tv The Situation Room CNN January 15, 2014 2:00pm-3:29pm PST
he and jason alexander were spotted outside the diner made famous on the tv show. larry david was there too. not clear what the meeting was about but there's speculation they were shooting a super bowl commercial. then again maybe they were just new yorking on the big salad. i wonder who paid. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." breaking news. fingers on the buttons could destroy the world, but dozens of nuclear missile launch officers in the united states are caught cheating on a test of their competency. also, a stunning report on benghazi says the attack that killed four americans was, quote, likely preventable. i'll spoke with the senate intelligence committee chair dianne feinstein. 100,000 computers implanted with spy devices that can be activated even when the users r aren't online. the latest revelations about nsa
surveillance. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." a new scandal to hit the united states air force. the pog says almost three dozen nuclear missile launch officers were involved in cheating on a proficiency test. it's but the late nest a series of embarrassments for the u.s. air force and its nuclear units. let's bring in our new senior white house correspondent joe johns. got a new title but he's still reporting the same ole news. unfortunately, this is a major problem. >> senior washington correspondent, wolf. the air force officers were from the global strike command from the base in montana. the air force says some of them cheated on a proficiency test last august and september. other officers apparently knew about the cheating but didn't stop it or report it. all 34 have been decertified and restricted from missile crew
duty. the cheating involved text messages shared during the exams. here's some of what the air force secretary debra lee james told reporters earlier today. >> this is absolutely unacceptable behavior, and it is completely contrary to our core values in the air force. and as everybody here knows the number one core value for us is integrity. >> and so this is just the latest in a series of scandals involving those watching u.s. nuclear arms. it's pretty well documenteds. an air force major with the service was fired because he was said to have drank too much and gotten into trouble in russia. there's an ongoing investigation into illegal drug possession involving air force personnel, which may have actually opened the door to this cheating probe in the first place. there's also the kals of a navy vice admiral overseeing nuclear weapons who was removed from command after being implicated in a gambling investigation. not an excuse but studies
suggest manning the missiles could be a very lonely isolating job. d.o.d. personnel who deal with the nuclear arsenal can have a litany of problems including burnout, domestic violence, even napping on the job has become an issue. the secretary of defense himself went out to the base in montana earlier this month just to highlight some of those problems. >> to their credit, joe, we're learning about all of this from the department of defense and the u.s. air force. they're not trying to conceal it. >> absolutely. >> this wasn't revealed as a result of great reporting or anything. they told us about this. >> i think it's very notable the level of disclosure you're getting from the department of defense, which we know in some other cases might not have occurred. but they're certainly putting it out there for people to talk act. >> our senior washington correspondent, keep getting confused -- >> it's all good. >> joe johns, congratulations on the new promotions. >> thanks, wolf. >> good to have you always here in "the situation room." the attack that killed four americans at the u.s. mission in
benghazi was, quote, likely preventable. that's the formal conclusion of a bipartisan report released today by the senate intelligence committee. it finds plenty of blame to go around and notes that, get this, 15 people who cooperated with the continuing fbi investigation in libya have already been killed. joining us now the chair of the senate intelligence committee senator dianne feinstein of california. senator, thanks for joining us. >> you're welcome. >> a very important report your committee just released today including that the attacks on the u.s. mission in benghazi were likely preventable, those attacks that killed the u.s. ambassador and three other americans. who should be held responsible for what clearly was a failure? >> well, let me say why the report says they're very likely preventable. and that's because there was adequate intelligence. i personally went through a stack like this of intelligence
that forewarned. and we know there were a number of events, attacks that took place in the six months prior to benghazi. we also know that there was discussion about added security. we know the ambassador did not want added security. we know there were concerns about benghazi. we know there were training camps around that area. and it is something that i think the state department has to really come to grips with and see that we have 285 missions and ems that, in fact, they are secure. now, there's a question of us providing the money for them to do that. but i don't believe that our people should be put in harm's way without adequate security. >> the senator from florida, marco rubio, issued a statement shortly after your report was released saying that his committee, foreign relations committee, should re-examine
former secretary of state hillary clinton's -- what he calls failure to provide adequate security. does the buck stop with her? >> well, let me say this -- and it's interesting that the first thing out of the box is something that's political. there is no evidence that secretary clinton even knew about this. there is an undersecretary for management. there are others that run these facilities, that evaluate these facilities, that make the decisions with respect to security. but for the future, we now know that we have to beef up security and we should do that. and rather than casting recriminations, i think the most constructive thing to do is see that any facilities which need increased security get that increased security. secondly, that we have assets
strategically able to get to a place where we have troubled facilities in time to defend. now, that's difficult to do and it was not possible to do in the case of benghazi. distances were just too great. but one of the things that has transpired, wolf, is the spread of terror. you see it in libya, it's in syria, iraq, mali, the central african republican, it's in somalia, and that's just a few places. >> did al qaeda play a role in foaming or creating or doing anything that resulted in those attacks in benghazi? >> well, groups loosely associate themselves not necessarily with al qaeda in pakistan but loosely. and there are suspects and they are out there, and by name it's another group. but loosely identified with
al qaeda. >> so there was some sort of al qaeda connection. i raise the question because "the new york times" had that long article saying there was no al qaeda connection. >> it dpnds what you're talking about, are you talking act al qaeda in pakistan or other aspects of it? look, it came from a terrorist group. we know there was no demonstration, this was an attack, maybe not well organized by probably 60 or so people. they set about burning the facility, shooting and killing four of our people. and if that they ought to be brought to justice. >> did the anti-muslim video have role in this at all? >> it well might have. it's hard to tell. but our jurisdiction is the intelligence. and i can tell you that the intelligence was there.
it was there for six months, and ongoing and if it was read it should cause people to understand that this is a place that had had minor attacks, two of them, within the six-month period. and there had been other major attacks in the area, and that perhaps our ambassador should not have been there. >> one final question, an important one. iraq seems to be engaging, getting involved right now in real chaos, terrorism. it looks like the whole situation is unfolding there, the fighting between sunnis and shia. what is expected? you've been briefed on the situation in iraq. i'm worried that everything the u.s. tried to achieve there, a stable democratic government, pro american, is on the verge of collapsing into civil war along the lines of what's going on in syria. >> well, it's one of the problems we have. americans wanted out of iraq.
americans want out of afghanistan. we pull out, and others fill the void. and many of them are not good people. if you look at south korea decades after war, we have over 20,000 troops in south korea for protection of south korea. it takes time to make the necessary changes. and i'm not a big fan of mr. malaak i can, but be that as it may, whether the military is as trained, whether counterinsurgency, courant terrorism efforts are as well trained, as they would be if we were still there, i don't know. but it's a great disappointment to see what has happened and i think we have to learn from this. i think we have to learn from this with respect to afghanistan. when we pull out, what is the taliban going to do? is the afghan military
financially going to be able to survive over the next few decades, even the next decade? all questions with difficult answers. >> tough, tough issues. senator, thanks very much for joining us. >> you're very welcome. thank you. >> up next, the stunning new report that nsa is bugging computers around the world. new information coming in. also, never before seen video moments after the crash of that asiana airlines flight. we have new evidence about what killed one passenger who had actually survived the initial impact. that it's given me time toabout reflect on some of life'seen biggest questions. like, if you could save hundreds on car insurance by making one simple call,
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today another new startling bombshell about nsa. >>ing. tens of thousands of computers implanted with spy devices that can be activated even when the targeted users aren't online. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto has been looking into this story for us. it is pretty amazing the technological capabilities. >> no question. another powerful tool in the nsa's arsenal arguably right out of the movies. we've heard how the nsa can already access massive amount ls of data via phone lines and internet connections, but it can now do so even with computers not connected to the internet. already monitoring telephone lines and the internet, according to "the new york times," the nsa has now bugged 100,000 computers around the world. the secret technology used only
overseas, says the nsa, gives the agency the ability to monitor machines and use them to launch a cyberattack. and the nsa can access them even if they aren't connected to the internet using radio waves transmitted by guys secretly inserted into the computers. >> why are the doors open? >> reporter: it's a technology that could be straight out of a james bond film. >> can someone tell me how it got into our systems? >> people believe that an air gap is the best defense. if you're not connected to the internet, nobody can get to you. this shows that that's not true. >> reporter: these revelations come as the president is said to announce reforms to the nsa's powers on friday. the headline, bulk collection of phone meta data will likely continue, though with additional safeguards. the president will appoint a public advocate to take part in a secret foreign surveillance corp. he will also set limits on spying on foreign leaders and
negotiate agreements with allies on what surveillance is acceptable and what is not. senator bernie sanders says the reforms don't do nearly enough. >> i think what we have to do is to make sure that at a time of exploding technology that we figure out ways to mick sure a that the government does not know about all of your phone calls, your e-mails, the websites. >> reporter: it was nsa leaker edward snowden who brought the nsa surveillance powers into the open. >> end mass surveillance. >> reporter: and a new poll by quinnipiac university shows that most americans consider him more of a whistle-blower than a traitor by 57% to 34%. the president's review panel recommended some 46 reforms to nsa intelligence gathering. it's becoming clear the president will not accept many of them, but this is not the final word. he may turn to congress for further guidance and there are
members of congress who have introduced legislation proposing new further guidelines on mass bulk collection. >> the technological capabilities really are amazing. look into that, amazing what they can do. jim sciutto, thanks very much. while russia has welcomed the nsa leaker edward snowden, it has expelled an american journalist and author who's been critical of president vladimir putin. david sadler is a former correspondent for "the new york times" and recently advising u.s. broadcasters, radio europe and radio liberty and joins us from london. you wrote a powerful article in "the wall street journal" today among other thing, david, writing, "the russian decision to declare me persona non grata is more than an action against the single journalist. it is an an admission that the system under president vladimir putin cannot tolerate free speech even in the kis of foreign correspondents." you say this is an ominous sign, even though you're the first american journalist expelled from russia in a long, long
time. >> reporter: that's absolutely true. as far as i know the first since the cold war but it's an ominous sign because even the em pullinpul expulsion of one journalist is a warning to all journalists. it's encouraged to create a psychology in which people feel there are some subjects which they can't raise. and russia is a country that has a lot of secrets. >> the russians claim that you're to blame for your expulsion because you waited five days to renew your visa, get a multiple entry visa. they say that you didn't follow the rules and that's why you no longer are welcome there. to that, you say? >> reporter: to say they can say anything they want. the document i needed in order to get a visa was not give on the me. they told me that there were
some problems. they would give it to me in a couple of days and that i could take it later. i couldn't get the visa without that document. they sat on it. so it was a situation they created themselves specifically to have an excuse, something that they could say in order to confuse opinion in the world once the news got out that they had expelled me. the real reason for the expulsion, though, was oak plained to me in kiev a diplomat in the russian embassy there read a statement to me and that statement said that the competent organs, which is the phrase that's used in russia for the security police, for the fsb, have determined that your presence on the territory of the russian federation is undesirable and you're banned from entering russia. that was the real reason.
in other words, i was excluded from the country at the demand of the fsb. that is all stuff about visa deadlines, that's all a pretense that they created so that they can have something with which to confuse people after the fact. >> i was surprised they did this to you on the eve of the sochi winter olympics. they've been take some steps to show that they're a little bit more open, a little bit more moderate, and all of a sudden they expel you. does that suggest they're about to engage in a more serious crackdown on foreign correspondents? >> i think it's probably more selective than that. think there are certain people they don't want in russia at this time. i think that the topics that need to be raised in russia are going to be raised by very, very
few people. and the russians are aware of who those might be. >> you're not going to be one of them because you won't be in russia. thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, the new jersey lawmakers naming a tough former prosecutor to lead their investigation of the traffic scandal tied to aides of the governor chris christie. plus, crash scene video. new evidence that emergency crews saw a plane crash survivor on the ground before she was run over by a fire truck and killed. stay with us.
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the new jersey assembly today named a special council to investigate the traffic scandal linked to aides and appointees of the governor, chris christie. the former assistant attorney was the prosecution in the trials of rod blagojevich. our chief national correspondent john king has been tracking the story for us. what do we know about this new prosecutor? >> experience, wolf. that's why he was picked for this job. as you noted he was twice the prosecutor who brought rod blagojevich to trial, known as someone who is calm, persistent, and understands how governor's offices work, how political staffs organize and communicate, and someone known as a document chaser. he's also worked on some terrorism cases including in one case prosecuting two men accused of cooperating with hamas in which he convinced the israeli government to allow some of their most highly classified intelligence agents to testify in the trial. so he's known for handling sensitive information, known for being a digger. this is a serious move by the new jersey assembly. >> blagojevich is in jail as we
speak. so how fast will this current investigation basically kick into high gear? >> it will kick into high gear as early as tomorrow and then the question is how long will it last. i say as early as tomorrow because i'm told at least a half dozen of the governor christie's inner circle are on the list of official who is will get subpoenas. not all of them perhaps tomorrow but beginning tomorrow some will start to get subpoenas. the special prosecutor and his newly formed committee will also issue a prod request for documents from the new york, new jersey port authority and from governor krissy and his inner circle. documents they want to collect over the coming weeks and months, then bring many the witnesses to ask them act those documents. the assembly will pass the resolution, i have a copy here, authorizing this investigation tomorrow. it gives this committee and prosecutor very, very broad powers. and get this -- the committee will be in place if necessary through january 2016. so if it takes a while, they have e a while. >> they certainly do. presumably have access to all of the governor's e-mail, text messages and all that.
thanks, john, for that. so how worried should chris christie be? let's discuss with our chief political analyst gloria borger, peter bider of the atlantic along with our cnn comment tay or of "the new york times," columnist ross dove. he's going to florida this weekend, chris christie, to do some fund-raising, campaigning for republican governors. he's chair of the republican governors association. how does this embarrassment hurt him in the nature of this other role that he plays? >> what's interesting, a lot of people are talking about, you know, does this hurt him in iowa and south carolina in 2016. the real issue is right now politically. does it hurt him with the kind of donors and operatives he needs to woo in order to set up a presidential campaign, because as we know so much of what matters in presidential politics happens in an invisible primary that takes place before any delegates are picked or votes are cast. that's the danger for him right now. in the bigger picture it really all comes down to whether he
actually had any involvement. if he did, then his political career is basically finished. if he didn't, this is a survivalable scandable scandal. >> you wrote a column, gloria, on cnn.com. "you don't get elected to any office in this country, much less president of the united states, without collating political enemies. the real question is why you consider someone an enemy and then how you deal with it." as you know, part of his appeal has been his openness, his frankness, if you will. how does that play out? >> well, look, you know, here was chris christie's staff, and we're taking the governor's word right now that chris christie had no involvement. there were these democrat mayor who is said by the way we're not going to endorse you, a republican, in your run for the governorship in order to bolster your presidential campaign. as a result of that, we're led to believe they closed a bridge down. okay? which hurt people in the state of new jersey.
that's not very presidential. and i was reminded in talking to a former clinton adviser today, you know, if you covered bill clinton, that the joke inside the clinton white house was the best place to be was a clinton enemy because he would spend all his time trying to convince you that he was right and would take you under his wing and talk to you about the substance of the issue and spend an awful lot of time with you. that wasn't the kind of petty retribution that we saw in this circumstance. >> certainly wasn't. peter, you wrote a piece this week, let me put it on the screen, a line from that article jumped out at me, "the gop today is an awful brand. it's crucial that the next republican presidential nominee possess a personal brand that transcends his or her party's. if a republican wins in 2016 it will be because he or she wins over a significant number of people who dislike the gop." so how does christie fit into
this? >> well, i think christie was by far the best person they had who could have done that. christie had shown he had a reputation for bipartisanship, he had certain important issues like immigration and gay marriage, he had taken a position that was probably more palatable to the kind of voters that republicans need to win. and he had a big personality. he didn't just seem like the next republican in line. and that's why i think that his political wounding, and i think it's certain he's politically wounded even if he survives, is really a danger for the republican party. it's early but when you look at the field, even the ones considered more moderate like jeb bush, i don't see anyone who has the personal brand that can trump the party's weakness in the way that kris christie did. >> it's also he wasn't just another politician. right? if you look at this story, it's not just that he was another politician, it's that his staff was playing really small ball. and that doesn't work when you're looking to sort of get to
a presidential level. that doesn't kind of work. >> right. >> but let me just say, and i agree with everything peter and gloria have said -- >> of course you do. >> of course i do. but you mentioned bill clinton. if you flash back to 1992 to bill clinton's run for president, during the presidential campaign he had -- at a time when the democratic party was nearly in as bad shape as the republican party is now, he had a cascade of scandals. people were saying republicans would open him up like a soft shelled peanut in the general election and in fact he was a masterful politician and was able to come back from that. again, if the scandal is what christie claims it is, which it may not be, but if it is, he's a guy who has sufficient talent and sufficient influence to bounce back. >> let me put a couple poll numbers up on the screen and we'll discuss quickly. this is a new nbc news/marist poll. choice for president 2016. in december, only a month ago, hard to believe, hillary clinton was at 48%, christie 45%, well
within the margin of error. now 50% for hillary clinton, 37% for christie. but take a look at this. does christie come across more as a bully, a strong leader, unsure, 27% say bully, 47% say strong leader, 26% say unsure. these poll numbers, i think they go up and down. but clearly at least in the short run, peter, youl' agree what has happened in new jersey with the george washington bridge scandal has hurt him. >> yeah. it's hurt him. i mean, first of all, and this is a point made by "the washington post" today, it's distraction. he's lost some of his top political adviser who is had to resign. others are very distracted by this. this is the time chris christie should be solidifying his national operation. he's going to go up against a candidate, rand paul, who basically inherits his father's quite serious political operation, already up and running in new hampshire and iowa. i think ross is right that bill
clinton was able to survive in 1992 because he was an incredibly gifted politician. we'll see whether chris christie is good and because he faced a very weak field. the best thing that chris christie may have going for him is it looks like a weak field. >> chris christie is a very good politician too. and nobody wants to see chris christie emerge as a false version of himself. they want to see the truth teller. they want to see the guy who's not just another politician. they want to see the good manager. they want to see how he handles this. and then they'll judge him by that rather than the controversy itself. >> all right. gloria, ross, peter, got to wrap it up there. thanks very much. up next, crash scene video, new evidence that emergency crews saw a plane crash survivor on the ground before she was run over by a fire truck and killed. plus, michelle obama getting very personal in a candid new interview marking her upcoming 50th birthday on friday. we have details of what the first lady is saying about
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never-seen video the surfacing from the asiana airlines crash over the summer and raising more disturbing questions about the death of a teenager who actually survived the impact but died minutes later after a fire truck ran over her. cnn's dan simon is in san francisco and has details. >> reporter: wolf, this was such a heartbreaking revelation. here you had this 16-year-old girl from china who survived the crash only to be killed after getting run over by two fire
trucks. now you have this sid owe and it's raising important questions as to how firefighters made the response. >> whoa, whoa, stop, stop. there's a body right there, right in front of you. >> reporter: chilling new video obtained by cbs news giving us a rare up-close look from a firefighter's helmet cam. >> right through will. >> reporter: the chaotic moments first responders encountered after asiana flight 214 crash landed in san francisco last july. 16-year-old ye meng yuan was accidentally run over twice by fire trucks. her family has since filed a wrongful death claim against the city. in particularly blunt language it accuses first responders of knowingly and deliberately abandoning the teen where they knew she would be in harm's way. >> wait, wait, stop, stop, stop. there's a body right -- there's a body right there. >> all right. >> right in front of you. >> reporter: does the new video prove tragic accident could have
been avoided? there's also this, another camera appears to show a firefighter directing the truck around the victim. >> we're heartbroken. we're in business of saving lives, and many lives were saved that day. >> reporter: this video may be crucial to understanding what happened to yea, who the corone says survived the crash but died from injuries she suffered after being run over. at the time officials say ye's body was obscured by foam and couldn't be seen by the trucks. that combined with the chaos of putting out the fire and rescuing victims. >>ly si will say this -- it was very, very hectic, very emergency mode at the crash site minutes after the airplane came to rest and there was smoke inha major leagues and people were coming out of the fuselage as fast as they could. >> reporter: the spectacular crash of asiana flight 214 was captured on amateur video and on surveillance cameras. the boeing 777 descending too low on landing, crashing into
the seawall and cartwheeling across the runway. tragically claiming the lives of three passengers and e jeking two flight attendants from the aircraft on impact. a court may eventually have to decide whether fire crews in this video were negligent and should be held accountable for the teenager's death. why it took so long for this video to come out is also an important question. the fire department isn't talking about it. they say they don't comment on pending litigation, but at some point, wolf, they'll have to address this issue in a more transparent and clear manner. wolf? >> dan, thanks very much. dan simon reporting from san francisco. just ahead, why some democrats are now actually going out of their way to try to avoid appearing with president obama. what's going on? and the first lady, michelle obama, is she considering, would she ever consider plasting surgery or botox? she was asked about that, talks about that, including her fitness routine. very candid interview on the eve of her 50th birthday.
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comcast nbcuniversal president obama got a warm embrace today from a crowd in north carolina, but some key democrats are actually keeping him at arm's length. our senior white house correspondent brianna keilar has been looking into the story. what's going on? >> reporter: wolf, it's pretty basic politics. in a tough election year you don't want to be too cozy with the president whose popularity is near an all-time low, but that doesn't mean that president obama can't still in some ways help democrats and in turn help himself by keeping them in control of the senate.
a warm welcome for president obama in north carolina today. but noticeably absent -- >> your senator couldn't be here but i wanted to thank her publicly for the great work she's doing. >> reporter: democratic senator kay hagen is facing a tough re-election battle. her office said she stayed in washington because the senate is in washington. republicans balked at that explanation. >> senator hagen conveniently will not be able to be there to stand with the president of her own party, who she has continued to vote with. >> reporter: with president obama's dismal approval ratings, vulnerable democrats, especially in the conservative south, aren't jumping at the chance to be seen with him. >> given what she knows and what the polling is telling her, it is not to her advantage to be seen on stage with barack obama right now. >> reporter: hagen isn't alone, and conservative groups are pouring money into other states as well, like alaska, new
hampshire, arkansas, and louisiana, running ads against democrats who support obamacare. >> those individuals who like the coverage they already have will be able to keep their current plan. >> reporter: senator mary landrieu flew on air force one with obama last november but skipped out on a public appearance at his speech in new orleans. if obamacare is a drag on senate democrats, the president's fund-raising skills are still an asset. >> i give you president barack obama. >> reporter: in 2013 obama headlined eight fund-raisers to bring in the bucks for senate democrats, including this one in atlanta. democratic officials tell cnn they're waiting on requests for him to appear at multiple fund-raisers in this crucial midterm year. >> obama can raise massive amounts of money for these senate campaigns. obama's number-one priority this year is keeping the senate in democratic hands. >> reporter: and to that point, president obama is currently meeting, as we speak, with senate democrats.
they're talking about the agenda for this year, which will include pushing initiatives for the middle class, trying to reduce the income disparity between rich and poor, extending long-term unemployment benefits, and increasing the minimum wage, all part of a messaging idea, wolf, that is going to be the core of the election messages for these vulnerable democrats. >> yep, and there are a budge of those, as you point out, vulnerable democrats. brianna, thanks very much. meanwhile, the first lady, michelle obama, is is about to turn 350, and she's marking the occasion by speaking candidly about health and fitness, plastic surgery, and potentially becoming a grandmother one of these days. cnn's athena jones has details. >> it is truly a pleasure to welcome you all here. >> reporter: first lady michelle obama getting serious about education today at the white house. >> when all of you are out there working to inspire and educate these kids, you're not just building a better future for them and for their families.
you're actually building a better future for our country. >> reporter: and as she turns 50 on friday, she's getting personal with "people" magazine. in an interview, the mom in chief dishes about botox, her workout routine, and her plans after the white house, including becoming a grandmother, someday. a fashion icon -- >> like many of you, i'm not used to people wanting to put things i've worn on display. >> reporter: and perennial cover girl, mrs. obama is a big proponent of healthy eating, who is famous for her fitness. still, the first lady isn't ruling out getting plastic surgery or botox to feel good in the future, saying, "women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves. right now i don't imagine that i would go that route, but i've always learned to never say never." her larger message for women? >> really what we want people to do is educate yourselves. >> reporter: be healthy and don't skip mammograms or pap
smears. "i want to feel good and i want to be as healthy as i can be because i want to be able to enjoy my 70s and here she is doing push-ups with talk show host ellen degeneres. but as she gets older, mrs. obama says she's changing her workout routine, shifting from weight lifting, heavy cardio and running to things like yoga. asked whether she's peaked at 50, mrs. obama joked that being first lady is pretty high up, but went on to say she can't just sit on her talents or blessings. i've got to keep figuring out ways to have an impact, whether as a mother or as a professional or as a mentor to other kids. >> my daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world. >> by the time her family leaves the white house, 15-year-old malia will be in college and sasha, who is now 12, will be just a couple years away from
leaving home. at that point in life, whoa, the sky is the limit. one of her post-white house goals is to help her daughters out with their own kids, eventually. the first lady was already thinking about this milestone last month. >> 50 and fabulous. january 17th. and i'm not exactly sure yet what i'm going to do, but it might involve some dancing. >> after an early celebration in hawaii with oprah winfrey and gayle king, mrs. obama will mark her birthday with a dance party here at the white house. she's told guests to wear comfortable shoes. athena jones, the white house. a rather candid interview with "people" magazine. joining us sandra westphal who completed the interview for "people." were you surprised by her blunt honesty when she said never say never to blastic surgery or
botox? >> ways surprised in the entire interview at how open she was to talking about things that a lot of women would consider deeply personal. even turning 50 is something some women would lie about, but she's really open to girl talk. i think with the idea of reaching women across the country and telling them, you know, life is not downhill after 50, there's still higher peaks to scale. but yes, i have asked other first ladies about plastic surgery in the past and not gotten such an open and candid response. so it was a fun conversation with her. >> talk a little bit more about the change in her exercise routine, a little bit more yoga, what, a little more pilates as opposed a little bit more strenuous exercise, is that right? >> well, you know, it's funny. she, i think, has always had a really hard charging workout. works out with the president every morning. and they're so competitive.
but planning ahead for being a 70-year-old woman, 80-year-old woman who wants to get down on the floor with her grandchildren and still hopscotch and dance, she's focusing more on balance and flexibility because she doesn't want to be one of those old ladies who falls and breaks a hip. she wants to be enjoying her life for a long time to come. >> she's a graduate of harvard law school. do you see a political future for her after the white house? we know another first lady went on to become a senator for new york and eventually ran for the white house. didn't work out. although that former senator became secretary of state and might run again. >> you know, i've interviewed now michelle obama, this is my 12th time talking with her. and i'd take her at her word and from what i know of her, absolutely never. that's one case where she will say never say never. politics is not for her. she's never liked it, although she's good at it. she talked about wanting to be a mentor, wanting to travel,
finally see the hoover dam or hike in the national parks, and she also envisions maybe being a full-time caregiver for her grandchildren, anything but running for office. >> sandra sobirj westphal, thank you very much. look what just arrived at the american museum. this is the dress that the first lady wore to the second inaugural festivities. the gown designed by jason wu will temporarily join the exhibition celebrating its 100th year. be sure to tune in for a friday night special, extraordinary journey, michelle obama turns 50, only here on cnn. coming up, thousands of people of west virginia are now getting the all-clear after last week's chemical spill, but is their water really safe to drink? cnn tested it. we're going to share the results with you. i think our viewers in west
virginia and neighboring states will be interested. you will probably as well. plus, new concerns about america's only prisoner of war, why the u.s. military is now so disturbed by new video of a u.s. soldier abducted by terrorists five years ago. welcome back. how is everything? there's nothing like being your own boss! and my customers are really liking your flat rate shipping. fedex one rate. really makes my life easier. maybe a promotion is in order. good news. i got a new title. and a raise? management couldn't make that happen. [ male announcer ] introducing fedex one rate. simple, flat rate shipping with the reliability of fedex.
he'll start investing early, he'll find some good people to help guide him, and he'll set money aside from his first day of work to his last, which isn't rocket science. it's just common sense. from td ameritrade. crestor got more high-risk patients' bad cholesterol to a goal of under 100. way to go, crestor! yeah! getting to goal is a big deal, especially if you have high cholesterol plus any of these risk factors. because you could be at increased risk for plaque buildup in your arteries over time. so, when diet and exercise aren't enough to lower cholesterol, adding crestor can help. go, crestor! ♪ ♪ oh, yeah [ female announcer ] crestor is not right for everyone, like people with liver disease or women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant. tell your doctor about other medicines you're taking. call your doctor right away if you have muscle pain or weakness, feel unusually tired, have loss of appetite,
upper belly pain, dark urine, or yellowing of skin or eyes. these could be signs of rare but serious side effects. crestor! yes! [ female announcer ] ask your doctor about crestor. if you can't afford your medication, astrazeneca may be able to help. the governor chris christie is a well known fan of fellow new jerseyite bruce springsteen. he makes fun of christie's traffic jam scandal joining jimmy fallon on "late night" with an updated version of his hit "born to run." listen. ♪ governor i want to be your friend ♪ ♪ i'll be no partisan
divisions ♪ ♪ let me wrap my legs around your mighty rims ♪ ♪ and relieve your stressful condition ♪ ♪ stuffed cheek to cheek with blue-collared truckers ♪ ♪ and man, i really got take a leak ♪ ♪ but i can't ♪ i'm stuck in governor christie's fort lee new jersey traffic jam ♪ ♪ ♪ one, two, three, four ♪ the highway's jammed with pissed-off drivers with no place left to go ♪ ♪ and the it went on and on
♪ it was longer than one of my damn shows ♪ ♪ some day governor ♪ i don't know when this will all end ♪ >> what a rendition. by the way, springsteen campaigned for president obama back in 2012 although he did praise governor christie's leadership following superstorm sandy. happening now, testing the water, thousands of west virginians are being told it's safe to turn on the tap again. stand by for the results of cnn's own test for any traces of toxic chemicals. plus, iraq horrors. on a day of exploding violence and bloodshed, the u.s. military investigates some gruesome photos of marines apparently burning bodies. and making up is hard to do. do these warring spouses on screen remind you of anyone? how about members of congress? a divorce lawyer is sharing her secrets to end all the bickering in washington.
we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we begin with west virginia's water disaster. more residents are now being told their tap water is safe to drink again after chemicals spilled into a major water supply. but how safe is it really? cnn put it to the test, and we're revealing the results for the first time right now. our own jean ka scasarez is in virginia. what are you finding out. >> reporter: we just learned about 50% of the people in this area now can use their tap water. but that leaves 50% that are still in the red zone. they can't use their tap water. everybody is testing their water. they're even testing the water in the fire hydrants around here. well, we put it to the test. how safe is really safe? while officials continue to test
the public water supply here in charleston, west virginia, cnn decided to do our own testing with test america, a private company out of ohio. >> i'm going to collect five of these bottles for this particular sample. >> reporter: we wanted to sample water from our hotel where the do not use order has been lifted as well as from the home of t.w. cox, where the ban is still in effect. >> and with no end, looks like, in sight for us out here. >> reporter: both samples were drawn within about an hour of each other. they ran the water for 20 minutes before filling the bottles. lab testing was done overnight with control samples. the result? both samples contained mshm, the chemical which leaked into the water supply out of freedom industry storage tanks last week. but both levels were below the 1 part per million considered safe to drink according to what government officials have said
this week. the hotel in the safe zone contained 0.11 parts per million. and the homeowner's tap water was 0.27. >> it's below the standards. >> reporter: but should there be any of the synthetic substance in the water people drink? federal officials say there are no current drinking water regulations regarding mchm, not because they know it is safe but because it is one of thousands of chemicals that the epa has no authority to fully require testing for safety. >> under normal conditions we'd see none of this contaminant in our drinking water. >> reporter: so even when the state gives him the all-clear, t.w. cox says he may not fully trust what the government is telling him. >> i plan to continue to use bottled water until i feel confident that everything has been resolved. >> reporter: and that homeowner right there doesn't have the
trust because of the leak that affected so many people. and we have just learned and confirmed that last week there was a conversation between mike dorsey, who is one of the heads of west virginia's dep, and the current president of freedom industries. and that president told mike dorsey that there was actually an escrow account that was put together before this happened for $1 million so that that million dollars would be put toward the issues that they had with their containment. wolf? >> jean casarez, thanks very much for that report. when the water ban went into effect last week, about 300,000 people were affected. more than half of them have now been given the green light to turn on the tap. let's talk to one of them right now. crystal good is the mother of three. she's joining us from charleston, west virginia. so what do you think? what are your biggest concerns right now, crystal? >> hi, wolf. well, i mean, the big es concern is that we don't know.
we don't know if -- i mean, certainly the water is turned back on, but there's no guarantee is it safe, is it safe right now? is it safe in the long term? what is this chemical and what is it going to do? >> what about your children? if the government says it's tok drink the water, are you going to start drinking the water? are you going to let your kids drink the water? >> no, i don't think we're drinking the water. right now we're skeptical about taking showers and really putting it back to use. the west virginia water has said that the water is safe to use, but today i know that there's tons of reports that the hospital had people complaining about, you know, diarrhea, burning eyes, lots of issues that are coming into the hospital just today because of use of water use. >> we saw a photo -- and you've seen it as well -- of a bathtub earlier, a couple days ago or so of the water. look at how dirty that water is that came out of that tap. you're not seeing anything along those lines now, though, are you? >> no, that was from the initial
flush. and that's a new word that we're learning here in west virginia. flush. we all had to flush our lines when we got the green light in various zones, which does remind you a bit of "the hunger games." i'm zone one. we flushed two days ago. that's what those bathtub pictures that you saw, the ones that i shared and other people shared, that's what came out. there's some conversation about, well, that's just sediment that was in the pipes. i'm not sure that we really know exactly what that is in those pipes. i'd like to see in tests on what that is coming out also. >> how worried are you about potentially the long-term impact? because you and a lot of other people out there, when you first smelled that water, it smelled like licorice, it was pretty disgusting, wasn't it? >> it is. you know, today is martin luther king's birthday. he says if there's an injustice anywhere, there's an injustice everywhere. i feel there's an injustice going on in west virginia and we don't know the long-term
consequences. this is something in my opinion happened in west virginia but affects all of america. chemicals are stored in every town, every state, everywhere, that it could potentially leak, that they don't have these sheets that everyone is talking about, they haven't been studied, the thousands of chemicals that don't have it. so i have a concern. >> good luck, crystal, crystal good, good luck to you, your kids, everyone in west virginia. we'll continue to watch this story. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> still ahead, cnn is inside iraq right now with the inside story on the worst violence there in years. is there an al qaeda connection? and the pentagon gets a new glimpse of the only u.s. prisoner of war. he looks very different than this after years in captivity. what does it tell us about his condition and is there any hope for his release? [ male announcer ] start the engine... and shift through all eight speeds of a transmission connected to more standard horsepower than its german competitors. and that is the moment that driving the lexus gs will shift your perception.
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right now as though we're seeing a replay of some of ir iraq's darkest days during the war. gruesome wartime photos have surfaced that appear to show u.s. marines burning bodies. cnn's michael holmes is reporting from iraq. but first brian todd with the latest on those disturbing photos. we want to warn you, they're graphic. >> reporter: the deadliest fighting iraq has seen in years. in recent days al qaeda-backed militants have been battling iraqi security forces for control of fallujah and ramadi. this is the territory the u.s. marines fought and dieded to capture during the iraq war. now u.s. officials tell cnn they're investigating these photos taken in 2004. the website tmz published the
photos and turned them over to the pentagon last week. tmz was told they were taken in fallujah. it appears to show u.s. marines burning the bodies of dead iraqi insurgents. in one photo a marine is pouring liquid on a body, the same body in flames and this picture of a marine kneeling next to a skull. there are many more. >> this looks really bad, but we don't know exactly what was happening and we don't know what the circumstances were. >> reporter: u.s. military officials can't tell us what unit these men were in. they're trying to determine their identities. rue says the 2004 fighting in ma loo ja was some of the worst urban combat marines had seen since vietnam. >> they literally had to clear the entire city, house to house. some houses would be empty, some houses would have booby-traps and some houses had three, four, five, ten insurgents inside ready, waiting to fight to the
death. >> reporter: why examine this case now? >> there's certainly a value in our society condemning this kind of conduct and girl the world including the iraqi people an explanation for what we're doing. >> reporter: analysts say it's possible the bodies could have been burned for hygienic purposes, but it's a crime in the military to burn human remains or possess or distribute personal photos of them. still, prosecuting these men will be difficult. >> if they're not still on active duty, then you have really serious issues as to which court, if any, they can be prosecuted in. >> reporter: he says that that is translated to mean that it's not clear if these men could be prosecuted in a civilian court or not. he says there may well be a statute of limitations for these crimes. if there is one, it likely expired a long time ago. >> brian todd reporting. now to the very dangerous situation on the ground in iraq. cnn's michael holmes is joining
us now from baghdad. another brutal, awful day, dozens of people killed, many more injured. michael, what are you seeing on the ground there in the iraqi capital? >> well, since we got here, wolf, it's been apparent that since even my last visit here a couple years ago when the american troops pulled out, there was a lot more visible iraqi security around the place. a lot of checkpoints, a lot of just activity in general. but clearly, as we've seen today an extraordinary day, nine explosions here in the capital, seven of them car bombs, two of them ieds. we've seen a death toll over 60 today, a hundred wounded. clearly all of that security is not stopping the bombs getting in and being placed, although security officials did say today they did stop four bombs before detonation. but obviously the insecurity is trumping the security. >> there's a sense, at least
some analysts saying al qaeda is responsible, although the tensions between the shiite-led government of the prime minister nuri al maliki and the sunni minority, they've been explosive lately and clearly getting worse. >> yeah, and they're linked, really. i mean, this government has been accused really from back in 2006 but onward and upward since then and certainly since the americans left of going against the prom oise of power sharing d inclusion and bringing everyone into the fold. in the eyes of many sunnis have persecuted them as well as shutting them out of things. what that did was provide a fertile breeding ground for the dissent that an organization like al qaeda feeds on. when they were coming back across and forth the border from syria, they were able to find places in anbar province, the sunni province, places like fallujah and ramadi where they found people to be allies of
convenience, if you like, then we've seen this up tick going on from there. the tribes say they'll deal with these guys but only if they do get the inclusiveness they've never had under nuri al malik. >> one of the reasons the u.s. surge in iraq did well is because they paid the tribal leaders a lot of cash and the regime not paying them off the way the u.s. did when the u.s. had troops there. what's the role of iran in all of this? >> i was talking yesterday with the former prime minister who you know iyad allawi. he was the first prime minister of this country after saddam hussein was ousted. i had a conversation with him. and he sees very much the hand of iran pretty much throughout the government. he says they're influencing policy, they're involved in militias, both arms and funding shia militias in this country. and they basically stepped into the void that the u.s. left
along with groups like the al qaeda-linked rebels isis that we've seen active of late. people like mr. allawi are concerned at the iranian influence here and basically stepping into the breach, if you like. the other concern about the u.s., which has been expressed to me multiple occasions, is that the u.s. when they left, they basically dropped the ball on iraq. they did tell al maliki to be inclunsive, but when he wasn't, nothing really happened. people are saying the u.s. has to step in and turn the screws on him and get him to make some real concessions before it's too late. >> the u.s. is not about to send troops back to iraq. so the iraqis can forget about that. the iranians clearly want to consolidate that arc of influence that seems to be developing in their favor from iraq, from iran through iraq to syria and lebanon. we'll see what happens there. michael holmes reporting for us from baghdad. let's turn to a story
reported first on cnn. new video appears to show that the only american prisoner of war in captivity is still alive. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto broke the story. >> reporter: for the first time in three years, evidence abducted army sergeant bowe bergdahl is still alive. the video includes a time reference to december 14th, 2013. it is the first proof of life since a series of tapes released in 2010 and 2011 by the taliban. >> release me, please. i'm begging you. bring me home. please. rt unlike these earlier recordings, these show bergdahl in declining health says a u.s. military official with knowledge of it. bergdahl was captured in june, 2009 and he's believed to be held inside pakistan. today yellow ribbons lined the
streets of his home town hailey, idaho, where his family has been fighting for his return ever since. >> my cell phone is set on afghan time. i might be standing here but i'm living vicariously through my son. i will not leave you on the battlefield. >> reporter: his father made this impassioned video appeal direct to his son's kidnappers. >> to the nation of pakistan, our family would wish to convey our compassionate. >> reporter: u.s. officials say his return is a top priority. u.s. central command keeps a constant reminder of him in its headquarters in florida. >> our hearts today are with the bergdahl family. using our military, intelligence and diplomatic tools, the united states is continuing its strong efforts to secure sergeant bergdahl's safe release. >> reporter: bergdahl is the only american soldier currently in captivity. david rohde captured and held in
2008 while working for "the new york times," stays in touch with bergdahl's family. >> you decide that it's your job to survive, to stay alive and wait and hope there's some kind of resolution to the case. it's absolutely incredible that bowe bergdahl has stayed alive through these 4 1/2 years. >> reporter: his family released a statement this afternoon following our report. saying they've been made aware of the video. they say, quote, as we have done so many times over the past 4 1/2 years we ask his captors to release him safely so that our only son can be reunited with his mother and father. bowe, if you see this, continue to remain strong through patience, they say. your endurance will carry you to the finish line. breathe! i've been to his home town a number of times. my wife grew up nearby there. you see the yellow ribbons on the trees and the notices in the restaurants and the hotels. that town and his family desperate for news of him. the news they want is for him to come home. this is news that at least as of
last month he's still alive. >> let's hope he's home soon. thank you for that update. five years since the miracle on the hudson. now the survivors are reuniting. and lots of lawyers go to capitol hill, but this one specializes in divorce and she's got advice for congress. [ males the cat that drank the milk... [ meows ] ...and let in the dog that woke the man who drove to the control room [ woman ] driverless mode engaged. find parking space. [ woman ] parking space found. [ male announcer ] ...that secured the data that directed the turbines that powered the farm that made the milk that went to the store that reminded the man to buy the milk that was poured by the girl who loved the cat. [ meows ] the internet of everything is changing everything. cisco. tomorrow starts here. bulldog: through monday,
>> we are in the water. >> a u.s. airways plane, you see it right there, it's in the hudson river. it's an airbus a-320. >> five years ago this afternoon, 155 people faced a sudden unexpected challenge. >> all of a sudden the captain came on and said, brace for impact. and that's when we knew we were going down. >> but landing in the hudson only solved the first and biggest problem of the day. we then had to find a way to get 155 people out of the hudson river to safety on a day when the air temperature was 21 degrees, the water was 38. >> numerous people on the wings of the airplane. >> the first new york waterway ferry, we know from watching the surveillance tapes, arrived alongside flight 1549 less than four minutes after we stopped in the hudson. by the time i left the aircraft
as the evacuation was complete, as the last person off the aircraft, the aircraft was surrounded by rescue vessels and the rescue of everyone on board was well under way. we have much to be thankful for, much was saved that day. >> my daughter's name is kay lee elizabeth wentle. she's in bed right now. when i get home i'm going to take my nose and put it by her ear, little warm body, and give her a nice kiss from daddy because i'm alive. >> what an amazing day five years ago today. meanwhile, here in washington, there's an unusual new attempt to break all the partisan gridlock based on the premise that bickering politicians aren't all that different from feuding spouses. our senior congressional correspondent dana bash explains. >> reporter: americans are sick of this kind of fighting in congress. >> the old gop shenanigans. >> the democrats keep stalling.
>> reporter: well, carol bailey came to help. >> i'm a divorce mediator from seattle. >> reporter: yes, a divorce mediator. bailey is convinced skills she learn working for 25 years with warring couples apply to congress. >> the american population is the family, and they're the parents. and they're bickering and fighting and neglecting the family. >> reporter: the seattle-based lawyer came up with ten tips, wrote this pamphlet and flew across the country on her own dime to walk these halls distributing it personally. >> giving this to every member of congress. >> thank you. >> reporter: some of her tips, avoid negative accusations and, to compromise, the views of all sides must be legitimized. >> if you kind of try to cram an agreement down somebody's throat, they're never really going to buy into it. >> reporter: bailey dealt with pretty ugly divorces. not "war of the roses" ugly. >> i just want to smash your face? >> smash my face. >> reporter: but ugly. >> one of the people found out
that the other one had given them a sexually transmitted disease. >> reporter: you're seen able to bring them together? >> i was. >> reporter: one of her lines really stands out. >> rigid principles obstruct problem solving. if this is too subtle for you, then you probably shouldn't be running our country. hi, senator cruz, carol bailey. >> thank you. >> reporter: he happened to run into ted cruz and gave him a pamphlet. we saw him check it out as he walked away. some seemed genuinely enthusiastic. >> i'm going to read this. >> reporter: still, there is a flaw here. in divorce, at one point, the couple came from a place of love. >> right. >> reporter: here, they never loved each other. >> that's true. they never did. but like a couple with a child, they should be motivated to take care of the american family. >> reporter: dana bash, cnn, capitol hill. >> that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. "crossfire" starts