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Reports Reveal Secret Drone Base; U.K. Lawmakers OK Same Sex Marriage; Shoe Thrown at Ahmadinejad; Profile of Femal Sniper; North Korea May Test Nukes Again

Aired February 6, 2013 - 12:00   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on rights now.


MALVEAUX: Kind of weird. This is an online video showing New York City in flames, North Korean rockets launching and a North Korean man sleeping like a baby. The music in the background, "We Are The World." The video posted by a North Korean propaganda Web site hits the web just a few weeks after North Korea's launch of a satellite. We are going to talk more about this bizarre video in just a couple of minutes.

But we want to bring you to Saudi Arabia. There is a secret American drone base. Might not be so secret any more. Both "New York Times," "Washington Post" disclosing that this base does, in fact, exist, saying that there are questions about the drone program that's probably going to come up during the confirmation hearings for John Brennan for CIA director. Brennan used to run the CIA station in Saudi Arabia. We're going to be live from the Pentagon in just a minute.

And, falling from space. Wow. Pretty cool. At a rate of more than 843 miles per hour, that's how fast dare devil Felix Baumgartner fell when he jumped from space. That was back in October. Look at everybody. They were just thrilled. The official speed has just been released. Even faster now than those record keepers thought at first. Pretty cool stuff.

One of our top international stories today at CNN, a secret American drone base somewhere in Saudi Arabia. Now this is according -- these are reports from two major newspapers today, saying that this U.S. launches these drone attacks against al Qaeda targets from that particular base.

I want to bring in two folks here. At the Pentagon, our Chris Lawrence. Also with us, Michael Holmes from CNN International.

And, Chris, first of all, it's not a total surprise that this was there in Saudi Arabia, but certainly it was not something that they officially wanted to reveal. Why are they doing it now? CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question, Suzanne, why did this come out? You know, we reported two years ago from our sources U.S. officials were telling us that the CIA was building a new airstrip in the Arabian peninsula. It was subtly hinted that it would possibly be in Saudi Arabia. But we never had any sort of agreement to withhold that. We simply reported that it was being built in the Arabian peninsula.

Apparently, some other organizations had entered an agreement with the White House, with the administration, to hold back the exact location. Why that's coming out now? That's what we're still trying to figure out. But it's certainly extremely provocative. You couldn't pick probably a more provocative place in the Islamic world to have U.S. strikes originating from Saudi Arabia. Remember, it is that -- for that reason U.S. troops on Saudi soil, that was one of Osama bin Laden's sort of prime motivators for his original attacks on U.S. individuals (ph).

MALVEAUX: Yes. And, Chris, I imagine too, something that's also very provocative is the fact that there are reports out today that perhaps drones from that very base in Saudi Arabia, the ones that killed the American citizen in Yemen. Does that -- does that square? Is that right?

LAWRENCE: Yes, you're talking about Anwar al Awlaki. Yes, and it does. There have been sort of parallel strikes in Yemen, strikes conducted by the U.S. military, who have been in Yemen working on a small basis with Yemen's forces and also parallel strikes by the CIA. This would have been a CIA strike. I mean you look at the amount of scrutiny and debate and consternation that's engulfed the administration over the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, even one who has been reported to be planning strikes on the U.S., you would only compound that by putting the U.S. military in that mix.

MALVEAUX: All right, Chris, thanks.

I want to bring in Mike here.

Michael, first of all, Saudi Arabia. I mean covering President Bush, this is something that really you knew, you know? You knew you had assets there on the ground, but this is not something that the Saudis or the U.S. government wanted to officially acknowledge here.


MALVEAUX: How much of this is a problem for both sides, including the Saudis?

HOLMES: Well, they've -- there's a mutual need for friendship in that part of the world. The Saudi's need U.S. help when it comes to things like equipment. We sell them planes, helicopters, train their pilots. And there is a security cooperation agreement in place. We need it for the geopolitical factor of having to, you know, want a footprint in that part of the world.

Chris makes the point there, there were U.S. troops based there, 5,000 to 10,000, after the first Gulf War. They all came out in 2003. It was one of the main reasons that Osama bin Laden used for anti-U.S. sentiment in the run up to 9/11. But, you know, for the Saudis, they need that sort of help, too. They've got -- they've got al Qaeda in North Africa who are worrying them. They've got Iran, who are worrying them. They've got an uncertain Iraq. They've got what's going on in Yemen. So it works for them to have this cooperation agreement as well.

MALVEAUX: And we notice too that the Pentagon being very tight lipped about the location of where this might exist.


MALVEAUX: Would that be potentially another problem for them, do you think?

HOLMES: Yes, it is, because, you know, when you've got a conservative base there that still is opposed to U.S. troops being anywhere near Saudi soil -- this is the home of the two holiest sites in Islam -- and to have foreigners, infidels, in the site -- in the country based there permanently is not a good thing. So, yes, this is going to create a bit of embarrassment for the Saudis, and those religious groups are not going to be very happy about this.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I mean --

HOLMES: But for the Saudis, it's kind of one of those things, they need that assistance from the U.S. The military assistance. We need the footprint in the region.

MALVEAUX: It was one of those reasons why Osama bin Laden got so much support --

HOLMES: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: Because there was so much outrage that U.S. soldiers were in such a holy site.

HOLMES: Yes. And it's -- it will be like we were talking about in Africa, where we've got these drone bases as well. They're not like huge military bases. It's a small place where the drones leave from. But it's what they do that creates an issue for the conservatives in a place like Saudi Arabia, where they're going off to kill Muslims in places like Yemen.

MALVEAUX: All right, Michael, thank you.


MALVEAUX: Good to see you.

One more note from the Pentagon right now. We are just getting this release. The defense secretary wants to already chop the already approved pay raise for U.S. military members. So this is what it means. Leon Panetta has just a few days left on the job. A Pentagon official now telling us that one of his final actions is going to be to recommend that Congress limit next year's military pay raise to just 1 percent. Now, the already budgeted pay raise, it's 1.7 percent for 2014. Panetta said in a speech last night that trying to save billions of dollars is creating the most serious readiness crisis in over a decade. Congress, of course, would have to approve any of the military pay limits.

In Great Britain, a victory now in the fight for same sex marriage. The majority of parliament voted in favor now of a bill that would give religious institutions the right to marry same sex couples.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes to the right, 400. The nos to the left, 175.



REV. SHARON FERGUSON, LESBIAN & GAY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT: Friendships (ph) are relationships. And if you love somebody and you're making a commitment, then that's what it's all about. And the gender of the person that you love is irrelevant.


MALVEAUX: Atika Shubert, she's joining us from London.

And, Atika, first of all, we know that this vote says that there's huge support for this bill. And the prime minister himself supports it as well. He came out and he said this statement. He goes, "I'm a big believer in marriage. It helps people to commit to each other, and I think that's why gay people should be able to get married, too."

We know there was a lot of opposition in his own party. Why are they -- first of all, what is the argument that they're making? And how likely is it that they are going to lose this case?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems very likely that they're going to lose this case. Clearly the majority of the House of Commons has voted against opponents of the bill. But it's interesting that nearly half of his own conservative party voted against Prime Minister Cameron. And basically what their objection is to this bill is they say they fear that this is going to open up the possibility of lawsuits against the church of England or any other religious institution that refuses to marry any same sex couple.

So what they fear is that if a gay or lesbian couple walks into a mosque, synagogue or church and is told, no, we won't marry you, that they can file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights. The government's response is that they've made it clear in the bill that it's up to the religious institution and that no church, no synagogue or mosque, will be forced to marry any same sex couples.

MALVEAUX: So, Atika, explain this. Describe this for us compared to the Untied States. Because we now we have nine states and the District of Columbia that allow gay marriages that are legal in those states. How does that compare to the U.K.?

SHUBERT: Well, what we're looking at here is England and Wales in particular. Scotland, of course, will go -- is looking to pass its own legislation. But there is still a way to go, even here in England and Wales. Basically what we saw yesterday was the second reading. It was the first time lawmakers really get into the details of it. But it still requires a third reading, House of Lords, and then royal approval from the queen. And then it finally becomes law. So we still have a few more months to go. But, clearly, it's a very positive sign when the majority of parliament passes it an the second reading.

MALVEAUX: And what about the court of public opinion? Are most people in support of it there?

SHUBERT: Yes. I mean, most of the independent polls have shown a majority of people want to see this legislation approved. And this was one reason perhaps that Prime Minister Cameron was willing to risk dividing his own party because it appears he's basically saying he wants to be on the right side of history, even if a lot of members of his own party disagree with him.

MALVEAUX: All right. Atika Shubert, thank you.

Here's more of what we're working on for NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

It is the height of disrespect in the Arab world, throwing your shoe at somebody. That's right. Only this time, that somebody is the president of Iran.

And if you think traffic is tough when you head home for the holidays, try living in China. This is where a couple hundred million people are about to hit the road.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, where we take you around the world in 60 minutes.

Right now in Ireland, the government finally admits to playing a role in enslaving thousands of women and girls over seven decades until as recently as 1996. Survivors tell harrowing stories of how they were stripped of their names, dumped in institutions run by Irish catholic nuns. The women and girls who were put in these so-called Magdalen laundries because they were unmarried mothers, orphans or regarded as somehow immoral.


MARTHA FAIRLIE, VICTIM OF IRELAND'S MAGDELEN LAUNDRIES: We were slaves. I was a child slave. They changed my name and they called me Francis. And, of course, the first few days, you're not used to being called Francis, so you did get boxed into the head and you got rosary beads with the big cross on it stuck into your ribs or your back when you didn't answer to Francis.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: Wow. Survivors are angry that Ireland's prime minister stopped short of issuing a full state apology.

Well, here in the United States, there is a big announcement from the Postal Service. Starting August 5th, letters, other first class mail, not going to be delivered on Saturday. Packages are still going to be delivered, however. Change is expected to save the Postal Service $2 billion a year. The agency is waiting on a much bigger cost-cutting plan from Congress, however. The Postal Service lost $16 billion last year. It actually could go broke by March.

In Cairo, Egypt, not so warm welcome for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All right. I don't know if you can see it there, but we're going to try to make it clear. I think you see the shoe. He's making his first official visit to Egypt. This is a group of men in this crowd. And they start to throw the shoes at him. This is, of course, a major insult. Yes, take a look at that. You can see that little round thing there. You see the shoe in the hand. These men, they were arrested. They were released on bail. But it's a pretty big deal in that part of the world.

I want to bring in our Reza Sayah from Cairo.

Reza, we know like -- this is like the worst that you could possibly do and there are a lot of examples of this that we've seen in the past. You can't forget the two shoes that were thrown at President Bush. Yes, that's when he was at a news conference. This was back in 2008 in Iraq. Watch that duck there. Very fast. People kind of admire that little duck he had going on. Five years earlier, crowds, they were using their shoes to strike the statue of Saddam Hussein after it was toppled in Baghdad. And, you know, all right, we might as well take a look at this. This is the Austin Powers spin on the old shoe toss.


MIKE MYERS, ACTOR: Smashing idea, baby. Yeah.


MYERS: Ow! That really hurt! I'm going to have a lump there, you idiot.

Who throws a shoe? Honestly?


MALVEAUX: All right. Reza, who throws a shoe?

You know, it is a serious thing in the Middle East, and I remember one of the things when I first arrived in the Middle East, I lived in Cairo for a while.

They teach you, you don't raise your foot. You don't point your shoe at anybody. You certainly don't put your feet up on the counter or the table or anything like that. It is, even just to point your feet and raise your feet at somebody, very insulting. Why? Explain this.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the soles of our shoes, Suzanne, are already literally dirty. In the Muslim world, they're symbolically dirty, too.

So, when you take off your shoe and throw it at someone, it means you are throwing dirt, filth and whatever else you may have stepped on at someone that you probably don't like.

And that's what happened to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last night here in Cairo. He was visiting a local mosque when someone launched a shoe at him. A private television channel captured the incident.

It's hard to see exactly what happened, but if you look closely, you see President Ahmadinejad walking through a crowd, greeting people, shaking hands, and then all of a sudden you see an arm go up. And then the shoe goes flying.

It didn't look like the shoe hit President Ahmadinejad. He did a little bit of a flinch then off he went with his security detail into his car, and off they went.

Not exactly a shining moment, Suzanne, for the Iranian president.

MALVEAUX: Reza, you know, I'll never forget 2008 covering President Bush when that shoe was hurled at his head.

And people really kind of admired the fact that he was able to dodge that thing. I mean, the reflexes were pretty amazing. A lot of people talked about that moment.

What about Ahmadinejad? What's his reaction to all of this?

SAYAH: His reflexes didn't seem as quick as George W. Bush, but the reaction is mixed here.

We're still waiting to see exactly why this happened. The prosecutor says, right before this man threw the shoe, he yelled, you killed my brothers, you killed my brothers.

Could have been a reference to the war in Syria. Of course, Iran still backs the Assad regime. Many Egyptians despise him. That could have been a theory.

And then the prosecutor says these men were Salafis, which is an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam. Shia's in Iran, rivals in some parts of the region with Sunnis, that could have had something to do with it, as well, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Reza, finally, what's the penalty for this possible thing? Could they face jail time for the shoe toss?

SAYAH: They could. They've been charged with insulting a foreign leader, out on bail all four men. They had to pay $75 each. But a trial is coming up.

MALVEAUX: All right, Reza Sayah, thank you. Keep your shoes on. Appreciate it.

Now, an unexpected story from the frontlines of the war in Syria. Turns out that one of the fiercest rebel fighters is a female sniper.

The description of her reminding us of a character that Angelina Jolie played in the spy movie, "Salt."

This real life killer, there are some similarities there. She is wearing high heels, leather boots, makeup, while she's taking on these government forces. Unlike Jolie's character, the Syrian sniper, she wear hijab.

I want to bring in Jim Clancy to talk a little bit about that. You know, we all -- we love that movie.

JIM CLANCY, ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Well, we like the movie, but this is the real thing.

MALVEAUX: This is the real thing, and she is a pretty tough woman.

CLANCY: They've given her a nickname, "Guevara."

MALVEAUX: What does that mean?

CLANCY: Che Guevara.

MALVEAUX: There we go. We've got a reference.

CLANCY: Because she's a revolutionary.

Also, she's just called the female sniper. And you could look at her background and everything else. But you know what, this woman represents more than anything else?

She is a mother, 36-years-old. Her 7-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter were killed when their home was demolished in an aerial bomb strike. She is furious at the regime.

She's taken sides with the opposition fighters. She divorced her husband. She left him, first husband, because she said he wasn't revolutionary enough.

The second one said he didn't want her fighting. The second one is a commander, says he didn't want her fighting and she said, I'll leave you, too.

And, so, he trained her as a sniper. And she says -- she hints that she's been involved in four or five kills. She says it takes hours to sit there and do it.

It's a bit of a shocking story. Of course, it draws a lot of attention. She's famous all over Aleppo.

She went to -- this is a university-educated woman, and it tells you about the anger, the anger that people have.

MALVEAUX: And, Jim, this woman talks about enjoying, the enjoyment of actually killing. What does she say?

CLANCY: Well, she says that -- she shouts, yes, when she finally hits someone. And she believes that she's hit four or five of them.

She says that it makes her angry when she sees the people that have fallen. She says she's seen 100 bodies in the last month, some from shelling attacks or bombardments or other snipers on the other side.

She talks about how difficult the job is, the long hours of waiting, having to dodge because snipers could be taken out very easily by other snipers.

MALVEAUX: What's her weapon of choice there we're looking at?

CLANCY: The Dragunov. That's a classic sniper rifle, very expensive rifle, very deadly, high powered rifle.

And it's a lot to take on, you know. And she's obviously got so much anger inside of her, it's not clear -- you know, when this is all over, this is the kind of anger, and this kind of conflict's like Bosnia or others. You don't defuse that anger in a matter of days or weeks.

MALVEAUX: Is she considered a hero? I mean, do people or young girls pick up guns and say, hey, you know, I'm going to become a sniper?

CLANCY: Absolutely. Everybody is talking about her. She's famous and there will be other young women that are likely to join the fight as well.

But just take a look at the reality of the situation. The Syrian Network for Human Rights just came out saying that there's almost 4,000 casualties last month alone.

It was the highest number of children killed in the Syrian conflict, more than 400 in one month. There are more than 100 people a day, a 125 people a day dying inside Syria.

And this kind of anger, what this woman is doing is going to affect all levels of society. It's not only the country that's physically being torn apart. The social fabric of Syria is lying in ruins.

MALVEAUX: And you certainly don't want to glorify killing, but she certainly seems to be taking on this kind of persona, in and of herself, really larger than life inside of Syria.

CLANCY: To many -- I just worry, how do you defuse it? How do you satiate that anger? I don't think you can.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, well, she's killing. That's how she is doing it.

Jim, thank you. Appreciate it.

Bizarre North Korean propaganda, I want you to take a look. This is -- a lot of people think it goes over the line here.

We're talking about this video, and you see it here. It really depicts this dream that somebody is having, a dream world, where this American city is essentially left in ruins.


MALVEAUX: Officials in Washington think that North Korea could conduct a third nuclear test at any time.

Anna Karin (ph), she visits the DMZ. That's the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea that ended fighting back in the Korean (INAUDIBLE) back in 1953.


ANNA KARIN (PH), CNN CORRESPONDENT: Beneath these snow-covered hills, 50 kilometers north of Seoul is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

This is the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, a strip of land 241 kilometers long and only four kilometers wide, and it's all that's separating North and South Korea.

SPECIALIST ANDREW WILSON, U.S. ARMY: It's always tense. Just being face-to-face on a daily basis, you never know what's going to happen.

KARIN (PH): And that couldn't be more true following North Korea's threat to conduct a third nuclear test any day now.

Under tight security, U.S. and South Korean army officials escort us to Panmunjeom in the DMZ, where the armistice was signed in 1953 ending the Korean War.

Just meters away on the other side of the border, a North Korean guard stands at his post. He grabs his binoculars when our crew arrives.

The latest tensions on the Korean Peninsula date back to December, when the north fired a long-range rocket sending a satellite into orbit.

In response, the U.N. imposed tighter sanctions, this time backed by China.

The move angered North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, who vowed to conduct another nuclear test targeting its greatest enemy, the United States.

Despite the threats and fiery rhetoric coming from North Korea, experts believe they're serious and ready to go.

After the successful rocket test in December, Pyongyang is on a roll and many fear that, if this nuclear test goes off without a hitch, North Korea will emerge more aggressive than ever.

SIEGFRIED HECKER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: They will feel more confident that they have a credible deterrent to keep, let's say, the Americans out.

So, that may lead to more provocative behavior. That may also make it more difficult to deal with.

KARIN (PH): And Dr. Hecker would know. He's one of the world's most prominent nuclear experts and has inspected North Korea's nuclear facilities.

Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 at its underground site in Pyungaree (ph) on the northeastern tip of the country.

Satellite imagery recently showed activity, and officials believe the third test will also be conducted here.

But as the world waits to see whether North Korea's nuclear technology has advanced, back on the DMZ, it's business as usual.

Officers inspect the "bridge of no-return" and spot a North Korean soldier in the distance. This was once used for prisoner exchanges, until it was abandoned in the late 1960s.

The "bridge of no-return: is a stark reminder the two Koreas are still technically at war, and this strained relationship will only further deteriorate once North Korea conducts it's third nuclear test.

Which could happen at any time.

Anna Karin, CNN, Seoul.


MALVEAUX: So there's an Internet video clip that's going around today. And it sounds like bad karaoke, but looks like Armageddon. Watch this.

All right, so, if you listen closely here, you might just hear what is in the background. It's kind of a cheesy version of "We Are the World." You might remember that.

Well, what the clip is actually showing, this is Manhattan under attack. North Korean missiles flying around the world.

The video posted by North Korean propaganda website hit the web just a few weeks after North Korea successful launch of a satellite.

So, the original video was pulled from YouTube after a U.S. video game company complained the North Koreans were using scenes from their war game.

It's supposed to be a vacation destination. A lot of us folks go there.

But a gruesome crime rocking Acapulco, Mexico. We are talking about six women allegedly raped by mass gunmen.

We're going to get the very latest. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)