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Panetta Book Makes Waves; New Search for MH370; Brits Arrest 4 in Terror Attack Plan

Aired October 7, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Leon Panetta's new book is a little bit critical of his old boss. Actually, more than a little bit. It is making waves in Washington and beyond.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I hadn't picked up on that. With the midterms so close, the balance of power in the Senate at stake, Republicans are clearly no doubt happy to hear this. Take a listen.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY & FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The first four years, and the time I spent there, I thought he was a strong leader on security issues. But these last two years I think he kind of lost his way. It's been a mixed message, a little ambivalence in trying to approach these issues and trying to clarify what the role of this country is all about.


PEREIRA: Republicans already seizing on the comments saying if they want to criticize the president all they have to do now is simply quote Panetta.

BERMAN: We're going to talk about the political fallout of all of this. Joining us here in New York, Eric Cantor's former deputy chief of staff, Doug Heye; also our CNN political commentator and democratic strategist, Donna Brazile.

You are here so you get the first scathing question, Doug. As a former Congressional staffer, you are outraged at the disloyalty of writing a book about a former boss. You would never do that. You always think it's a bad idea.

DOUG HEYE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR ERIC CANTOR: I haven't gotten many proposals for my memoirs yet, but if they come they would be challenges about what went wrong. We see this problem in any administration. Both George Bushes had this problem. Ronald Reagan had this problem. George Bush and Bill Clinton had this problem. So when these things come out, it's tough for the administration to push back because you have a voice of credibility and Leon Panetta was voted 100-0 to be defense secretary.

PEREIRA: Donna, is there way Democrats can mitigate it? I bet there are a lot of people saying "why couldn't he just wait? Wait? "

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, the book is 512 pages and I'm sure it's a good read because Secretary Panetta says a lot of good things about the president, his strong convictions, his determination to get the economy right so if the Republicans want to cherry pick through book and find sentences and quotations they could possibly use in a campaign where they have no issues, no ideas and no brilliance, well, let them have it.

BERMAN: Doug, there is something interesting as you cherry pick through this book as Donna was saying here. Leon Panetta is critical of the president's style in many cases saying he's hesitant, not decisive. Another thing saying he didn't work particularly hard to convince people of his ideas. Now, you worked for Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, they didn't have a good relationship.

HEYE: I would say Capitol Hill doesn't have a good relationship with the president.

BERMAN: But did you feel as if the president was weak and you could just run all over him? Which is essentially what Leon Panetta is saying.

HEYE: Here's where I thought there was a weakness. September of last year the president came to Speaker Boehner, then majority leader Cantor and said "I need your backing for a vote for authorization in Syria." They stuck their necks out with their own conference and said "we'll back you on a vote." The president then walked away from a vote but we didn't find out about it until the media called us and said "they don't want to vote anymore." it's that kind of thing which breeds a distrust which might have existed anyway on the Republican side but it just further cements that and makes it impossible for folks to try to work together. Especially when there are no relationships, which is a real problem in Washington.

PEREIRA: I was thinking about the relationship angle of this, Donna. If you take him for his word, Leon Panetta also says at some point in the book that this is a chance if the president and vice president want to read this maybe they can right the course and what have you. There's still time left. But if that's the case, why not just go to the Oval Office and share those thoughts? Because people will just say he's just trying to sell books.

BRAZILE: You know, President Obama assembled a team of rivals. He did not assemble a team of loyalists, people who will sit around and basically say, "yeah, you're right, that sounds good, Mr. President." He assembled people like Robert Gates, Panetta, Hillary Clinton, because he wanted people with strong opinions, strong views and also people who knew how to lead. I'm not shocked to read that Secretary Panetta, who has had a stellar career in Washington, D.C., had some disagreements in terms of Syria. It looks as though he agreed with Secretary Clinton on that, that we should have armed the rebels sooner. The president is more deliberate. You know, he's not the kind of person that would like to shoot and think about it. He's someone who prepares himself for these conversations and questions those in the room with him around the table, get the best of their opinions and then he acts in a very decisive manner. That's his style. We can't change his style. Nor can you change my style. I think I'm cool.

BERMAN: You are cool.

PEREIRA: You are cool. No doubt about that.


BRAZILE: I can't change that. But this might be how cool looks. But in his case, I sort of like a leader that has no problem sitting around a table with people who might disagree with him and at the end of the day when it comes to ISIS fighting in the Middle East, we're still doing this fight. So I think we need to figure out how we come together as a country to fight a long range plan. That's another thing that's in the book. I've been cherry picking, too, as you can tell.


BERMAN: Another Washington tradition is to have the books no one reads but talks about at length.


BERMAN: Donna Brazile, you are cool.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Doug Heye you are cool.

HEYE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you can so much for being with us.

Ahead @THISHOUR, a new search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. A new search, but this time the crews will have the most detailed map ever of the seabed where experts think the plane disappeared.


BERMAN: In the underwater search for this jumbo jet. I want to bring in a familiar face. Our safety analyst, David Soucie, a former FAA safety inspector and author of "Why Planes Crash."

David, to misquote a famous question here, why will this search be different than all other searches?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, it's already different than all other searches in that it's taken so long to find it so it's -- this is unprecedented, obviously. It is one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time and I think that now, phase two is starting and we have a much better chance now than we had before of finding the aircraft. PEREIRA: So we have fresh eyes. We know we have new tools, more

sophisticated tools, and probably key -- and you tell me -- is the fact B that this underwater area has been effectively mapped inch by inch. Is that hope for optimism right there?

SOUCIE: Well, it is, but the greatest advantage with having that map is the fact that if you remember with the Bluefin 21, it was only going about one knot, one mile an hour or so at the bottom of the ocean because it didn't know what to anticipate and could have easily run aground being that it's so close to the ground -- to the surface of the earth. So now what this new -- with this new equipment, the echo, it's able to go four knot, which is, knowing what's ahead of it, they can preplan that route. So that it knows where it's going, it knows when to make the moves and that sort of thing so it can go almost four times faster than we were doing with the Bluefin 21.

BERMAN: David, who's paying for this? Is there an argument to make that it's worth it no matter what the cost?

SOUCIE: You know, it's understandable that people are questioning the cost on this, but what I'm asking myself is what's the cost if we don't find it. And you look at the ability for someone to feel confident in their safety, to feel confident that they are safe when they fly on these international flights over long distances into the abyss, knowing that flight is being tracked, knowing the flight is being watched by several sets of eyes other than what's on the aircraft is a confidence builder and Malaysia Airlines have lost so much revenue already and then you look at the airline industry as a whole. It's not just about Malaysia Airlines. Every time there's an accident the entire industry feels the impact of that.

PEREIRA: So give us an idea, because we used to be up on every search and how long it would last and we've probably gotten rusty here. Give us an idea of how this will go. It's new in Bluefin, it's this echo, it can work faster. Will they go out on longer sorties? How will this go? We know it's not conveniently located.

SOUCIE: That's for sure. It's about the most remote place in the world you could possibly so it's interesting. They've come up with a system in which they have a cursory look at the bottom so they pull a towed radar, sonar, that looks at the bottom of the ocean for anomalies, things that are different about the ocean floor that might be pieces of the aircraft. As you can imagine, the bottom of the floor has been there for millions of years so it will tell us if there's something not normal. Once that happens they send the echo down on a pinpointed mission to look at that particular anomaly to determine if it's a rock that has excessive metal content or part of the aircraft. So they will do that. So we're not talking about 23,000 miles at four knots with an echo. We're talking about several ships, three different ships equipped with towed sonar to look for anomalies on this ocean. Then they pinpoint. So I'm much more confident now that this plan, this strategy will yield something.

PEREIRA: All right.

BERMAN: David Soucie, I have a feeling we'll talk to you again on this subject.

Thanks so much, we appreciate.

PEREIRA: It a special broadcast to alert you to. CNN talks about this in "Vanished." You can catch that tonight at 9:00 eastern.

BERMAN: Breaking today, four young men accused of plotting a terror attack. British police rounded these guys up. We'll have detailed about the alleged plot, who the suspects are, what they were up to. One of the guys was tased when they were apprehended. We'll have the details next.


PEREIRA: Breaking news we want to bring you. British police have arrested four people suspected of planning a terror attack.

BERMAN: Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is live in London with some of the details here.

Details hard to come by, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are hard to come by. But what we do know is this is related to Islamist terrorism. That's what the police are saying. They arrested the four men, two of them 20 years old, two of them 21 years old, this morning they say. There have been no photographs that have emerged yet, but the public may have seen this and taken some pictures as it happened, which gives the impression this operation took place in the early hours of the morning.

But there are other indications this is a serious arrest. Counterterrorism police involved but also the armed police were involved here, a special unit in London. That's out of the ordinary. These men are arrested on suspicion of preparation or commissioning or instigation of an act of terrorism. So, again, it gives that impression that potentially there was an operation or a plot under way. One of the men was tasered as the arrest took place. He was uninjured. But, again, in U.K. terms, this is a significant event.

PEREIRA: This is on the heels of nine others being arrested two weeks ago in the U.K., also on suspicion of terror offenses. Give us an idea of how the Brits are so tight-lipped about all of this?

ROBERTSON: Traditionally, they have been. One of the things that amazed me covering the attacks on the London underground and bus network back in 2005 was the fact that we got most of our information from sources in the United States and not the U.K., which really gives you that idea that the police here really when they want to shut down information, they shut it down. The government here is not saying anything. The front office is not saying anything. We don't know if these men were British nationals, or if they lived in London were passing through. We don't know if they've been to the Middle East. The terror threat level being raised in recent weeks to potentially a high level. So the concern potentially here is these men were involved in a current and active plot. How long have these men been watched by the police? These are details we don't have. But the fact -- we have to stress this -- when you have armed police on an operation like this and no photographs so far from the public who may have seen it, this is -- for the police, this is a serious event.

BERMAN: Perhaps they didn't go down without a fight either. If one of guys was tased, that's interesting in and of itself.

Nic Robertson, important information. I know more will be coming. Thanks so much.

PEREIRA: Stay with CNN for sure.

Ahead, she planned on being an astronaut and then took a bit of a turn in her career to the racetrack, now breaking barriers as a Latina woman in a man's world. Her inspiring story is ahead.


PEREIRA: We've been hearing a lot about the jobs under the STEM title. I'd like to introduce you to Alba Colon, a young woman who got a degree in mechanical engineering. She is in charge of Chevy racing's engineering program. Check her out.


PEREIRA (voice-over): As a young girl in Puerto Rico, Alba Colon's head was in the stars.

ALBA COLON, DIRECTOR, CHEVY RACING ENGINEERING: I remember in fifth grade, we studied a lot about when the man went to the moon. That grabbed my attention. When I saw sally white, it became an inspiration for me. I wanted to be the first Hispanic woman to do that. But my dream got deviated and I decided to fall in love with vehicles.

PEREIRA: she's now lead engineer for Chevy racing. But she remembers a time when teams didn't have engineers at all. Colon is a Latina woman in a white man's world. But she says that's all changing.

COLON: Maybe at first when I came to the sport, the guys were like, oh, there's a woman, what does she know? But I have worked hard and gained their respect.

DALE EARNHARDT JR, NASCAR DRIVER: Her and the whole team my dad drove for were all great friends. She was the one person out of the Chevy group that they respected and really appreciated what she did for the race teams.

UNIDENTIFIED RACE DRIVER: It's most important when we have a car change or a rules change, she fights really hard for all of our teams.

PEREIRA: Colon knows her role is much bigger than just getting her teams to the victory lane.

COLON: I never had the opportunity to meet another woman who was an engineer. When you're a role model, it's a big responsibility for us. We have been very fortunate to have a great career that we pass along our knowledge and enthusiasm.


PEREIRA: Blazing trails for future engineers and women and girls. I think that's fantastic.

BERMAN: When I hit the racetrack, I want her on me team.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: We're going to leave you with a smile. This is a very special walk down the aisle for a bride in Iowa. 26-year-old Gina Japanloni (ph) is paralyzed from the waste down following a car accident six years ago, but she underwent intensive therapy for several months learning how to use a brace specially designed to go under her wedding dress. She wanted to fulfill her childhood dream of walking down the aisle with her father. Just look at that.

PEREIRA: You know there was not a dry eye that day.

BERMAN: What a nice surprise.

PEREIRA: What a beautiful gift that she gave herself and her family and her dad there. So proud.

BERMAN: Nice cowboy hats. Look at the hats on the dudes at that wedding.

PEREIRA: I know. Impressive.

We'll wrap it up here. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.