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Soldiers Remains Arrive at Dover; Budget Showdown Continues; Debt Ceiling Looms; Some in GOP Downplay Default; U.S. Forces Can Go After Suspects in Libya; Passengers Makes Emergency Landing

Aired October 9, 2013 - 12:30   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: OK, this is the ceremony. Just as a reminder, this is for Private, First Class, Cody Patterson, just 24- years-old, a Ranger, too, based out of Fort Benning, killed in Afghanistan.

Two of the four soldiers coming back today were actually killed by an IED during combat operations on Sunday.

Obviously, a very emotional time for families there waiting for these bodies to come back.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And what you saw as well, entering the aircraft there, of course, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who was leading the troops there, and this is one of the ceremonies when the cargo jet arrives with the remains. They are called transfer caskets.

They are met by military officials and the family members, and you have service members who wear white gloves to carry in the coffins that are covered with the flags to a white van that takes them to the armed forces medical examiner.

I want to bring in our Barbara Starr who covers the Pentagon to walk us through what we are watching here, what we're seeing, what this ceremony, this sacred ceremony, means for the families of those who are slain.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This means everything. This means everything to the families of the fallen.

It means everything to the veterans who send their fallen comrades back home on these aircraft.

This is the chance for the families, of course, to travel to Dover Air Force Base and meet their loved ones the minute that transfer casket comes to U.S. soil.

Secretary Hagel going to Dover today, of course, amid the political controversy about death benefits not being paid during the government shutdown, veterans disability benefits being delayed during the shutdown.

But I think it's very important at this moment to put a human face on all of this. Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, this man still carries shrapnel in his chest.

He has buried friends for years and had his own friends in Vietnam not come home. This is a very emotional moment for him, but something he very much wanted to do.

He is very understanding of the message he is sending by allowing this to be filmed.

What you are not seeing on this camera angle, of course, are the family members of the fallen who are standing, as we see those transfer caskets begin to be taken off the plane.

We are not allowed, of course, to intrude on their privacy. They stand in a particular spot that our cameras cannot see for their moment of very private grief.

We've seen the president travel to Dover. This will be a very solemn moment. You are about to see these transfer caskets.

You are about to see the flag-draped caskets come off the plane and honors be rendered to these fallen.

HOLMES: And just a reminder, too, this is Cody Patterson, private, first class. It was his second deployment to Afghanistan, just to put a name to this ceremony.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart. Let's listen.

HOLMES: Very solemn moment. Very, very solemn moment.

That's the Private, First Class, Cody J. Patterson, just 24-years-old, second deployment to Afghanistan, killed on Sunday, his body being returned home.

MALVEAUX: A rare moment to actually get to see this because this is something that the family had agreed to, as one of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the weekend.

But this family felt very -- that it was important that you see that ceremony.

I want to bring in Athena Jones who is covering this. And explain why it is that they wanted, the country, the world to see their son, their loved one, brought home in this way.


Sometimes families allow this to be filmed so that they can share this moment with the country.

This is a moment, a solemn ceremony, you mentioned, to honor these fallen service members, and so they allowed our cameras to capture that moment. And that's what we're able to see here.

It's never a happy time, of course, but these families come out and are able to greet their loved ones as soon as they get back on U.S. soil.

Now, you see in some of these pictures that I believe are still being shown of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who's here, as well as the secretary of the Army, John McHugh, and General Ray Odierno, who's the Army chief of staff. They've all gathered here today for this ceremony.

You can see the teams that will be carrying out the flag-draped coffins. The military calls them transfer cases. Those will be transferred to vehicles that will take them to an area to be prepared for burial.

This is one of those very sad ceremonies, again, meant to honor these fallen service members.

And this comes at a time when these same service members' families are facing this unbearable loss. They are also facing the fact that they are not getting paid the military -- the death benefits that the Pentagon makes available to these military families when they lose someone supporting combat operations.

Those benefits include a hundred thousand dollars that goes to the family within three days of their family member being killed, as well as money to pay for burial expenses, travel expenses.

Now we know that a group called the Fisher House that serves veterans has stepped in to help pay for some of these families to be here while this is all being sorted out, the fact that this shutdown is keeping the benefits from being paid out.

Fisher House says they will work with the families to be paid back once it's all sorted. But this is, again, one of those rare moments to see family members greet their fallen loved ones.

Suzanne and Michael?

HOLMES: Athena Jones, thanks so much.

And, you know, I mentioned this before, and I have to say that one of -- I've spent a lot of time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one of the most emotional things I saw was at Kandahar Air Force Base -- KAF, as it's know -- and just happened to be there waiting for a ride back to Kabul with the U.S. military.

And one of these ramp ceremonies where they put the body onto the plane to bring it back to the United States happened in front of me, and it was one of the more emotional things I've ever seen.

And at the Kandahar Air Force Base you had Australians, Canadians, about five other nationalities all honoring this U.S. soldier as he was put onto this plane and began the journey back home.

They take the upmost respect for these young men and women when they come back, and one of these people coming back today is a woman as well.

MALVEAUX: They are brothers, sisters in combat, and clearly deserve the very best.

HOLMES: Yeah, absolutely.

We'll be right back.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Michael.


MALVEAUX: Day nine in the partial government shutdown, still no compromise in sight for a budget bill.

House Speaker John Boehner spoke just a couple of minutes ago. Here's how he put it.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Been pretty clear, we want to reopen our government and provide fairness to all Americans under the president's healthcare law.

You know, the law had a big rollout last week, but it's been called, quote, "an inexcusable mess," "a rolling calamity."

Consumers face dramatically higher rates. Many remain locked out. They are surprised their premiums went up.

Instead of making it easier for people to get health insurance, it's going to be a lot tougher.

What a train wreck. How can we tax people for not buying a product from a Web site that doesn't work?

How can you give big businesses a tax break and leave hardworking families out in the cold?

This is why we need to sit down and have a conversation about the big challenges that face our --


MALVEAUX: All right, we'll see if that actually happens.

Nine days into the shutdown, just eight days and counting, this is away from the U.S. government reaching its debt limit, so lawmakers have until October 17th to agree to raise the debt ceiling or risk default.

HOLMES: Yeah, some Republicans are saying, not so fast. They're actually downplaying the impact of a default.

Senator Tom Coburn, for example, blaming the media for sounding the alarm of pending economic doom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SENATOR TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOME: And the problem is, we continue to kick it down the road and pretty soon everything is going to continue as it is until it doesn't.

And when it doesn't, that's when the catastrophe comes, so I'd rather have a managed catastrophe now, which I don't think will be there.

You know, there's the thing that all the media does. They say -- is default equals not raising the debt ceiling.

That's not true. That is not true. Those are two are two different and distinct things.


HOLMES: Which is it? Jeanne Sahadi, following it all from New York.

You know, are Coburn and others the ones in the denial, or is it our fault?

JEANNE SAHADI, SENIOR WRITER, CNN MONEY: The default deniers, as a group, are very much contrary to what the general consensus is if we don't raise the debt ceiling soon.

Independent economists, independent budget experts, independent institutional investors expect no good to come with it. It will be bad for the economy, and it will be bad for markets.

The question is, how bad? We have never willfully defaulted on any of our legal obligations, so no one can truthfully say this is what will happen.

Senator Coburn, though, is correct in that October 17th isn't the day of default, necessarily. It's the date Treasury runs out of accounting maneuvers to keep us below the debt ceiling.

So it's from that point that it will -- Treasury will only have about $30 billion cash on hand, plus whatever gets in in daily revenue.

People say, look, they can probably continue to pay bills for some number of days after that, not too many, though.

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, the Bipartisan Policy Center, they all estimate that the day the Treasury goes short on cash and cannot pay all of its bills will come somewhere between October 22nd and November 1st. So does this by Congress more time past October 17th? Maybe. But why are we going to test the theory? We are the world's largest economy. We are the linchpin of world markets. The U.S. financial system relies on the Treasury market. It's a very risky bet to just push, push, push Treasury to the, you know, to the very edge.

HOLMES: Yes, it's kind of - it's kind of beside the point, in a way, when it comes to the fallout economically and in terms of reputation.

Jeanne Sahadi, thanks very much. SAHADI: Thank you.

HOLMES: Appreciate that.

MALVEAUX: And people are watching around the world. I mean you talk about African nations who depend on, you know, cheap loans. So you're talking all of Europe essentially.

HOLMES: Europe.

MALVEAUX: And China that owns much of the debt here. I mean --

HOLMES: Europe thinks it's a joke.


HOLMES: I've been - you know, and I'm, of course, dealing with a lot of people internationally who look at this and they go, are you kidding? You really run it like this? I'm sorry, that's what they're saying overseas.



MALVEAUX: Yes. Well, we'll see if it -- that actually happens or if they're going to -- we're very close to the cliff here.

American special forces in Libya, they get some different marching orders now for the Libyan government. It changes the way commandos hunt suspected terrorists.

HOLMES: Yes, especially those linked to the deadly attack in Benghazi. We've got full details for you. We are live in Tripoli. That's coming up after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

U.S. special forces in Libya apparently can now go after suspected terrorists linked to the Benghazi attack without having to get direct approval from the Libyan government.

MALVEAUX: So that means if U.S. troops have information about a Benghazi suspect, they can basically plan and execute a mission to capture that suspect. Well, Barbara Starr, she's in Washington. Nic Robertson is in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

And, Barbara, talk a little bit about what this means when you talk about tacit approval.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's put a little meat on these bones for a minute here. What we now know from a senior administration official is some weeks ago the Libyan government, or elements of it, gave the United States tacit approval to go after Benghazi suspects. They also had approval to go after al Libi, the guy they grabbed over the weekend.

What we are talking about is a very sensitive agreement with the Libyans that the U.S. has that they can go in if they have enough information to try and grab one of the people they want. The Libyan government may not know the exact time, date, and place and may not know it very broadly, but there's an agreement that, yes, we understand you are going to come do this.

The thing that's so sensitive right now is the guy that the U.S. probably would like to get the most is a guy named Katalla (ph). He is sort of number one on the list of suspects in that attack on the Benghazi compound last year, the U.S. diplomatic compound, that the U.S. would like to get. He's been openly living in Benghazi. Our own Arwa Damon interviewed him. He's someone the U.S. very much wants to get. Here's the question on the table, though. Now that the al Libi operation from over the weekend has become so public, is there still enough secrecy and stealth involved that the U.S. could mount an operation to get Katalla and to work its way down that list of Benghazi suspects.

HOLMES: And, of course, and Benghazi is no Tripoli, which brings me to you, Nic Robertson. You're there on the ground. I mean if there was tacit approval by the leadership in Libya, we also had the national Congress saying it was a kidnapping and please send him back. All of this speaks to what is really a limited central government in Libya and the role of militias and other interested parties in running the rest of the country. How realistic is tacit approval anyway?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there's a big question over this tacit approval here in Tripoli at the moment, Michael. Talking to people here who would be certainly in inner circles, there's a real question mark about that. We've heard from the justice minister saying that there was information provided immediately after al Libi was picked up, but not before. According to some, there was no request to put al Libi on a list here and he could have been picked up by the Libyan government at any time according to people that I'm talking to.

But, really, this whole question of, has this given Katalla the opportunity to burrow down, get in a cave or wherever (ph), go and hide from capture? That's almost a moot point. The bigger question here politically is one for the United States. At a time when the United States is signing short-range, medium-range, long-term contracts, law enforcement type issues here with the Libyan government, a government it seems to respect and want to do business with, is, if they go after Katalla right now, potentially that could bring this government down.

That's what we're hearing here because certainly going after al Libi has caused a raucous, perhaps not from the people on the street, but politically, that the government's not sure that it can live through and a certain -- a second rather mission into Libya, breaking Libya's national sovereignty, whether or not this tacit approval exists would be very, very difficult, I'm told, for this government to survive politically. And what would be the follow-on option, it would very likely be one of a -- a government of a much more Islamist flavor. And the question people ask me is, is that really what the United States wants as the end game here?



MALVEAUX: A very - very sensitive situation there. Nic Robertson in Tripoli, Barbara Starr, thank you very much. We appreciate that.

Also coming up, a pilot who actually falls ill, gets sick while flying this small plane. Well, a passenger is forced to take over.

HOLMES: He needed a little help, but he did get down on the ground. We'll discuss that, next.


HOLMES: All right. Just imagine this. You're in an airplane, just you and the pilot, and he falls ill.


HOLMES: What are you going to do?

MALVEAUX: That's exactly what happened. You're over the skies of Great Britain. You have to actually head to the nearest airport and it's up to you to take controls, land the plane, something you've never done before.

HOLMES: Yes. This happened, by the way. Erin McLaughlin from London with more.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's every passenger's nightmare. The pilot falls ill and the passenger, who has no idea how to fly the plane, is forced to take the controls. That's exactly what happened to one passenger Tuesday evening in Humberside, England. Two flight instructors were called in to talk the passenger through how to land the two-seater Cessna. Rory Murray (ph) was one of the flight instructors called in to help.

RORY MURRAY, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR: The problem was that I've never - I never flew an airplane. I've flown a Cessna 1724C (ph) before. But like all airplanes and cars, switches are in a different position. And with it being dark, I didn't want the lad to start looking around the cockpit and lose control of the airplane. So, unfortunately, he done a blind landing without any lights in the cockpit. All he had was the glare of the lights of the runway.

MCLAUGHLIN: Witnesses described the landing as heavy but otherwise normal. Murray says he thinks the landing was beautiful. Now, sadly, the pilot later died of his illness. The passenger was fine. Murray and the other flight instructor are being celebrated as local heroes.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.


MALVEAUX: Wow. A pretty amazing story.

HOLMES: It is.


HOLMES: A sad end for the pilot, but at least the passenger managed to get talked down.

All right, now this.


MILEY CYRUS, MUSICIAN (singing): Don't you ever say I just walked away. I will always want you.


MALVEAUX: Really (ph) that's a turn for you. Regardless of what you think about the new Miley Cyrus, (INAUDIBLE) this latest album "Bangerz."

HOLMES: You say it. Go on.

MALVEAUX: "Bangerz."

HOLMES: There you go.

MALVEAUX: Number one on iTunes in 70 countries. This is a big deal.

HOLMES: I had to laugh when I hear this song now with everything that's come by (ph) because of it. There's this wrecking ball, of course. You know, appears nude, rides the wrecking ball. Most viewed video of the year on iTunes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: Things have changed since Disney, don't you think?

HOLMES: She's not Hannah Montana.

MALVEAUX: She's - yes, she's gone (ph).

HOLMES: Most viewed video on iTunes. Come on, people, get a life. That - sorry, I didn't mean that. All you Miley fans who are no doubt watching this program right now - not.

MALVEAUX: Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Wolf Blitzer starts now.

WOLF BLITZER: Thanks very much. And to our viewers, welcome. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

There are meetings today but still no meeting of the minds in the shutdown showdown. This is day nine of the partial government shutdown and we are only eight days away from the debt ceiling deadline. We're waiting for today's White House briefing. It's set to begin. We'll have live coverage. Stand by for that. Reporters coming into the Briefing Room right now. Jay Carney getting ready to answer their questions.

Meanwhile, here's the latest that we have.

President Obama has invited the House Democratic caucus to the White House today. A White House official says other caucuses will be invited in the coming days. CNN's latest tally shows 219 House members would support what's called a continuing resolution to reopen the government with no strings attached. That's two more than the number need, but the measure is unlikely to reach the House floor, at least for now.

Meanwhile, a senior House Republican tells CNN that GOP members may be willing to back a short-term debt ceiling increase if the president agrees to negotiate during that time.