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Clinton Talks Syria; Military Base Security Questioned; Costa Concordia Upright; Navy Yard Reunion

Aired September 17, 2013 - 08:30   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": To punish it on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and compliance.


ZAKARIA: He did not ask Congress - Bill Clinton did not ask Congress for either authorization or approval. But I think he felt that the political circumstances were different for Obama. He put a fair amount of weight on the British issue, which was that Prime Minister Cameron, being rejected, repudiated by his own parliament, and the signal that it would have sent in that context for Obama not to have asked Congress.

I -- you know, what I asked him, which I thought was - I was surprised by - I said to him, so let's play this movie again. And two weeks later, the accord breaks down. The Senate says yes. The House says no. Would -- should President Obama use force? And he said he certainly has the authority to. And he should -- you know, he should keep that option open.

So he's always been a pretty strong presidential power guys, not surprisingly. So it was interesting to hear him say that.

BOLDUAN: Interesting to hear a hugely interesting perspective, obviously, and not the only topic you hit on. I mean we -- we said this at the top, the economy, the state of the Democratic Party and the question of Hillary Clinton in 2016. He could be the first man. There you go.

Fareed, great interview. We'll be looking for much more of that. Thank you so much.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And to remind our viewers, you can see Fareed's full interview with Bill Clinton on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10:00 Eastern and again at 1:00 Eastern. Don't want to miss it.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, it's about time, I guess many people are saying. The Costa Concordia is back above water. The first step in getting the ship away from the Italian coast. It's a sight to be seen. The pictures are coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, September 17th. We're live at the Washington Navy Yard where 12 innocent people were killed in yesterday's shooting. The closer you look at the suspected shooter, the more troubling the picture becomes. At first glance, a mild-mannered man with an interest in Buddhist meditation. But on another level, a past littered with violence and red flags. Now, someone who called the shooter a friend is Kristi Suthamtewakul and we spoke to her earlier on NEW DAY about the man she knew and the changes she saw.


KRISTI SUTHAMTEWAKUL, FRIEND OF AARON ALEXIS: Aaron was a very polite, very friendly man. I got to know him two years ago when he first started helping out at the restaurant. And he just had an excitement for life. But then just learning Thai and just getting involved with the Thai community, with the Buddhist temples down the road. And one of the things he talked about was 9/11 and how he was there and he saw the towers come down from where he was working. I don't know at the time where he was, but he just could not believe -- he and his co- workers at the time were just in shock and disbelief like all Americans that the Twin Towers were no longer there. And he had an anger towards the terrorists who did that and who took innocent people. And I'm just really sad that, first of all, Aaron's gone, but that 12 people -- that he took down 12 people, too, with him.

CUOMO: In your mind -


CUOMO: Do you have any recollection of anything that seemed to change in him? Anything that he was struggling with? Anything that might help explain how he would arrive at the decision to do something so horrible?

SUTHAMTEWAKUL: Well, what I can tell you is that he was to Japan. He was sent on a contractor's job to Japan for a month. And that was from November to December. And he got back and he felt very slighted about his benefits at the time. Financial issues, he wasn't getting paid on time. He wasn't getting paid what he was supposed to be getting paid. That's when I first started hearing statements about how he wanted to move out of America. He was very frustrated with the government and how, as a veteran, he didn't feel like he was getting treated right or fairly.

And then I started to notice some changes in him. Nothing that would alarm me to something of this magnitude, but he started taking food that was mine. And I would address him at certain times, you know, about this. And he would be like, oh, that was yours? Oh, I'm sorry. But then he would still take it. And it wasn't a lot of food, it was just like one or two items here or there.

For July 4th we left our brand new car in the garage. And the garage was closed. He's the only one that has access to it. And we noticed the next day that our car wouldn't work. We had to get it towed. And apparently Honda said that someone had put sugar in the gas tank. And there was only one person that had access to our garage that was still living with us, but I didn't understand why and I still wanted to give him the -- you know, I just was in denial that he would have done that, because he was so polite.


CUOMO: And there were more troubling things as well. Separate incidents in his past involving guns and interactions with the police. More recently, reports that he had sought help for psychological evaluations, hearing voices. So the more you look at this picture, the more questions are raised about how this man got military clearance.

There are often random reasons that we can't control, but this looks like something that we could. So we're going to be asking these questions now. We want to bring in CNN's Barbara Starr, following that part of the story for us. She is live this morning at the Pentagon.



When you look at the issue of security clearances, that terrible question one more time, could something, should something have been done differently?


STARR (voice-over): Heavily armed security personnel swarmed the Washington Navy Yard within minutes of the first shot. It's the deadliest military workplace shooting since the 2009 mass shooting at Ft. Hood that killed 13. Raising questions on how it could have happened yet again at a military installation in the U.S. Navy Commander Tim Jirus saw one worker shot.

CMDR. TIM JIRUS, NAVY YARD SHOOTING WITNESS: I think right now a lot of people are wondering, you know, just how safe the building is or how safe the office environment is.

STARR: Many of the security measures at the Navy Yard are similar to other bases. Captain Mark Vandroff spelled out the security procedures for Wolf Blitzer.

CAPT. MARK VANDROFF, U.S. NAVY: You should present credentials. Your DOD common access card to an armed security guard who then clears you on to the base. Then, to get into building 197, there's armed security at the door of the building.

STARR: Contractors are also scrutinized.

VANDROFF: But you go past armed security guards and then your credentials are computer read and there's a kiosk you go through and it either gives you a green or a red light. But the green light shows that your credentials are recognized as someone who is supposed to be in that building.

STARR: Not clear yet, did the suspect, Aaron Alexis, have wide-ranging access because he was an I.T. contractor? But everyone, including visitors, are subject to random searches. One security expert says, just like Ft. Hood, however, security fundamentally is not likely to change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Security is a balance between total safety and freedom, right? So you have to provide some level in the middle so that people can actually get to work.


STARR: Now, physical security may not quickly change, but the question of contractor access, of contractors and people getting clearances to be on these facilities, a senior defense official tells me Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel undoubtedly will be ordering a review of all of this in the coming days.


CUOMO: Well, and, Barbara, the question of vetting. I mean in the specific, in the micro, you have the question of how he got access into the facility and may have gotten weapons through. But in the macro, the larger question is, how did you let someone like this get security clearance? It wasn't like you missed a needle in a haystack. You missed the whole haystack. So we'll keep asking these questions. Thank you for your reporting this morning, Barbara Starr.

Let's now go back to New York to Michaela for the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Chris, thank you so much.

At number one, a break in the weather expected to help rescue crews in Colorado reach those people still stranded by the flooding. The floods are being blamed now for at least eight deaths.

Police are now searching for a teenage girl who was abducted this morning during a home invasion in Ellenwood, Georgia. Two suspects escaped with this little girl, 14-year-old Ayvani Hope Perez, in a gray Dodge. They are looking for her. If you see her, please contact authorities.

Jerry Sandusky is asking a Pennsylvania appeals court for a new trial. The convicted child molester and former Penn State coach says his defense didn't have enough time to prepare.

World leaders won't be there until next week, but today the U.N. General Assembly opens. Of course, the situation in Syria hanging over this meeting, which is the 68th annual gathering of the U.N.

And at number five, Prince Harry preparing for quite an expedition to the South Pole. So he took part in a cold chamber training exercise to acclimate to the extreme. I don't think we can underscore extreme freezing weather.

We always update those five things to know, so be sure to visit for the very latest.

BOLDUAN: Putting any fall chill into very good perspective.

PEREIRA: Perspective.

BOLDUAN: All right, thanks, Michaela.

PEREIRA: No problem.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, an amazing engineering feat in Italy. The crippled Costa Concordia that sat on its side for 20 months is now fully upright. So, what now? we're live in Tuscany with the details coming up.

Plus, out of tragedy comes some good. A woman reunited with her husband after hours after not knowing if he had survived the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

It is quite a sight to see. The "Costa Concordia" has been hoisted back upright. It took nearly a whole day to get the ship off the sea bed, where it's been -- where it has been since it ran aground off Italy's coast back in January of 2012.

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance was there for the entire operation and has much more on what's ahead.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the very first images of the "Costa Concordia", now upright after an unprecedented operation to lift the crippled cruise liner from its side. Salvage crews worked through the night to hoist the 114,000-ton vessel 20 months after it ran aground off the Italian coast, killing 32 people.

The new images reveal the severe damage half the ship is mangled, a huge bend where it slammed against the rocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a perfect operation, I would say.

CHANCE: The operation took 19 hours in total. A team of engineers monitored every move as the ship emerged from the sea inch-by-inch. Onlookers could measure the progress made by the line of scam embedded in the water logged Concordia's side. The $800 million salvage operation effort took much longer than expected, first delayed when a violent electrical storm battered the island.

By midday onlookers didn't see much progress. But under water, a major milestone, the ship was finally wrenched free from the granite seabed and moved on to six underwater steel platforms.

After 10 hours, the crippled ship had edged upward by only 13 degrees. But in the wee hours, all moved swiftly, according to plan and despite the painstakingly slow removal procedure, the people of Giglio waking up relieved that the deteriorating vessel is once again floating and will soon be taken away.

FRANCO PORCELLACCHIA, HEAD OF TECHNICAL TEAM, COSTA CONCORDIA: To a little struggle, a bit of a roller coaster. But yes, I mean for the whole team it's fantastic that it worked just like they said it would work. It's time for our bed.


BOLDUAN: I would say so. Quite a remarkable sight. Matthew Chance, thank you for that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY fear turns to joy as a husband and wife are finally reunited after the Washington Navy Yard shooting. Details on that, ahead.


CUOMO: Now obviously Kate what we're going to be focusing on down here is the rest of the names of the victim's families and finding out how the survivors are doing as we learned this morning. Those who managed to escape the building doesn't mean that they escaped unscathed.

It's going to be difficult for people to move on in the coming days and the city of D.C. here is going to honor those who lost their lives and help those who made it cope going forward.

The big questions, however, remain. How this man, the suspected shooter got clearance. All the violence in his past; things that could have been flagged. The most recent stays that he had, reaching out to the VA for help with psychological issues multiple times in different states, he did that. Yet all of it missed, leading to the horrible things yesterday.

Now in the midst of all these terrible things that happened here there were those who made it through. There are those who survived even when everything seemed at their darkest. Even then, there was still hope for people in the end. And that's why there was even some good stuff with everything that happened here yesterday.

Here is one story.


CUOMO (voice-over): Jacqueline Allston spent agonizing hours not knowing whether her long-time love was dead or alive.

JACQUELINE ALLSTON, PARTNER SURVIVED SHOOTING: Right now I'm asking God to let me hear that voice. Let me see that man.

CUOMO: You haven't heard from him?

ALLSTON: I haven't heard from him. CUOMO: Jacqueline's partner of 18 years, Ernest, affectionately called "Buster", works as a janitor in Building 197 on the fourth floor. The moment she learned of the shooting, she rushed to Lot B, a garage at National Stadium crowded with family members and friends desperately seeking any information. But to her dismay no word.

ALLSTON: All I know is I'm told be patient, which I am trying to hold on, you all, being patient and understanding and ask God, what created this problem.

CUOMO: So she went home to wait. In the meantime, CNN tracked down Ernest's employer, who confirmed he was on lockdown, but safe. We called Jacqueline to give her the good news.

ALLSTON: Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: Jacqueline quickly relayed it to family and friends.

ALLSTON: I'm on my way to get Buster right now and bring Buster home.

CUOMO: On this day of tragedy, a joyful end for one lucky couple.

ALLSTON: I'm so glad that my man is ok. I know God answers prayers. Just thank you. Thank you for being my support unit. Ok? God bless all of you.



CUOMO: All right. For us down here in Washington, D.C., that's it for NEW DAY for right now. But our coverage is going to continue here on CNN. I want to give it right over to Carol Costello and John Berman -- guys?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks you, Chris Cuomo. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning and welcome to this special edition of NEWSROOM from the United States Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., I'm Carol Costello.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. This hour we will walk you through what happened here. The latest details to emerge from the deadly rampage that happened really just a few blocks behind where we're standing and the questions that so many people want answered this morning. How did a man with a violent past get past security, have clearance into such a sensitive military site?

But first, before we get to that, here is what we know this morning. Aaron Alexis was 34 years old. He was a former full-time Navy Reservist. A couple of years ago, he was discharged from the military. It was an honorable discharge. However, there had been a past pattern of misconduct. We're told he also had an explosive temper.

COSTELLO: He certainly did and he had at least two run-ins with police over gun violence. Yet he managed to land a job as an IT contractor with "The Experts", that's what the company is called, connected to HP. He receives security clearance to work at several Navy sites over the summer so he legally entered the Navy Yard complex where he started work just last week.

He made his way to the fourth floor of Building 197 and he opened fire. People in the Atrium and in the open hallways were easy targets.

Those who knew Aaron Alexis say he was often a contradiction, sweet and smiling much of the time as we see I these photos but also prone to angry outbursts. He was also very friendly but even friends say he could be overly aggressive, especially when dealing with female diners where he sometimes moonlighted for tips.

CNN's Pamela Brown is digging into his background. She has some new information this morning on possible psychological issues.