tell a story that perhaps the United States has been more successful in training Afghan soldiers to try to take over when the U.S. leaves. But to your point about troop levels, there's an interesting delay here, and the defense secretary didn't really have a good answer for this.

You know, it was several weeks ago, they said, look, we will know in a couple weeks. And then, when that time came, they said, we will know in a couple weeks on terror count. And now here we are and they still don't know. And the defense secretary said, look, we have several different scenarios we have provided to the president, but there's been no final plan.

Even when that's made, the crucial thing will be indemnity. Do U.S. troops get tried here or at home? And that's going to be a big part of this agreement, and, as you said, crucial for the U.S., because no one is really sure whether this insurgency will become, again, a sanctuary for al Qaeda -- back to you guys.

BOLDUAN: And, of course, the defense secretary wouldn't say that they're going to be completely, you know, removing their focus from Afghanistan, but what did the secretary say about kind of where the next focus is in terms of outside of Afghanistan and terror threats?

BURNETT: Well, Kate, you know, he said he still thinks that al Qaeda is the single biggest threat to the American homeland, so that even after the longest war in American history, he still thinks that al Qaeda is the number one threat.

I thought that was important and perhaps a sobering reality for many Americans listening to him. When I asked him where, he mentioned Somalia, he mentioned Yemen, and he mentioned Mali. And Mali has become, obviously, a North African country that's become what some say is now the biggest sanctuary for al Qaeda. We, of course, were along the border there with rebels and refugees this summer and saw an al Qaeda that was very much present and very much growing.

The defense secretary said, when I asked him about whether the U.S. would intervene in Mali, we're going to go wherever the hell they are, those were his words, and get al Qaeda. So that's going to be a very big question for the United States about what happens next, and whether the United States can be here in Afghanistan, with 10,000 or 20,000 troops, and also be dealing with Yemen and Somalia and perhaps some sort of operation in Mali -- back to you. BOLDUAN: Mali also one of the poorest countries in the world. And I know you have taken great interest in that country as well. Erin Burnett, thank you so much for your great work.

You can see more of Erin's reporting from Afghanistan and her exclusive interview with Leon Panetta on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." That of course is at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

BLITZER: She really is out front tonight. Looking forward to her interview.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You may want to keep a close eye on your bank account. We're learning about a huge cyber-attack event potentially in the works. Hackers are getting ready to strike. Your money could be at risk.

And a top Republican tells me it's for the best that Susan Rice has taken her name out of the running to become secretary of state. Stand by for the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Mike Rogers.


BLITZER: Now your bank account potentially at risk from a massive cyber-attack that apparently is in the works.

BOLDUAN: Yes, Internet security experts are warning of a plot to hack into some of America's biggest banks and steal money from customers. It could happen in a matter of months.

Brian Todd has been looking into the story.

Brian, this is something that affects absolutely everyone.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just about everyone, Kate, Wolf.

This spring is the target for this attack. A prominent cyber- security firm says the attack is being planned, has already been tested out. It's likely coming from Eastern Europe, has the code name Project Blitzkrieg and is being led by a very mysterious Russian hacker, and it's so subtle that, if you're targeted, you may not realize it at first.


TODD (voice-over): You're a regular online banking customer, someone with a substantial amount of money in your account. You logon one day and have less money in the account than before maybe a small enough amount that you don't even notice that it's gone, but you've been hacked.

That could happen to thousands of Americans this coming spring. A new report by a top digital security firm says some of America's biggest banks, 30 of them, are at risk of a massive cyber attack next spring that could siphon millions of dollars from unsuspecting customers.

PAT CALHOUN, SENIOR V.P., MCAFEE: The name of the project is Project Blitzkrieg and we've found to date somewhere between 300 and 500 devices that have been infected within the U. S.

TODD: Pat Calhoun is senior V.P. and general manager of the antivirus software firm McAfee, which issued the new report. It backs up a similar report a few months ago by the security firm, RSA.

McAfee won't name the individual banks, but we know account holders in many of America's large mainstream banks are targeted. McAfee says this attack is from a cyber gang led by a mysterious Russian hacker with a handle vorVzakone.

CALHOUN: He's trying to build a little army of hackers to really expand the scope of the project. So that's the first thing. But how it's actually executed in the project itself is that he has computers that are basically monitoring and controlling all of these infected devices.

TODD: Calhoun says the hackers are going after individuals who have a lot of money, are limiting the number of targets, and are only planning to take fractions of cash from each account so that the account holders and the banks themselves may not even notice it at first.

(on camera): How do they get in? Calhoun says they start either with a phishing scam. You get an e-mail with an attachment, click on the attachment and the malware infects your computer or it's downloaded by a malicious web site.

Then the computer is controlled by servers operated by the hackers. When a user connects to his or her bank, the hackers can monitor the account, including the passwords. Then they access the money and transfer it out. But if you get targeted, are you on the hook for the amount stolen?

(voice-over): Doug Johnson of the American Bankers Associations says if you monitor your account, keep in close touch with your bank.

DOUG JOHNSON, AMERICAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION: Because you've alerted the bank that, as we've suggested, that the transaction was unauthorized. Essentially the bank will reimburse you after they've investigated that and confirmed that.


TODD: For some, it may be too late. The attacks have already started on U.S. targets, Calhoun says, have been actually going on sporadically for about four years, but he says about $5 million have already been stolen from some victims. But the major attack, reiterating here, originating in Eastern Europe is expected by next spring -- Kate, Wolf.

BOLDUAN: And the cyber-security firm won't name the banks, but you know the banks. What are they saying? TODD: We do. None of them would respond to us. We called all the major banks that may be affected by this. None of them would respond, except for one. Wells Fargo says it is watching for this threat. It's safeguarding its customer's information.

Also, the Department of Homeland Security, which takes the lead on cyber-security for the government, not commenting on this.

BLITZER: If you don't do online banking, are you still vulnerable?

TODD: You may be. It's a little unclear. But I think just about everyone who has an account in a major bank, because it's all kind of computer-driven, could be vulnerable.


BOLDUAN: ... even in the bank itself?

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Brian, scary stuff.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian.

TODD: Thanks.

BLITZER: The American technology pioneer John McAfee is back in the United States. He's talking to CNN. Just ahead, how he says he avoided deportation to Belize, where police want to talk to him about a murder.


BLITZER: Senator John Kerry, now considered the all-but-certain next nominee to become secretary of state, just moments ago, he was seen leaving his office up on Capitol Hill. We have got some videotape of an exchange he had with reporters.


QUESTION: Any words about Susan Rice?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I put out a statement about Susan, and I think it's pretty comprehensive and explanatory. I would like you to use the statement.


KERRY: Appreciate it.


BLITZER: He was asked some other questions. Clearly, he doesn't want to talk about all the speculation out there that the president will nominate him to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, especially now that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has withdrawn her name from consideration. Much more on that story coming up later.


BLITZER: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is weighing in on Susan Rice's bombshell announcement.

By the way, we have just been told Susan Rice will meet with the president of the United States tomorrow at the White House. We're going to try to find out what's going on here. Is the president going to offer her another job? Will the president ask her to stay on as the United States ambassador to the United Nations? Susan Rice will be in Washington tomorrow for a meeting with the president of the United States.

As you know, she withdrew her name from consideration to become secretary of state today. The president reluctantly agreed to her request.

We will have much more right after this.


BLITZER: Happening now, Ambassador Susan Rice out of the running to become secretary of state. I'll talk to the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Mike Rogers.

A teenager dodges sniper fire to save a woman she's never met. Exclusive video of a daring and dangerous rescue attempt.

And it can be made. Three-D models, possibly resulting in real guns. New concerns that 3-D printers have a dangerous side.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

More now on today's dramatic White House announcement that president Obama has accepted U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's request not to be considered for secretary of state. Just a little while ago, I asked the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Mike Rogers, what he thinks of Rice's decision.


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-AL), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think it was probably for the best. I think Ambassador Rice was facing an uphill battle in the Senate, for any confirmation that she may have -- may have received for secretary of state. And I think it would have distracted from the issues of North Korea and what's going on there and Syria and the chemical weapons and an opposition we don't fully understand. We have a growing al Qaeda threat in Libya.

So when you look at all those challenges and all the challenges the secretary of state is going to face, this would have been horrifically distracting from those issues, because I think there are a lot of senators who were concerned about her statements and her positions when it came in the Benghazi aftermath.

BLITZER: As chairman of the intelligence committee, you're privy to the most sensitive information out there. Are you confident you now know everything you need to know about what happened in Benghazi?

ROGERS: I think we're getting a better picture every day. We had another closed hearing today in the intelligence committee to try to see days after Benghazi. And it's going to take some time to go through all the information.

I have -- I feel very strongly, Wolf, that the -- there was a gross negligence when it came to the physical security of the ambassador at the mission there in Benghazi. That was very clear to me. Some very, very bad decisions were made and I think contributed to the death of the ambassador and three other great Americans. So that part, I think, is taking great shape.

I think the intelligence part is coming together. It sounds to me, or looks to me when I review everything, it looked pretty good leading into the day, and then the days after. And I think it's clear that there was some political interpretation of the intelligence in the days after.

We still have more questions, the investigation is still underway by the FBI. And now we need to focus, and what we were trying to do today, Wolf, is focus on getting the people responsible and holding them accountable for their actions, that killed and took the lives of four Americans.

BLITZER: You're talking about the al Qaeda affiliate organizations that may have been responsible for the death of these four Americans, including the ambassador, Chris Stevens.

But when you say there was gloss negligence, that suggests that there were American officials who should have known better, should have had better security for the ambassador and his colleagues, and they were negligent. Do we know who these individuals who were negligent are?

ROGERS: Well, that picture is much clearer today than it was even a short time ago.

BLITZER: Can you tell us who they are?

ROGERS: I think that's best to wait until all the details are assembled, and a report will be issued.

But I will tell you, Wolf, when you look at all of the information, information leading up on the day and the days after, it was very, very clear that there was a serious security threat there, and the State Department just did not make the right decisions to secure the ambassador himself. And there's all kinds of evidence, of all sorts leading up to that conclusion. And again, there will be, I'm sure, a report soon. And I think, again, on the Ambassador Rice thing, I think all of that would have been rehashed in the Senate, and I think that was probably not helpful to the real issues that we're facing today, which is North Korea, Syria, growing al Qaeda in Libya, all of those issues.

BLITZER: Well, let's get to Syria for a moment, while I have you. How secure are those chemical warfare stockpiles in Syria right now? Do you believe that the president, Bashar al-Assad, will use chemical warfare against his own people?

ROGERS: Well, you know, his father, there's at least lots of reporting that his father, did, in fact, use chemical weapons or something very close to it, in his suppression of the population.

We know that he has made it available, meaning that in some of these chemical weapons, there are certain procedures you have to go through, to make them a viable weapon. I believe that that's happened. I believe that they are available for use on a very short notice.

Now, you have the desperation of a dictator who is facing his ending days of his regime, who is, I believe, has made these chemical weapons out of his stockpile available for use.

I don't know -- and we know his father used it. It would be irresponsible, I think of the international community to lead in and say, "Well, we don't think he's going to use them."

The modeling on this, Wolf, is not good. I mean, it could be hundreds of thousands of dead, millions who would be impacted by it, and refugee problems all across the Lavont (ph) and the Middle East that would be staggering and destabilizing to that whole region of the world.

So this is, I mean, as serious as it gets, and this is not a decision I argue we should get wrong. We need to come together very soon, and we have unique capabilities to intervene in this use of these chemical weapons. And if we have that level of confidence, that he is in that position, we need to take serious consideration of maybe doing that.

BLITZER: You know, you think about the use of chemical weapons. I assume you're talking about when Hafiz al-Assad, his father, slaughtered about 20,000 Syrians in the town of Palma (ph) in the early 1980s. Do you have information he used chemical weapons to kill those Syrians at that time?

ROGERS: There are mixed reports, and there have been some forensic issues taken there that would lead one to believe that chemical weapons could have been used.

And I'll tell you one thing. In the Middle East, our liaison partners across the Middle East passionately believe those were chemical weapons that were used.

So there is lots of belief that it was, and, again, now you have his son, who certainly grew up with all of that, you just -- in addition to the fact, Wolf, that he's taken an affirmative action to put those weapons available for use, those are all very concerning steps. And I think we've got to be prudent about making sure we don't have a catastrophic humanitarian crisis with the use of these chemical weapons.

I worry about what that means for humanity in general, let alone the people of Syria, who were killed and maimed in a horrific way. And then all of the refugees and all the problems that would cause in instability in that region is, as I said, as a serious a problem as I can imagine, in what is already a serious humanitarian crisis.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Congressman.

One final question. Looking back now, 2007, when the Israelis took out that nuclear reactor in Syria, that North Korea was building for them, imagine what the situation in Syria would be like, right now, if there were nuclear weapons, involved in what's going on. Chemical weapons are bad enough. Nuclear weapons potentially could be even worse. Have you considered that situation in 2007, when the Israelis did what they did?

Listen, we look at that with Iran, with North Korea, with Syria. You have these despotic regimes who are not rational in their decisions, and it is terrifying to believe that Iran could get that capability, North Korea could get that capability, and Syria almost had that capability. They were well underway to get it themselves.

It is concerning. It's why those guys like me stay awake a lot of nights, trying to figure out how we work our way through these issues. They're serious. And they can cause huge international stability and huge humanitarian crises with their use.

BLITZER: Congressman, Mr. Chairman, thanks very much joining us, as usual.

ROGERS: Thank you so much for having me, Wolf.


BOLDUAN: Dramatic moments in Syria's deadly civil war. We'll go to one of the country's rallies.

He doesn't even know.

BLITZER: An amazing report. I want you to stand by for that.

Also, this just coming in, John Boehner, the speaker of the House, he's now back on Capitol Hill. You see pictures there. He has just come back from the White House, from the West Wing. Let's see what he says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you staying in town, Mr. Speaker?

BLITZER: They just asked if you're ready to go home tomorrow? I didn't hear exactly what he said. We'll cue that up and report. BOLDUAN: He has a firm policy of never answering questions.

BLITZER: He didn't answer the question. All right. So we don't know if he's staying in Washington, going home for the weekend. We don't know what happened in his one hour or so meeting with the president over at the White House.

But you know what? We're going to try to find out and bring it to you as soon as we can.


BOLDUAN: In Syria's bloody civil war, there are many tragedies, of course. But there are also acts of courage. CNN's Arwa Damon was given video of a dramatic rescue attempt while she was in Syria. Here's her exclusive and gripping report.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fighter slithers across the street, his body hugging the cold pavement. Yards away, a woman lies, motionless. She's been shot by a sniper. Her rescuer is not a relative, nor a neighbor. He's never met her. Abdullah Hafaz Zahan (ph) is just 17. He knew he had to save the woman or die trying.

When we met him later, he tells us, "We had a feeling that she was still alive. We wanted to save her, to get her to a hospital."

As he crawls closer, he can see her hand, her fingers shaking. "Cover him, cover him!" someone shouts. Other fighters lay down cover fire. Abdullah quickly ties the hose to her leg, but he's unable to retreat. "I said to myself, if I die, it's God's will that I die next to this woman," he tells us.

Finally, he makes a run for it, and the rebels drag the woman back.

(on camera) The woman and her son were walking right down this street there. Rebel fighters shouted at them to stay away, but it was too late.

Aleppo is crisscrossed with similar sniper alleys. Some are known, but others do not reveal themselves until the first shot has been fired.

(voice-over) Despite Abdullah Hafez's (ph) efforts, the woman dies, her son utterly distraught. "Don't die now. Don't die today," he pleads. Answer me, mom. Answer me. She's not dead, she's not dead," he says, as he collapses.

Abdullah Hafez (ph) is left Wondering whether her life could have been saved if he'd reached her sooner. Until recently, he worked at a bakery. Now, like thousands of young Syrians, he puts his life on the line. "I am not a hero. I am just like anyone else," Abdullah Hafez (ph) tells us. And we're left to Wonder, how many similar acts of courage go unrecorded every day in Syria, and how many innocents are lost?

Arwa Damon, CNN, Aleppo.


BOLDUAN: So tough. Our Arwa Damon has brought us some extraordinarily, truly extraordinary reporting, as one of the very few western journalists to get inside the Syrian war zone. And this is just another example of her great work, Wolf?

BLITZER: She risks her life every single day to bring us these reports.

BOLDUAN: Amazing reports.

BLITZER: And we're very proud of her, and thankfully, she's OK.

BOLDUAN: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: We're just getting this in, a readout on the president's meeting with the speaker of the House, on the fiscal cliff. A spokesman for Speaker Boehner saying, "The president and the speaker had a frank meeting in the Oval Office tonight. It lasted approximately 50 minutes. There will be no further readout of the meeting, but lines of communication remain open."

So that's it. That's all we're getting, at least for now. Although I suspect there will be leaks coming out fairly soon. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Imagine if you could bill your own gun as easily as you could copy a document.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it sounds like something in the movies. And it's getting -- and it gets even scarier, because these would-be weapons might slip past metal detectors. Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, explains.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this northern Virginia gun store, you can buy all sorts of weapons. But what if you can make weapons like these in your own home, using what's called a three-dimensional printer? Sounds like science fiction, but to some, it's not so far-fetched. Take this recent episode of CSI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Primarily, 3-D printers are used to manufacture parts for antique cars and design prototypes.

TED DANSON, ACTOR: And you think our killer printed a gun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple guns. Identical, disposable, untraceable.

JOHNS (on camera): And it could also be undetectable. Three-D printers like this make solid objects from digital models and plans. And what's manufactured could be all plastic, like this little gadget with all these moving parts that work together perfectly.

So a plastic gun manufactured with this technology might not necessarily be picked up by your garden-variety metal detector at an airport or a public building. It's a potential game changer in the gun control debate.

CODY WILSON, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: We're trying to produce guns with this technology.

JOHNS (voice-over): Advocates of the so-called printable gun, like University of Texas student Cody Wilson, see it as a rights issue.

WILSON: I believe in the universal access to arms, and I want to show you, as far as it's possible for me, that this thing will be completely unable to be regulated.

JOHNS: He's behind Defense Distributed, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating what Wilson calls the wiki weapon, a firearm with a design that can be distributed on the Internet and manufactured using a 3-D printer. He's already built part of an AR-15 using the technology. Democratic Congressman Steve Israel has taken notice.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: I just want to make it impossible for people to use three-dimensional printers to manufacture gun components, which was done, and in fact, six bullets were fired from these components.

JOHNS: That's why Congressman Israel is pushing to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act, a law passed a quarter of a century ago, banning plastic firearms, that will expire next year.

ISRAEL: It just defies common sense, safety, and logic to make it easier for terrorists and criminals to manufacture the components of guns, which can be brought onto our airplanes and into our federal buildings.

JOHNS: The National Rifle Association says it views this legislation as unnecessary. Pro-gun advocates say, to date, no one using a 3-D printer has manufactured a working firearm completely out of plastic. One 3-D printing expert says it might not even be possible anytime soon.

KEVIN ARMENTROUT: I don't feel like this technology is going to be there next year, but in my estimation, we have some time and ways to go to get there.

JOHNS: And Wilson worries about the chilling effect on new ideas.

WILSON: What does Mr. Israel say? Well, we should prevent the development of a whole branch of technology. Well, that's ridiculous.


JOHNS: The other issue here is whether an attempt to stop people from making plastic guns could turn into an attempt by government to regulate use of 3-D printers, potentially raising a question of censorship. Congressman Israel's office says he is not proposing anything that would regulate the printers themselves.

Fascinating story.

BLITZER: I had no idea.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Still ahead, see what happens when music legend Stevie Wonder surprises a young singer who idolizes him.


BOLDUAN: An aspiring teen artist may have gotten the surprise of a lifetime. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a 14-year-old up-and-coming singer. And when Ahsan Watts' record management told him to come to L.A. and record a Stevie Wonder song, he didn't wonder. He just did it. And walked, with his eyes closed, right into the mother of all pranks, if having your idol suddenly materialize as you're singing his song can be called a prank.

STEVIE WONDER, SINGER: Ahsan, how you doing?



WATTS: Can I have a hug?

WONDER: What's up?

MOOS (on camera): But even after the hug, it can't hurt to double check.

WATTS: This is Stevie Wonder.

WONDER: Sometimes.

MOOS: I was waiting for you to ask to see his license.

(voice-over) It turns out an Interscope Records exec had begged Stevie Wonder's manager to get the icon to listen to Ahsan's videos. After listening, Stevie agreed to show up and surprise the kid.

WATTS: I was just mind-blown. MOOS: And then Stevie played while Ahsan sang.

Imagine your idol's voice joining yours. But it turns out this wasn't the first time that Stevie Wonder has done this.

JAKE SIMPSON, "STAR SEARCH" CHAMPION (singing): Isn't she lovely.

MOOS: Oprah calls it one of her favorite moments. "Star Search" champion, Jake Simpson, was belting out Stevie's song, blissfully unaware that Oprah's staff had arranged for a surprise guest.

SIMPSON (singing): Isn't she pretty...

(speaking) Oh, my God!

MOOS: Eventually, they turned it into a duet.

The prank on Ahsan was an attempt by his record company to create a viral video, but his mom cried and so did Ahsan.

WATTS: One tear.

MOOS: To them, the surprise was nothing less than Stevie Wonderful.

Jeanne Moos...

WATTS: That was awesome! Ahh! I love you.

MOOS: ... New York.


BOLDUAN: The look on his face.

BLITZER: I love him, too. I met Stevie Wonder.

BOLDUAN: Of course you have.

BLITZER: He is absolutely fabulous. So nice of him to do that.

BOLDUAN: The look on his face is priceless.

BLITZER: That's all the time we have, unfortunately. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.