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Two Men Arrested on Pakistani Aircraft; Bridge Collapses in Skagit County, Washington; Scammers in the Wake of Tragedies; Obama Opens Up About Drones, Addresses Sexual Assault in Military

Aired May 24, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Hello everyone.

It started with this, that video of a man accused of attacking a soldier with a meat cleaver talking to witnesses. Three people now being held by police; two women who had been held have now being released.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We're also learning more about the soldier who was killed. The latest from Woolwich -- that is in southeast London -- coming up.

And then President Obama talking openly about the U.S. drone program and Pakistan. He is glad, finally acknowledging that the program has deadly side effects. Could this actually repair the U.S.-Pakistani relationship?

HOLMES (voice-over): Plus, take a look at this. A bridge collapses in Washington State. Luckily only a couple of cars were on it at the time. Everyone is OK. At least 77,000 people use this bridge daily. The latest on the investigation straight ahead.

MALVEAUX: This is AROUND THE WORLD on CNN. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company. Happy Friday, everyone.

And we are following breaking news in Britain right now. That's where two men were taken off an airliner; this plane was coming from Lahore in Pakistan, headed for Manchester. They are now under arrest.

MALVEAUX: So whatever happened on board that flight was serious enough that the British Air Force sent up fighter jets to escort the plane to the ground. Here's the Pakistani International Airlines plane. You see it there. It's on the ground. This is Stansted Airport; this is just outside of London. The flight was diverted there instead of landing at Manchester as planned.

HOLMES (voice-over): Yes, on the phone now our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.

Nic, I think you're still at Stansted. Tell us what you know about what happened on that airplane. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, we know that the two men were arrested by police forces here pretty much as soon as the aircraft landed. They were arrested on suspicion of endangering the aircraft.

What we have learned from Pakistani officials in London is there was an altercation between two men and an air stewardess on the aircraft. The two men then threatened to, quote, "blow up" the aircraft. The air stewardess told the pilot; the pilot contacted British aviation authorities. They then reacted by sending up the fighter jet to escort the aircraft to Stansted Airport -- Stansted because that's the airport that's deals in Britain with hijacking. It's had several in the past; landed at a remote runway here, the two men arrested. And now we understand all the passengers have been brought off safely. There are no injuries. They're all being processed by immigration authorities. The luggage on board the plane is being processed and nothing has been found so far that would indicate any kind of explosive device. We're being told by British authorities that they don't believe that this at the moment is terror-related, at least in these early stages. That's what we're being told, Michael, Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: And, Nic, we heard from Pakistani airline official saying perhaps that they said this was a joke, that they mentioned a bomb on board, but that they were simply joking.

Do we know if that's true?

ROBERTSON: We don't. We don't have specific details about how this altercation began, whether these men began it with a serious intent or whether they were just messing around in a very foolish behavior.

But what we do know and what we can infer from the way the police have responded here, Stansted is the airport where hijacked aircraft are flown to if they come to Britain. The police here are well-trained in dealing with that sort of situation.

The fact that they moved swiftly to the aircraft and removed and arrested these men on board the -- from the aircraft is an indication that they didn't think that there was a long-term threat.

The last hijacking here in the year 2000, an Afghan Airlines plane, there was a standoff for four days because of the hijackers' demands and the situation. So the police here are trained in knowing what they're getting involved with in terms of what's happening on board the aircraft. And they moved very swiftly.

So it does seem at this stage at least to be a threat or a threat at least very little or nothing at all to back it up, Suzanne.

HOLMES: All right. Nic Robertson there at Stansted Airport, just out of London. That was a last-minute thing, too. That plane was 20 minutes away from landing when the call came to divert to Stansted. So the threat, apparently, very light in that flight.

MALVEAUX: Yes, and if it was a joke, pretty stupid on their part.

HOLMES: Pretty stupid one, yes.

MALVEAUX: You can't say bomb on a plane these days.

HOLMES: Exactly.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): I want you to look at terrifying pictures; this is out of Washington State, an entire section of a bridge in Skagit County collapsing.

HOLMES (voice-over): Yes, cars plummeting into the river below, and that water was cold. Incredibly, no one was killed. Well, now federal officials have launched an investigation to find out what caused that to happen.


MALVEAUX: Police witnesses say that an 18-wheeler truck hit part of this I-5 bridge, and that's when everything simply fell apart.

Catherine Barrett (ph), she's actually got the story.


CATHERINE BARRETT (PH), KIRO (voice-over): A dramatic scene north of Seattle; two vehicles were crossing the I-5 bridge when it collapsed. Three people inside those cars were tossed into the Skagit River. Fortunately, rescue teams arrived quickly, plucking them from the fast-moving waters.

This man was on the bridge when it folded.

DAN SLIGH, BRIDGE COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: There was a big puff of dust and I hit the brakes. The weight of the trailer and everything else, we went right off with the bridge as it collapsed.

BARRETT (PH) (voice-over): Washington State patrol says right now their investigation is focused on an 18-wheeler.

CHIEF JOHN BATISTE, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL: For reasons unknown at this point in time, the semi-truck struck the overhead of the bridge, causing the collapse.

BARRETT (PH) (voice-over): A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is being sent to the scene to help authorities determine what happened. Authorities say the bridge was inspected twice last year and, they say, it was in need of repair.

This survivor says he's grateful to be alive.

SLIGH: I am surprised to be here this evening and glad.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: All right. Our thanks to Catherine Ifemlau (ph), our affiliate KIRO.

MALVEAUX: It really is quite a relief when you look at that.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): That picture of that collapse, you can see why, because it could have been a lot worse, this iron framework of the bridge, it is mangled, you see there, much of it submerged underwater.

HOLMES (voice-over): Yes, look at the cars there. You can actually see them down there.

And here's what we know about the condition of that bridge. The I-5 Skagit River Bridge before this collapse -- not only did it need repairs, in 2009 it was actually declared functionally obsolete.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): So it doesn't necessarily mean that the bridge was unsafe, but it does mean that that design of that particular bridge was outdated because the bridge was built back in 1955. There are about 77,000 cars and trucks that pass over it every day.

HOLMES (voice-over): Yes. And on holiday weekends like this, traffic obviously is going to be even heavier. What those people are going to do, we don't know. They're trying to work out diversion.

Now, this collapse is reigniting the political debate over the country's aging infrastructure.


HOLMES: Just how bad is it? What does President Obama and Congress plan to do to keep drivers safe? Wolf Blitzer's going to have a look at that on "CNN NEWSROOM" next hour. Apparently something like 8,000 bridges in the U.S. need work.

MALVEAUX: Yes. And President Obama's saying it was part of the program to get everything going, part of the stimulus package, didn't end up happening.

HOLMES: Exactly.


And of course it could be weeks, even months now before we know about Jodi Arias' fate. It was just yesterday in a jury in Phoenix announcing it could not reach an agreement on whether or not to sentence her to death for the murder of her boyfriend or spare her life.

HOLMES: The trial that just keeps going on, doesn't it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES (voice-over): The decision on that aspect of the trial process has to be unanimous. And a source says the jury was actually split 8- 4 in favor of death.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): The deadlock means that a new jury's going to be picked to deliberate her sentence. That is scheduled to begin July 18th, but it is possible that prosecutors could offer her a deal to avoid Death Row.


HOLMES: Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem today; he should certainly know his way there by now. It's his fourth trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since he took office in February.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Now, Kerry's making it clear that his number one priority is to restart Middle East peace talks. Yesterday he shuttled between Jerusalem and the West Bank, meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders. He travels later to Ethiopia today.


HOLMES: An 8.2 magnitude earthquake rocking far East Russia today. It hit the Sea of Okhotsk, which is just west of Kamchatka Peninsula. I'm sure you're familiar with it.


HOLMES (voice-over): It was centered about 375 miles under the ocean's surface, but even that deep, tremors were felt as far away as Moscow, which is eight time zones away.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): I'm glad you said that, you pronounced that.


HOLMES (voice-over): I went to school there.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): There you go.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The Russian government immediately issued a tsunami warning; so far no casualties reported. Thank goodness for that.


MALVEAUX: Coming up, we'll have the latest on the four suspects and the deadly attack on the British soldier in the London area.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): You've seen this before probably, this is a look at the suspects shown in the video.

HOLMES (voice-over): Yes. We're going to have more, too, on the soldier who died, put a bit more of a spotlight on the victim in all this.

Plus, CNN on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma. That massive tornado now a few days ago.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): A look at the recovery effort, that is up next. This is AROUND THE WORLD on CNN.




MALVEAUX: Folks in Oklahoma devastated by this week's tornado could face another danger, and it is, you know, hard to even imagine this, but people are taking advantage in these times of crisis. We're talking about scam artists.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): This is out of Moore, Oklahoma, where authorities are now warning folks to watch out for these con artists. They're simply offering to help repair damaged homes, but of course it's not the real deal.

HOLMES (voice-over): It's hard to believe, but it does happen. And it happens often after these sorts of disasters. Officials of course have been estimating that 12,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the tornado. And of course this is exactly the kind of situation that is going to attract that kind of person, con artists.


MALVEAUX: Nick Valencia is joining us from Moore.

And, Nick, it's really pretty cruel when you think about it. People are down and out; they are just trying to repair their lives and then authorities have to come by and say, look, you know what, you're pretty vulnerable at this time; there are folks out there who are trying to prey on you.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Storm victims in times like these, Suzanne, they're very vulnerable, they're still in shock, they're bewildered by what happened, making it a lot easier for people to try to take advantage of them.

That's why the attorney general's office is sending investigators into neighborhoods, passing out pamphlets like this, disaster scam prevention pamphlets, to give residents a heads up of what to look out for.

But catching a scam artist in the act, it's a lot harder than it looks. Yesterday, I caught up with the chief of public protection for the attorney general's office, who says that the people that are most vulnerable are the elderly and the poor.


JULIE BAYS, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE: Unfortunately, there are people that actually travel with the storms. And so they make a good living by traveling storm to storm and taking advantage of people, taking deposits, making it down like, you know, their roof has to be repaired immediately, taking cash, especially the elderly homeowners, who might have money or getting them, pressuring them enough to give them a check. They're right to that bank immediately and they're out of here. And they come in sometimes so quickly and leave so quickly we can't even get to them fast enough. And so it's our -- it's our goal this time around to educate and to be out there and show our presence so that people know we're out there and let the scammers know that we're out there and that we're watching.


VALENCIA: Now, the good thing about this is that there are no official reports of scam artists or price gouging, though the attorney general's office says they're being pro active about this because as Michael was saying, it's just a matter of time.

People come in, travelers, to try to take advantage of those that are vulnerable. They said there's a lot of rumors and they've gotten a lot of tips, but it's a lot of false information, Suzanne and Michael, being fueled by rumors on social media.

They hope they stay rumors and that people are safe.

HOLMES: So, Nick, they put out the pamphlet. What else are they doing to try to crack down on these kinds of people, if I can put it that gently, I don't want to, but those types that would do this?

VALENCIA: Well, believe it or not, they're profiling pickup trucks from out of state. They're having residents keep a look out for pickup trucks, people with out of state license plates, snapping photos of them just in the case they turn out to be these scam artists that come back a week later, two weeks later after the storm and come under the guise that they're trying to help victims when they're really just trying to take advantage of them.

So far though, as we mentioned and we hope it stays this way for the community, there have been no official reports. So far, that's the way it is right now.

Who knows how it's going to be in a week? Michael, as you were saying it happens all the time in these storms, so we hope it doesn't happen this time around.

HOLMES: Yeah. It even happens when there aren't these storms. You hear people preying on the elderly and stuff.

Nick Valencia, doing great reporting out there in Moore, Oklahoma. Thanks, Nick.

MALVEAUX: it was interesting what she said. They follow the storm. They actually follow the storm to follow victims.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. You just want to ...

MALVEAUX: This weekend you can actually watch the storm chasers. They are risking their lives of course to get incredible footage of the tornado.

"Storm Hunters - In the Path of Disaster," airing Saturday, that is at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

HOLMES: Amazing.

Well, coming up, President Obama talks openly about the U.S. drone program, Pakistan glad that he is finally acknowledging the program's deadly side effects.

MALVEAUX: Could this repair the U.S.-Pakistani relationship? We'll have that after a quick break.


MALVEAUX: President Obama says using drones to target terrorists is a necessary evil, but he is calling for more oversight on their use.

HOLMES: Yeah, during a major national security speech in Washington, the president said the U.S. is at what he called a crossroads, and the fight against terrorism needs to be more targeted. He says the U.S. will continue using drones, but only when other options aren't feasible.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists. Our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose. Our actions are bound by consultations with partners and respect for state sovereignty.


MALVEAUX: Want to get some insight on the president's position from our CNN analyst, retired Army General James "Spider" Marks. And, General, good to see you.

First of all, I want to mention ...


MALVEAUX: ... in covering President Bush, he made the point to people we're engaged in this broad, all-encompassing, so-called "War on Terror." President Obama approach and his message, very different, saying that the nature of these threats against the U.S. has really changed and we've got to be very specific as these threats are more localized.

Tell us how that impacts our national security.

MARKS: Well, frankly, I think what the president is doing is he is describing exactly what his predecessor did, which is in a very precise and very specific way going after targets that need to be eliminated, that put us at a greater threat, and that's really a definition at the tactical level. But tactics have to be nested in some type of a strategy, so I think it's how you perceive it and where the strategy starts. So it's really a distinction without a difference here.

The president is describing about going after very specific targets. He's saying this is not a war, a global war on terrorism. Yet, if you are willing to collect intelligence, identify bad guys, identify targets and then go after very precisely those targets to minimize collateral damage, to minimize the risk to civilians, that clearly is a foreign policy strategy. So I don't think there's much of a difference.

HOLMES: And, General, in many ways, it's interesting to hear him talk about drones at all, you know, bring it out of the shadows, if you like.

The administration, disclosing, of course, for the first time that four Americans have been killed by drone strikes overseas, which is something that other people have been reporting for a while now.

Do you agree that control of drones be shifted from the CIA to the military? Is that something that would provide more oversight if the military was doing the calling the shots, so to speak?

MARKS: Michael, it's a great question. The real issue is to have the military conduct and have control of the drone strikes, the UAV strikes, these armed missions that they're conducting, really is a political move, and it provides for a greater degree of transparency and certainly the political impetus is clear.

At the business end in terms of what the drone's going to do and how it's going to be employed, there really, again, is no difference here because the military intelligence that's being used, the intelligence that's being generated and handled by the CIA, are totally mixed. That database and that sharing exists very specifically on these targets.

So I think it's important that the military do this, but it really has a political effect vice a business-end effect.

MALVEAUX: And, General, I also want to talk about, if we can turn the corner here, the president giving the commencement address at U.S. Naval Academy today, and in his speech he's addressing very directly here this problem that we've been hearing about and that is sexual assaults in the military. I want you to listen to what he said earlier.


OBAMA: Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong. That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes because they've got no place in the greatest military on earth.


MALVEAUX: So you are a father of two daughters, and you also a graduate, of course, of West Point, very distinguished. What do you make of ...

MARKS: Three daughters.

MALVEAUX: Oh, three daughters, OK. Sorry about that.

HOLMES: Had one when you weren't looking.

MALVEAUX: What do you make of this, the fact that this is coming forward and in a very straightforward manner here from the president all the way down?

MARKS: Suzanne, this is not business as usual. Clearly the military has had problems with this before. Society certainly has a problem with this.

It must be addressed, and it's going to take, as the president's indicated, a sustained effort.

But when you -- this gets well beyond boys acting poorly, or in the case of the Air Force, I guess there's a girl who acted poorly. This truly is a situation where leadership must be totally engaged and clearly be held accountable.

Look, leaders are responsible for what units do and fail to do, and if somebody in that organization is acting poorly, that leader has to step up and take ownership of that, and that might be at personal and professional risk.

When you have a general officer or a senior officer take advantage of power and abuse power, that can have an incredibly deleterious effect. When you have a noncommissioned officer, like what took place at West Point, abuse trust, now you have leaders that can sit there and intellectually say, look, I've got bosses in some cases. It's a very small representative sampling, very, very small.

You've got bosses that are acting badly. I've got noncommissioned officers that are supposed to be working for me acting badly. Where do I turn? How do I help solve these problems? Where do I go to try to make it right?

And so it's multiple levels. It's going to take training. It's going to take policies. It's going to take inspections. And it will take time to get it right, but you've got to get involved immediately to start making these changes.

And thank goodness the president's brought his joint chiefs in and he said, look, guys, we've got to address this, and it's -- we've got to shine light on it to get all the bad stuff out of it.

HOLMES: Yeah. It is incredibly worrying when some of the perpetrators are at the higher levels and that really does effect the whole chain.

"Spider" Marks, good to see you, General. Thanks so much.

MARKS: Thank you, folks.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.

Plane parts falling from the sky, this is actually real. It seems farfetched, but it actually happened. There's one airliner that's actually going to answer questions about that.

HOLMES: Yeah, we've got that investigation coming up next. No, you do not want to see that.

Also, this, it's been a busy day for the airline industry, in fact, a possible bomb threat on a plane flying from Pakistan to England.

MALVEAUX: So were the suspects, the guys on the plane, just joking about a bomb? Well, the search for answers, up ahead.

HOLMES: Plus, a plane's engine catches fire, forces the pilot to make an emergency landing. This is at London's Heathrow airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. We have got video from the scene.

Stay with us. This is AROUND THE WORLD.