Return to Transcripts main page


Raid Frees Alabama Boy Hostage; Kidnap Survivor Speaks Out; Captor's Body Remains At Site; Obama Talks Spending Cuts Soon

Aired February 5, 2013 - 13:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The five-year-old, Ethan, he is now safe but at what cost? We're going to hear from one woman who was kidnapped and the nightmares that she had after the attack.

President Obama trying to buy more time to pay the bills. We're going to hear from him live in about 15 minutes or so. You can see the briefing room, they're getting it set up there.

And drones, how the U.S. Government can use them to kill its citizens, Americans, if they are leading Al Qaeda terror attacks.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We have now learned more about that seven-day hostage standoff in Alabama and, of course, now how it ended. The five-year-old boy, thank goodness, is OK. He is named Ethan. He spent the night in the hospital after being rescued during a raid on that underground bunker where he was being held. Now, his captor is 65-year-old Jimmy Dykes. He was killed in the raid.

And authorities say he grabbed the boy, Ethan, off his school bus after shooting and killing the bus driver last week. They raided the bunker when they became concerned that his mental state was declining. Ethan's birthday is Tuesday. He's going to turn six. People, of course, are celebrating. And the FBI is dispatching a shooting review board at the scene to try to sort this all out. Coming up, we're going to talk with two experts about the raid and also about how a child overcomes something like this little kid had to go through and the ordeal around it.

But, first, some background on what it feels like to go through what little Ethan experienced. Our own Miguel Marquez, he talked with a survivor who was kidnapped off her school bus years ago but remembers this like it was yesterday.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the bus you were in in 1976 when you and your friends were kidnapped?


MARQUEZ: What is it like to be inside of here?

HEFFINGTON-MEDRANO: Well, it brings back all of the memories. MARQUEZ (voice-over): Memories taking years to get over. Memories brought back to life watching a similar drama play out in Alabama, at its center, a little boy named Ethan.

HEFFINGTON-MEDRANO: He's going to need a lot of love and a lot of understanding.

MARQUEZ: Jodi Heffington-Medrano knows just what five-year-old Ethan went through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One by one, they were herded into a hole in the ground.

MARQUEZ: Thirty-six years ago, Jodi and 26 others were kidnapped while on a school bus in California. They were forced into a moving van that was buried. They were being held for ransom but after 16 hours, managed to escape. Ethan's story --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been holed up in some kind of underground bunker.

MARQUEZ: -- brought it all back, but worse.

HEFFINGTON-MEDRANO: They saw their bus driver be shot. That's a traumatic thing. I didn't see anybody be shot. In my dream, I did. I had a reoccurring nightmare for years.

MARQUEZ: Her hurt goes out to bus driver Charles Poland who was shot and killed as he helped all but Ethan escape.

HEFFINGTON-MEDRANO: He did it for those kids, though. He is a true hero. He saved all of those kids.

MARQUEZ: The driver of her bus in 1976, Edward Ray, a hulking but gentle man, kept the kids together and safe through their ordeal. He died last year at 91 years old. Hundreds attended his funeral.

HEFFINGTON-METRANO: If it wasn't for him, I don't know what any of us would have done. He was my hero, I know that. I loved him.

MARQUEZ: Two ordeals, years and thousands of miles apart, two people traveling a similar road. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Chowchilla, California.


MALVEAUX: So, what are the tactics that the FBI would use to end the stand-off if? And how is this little boy recovering from all of this? I want to bring in our Tom Fuentes, he's a former FBI assistant director also a CNN contributor in Washington. And also, a clinical psychologist, Jeff Gardere, who's joining us from New York. Tom, I want to start off with you. We are just getting new information now, this is from our own Martin Savidge. He is saying that a Dale County official says the body of the hostage taker, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is -- still remains in the area and that it showed multiple -- signs of multiple gunshot wounds which means that the cause of death was obvious. Is that typical that the body would still be there?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that would depend on the local authorities of, you know, the examination of the body, the forensic pathologists that would be looking at it to determine how many gunshots and what damage was done by them or whether any wounds were self-inflicted. So, that's pretty much standard procedure to have that kind of examination occur after the victim's been shot and killed.

MALVEAUX: And to still have the body there near -- or -- near the site. What do we know -- in your experience, how this little boy finally was rescued, what were the things that they were thinking about, law enforcement officials, before they finally decided they just had to go in and rescue this kid?

FUENTES: Well, from the first minute this unfolds, they have to decide whether or not -- what's the danger or threat level against the boy, and they have to be prepared for the assault, attempt to rescue him, really from the very beginning, the first day, the first hour. So that's ongoing. However, they're going to give negotiations a chance to try to see if they can resolve this peacefully without attempting that assault.

And I can tell you, as a former SWAT team member, SWAT team commander and tactical on-scene commander, this was a very difficult thing. And I'm going to say, I'm not here to be the FBI cheerleader, but I'll tell you what, in this case, you can't cheer loudly enough for the level of skill that was used in this case to effect that rescue with the boy coming out of this alive.

You have so many challenges. It's an underground bunker. Those agents have to go down the stairs which means their legs are exposed. He may see them coming first. You have a bricked in bunker, according to the neighbors, so you have the possibility that if any of those agents fire a shot and miss, it's going to ricochet around that room like a billiard table and possibly hit the boy or possibly hit one of the agents. So you have that fear.

So, in the standard procedure in this would be normally to throw in a flash bang, which is a grenade simulator which makes a tremendous noise, especially in a confined brick room, and literally it stuns and freezes the central nervous system of anybody in that room that's not expecting it, and daring that one second edge, the agents would try to get down, make the entry into that place, get him in their sights and be ready that if he doesn't surrender, they'll take him alive. If he does -- if he does not or if he has a weapon in his hand, they're going to have to take shots at him and make absolutely sure that he can't pull the trigger, because his bullet could ricochet --

MALVEAUX: Right, sure.

FUENTES: -- around the room and hit somebody. This -- the level of skill, precision, that went into this is one reason why people acknowledge worldwide, and I've been all over the world, --

MALVEAUX: Sure. FUENTES: -- acknowledge the FBI hostage rescue team is the best in the world and they proved it yesterday.

MALVEAUX: And, Jeff, I want you to weigh in here, because, obviously, you have seven days in this enclosed space here. I can't imagine what that was like with somebody who is holding you hostage. What did this little boy go through?

JEFF GARDERE, CHIEF CONTRIBUTING PSYCHOLOGIST, HEALTHGURU.COM: Well, it was probably the most terrifying thing that may ever happen to him in his life. We believe that it might have been dark down there, so that's going to be a continuing issue, again, throughout his years. But more than anything else, you have to look at some of the factors. Not only is this a very young child who is separated from the people that he loves, the way that he was taken, the violence of it, him not knowing whether he was going to live or die, being down there with a total stranger and a person who obviously was unhinged. I think all of that makes it difficult for any child.

But when you're talking about a child who also has ADHD, being in one spot, not being able to move, not being able to expend that energy and then possibly this idea of autism or Aspergers and not having the structure that he is used to that helps him survive and function, all of that being taken away, it was a horrendous, horrendous experience. And even though he's doing well now, down the road, we see that it will come back to him through some sort of acute stress disorder, or PTSD, along with a nightmares, the depression, the anxiety. So, his mother's going to have to show him a lot of love which I know she will.

MALVEAUX: And, Jeff, I mean, is he going to be able to recover from this? Is there enough therapy? Is there enough love that can help this little boy through his life as he gets older?

GARDERE: He'll -- certainly will be able to survive. He may even thrive. And he'll do well in his life. But this is something that will stay with him, as it has with the previous person who talked about her experience in Chowchilla, California. We see that when children go through this, no matter how resilient they are, Suzanne, that, at some point in their lives, it plays itself back. Even if they hear it happening to someone else, it all -- those experiences come rushing back as part of that PTSD.

MALVEAUX: All right. We are so -- just relieved that this little boy is free, that he is being taken care of. I mean, I think it was hard for everybody to just follow this day and real -- day after day that he was being held hostage. But at least it has ended in a way that this little boy has a future. Tom, Jeff, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

GARDERE: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: We are waiting, just a few minutes from now, the president is going to be asking Congress for a short-term agreement that's going to push back some of those deep spending cuts. Those cuts, including those going to the military, actually, they're going to go into effect next month unless they act. Somebody's got to act here. We're going to bring you the president's remarks live in just a couple of minutes.


MALVEAUX: President Obama is calling to action to avoid the deep spending cuts that are set to take effect. That's going to happen next month, if nothing gets done. We're actually waiting to hear from the president live. You see the briefing room there, everybody's getting miced (ph) up and ready to go. The president wants Congress to pass a short-term deal to avoid what would be across-the-board cuts that were part of the deal that was made, the debt ceiling debate of 2011. Republicans say it is now time for the president to do something.


REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: This week, I'm pleased to join my leadership in putting forward the Require a Plan Act that will say to the president two specific things. Put a budget in place that balances within a 10-year period of time. But if you don't, tell us when it does. Tell us when your plan balances. Families and businesses all across this great nation must work on a balanced budget. They can't borrow and spend as far as the eye can see. This president, it's time for him to step up, put forward a balanced budget or tell us when his budget will balance.


MALVEAUX: For more on what we expect to hear from the president, I want to bring in my colleague and friend, John King, in Washington. And, John, we know that the president at least is going to try to kick the can forward a little bit here, talk about the need for revenue as well as some spending cuts, but not those deep cuts that everybody is so concerned about. What do -- what do we expect?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Suzanne, a familiar haunt for both of us, they are at the White House briefing room. The president today using the bully pulpit, using the power of the presidency to try to drive the story. We'll keep that picture up so we can see when the president walks in. As you noted, the sequester takes effect March 1st unless the president and Congress agree on something.

What would it do? It would be about 10 years of -- 10 years of cuts would kick in, $1.10 trillion, but 85 billion across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect on March 1st.

As we wait to hear the president, I am joined for our special coverage here by our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, she's with me in Washington, and Senior Writer for "CNNMONEY" Jeanne Sahadi, a budget expert, is with us from New York. Again, the president will come out, he will call on Congress, we are told, to pass a temporary package of spending cuts to essentially have another temporary fix for the, what we call in Washington, forgive me, America, the sequester. That is the term they use here in Washington due to take effect on March 1st.

Jeanne, I want to go to you first, quickly, because what the president is going to say, I'm told, is that if we don't have this temporary fix, while they continue to try to negotiate a bigger grand bargain, as the president would like to have, that the economy could tilt back into recession. That we've seen the stock market go up. We've seen some encouraging signs of job growth. And the president says all that could be at risk if you have these federal budget cuts. Is that true?

JEANNE SAHADI, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: It -- well, you know, the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, just came out with a report 10 minutes ago that said the effects of this sequester will essentially be to retard growth by 1.25 percentage points. So in other words, if we got rid of the sequester, we would grow a lot faster this year.

The CBO also said, even if we get rid of the sequester, we're still not going to grow at gang buster rates. So, yes, the sequester will not be good for the economy, but what the president is, I suspect, going to try to, and what independent deficit hawks have been advising, is that we can replace the sequester with a sort of smarter strategy that is a more gradual deficit reduction plan. He is going disagree with the Republicans on just how to do that. He's going to want revenue to be part of it. Republicans are going to say, no thank you.

KING: In fact, Gloria, we're going to get the president in about a minute and a half. The White House just gave the two-minute warning.


KING: For those of you watching around the country who don't understand the term sequester, I would say it's this. It's a short- term for the president and the Congress not doing what they're supposed to do, which is pass a budget every year, now finding a way to get this together.

The president set up this sequester and a fiscal negotiations long ago --

BORGER: This is not a natural disaster.

KING: It's not a natural disaster.

BORGER: It's man-made.

KING: But this is -- in many ways, the president's late submitting his own budget, and yet he's coming to the podium here because he thinks, even though he's part of this mess, he thinks he has the upper hand.

BORGER: Right. He does think he has the upper hand. But I'm having sort of a world is upside down moment because when you talk to House Republicans, they say to you, you know what, this may be the best budget cuts we can get. Let the sequester take effect. Even if it cuts the military. You have the secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, saying that would be shameful. But you have a lot of House Republicans, Tea Party Republicans saying, you know what, this wouldn't be the worst thing in the world because it may be the best we can get without tax increases. They're done talking about taxes, John. KING: They say they're done. The president will say again he wants a package of spending cuts now and a bigger negotiation. He does wants more revenue or tax increases. This is the president's way. He's beginning his second term. The last thing he wants is a disruption in the economy, a disruption in the psychology, the financial markets, to set his second term off when just when he thinks things are growing.

Jeanne, how quickly -- I mean how much of this is baked into the marks, if you will? Do they expect the sequester now as more and more people in Washington say it's -- let's listen to the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to say a few words about the looming deadlines and decisions that we face on our budget and on our deficit. These are decisions that will have real and lasting impacts on the strength and pace of our recovery.

Economists and business leaders from across the spectrum have said that our economy is poised for progress in 2013. And we've seen signs of this progress over the last several weeks. Home prices continue to climb. Car sales that are a five-year high, manufacturing has been strong and we've created more than 6 million jobs in the last 35 months.

But we've also seen the effects that political dysfunction can have on our economic progress. The drawn-out process for resolving the fiscal cliff hurt consumer confidence. The threat of massive automatic cuts have already started to affect business decisions. So we've been reminded that while it's critical for us to cut wasteful spending, we can't just cut our way to prosperity. Deep, indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy and national security will cost us jobs. It will slow down our recovery. It's not the right thing to do for the economy. It's not the right thing for folks who are out there still looking for work.

And the good news is, this doesn't have to happen. For all the drama and disagreements that we've had over the past few years, Democrats and Republicans have still been able to come together and cut the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a mix of spending cuts and higher rates on taxes for the wealthy. A balanced approach has achieved more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction. That's more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties believe is required to stabilize our debt. So we've made progress. And I still believe that we can finish the job with a balanced mix of spending cuts and more tax reform.

The proposals that I put forward during the fiscal cliff negotiations in discussions with Speaker Boehner and others are still very much on the table. I just want to repeat, the deals that I put forward, the balanced approach of spending cuts and entitlement reform and tax reform that I put forward are still on the table. I've offered sensible reforms to Medicare and other entitlements, and my health care proposals achieve the same amount of savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms that have been proposed by the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission. These reforms would reduce our government's bill -- what's up, cameramen (ph)? Come on, guys. They're breaking my flow all the time.

These reforms would reduce our government's bills by reducing the cost of health care, not shifting all those costs on to middle class seniors or the working poor or children with disability, but nevertheless achieving the kinds of savings that we're looking for.

But, in order to achieve the full $4 trillion in deficit reductions that is the stated goal of economists and our elected leaders, these modest reforms in our social insurance programs have to go hand in hand with a process of tax reform so that the wealthiest individuals and corporations can't take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most Americans.

Leaders in both parties have already identified the need to get rid of these loopholes and deductions. There's no reason why we should keep them at a time when we're trying to cut down on our deficit. And if we are going to close loopholes, then there's no reason we should use the savings that we obtain and turn around and spend that on new tax breaks for the wealthiest or for corporations. If we're serious about paying down the deficit, the savings we achieve from tax reform should be used to pay down the deficit and potentially to make our businesses more competitive.

Now, I think this balanced mix of spending cuts and tax reform is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction. The overwhelming majority of the American people, Democrats and Republicans, as well as independents, have the same view. And both the House and the Senate are working towards budget proposals that I hope reflect this balanced approach.

Having said that, I know that a full budget may not be finished before March 1st. And, unfortunately, that's the date when a series of harmful, automatic cuts to job-creating investments and defense spend, also known as the sequester, are scheduled to take effect. So, if Congress can't act immediately on a bigger package, if they can't get a bigger package done by the time the sequester is scheduled to go into effect, then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution.

There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in national security or education or clean energy, not to mention the growth of the entire economy, should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn't come together to eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes or government programs that we agree need some reform. Congress is already working towards a budget that would permanently replace the sequester. At the very least we should give them the chance to come up with this budget instead of making an indiscriminate cuts now that will cost us jobs and significantly slow down a recovery. So let me just repeat, our economy right now is headed in the right direction and it will stay that way as long as there aren't any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington. So let's keep on chipping away at this problem together, as Democrats and Republicans, to give our workers and our businesses the support that they need to thrive in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks very much. And I know that you're going to have a whole bunch of other questions. And that's why I hired this guy, Jay Carney, to take those questions. Thank you, everybody.


KING: The President of the United States heading out of the Briefing Room, leaving his press secretary, Jay Carney, to take the questions. The president wanting to deliver a statement on what in Washington is called the sequester, as the president outlined, spending cut due to take effect on March 1st unless the president and Congress agree on either a big grand bargain of a federal budget, or, as the president called for today, because he thinks that is unlikely, a temporary package. He used the term "modest spending cuts and tax reforms." That would be some cuts in federal spending, and the president wants more revenue. The tax reform. He wants the Republican Congress, the Republican House, to agree to more revenues.

I'm joined by our chief political analyst Gloria Borger here in Washington, Jeanne Sahadi is the senior writer for CNN Money in New York.

Gloria, no questions for the president. I spent almost nine years covering that building. He doesn't want to talk about, let's say, a new memo released today about the powers he has to kill Americans overseas -

BORGER: Right.

KING: American citizens, if they're involved in terrorist activities. He doesn't perhaps want to talk about other issues on the agenda, including the shaky nomination, at the moment, of his choice for defense secretary. But he did want to talk about this, because he believes he has the upper hand. And as you were noting before the president came out, Republicans believe that deadline is about the only leverage they have to get deeper cuts.

BORGER: Right. They -- and the technical term for what the president suggested today is kicking the can down the road, John, which is, he said, let's come up with a smaller package because we're not going to be able to make the grand bargain.

The problem that the president has is that Republicans say, we've had the tax debate, we don't want your so-called balanced package of what he calls tax reform and spending cuts. We did taxes. Now it's time for spending. And the president believes he's got leverage. The Republicans believe in their polls. In talking to Republicans today, that they've actually got the upper hand on this. I think the big question is, as the president raised, how will this affect the economy, which as the president says, is poised for progress and will political dysfunction in Washington keep it moving from the right direction?

KING: And so, Jeanne Sahadi, what is the debate among CEOs, among those who walk the floors of the major financial institutions in the markets in New York about, the president says we need a temporary fix for now. Another temporary fix I should say. That's the way Washington does its business, unfortunately, nowadays. A whole bunch of band-aids as opposed to a big deal. The president said it's critical to get that because he doesn't want thousands of Americans to lose their jobs and he doesn't want the recovery to lose its steam. And yet in the first term we heard a lot of complaints from the financial institutions, from the CEOs, about all this uncertainty. Where's the line?

SAHADI: Right. Well, there's just going to be a lot of uncertainty this year. They can't get rid of it. But what I hear from political research analysts who talk to folks who trade and talk to the financial CEOs is that basically because of the fiscal cliff deal, there's a lot more certainty on the tax front because we extended the Bush tax cuts for the majority of Americans we did a whole host of other things permanently. So that was good.

I think the sequester, people are resigned to it. They expect it to go into effect for at least a short while. Some folks I talked to, like at the Bipartisan Policy Center, say, yes, they're not going to -- if it goes into effect, it's going to stay in effect. It will result in the loss of jobs. The Pentagon, I think it was last week, said that they were going to lay off 46,000 temporary workers and furlough civilian workers for a day a week for 22 weeks. So this is not without effect on real people.

What -- the people who want the sequester to go into effect for a while, the Republicans maybe who say, all right, we'll deal with it, they want to hear complaints from their constituents. They want the pressure to be put on lawmakers to get their act together. I don't know if that will work, because it hasn't worked so far. But that's the hope if this goes into effect.

KING: Hasn't worked so far. Eventually, perhaps, Washington will get back to doing this the way it's supposed to be done. In the meantime, the president calling for a temporary fix.

Jeanne Sahadi, thank you for joining us from New York to help explain that. Gloria Borger with me here in Washington, as I turn things back over to Suzanne Malveaux in Atlanta.

Suzanne, you're familiar with that Briefing Room. You're familiar -- I always love the language the presidents use, "modest reforms," that means cuts, in social programs, Medicare and Social Security.


KING: He says he's willing to do that in exchange for modest tax reforms. He means increases. So, language always interesting. MALVEAUX: It's always --

KING: Tell us what's coming ahead.

MALVEAUX: Yes, that's right. Trying to appear reasonable, you know, and he's got the bully pulpit to do it. So, you can't blame him for at least taking advantage of that.

Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

The GOP, of course, has a new message, that is change. Take a look at this. Live pictures. This is Eric Cantor, who's giving the Republican Party a makeover. What he's saying about his own party.

And drones. How the U.S. government can use them to kill its citizens if they are leading al Qaeda terror attacks.