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U.S. Closing Embassies in Mideast; Edward Snowden in Russia; Berlusconi Gets 4-Year Sentence; Concern Grows Over Anti-Gay Laws; Man With Cystic Fibrosis Beats Odds; Aiding Italy's Ailing Economy

Aired August 2, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: American travelers worldwide are warned of a terror threat. U.S. embassy is closed and al Qaeda is to blame.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, who was holed up in that Moscow airport since June, is now out. He's got a job offer and a new home. We're waiting to hear from the man accused of leaking those confidential U.S. documents.

MALVEAUX: And the driver of that train that went off the rails in Spain killing almost 80 people, well, he admits he was going twice the speed limit.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Good to be back.

HOLMES: Welcome back too. We missed you.

I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

MALVEAUX: The State Department has now issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens. Officials are warning of a possible terror attacks. This is across the Middle East. This is also North Africa. They warn it could be al Qaeda and affiliate organizations.

HOLMES: Yes, the terror threat also prompting State Department officials to close U.S. embassies and consulates in that region. Many of the diplomatic posts in the Middle East are closed on Friday and Saturday for the Muslim weekend, but they open on Sundays. Not this time. They're going to be closed this time and may remain closed for longer if necessary.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Nick Paton Walsh, joining us from Beirut.

And, Nick, talk about what we are now hearing, this credible and serious threat tied to al Qaeda. What kind of details are you getting?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this State Department worldwide travel warning is extraordinarily broad in the threat which it suggests could be out there, saying al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond. But it very specifically says the alert will expire on August the 31st. Now, going back to what you were mentioning about the diplomatic posts worldwide, an extraordinarily broad geographic range as far east as Dakar in Bangladesh and as far west to Africa, Mauritania. That's also being closed as well. I counted over 20 separate posts being shut.

The very specific timing, though, of the warning, particularly this Sunday, August the 4th. I spoke to some embassies who actually think they'll be open again as normal on the Monday. So the key interest here, what precisely is this warning that relates particularly to Sunday. Some say we're edging toward the end of the register (ph) observance month of Ramadan, where many Muslims fast and perhaps toward the end of Ramadan there may be a greater religious significance, some suggest, where Islamist extremists may feel that's the time to strike. But an enormously broad warning in terms of its geography, but very specific when it comes to the timing of the threats against particularly diplomatic posts, Suzanne.

HOLMES: And there are, Nick, some who say that the ghost of Benghazi hanging over this warning in terms of timing.

WALSH: Well certainly there's the phrase the abundance of caution you hear a lot from the State Department here. I'm sure nobody at this point wants to be seen as having not given adequate warnings. The last time we saw something like this was just after the death of bin Laden in May 2011 where people were put generally on a worldwide alert because of what had happened in Pakistan then. And then when the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks came along, the State Department issued a similar warning too.

But it is very specific. This is very much also in the context of the great scrutiny now on U.S. intelligence gathering mechanisms after the revelation of Edward Snowden. I'm sure many will be saying, look, this kind of specific intelligence may also be some sort of justification.


MALVEAUX: And, Nick, real quick, what is it like where you are? Is it tense?

WALSH: It's calm. Beirut is absolutely calm. This is not one of the embassies which will be closed. They're closed normally anyway on Sunday. And, of course, to give you an idea of how specific the threat is, because the person I spoke to the embassy here say they expect it to be open as normal on Monday.


MALVEAUX: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you, reporting from Beirut.

Obviously people across the Middle East wondering and worried about what this potentially could mean.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. And as Nick points out, the breadth (ph) of the warning makes you wonder what the specific threat is. So, yes, everybody just on high alert across a large part of that region. All right, on to Edward Snowden now, day one into his new life as a relatively free man. As free as you (ph) can be in Russia when you're under temporary asylum anyway.

MALVEAUX: So he walked out of Moscow's airport. This happened yesterday. Legal papers in hand. This was after more than a month camping out there as a stranded traveler. Well today we know that the accused American spy spent his first night -- who actually put him up and what the Russian people think about their newest resident. I want to bring in Phil Black, tracking all that in Moscow today.

Phil, tell us where he is, who's put him up, how's he living his life?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of unanswered questions here still, Suzanne. What we know, according to the lawyer that has been assisting him, Anatoly Kucherena, he says that he is being put up by people who approached him online while he was still camping out at that airport offering to help. And he says these are American citizens. He says, in the meantime, he's going to be keeping a fairly low profile. He wants to focus on his new freedom, his new country and personal security because he says this is something that he's still very concerned about. Even though he is still now officially protected under the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, he says it's still a concern. This is what his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said to us on this issue when we spoke to him after Snowden walked free from the airport.


ANATOLY KUCHERENA, EDWARD SNOWDEN'S LAWYER (through translator): This is his first time in Russia, so you can understand his emotions. As a person who knows how intelligence services operate, he understands what level of security he should have better than any of us.


BLACK: Another big priority for Snowden, we are told, is surrounding himself with people he believes he can trust. And that could by why arrangements are under way to get his father a visa so he can travel from the United States to Moscow to be with his son as soon as possible.

HOLMES: And a job offer, Phil?

BLACK: Yes, apparently a very high profile job offer from a social networking site in this country that is often compared to the Russian version of FaceBook. The man who founded it said he would love to bring Snowden on board. That he thinks that he'd probably have some interest in working with him to help protect the personal information, the details of the millions of people who use the site. And he's very much -- very proud of Russia for helping Snowden with this. But Snowden's lawyer says that finding work right now, that's not in the top list of priorities for Edward Snowden at this time.

HOLMES: All right, Phil, good to see you. Phil Black there in Moscow.

MALVEAUX: I can only imagine how he's living. I mean -

HOLMES: Yes. Somebody's got to pay the bills.

MALVEAUX: They're probably - obviously they're probably spying on him as well, the Russians. They're going to keep up with what he's doing, I'm sure.

HOLMES: Yes, he's going to be looking over his shoulder for a long time I think (ph).


Onto Spain. New details about the train derailment that killed 79 people last week. The driver is now admitting he was going twice the speed limit when that train approached that tight turn.

HOLMES: Yes, he talked about the accident during a recent court appearance and the video of that testimony has just been leased. Fifty-two-year-old Francisco Jose Garzon testified he should have slowed down several miles before that curve, but he did not. And he says he has no idea why.

MALVEAUX: The train was going 95 miles an hour when it derailed. The speed limit was 50. Garzon is charged with 79 counts of negligent homicide.

HOLMES: Well, it took 25 years, almost 30 trials, and there's other trials to come, by the way, but they did finally get him in the legal system. We're talking about the former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, convicted of tax fraud. Gone through all the appeals service. Got a four year sentence.

MALVEAUX: He may not serve any of that time behind bars, however. Our Atika Shubert has the inside story.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's bad news for Silvio Berlusconi. On Thursday, Italy's high court decided that, yes, he should spend time in prison for tax fraud and, no, he cannot appeal the decision. But the good news is, his four year sentence has been reduced to just one year because of an amnesty program and the 76- year-old isn't likely to spend much time behind bars because of his age. However, the courts are now trying to decide whether or not they should ban him from ever running from public office again.

Back to you.


HOLMES: All right, Atika Shubert there.

Now, we always like to use the words "political fight" here on CNN, but it's just a figure of speech most of the time.

MALVEAUX: All right. You see it there. Out of control a little there. This happened today. This is the parliament chamber of Taipei, Taiwan. This is actually, Michael, not even a rare event we are learning. Political debates, they get hot and the gloves come off literally. So there they go.

HOLMES: Yes, and they throw a bit of water and do a bit of yelling. We'll get a - I - look, as I said to you before this story came up, I'm Australian. I'm a lover of rugby. That's not fighting. That's hugging. I'm not - they've got to work on that.

MALVEAUX: That's a cat fight to you, huh?

HOLMES: If you're going to have a parliamentary brawl, you've got to do better than that.

MALVEAUX: Do it -- do it right.

HOLMES: Yes. That's a little bit of affection.

MALVEAUX: All right. Coming up, a CNN exclusive report about the night that Americans were killed in Benghazi. And -

HOLMES: People dumping their vodka in protest of Russia's anti-gay law, but one gay athlete says the boycott will hurt those competing in the 2014 Olympics in Russia. We'll hear from him next.

MALVEAUX: Then, she made history as the first female secretary of state. Well, now, Madeleine Albright is speaking about out the U.S.'s role around the world. She is also opening up like never before.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There's plenty of room in the world for mediocre men. There is no room for mediocre women.


MALVEAUX: There you go. From the role of women to the U.S. role as superpower, our conversation from the Aspen Leader's Action Forum airs this hour.

You're watching AROUND THE WORLD.


HOLMES: All right, bars around the world refusing to serve Russian vodka. All of this a protest against Russia's new anti-gay laws.

MALVEAUX: The laws ban same-sex couples from adopting children. They also prevent anyone from openly endorsing gay rights or even talking about it with a child. Foreigners who are suspected of supporting gay relationships can be arrested.

HOLMES: Yes, and you see what happens at gay protests there. Now, the CEO of a popular Russian vodka, Stoli, calls the boycott unfair. In an open letter to the gay community he says in part this, "in the past decade we have been actively advocating in favor of freedom, tolerance and openness in society, standing very passionately on the side of the LGBT community and will continue to support any effective initiative in that direction."

MALVEAUX: Well, Russia's crackdown on the gay community is raising a lot of concerns. This is about the upcoming Olympics. The winter games, they're being held in Sochi, Russia. That happens next year.

HOLMES: Yes, there's been a lot of conflicting statements, meanwhile, from Russian officials about whether these laws are going to apply to gay athletes and tourists who are going there. Jill Dougherty's at the State Department.

And I understand you've got some new information on this.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In fact, I have to tell you now, we did speak to the International Olympic Committee and they say that this law is not going to affect either athletes or visitors to the games.

But when you look at what the Russians are saying, you are getting comments kind of all over the map. I'm looking at one, Igor Ananskikh, who is a deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Fiscal Culture, Sports and Youth Policies. So the Duma is like the Congress. And he says the Olympic games are a major international event and, quote, "we need to be as polite and tolerant as possible." So that, he says, the law is not going to be raised, will not be enforced during the Olympics.

But if you look at other officials, there's one in particular, an official from St. Petersburg, which is really where this type of legislation began, whose saying, look, you know, it is the law. It's a federal law. And the government has no right to cancel it. So that's the complication.

You know, we did speak with Johnny Weir. He's quite well known. You see him right here. An openly gay skater from the United States. He also loves Russia very much, so we wanted to find out what his view is on this.

Here's what he said.


JOHNNY WEIR, OLYMPIC ICE SKATER: I would never want to boycott the Olympics or take the opportunity away from other athletes in this country that have worked as hard as I have, or whose family has sacrificed as much as I have.

And I think and believe, really, that our presence in Russia will do nothing but help fight this law and help the LGBT community.

And I urge Americans not to push for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics.


DOUGHERTY: So, meanwhile, you have gay groups in Russia who are trying to take this to the constitutional court.

And then also, here in the United States, Senator Jeff Merkley says that he's going to be raising this for some type of vote, a resolution, from the U.S. Senate, urging the International Olympic Committee to criticize it and also to urge the Russian government not to enforce it.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jill, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

You know, I wonder. It's interesting they say we're not going to enforce this during the Olympics, so then what happens to the gay citizens afterwards, right, when everybody goes home and not paying attention to this? They're the ones who get oppressed.

HOLMES: And see what happens if there's a gay protest during the Olympics because I suspect it won't be tolerated.


HOLMES: Yeah. No, fascinating stuff.

All right, now for more on this story, do tune into "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

MALVEAUX: Thousands of people in Israel are expressing their support for gay rights. They turned out for Jerusalem's 12th annual march for pride and tolerance.

The demonstrators marched toward the Israeli parliament demanding more rights for gay people.

HOLMES: Some ultra-orthodox protesters did show up to vent their anger about those demands. The "Jerusalem Post" newspaper reporting three people were arrested.

MALVEAUX: She is 76-years-old, but she says she can leg press more than 450 pounds. I'm not kidding you.

Her BFF is Hillary Clinton, not surprising. The first female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, well, she gets personal as well as addressing world crises.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Democracy is not an event. Democracy's a process, and many countries are still learning it. including our own. And we are imperfect in that, ourselves.


MALVEAUX: Our conversation on the U.S. role around the world, up next.


MALVEAUX: The turmoil in Egypt, the rift between the U.S. and Russia, Madeline Albright weighs in on some of the diplomatic dilemmas the U.S. is facing around the world.

The globetrotting and groundbreaking former secretary of state was at the center of a conversation that we had at the Aspen Institute.

She made history as the first female secretary of state. Now she's president of our own global strategy firm. She is also a professor at Georgetown University.

Well, Moscow has now granted asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Albright says that relations are complicated because of what she calls Russia's identity crisis.


ALBRIGHT: There's a lot that is similar in terms of the way that Russia has behaved over the years. And I do think that the United States would like to have a partnership relationship with Russia.

However, it takes two to reset, and I think that part of the issue is that the Russians are going through an identity crisis of their own, having been the other super power.

And I remember going there in '91 and the people were embarrassed. They would say we've caused so much trouble and yet they had an identity issue. And they say now we're just Bangladesh with missiles.

And, so, part of what's happened is this identity crisis, and what I find really, really depressing is the role that Russia is playing in what is going on in Syria.

And it's not one where there's a sense that they can be partners in bringing peace and stability, but much too much involved with their own image at this time.

And I think that the U.S. can try as hard as it wants to, but if President Putin has different views it is very difficult as he tries to burnish his image and that of Russia.


MALVEAUX: Albright also addressed the turmoil in Egypt following the coup that removed President Mohamed Morsy from power.

Now she says the U.S. is facing a real dilemma here over whether or not to cut off aid.


ALBRIGHT: Democracy is not an event. Democracy's a process, and many countries are still learning it. including our own. And we are imperfect in that, ourselves.

Part of the -- and it goes -- we've had questions about what is the role of the United States? What is the leverage the United States has? There's diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral. There are the economic tools, the carrots, which are aid and trade, and the sticks, which are sanctions. Then there's the threat of the use of force, the use of force, intelligence and law enforcement. That's it.

There's nothing easier, if I could say that, than cutting off everything. The problem is the following, is if we cut off all assistance, which is what happens in you declare it a coup, we will not have any influence whatsoever.

And the question is how to use that tool in a way to try to bring about some change in Egypt to make sure that the relationship between Israel and Egypt stays intact.


MALVEAUX: Now we also talked about domestic issues as well here in the United States, and Albright says that she was appalled by the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

We're going to bring you those comments, very candid comments, actually, on the death of Trayvon Martin and race relations in America. That is coming up in the next hour.

And, Michael, I have to say, I mean, she just puts it all out there.

HOLMES: Fascinating lady.

MALVEAUX: She's not afraid to tell you exactly what she feels, and she believes as a proud American that there are some racial issues that have to be worked out as part of our identity because she says the world is watching. They're watching what we do.

HOLMES: Looking forward to that next hour, Suzanne, great conversation there with the former secretary of state.

All right, when we come back, much of the scrutiny over last year's attack in Benghazi, Libya, focused on the State Department, but CNN has learned exclusively that the CIA was there.

We'll have a report for you, coming up.


MALVEAUX: We're learning more details about last year's attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

Remember the night on September 11th, that, of course, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi.

HOLMES: Much of the scrutiny has focused on the State Department, but we're learning for the first time just how heavily involved the CIA was in Benghazi, something the agency has gone to great lengths to conceal.

MALVEAUX: Drew Griffin has a CNN exclusive investigation.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an "unprecedented attempt" to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

Since January some operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya have been subjected to frequent, even monthly, polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep, inside knowledge of the agency's working.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress. It's being described as pure intimidation with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, one insider writes, "You don't jeopardize yourself. You jeopardize your family as well."

Another says, "You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation."

ROBERT BAER, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Agency employees typically are polygraphed every three to four years. Never more than that.

GRIFFIN: The rate of this kind of polygraphing is rare, according to former CIA operatives, including Robert Baer, now a national security analyst for CNN.

BAER: If somebody is being polygraphed every month or two months, it's called an issue polygraph, and that means that the polygraph division suspects something, or they're looking for something, or they're on a fishing expedition.

But it's absolutely not routine at all to be polygraphed monthly or bi-monthly or whatever.

GRIFFIN: In a statement from CIA public affairs director Dean Boyte (ph), the agency asserted it's being open with Congress.

"The CIA has worked closely with its oversight committees to provide them with an extraordinary amount of information related to the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi," the statement reads.

"CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want and that the CIA enabled all officers involved in Benghazi the opportunity to meet with Congress.

"We are not aware of any CIA employee who has experienced retaliation, including any non-routine security procedures, or who has been prevented from sharing a concern with Congress about the Benghazi incident."