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Some U.S. Hostages Freed In Algeria; U.S. Agrees To Help The French In Mali; U.S. Official: Rescue Operation Not Over; Armstrong's Decade Of Deception; Fixing The GOP's Image

Aired January 17, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight, some American hostages being held in Algeria have been released, but a number of the hostages including Americans unaccounted for tonight as the raid, we can report, temporarily on hold.

Plus, the brother of one of the hostages who escaped from his captors recounts his escape.

And on the night Lance Armstrong's confession is set to air, a sports writer who believed him until the very bitter end comes OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. Good evening, everyone. OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news on the hostage crisis, a fast-developing story tonight. Here the latest that we know. We now know that some Americans have been freed, but others are still unaccounted for in Algeria.

A senior American official just confirming to CNN that the operation seems to have ended for the night, but it is not over. And I wanted to quote what this official told us here at CNN. Quote, "There are still hostages and there are still terrorists, so tomorrow is another day."

The Algerian press service reports numerous casualties in the operation, the exact number though, still unknown right now. And a lot of questions already are coming from the United States about the Algerian government's tactics in the operation that could have put the hostages in jeopardy.

Now, we also want to let you know that right now, there's a chartered flight en route of BP employees from Algeria. It is headed towards London to Gatwick Airport. Now, that could be landing at any moment. We don't yet know if the passengers are any of the freed hostages or if there are Americans on board.

But as we get that information, we're going to share that with you. The brother of an Irish national who escaped from captivity had a harrowing story. He spoke to CNN today and described what happened to his brother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN MCFAUL, BROTHER OF ESCAPED HOSTAGE IN ALGERIA: Yes, but just found out recently that he'd been made to sleep with duct tape over his mouth and his hands tied and then we find out how he got free and five out of the compound or to a different part of the compound.

And there were five jeeps and the Algerian army had bombed the jeeps and out of the five jeeps, the bomb had wiped out four of them. And they had obviously lost their lives, but lucky enough for my brother, he was in the jeep that crashed and he was able to make a break for freedom.


BURNETT: Lucky for him. But, obviously, many have lost their lives already and others, as we said, are unaccounted for tonight. We're going to go live to Houston shortly, where our David Mattingly has information on one of the American hostages tonight.

But first, I want to go to Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon. Because Chris, just covering this and watching this, every source we've talked to has seemed to give conflicting information. And all of the reports that have crossed the wires out of every country have given conflicting information.

I mean, it's been pretty incredible. I think now we know American officials weren't even aware that the Algerians were going to do this raid in advance, and there's been some criticism, apparently, by the Americans, of the Algerian operation. What can you tell us?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Erin. I mean, look, bottom line tonight, the thing all the viewers need to take away from this is that some American hostages have been freed, but others are still unaccounted for. And bottom line, this is not over.

A senior U.S. official is telling our own Elise Labott that there are some Americans who have gotten out of the country. Those Americans have contacted and spoken with their families, but they don't have an account of all the Americans that were still there, and that is the big concern.

To some of your other points, this official was further explaining through Elise, basically, that the U.S. did not know that the Algerians were going to launch this assault on this area, before it happened. It's the same sort of frustration we heard from the Brits, when the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said he didn't know, and they weren't informed until after the operation had already started.

U.S. officials are also expressing some frustration, at some of the tactics that were used. We think, specifically, they're talking about some of the Algerian aircraft that opened fire when it looked like the kidnappers were going to move some of the hostages to another area. We believe some of the casualties in this incident happened because of some of that air fire from the aircraft.

BURNETT: And we're going to get more in just a moment from a member of the House Intelligence Committee on how this could have happened, that the U.S. didn't know about the raid, what this means.

But I wanted to ask you something else, because obviously this hostage crisis is directly linked to the rise and perhaps coalescence of al Qaeda-linked groups or inspired groups in Northern Africa. Mali is at the center of that.

And you have news, I know, tonight, on what the United States is going to do in Mali. They told us at the beginning of the week, we're going to be involved, we don't know how. You now have some answers.

LAWRENCE: That's right, Erin. Last night, this was still just under consideration. Today, we have learned through sources that the U.S. has agreed to help the French in their assault on al Qaeda in Mali. Basically the U.S. is going to be providing airlift.

And I'm told through defense officials the U.S. could be helping to bring an entire French mechanized infantry battalion into Mali. That would involve maybe 30 trips of big cargo flights, bringing weapons, troops, and heavy vehicles into the fight in Mali.

We're told at this point, it looks like the airport there in Bamako is not equipped to handle such a big airlift. There are a lot of other planes and flights tying up the runway, so to speak. So it may be that these flights land in neighboring countries.

But regardless of whether that airport clears up and where they land, these flights will have U.S. military security forces, but they're only there to protect both the aircraft and the air crew.

BURNETT: Thirty cargo flights, that's pretty significant. Thanks very much to Chris Lawrence. And OUTFRONT tonight, now Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

And Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time. I just want to start with this developing story, as we're trying to figure out what the details are, so many of them are conflicting.

Let me just start by asking you this. You know, earlier tonight, the Norwegian company said, look, five of our 17 employees are accounted for, nine are not. Japan said, three of our hostages are accounted for, 14 are not.

Why does the United States of America not say how many hostages that are American that are there and who is safe and who is not?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's a good question and I think the answer is probably one of two things. Either they don't know or there are reasons why they think that putting a specific number on it may actually put those people at risk. We haven't gotten good information on the intelligence committee yet.

The situation is still very fluid and the information that we have been getting has been very incremental. So we don't have much greater insight than you do. But I would suspect that either we don't have good insights yet or there are reasons why that information is being withheld and not publicly disclosed. BURNETT: What should we read into how this happened? Last night, you know, it appeared that the United States had said, look, we're going to be in charge here. Then, all of a sudden, the Algerians went in, and now, according to Chris Lawrence, as you just heard, we are now reporting that the United States did not know in advance of the Algerian raid. What else can you tell us?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think that the Algerians have been dealing with this for decades now. They've had a very bitter struggle against extremism in that country, and it certainly appears that they lost whatever restraint they had and decided to go big after these terrorists and also, prompted by concerns that they were moving hostages.

There seemed to have been very little consultation not only with the United States, but the other nations that had citizens being held there. But one thing I think we can say about the broader situation we're seeing in Algeria, in Mali, because this is a fairly familiar story.

And that is, you start out with local extremist groups that run low on money, that appeal to al Qaeda, to join the franchise as a way of raising resources and their profile. They begin by targeting very local targets, they expand to western targets, and if allowed to in AQAP, and in Yemen, they will threaten our homeland itself.

So this is obviously something we're paying very close attention to and need to be on top of.

BURNETT: What about, though, your intelligence on how this raid is going on? We don't foe how many people were there. There have been some reports that there are hundreds still unaccounted for. The numbers are still incredibly murky tonight. But we do know this from our sources here at CNN.

That U.S. officials are saying that they're frustrated, that the Algerians could have ended this today. They didn't use all the severeness they could. They're concerned about the tactics being used by the Algerians, could put hostages in jeopardy.

Does this jive with what you've heard, that hostages' lives could be in jeopardy because of the Algerian leadership?

SCHIFF: Well, I think that is certainly very true and it is deeply troubling because I think if they had worked more closely with other nations, including our own, we could have provided intelligence insights, we could have provided logistical help, and that might have resulted in saved lives.

But we're still trying to get to the bottom of it. I don't want to pre-judge it too much, but it looks like there's already been a terrible loss of life, and as you reported, the situation isn't over yet.

Part of, I think, what's hampering our having better insights is this is a very remote location. It's also a very large facility. So even knowing what's going on within that facility is a challenge.

BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, Congressman. We appreciate your taking the time to be with us.

And as we said, we are awaiting for that plane to land in London. We want to see if there are Americans on that plane tonight. And next, we're learning more about the Americans being taken hostage in Algeria. The family of one hostage spoke to our David Mattingly today. He is going to come OUTFRONT.

Plus, on the same day of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, a reporter of -- of Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey, a reporter who believed his story until the very, very end comes OUTFRONT.

And top-level Republicans trying to shake up their party's image and apparently they think Domino's Pizza is the answer.


BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, Olympic fallout. The International Olympic Committee today stripping Lance Armstrong of his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

It's the latest fallout from Armstrong's admission to Oprah Winfrey that he used prohibited performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career. Ed Lavandera has the story for OUTFRONT tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass, six hours a day. What are you on?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lance Armstrong's path to glory and now shame has left a trail of personal destruction along the way. Especially those who dared question how the iconic cyclist won seven Tour De France titles.

EMMA O'REILLY, FORMER U.S. POSTAL TEAM ASSISTANT: Two of the medical program is the drugs program, you know, so that was sort of what it was called.

LAVANDERA: Emma O'Reilly joined Armstrong's cycling team in the late 1990s. She worked as a team masseuse, but according to the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency report, O'Reilly also said her job involved transporting and delivering drugs for the cycling team.

The report said she once made an 18-hour round-trip drive between France and Spain to pick up pills and even met Lance Armstrong in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Southern France to deliver a drug package. Armstrong once told her, now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down.

O'REILLY: History has shown that I didn't have enough to bring him down and I never wanted to bring him down, never, ever wanted to bring Lance down.

LAVANDERA: But in 2003, she told her story publicly for the first time. Lance Armstrong sued her for libel and she says vilified her as a prostitute and an alcoholic. They settled out of court.

GREG LEMOND, THREE-TIME TOUR DE FRANCE CHAMPION: He's caused a lot of difficulty in my personal and business life.

LAVANDERA: Before Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond was the most famous American cyclist. But when Lemond questioned Armstrong's close ties to the controversial Italian doctor, Mychael Ferrari, a man who's been banned from cycling in Italy and by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong worked to get the bike company trek to drop Greg Lemond's bike brand.

LEMOND: He's not someone I want to even put energy into, to be honest. He has his own problems, own issues that he'll have to deal with.

LAVANDERA: Then there's the story of Franky and Betsey Andreu, once dear friends of Lance Armstrong. But when the couple refused to keep up the myth of Lance, they say Armstrong turned on them calling them bitter, vindictive and jealous.

In 2008, Betsey Andreu says she got this voice mail from a friend of Armstrong's, which she provided to the "New York Daily News." Here's part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head. But I also hope that one day you will have adversity in your life and you have some type of tragedy. It's pathetic, Betsey. I thought you were a better person than that."

LAVANDERA: Lance Armstrong's fiercest critics say he would do anything to protect himself. In the end, it wasn't all about the bike, like his book proclaimed. It might just be all about the glory.


BURNETT: Buzz Bissinger is the author of "Friday Night Lights" and a contributor for "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." And last August, he wrote the cover story for "Newsweek" entitled, "I Still Believe In Lance Armstrong."

Now he says reading that makes him cringe and he is OUTFRONT tonight. Thank you for having the courage. But, I mean, you know, so you were saying, look, I'm embarrassed, but you know what, so many people. So many people believed him, because they wanted to believe in the inspired story.

I wanted to read a quote from that article when you wrote it. You wrote, "I was diluted to believe Lance Armstrong when he denied doping." That's what you're saying now. But what was it, when you wrote that article, so late, so many people were saying, maybe it's not true, why did you still believe him? BUZZ BISSINGER, CONTRIBUTOR, "NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST": Will, I really thought he was a hero. I mean, to me, the premise I took was this. People were saying he was blood doping. He'd been blood doping throughout all the Tour De Frances that he won all seven of them.

I'm sure that was true, but that sport was so rife with doping, so rife with cheating, so rife with the use of performance enhancers, I said, all right, if that's all they have, then he basically is equaling the playing field.

He overcame cancer, which is an incredible story. He starts this foundation, Livestrong, which is really, really doing great work on behalf of millions of cancer survivors. So, I -- you know, look, at the end of the day, it was my fault, but I do cringe when I see that cover.

It's embarrassing, and I said, I believe in him. He's a hero, and just leave him alone. Because it did seem like a witch hunt, you know, for 10 years, by Travis Tiger and the USADA, the Anti-Doping Agency, but I was wrong.

BURNETT: And I wanted to just play a clip, when you defended him, you call him a hero now, which you did back in August, but here's what you said at the time. I'm sure a very different tone from now, when you know things are different, but here is you then.


BISSINGER: I think there's been a witch hunt against him for 13 years. He's not contesting the charges. He's going to be stripped of his seven medals and I think, frankly, it's a shame, and I think it's a travesty, because to me, the man is a hero and will always be a hero for all sorts of things that he's done.


BURNETT: You have now, subsequently, at this moment written something where you said, don't believe a word he says because not a word he says can be believed.

BISSINGER: Well, you know, what I said at that time, I really did believe. I thought it was a witch hunt. I mean, why are you going to back? You know, some of these charges were 10, 12 years old. They had to find -- the USADA had to find a loophole to get people to testify. They're giving immunity to other cyclists who have, you know, cheated.

But when the allegations, specific allegations came out in October, the results of the investigation, it was far more than just doping. It was coercion of teammates. It was masterminding what the USADA said was the most sophisticated system they had ever seen erected for avoiding testing and changing the results of testing.


BISSINGER: He's filing suit against the "London Times" for defamation when we now know they didn't defame anybody.

BURNETT: He got hundreds of thousands of dollars.

BISSINGER: He got $500,000. You know, I think it was a quip or he's calling a former employee a prostitute. He's consistently going after people in a very tough, litigious way, when it now seems that, in fact, they were correct.

People said, well, all right, fine, why don't you write the story, a column in October sort of reputing him, and frankly, I wanted it to go away. I wasn't proud. But then when I heard he was going to be on Oprah, it's the typical confessional.

I think there is some real contrition on his part, but then I said, you know, enough. I've had enough. This is now sort of standard operating procedure in America. You know, you go to the confessional and go to Oprah --

BURNETT: And then everything's OK. You're just fine.

BISSINGER: Well, we hope everything's OK. I don't think it's going to change many people's minds.

BURNETT: Now he has apologized to you or reached out to you in the past couple of days.

BISSINGER: He has. He has.

BURNETT: What did he say?

BISSINGER: You know, he genuinely said, and I don't like telling tales out of school, but he said he was sorry. And he said it in a way that I thought was legitimate. I know Lance. Lance is tough around the edges. He's a great athlete.

He's a maniacal competitor, which is -- look, athletes will do anything to win, anything to win. We have this idea about athletes, that they're role models, that they're saints. It's ridiculous. He would do anything to win and I think at the beginning, he said, I'm just leveling the playing field, but then I think it took off. I think the apology is real.

And I respect him for that. But if he thinks I'm going to sit there and I'm going to be one with tears coming down my face watching him on Oprah, he's mistaken. He's hurt, really hurt, hurt, legally and emotionally, too many people, millions of people, tens of millions of people --


BISSINGER: Including myself, but I should have known better.

BURNETT: All right, well, Buzz, thank you very much.

BISSINGER: Well, thank you. BURNETT: Still to come, Republicans meeting behind closed doors tonight, trying to come up with a strategy to save the GOP. And they think Domino's Pizza could be the answer. I don't know, do you think that makes them geniuses or really is a signal of their doom? We'll see.

And the strange story of Manti Te'O gets even stranger. A writer who knows the most intimate details of this bizarre and troubling story is OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, Domino's Pizza. Is it the answer to the Republican Party's problems? Well, House Republicans hunkered down today for a retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia, and they're lacking to some interesting sources of inspiration. So, John Avlon, pizza?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Pizza. So, Erin, the Republican Party is having a come to Jesus meeting in Virginia and they've really confronting the fact they've got a real branding problem after the last election.

So they're calling in a bunch of speakers to pump them up, give them some advice, including the CEO Domino's Pizza, Patrick Doyle. The logic is that Domino's went through a pretty major branding problem of its own. They popped to a lot of problems. They ran some ads, let's remind some folks what those looked like.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There comes a time when you know you've got to make a change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Domino's Pizza crust to me is like cardboard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can either use negative comments to get you down or you can use them to excite you and energize your process of making a better pizza. We did the latter.



BURNETT: This is what John Boehner is watching?

AVLON: This is a sneak peek of what John Boehner and Eric Cantor and the Republicans are getting. I guess, the common denominator is that old wisdom, that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem.

BURNETT: And it is really bad. I mean, the poll numbers are, I mean, when you tell the viewers, when you told me earlier, I was shocked.

AVLON: Yes, I mean, look, everybody knows that Congress is less popular than a root canal, but when you break it down by party, you've got a real problem. Here the GOP's getting own pollsters are giving them bad medicine.

Right now, the Republican Party has only 27 percent approval. Now that is 20 points less, almost 20 points less than Democrats, and half of where Republicans were just two years ago when the Tea Party crowd ran into town.

So it is a major wake-up call, a cautionary tale, and a lot of issues for future, because they're going to have a hard time with the debt ceiling. That 27 could go to 12.

BURNETT: There is usually somewhere lower to go. Thank you very much, John Avlon.

All right, well OUTFRONT next, we are learning new details about the American hostages in Algeria. The family of one hostage spoke with CNN's David Mattingly today. He's been chasing that down and he is going to be OUTFRONT in a moment.

And more trouble for Boeing. The electrical problem of the Dreamliner leading more countries to ground planes from America's biggest company.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We begin with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

And we want to start with a story we told you about last night. We told you about how the FAA was grounding all of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the United States. Now, counterparts around the world have followed suit. Authorities in Europe, Japan, and India have grounded their planes, as have carriers in Chile and as far away as Ethiopia.

And tonight, Australian Airline Qantas says it's cutting a plane from its Dreamliner order. That's an important development.

And BB&T analyst Carter Leake tells us that although he has confidence Boeing can fix the battery problem, electrical issues are the most problematic for manufacturers. This could take quite some time.

Well, the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman killed 12 and wounded many more, is reopening. Tonight, it's hosting a private event for families and officials. Now, the theater has been renovated and renamed. Some families don't want it reopened at all.

We spoke to Tom Teves. His son, Alex, died in the massacre. Tom tells us that the theater company, Cinemark, has shown zero humanity for people like him, whose loved one died in that theater, says they've never reached out or express their condolences, and that is why he is boycotting the theater.

Well, FBI director Robert Mueller met with Libyan officials in Tripoli today. He was there not to talk about Algeria, but to talk about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Now, officials tell CNN that Mueller met with the prime minister, justice minister, and intelligence chief in Libya.

Our contributor, Tom Fuentes, tells us a trip like this is important. It shows his personal support for the country team. Meanwhile, we've also learned today that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify about that attack before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 23rd. That is the same day she will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

And the number of people applying more first-time jobless benefits plummeted, five-year low, that is great news and below what economists were actually looking for. Economists at Barclays say numbers like these indicate moderate jobs growth coming up in the January employment report, which would be good news.

It has been 532 days since the U.S. lots its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the claims data, that was helpful. Housing numbers also help lift stocks, which closed at a five-year high.

And now our fourth story OUTFRONT, the breaking news we are covering tonight: Americans held hostage in Algeria.

U.S. officials tell CNN tonight that some Americans in Algeria have been freed. Others, though, we can tell you, are still unaccounted for tonight. We are also just learning from a U.S. official that the Algerian-led rescue operation is not over. We still don't know exactly how many Americans are involved.

David Mattingly, though, has new information about one of the American hostages, and he joins us tonight from Texas.

David, what can you tell us?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, so much we don't know tonight in Texas. But we do know after talking to a family member, they confirm to us that a Texas man is, indeed, among the Americans, however many of them there might be, being held hostage right now.

The family got that notification yesterday morning. Since then, the hours have been agonizingly long, and the information has been coming through so few and far between.

So, right now, they're afraid to become public. They're afraid to say anything, because the situation is still so fluid and still so much unknown right now. They're afraid anything they might say might somehow cause more danger for their family member over there.

And for that reason, Erin, we are not reporting anymore about him, other than that he is from Texas. We're not reporting his name, what he does, or who he works for out of concern for his safety -- Erin. BURNETT: And, certainly, David, that seems to fit with U.S. officials. You know, other countries have been quick to say how many people are accounted for, how many are missing. The United States has simply said some are missing, some are not, and have been very, very circumspect about numbers.

I know that where you're standing tonight, you're standing outside BP headquarters. BP, of course, one of the operators of the site that was attacked, the second biggest energy employer in the United States. What have you heard today from BP?

MATTINGLY: Well, the information is not coming out of the U.S. headquarters here in Houston. All of our inquiries have been forwarded on to the U.K., to the global headquarters there.

And we heard from top officials today, one of them speaking publicly, saying right now, their top priority is meeting the needs of the family members of those employees affected by this. Listen.


PETER MATHER, BP UK HEAD: Our focus is 100 percent on the safety and welfare of those people and their families. And we're now beginning a staged and planned reduction in nonessential workforce, a temporary basis, pulling them out of the country.


MATTINGLY: And those thoughts were also echoed by Bob Dudley. He's the American who rose to the top of BP after the Gulf oil spill. Dudley putting out a written statement through BP today, saying that supporting the families is the company's priority right now.

Also, he's calling this, this sad and uncertain time. That's quite a bit of an understatement, particularly for the families involved here. So little information, again, and so much time going by without any answers -- Erin.

BURNETT: David Mattingly, thank you very much. And those Americans are in our thoughts tonight. The terror and fear of what they're going through right now is hard to imagine.

Don Borelli is a former senior FBI official who now trains personnel from energy companies and government hostage teams on exactly this kind of thing.

Fred Burton is a former special agent in counterterrorism for the U.S. Department of State.

And I appreciate both of you taking the time.

Don, you've been in these kind of situations, hostage negotiations. What is your -- so far, and I want to recap here for our audience, the Americans are saying, look, we didn't know the Algerians were going to go in.

And they're frustrated. And they think that some of the Algerian tactics over the past day could have put hostages' lives at risk.

DON BORELLI, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: Certainly. In any kind of a hostage situation, you want to try to buy time. You want to try to gather as much intelligence as you can about the situation on the ground, how many operators are there, what kind of weaponry, where are they? Can you -- can you negotiate to get hostages released?

All these things buy you time. It allows you to come up with a tactical plan that's a bit more surgical. And, you know, the last resort is to go in and try to resolve the situation tactically, because that's the most dangerous. You're likely to have lives lost in a situation like that.

But this operation seemed to come rather quickly.

BURNETT: Kind of guns blazing, is the way it seemed to be.

BORELLI: Guns blazing. The reports from the news that helicopters were used, which is not normally a hostage rescue technique, to go in with gunships and helicopters and things like that.

However, it's tough to criticize so early in the -- you know, in the operation. There's still a lot of information that's yet to be learned. If a team is going to launch what would be, like, an emergency assault, which it seems to be more of somewhat of an emergency assault plan, chances are they were worried about losing containment of the situation.


BORELLI: Lives being imminently lost.

So, again, you don't want to do too much criticizing until all the facts come in.

BURNETT: Fred, what's your take? You know, yesterday, when we talked to an Islamic militant. He said, look, our demands are that the West end the war in Mali. And they didn't actually say that they wanted money.

Now, it would seem that that would be something that they would want, especially given, you have companies like BP involved, that have very hefty hostage insurance, and that could fund the operations of an organization like this for a while. But do you think it is still possible that there could be some sort of a ransom negotiated, or is it way to late for that now?

FRED BURTON, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM SPECIAL AGENT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: I think it's a bit too late now. The Algerians really drew a line in the sand, and certainly very forcefully conducted the tactical assault on the facility. But like my colleagues said moments ago, it's hard to understand exactly what transpired. I know that the U.S. government offered assistance, and I'm sure other nations did as well. And the challenge is, is trying to get there on the ground, to assist the host government, so you can give them the best tactical advice you possibly can.


BURTON: Yet in this case, it looks like events started to unfold and the Algerians just moved in.

BURNETT: Fred, do you think at this point, the United States, which had originally said last night, that the United States was going to be in charge of this. They say that they didn't know the Algerians were going to do what they did, but we could -- we could now assume that there are U.S. Special Forces nearby.

Could there still be an American raid here, in which more lives could be saved?

BURTON: I wouldn't think so, at this point. I think the assistance was offered and for whatever reason, it was turned down, perhaps. I know how that works, having been deployed on these kinds of missions in the past. You really need country clearance. You need over-flight clearance, in order to get into country. You need to stage -- it's not that simple.


BURTON: But if the host government turns this down, I would imagine that the U.S. did not launch or staged in a third country elsewhere.

BURNETT: Right. Although, when that didn't matter in Pakistan, when they went after Osama bin Laden. The United States seems to go in when they want to go in.

BORELLI: You know, in a situation like Pakistan, where they took unilateral action, they were afraid, obviously, that the grade would have been compromised, had they let the local government know.


BORELLI: This is a different situation now, and we've been working closely with the Algerians, and I don't expect that this would be a unilateral type of situation.

But as my colleague was saying, I know the offers are on the table, that, you know, any resources that can be brought to bear, to help the Algerians resolve this thing --


BORELLI: -- are going to be readily available.

BURNETT: All right.

BORELLI: And this is a situation, quite frankly, that we might have been able to see coming. The person that was actually bearing responsibility for this, Mokhtar Belmokhtar actually made a video about a month ago saying, attacks are coming, expect it.


BORELLI: So, in essence, we should have been circling the wagons, expecting something like this to happen.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Don and Fred, thank you very much. And to Don's point, we're going to continue to cover that angle of the story, because among the first things the United States said yesterday, although they won't tell us the number Americans involved was, it was a terrorist attack, it was organized, and it was pre- planned. So certainly there was some awareness of the preparation that had gone into this in advance.

Still to come, more and more details emerging about Manti Te'o's nonexistent girlfriend. He said he was the victim of a sick joke. But does that add up?

Plus, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacts to President Obama's plan to take on guns.


BURNETT: All right. Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up ahead on "A.C. 360."

And I know you have a big interview with Mayor Bloomberg tonight, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Mayor Bloomberg talking about guns.

Also, of course, we're following the story of Manti Te'o, as just about everybody is. It keeps getting weirder. We'll have the latest on the Notre Dame football star. The shocking story of his fake girlfriend. As you know, he was the victim of a hoax.

So why did he still talk about her even after he knew she was a fraud and why didn't Notre Dame come clean? We're keeping them honest.

As Erin said, Mayor Bloomberg is on the program. He's been obviously an advocate of gun control for years, a strong voice in the record push for stricter gun control laws following the Newtown massacre. We'll talk to Mayor Bloomberg about the president's new proposals for gun control and what he thinks of the NRA.


COOPER: Marco Rubio yesterday was quoted as saying, nothing that the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook. Do you agree?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: That's probably true. A woman had guns, it wasn't her son that -- I don't know if she ever went through a background check, but the son certainly didn't. He took his mother's guns and killed people.

But that doesn't mean having fewer guns around is a better idea. It's like, you know, there are people that go through traffic lights. They just run a red light. Does that mean we should get rid of all traffic lights? No. In a macro sense, these laws do work.


COOPER: We'll also have the latest in the Lance Armstrong, the hostage situation in Algeria, and, of course, the "Ridiculist" all at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you very much. See you in just a few moments.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: we're going to talk about Manti Te'o, a victim or a conspirator?

The mystery deepens tonight as we learn more about how the Notre Dame linebacker was supposedly tricked into an online relationship with a woman who did not exist.

Now, our Ted Rowlands is OUTFRONT on the Notre Dame University campus.

And, Ted, a lot of details on this at this point clearly do not add up. You know, first, the timing of when Te'o and his supposed girlfriend Lennay first met. Obviously, that's crucial because met implies met in person. What have you learned?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the members of the Te'o family is lying because Manti claims he's never met her, that this was an online relationship. His father told a reporter here in South Bend all about that first meeting. And we're talking details about how their eyes met, after a football game at Stanford University in 2009. He had specific details. And the reporter actually taped that conversation that he had, that interview.

I listened to that today, clearly, Manti Te'o's father believed that his son met, in person, with his "girlfriend" in 2009, at that Stanford football game. He also talked on that tape recording about how his son and this girl met in Hawaii and in southern California on several occasions. Clearly, somebody is lying.

BURNETT: Now, there are also conflicting reports about whether or not Te'o's parents ever met Lennay, which is, obviously, a very, very crucial question as to what they knew and whether they were involved if there was anything nefarious going on.

What did you learn about that?

ROWLANDS: Well, according to the reporter that conducted this interview, he never asked, point-blank, have you ever met the girlfriend? But he now, in retrospect, especially, gets the feeling that they hadn't. Because one of the things they had talked about, is they were excited when she was going to make their first trip to their home, and the sisters were going to watch her very carefully, and if she didn't help with the dishes, she wasn't a true Hawaiian, so little things like that.

He gets the feeling that they never met the girl at all.


And now, we heard last night from the university, you know, which gave that press conference, I know you were covering it. They say Te'o learned about the hoax early in December, on the 6th of December, but even that doesn't add up to comments he made after that date.

ROWLANDS: Yes, two days later, he was asked about charity work and specifically, cancer came up. Take a listen to what he said to reporters, two days after he knew that his girlfriend was a farce.


MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER: I really got, you know, hit with cancer. I mean, I don't like cancer at all, you know? Cancer, I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.


ROWLANDS: Clearly, right there, is proof that Manti Te'o, if nothing else, perpetuated this lie to the public and Notre Dame also found out on the 26th of December, and not a word came out of the university's mouth about this leading up to the national championship game. They allowed reporters from around the world to continue to tell and perpetuate this story, this wonderful story, of Manti Te'o, getting through adversity and getting his team to the national championship.

BURNETT: Pretty incredible. All right, Ted Rowlands, thank you very much.

Now, Manti Te'o's emotional tale was a huge story line during this college football season.

And two men who have spent a lot of time covering and talking to Te'o are: "Sports Illustrated" senior writer, Pete Thamel, he wrote a cover story on Te'o back in October. And Angelo di Carlo, sports anchor for WNDU in South Bend, Indiana.

I appreciate both of you taking the time.

Peter, I want to start with you. You spent a lot of time talking to Manti Te'o for that cover story. You spoke to him about Lennay, of course.

I wanted to read something you wrote just today about that. You wrote, "The detail he provided me about Lennay Kekua, who he said had died 10 days earlier -- six hours after his grandmother passed away -- was staggering. He said that they met through his cousin nearly four years ago and started dating on October 15th, 2011."

Now, meeting through the cousin and on the football field obviously is in person. His statement was that they had met online and he never actually physically met her.

Do you feel duped?

PETE THAMEL, SENIOR WRITER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: You know, I don't personally feel duped. I do think Manti Te'o got duped. I think when he started to realize he got duped, he told lies.

I think he was embarrassed to tell his parents that he met her online. That's where the stories in the "South Bend Tribune" came out where their eyes locked.

I do think the truth always lies somewhere in the middle, Erin, at the end of the day, and I think that Manti Te'o, I sat with him for a long time. Look, if he was acting, he deserves an Oscar nomination. He would have taken home multiple Golden Globes.

I mean, the depth and detail of the scam is mind-boggling, but I do think Te'o, and especially with those clips that you just played showed this. I do think he caught the wave of the story, maybe exaggerated the depths of their relationship a little bit.


THAMEL: At the end of the day, we need to hear from Manti Te'o, because the longer we wait to hear from him, the more doubt builds and the more cynicism builds. Come out, tell your story if it was indeed a hoax, and let America know.

BURNETT: And to your point, I mean, if it was humiliation, how you felt about it when you met online, your parents, or whatever, you would have to be honest about that.

Angelo, I know you've covered Manti Te'o for about six years. You've met his parents on multiple occasions. And I'm curious, did they ever talk to you ability this woman he was dating and whether or not they knew her?

ANGELO DI CARLO, SPORTS ANCHOR FOR WNDU: You know, we never specifically talked about that. One of our news photographers talked to them after a pep rally on October 12th. They brought up Lennay and talked about how inspiring she's been to Manti's life. But we certainly never discussed whether or not they met her, and the other interaction I had with them came on senior day.

You know, we talked after the game about how important that day was to the Te'o family, but never necessarily got into specifics about Lennay at that point. You know --


BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.

DI CARLO: No, go ahead, go ahead.

BURNETT: I'm just curious, were there any inconsistencies you picked up on?

DI CARLO: Not during the process. I mean, I think a lot of reporters have said this. Do you ask a kid who is grieving that you have known for four years to produce a death certificate or anything like that? I think that's the difficult part.

I was told at one point a year or so ago by somebody that, you know, hey, Manti is not as pure as everything thinks he is. I didn't know what to think of that statement. I had nothing else to base it on.

And, today, I talked to two former teammates of his. And, you know, to Pete's point, they kind of brought up that same theory that maybe Manti, you know, was -- you know, he believed this story, was got embarrassed and started embellishing a little bit. But they don't really know what happened. They kind of were confused themselves, to say the least, of what the truth is.

BURNETT: So, Pete, when I have been talking to people, we obviously didn't know about Manti Te'o until the whole BCS championship, and then like many others, learned about this story, learned about your story about him.

But one thing now looking at it I don't understand is even if he only met her online, when she dies, he doesn't look for the funeral home, try to send flowers, try to reach out to her family -- all of those things which obviously didn't exist?

THAMEL: You know, certainly, Erin, that's a great question. That's something when Manti Te'o does eventually face the media, he's going to have to answer. Her funeral was the same day of the Notre Dame/Michigan game. And he told and it's in the transcript on right now, with my extensive interview with him, from back in September, that at noon when her casket was supposedly closing in southern California, he was going through a walk-through to play Michigan.

So certainly in retrospect, if your girlfriend passes, the question is answered, do you go to the funeral? Te'o had another funeral to go to, which he did go to, of his grandmother that week and he returned home for it. Perhaps, the family didn't schedule the funeral around him.

With all of these little discrepancies, Erin, there were ways you could rationalize it at the time in your mind. And that's what myself and a lot other reporters did.

BURNETT: Right, right. I mean, at first, you can understand because people -- these stories are inspiring and it's hard to imagine when you have been perhaps terribly lied to.

Thanks to both of you.

And next, one of America's popular and prolific writers dies today. A look back at an incredible trail blazer, next.


BURNETT: Pauline Phillips died today. She was 94 years old.

Now, if you don't recognize that name, it's probably because you know her as "Dear Abby". Born in 1918 in Sioux City, Iowa, Pauline wrote for her college newspaper before getting married and having two children. Then in 1956, at age 37, she was hired by "The San Francisco Chronicle" to write an advice column.

And for the next three decades, she was the most powerful advice columnist in the country. Her only real rival was her twin sister, Ann Landers.

Which brings us to tonight's number: 100 million. That is the daily readership of the syndicated "Dear Abby" column. In all this day and age of online, Twitter this, Facebook that, that is old school and that is impressive.

Pauline was not a typical newspaper writer. Her column dragged the business of advice into the 20th century. And in the process, she built an empire that includes books, games, and a long-running radio show.

And it continues today. In 1987, she began co-writing with her daughter who has taken over the column full time. I love reading advice columns. "Washington Post" style sections have some great one. You learn so much about people. You get inspired. Sometimes you feel sad and sometimes you laugh aloud.

To all of the other writers and all the fans, we all owe a big debt to "Dear Abby".

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.