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Fate of American Hostages Unclear; Lance Armstrong Comes Clean; Questions About Te'o's Fake Girlfriend, House GOP Blinks in Debt Ceiling Fight; Americans Held Hostage; "I Think to Myself, Am I Dreaming?"; American Hostage: "I Am Safe"; Bringing Down a Sex Slave Network; The Voice of 15 Inaugurals in a Row

Aired January 18, 2013 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: deep concern about the fate of hostages and new details about the so-called jihad prince who may be behind the terror attack in Algeria.

Also, what else can he say? Now that Lance Armstrong has admitted to doping, we're also looking ahead to what we will hear him say tonight to Oprah Winfrey once again.

Plus, a CNN exclusive: Our own Martin Savidge rides along as authorities break up an alleged elaborate sex slave network right here in the United States. You won't believe the conditions the women had to endure.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here on the National Wall in Washington, behind me the west front of the U.S. Capitol where President Barack Obama will take the oath of office on Monday. We're counting down to the inauguration. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with what we now know is the ongoing hostage crisis in Algeria. Right now, it's unclear how many Americans are being held by terrorists. But we do know the United States, the Obama administration has rejected an offer to exchange an undisclosed number of American hostages.

Other hostages have been freed and harrowing new details are emerging about their treatment.

For the very details, let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's over at the State Department -- Jill.


Just a few minutes ago here at the State Department, I was upstairs, Secretary Clinton meeting with the Japanese foreign minister and both of them discussing this crisis in Algeria. She said that she had spoken yet again with her Algerian counterpart and she stressed once again, she said, the utmost concern that they have is for the safety and security of the hostages.

But when I asked her about the criticism that's being leveled by the United States and other countries against some aspects of this operation, the Algerian operation, here is what she said.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Let's not forget, this is an act of terror. The perpetrators are the terrorists. They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world who were going about their daily business.


DOUGHERTY: So a lot of passion in what the secretary was saying right there. So some hostages have are been killed. Some have survived and some are telling their stories.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't remember. It happened so fast. It happened so fast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My heart goes out to the guys that are still there. Hopefully (INAUDIBLE) because at the end of the day, it's only work, you know?

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): But among the countries whose citizens were seized by the terrorists, frustration at the Algerian government's violent operation is spilling over.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, we were not informed of this in advance. I was told by the Algerian prime minister while it was taking place.

DOUGHERTY: Officials from the U.S. and other countries also confirm they had no heads-up on the operation, were provided contradictory information on the raid and the status of their citizens.

CLINTON: Let's not forget, this is an act of terror.

DOUGHERTY: The White House says President Obama is receiving regular updates on the raid, that the administration is in constant contact with the government of Algeria and has "been clear that our first priority is the safety and security of the hostages."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says, he's putting the terrorists on notice.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere.

DOUGHERTY: But the demands of the group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar seem to be growing. The hostage-takers are demanding the release of two high-profile figures, the so-called blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, a life sentence in the U.S., and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist now in prison in the U.S. convicted of trying to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration, however, is ruling out any deal with the hostage takers.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The United States does not negotiate with terrorists.


DOUGHERTY: So, again, this is an ongoing operation as far as we know, still conflicting information now for the third day in exactly what is happening, how many people have been released, et cetera.

But, Wolf, you can certainly say that the countries that are involved -- and that includes Japan -- have been talking around the clock nonstop about this and coordinating their activity as much as they can, which the secretary says is really key to this.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty with the latest at the State Department, thank you.

Experts say the terrorist attack was sophisticated and likely planned well in advance of this week. They are pointing to a man known as the so-called jihad prince as the possible mastermind.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this individual.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, his name Mokhtar Belmokhtar, not well-known in the West until now, very well-known in Northern Africa as a militant leader.

He's one of the most wanted men in that region, long a target of French and Algerian counterterror forces.


TODD (voice-over): He's got a lot of nicknames, each one bolstering the image of a seasoned militant, the jihad prince, the uncatchable.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the mastermind behind the terror attack and hostage siege in Algeria, is one of the most famous militant leaders in North Africa.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Mokhtar Belmokhtar over the half decade really has emerged as a significant player within the al Qaeda fold.

TODD: Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler was held hostage by Belmokhtar's cells for months in Niger and gives his own menacing description.

ROBERT FOWLER, FORMER AL QAEDA HOSTAGE: He's got a great scar through his eyebrow, across his eye, down his cheek. It's lost in his beard. TODD: Those kind of battlefield names gave him another nickname, the one-eyed. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, 40 years old, grew up in the deserts of Southern Algeria. He fought with mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan in the early '90s, then with militants battling Algeria's government in a devastating civil war. That group became al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It was with them that Belmokhtar earned yet another nickname, Mr. Marlboro.

AARON ZELIN, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: He's called Mr. Marlboro just because of his past with cigarette smuggling, as well as weapons and other paraphernalia. But later on over the past six to seven year, he's also been involved in a lot of hostage takings on behalf of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

TODD: A practice which allegedly made Belmokhtar millions and made enemies within al Qaeda. Because his gangster ways and independence either did not live up to the jihadist ideal or simply made his cohorts jealous, Belmokhtar split with the leadership of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb last year.

He formed an elite commando group called Those Who Sign With Blood. That's the group that launched this operation in Algeria. During this chaotic rescue attempt, would Mokhtar Belmokhtar have tried to kill whatever hostages were left?

CRUICKSHANK: Mokhtar Belmokhtar is somebody who a track record of trying to get something out of every terrorist attack that he carries out and so just executing hostages has never really been his M.O.


TODD: And there's a chance that Belmokhtar may be wheeling and dealing again.

As we reported at the top of this broadcast from Jill Dougherty, in exchange for those American hostages, the militants at that Algerian gas facility are demanding the release of a well-known Pakistani militant, he name Aafia Siddiqui, as well as Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called blind sheik serving a life sentence for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center attack.

Wolf, little or no chance, really no chance they are going to get that in exchange for those hostages, as you know.

BLITZER: Yes, I know that. Is there any indication that this man Belmokhtar has been on the ground at that gas facility in Eastern Algeria, near the Libyan border leading this operation?

TODD: We don't know that for sure at this point, but the analysts we spoke to, Paul Cruickshank and Aaron Zelin, say he's most likely not there. They say he's most likely in Northern Mali commanding this whole thing from afar.

Analysts say he's sent an experienced commando unit to launch this attack. Paul Cruickshank calls this the A-team of his group. Very likely he's not on the ground there. BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Coming up in a few minutes: how to negotiate with terrorists in such a tense situation. We're talking live with a former FBI hostage negotiator as well as CNN's national security contributor Fran Townsend.

Up next, Lance Armstrong isn't done talking. We are taking a look at what he might say next to Oprah Winfrey.

Plus, just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, our own Soledad O'Brien goes one on one with the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Soledad is standing by to join us live.


BLITZER: Lance Armstrong spent years vehemently and aggressively denying the use of drugs to win seven Tour de France titles. Then, in just a matter of seconds he admitted it was -- quote -- "one big lie."

His mea culpa came in last night's interview with Oprah Winfrey. It answered years of questions about how Armstrong won the world's toughest race an astounding seven times in a row. That might be easy compared to how hard it will be to repair his own reputation.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now from Armstrong's home town of Austin, Texas, with more.

What are you picking up over there, Ed?


One of the things that Oprah Winfrey said earlier this week is that at times this interview was emotional. Quite frankly, we didn't see much of that in last night's interview, but tonight it looks like they promise to talk more about Lance Armstrong's relationship with cancer survivors in the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Perhaps we will see some of that emotion tonight.



LAVANDERA (voice-over): Just after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released its reasoned decision report last October condemning Lance Armstrong as a doper, the cycling icon made his first public appearance in one of the few safe places he had left. Armstrong had just stepped down as the chairman of LIVESTRONG days before the annual Ride for the Roses charity biking event in Austin, Texas.

He was surrounded by more than 4,000 cyclists, many of them cancer survivors.

ARMSTRONG: Obviously, it's been an interesting and as I said the other night at times very difficult few weeks. People ask me a lot, how are you doing? And I tell them, well, I have been better, but I have also been worse.

LAVANDERA: As the Lance Armstrong myth has unraveled over the years, he's now often criticized for using his relationship with cancer survivors and the LIVESTRONG Foundation to salvage his public image.

It's been called the magic cancer shield. "Texas Monthly" magazine writer Michael Hall has profiled Lance Armstrong extensively.

MICHAEL HALL, "TEXAS MONTHLY": The foundation does this incredible work and then he starts to kind of use this foundation as kind of a shield, a convenient shield sometimes. And so people here are skeptical on the one hand because of the way he does that, but they are also still clearly impressed that he started this thing.

(on camera): You're still wearing the wristband?

JEAN ANNE BOOTH, CANCER SURVIVOR: I still have my wristband, yes.

LAVANDERA: You're not taking that off?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Cancer survivor Jean Anne Booth worries the LIVESTRONG Foundation will be hurt by Lance Armstrong's fall from grace. In 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

(on camera): Is there any part of you that thinks that Lance Armstrong used his LIVESTRONG and cancer story to mask this darker side of him as kind of a shield to protect himself?

BOOTH: From my perspective, regardless of what it is that he did that wasn't what we would want in terms of doping while he was riding, on the other hand, he also accomplished something that nobody else in the world has been able to accomplish for cancer survivors.

LAVANDERA: But what many people are struggling to reconcile, despite Lance Armstrong's apologies for doping, is why a hero to so many people would act like such a bully.

Many of those watching Armstrong's televised confession have little sympathy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He won't have the trust or the respect of the city ever again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to think that at some point, you know, that he would be forgiven but the reality is I think he burned those bridges a long time ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to love Lance. I still love him, I guess, at the heart, but I think it's really shady that he kept this from us for so long.

LAVANDERA: Two months ago, Lance Armstrong tweeted this picture of himself laying on his couch surrounded by seven yellow Tour de France jerseys. At the time, it was another shot of defiance and arrogance. Now it looks more like a lonely snapshot of a fallen hero, the last person clinging to a decade of lies.


LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, Lance Armstrong said last night that he tried desperately for more than a decade to control the narrative of what was said about him in this mythical Lance Armstrong that existed for so long and inspired many people. And that is a reality and a now busted reality that many people are still struggling with and trying to reconcile, especially the millions of cancer survivors that have found so much hope and inspiration from the Livestrong foundation -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to have a lot more on Lance Armstrong later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Ed Lavandera, thanks for that report.

Armstrong isn't the only athlete in the spotlight right now. The Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o says he was duped into falling in love with a fake girlfriend. Now, new details emerging, new details calling into question how Te'o handled the situation after learning about the girlfriend, that the girlfriend did not exist.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is joining us with the latest from South Bend, Indiana. That's the home of the Notre Dame campus.

Susan, what else are you learning?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Wolf, I'll tell you, Wolf, through the person here, we have found -- we have not been able to find anyone with a negative thing to say about Manti Te'o. For the most part, everyone here thinks he's a great guy, a role model to kids, team captain, as you know.

But they are saying that back in the fall when he first announced that his girlfriend, now he believed to be the fake girlfriend, announced that she was dead, said there were already questions starting to swirl around campus wondering about the existence of this young woman. And I spoke to a sport blogger here at Notre Dame about that.


TYLER MOOREHEAD, NOTRE DAME STUDENT/SPORTS BLOGGER: And no one was ever really inquiring into his relationship statuses before. They didn't wonder which girls he was with or how that was going. But when you hear that he lost a girlfriend, suddenly questions are, well, I didn't really know he had the girlfriend and that's when the news from people around him, players and friends, you know, that spreads on campus that, well, he had never actually met this girlfriend. So, how substantial could that relationship be?


CANDIOTTI: And that student, like so many others, wants to hear from Manti Te'o himself. I had a chance to exchange messages with a teammate of Manti Te'o. His name is Zeke Motta and he didn't reveal how much he really knows about what happened, whether he spoke to his teammate in depth about it.

But told me, quote, "Manti is a great player, a great leader. He is an unfortunate situation. I consider him a brother and friend. Nobody can really comment on this until they have all of the facts." And that, of course, is what everyone is waiting for.

Now, Manti Te'o still has not said when he would speak publicly about this. We did see him in Florida. He's been training down there in advance of the NFL draft in April. He's already graduated from Notre Dame -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Susan, a lot of people have pointed out the news broke on a sports blog. The university has known about it for days. Obviously, Te'o has known about it himself.

So why did it break on a sports blog instead of the university or Te'o himself making the announcement?

CANDIOTTI: Well, Notre Dame is saying, it sure isn't the way that we thought it would happen. Remember that they were told, first of all, Te'o announced it -- or found out about it on December 6th. It wasn't until December 26th, 20 days later after the Christmas break, that he told the university. The university then started its own investigation, lasted about 10 days and issued a report to the family on January 5th, told them what they learned.

And they said it was their understanding that he was going to make an announcement about it next week. But, of course, they were upstaged and here's how they addressed that at a news conference.


JACK SWARBRICK, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: There was not an intention, a belief, anything that this would be a story that didn't get told. It was clear it would. We had hoped the first person to tell it would be Manti and, again, the expectation was that was going to happen next week. And he didn't get that opportunity without someone else having told the story, but, you know, at least have an opportunity to talk about it in the future.


CANDIOTTI: Now, Notre Dame said that its own investigation did turn up some evidence that there were other targets involved. But I spoke with a spokesperson about this and he said it more or less had to do with some suspicious tweets that they showed up, but they won't reveal what they learned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan, thanks very much for that report.

We're watching several other big stories, including a brutal -- yes, a brutal attack on a subway platform, a woman beaten and then thrown on to the tracks. Wait until you hear how this event unfolded.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Looking at a live picture of the National Mall, that's where I am right now. In three days, hundreds and thousands of people will gather to see the president of the United States sworn into office for a second term. Monday's ceremony is the second time that the president will take the oath.

There's also a private ceremony at the White House on Sunday which is the official Inauguration Day.

CNN obviously will be covering both Sunday events and Monday events.

As the president starts a second term, a majority of the Americans approve of the way he's handling his job. CNN's poll of polls, that's an average of several polls, found 53 percent approving of the president's performance, 42 percent disapprove.

House Republicans, meanwhile, are signaling that they are ready to give some ground in the debt fight.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now.

Dana, are the Republicans in the House of Representatives blinking a little bit here? What's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, yes, Wolf. What they are saying is that they are going to have a vote next week which will delay the debt ceiling, or at least raise the debt ceiling is a better way to put, for three months.

So what they are doing, if you really look at House Republicans who took the majority two years ago, they did it standing on principle for pretty much every skirmish. It seems as though they are becoming a bit more sophisticated, rather, but their understanding, it seems, is that you have to pick your battles. And demanding spending cuts, even if it means causing the nation to default on its loans, losing credit ratings and worse, is simply not a smart battle to wage right now.

Listen to one of the most conservative members of the House, Mick Mulvaney, talking to our Deirdre Walsh at the end of their retreat for three days about picking their battles in a better way.


REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Deal with the smaller ones first, maybe build up a little momentum, build up a little credibility, not only with the credit markets but also with the folks back home, that we can actually deal with these things, take the small one first, take the medium next, and then take the debt ceiling last. I think it makes perfect sense. It's a rational, reasonable thing to do.


BASH: Now, for some, Wolf, maybe even those in the Republican House leadership, hearing rank-and-file conservatives like him talk about what's rational and reasonable may be a little bit jarring, but the bottom line is House Republicans are coming out of their three-day retreat down in Williamsburg, saying that they feel they have a better chance of reaching their goal of broad spending cuts if they take a little more time to do it to make that happen. And that means not making the demand in the next few weeks, which is exactly what it would mean because, according to most economists, we will hit that debt ceiling mid-February.

BLITZER: So here's the question, bottom line, is this a sure thing? Will Congress actually vote to raise the debt limit next week?

BASH: Well, there is a catch. The house GOP, the leadership at least says what they are going to try to pass next week would raise the debt ceiling for three months but with a condition. And that would be that the House and Senate pass budgets. It may seem simple but House Republicans like to point out that the Senate Democrats haven't passed a budget in years.

Now, we already saw a carefully worded statement from the Senate majority leader welcoming the GOP move but also making clear he doesn't want conditions on it. So, Democratic leadership sources frankly say that they're not really sure how it's going to play out, but so far, they're playing along.

The White House is softening its hard line, too. Spokesman Jay Carney said that he is, quote, "encouraged."

BLITZER: Let's see how encouraging it all becomes. Thanks so much for that, Dana.

As a tense hostage situation unfolds in Algeria, questions, very serious questions, about how or whether to negotiate with terrorists continuing right now. We're going to get some insight and analysis.

Plus, seven cities, four states, 100 federal offices -- and CNN is there as an alleged sex slave network is busted. Our exclusive report, that's next.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the deadly hostage crisis unfolding right now in Algeria. CNN has just heard from an American worker who says he escaped on the first day of the siege. Mark Cobb, who's believed to be a resident of Texas, told CNN in a message that he's safe but not willing or able to say much more right now.

The U.S. is rejecting the militant group's reported offer to release an undisclosed number of American hostages in exchange for two prisoners. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the situation remains very difficult.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are staying in close touch with our Algerian partners and working with affected nations around the world to end this crisis.


BLITZER: Our national security contributor, Fran Townsend, is a member of the CIA's External Advisory Board, is joining us right now as is the former FBI hostage negotiator, Christopher Voss who is here with me in Washington.

Fran, they say at least 12 hostages killed right now. What do you make of the Algerian military's response to this situation so far?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we know from both American officials and reports of other foreign officials who have sense who are part of the hostages taken have sort of implored the Algerians to be cautious.

You know, our way, Wolf, is to collect a lot of intelligence to try and negotiate first for their release and only to use a military-style raid as a last resort. Obviously that's not what the Algerians did.

We understand they did not coordinate with American or other foreign officials. They launched this military raid. It's very risky because it does, in fact, put the lives of the hostages at risk and tragically, unfortunately, we're only now learning that some of the hostages have been killed.

BLITZER: You know, we're getting so much conflicting information. It almost seems like there's a fog going on right now. Is this typical in a situation like this, Fran?

TOWNSEND: Well, you know, Wolf, in any crisis you're always getting conflicting reports from the field, but this is actually seems worse than usual. American officials have told reporters that they were not consulted. They are not getting timely information.

You know, sometimes journalists are learning about people escaping before American officials are getting sort of the official word. So I think there's a great deal of frustration on the American side and they really -- they are really hungry to make sure that they get to have some input before these decisions get made to put lives at risk.

BLITZER: Christopher, the Americans -- the U.S. government, the Obama administration says State Department, they don't negotiate with terrorists. The terrorists say they are willing to free the Americans in exchange for prisoners being held here. What do you do in a situation like this? What advice do you have?

CHRISTOPHER VOSS, FORMER FBI LEAD INTERNATIONAL KIDNAPPING NEGOTIATOR: Well, there's a difference between negotiation and communication. The U.S. government doesn't make concessions, but we're not afraid to talk to people. There should be lines of communication set up.

So they can be able to gather some information for tactical purposes, if you will. They can begin to understand what is going on behind the scene and find out where the pressure buttons are and what they are worried about and take advantage of that.

BLITZER: So if you were involved in this right now, what would you be doing?

VOSS: I would make contact. I like sort of like an intermediary, the bad guys, the terrorists, if you will, are willing to talk to and get some communication going so you can start to understand what is going on.

BLITZER: What advice do you have, let's say family members are watching right now. What advice do you have for them?

VOSS: All right, so this is a horrifying time for them. Everybody knows that and the hardest thing for them to do is to sit tight. But they're going to have to sit tight. The FBI hostage negotiators are the people they need to be talking to, to get the best information for them and to understand what to do next. Talk to the FBI.

BLITZER: Fran, let me play another clip from the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She said this earlier today.


CLINTON: It is absolutely essential that we broaden and deepen our counterterrorism cooperation going forward with Algeria and all countries of the region.


BLITZER: Do we have, the United States, effective counterterrorism measures in place, in North Africa, in Algeria, for example?

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, to be honest I was surprised to hear her say that. Obviously things can always be improved and always be strengthened. But going back to the Bush administration, I can remember traveling throughout North Africa, speaking to them about counterterrorism cooperation.

The CIA has long had relationships with services throughout that region and it includes sort of the cooperation and offers of cooperation and training that you might expect that they would need. So it may be now that the secretary is focused on broadening and deepening that relationship.

But I will tell you there's been a concerted effort, because we've understood al Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb and its predecessor, the predecessor groups, the threats that they pose, both regionally and internationally.

So this has been a priority for some time. If there's more to be done, it's unfortunate we didn't begin that process before this tragic event.

BLITZER: Is there a situation, Christopher, that could unfold the U.S. says it doesn't negotiate with terrorists. It doesn't make concessions to terrorists, won't release their prisoners in demand for the exchange for the release of the Americans.

I was speaking the other day to a Canadian diplomat who was held by the same group in Algeria. He was eventually released after about four months. He said the Canadian government didn't make any concessions although maybe others made concessions that got him out. Is that a game the U.S. might be willing to play right now?

VOSS: Well, the U.S. will allow certain things to happen in order to save lives and these al Qaeda and Islamic Maghreb, what they are about, they are kidnappers. They are in the business of kidnapping. They are funding al Qaeda throughout the world for those operations. So a calculated use of some other inducement by a private party to get the families out money, blatantly.

BLITZER: Is that what they want, these terrorists?

VOSS: Ultimately if they trade, they will trade for money. They understand that. They are businessmen.

BLITZER: Christopher Voss, thanks very much for coming in. Fran, thanks to you as well. We're going to have much more on this story later.

We rarely hear from the United States Supreme Court justices, but up next, our Soledad O'Brien sits down with the Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who will swear in the vice president on Monday. Her thoughts on the big moment and a lot more that's next.


BLITZER: This weekend the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, will be sworn in for his second term by a U.S. Supreme Court justice that wasn't even a member of the court four years ago. We're talking about Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

She just spoke with our own Soledad O'Brien who is here at the National Mall with me right now. Not every day you get to speak to a Supreme Court. Was it up at the Supreme Court?


BLITZER: Pretty impressive.

O'BRIEN: It's an amazing building and she's a really remarkable Supreme Court justice to talk to. You know, she has a book out. It's called "My Beloved World" and much of the story of her book is about navigating a world. That from where she comes from often seems very, you know, foreign if you will, kind of alien to her.

The story, of course, she was born in poverty in the Bronx would go to Princeton and then Yale and go on to work as a district attorney and then eventually end up as a Supreme Court justice.

And she says that when she swears in Joe Biden on Sunday, that it is, considering where she came from, absolutely stunning.


JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT: I was thinking just a couple of days ago, if I think back at when I was a kid, which of the two events would have seemed more improbable to me, I realize each one was so far-fetched that I couldn't have imagined either.

O'BRIEN: Supreme Court?

SOTOMAYOR: Supreme Court, swearing in the vice president in front of the nation and the world.


O'BRIEN: She has a reputation, of course, of being very tough on the lawyers who argue cases before her. She likes to use the word challenging and I asked her -- because she has a reputation of someone who really prepares. I want to know, how is she preparing for this?


O'BRIEN: Do you go home every night and memorize it, practice it in front of the mirror? You remember there was a little bit of a mess-up four years ago for the president.

SOTOMAYOR: Well, when you read my book, you know that I practice everything I do over and over and over again and so I have been saying the oath out loud for a couple of weeks now, a couple of times a day but I won't rely on my memory either. I'll have a card with me.


O'BRIEN: She says she wrote this book to remember who she was and she has these important milestones in history, for instance, on Sunday when she helps swear in Vice President Joe Biden, she wants to be able to, she says, look back in five years or ten years and 20 years and remember, if she forgets, where she came from. Now, ultimately, she's a girl from the Bronx.

BLITZER: And she's got an amazing story. Forget about all of the Supreme Court stuff, just growing up, telling that story of her family, what I've read about the book -- I haven't read the book yet.

O'BRIEN: It's a tremendous book. It's a wonderful narrative and you're right, she's a story of first in many instances.

BLITZER: As we like to say, only in America.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that is true. That is true.

BLITZER: Soledad, thank you very, very much. Much more of Soledad's sit-down interview with the Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Sunday morning, moments after she swears in the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. Watch it all live here on CNN at 8:00 a.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Getting word of an American worker at that Algerian gas facility telling CNN he escaped the siege by Islamic militants. CNN's David Mattingly is joining us on the phone with new information that you're getting. David, tell us where you are and what you're learning. DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Wolf, this is the second American we've been able to positively identify as part of that siege. His name is Mark Cobb and he spoke to us -- communicated to us through a couple of brief text messages.

He told us in the first text message, he said, I am safe. Yes. And then he explained that he is escaped with some Algerian staff who were at the plant with him at the time and this happened on the first day of the siege.

He wasn't willing to comment any further beyond that because of how dangerous the situation still is for the others involved. But again his name is Mark Cobb. He's believed to be in Texas.

If that is truly the case, he is the second Texan that we know of that was in that facility at the time, the second man still not being -- his name still not being publicly released.

We're not reporting it even though we've spoke to family members that this second man was taken hostage at the time. No change in his situation at the moment. But right now we have confirmed the identity of a second American there.

His name is Mark Cobb. He's described as a general manager of a BP joint venture there in Algeria but, again, to repeat his text message to us, I am safe, yes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's good to know that he is safe. Do we have any idea how many Americans, David, are -- were taken, how many are still being held, how many are released?

MATTINGLY: We are seeing numbers coming from Algeria, but the United States State Department has been reluctant to put a lot of credibility in the actual numbers that are coming out.

So at the moment we are just waiting to see what we can find out here on the ground from families here in the U.S. that are waiting because the information is going directly to them, either from the State Department or from BP, the operator of the plant there.

So at this point, out of the Americans that were there, we do know definitely of two we have identified them. One is safe and one at this moment is still believed to be a captive there.

BLITZER: All right, we'll stay in close touch with you, David. Thanks very much for breaking that news here on CNN.

It was dubbed operation "Dark Night." The breakup of an alleged sex slave ring operating here in the United States. Our own Martin Savidge has exclusive information. That is coming up.


BLITZER: We like to think our country did away with slavery after the civil war, but it's a grim reality for way too many women brought to the United States to become sex slaves. CNN's Martin Savidge went along in a sting to bust up one of those trafficking rings. Here's his exclusive report.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 5:15 a.m., "Operation Dark Night" is living up to its name. In South Savannah and a half dozen other communities in four states, more than 100 federal officers head out to hit 16 different sites at exactly the same time.

That's critical because authorities believe all of the locations are linked. Agents hoped to take down an entire alleged sex slave network in a single blow, 25 minutes from now.

BROCK NICHOLSON, ATLANTA ICE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: When it comes down to going in, they will be focused especially a case like this where they are hoping to rescue someone.

SAVIDGE: Because the case involves suspected human trafficking of women, mainly from Mexico and Nicaragua, it was fast tracked over six month, an alphabet soup of agencies take part, Homeland security, ICE, FBI, IRS, DEA, local authorities, even the U.S. Coast Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The transportation took place, right?

SAVIDGE: The entire operation coordinated from the eighth floor of a downtown Savannah office building.

RYAN SPRADLIN, ATLANTA ICE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: There's some anticipation. The adrenaline flows and you're really hoping that you have everyone out there is safe.

SAVIDGE: The teams strike at exactly at 6:00 a.m.

(on camera): So the entry team has already gone in. We're simply waiting for the all clear so we can have a closer look.

(voice-over): Minutes later, I watch as authorities lead out the man they say is the prostitution ring's leader and then one of the girls he has said to have enslaved. He goes one way and she another.

According to the federal indictment, some of the women were forced to have sex with clients 25 to 30 times a day. In the apartment agents find a 10 by 12 foot box constructed of wood and insulation. They believe it's where the woman, here, was forced to work and live. Even the veteran investigators, it's a new low.

NICHOLSON: It drives me insane that these women -- their everyday life would be a hellish nightmare for any individual. So, yes, I get a little mad sometimes.

SAVIDGE: Twelve miles away, another federal team with an arrest warrant pulls into a subdivision full of school buses and children. They're after the other part of this sex slave equation, the alleged customers.

ED TARVER, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: They are the demand. They are the reason that the services is being provided. If there were no johns, there wouldn't be this problem.

SAVIDGE (on camera): The suspects in this case will eventually end in a county jail, but the victims, they'll end up here at a hotel.

(voice-over): It's where I find Alia El Sawi waiting for them. She's a federal victims assistance specialist.

ALIA EL SAWI, ICE VICTIMS SPECIALIST: I've been working specifically with survivors of human trafficking for about eight years now.

SAVIDGE: Hers is perhaps the hardest job, easing these women back into a life of freedom.

EL SAWI: Naturally, there are some hesitations because we are a complete stranger. There is hesitation because we are affiliated with law enforcement, but our job is to try to build that rapport, try to put them at ease and hopefully be able to assist them and assist the case that we have going on.

SAVIDGE: The operation's over before lunch. At least 50 people are taken into custody and 11 women freed. Authorities call it a good day.

JOHN MORTON, ICE DIRECTOR: This isn't the end to human trafficking. This is a worldwide phenomenon and sadly it goes on as we speak, got to attack it relentlessly every, every day.

SAVIDGE (on camera): As for the women rescued in this case, authorities know that they entered the country illegally. They also know that wasn't their fault. And investigators say that they will be granted a special visa, which will allow them to remain in this country in they wish for the foreseeable future. Martin Savidge, CNN, Savannah, Georgia.


BLITZER: Authorities tell Martin they continue to question those in custody hoping to free more women from this sex-trafficking ring as well as make some additional arrests.

In addition to his reputation, Lance Armstrong's admission could also have a huge impact on his wallet. You're going to meet the man who's been announcing inauguration parades at the same time since the 1950s. Stand by.


BLITZER: President Obama may be getting ready for his second inauguration but one man here in Washington is getting ready for his 15th in a row. Here's our national political correspondent Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a tradition nearly as old as the nation itself. And while the inaugural parade might seem routine, it takes practice. That's why every four years, without one week before inauguration day comes rehearsal day.

Marching bands, members of the military and the Secret Service all descend on the parade route in Washington to shepherd a mock presidential motorcade from the capitol to the White House.

(on camera): So you can see behind me this silver suburban, which is two vehicles behind us, about a block behind us, that is the stand-in for the president's limo and inside there is a stand-in for the president himself.

(voice-over): But to truly appreciate this inaugural tradition, you have to get off of the parade route.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Brotman's man cave.

ACOSTA: And take a trip to the basement of Charlie Brotman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama.

ACOSTA: The spry 85-year-old Washington broadcaster has served as the announcer of every inaugural parade since Eisenhower in 1957. He's coming up on 15 in a row. He's got a half century of memories to go with all of his parade scripts.

CHARLIE BROTMAN, INAUGURAL PARADE ANNOUNCER: One of the things that I found out over the years is that the inaugural parade is an extension of the president's personality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask not what America will do for you.

ACOSTA: With Kennedy and Reagan came Hollywood celebrities.

BROTMAN: See, as the announcer, I get a really good charge of rubbing shoulders with famous people and so that's what happens.

ACOSTA: But Obama, Brotman says, is different.

BROTMAN: What he does, his selection is from the heart. He's bringing in high school bands, college bands that have never been in a parade much less a presidential inaugural parade. So he's making it possible for these kids to have a memory they will remember forever.

ACOSTA: Carter made his mark by being the first president to walk the parade route.

(on camera): Must have been a shock for you.

BROTMAN: It was indeed.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Reagan, Brotman says, saved his second parade by moving it indoors out of frigid temperatures.

BROTMAN: The Presidential Inaugural Commission basically said, we can't have these kids come out here and subject them to the freezing and frostbite. So let's cancel the whole thing. And that's when President Reagan said, wait a second, let's not be too hasty on this decision.

ACOSTA: From his perch high atop the parade route, Brotman knows he approaches the viewing stand before the president.

BROTMAN: When I say, now advancing to the presidential reviewing stand, the United States Marine Corps band, he knows when to salute, when to put a hand over the heart, he knows, you know, when to applaud.

ACOSTA (on camera): He's taking his cues from you?

BROTMAN: That's exactly right.

ACOSTA: That doesn't happen too much here in Washington.


ACOSTA: You get to do it.

BROTMAN: I get to do it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): From his role on inaugural day to his former day job as stadium announcer for the Washington Senator's baseball team, Brotman quickly became friends with many of the presidents he served. Nixon gave him this autographed baseball. Clinton gave him a hug.

BROTMAN: He grabs me with the shoulder like this and brings me in like this.

ACOSTA: It's no wonder Charlie Brotman has volunteered his voice to this American ritual.

BROTMAN: President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

ACOSTA (on camera): It sounds to me like you wouldn't trade this for the world, this experience that you have.

BROTMAN: If I had to, I would pay them to let me do it. I love it.


ACOSTA: Charlie Brotman got his start as the inaugural parade announcer for Harry Truman way back in 1949. He was a student at the Washington broadcasting school when the call came in and then by 1957, he had the job from then on. Wolf, he truly knows these parades better than the presidents themselves.

BLITZER: What a great amount of history all there in one individual. Thanks so much for that report, Jim Acosta.

CNN's coverage of President Obama's second inaugural spans two -- yes, two -- days. First, the official oath of office in a private ceremony on Sunday, then Monday's public ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Join us both days starting at 9:00 am Eastern.