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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Embassy in Turkey Attacked; Senate Scandal

Aired February 1, 2013 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a suicide attack on the United States Embassy in Turkey.

A rare joint interview with the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

A sheriff who says he won't enforce new gun control laws.

Vigilantes trying to enforce harsh Muslim law on the streets of London.

Plus, the Army veteran who lied on "American Idol" about his military service.

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

An explosive and deadly message delivered to the American Embassy in the heart of the Turkish capital, Ankara, it was the scene of a suicide bombing that shook the diplomatic compound and rattled nerves all the way to Washington.

CNN's Ivan Watson is learning more about the attack and attacker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Turkish government is blaming a suicide bomb attack against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on a little known leftist Marxist Turkish militant organization.

(voice-over): Shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Friday, the suicide bomber struck, damaging the heavily fortified entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. The explosion shattered concrete and stone and left the bomber and Mustafa Akarsu, one of the embassy's Turkish guards, dead.

FRANCIS RICCIARDONE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY: Right now, we are all dealing with our sadness at the loss of our fellow member of our embassy. We salute his bravery, his service to Turkey and to Turkish-American friendship. Our hearts go out to his family.

WATSON: Among the wounded, a Turkish television reporter named Didem Tuncay, now in hospital. Turkey's prime minister denounced what he and the U.S. government called an act of terror.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): These attacks are against all the peace and welfare of our country and we will stand tall and we will stay together and we will overcome these.

WATSON: Within hours, Turkish authorities identified the suspect bomber as this man, Ecevit Sanli, seen here in 1997 when he was convicted and jailed for attacking a Turkish police headquarters with a rocket. He was a member of a violent Turkish leftist group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front, or DHKP-C.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a Marxist revolutionary organization. They have not been active, very active until recently, and they have kind of started to kind of started stepping up their attacks in parallel with the war in Syria.

WATSON: Turkey's support for rebels in neighboring Syria has angered some leftist groups and they have taken to the streets to denounce both the Turkish government and its close American ally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a sense in Turkish left in particular that the Arab spring and in particular the Syrian war is something that the United States is stirring up for regime change all around the Middle East and that, for example, they have been very opposed to the placement of Patriot missiles.

WATSON: The Turkish government asked NATO to place the Patriot batteries along its border with Syria to deter any threat of ballistic missile attacks, but leftist groups opposed the deployment and the presence of hundreds of U.S., German, and Dutch troops to operate the Patriots.

Friday's suicide bombing was not the first time that Western diplomatic missions have been attacked in Turkey. In 2003, al Qaeda killed scores of people as well as the consul general of Britain in a truck bomb attack on the British Consulate in Istanbul.

Five years later, gunmen attacked the American Consulate in Istanbul and six people were killed, as Turkish police fought successfully to protect the building.

(on camera): The security measures work. Twice in six years attackers have failed to break into U.S. diplomatic missions in Turkey, but that is due in large part to Turkish guards who lost their lives as the first line of protection -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ivan Watson, thank you.

Let's get a closer look at the United States Embassy right now, and CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us.

Tom, show our views how the embassy is laid out in Ankara.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure.

Well, Ankara, as you know, is the second largest city in Turkey, and it is the capital, and so it is a sprawling place. There are about 5 million people if you take the whole metro area. It is home to their government is right in the middle of everything and a lot of company, the Germans, Italians, the French right here. The Serbians have an embassy down here.

This area is an affluent area, lots of nice restaurants and nice homes and a good place for people to be most of time. And one of the big shocks here when the attack comes because this is the embassy compound, and here is what we know about the embassy. We know that the attack happened right down in this area here, so it actually was a little bit of distance from some of the main facilities of the embassy.

BLITZER: What kind of security precautions, Tom, do embassies like the one in Ankara have?

FOREMAN: Well, the simple truth is that embassies over the world have become increasingly secure over time.

Sure, we hear about some indents where you have smaller outposts, but the embassies themselves in many cases are ringed in, and look at this. This has actually a lot of property around it here that separates it from the roadways. This is the main building right in here, and it's somewhat removed from everything. There is security and layers of security here to keep people away.

In fact, Wolf, one of the concerns for some diplomats in the world is that our embassies have become so secure because of the attacks like this, that it makes it difficult to do the job which is connecting to the population and spreading U.S. influence and also listening for the good of U.S. interests -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I would rather be secure though, obviously, and you need that security in many of these capitals. Tom, thanks very much.

Our chief political correspondent, and the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Candy Crowley, had a rare joint interview today with the outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

And she talked to them about the embassy attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you have any reason to believe that what appears to be this suicide bombing in Turkey was linked to the Patriot missiles that we sent there recently?

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: No, I have no evidence of that.

Clearly, this was a terrorist act. Obviously, we have to find out what the motive was here, but as far as I know, it was not linked to that.

CROWLEY: Do you have any sense of what this was about? Was this an internal thing and they just chose the U.S. Embassy? GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Well, look, we've asked that question but the intel community -- this is a very recent event. And the intel community has exactly that question to wring out and to see if there was a connection. But at this point, as the secretary said, we have no indication that it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Candy is joining us now with more of this rare joint interview.

Candy, there are reports, as you know, that both of them will be testifying before Congress on the Benghazi attack.

CROWLEY: Yes, I talked to them both. It appears Thursday is the day.

Secretary Panetta was not particularly, yes, we are going to do it, but he said we are talking to them about that and, yes, we are trying to work that out. But later the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said Thursday -- when we talked about Benghazi, which was one of the topics for us, he said, well, I'm sure these are the kinds of questions we will get on Thursday. It looks Thursday next week.

BLITZER: When is Panetta's last day? Did he give you any indication?

CROWLEY: He's not -- he actually said -- this was not on camera, but off the record, he said, I think that I will give my wife a nice Valentine's Day present, so obviously a lot of it depends on Hagel's confirmation. That says to me he's looking for around the 14th of February.

BLITZER: The Hagel -- the vote is supposed to be on Chuck Hagel to be the next defense secretary next week some time, right?

CROWLEY: Yes, that is supposed to be next week, but we do have some folks on Capitol Hill that said I do not want to confirm Chuck Hagel until we talk to the current defense secretary about Benghazi, so I think the timing there is not coincidental.

BLITZER: Was Secretary Panetta sort of update about how the way he is leaving and handing over the Defense Department over to his successor?

CROWLEY: It's hard to tell. Yes, he is proud of his record, and we talked a little bit about his legacy and how he looked at his term.

But he is also really happy. This is a man, he has done longtime service -- as you know, he was at the CIA as well -- for this administration and other administrations, and I think that he is excited to be going home now to California.

BLITZER: He has worked hard. He has given a lot to the country as a public servant, going back to being a congressman from California and he was budget director during the Clinton administration, and White House chief of staff and now CIA director and defense secretary. And he deserves a little R&R.

CROWLEY: He is looking pretty happy about going home to California.

BLITZER: I'm sure. Carmel, California, it is a nice place and I'm sure he will be happy to be with his wife, Sylvia, a little bit longer, over at the Panetta Institute as well.

Candy, thanks very much.

I just want to alert our viewers a reminder: this rare interview that Candy conducted with the secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, it airs this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION" 9:00 a.m. Eastern and also noon Eastern on Sunday, and you will want to see it.

Serious ethics allegations against a powerful Democratic senator -- first, an FBI raid. Will an ethics investigation be next?

Plus, an "American Idol" contestant's emotional war story now exposed as a lie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An FBI raid shining a spotlight on an apparent ethics violation by a Democratic senator who has just assumed a powerful new committee post.

CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta has more on the brewing scandal surrounding New Jersey's Robert Menendez.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Senate's ethics rules are clear when it comes to these free flights Menendez accepted. The senator did not, as required, report them on his financial disclosure form.

The question is, what, if anything, the Ethics Committee will do about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It was another day of a very public senator keeping a low profile. Outside a dinner Thursday night featuring New Jersey's top political leaders, Bob Menendez only offered a few words in response to the questions flooding his office.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I have commented already through my office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are nameless, faceless anonymous allegations.

ACOSTA: Just as Menendez is officially becoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a key member of the Senate Ethics Committee is indicating the panel is now looking into a raid by federal agents on the offices of Menendez friend and Florida doctor Salomon Melgen.

In a statement, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson said: "We are aware of the news reports regarding the FBI raid on Dr. Melgen's office. The Ethics Committee will follow its established procedures in this matter."

One potential violation of ethics rules, the free flight Menendez took on Melgen's private jet to the Dominican Republic 2010. On his financial disclosure form for that same year, Menendez said, no, he did not receive any reportable travel worth more than $335. His office now says the flights were worth $58,000.

(on camera): Menendez reimbursed Dr. Melgen two years after he accepted those free flights, but according to a governor watchdog, that might not necessarily be a violation of Senate ethics rules.

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: It's only in the Senate Ethics Committee where you can pay back money and then sort of get off the hook.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Melanie Sloan with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says the trips amount to gifts that should have been reported promptly.

SLOAN: He should have paid the charter rate for the trips at the time or disclosed them, and he didn't do either of those things.

ACOSTA: Sloan's group sent over its own file on Menendez to the FBI last summer, including an e-mail from a man claiming the senator was flying to Dominican Republic to meet with prostitutes, a story that eventually appeared on the conservative Daily Caller Web site. But Dr. Melgen is also a big campaign contributor to Menendez. He donated well over $100,000 to the senator's reelection campaign, as well as to connected Democratic committees.

NARRATOR: 2012 was supposed to be his year.

ACOSTA: Melgen's company sent another $700,000 to a super PAC that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars get Menendez reelected.

At a subcommittee last year, "The New York Times" reports Menendez urged government officials to help direct a port security contract to a company tied to Melgen. The top Republican in the senator's home state suggested it's time for Menendez to address all of the questions head on.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Senator Menendez has been in public life for, gosh, over two decades. I think he has a complete understanding of what he believes his responsibility is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: When asked why Menendez failed to report those flights on his financial disclosure form at the time, his staff did not respond.

Intentionally falsifying these forms is a federal crime, and it says so right on the form -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

The Obama administration is retreating on what critics have portrayed as a war on religion. It is dropping a controversial health care form provision requiring religiously affiliated employers to cover contraception as part of their workers' health insurance plans.

CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us with now details.

What is the latest on this front, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

This policy is meant to help those organizations like Catholic universities that offer their own insurance policies, they self- insure, but object on moral grounds to offer contraception. Does the policy go far enough? The jury is still out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Obama administration officials say proposed new guidelines would ensure women get contraception for free, and no objecting religious organization would have to pay for it, a seemingly perfect compromise.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We had to ensure that women have access to preventive services like contraception, and that the policy also respects religious beliefs.

YELLIN: The policy would allow a self-insured religious organization like a Catholic university to opt out of providing birth control. Another insurance company would give employees birth control for free.

DAWN LAGUENS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: This just clarifies that there are not going to be some women who get this benefit and some women who don't. All women in America through their insurance coverage are going to have access to birth control without a co-pay, no matter where they work or where they live.

YELLIN: Not everyone sees this as a win-win.

CHUCK DONOVAN, CHARLOTTE LOZIER INSTITUTE: It leaves an awful lot of the conscience and moral objection concerns uncovered. The private sector does not gain protections.

YELLIN: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is reserving judgment while it studies the 80-page guidelines, but in statements the head of the National Association of Evangelicals ripped the new policy as bad news for all who love religious freedom, saying "The Obama administration should have done the right thing and dropped the contraception mandate," and the family values organization Concerned Women for America slammed it as a "blatant attempt to mislead and trample the religious liberties of Americans." This is the second attempt to clean up the original policy since it ignited a firestorm almost a year ago.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Religious liberty will be protected and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, this new policy also clarifies which religious organizations actually qualify for this exemption.

There will going to be a 60-day comment period before this proposed guideline becomes the new rule. There are about 50 lawsuits challenging the so-called contraception mandate and we will have to wait for that 60-day comment period to expire to see where those lawsuits ultimately stand, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, an important story emerging from the White House. Thanks to you for that.

They are targeting women, gays and even people just out for a drink. We have details of Muslim vigilantes on the streets of London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Sheriffs vowing to -- quote -- "trade their lives" to preserve gun rights, and they lay out their position in a controversial letter to President Obama. We will talk to the law enforcement official who wrote it. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We just received some pictures of the new secretary of state, John Kerry, as he was being sworn in a few hours ago. Took place on Capitol Hill.

Kerry was joined by his family and about 50 staffers from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his Senate office. His wife, Teresa, held the Bible. The oath was administered by the United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. The bust in the background, by the way, is the former Senator/Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Congratulations to John Kerry, the new secretary of state of the United States.

To news: a new flare-up in the battle over gun control, this one sparked by candid remarks by the vice president, Joe Biden.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns on the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After meeting with Senate Democrats, Vice President Biden admitted that while new gun laws can make a difference, they won't necessarily prevent another tragedy like Newtown.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing we are going is going to do fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting or guarantee that we will bring gun deaths down to 1,000 a year from what it is now.

JOHNS: And that started off a war of words.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group started by New York's Michael Bloomberg, said the vice president is right. "No law is going to stop all firearm fatalities, but when you make dangerous acts illegal, it makes people less likely to do that dangerous thing."

The National Rifle Association said both are wrong, calling for Congress to stop "these heinous acts by fixing our broken mental health system and by providing a blanket of security to our children in schools."

The NRA has said before that new laws are not the answer. The White House played down the vice president's comments, pointing to a similar line from the president a few weeks ago pushing Congress to take action on guns.

OBAMA: While there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.

JOHNS: And those efforts continue, though the vice president may have gotten ahead of himself by suggesting the Sandy Hook school shooting caused certain groups opposed to new gun control measures to change positions.

BIDEN: Now the evangelical groups are sitting down here, we must do something, we must do something. The same with the sheriffs, when you talk about the need to deal with assault weapons or trafficking, they are much more forward-leaning.

JOHNS (voice-over) At a news conference today I asked the National Sheriff's Association if they supported some of the more controversial gun control proposals being discussed, including banning assault weapons. They were noncommittal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us to take a position on what doesn't exist today, we are not there. And again, the other thing that we want to do is we don't want to talk about what divides us, we want to talk about the ways that we can work together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: And we should add that the National Sheriff's Association also stopped short of supporting members who have announced they won't enforce any new laws enacted that they deem an assault on the Second Amendment, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Joe, thank you. Let's dig a little bit deeper, get some more now on this gun control debate with Sheriff Jim Tracy of Utah County in Utah, who is here in Washington with a group of other sheriffs.

Sheriff, thanks very much for coming in.

SHERIFF JIM TRACY, UTAH COUNTY, UTAH: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: You and the Utah Sheriff's Association wrote a pretty powerful letter to the President of the United States. Among other things, you write this, "No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights -- in particular, Amendment II" -- Second Amendment to the Constitution -- "has given them."

That is a pretty threatening statement to the president. What do you mean by that?

TRACY: Well, we don't believe it's threatening, but we do believe it's powerful. Part of the issue is how do we enforce the laws in our counties. And there's 28 of the 29 sheriffs in Utah that are members of this association. And within that group, there are varying and differing opinions on exactly what each county would do in that exact case, if there were federal officials that did come down.

Part of the issue that I look at is, as a constitutional issue, we were hoping that we could send this letter to President Obama and ask him if he would do -- work with Congress and not make executive orders that might countermand something that was not law, and that the law and anything that would come from that point would go through Congress where it should come through.

BLITZER: Because there is another line in your letter that says -- and it's pretty tough as well, "We are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation."

All right. Those are strong words. If there is a federal law that says you got to do something, you are going to obey the law of the United States of America, right?

TRACY: That is correct. We would. And that is not the intent of that letter, is to say that we would not be within the law.

The part of the issue is, as states do every day, when there is a disagreement (ph) between the federal law and the state laws, we would take that to court. We indicate in there that it is the right of the Supreme Court to interpret those laws.

BLITZER: But while it's being adjudicated in the lower courts, the court of the appeals courts, the Supreme Court, it's the law if the president signs a executive order, saying you got to do something, you got to do it. You obey the law.

TRACY: I guess so. One of the things just come up and we put this in the context of the marijuana laws in Colorado and up in -- I think it was Oregon or Washington.

The federal law says that marijuana is against the law, and yet those states have voted to take that law and ignore it. So would that be the same situation along these lines until something is adjudicated through the Supreme Court, would we maybe not take action on that? That would be a possibility.

BLITZER: So you would really -- if the president said you got to do it, you would violate that? Is that what you're saying?

TRACY: We would not violate it; we wouldn't enforce it. And at that point, I would look to the courts and ask that we have a case taken forward. Hopefully we could set precedent through the courts and that we would get a determination from the Supreme Court ultimately.

BLITZER: So let's be specific on greater background checks for people buying guns, would you close all those loopholes so everyone who buys a gun would have to be checked so that no criminals, terrorists, could just go out there and buy a weapon?

TRACY: Speaking for myself, as a sheriff of Utah County, I do not oppose the background checks.

BLITZER: All right. So you're with the -- with the president on that.

What about on magazines?

TRACY: That I don't support. It seems like there's a push to take inanimate objects like magazines and try to solve this whole issue through enforcing limits on those. I mean, we deal with firearms every day. It takes a quarter-second to a half-second to go from a -- one magazine to change it into another. It really isn't --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So if a magazine has 100 bullets in it, you don't have a problem with that?

TRACY: I do not.

BLITZER: And what about assault-type weapons?

TRACY: I don't have any problem with assault weapons, either. The issue comes down to the issue of what does the individual with that tool do. And we refer to that as a tool. The tool is no more evil or effective than the individual using it.

BLITZER: What would you do -- and it's hypothetical; I don't know if it'll happen -- if Congress were to pass legislation putting a limit on magazines or banning certain type assault-type weapons, the president signed it into law, it is then the law of the land, what would you do?

TRACY: Well, two things. We would look to our state legislature to see what they would do. If they were to do something contrary to what the federal law would be, we would look after taking that law that was passed by the state and push that forward, hopefully through the federal court system, to get that up to the Supreme Court and look for an adjudication.

BLITZER: You'd look -- but that would take a while. That could take a few years. In the meantime, you'd have to limit the sale of magazines or assault-type weapons and you're the sheriff. You're going to do that whether you like it or not.

TRACY: Well, I am not sure that I would. In this case --

BLITZER: Well, would you retire or would you resign?

TRACY: No, I am not going to resign. I'm gone in two years, anyway. I've been with the sheriff's department for 37 years. But I would not enforce that law based on the fact that I would look for a court injunction to stay that execution.

BLITZER: Well, what if you didn't get it?

TRACY: If we didn't, then I would look the other way for the time until we got to the point where we got some kind of a ruling from the Supreme Court or a federal court.

BLITZER: Because it is unusual to hear a sheriff to say he would violate the law.

TRACY: I am not going to violate it. But I'm not going to --

BLITZER: I mean, a sheriff has got to uphold the law.

TRACY: Yes. Maybe we put it like the president put it when he talked about the fact that the states were ignoring the marijuana, we have other fish to fry, you know, more -- something more important than that to look at.

BLITZER: Sheriff James Tracy from Utah, thanks for coming in.

TRACY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Sharia law in the heart of London, details of Muslim vigilantes harassing women, gays, people just out for a drink. What's going on? A full report is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Muslim vigilantes trying to enforce the strictest form of Islamic law. They are a fixture in certainly many parts of the Muslim world, but now they are a growing cause of concern in the British capital. CNN's Dan Rivers reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whitechapel in East London, a hard-line vigilante group is trying to impose sharia law on unsuspecting members of the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a Muslim area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alcohol bad. This is a Muslim area.

RIVERS (voice-over): It is not just drinkers being targeted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, you're a -- you're a gay man, get out of there, mate. Yes, there, you fag.

RIVERS (voice-over): And women wearing skirts above the knee are also being harassed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot dress like that in Muslim area.

RIVERS (voice-over): Only a handful of men are involved in the self-styled patrols. Five have been arrested on suspicion of harassment, but we joined others who have not been picked up by the police. These men claim they are simply tackling drunken behavior where alcohol is already banned from the streets, but they do share many of the same hard-line beliefs as those arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alcohol is causing so much problems in the area, in fact, it is blighting the area. It causes crime. It causes people misbehaving and drunk and disorderly behavior.

RIVERS: Would you condemn, then, the more intimidating patrols, where they try to seem to be trying to impose sharia law in parts of London?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not here to condemn or condone anyone's action, what I am here to say is that there is a problem.

RIVERS: Those doing these patrols are reveling in the media spotlight, but actually the number of people involved is very, very small. The vast majority of Muslim people living in this part of East London want nothing to do with vigilantes whatsoever.

RIVERS (voice-over): At the local mosque, Muslim leaders are appalled and have condemned the patrols, which they say are stirring up hatred.

SALMAN FARSI, EAST LONDON MOSQUE: It has done a huge amount of damage to the Muslim community, and it is no doubt going to increase Islamophobia.

RIVERS (voice-over): Police patrols in the area have been stepped up as the authorities take a tough line.

DET. CHIEF INSPECTOR WENDY MORGAN, METRO POLICE: We will not accept such behavior. It is unacceptable.

RIVERS (voice-over): Leading British Muslims like Baroness Swasse (ph), have warned their community's need to integrate better into wider society to stop extremism.

In a speech in November, she said, "We have been treating our communities like foreign embassies where the rules from abroad apply and wider society keeps well out of it. And for too long, cultural sensitivities have often led our leaders to become morally blind."

RIVERS (voice-over): But there is evidence that the lack of integration is partly because in many cities across Europe white people are moving away from ethnically-mixed neighborhoods.

PROF. ERIC KAUFMAN, BIRKBECK COLLEGE: Even without many whites consciously fleeing, you can get a change that's quite dramatic in the character of an area. So here in London, between 2001 and 2011, an area like Barking (ph) and Dagenham (ph), a third of the white British population has left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Muslim patrol. Move away from the mosque.

RIVERS (voice-over): Enormous demographic changes resulting in profound challenges like the so-called Muslim patrols which the communities, themselves, are now trying to tackle -- Dan Rivers, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Britain by the way is not alone. Denmark, Belgium, Spain, they have all seen similar groups going after what they describe as un-Islamic behavior.

An Iraq war veteran brings his emotional story to "American Idol," a story he now admits was false.

And we are going live to New Orleans and the Super Bowl countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You may have heard his emotional story on "American Idol," an Iraq war veteran talking about being wounded in the war. Turns out, it was all a lie. CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us now.

Martin, tell us how all of this played out.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a remarkable story, Wolf. I mean, you have this young man, comes on "American Idol," he serves the country, so he says, he is there with his little girl. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheer cuteness.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): It was one of those made-for-TV moments that was guaranteed to melt your heart, 26-year-old Matt Farmer, taking a shot at fame on "American Idol" Wednesday night, holding his precious 3-year-old daughter, and telling a story of valor from his military service in Iraq.

MATT FARMER, IRAQ VETERAN: We were on a mission, in Ramadi, Iraq, and we came across an IED, and the IED exploded. I just remember waking up in the hospital in Kuwait.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The only problem, it was all a lie.

Among the millions watching and listening was Farmer's former best friend, Nick Betts.

NICK BETTS, FARMER'S FORMER BEST FRIEND: No, it is not true.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): And how does he know?

BETTS: Because I was with him the entire time.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Betts says he deployed with Farmer to Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He says the idol wannabe was never in an IED blast.

BETTS: There were numerous IEDs that tour; thankfully nobody was killed by them. We did have a fellow soldier that was maimed, but Farmer was not. He was not involved in any of those.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Betts says Farmer was flown out of Iraq for medical reasons, but he says it was due to Farmer getting drunk and mixing prescription drugs, not the enemy.

FARMER: My name's Matt Farmer.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): "American Idol" was not the only time Farmer lied. He told a huge church audience of a harrowing tale of survival in Afghanistan, when he said the truck he was riding in ran over two land mines.

FARMER: Everyone but myself was killed. I was the only one left alive.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): According to Farmer's military buddies and his ex-wife, Farmer was never in Afghanistan.

Not long after his "Idol" moment, the Guardian of Valor website dedicated to keeping military records truthful and honest, lit up with outrage. Said one post, "Sickening that this man's allowed to call himself a veteran. He's a disgrace to our true military heroes."

Another simply said, "SSOS. Sorry sack of -- (expletive)."

Later on that same site, Farmer posted his own statement, admitting, quote, "It was all lies." He went on to say, "To everyone, but more importantly the men I served with, I'm deeply regretful and sorry."

Betts was one of those men. And he's not sure sorry cuts it. BETTS: I feel like he took away from those that actually did sacrifice for this country, you know, we lost really good men that year. Some were maimed, some were killed. And to claim that he was with them and involved in this tragedy, is disgusting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: And by the way, Wolf, I have been having an ongoing conversation over the Internet and e-mail with Matt Farmer, trying to convince him to come on this show to talk and actually to speak. He said he won't do that. Here's what he did tell me.

He said, "At this time, I am not in the best of mental states to call and talk. A bit scattered to be honest, but would like to call and let people hear me set that record straight as soon as I get checked out and make sure I'm OK."

I guess the good news there is that he is seeking professional help, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he obviously he needs some help. All right. Thanks very much for that, Martin Savidge reporting.

Excitement is building, meanwhile, for Sunday's Super Bowl, looking at live pictures over there. But there's a serious undertone to NFL football this year as well following recent comments by President Obama about head injuries. The NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league will take more precautions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I welcome the president's comments, because it has been a priority. And the changes we're making in the NFL, I think are changing all of sports. There's a better recognition of head injuries, of treating them conservatively, and that affects every sport.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now from New Orleans, Rachel Nichols. She's just joined CNN and Turner Sports.

So first of all, welcome, Rachel, to CNN. Good to have you on board.

Let's talk about these head injuries for a moment, because this whole problem is hovering over NFL football big-time right now. I wonder how it's hovering over the Super Bowl.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, Roger Goodell, it was the first question he was asked at his annual State of the State, State of the Union press conference today. And you could tell that he knew it was coming.

Once President Obama said that he was concerned about this head injury issue and that if he had a son, he would wonder whether he wanted his son to play football, well, Roger Goodell knew that there would be plenty of people asking. Now unless Ms. Obama hasn't told us all something, that's not going to be an actual concern for the president.

But it is echoing the thoughts of many parents around the country. You know, Friday Night Lights, it's such a cultural part of so many cities and towns in the U.S., get your kid into football. And should parents still do this, is this a smart thing?

Goodell wanted to assure people that this is a problem that they are continuing to work on, continuing to pour research in. They're going to take an additional step for the players on the field coming up this next season. They're going to have independent neurologists on the sideline.

These will not be doctors that are hired by the team with the team's interest in mind; these will be independent neurologists, who will then talk to the player and supposedly be making a more independent judgment about whether they should go back in with a possible head injury.

But still, there is a lot of criticism from different sides about whether this is really enough. Because as you know, there have been fines, there have been suspensions, and players say they're concerned there's too much for show on the field and not enough going into what's happening in the training rooms and really preventative care. So the debate here is really raging on.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Very quickly, Rachel, is there a story line that you're most looking forward to seeing unfold over the next few days in New Orleans?

NICHOLS: Well, Ray Lewis has had a seven-team career; we have seen all kinds of things from him at both ends of the spectrum. And who thought that deer antler spray, a supposed performance enhancing -- enhancement would enter the story line? So you never know what you're going to get.

We've had more things go into the catalog just this week, and very I'm eager to see how his story ends. This is a Hall of Fame career, but the punctuation is yet to come. I want to see what comes at the end of the sentence for him.

BLITZER: Welcome to CNN and Turner Sports, Rachel, good to have you on our team. Appreciate it very much.

NICHOLS: Thanks so much.

BLITZER: And please be sure to join Rachel tomorrow on Super Bowl Eve, when she hosts "Kickoff in New Orleans," a CNN Bleacher Report Special, 4:00 pm Eastern.

Ted Nugent talks guns on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." Erin's here to tell us a little bit more.

What's coming up at the top of the hour, Erin? ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Well, you know, when you talk about guns and who wants to have guns in this country, and is most passionate about gun rights, obviously, you think of Ted Nugent, the rock musician. And we have a special investigation, spending time shooting with Ted Nugent on his ranch in Waco, Texas. That story is coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf.

Plus with the horrible story in Texas about the assistant district attorney, Mark Hasse, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of his office, we look at other district attorneys, prosecutors, people who have gone missing, who have been killed, an incredibly high-risk job in this country that a lot of people may not realize just what risks these people take on.

So that story coming up at the top of the hour. See you in a few minutes.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few minutes, Erin. Thank you.

A pastor leaves an angry note for his waitress, on the receipt. It's the tip everyone's talking about. You're going to find out why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A restaurant squabble that may have started small is now growing, going viral, not over the food but the tip and an angry customer whose complaint ended up online. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If how much to tip leaves you stumped, wait till you hear the story of the waitress, the pastor and the receipt.

Make themselves out to kind of be a jerk, but also play the religion card as an excuse?

MOOS (voice-over): Pastor Alois Bell was part of a party of 10, eating at an Applebee's in St. Louis. The pastor did not appreciate the automatic 18 percent gratuity charge to large groups, so she scrawled on the receipt, "I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18," and signed it, "Pastor."

That was too much for waitress Chelsea Welch, who posted the receipt on the website Reddit.

Chelsea WELCH, WAITRESS: I took a picture of the note because I thought it was comically immature.

MOOS (voice-over): But Pastor Bell wasn't laughing once the receipt went viral and posters started calling her.

PASTOR ALOIS BELL: You hypocrite pastor.

MOOS: Now Chelsea wasn't even the waitress serving that table. At the end of the night, she heard about the receipt from the actual server.

WELCH: This server calls me over and says, "You're not going to believe this."

MOOS (voice-over): The 18 percent gratuity was taken directly out of the pastor's credit card. She wrote "zero" in the space for additional tip but says --

WELCH: And I put $6 on the table.

MOOS (voice-over): When the "I give God 10 percent" receipt became news, the pastor called Applebee's to complain.

WELCH: That they wanted me fired, the server fired, my manager fired.

MOOS: Chelsea was fired. So now instead of worrying about getting tips, she could use some job-hunting tips.

MOOS (voice-over): Applebee's acknowledged Chelsea's dismissal, saying, "Our guests' personal information, including their meal check, is private. And neither Applebee's nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly."

Meanwhile, the pastor seems to have had a change of heart about writing the note.

BELL: That was a lapse in my judgment. I apologize for that.

WELCH: I am sorry that I violated your privacy in posting your signature.

BELL: Would I ever do that again? No, I would not ever do that again.

WELCH: But you offended me. You offended me, you offended your server.

MOOS: The question is, what would Jesus tip?

MOOS (voice-over): And on that subject, God's not tipping his hand -- Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what have you learned from all this?

BELL: I learned not to be writing on no receipts.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS (voice-over): -- New York.

BLITZER: Got to be careful, everything you write out there. That's it for me.

Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.