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Obama Unveils Gun Plan, Reaction Rolls In; Threats to U.S. National Security; Beauty Queen Makes Touch Decision

Aired January 17, 2013 - 11:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, President Obama has made no secret he wants to do something about gun violence with a concrete set of proposals. Some with executive and some with work that Congress is going to have to do but many of the things are left unanswered.

And my next guest has a lot of those answers and is trying to work through those as well. He's New York's commissioner, Ray Kelly.

Thanks for coming in.


BANFIELD: I know you were in D.C. for the event yesterday and I know you're still getting your head around what -- it seems to be put together in warp-speed time. But just from what you do know, your reaction to the president's actions?

KELLY: My reaction is certainly positive. I think it's something that's been overdue. Mayor Bloomberg has led the charge in this area. And the president, I think, in essence supported everything that the mayor has put forward.

BANFIELD: One of the big criticisms is that while assault-style weapons sound terribly menacing and the big items include Newtown and the Aurora shooting, et cetera, et cetera, the bigger problem is actually handgun violence, and what happened yesterday does not address that. Is that not a grave concern to you? You're the commissioner of a city that deals with happened gun violence ad nauseam.

KELLY: Absolutely. That's the major problem of urban policing these days, concealable hand guns. Even so, I think what happened yesterday is a move in the right direction. And also the background check for all weapons exchanges or all cells, I think can -- it has the potential tension for reducing handgun violence. There's no easy answer here. There's no magic bullet. It's complex. No question about it.

BANFIELD: And by the way, it's hard to even determine what constitutes an assault weapon.

KELLY: Right. BANFIELD: It used to be defined by law from 1994 to 2004 under that ban. It's no longer defined by law yet. But what will an assault weapons ban actually ban?

KELLY: Well, we're going to see what Congress comes forward with. In 1994, there were 19 specific types of weapons or 19 specific weapons and a broader definition. It was able to take, you know, the --


KELLY: -- a folding stock, those sorts of things were incorporated in the definition, really a weapon of war, and I think part of the 1994 ban has to do with the cosmetics of it, people were frightened by the look of these weapons. Whether or not that remains, I think it's one of the challenges for Congress to put a reasonable definition together.

BANFIELD: And then when the president seeks to make -- access to mental health better and also the sharing of mental health data more ubiquitous, doesn't that open an extraordinary can of worms in terms of privacy issues. For instance, if I want to go to a psychiatrist and have suicidal thoughts, I could end up in a federal registry?

KELLY: I think it's an issue and a challenge. We're going to se what Congress comes up with. One in five people are supposedly -- have some sort of mental issues in this country. So do they go into the database? What is the criteria?


BANFIELD: Isn't the irony, commissioner, that if that's how we're going to expand the definition of those being reported, they are just not going to go. They are not going to the doctor and, hence, we're driving more of those people under the ground and making them harder to track?

KELLY: Yes. I think, in general, what the president did with the executive orders yesterday was to require first federal agencies to put more information into the database. There's a lot of information in the federal government that's not available. The NIBC, National Instant Background Check. Also to require other agencies, state agencies to put information, but I think is a good think. But your concern about privacy is a real one.

BANFIELD: It's very, very complex as to how they are going to get around this while respecting the privacy rights, which is not outlined in the Constitution, however privacy is a big issue for the country.

Lastly, there have been a number of people -- I'm not going to say of your ilk, but certainly in law enforcement. Some county sheriffs who have said, we're just not going to follow what the president's laws are. We're not going to enforce them. What do you make of that? How do you react to your counterparts who say that?

KELLY: I'm not certain what they're saying. As far as the federal law enforced by federal agencies. I don't know what the sheriffs are talking about. I assume most are going to follow the law.


BANFIELD: How about confiscation of weapons of those who have perhaps have made threats to psychiatrists and they report those reports to local law enforcement, and the action is they have to confiscate those weapons. What if the sheriff says, no, that's a Second Amendment infraction, not going to do it?

KELLY: That's way down the road here. We've got to get a piece of legislation that works and see what Congress does with it. I don't know if we can predict what the reaction will be.

BANFIELD: You have a lot to read I think still.

KELLY: That's right.

BANFIELD: We are all just sorting through this as we all begin to learn more what these executive actions and congressional measures will contain.

Thank you, Commissioner Kelly. It's good to see you.

KELLY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And Commissioner Kelly has been working hand in hand with the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, of New York City. We're happy to report that Mayor Bloomberg will join Anderson Cooper tonight on "A.C. 360." That starts at 8:00 p.m. sharp right here on CNN.

We're back after this.


BANFIELD: The hostage crisis in Algeria where Americans are among those being held. French troops now fighting al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali. And possible cyber attacks on strategic U.S. computer systems. All of this, just some of the potential threats against American national security as President Obama begins to tackle his second term in office.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has this in-depth report.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terrorists are mobilizing in Mali, which could become the next launching pad for plots against America, a new challenge for national security.

Keep us safe. Sounds simple. But over the next four years, America's security could be tested in complex ways. Forget the Cold War. There's not even a centralized al Qaeda in one country.

JOHN BRENNAN, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT FR HOMELAND SECURITY/COUNTERTERRORISM: There's a still terrorists in hard-to- reach places actively planning attacks against us. LAWRENCE: The U.S. is trying to make sure Yemen, Mali, Somalia don't turn into the safe havens al Qaeda had.



LAWRENCE: But outside Afghanistan, the Obama administration has been hesitant to put more boots on the ground. So they will continue to rely heavily on drones.

MICHAEL VICKERS, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR INTELLIGENCE: Predators and reapers are the signature weapon of the war against al Qaeda.

LAWRENCE: President Bush launched the first wave of drone strikes, mostly targeting al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Then, President Obama took office and increased the number of targets. He expanded the program into Yemen where al Qaeda was planning attacks on the U.S., and into lawless Somalia.


LAWRENCE: The Pentagon and CIA have been working together in those areas. And over the next four years official want to specifically grow the partnership between intel and Special Operations forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's central to our ability to solve the most pressing national security challenges.

LAWRENCE: Perhaps the most pressing? A cyber attack that disrupts communication and transportation and vital services across multiple states.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: These kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor, an attack could that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life.

LAWRENCE: It may not even be physical destruction, but fiscal -- computers crashing, files erased, bank accounts cleaned out. Experts say the Obama administration needs to do more work with the private sector to defend vulnerable American companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we need to worry about are either the terrorists suddenly becoming interests because it's not that hard or some of the nation states that are less responsible, like Iran deciding that it's time to play more aggressively.

LAWRENCE: The president's former national security adviser says, right now, there's no real punishment for cyber attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimately, we're going to have to have some sanctions effective and consequences meaningful and in some ways ultimately to counter those technologies.

LAWRENCE (on camera): In fact, the U.S. government took the first step down that road when defense secretary, Leon Panetta, indicated that the U.S. military would have the right to launch a preemptive military strike if it detected that a major cyber attack was imminent.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.


BANFIELD: Other news we're following, the University of Colorado and psychiatrist in the aurora theater shooting, both now facing multiple lawsuits. This, according to documents obtained by CNN. In it, at least 14 people say they plan to sue the university and the doctor, Lynn Fenton, the psychiatrist treating the shooting suspect. The lawsuits range up to $50 million, claiming that the university and Dr. Fenton were negligent in not properly handling the treatment of James Holmes. 12 people were killed in that massacre last July.

Also, more changes coming to President Obama's White House staff. The president is expected to name deputy national security advisor, Dennis McDonough, as his next chief of staff. McDonough would replace Jack Lew, who has been nominated for treasury secretary. And if it happens, he would become President Obama's fourth chief of staff.


BANFIELD: Her title and the health decision that she made seemed to be oh completely contradictory. I'm talking about this beautiful woman, Allyn Rose. She was Miss District of Columbia and also a contestant in last week's Miss America Pageant. And you may remember the headlines. She made the headlines because her mom, aunt, and grandmother all died of breast cancer and, because of that, her dad made a radical suggestion to her when she was just a freshman in college, a suggestion she did not like at the time but a suggestion she is fully on board with now at age 24, she's decided to take the advice of her dad and undergo a preventive double mastectomy all in order to try to avoid getting breast cancer.

Allyn is joining me live.

Thanks for joining me.

I was just astounded. Not because I hadn't heard of this. I interviewed my friend, Rene Tyler (ph), who has gone through it for some of the same reasons you did. But because your full persona, at least to the public, has to do with your looks and beautiful body, I hate to say it but that's what people think. Are you struggling with your decision and your personal -- your public persona seem to be at odds?

ALLYN ROSE, MISS AMERICA CONTESTANT: It's one of those things where you have to take your life in your own hands. You know, this is my life. It's my health care. It's my decision. You know, being in the beauty industry was never anything that defined me as a woman. It's just something that my life has fallen in this path. But, you know, ultimately taking charge of my own health care is the most important thing. So if those two are at odds, I choose life.

BANFIELD: In taking the advice of your dad -- and obviously you have this very, very sad history in your family.

ROSE: Uh-huh.

BANFIELD: What about your oncologist or doctors? How much are they on board? How much did they impact your decision and suggest that this was really something you needed to do?

ROSE: I mean, they were very supportive. If you go back in my family history, almost every woman in my family has died of this disease and to have a mom diagnosed at 27 with the stage 3 very aggressive breast cancer, you know, I'm almost 25. One of those things where I don't have the luxury of my youth of waiting around to see if this is something that affects my life because if I'm anything like my mom, that's two years away from now.

BANFIELD: So when you compete in the pageants and you're such a beautiful woman, these pictures are all over the press of you competing, there is this other side of that. People almost feel like they own a piece of you and can criticize you for that decision. It may seem strange to you and for others they can't believe you would do this and feel almost in front that you would make this decision. Why do you think that is?

ROSE: When you put yourself in the public eye, you're opening up to criticism. This is a drastic decision and one that not many 24-year- olds make. But this is my life and for the rest of my life I'm going to have to live with the decisions that I make now. And will people like to think that chime in and make their decisions for you, you know, this is my life. It's my body. I have to do what's going to help keep me around for years from now. You know --

It's your life, and effectively, Allyn, it's your death. Seriously. If people want to consider that, they need to go that step further.

I want to ask you, you are quite young. Do you intend after the double mastectomy and, I'm just assuming, reconstruction surgery, do you intend to compete again?

ROSE: Well, I've actually aged out of pageants.


BANFIELD: What? Don't tell me that.

ROSE: I'm too old. This is my last year in the Miss America Pageant. I just got back and competed in the Miss USA Program in 2011. A couple more years in that, but only allowed to compete once. So I think I've run the gamut of pageantry. So you know, I'm on to the next thing. I'd love to work in broadcasting. I'd love to go back to school for either law or get my MBA. I'm open to whatever life brings my way.

BANFIELD: And there's also the Mrs. Series. So, if you get married and if you have children and if one of those children might be a girl --

ROSE: I know.

BANFIELD: -- will you give the same advice that your father gave to you, to have this radical surgery?

ROSE: I absolutely would. I know what it was like for my mom to struggle with. You know, having to leave her children. In was a point that she knew this disease was going to take her life. I never want to be in the position that my mom was, struggling with the fact she was going to leave three children at home. She was going to leave her husband, I don't want that to be me. And I'd rather have a beautiful rest of my life than what everyone tells me gives me a beautiful body. There's leaps and bounds that have been made in reconstructive surgery. People have elective surgery every day and people don't criticize them for that. I'm doing something that will save my life and I hope it empowers people.

BANFIELD: Allyn, you may have aged out of the rules of the pageant but you haven't aged out of beauty and courage.

ROSE: Thank you.

BANFIELD: So good luck to you and we wish you the best.

And I hope you come back and talk to us after the surgery. Let us know how everything went.

ROSE: Would love to. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Allyn Rose, joining us live.

By the way, I want to add, the Miss America CEO called Allyn Rose, quote, "an incredible example of strength and courage." So there's that.


BANFIELD: Winter takes a plunge to the south that is. Take a look at Mississippi. What a wake-up call there. Snow moving in and some areas can expect to see up to four inches of snow by the time it actually quits. As this storm rolling along, parts of Alabama and Georgia could also see one to two inches. Apparently that's starting this afternoon. Sorry to report that. Calling for really, a lousy rush hour home as well and tomorrow for Friday's rush hour. Temperatures also in the southeast likely to creep up a little bit by Saturday hopefully melting some of that snow, but watch out for the slippery streets.

Time for a little romance advice. This coming to us courtesy of Pat Robertson and I hope you buckle up. Listen to what the televangelist had to say recently on his show, the 700 Club. He was offering advice to us all, through advice through a 17-year-old who wrote to "Maxim" magazine about how his father never pays attention to his mother.


PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: We need to cultivate romance, darling, and it needs to be the men. They've got to be cultivating romance, and the women -- you always have to keep that spark alive. It isn't just something, well, I'm married to him he's got to take me slatherly looking. You've got to fix yourself up, look pretty, look alert.


BANFIELD: Seriously, Pat? Honestly? Did I hear you correctly? He went on to say, I'm going to quote, "Awful-looking women can be to blame for marital problems." I don't think he said anything about somebody sitting at a video or a computer playing video games, which was what that 17-year-old said his dad was doing. Pat Robertson, wake up! By the way, Mr. Robertson's been married since 1954, and I hope they're happy.

A little bit else for you here. Boeing is working around the clock to get its global fleet of 787s back into the air. It's dubbed the Dreamliner, a bit of a nightmare. Apparently, batteries could cause fire. That's the reason it's on the ground. The 787 had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a cockpit battery overheated, leaked and set off smoke alarms. Look at the chutes opening up on the runway there. Other Dreamliners suffered fuel leaks, brake problems and even a cracked windshield. 50 of these giant planes are now around the world in service and the only U.S. carrier to fly them is United, with six in its fleet.

I'm going to be back with NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL after a quick break. Stay tuned. Back in a moment.