Program note: Tune in tonight at 10pm ET to hear Suzanne Simons discuss the latest in the CIA bombing case.
CNN Executive Producer
Author, Master of War, Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War
The stunning loss of life for the CIA this week in Afghanistan has reverberated through the small, tight-knit community near Langley, Virginia as one would imagine. Current and former Agency officials are meeting the families of the fallen officers at the airport. There will be hugs, expressions of sympathy and gratitude for the sacrifice made, and offers of support in the form of grief counseling. But a loss in this world isn't quite the same as a loss in any other.
Before the bombing on Wednesday, the Agency had lost just four of its own in the past decade. Jeanine Hayden, wife of former CIA Director Michael Hayden explained it to me this way: In this community, if you pass someone on the street, you may not be able to publicly acknowledge them, even if they had experienced the same life-changing loss as you. These people have to come together quietly. It's hard. They do the bulk of their grieving behind closed doors.
Some of the seven killed on Wednesday were parents, some were contractors assigned to work closely with the CIA teams, none were new to the business. With a range of experience from 8-15 years each, they were some of the most knowledgeable professionals on the forefront of gathering intelligence to help penetrate a seemingly impenetrable enemy. It does make you wonder how something like this could have happened. The Agency won't say, which is hardly surprising, but there have been some news reports that the bomber was being recruited as an informant. It wouldn't be tough to imagine that in an area where having good intelligence from local sources who are able to blend in with the local population is critical. The bomber may not have been searched by locals in a formalized procedure, as his identity would need to be protected. Imagine the risks you'd have to take in order to recruit people amongst a population where many would rather see you dead. The exposure is enormous. The results, as in this case, can be devastating.
CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
To understand how the suspect in the botched terror attack was able to board a plane, you have to understand how the counterterrorism system that President Obama says failed is supposed to work.
The president says the clues were there, and that a fuller, clearer picture of 23-year-old Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab would have emerged if all the bits and pieces had been shared and put together.
"The warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America," Obama said.
The president has ordered a top-to-bottom investigation of the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day. The preliminary report is expected Thursday.
One of the key questions is why wasn't the suspect's visa revoked.
The suspect, a Nigerian national, was supposedly on the terrorist watch list. Six weeks ago, his father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son was becoming radicalized and had gone to Yemen.
The father provided the embassy with his son's name, birth date and passport number. That information was sent in a routine, unclassified cable known as a visa VIPER to the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TRAVEL/12/30/airline.terror.scanners/t1larg.scanner.afp.gi.jpg caption="A staff member demonstrates a full body scan at Manchester Airport in the UK" width=300 height=169]
Former Homeland Security Secretary
Since the uncomfortably close attempted attack on Northwest Flight 253 last week, many have focused on why the alleged terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was not placed on a watch list that would have prevented him from flying, even though the government had received information that he was a potential extremist. We should focus on a more fundamental question: How can we keep explosive materials off planes?
Most airport security checkpoints use metal detectors. Al-Qaeda has shown that it knows how to avoid detection by using an explosive device that contains little or no metal, such as PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, used by Abdulmutallab and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in 2001.
During my time as secretary of homeland security, the Transportation Security Administration began working to replace the 1970s-era metal detectors used at airports across America with modern technology able to detect non-metal weapons concealed by terrorists on their bodies - even in their underwear, where Abdulmutallab allegedly hid his bomb. The latest versions of these machines - sometimes called whole-body imagers - are deployed at 19 airports, and the TSA is attempting to place them throughout the nation.
From the onset, deployment of the machines has been vigorously opposed by some groups. In June, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent the TSA from using the new systems in most cases. If the House bill were to become law, the TSA would be limited to using the new technology only after a passenger had been selected for additional scrutiny.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/31/abdulmutallab.terror.radical.cleric/story.suspect.air.usm.jpg caption="Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab appears to have had contact with radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki." width=300 height=169]
Tonight on 360°, we have new information about how the accused Christmas airline bomber may have become radicalized and the missed signals leading up to the attack.
We've put together a timeline that will show you the transformation of the alleged "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, from a man of privilege living in Nigeria to one accused of trying to carrying out an attack in the skies over Detroit.
AbdulMutallab appears to have had direct contacts with radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN.
al-Awlaki's name may sound familiar. He's also believed to have exchanged e-mails with none other than
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood killer.
We'll also take you to Afghanistan where investigators are trying to figure out what led to a suicide bombing that killed seven employees of the CIA.
It happened at a remote CIA base, surrounded by a watchtower, barricades and barbed wire. So how did a suicide bomber get inside, wearing a vest full of explosives? We're keeping them honest.
The war on terror is obviously a top challenge for Pres. Obama in 2010. We'll dive into that and the other sticky issues he'll face in 2010. We're getting out our crystal ball for a dose of raw politics.
Plus, we hope you enjoyed our New Year's Eve special from Times Square. Anderson will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the celebration he and comedian Kathy Griffin brought you last night from New York City.
We also have our first viral video of 2010. Two words: Monkeys and blueberries.
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. See you then!
We're tracking the clues in the failed Christmas airline bombing plot. Plus, the challenges for Pres. Obama and the country in 2010. And, a behind-the-scenes look at our New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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Legislatures in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico met in 2009, leading to the enactment of 40,697 laws, many of which take effect January 1.
The new laws cover a variety of areas, from texting and tanning beds to human trafficking and seat-belt safety.
New Hampshire, Oregon and Illinois join 16 other states that prohibit motorists from sending text messages while driving.
Gloria Wilhelm fought for the Illinois law after her son, Matt, was struck and killed while he was riding his bike by a driver who was downloading cell phone ring tones.
"These are incredibly selfish and dangerous behaviors," she said.
A new law in Oregon requires children under the age of 16 to wear a seat belt on an all-terrain vehicle or in a car while on public property.
Same-sex couples will be able to marry in New Hampshire beginning January 1 under New Hampshire General Court HB 436, and the state joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing same-sex marriages. In California, SB 54 requires the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states while such marriages were legal in California.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
New Year revelers, many in fancy dress, braved freezing conditions in the River Forth in front of the Forth Rail Bridge during the Loony Dook Swim on January 1, 2010 in South Queensferry in Scotland.
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
Beat 360° Winners:
"Holy ice pops Batman! This water's cold."
Tony, East Brunswick, NJ
"Global warming may have been debated, but this water sure hasn't gotten any warmer!"
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/01/body.scan.image.jpg caption="A passenger's image on a security scan at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport." width=292 height=320]
Rep. Jason Chaffetz
Special to CNN
After a failed Christmas Day terrorist plot on a U.S.-bound international flight, the airline passenger screening process has received heavy scrutiny from the government, the media and the public.
Questions abound about how a Nigerian national who was supposedly on the terrorist "watch list" was able to obtain a visa, fly to the United States and transport explosive materials undetected.
The screening process at U.S. airports has received particular scrutiny in this case - and rightfully so. Whole Body Imaging scanners being tested at many airports have the potential to detect explosives. But these invasive machines perform a virtual strip search, producing detailed images of a passenger's body.
Screeners can literally count the change in a passenger's pocket, see the sweat on his back, and view intimate gender-specific details when looking at the image.
We must carefully consider how to balance safety and security with personal privacy concerns. In the wake of an attempted attack, there is always pressure to surrender more of our liberties in the name of security. It should be our goal to employ technologies that are more effective and less invasive.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/01/obama.latino.town.hall.jpg caption="President Obama addresses a Latino Town Hall meeting while campaigning in 2008."]
Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
It's time again for New Year's resolutions, especially if Congress and the White House really plan to reopen the explosive immigration debate in 2010. Whether or not they do depends on which part of the political carnival you're looking at.
This week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Obama administration is discreetly laying the groundwork to tackle immigration reform early next year.
According to the article, senior White House aides have privately assured Latino immigration activists that President Obama will throw his support behind legislation in Congress to provide a path to earned legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States.
But last week, the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has been offering some private assurances of her own. Pelosi, the article says, has told fellow Democrats not to worry about having to address immigration reform until the Senate acts first.
By passing the buck to "the world's greatest deliberative body," Pelosi is probably hoping that deliberation will become dithering and delay. Then the House can duck the volatile issue altogether. It's the politics of self-preservation. Concerned that voters would react negatively to any talk of legalizing millions of illegal immigrants, Pelosi is obviously trying to preserve her job by protecting vulnerable Democrats.