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Terror Fears; Alex Rodriguez Suspended; The World's First Laboratory-Grown Burger; A-Rod Suspended for 211 Games

Aired August 5, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Watching, waiting, and hoping that no horrific act of terrorism happens somewhere out there.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, first, it was a day. Now it's a week, 19 U.S. embassies and consulates keeping their doors locked for several days now and we have some breaking news about that warning that al Qaeda issued about planning something huge.

The money lead. Get the meat without buying the cow. How would you feel about biting down on that quarter pounder with cheese if you knew it was grown in a lab?

And the sports lead. Suspended through next season, A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez, banned over using performance-enhancing drugs. Why does he still think he's going to take the field tonight?

Good afternoon, everyone. We will begin, of course, with that world lead.

And we have some breaking news. Americans around the world are on high alert and U.S. diplomatic posts are on lockdown as officials work to piece together the precise nature of the threat posed by al Qaeda's most active arm, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, headquartered in Yemen.

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr who has more on this missive, this intercept that the U.S. picked up -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, what we can now tell everyone is the intercept that the U.S. got that raised alarm bells across Washington was an intercepted communication from Ayman al- Zawahri, the leader of al Qaeda, back in Pakistan, the successor to Osama bin Laden.

It was a Zawahri communication to a leader in Yemen, a man named Nasir al Wuhayshi. Wuhayshi was just appointed Ayman al-Zawahri as his number two. This provides an unprecedented al Qaeda link between the core al Qaeda from the 2000 -- the 9/11 era of attacks and the Yemen al Qaeda.

I want to explain to everyone why we're talking about this because it's so important. We had this information here at CNN about the Zawahri intercept over the weekend and we at CNN decided not to report the details because we discussed it with U.S. officials and there were significant U.S. government concerns about attaching Zawahri's name to all of this.

The intercept from Zawahri basically told the guys in Yemen do something, do something now. That was the alarm bell. The U.S. was very concerned. But 24 hours later, let us be clear and transparent to our viewers, a number of news organizations, including "The New York Times" and the McClatchy news service, have reported this information.

This is now out in the public arena. So we feel now we can decide to report it. There was -- there is a lot of concern about this. Zawahri has been on out on the Internet. He's been on Web site. He's been complaining for years about his operatives not really doing anything. Now it looks like Zawahri has made his move with al Qaeda in Yemen.

This is significant to American security concerns because, as you know, Jake, it is al Qaeda in Yemen that has been able to reach out and touch. Just think about that Detroit airliner attempted bombing of several years ago.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

AQAP's role in this concerns some counterterrorism officials because that terror group has significant capabilities, expertise and resources. And 19 of the almost two dozen American diplomatic posts throughout Northern Africa that were closed Sunday will not open for the rest of the week, as we mentioned earlier and all of these developments are prompting some counterterrorism officials to wonder whether the al Qaeda that just months ago the Obama team described as being on the run is actually running right towards us.


TAPPER (voice-over): The newly intercepted messages by senior al Qaeda members indicated final planning for an attack may be complete. Dozens of U.S. intelligence analysts have been urgently scouring databases, telephone intercepts and Web sites for clues, creating renewed fears that the terror group may be planning for an attack against the U.S. and Western interests.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Some individuals who are making plan such as we saw before 9/11, whether there are going to be suicide deaths that are used or whether they're planning on vehicle-borne bombs being carried into an area, we don't know.

TAPPER: But before the American people were alerted to the new threat, counterterrorism officials were paying plenty of attention because of a rash of brazen prison breaks in three countries, freeing hundreds of extremists.

July 23, Baghdad, hundreds of al Qaeda-linked spilled out of two prisons after a massive jailbreak. July 26, nearly 1,200 inmates were set free in Benghazi, Libya. July 30, Pakistan, Taliban gunmen freed 200 inmates.

But wait a second it just recently we were told that al Qaeda was all but left for dead?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is dead.

TAPPER: Two attacks in the past year show al Qaeda has found new life outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan, from the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead to the armed takeover of a gas facility in Algeria that killed three Americans.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: After Benghazi, these al Qaeda types are really on steroids thinking we're weaker and they're stronger.

TAPPER: Plus, those jailbreaks just in the past few weeks, followed by this unprecedented closing of nearly two dozen diplomatic posts and an Interpol alert being sent worldwide, dire warnings being issued on Capitol Hill.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This is your wakeup call. Al Qaeda is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11.

GRAHAM: It is scary. Al Qaeda is on the rise in this part of the world.

TAPPER: And nowhere is the bombmaking threat of al Qaeda more on display than in Yemen, where the al Qaeda affiliate's chief bombmaker remains the target of a manhunt.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: There are indications in the last week or two that Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of al Qaeda core in Pakistan, has appointed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as his overall general manager, which is unprecedented, because he is living in Yemen. He is not living in Pakistan.

TAPPER: All of this has the U.S. and the world on high alert.


TAPPER: So does this new threat indicate al Qaeda is in a resurgence? Or were the rumors to terror network's impending demise greatly exaggerated or is it something else more complicated altogether?

I want to bring in Peter Brookes, former deputy assistant secretary of defense and he's now a senior fellow for national security affairs at the Heritage Foundation, and Spencer Ackerman, national security editor for "The Guardian." He's some of "The Guardian"'s recent reporting about the National Security Agency spy programs.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here.

What do you think of this news that Zawahri has handed over the number two position to the head of AQAP, Wuhayshi?

SPENCER ACKERMAN, "THE GUARDIAN": It's amazing that al Qaeda's nominal commander would outsource operations to someone thousands of miles away. You can think about even in light of our recent reporting about the NSA the overwhelming surveillance opportunities that exists to intercept some of the ongoing plans al Qaeda might be attempting.

TAPPER: Peter, we heard a clip from President Obama in the election talking about al Qaeda being on its hells. Was that exaggerated at the time? Have they returned since then? Or are we reading way too much into this and these terror alerts?

PETER BROOKES, SENIOR FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I hate to say but I think the president was misleading when he said that.

If you listen very closely, he would always talk about al Qaeda core, those involved in 9/11 that had fled to Pakistan and Afghanistan or he would Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But he often talked writ large about al Qaeda which led people to believe he was talking about al Qaeda, no matter where it was, whether it was in Africa, or in the Middle East or anyplace else. I think that was a big misleading and I think they're very concerned now they have been a bit caught flat-footed on this because it looks like the president wasn't being quite truthful with us.

TAPPER: Spencer?

ACKERMAN: A couple things. First, yes, I have to agree with Peter on that point.

When you have to expect your audience to listen to the nuances about what a diffuse and complex phenomenon is in terms of its health, that's not giving the appropriate context to the American people, particularly in the context of an election campaign.

What you also have to take into consideration, it would seem is the differences in gradations and capabilities between what al Qaeda was on 9/11 and shortly thereafter and what the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is capable of. It's capable currently of a whole lot less, orders of magnitudes less of a threat than al Qaeda was on 9/11.

TAPPER: You think the September 10, 2011 al Qaeda that was based in Afghanistan stronger in terms of their capabilities than today's AQAP?


And just look at right now what al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at its most ambitious is attempting, like, for instance, taking down the airliner for the Christmas Day plot, like, for instance, a variety of different embassy attacks, things like that, expand that to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for the embassy attacks and so forth. That's a whole lot less than using a complex, multi-airliner hijack operating as missiles, if you will, on multiple targets on one day.

BROOKES: I guess I'm in kind of violent agreement to a certain -- with Spencer here.

The fact is that I agree. Because of the homeland security and other efforts, they're not going to fly -- we don't expect to be able to fly planes into the building in the United States.

But, overseas, we have serious problems. Look at Benghazi, look what's going on in Iraq, look what's going on in Syria. There's a lot of threats and a lot of American interests overseas we have to worry about.

Al Qaeda is becoming more diffuse. I agree that al Qaeda's core, Pakistan, Afghanistan is less capable, less capable here, but the threat is very, very serious overseas. Look at Mali a while back. I think we have to be very, very careful not to become complacent. We're in a post-Osama bin Laden era, but we're not in a post-al Qaeda era.

ACKERMAN: This points to a really interesting debate amongst the public. What safety do we expect? If we're not expecting what the experts call perfect security, which is zero attacks, if we're not expecting that, what is an acceptable level?

You often hear during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, what Afghanistan good enough looked like, what good enough for Iraq looked like. What's America's good enough?

TAPPER: Fascinating.

Spencer Ackerman, Peter Brookes, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Are terrorists planning another Benghazi-style attack on American interests? And how did CNN track down a person of interest in that deadly attack when the U.S. government was coming up empty-handed? Watch "The Truth About Benghazi." That's a CNN special investigation. It airs tomorrow night, Tuesday night, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, it sounds like something Dr. Frankenstein would serve up at a backyard barbecue, the in vitro burger. It's meat grown in a petri dish just like mom used to make.

And later who is the hottest politician in the country? A new poll says definitively it's Chris Christie. Sorry, ladies, he's married. But we will tell you what it means for the race to 2016. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

Now it's time for our money lead. The hamburger, it's an American icon. We eat an average of three hamburgers every week, maybe because so many of were once brainwashed by this song.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.



TAPPER: But what if it were one patty made from cattle stem cells grown in a petri dish for over $300,000, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun?

Mmm, manufactured meat. After five years, a Netherlands university team debuted the world's first laboratory grown patty this morning in London, frying it up infomercial style, complete with a cheesy, multicolored back draft and awkward audience. The two brave taste testers gave it such rave reviews as "close to meat" and "tasted like an animal protein cake." But in fairness, they ate it without condiments or bun.

The real story here however is what this might mean for the food industry. The team behind the lab patty said that this could potentially be an environmentally friendly way to fight world hunger. But with its current high price tag, how realistic is that? And how do we know if that meat is safe?

Joining me now is Michael Moss, investigative reporter for "The New York Times" and author of the book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us."

So, Michael, is this the future of food? The cost is prohibitively high right now, $300,000 to make this patty. But is this a realistic option down the line to end world hunger?

MICHAEL MOSS, AUTHOR, "SALT SUGAR FAT": Let's start with the good news here, Jake, which is, you know, I heard the stem cell that they started with came from the shoulder of the cow, which I thought is where most of the hamburger came from, until I came across my trove o internal documents. You know, it turns out most of the hamburger we get in the grocery story or quicker style restaurants is an amalgam of scraps of meat from slaughter houses all around the world, that are mixed or matched to make the least expensive, least costly hamburger out there, including that product -- beef product that came to be known as pink slime.

So, at least this product is coming just from the shoulder which is what I thought hamburger always came from. The bad news is, yes, I think this is one of the first signs of what we're going to see increasingly of what the food industry calls food security, the population of earth going so that people will be clamoring not for healthy food, not for organic, not locally grown, but increasingly just for calories, protein, put it in your body, get going at any cost.

I mean, the processed food industry is just sort of secretly waiting to come to the rescue of us to feed us.

TAPPER: How are we able -- obviously, it won't be as much an issue for people who aren't starving, who will be happy for any food at all. But for the rest of us, there seems to be something of an ick factor just judging by the crew I have here watching the report.

Will they be able to get over that?

MOSS: You know, it's all about taste. I mean, when you think about meat, is the taste comes from fat. So how they think they're going to add flavorings to this meat without adding lots of fat is beyond me. That's why lean meats are really challenged to have that juicy flavor of marveling that you find. So, obviously, you know, it's going to come down to flavor for a lot of us, besides cost. And, obviously, you got to get that $300,000 figure down, way down.

TAPPER: Michael, what about the safety issue? It would seem there might be some with this food, meat made in a lab.

MOSS: You know, there are two sides to that, too. So, yes, I mean, this falls in the category of scientifically engineered food. We've talked about GMOs in the past and how scary those are, genetically modified organisms. They're going to do a lot of convincing to people that, hey, this isn't something that's going to cause health trouble down the road. But, first, we need to have a lot of testing on.

But there's another safety aspect with real hamburger that's called E. coli and the industry is still struggling to make hamburger entirely safe, because it's very easy to contaminate it in the slaughter house and the processing process.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Michael Moss, thanks so much for joining us.

MOSS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat. It's the last time he'll hear those sounds from the infield for a long time, we think. Alex Rodriguez is playing ball tonight before he's suspended from baseball until 2015.

And later, two black eyes and a broken arm, that's the kind of beating this 13-year-old took on the school bus. So, why didn't the driver do more to stop it?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our national lead comes off a school bus in Tampa Bay area. A quick warning, the pictures are graphic and violent. So, if you need to turn away, if you're watching with any children, you might want to change your channel for about three minutes.

The surveillance video was reported last month, but it's just now coming up, you see three 15-year-old boys ganging up on a 13-year-old, with fists flying, feet stomping. This is allegedly pay back after the older teens said the boy told on officials for them trying to sell him drugs. The victim fled the bus with a broken arm and a pair of black eyes. But what some people can't believe in this video is the bus driver. He yells and he calls for the dispatcher for help but he does not break it up.


JOHN MOODY, SCHOOL BUS DRIVER: No, you got to get somebody here quick, quick, quick. They're about to beat this boy to death over here. Please get somebody here quick. And they're still doing it. There's nothing I can do.


TAPPER: And by law, the driver did not have to do anything. He did what he was required to do. Sixty-four-year-old John Moody was about to require. He says he was too squared to get involved physically.


MOODY: The three boys just jumped on him and stopped pounding on him. I did all I can. I was looking, it was like I was in shock, I was petrified. I wanted to help him so bad, I wanted to help him so bad, I wanted to help him.


TAPPER: Police say there was a chance for Moody to intervene or check on the victim, but he did not. The three 15-year-olds have been charged with assault. And tune in to Piers Morgan tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. John Moody, the bus driver, will be his guest.

Let's check in our political panel, where none other than Ana Navarro, one of the most influential women in the GOP, according to "Newsmax" magazine, is waiting in the wings.

Ana, does the honor come with any perks at all?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, Jake, I think it's almost like being picked as the 50 most beautiful people by "The Hill" newspaper. Did you still have to take the garbage out the next day?

TAPPER: I don't know who you're talking about.

NAVARRO: Wait, wait, Ron Brownstein wants to qualify, so I'm giving it to him.

TAPPER: I'm sorry, senator, I don't recollect what you're talking about.

Stick around. The politics lead is coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The sports lead, the same day he was ready to go back into the Yankees line up, A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez, is slapped with a ban through next season, but you still may see him in pin stripes on the field tonight.

The politics lead, who is the fairest one of all? Politicians rated on a scale from frozen pizza to Tabasco sauce. Who takes the title for hottest politician in the land?

And the pop lead, the same year that "Jaws the Revenge" made sharks look as scary as goldfish, the Discovery Channel made us terrified again by premiering Shark Week. It's 26 years later and TV event is bigger than ever. Why are we so captivated by these killers of the sea?