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22 U.S. Embassies & Consulates Closed; Alex Rodriguez Back to NY Yankees

Aired August 3, 2013 - 09:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. 9:00 on the East Coast now, and 6:00 out West. This is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

And we are starting this hour with a reminder that al Qaeda is not out of the terror business.

KEILAR: The U.S. is worried that al Qaeda will strike soon, prompting it to close almost two dozen embassies and consulates and embassies.

So let's bring in now CNN's Emily Schmidt. She's in Washington. She's following this. What is the trigger here for these embassy closures -- Emily?

EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna and Victor, if you talk about how long officials have been tracking this chatter. They say they have been doing it for weeks, and that was nothing new, and things changed in the past few days, and they said the chatter increased. They believe that Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula could be now in the final stages of planning what they believe is an unspecified attack.

Republican Peter King of the House Intelligence Committee says this is the most specific threat he has seen, and officials are especially concerned about the next few days. Ramadan is going to be entering its final days. So the embassy closings are officially now just for Sunday, but they could be extended. A veteran diplomat says take a look at this map, all that yellow, and how unusual as a precaution like this? He says this is what it is in his experience.


CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ (ON THE PHONE): There has been incidents where they closed down a number of embassies in the Middle East because the information is not specific enough to say that embassy X should be closed as opposed to other embassies, but I think this closing all these embassies in the Middle East to North Africa is in fact unprecedented.


SCHMIDT: And we are looking now at 22 embassies and consulates that are set to be closed tomorrow. Victor and Brianna. VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: That number ticked up overnight with the embassy in Basra, Iraq added to number 21. It was released yesterday.

I want to talk about Benghazi though, because we are coming up on the anniversary of that attack, on 9/11, a year ago, and what does this play into this threat?

SCHMIDT: Victor, you think about that attack and that is really the last time we saw how vulnerable that the U.S. embassy could be. That was when four Americans killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, when we talked about Benghazi and the Obama administration certainly was criticized for maybe not taking some threats strongly enough and not responding strongly enough to that threat.

This time officials say what they are doing here is acting out what they're calling an abundance of caution. That's what they are saying, but certainly when you take a look at that map, the 22 embassies and consulates that will be closed, that abundance of caution is a very visual reminder indeed of how they are taking action right now.

BLACKWELL: Emily Schmidt, thank you for that information from Washington.

KEILAR: And the State Department also issued a global travel alert over that Al Qaeda threat.

BLACKWELL: And that means Americans traveling abroad need to be cautious. CNN's Nick Valencia is at the busiest airport in the world. That's Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson.

Nick, we spoke with Tom Fuentes about an hour ago and he said not only people traveling overseas but people traveling domestically, they should be cautious as well. Are you seeing that at the airport?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at all, Victor to be quite simple and clear about it. We spoke to some passengers inside and some had no idea that this travel warning was in place. Domestically, it's business as usual. It seems that lines are moving quickly, and nothing seems to be out of the order here. But for those who are worried about traveling abroad this weekend, the State Department does give you some pointers to follow.

The first is to register your trip with the U.S. embassy. The embassy that you may be traveling to, whatever country it is, let them know you are going to be here. They also have something that's called the STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, where you can get alerts of what is happening, if there is a crisis or an emergency in the country you are traveling to, and of course, there are updates on the State Department's Website.

But here in Hartsfield, in Atlanta, the busiest airport as you mentioned, more than 240,000 people travel out of this airport a day, and it's business as usual. Everything seems to be pretty calm and pretty normal here. Victor and Brianna.

KEILAR: Nick Valencia, thank you for that, here in Atlanta.

BLACKWELL: Big baseball news now. Alex Rodriguez says he is coming back and that he is making the big return to the Yankees on Monday. Now that's despite reports of a possible lifetime ban or suspension looming over his head from the alleged use of performance enhancing drugs.

Joe Carter is live in New Jersey with the latest. Joe, will we really see A-Rod suit up on Monday? I mean, it seems with all that is going on, a little unlikely. What do you think?

JOE CARTER, : Well, Victor, I will tell you, that is definitely the million-dollar question that everyone is trying to find the answer to. We thought we are going to get that on Friday and it appears now that major league baseball may give us that answer on Monday.

But you know, we have not seen Alex Rodriguez play in a baseball game or speak to the media directly in a weeks, and last night here in Trenton, New Jersey, he did both and he came out swinging both literally and figuratively. Now, in the game, he was playing with Trenton, that's their AA team, the Yankees AA team, and in one of his out bats, he hit a home run. It seemed effortless and then after the game he spoke to the news media in a press conference packed with almost 100 news media, and he basically took a shot at those trying to keep him from returning to the New York Yankees.


ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES: There is more than one party that benefits from me not ever stepping back on the field, and that's not my teammates and it's not the Yankee fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is it? Who benefits?

RODRIGUEZ: I can't tell you that right now. I hope I never have to.


CARTER: Now, there is speculation that the New York Yankees front office would not mind if Alex Rodriguez were to be suspended rather than return to the team, see if Alex Rodriguez is suspended for using performance enhancing drugs, guys, the Yankees would not have to pay him his salary, and at the moment the New York Yankees are on the hook for over $100 million worth of guaranteed money to Alex Rodriguez. Now I asked him during the press conference what his plan is moving forward.

He said tonight he will play one more game with AA Trenton. On Sunday, he'll conduct a very short workout and then he absolutely plans to be with the New York Yankees come Monday night when they play the Chicago White Sox. So we'll see guys - the A-Rod saga continues. Guys.

BLACKWELL: And so it looks like from the video that we are seeing, that even with the cloud over his head, he is still a huge star even there in Trenton, especially in Trenton, has this tarnished him at all there at the minor league games?

CARTER: I will tell you what, Victor, we showed up yesterday, and obviously Trenton, there were about 8,000 people inside this stadium, it's a small, AA team and they were sold-out last night. Tickets were sold and going on Stub Hub for $65 and they normally go for $10. I can tell you what? We expected to see a lot more animosity from the fans towards Alex Rodriguez, and the people that he was around during the time that we were around him, when he was signing autographs were very supportive. It was a very warm reception from the fans, saying "We need you back, big guy. Don't give up the good fight. We need you with the Yankees." A couple of boos, but for the most part, a lot of support for Alex Rodriguez which was a big surprise. And then in the way he conducted himself in the press conference, I was totally taken back by his - one, we expected perhaps a paper statement to be read but he sat there and took question after question and answered it to the best of his ability and quite frankly he was very candid when he answered those questions, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All except who this other element that would benefit if he were taken from the Yankees and taken off the field. Hopefully, we'll get an answer to that. Joe Carter, thank you.

KEILAR: Well, it's an unprecedented move, 22 embassies and consulates closing and world-wide travel alert, and we'll break down what this could mean and what the U.S. might know about the possible terror attack.


KEILAR: Show time at Yellowstone. The world's largest geyser, not old faithful. No that is the steamboat erupting this week for the first time in eight years. Much to the delight of some very lucky park visitors. This high pressure burst and steamy water shooting 300 feet into the air. It lasted about 10 minutes and it's a very rare event indeed because park officials that the steamboat geyser has gone as long as 50 years before between major eruptions.

BLACKWELL: Very fortunate visitors there.

KEILAR: Yes. Definitely.

BLACKWELL: It could be a rainy weekend for some. So where will the rain spoil those weekend plans.

KEILAR: Let's bring in our meteorologist Alexandra Steele, she's in the CNN weather center. Who is getting the soggy start here?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You got a rain train, essentially. Hi, everyone. Good Saturday morning.

Here is the big picture for today, and it's really this cold front that's the culprit for the rain. To the west, some severe storms, Colorado and Kansas. No tornados, potentially an isolated one, but the big one is hail and gusty winds but this is the front causing the rain in the mid-Atlantic, and tomorrow the front drops south and it clears out, and Washington and Pittsburgh, places kind of ensconced (INAUDIBLE) all that moisture then drops to the south, areas to the north of that front, like Chicago, and having a good weekend with lollapalooza, weather will be great, below average, temperatures in the 70s, upper 70s today and tomorrow a very similar scenario for Chicago. Dry skies, and really cool. Cooler than average, that's for sure.

So here is the rain. 70, i-80, heading towards New York, moving south of Cleveland, so Pittsburgh, a wet go for you this morning. Again, much better conditions tomorrow. Here is where the heaviest rain is this morning, so if you are driving out there on 44, it's certainly slow. Springfield down towards Little Rock, heading towards Memphis, so western Tennessee will get into some wet weather as well.

But here in the south, we have such a rainy July. August starting off really with summer-like weather, and Atlanta, Georgia, above average and New Orleans as well, but the hot spot, high pressure, the dome of high pressure right over you in Texas, and it will stay there straight through Friday, and even today through the weekend, 102, and by Monday, 103, and on Friday, staying there, and that's through the week throughout all of Texas.

We talked last weekend about Dorian, was a tropical storm. Now it's a tropical depression, and it kind of dissipated and then it regenerated and it will stay off the coast of Florida, guys and it will not impact land but again it will bring rain to Florida today. But then it moves this way and you can see north of Bermuda.

KEILAR: No sunbathing today in Florida if you are on vacation there.

STEELE: West Coast is a lot better than the East Coast.

KEILAR: Sure, Alexandra, thank you for that.


KEILAR: Time for "The Good Stuff" now this morning. A Marine proving that you never leave a man behind, even if that man happens to be nine. Marine Lance Corporal Myles Carr was taking part in a 5K race while on leave, and to show solidarity with his comrades he even did it in his combat boots and gear, and he noticed that a little boy was struggling to keep up.

BLACKWELL: Yes, nine-year-old Boden (INAUDIBLE) had fallen back and lost his family. There he is. He wanted to quit, but he saw Corporal Carr and asked, "Sir, can you run with me?" And that's exactly what Carr did. Seeing the boy all the way to the end. And when (INAUDIBLE) wanted to walk, Carr kept him running. And even after they crossed the finish line, Carr made sure that he was reunited with his family.

KEILAR: So cute. Looks tired, though.

Now his fellow Marines, Carr's fellow Marines who ran the race with him thought that he had actually injured himself since he was taking so long. They gave Carr an informal citation calling this actions "in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Marine Corps." Carr won something else that day, the slowest time in his age group. The ultimate proof that nice guys, though, really do finish last.

BLACKWELL: Good job. He said "Sir, will run with me?" And he said, "Of course, I will."

KEILAR: Adorable..

BLACKWELL: Hey, it's an unprecedented move. Seriously now, 22 embassies and consulates closing and a worldwide travel alert, and we will break down what this could mean and what - the U.S. might know about the possible terrorists attack.


KEILAR: We have been following news all morning of a possible Al Qaeda plot that prompted the U.S. to close 22 diplomatic posts across Africa, the Middle East, as well as Southeast Asia. There's a lot of people who might be wondering what kind of specific information the U.S. has and why the warning seems to be so broad.

BLACKWELL: Joining us to talk about it is CNN's national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem. She's also a former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Julie, good to have you with us.

Officials say an attack could happen Sunday or throughout the month sometime. Why the lack of specifics here? Apparently they know something because they chose these 22 specific areas. Why not be specific and clear with the American people?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN'S NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, so part of what intelligence gathering is, people have to remember it's sort of an art and not a science. And so what has come in is increased chatter combined with what we call signal intelligence picking up stuff over the wires and phones, and then likely human intelligence, sources that we have within the organizations or more likely foreign intelligence agencies picking stuff up in their country.

So what we know is there is a concern about a potential attack, and that specific information, what we don't have specifically is where and the kind of attack. One has to assume that they are worried about hard targets like embassies, that' why they would close them but then that would explain also the general travel alert coming out of the State Department for people who are anywhere abroad, simply to be safe and check in with your embassy. It's not a travel ban. And that's just the nature of intelligence, unfortunately. It never says here, this is one we're going to do it, everyone, you know, stay away from this embassy. It just tends to be putting a lot of very inconclusive pieces together.

KEILAR: And when you are looking at just what a wide swath this is, it makes you wonder if might we be expecting multiple attacks, or is it really just an issue of there could be a likely attack or an attack is being planned and it's just so unspecific on where it is?

KAYYEM: Yes. I think that's right. I think it's probably the last thing that it's a specific date, which tends to be pretty unique. So that's a pretty good find, but specifically where, we don't know. We know we are centralizing a lot of attention on Yemen mostly because Al Qaeda is very strong there and also their foreign intelligence agencies have been sharing information with us, but the broad swath has to do with what we just know rationally, that part of the world is very unstable right now. It is where elements of Al Qaeda still exist and we are going to be smart about at least closing the hard targets that we know about.

You know, there is a lot of talk about Benghazi, and one has to assume that we learned something from it, and that is certainly as this intelligence increases, good to secure hard targets, and not simply for our citizens but obviously for the nationals in those countries that often work in our embassies. Remember the African embassy bombing in the last decade was a dozen Americans, but over 200 Africans. So it is also to protect the citizens of those nations.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned Benghazi, and we are coming up on the one- year anniversary, probably about seven weeks away and there is some speculation that this could be connected to that, but, as I said, we are seven weeks away. Why now?

KAYYEM: Right. So there are two strings of intelligence that the administration has at least talked about least sort of generally. One is that for the last couple of months, there has been concerns about increased chatter. That is coming from what we call signal intelligence. The more specific threat that would have led to the closings of the embassies this Sunday clearly came from a foreign intelligence agency, some news agencies are reporting that it's Yemen. That there is something specifically planned that they are getting from their sources, and that makes sense because Al Qaeda is so strong in Yemen that some of that specific information would come from Yemen.

So it's just the confluence of both the broad intelligence concerns with the more specific intelligence sharing, and this is how it works that we are getting a lot of information from countries that are both our allies and countries to be honest that we have complicated relationships with. What we do know is that there is no intelligence threat against the homeland, and that's why you are not seeing changes at the airports.

This is clearly viewed as a foreign threat and it makes sense in terms of Al Qaeda's strength right now, and some of the sharing of information from the foreign intelligence sources.

KEILAR: Great insight, Juliette. Juliette Kayyem, thank you for that.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

KEILAR: And we'll be right back.


KEILAR: In the central African nation of Cameroon, many go without medical attention. Growing up poor, George (INAUDIBLE) was unable to help his gravely ill father who suffered 23 years because of the lack of affordable health care. Now a surgeon, he is living out his father's dying wish, devoting his time to providing free medical care to his country. Meet this week's CNN hero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a country like mine, people like to drink and dance and to enjoy their life, but with poverty, they cannot enjoy their life.

It's a pleasure if I can help two or three people, that would be great.

I saw my father ill for 22 years. Before he passed away, he asked me, you see how people suffer, to see a doctor, (INAUDIBLE) to be a doctor, help people.

My name is George (INAUDIBLE), I bring free surgery and health services to the people of (INAUDIBLE).

The beating of the drums, and they can leave 60 around and they come on foot.

(INAUDIBLE) in the afternoon, they are releasing a patient. We are going to operate. We need our generator because in the village there is no light. We start doing operations until (INAUDIBLE).

We are doing around 40 surgical operations for free.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) if there is any problem they can come back to us.

I help people and they are helping me.

I am doing it to give them opportunity to re-start.


BLACKWELL: With Russia set to host the Winter Olympics in February, a new law is drawing anger for many athletes. The law says any public display of affection from gays or lesbians or their supporters could get them arrests. I'll be talking with two gay Olympians about the Russian tactics. Blake (INAUDIBLE) and Johnny Weir, hope to be in (INAUDIBLE) next winter. They'll join us live in the next hour.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for starting your "New Day" with us. Victor and I will see you back here at the top of the hour.

BLACKWELL: But first, millions of Americans out of work and looking for jobs. Christine Romans sits down with Google chairman Eric Schmidt who says he knows the solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC SCHMIDT, GOOGLE CHAIRMAN: It's particularly stupid for the American government to require us to fully educate people with PhDs, and ship them out of the country where they can create competitors in other countries and it takes American jobs away.


BLACKWELL: "Your Money" starts right now.