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Fed Up with Washington; Pushing for Reform; Rallying for Reform; ACORN Workers Fired Over Tape; Missing Without a Trace

Aired September 12, 2009 - 17:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Power to the people: thousands descend on the nation'a capital, unhappy with the president, fed up with the government, sick of current health care proposals. We're live at Tea Time.

At it again: but this time, ACORN is in hotter water than it's ever been, with accusations of promoting prostitution and tax evasion all caught on tape. Our Special Investigations Unit is uncovering more.

The water's edge: it is getting higher and higher in Turkey. Hundreds are trapped in the worst flooding there in nearly a century. It is not over yet. Our Jacqui Jeras will walk us through it.

Open house: the First Family's Chicago neighbors are moving out. Why? And can they sell in this envoironment? We're giving you a personal tour.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN Headquarters in Atlanta.

We're going to give you some live pictures now of the nation's capital where huge crowds gather there. They are leaving now, but they say they're not done with big demonstrations like this one - the big Tea Parties. We'll go live to Washington in just a moment.

But, first, we have some breaking news to tell you about: the bizarre case of a missing Yale University student. It just got more puzzling for investigators. We'll take you to a live news conference this hour. Live news conference - you see reporters and producers there getting set for that news conference in Connecticut.

Well, they say the government is too big, it spends too much money, and they are fed up with the Democratic Congress and the president's health care reform plans. Tens of thousands of people marched right to the doorsteps of the nation's capital today, bringing together Conservative groups and their supporters, including the coast to coast Tea Party Express. We've been telling you about that for the past two weeks now.

We have team coverage for you, beginning with CNN's Kate Bolduan. She has been talking to the people at this rally, and she joins us now with more. What are you hearing, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Don. Well, you can see behind me that the crowds have clearly dispersed. The program ended an hour - about an hour ago and people have since left, but it was a massive turnout here today in the west front of the capital. We had speakers today called it what they considered it to be the largest Conservative gathering that they had ever seen.

It's organized in large part - this rally here, by a group called FreedomWorks. It's a Conservative advocacy group that in general supports less government and lower taxes and talked - and protesting government and government intervention especially is something we've heard a lot about today. Listen here to former House Majority Leader and FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey.


DICK ARMEY, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: When the federal government just decided to go wrong over a year ago and try to bail out Wall Street, we tried to tell them it wouldn't work, and it didn't work. When the first tranche of stimulus didn't work, what did they do? What the government always does with a bad idea - if it doesn't work, do more. And we told them that wouldn't work.

Then we had the election, and President Obama came in and said we're going to give you change you can believe in, and what did he give us? More of the same.


BOLDUAN: Now we have the opportunity, we went in on the march route, actually. They marched from Freedom Plaza to - down Pennsylvania Avenue to get here, this massive crowd, and we had an opportunity to speak with some of these people who came out here to really ask them what motivated them to come to today's rally. And I spoke with a - a gentleman - a gentleman from outside Philadelphia. Listen here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I felt that, you know, the government has grown too big and has gotten too out of control with the spending and the taxes are just way too high, and I'm just sick and tired of government growing and spending and taxing everybody into oblivion. And I just believe that, you know, true freedom comes from the Lord and I - we are blessed by it to be living this - living in this country and I just really want to celebrate freedom today. That's really what I'm here to do.


BOLDUAN: A very passionate crowd - a very loud crowd here today. They - they said over and over again, they chanted it several times, "Can you hear me?" to Congress, and they definitely - that is the message they are trying to send as they - as they came to the capital and marched down Washington, as they called it, today - Don.

LEMON: All right, Kate. Thank you very much. As I said, we have team coverage of this story. CNN All Platform Journalist Jim Spellman traveled with the Tea Party Express as it made its way across the country these past two weeks. It was a colorful trip, full of passionate opinions - to say the least. Here are some of the highlights for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every - an everyday Tea Partier is an American citizen that is frustrated with the direction the country's going -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are truly concerned about the - the heartbeat of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're taking our liberties away. It's tyranny. It's a Gestapo-type (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's too much involvement in the government. We can take care of ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't - I didn't vote for him, but I didn't necessarily have anything against what he was saying. He gets an office and it's like all of the things that I was kind of afraid of really happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can have my country when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think their agenda is to slowly but surely take away everything that we worked for and everything the Constitution stands for. Are we (INAUDIBLE). Kill (ph) the bill! (INAUDIBLE) Free the bill! Free the bill! (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officers that he picked are all either communists or socialists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't really want to be a - a guinea pig for the experiment they have with the population control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going after our kids and try to indoctrinate them into a national defense army, and we're not going to let him do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're kind of the ultimate check and balance, I suppose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want a revolution. I don't want a civil war. I would hate for that to happen. But it is a possibility. It's there as an option - as a last resort should our government turn on its own people.


LEMON: That's just a sampling of what our Jim Spellman heard as he rode along with the Tea Party Express, and he joins me now from Washington. You see him there. Was that most extreme of what you've heard or was it pretty typical?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN ALL PLATFORM JOURNALIST: Well, the gentleman there with the AK-47, that was definitely an extreme. We saw people wearing handguns from time to time. But really, running through this whole sort of subculture that's developed around these tea parties, it - it's a - a bit of a - a dark undercurrent you have the - the bulk of the people that are there for low taxes, less government control, but there really is a - is an element that's got these kind of outlandish conspiracy theories about death camps and - and about the, you know, this takeover, people comparing President Obama to Hitler. That really is a sizable thread (ph). It's not just a couple of people on the edges.

But one of the big questions, you know, will be can this movement go forward while maintaining this kind of element on the edges. You know, we don't know, but, Don, it's a - it's a - it's a - there's some heaviness out there with this.

LEMON: Yes. And you know, as you were talking I'm looking at it. I saw the guns, I saw the, you know, socialist with the face, the red lips and what have you. Here's what I want to ask you. At the - at the tea parties or these rallies that you have been going to, did you ever see any people there who were explaining what's in - what's actually in the bill to the people at the rallies?

SPELLMAN: You know, a little bit, more with sort of talking points. But what you hear from the stage is a lot different than what you hear in the crowd. On the stage they are talking about small government and health care and such, cap and trade (ph), things like that, but in the crowd what you are really hear is - is really a different message, when you get out and talk to the people. You know, it's a much sort of darker thing where they really, really feel that - that the country is going in the wrong way, in a really serious...

LEMON: Explain to me, what do you mean by a much more darker thing? Talk to me about that.

SPELLMAN: Well, I mean, one of the things that we heard over and over again is that - is that it's sort of the - the death panels thing, taken to several degrees past that where the president is going to set up these - these death camps where they're going to do forced sterilization, and - and that the government is taking over the internet to stifle, you know, speech and that there's going to be forced vaccinations.

These are not things that after 30-some Tea Parties, this is not one or two people. This is people that we heard over and over and over and over again - You know, really, there's just so much sort of disinformation or misinformation out there that it really creates a - a significant part. You didn't see as much of it here today in Washington, but in these towns across America that we went, it - it really is out there, Don, and it's - it's - it's - you know, it gave me pause more than once, going across the country with the Tea Party Express.

LEMON: CNN All Platform Journalist Jim Spellman. He was on the - the bus or on the Tea Party Express from Sacramento all the way to D.C. Thank you so much for your reporting, sir.

Conservatives aren't the only ones out in force today. Live pictures now of the president arriving back at Andrews Air Force base. Can you see Air Force One there? I'm not sure. Did he get off the plane yet? Nope. He's not off the plane yet. So we're monitoring those pictures. We're going to show you the president arriving back at Andrews today. And just a few hours ago in Minnesota, the president energized a supportive arena crowd called Health Care Reforms.

Before we go to Elaine's package, do we have the president? Let us see him get off the plane, if we have that live picture. Yes. Anyway -- we're following the live picture of the president as he arrives back at Andrews. The president working today, out trying to sell his health care reform, also trying to get his - his approval rating back up. It's been going down. And you see some of the press getting off at the back of the plane there.

But we're going to go out to Elaine Quijano who was with the president. She traveled to Minneapolis and here is her report.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, President Obama was back in campaign mode at a rally here in Minneapolis, pitching health care reform to an enthusiastic crowd of about 15,000 cheering supporters. The president had a new twist on his health care argument. He said that a new treasury report that estimates over the next ten years about half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point.

But the president's speech here largely reiterated what he told a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, including blasting his critics who argue the administration shouldn't rush reform.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are closer to reform than we've ever been before, but this is the hard part. This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who think, you know, this is a good way to bring Obama down, this is when they're going to fight with everything they've got. This is when they will spread all kinds of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people. That's why I need your help.

QUIJANO: But outside the hall, there were signs that the president still has some convincing to do. Protesters echoed concerns voiced not just by Republicans but also some fiscally Conservative Democrats as well.

One of the biggest sticking points right now continues to be how exactly to pay for the president's $900 billion plan - Don.


LEMON: Elaine, thank you very much. Elaine Quijano reporting from the Midwest, and you see the president about to get off the plane there at Air Force One, at Andrews Air Force Base. While the president was in the Midwest, you know, his supporters rallied in Florida. It was all part of a Health Insurance Reform Now Tour, it is called. The president, of course, making his speech today in Minnesota. We're waiting for the family to get off. We're going to linger on the pictures just for a little bit because it's - it's rare that we usually see the president out on a weekend. He's been doing it for the past couple weeks to try to get health care reform on the top of everyone's minds and at the top of the list and at - at least to try to get it some support there - more support than what is happening. There is the president getting off the plane there.

So, you know, all of this has been growing - all the rhetoric, all the town halls, and as I said there, was a Health Insurance Reform Now Tour as the president was speaking in the Midwest. The supporters there gathered in Orlando to promote the president's reform plans, voicing their concerns about the lack of access and growing costs in the nation's current health care system. Take a listen to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody should be able to get health care. I mean, not everything, but at least basic health care. That's my concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I only have health insurance because I work for somebody. If I were to get laid off or I lost my job or wanted to transfer and had a pre-existing condition, I might not have health care. That's a problem.


LEMON: All right. The For (ph) Now tour includes many of the same groups that rallied behind President Obama's election campaign. It made stops in 11 cities across the country.

You know, a lot of opinions on all sides of this debate. Let's head back to Washington now and talk with one of the people who attended today's Conservative rally outside the capital. His name is Al Gerhart. He organized the group from Oklahoma that attended today's rally. Thank you, sir, for joining us. Good to see you.


LEMON: How was your day?

GERHART: Oh, we - we - we were happy. We were blown away by how many people showed up.

LEMON: Yes. How many did show up? Did anyone give you a count? We said tens of thousands. It looks like the mall was packed.

GERHART: I heard - I heard one of the organizers say between 1.2 and 1.5, but we don't have that official, and honestly you can't see all the crowd, so who knows?

LEMON: Yes. So, listen, I was talking to our All Platform Journalist who's been traveling across the country, going to many town halls and many meetings and gatherings like - like this one, none quite as big as this one. But he says, you know, on stage you hear a lot of people talking about, you know, the kind of reform that they want, but then off stage it seems to have taken a darker tone. Explain what he means by that and had you - do you agree with that assessment?

GERHART: I think people are scared, and I think it's showing through. And I think there's some wild rumors out there that people tend to believe from a lack of information from the president and from Congress.

LEMON: People are scared - scared of what?

GERHART: They're -- they're afraid of where - where our society is going. Are we sliding into socialism? Is our country going to be as good of a shape for our kids as it was when we grew up?

LEMON: What does that mean, are we sliding into socialism?

GERHART: Well, you've got Government - you got Government Motors now. You got GM taken over. You got the - the insurance companies and the bank companies that are being helped out. That's unprecedented in our nation's history, and we don't know where it's leading to.

LEMON: Now, you think most of the people there realize that when you talk about socialism you're really talking about a different type government? I mean, you know, we live in a democracy. Most people who have lived or live in a socialist societies, that's their government, but we have a capital - we have capitalism here, democracy, so how is that -- I'm not exactly sure how that's socialism. I want to...

GERHART: Well, I think I need to correct you on one point. We do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic. And what happened to our country is at one point our senators were - started to become publicly elected instead of being - instead of serving the interests of the states. And that's what's changed and that's what's allowed us to get into the point where the politicians have to pander for the votes. And when we say it's sliding into socialism, it's because they want the government to take over things that are personal responsibilities. Health care, for instance. It's not the government's job to provide me with health care. I love my health care.

LEMON: So it's not the government's job to provide you with health care, but what about people who can't afford it or the disenfranchised who - who don't have the means to get health care? What about other people and not just yourself?

GERHART: I - I look at this debate, as this debate is not about - about insurance. It's more about control. Those people that - you can't say that no one has got health care here in America. The poorest of our poor can go to an emergency room with a stubbed toe and get seen and the taxpayer pays for it or the people like me that pay health insurance pay for it. Everybody gets health care here in America.

LEMON: You bring up - that's a very good point. What do - what do you think the people there want to get accomplished? Because to get that many people, Mr. Gerhardt, to show up on the mall on a Saturday, there's got to be some passion behind it. So what comes out of this passion? What's the solution here?

GERHART: That's a great question. What we want is to get back to where our country was 100 years ago. There are 18 enumerated powers in the constitution, things that the federal government are supposed to be responsible for: a strong military - they call them post roads, but roads - setting tariff, setting foreign trade, setting treaties. We want the federal government to get back to that.

And we do need health reform. Health insurance companies need to be taken to task and there's got to be some changes, but it's got to be done at the state level. It is not the Federal's (ph) responsibility to take care of this for us.

LEMON: And we have to do it amicably. We have to listen to each other and not yell, don't you agree?

GERHART: Well, we have to listen, but when we're not - whenever the other side is not listening, we are going to yell.

LEMON: OK. Al Gerhart, thank you, from Oklahoma. Good luck. Safe travels back, okay?

GERHART: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.

LEMON: All right. Perhaps no two words in the history of the US politics have been so lucrative since Republican congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled out, "You lie!" to President Barack Obama. His re-election campaign has raised $1 million. That means Wilson has pretty much caught up with his Democratic challenger Bob - Rob Miller, I should say, who also has raised $1 million. Boy.

Now back to our top story. We're standing by for a news conference from New Haven on the search for the missing Yale grad student. Her name is Annie Le. We're bringing that to you live, just as soon as it begins. Plus we'll get some background on this story for you.

Also, caught on tape, accusations of ACORN employees promoting prostitution and tax evasion. Our special investigations unit is on this story. It's uncovering more. And US Special Forces, they can deliver death out of nowhere and disappear, but for one little boy, they're the angels who saved his life. We want you to be part of our conversation. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or We'll get your comments on the air.


LEMON: Want to get you back now to Connecticut where they are about to hold a press conference for that missing university student. She has been missing now for a while, about a week. Her name is Annie Le. They found her purse containing her cell phone, her credit cards and money in her office, left there. Family members, friends, co-workers say they have not seen her. They haven't heard from her since Tuesday.

The university - Yale University is the - the university that she attended. She - the school announced on Friday that they were going to give a $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to information or to her, the missing student. She was a bride-to-be, 24 years old, Annie Le. Police in New Haven, Connecticut about to hold a press conference, and we'll bring it to you just as soon as that happens.

Meantime, back here in Atlanta rumors - rumors of illicit sex in a gay bar got the place raided and the patrons angry. Several customers say they were forced to the ground and then they were frisked. Eight employees were arrested, including one of the owners. A large number of complaints has promoted a formal investigation by the Atlanta Police Department.

Their mission is to help the poor obtain housing, but four ACORN employees were caught on tape advising a woman and a man posing as a pimp and a prostitute on how to defraud the government. CNN's Abbie Boudreau has the shocking story.


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First, it was Baltimore, now, Washington, D.C. For the second time in as many days, a video has surfaced showing workers for the nonprofit housing group ACORN, offering help and advice for a couple pretending to be a pimp and a prostitute.

The man in the videos is independent filmmaker James O'Keefe. He's also a Conservative activist. Remember, ACORN is a Liberal community organizing group.

JAMES O'KEEFE, INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER (ph): My girlfriend's a prostitute.

BOUDREAU: In the latest undercover sting posted on YouTube, O'Keefe and the woman posing as a prostitute are heard asking for advice from a pair of ACORN workers on how to set up a brothel without getting in trouble with the tax man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you're going to have to do is say that you're getting a gift from somebody.

O'KEEFE: Okay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK? But the money got to go in the bank.

BOUDREAU: One of the employees even offered O'Keefe, who said he was a law student, career advice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, use your girlfriend, but we're talking about your career. How far are you trying to go?

O'KEEFE: I'm using the money that she's giving me, you know what I mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, but you don't know where it's coming from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's cash. O'KEEFE: I - I personally know where it's coming from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, but when the police ask you, you don't know where it's coming from is what we're trying to tell you.

O'KEEFE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking out for you.

BOUDREAU: ACORN - which is active in 41 states - focuses largely on housing for the poor. Its president and executive director responded to the tape, saying they were appalled and angry, and that the two workers have been fired. We tried to reach both women for comment but were unsuccessful.

And if all this sounds familiar it's because the same couple did the same sting operation in Baltimore, where they were advised by two other ACORN workers on how to set up a brothel using underage girls from El Salvador.

At one point on the Baltimore video, a worker suggests that the woman posing as the prostitute refer to herself as a performing artist on tax forms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you are a (ph) performing artist.

BOUDREAU: ACORN spokesman Scott Levinson called the Baltimore tape false and defamatory and says the tape was doctored. And Levinson tells CNN that the filmmakers made similar efforts in Philadelphia, and in that case ACORN workers actually reported the filmmakers to the police. ACORN provided a copy of the police report.

Despite that the chairwoman of the Baltimore chapter of ACORN says both workers, like their colleagues in D.C., have been fired.


BOUDREAU: We're also trying to contact the Baltimore workers. The firings are unlikely to put the controversy to rest. Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa is calling for a full congressional and Justice Department investigation.

Two tapes, four workers out of a job, and a raft of unanswered questions. Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Atlanta.


LEMON: And, you know, in an unrelated development, the Census Bureau has served its ties - severed its ties with the ACORN group. This comes after Republican accusations of voter registration fraud by the group. In a letter to ACORN obtained by the Associated Press, Census director Robert Groves said it is clear that ACORNS's affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation.

There are new developments on the search for a missing Yale graduate student. We're standing by for a news conference from New Haven and we're going to bring that to you live. And US Special Forces, they can deliver death out of nowhere, and then they just disappear, but for one little boy they're the angels who saved his life.


LEMON: All right, you see that picture right next to me? Live pictures in New Haven, Connecticut, where police are about to hold a press conference because they don't know where Annie Le is. Twenty four years old, but we're hearing they have some new information, so maybe they do know now. We don't know exactly what's going to come out of this press conference, but the police department has called it, and we believe it's going to be some information on covering the whereabouts of Annie Le.

Twenty four year old student, last seen at Yale University, entering a building where she works in the morning. All caught on tape, last that anyone saw her. She left her keys, her cell phone, everything in her office. She just completely vanished. And again, the news conference happening in just a little bit.

Here is the interesting thing. She was supposed to be married tomorrow. So can you imagine - the families, what they're going through right now? Some background for you on this very strange story from CNN's Randi Kaye, and then the press conference.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On this Ivy League campus among the gothic archways and majestic halls, ominous signs that something is very wrong. There are blood hounds, crime scene investigators sifting through garbage, and this, a haunting surveillance picture of a bride- to-be student who vanished without a trace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone is sort of shocked by it, everyone's in disbelief that something like this could happen.

KAYE: But it did happen. Annie Le, 24 years old and pursuing a doctorate at Yale University School of Medicine, was last seen Tuesday morning outside a research facility. This snapshot from the building security camera shows Le entering, but no one ever saw her leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She left her pocketbook, her cell phone, everything in the lab.

KAYE: Evidence and perhaps clues that Le, who is just 4-foot-11 and 90 pounds, may have met foul play. Le disappeared just five days before her wedding. She was supposed to marry Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky this Sunday. Her family has reportedly canceled the wedding. Authorities say her fiance is not a suspect and is helping in the search.

Dogs were brought in again to search the building where Le disappeared. And as campus police, local law enforcement, and the FBI look for Le, colleagues and classmates paint a picture of an energetic scholar known for her smile and laugh. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was just a very cool person, very down to earth. Always willing to help someone out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Focused, disciplined, well-rounded, vibrant and actually this teacher's favorite student of all time.

KAYE: In a bizarre twist, Le's disappearance comes seven months after she wrote an article for a magazine on personal security titled "Crime and Safety in New Haven." She offers tips to reduce the chances of being robbed or mugged. She writes, "Pay attention to where you are and avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim." Good advice but it may not have been enough to protect Annie Le.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: So where is 24-year-old Annie Le? We're going to find some new information out in just moments. The reason we think that something substantial will come out of this, some very high-profile players are going to step up to the microphone very soon. The Yale V.P. and secretary, the vice president of Yale, Linda Lorimer, is going to speak. The chief, Yale's police chief, and then the assistant chief, Peter Reichard, who is a New Haven Police Department assistant chief. We will learn some information about the whereabouts of Annie Le in just moments. You won't miss any of it.

We'll move on and show you some incredible video out of northwestern Turkey, some of the worst flooding in that country's history. Look at that. Buses were overturned with the river's muddy, fast-moving water. At least 31 people are confirmed dead since last Monday and nine others are missing. I have never seen flooding video like that before. The flash flooding is a result of torrential rains said to be the heaviest in 80 years.

Jacqui Jeras standing by in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Jacqui, those pictures are just incredible.


LEMON: 300 people trapped we hear.

JERAS: Yeah. You know, unfortunately, there's some more rain in the forecast. This has been going on, the rainfall, for about a week now. This is highly unusual to get this much for this long as well.

There you can see those waters. There were two different streams that have flown out of their banks. You can see those guys hanging on and fighting for it in that area.

One of the reasons why they're having some of these problems, too, in addition to just the rain being so heavy in Istanbul, they have been growing so rapidly in terms of construction and expanding in this city that it's a concrete jungle.

LEMON: The water has nowhere to go.

JERAS: Exactly. It runs off. There's nothing to absorb it. Maybe another two to three inches or so we're looking at.

We have some funny pictures from here in the U.S. of A. If we could take a look at those. Actually, looks like Istanbul again. We don't have it? OK.



LEMON: OK. Jacqui Jeras, a full hand over there. Thank you very much. There's some new developments on the search for a missing Yale graduate student. We're standing by live for a news conference in New Haven. Her name is Annie Le, 24 years old, went missing on Tuesday, supposed to be married tomorrow. And some heavy hitters from the New Haven Police Department, from Yale Police Department, and also from Yale University going to come up in just moments and talk to us about this. You want to stand by to find out the latest developments on that story.

U.S. Special Forces, they can deliver a death blow in just seconds, but not for this little boy, because they were the angels who saved his life. It's a great story.


LEMON: Want to get you to New Haven, Connecticut, and the press conference for the missing 24-year-old student, Annie Le.

LINDA LORIMER, YALE VICE PRESIDENT & SECRETARY: ... disappearance of Annie Le, a third year student in pharmacology. I will have to say we have been so impressed by the collective efforts of the law enforcement officials who have bound together to pursue this in the most aggressive, thorough, and conscientious way. I have asked representatives from each of the law enforcement agencies who have been working so hard this week to make a few remarks, and I will call upon them in turn.

But first, just to make a couple of other remarks. I have been in conversations with Annie Le's family. As you can imagine, we reinforced how important it was for us to do everything the university can to find out what has happened to Annie, find out where she is, to find out what has happened in these last few years.

We also reinforce that we at the university wanted to do everything we could to help the family out at this incredibly difficult, burdensome time. All of us who are parents can only imagine what they are going through. They have asked us to appeal to you to respect their privacy at this very, very difficult time.

I also want to point out, which will become very clear in hearing from the authorities who will address you in just a couple minutes, as they have told me, the investigation is at a very difficult stage. You will have many questions of the kind I'm sure that I have had and I have been asking, and it's just not right now for them to speculate or to answer many of our layperson's questions as they put their full force and attention to really finding out what happened here and solving this mystery.

Let me call first on Kim Merkel (ph), the special agent in charge for the FBI in Connecticut.

KIM MERTZ, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, CONNECTICUT FBI: Good afternoon. I want to assure you law enforcement throughout the state of Connecticut is very engaged in this investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you please spell your name for me?

MERTZ: Mertz, M-E-R-T-Z.





MERTZ: Either. Either is fine.

We have as has been reported over 100 law enforcement officials working this investigation. It is very much a collaborative effort between Yale Police Department, New Haven Police Department, and we've got great support from the Connecticut State Police. FBI resources have been supporting this case as well.

We are not in a position today to conclude whether this is a missing persons case or whether criminality is involved, and I need to stress that. We have conducted numerous interviews, and I can assure you no lead is going uncovered. Again, as the Vice President Lorimer stated, our goal is to find Annie Le and determine what happened to her.

I'll now turn it over to the chief with the Yale P.D.

JAMES PERROTTI, CHIEF, YALE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good afternoon. My name is Jim Perrotti. I'm the chief of police at Yale University. Let me start by thanking my colleagues...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Spell your name please?

PERROTTI: P-E-R-R-O-T-T-I, two "Rs" and two "Ts."

First, let me thank all my colleagues from the other law enforcement agencies that are here today, the New Haven police, the state police, and, of course, the FBI. We are very fortunate that we have a tremendous relationship with other law enforcement agencies and that they have joint forces with us to investigate this case.

One of the things that Yale takes very seriously is security on campus. We are fortunate that we have many physical security items in place to help us with this investigation, to include over 70 cameras in the area of the Amistad Building, card-access control, and the like.

I'd like to end by saying -- to remind everyone that there is a $10,000 reward that has been offered by the university. And to have the tip line put out there again, and I will give you the tip line right now, 1-877-503-1950. Thank you.

Assistant Chief Reichard, from the New Haven Police Department.

PETER REICHARD, ASSISTANT CHIEF, YALE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good evening, everyone, my name is Assistant Chief Peter Reichard. I'm the chief of detectives for the New Haven Police Department.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you spell that?


New Haven Police was asked to assist Yale and the FBI for resources in the initial stages of this incident and we have been doing so and we've dedicated all the resources we have to the best of our ability to keep up with it until this case comes to resolve.

LT. WILLIAM BALDWIN, COMMANDING OFFICER, WESTWOOD DISTRICT, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Good afternoon, I'm Lieutenant William Baldwin, B as in Baker, A-L-D-W-I-N, commanding officer of the Western District Major Crime Squad for the Connecticut State Police.

I want to say that the role of our agency has been to support the Yale Police Department and New Haven Police Department as well as the FBI with numerous resources that the state of Connecticut has to offer, to include our K-9 unit, which consisted of bloodhounds, as well as our lab and numerous detectives from throughout the state. Our role is to support the various agencies in this missing persons investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you spell your name again, please?

BALDWIN: Baldwin, B as in...


BALDWIN: Bill, William.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That was lieutenant, correct, sir?

BALDWIN: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think now -- I know you have a lot of questions. Many of them are not going to be able to be answered. Obviously, law enforcement authorities have said they don't know -- we don't know where she is. We don't know...


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you'd step up to the mike. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just saying, please ask your questions, but you have to understand we don't know where she is, we don't know what happened to her, we don't know if a crime was committed or not. That's why the investigation is continuing. And you probably have a lot of questions and maybe a few of them can be answered, but there's not going to be any speculation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There's a report out there that a body was found and that's really alarmed people on campus. Can you categorically say anything about that?

MERTZ: I will categorically say a body has not been found.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has some bloody clothing been removed from the building?

MERTZ: All I will say is that items that could potentially be evidence have been seized. None have yet been associated with Annie Le.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do they indicate foul play?

MERTZ: Until something is associated with Annie Le, we can't -- I'm not going to speculate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you please tell...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you give us some idea of any kind of information that might be of help to the campus or around the community, some ideas that might be able to assist them. Why the reticence to give us any information at all? Why the secrecy?

MERTZ: There's not an intent to be secret. We're focused on conducting the investigation, conducting interviews, reviewing the video coverage. We don't have anything to convey yet. We always appreciate the public support if they have any information to provide.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you please tell us, if you don't want to disclose more specifics, as best you can where has this evidence been found and what is being done with the evidence to determine whether it has any direct relation to this case?

MERTZ: I'm not going to get into the specifics. The items seized are being examined to determine if there's any association to Annie Le.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are they being examined at the Connecticut State Police lab? Is that where they are?

MERTZ: At various places.



MERTZ: I'm not going to confirm what's been seized.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it clothing? Is it clothing, at least, could you say?

MERTZ: No, I'm not going to confirm what was seized.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where are the family members?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I know you're talking to people just to get information, but do you know, has anyone sort of, to use that term, questioned. Do you have a suspect, anyone that is a person of interest?

MERTZ: We have not identified anyone as a person of interest. We have conducted numerous interviews, as I have said.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) picked up for questioning from the building to determine whether or not they're...

MERTZ: No, we have interviewed many, many people.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the family? Where is the family right now?

MERTZ: I would not -- I do not know and I would not disclose that to you if I did. I would -- they are assisting. This is a very difficult time for them, and I know everyone is trying to do their job. If I could echo Vice President Lorimer's request to please respect their privacy. I am sure you can imagine the stress that they're under and how difficult of a time it is for them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has anyone been ruled out? Has the fiance been ruled out?

MERTZ: I am not going to comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you please recap for us what is known about her last known whereabouts?

MERTZ: At the Amistad Building.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you please tell us, just recap where she was last found and what was left behind?

MERTZ: The last video clip, we have her entering the Amistad Building.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaking of the video, could you confirm for us is there any video that confirms or validates that she's exiting the building of the 75 cameras that were trained on her?

MERTZ: We are still undergoing a review. We have not yet confirmed an exit.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you haven't gotten to the stage in the investigation where there's analysis and review of the 75 cameras frame by frame?

MERTZ: We have conducted the review. We are actually using the expert in the state to do video enhancements to make sure we've not missed anything.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you state it's not definitive that she may or may not have left the building?

MERTZ: I would say I do not know whether it's definitive that she has left the building at this point.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she seen leaving the laboratory building? When is the last time she was seen, aside from the videotape...

MERTZ: The last time we saw her on the video was entering the building on Amistad.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there eyewitnesses?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there eyewitnesses inside who placed her in a room or a corridor or somewhere inside the building?

MERTZ: Yes, we talked to numerous people, and I am not going to get into those details.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know where she was last seen?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You want to answer this question?

MERTZ: I'm not going to provide that time line. We're looking at the time line, rest assured.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there any indication that she may have had a reason not to get married or to run away?

LORIMER: I'm going to say, in talking to the family, there's no reason to believe that whatsoever. And I believe that those who have talked with her friends have no reason to support that conclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who was she supposed to see at the Amistad building? What was she supposed to be doing?

LORIMER: She is a third-year graduate student in pharmacology, and in terms of doing her own scientific experiments, she regularly would go from the medical school down to the Amistad Building where she would do her experiments.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know what she was carrying into the building?

LORIMER: I think that's one of the things they're analyzing by the authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Ms. Lorimer, can you talk about this report of a fire drill in that building at about 6:00 time, and do you believe that was any kind of diversion or has it been confirmed that happened.

LORIMER: From the reports that I have gotten, it was a kind of fire alarm that is not the old-fashioned kind that someone might have pulled. One of the questions I had about this. It was a kind that would be automatically triggered. in this case, the underlying rationale was there was steam that came out of a piece of equipment and steam set it off, I think much in the same way we might have one of the alarm go off in our house, if you're boiling something on the kitchen stove.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And was it an accidental stream or was it a steam that was caused by a human being?

MERTZ: I believe it was caused by a human being opening up a device that let the steam out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: By mistake or on purpose?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Agent Mertz, I have a question.


MERTZ: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Going back to the items that were seized, were they seized from somebody or were they found?

MERTZ: I'm not going to get into details of that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When was Annie supposed to be going to New York for her wedding on Sunday? Do you know the time line on that?

MERTZ: I do not have that information with me.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If she didn't leave the building, just to circle back to that, if she didn't leave the building, we then have a classic locked room situation? In other words, absent someone entering, with expertise to tamper with the cameras, if she went in and the cameras verify her entering the building and the same cameras don't verify her leaving the building, and you have exhaustively examined the building, then the only other option, that she's not in the building, is that someone tampered with the cameras and deleted the frame that showed her exiting?

MERTZ: There is no indication that the video has been tampered with. That is something we will look at to confirm.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And there's no indication she existed building via video camera?

MERTZ: Based upon what we reviewed so far.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has it been determined...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It was a 20-hour time lapse between the time that she was seen and the university was notified that she was missing. Is that normal procedure?

MERTZ: I think it depends on how long it takes for someone to report that individual, whether it be a close family member.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: My understanding is that it was reported and then only 20 hours later did the university -- did the university notify everybody else that there was indeed a missing person.

MERTZ: Yeah. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Vice President Lorimer, can you...

LEMON: OK. You're listening to a press conference in New Haven, Connecticut, about the missing doctoral student, student of pharmacology at Yale University. She went missing on Tuesday, was last seen entering the building. It's on videotape. But police won't say if they saw her exiting the building, or you heard someone ask the question there about whether the video was tampered with. I don't think there's any video of her exiting the building, at least to their knowledge.

But here's the important things that came out of this press conference. Really, most of it from that FBI agent there, Kim Mertz. She said no person of interest so far. They've interviewed many people. A body has not been found. And there were items seized in and around the scene, if you want to call it a scene. You can't call it a crime scene. But there were items seized that may have to do with this missing student, and they're being examined, she said, at several locations.

Here's the interesting thing, too. She's supposed to get married tomorrow. So the rumors are floating around, maybe she didn't want to get married. Maybe she went missing because she didn't want to get married. You heard the police officer, at least the university president say -- V.P., Linda Lorimer, say, spoke to family and friends, and they all say they have no reason to believe she didn't want to get married and she went missing because of that. So they don't know where she is. They're examining all the items they have, videotapes, they're enhancing the video, and some items near where she went missing. More details on this story to come.

Plus, we're going to go live back to Washington. We're going to talk about the tea parties. Our conversation continues here on CNN.


LEMON: Let's take you overseas now to Afghanistan, where up to 3,000 additional U.S. troops could be headed in the near future. They're going to deal with the rising threat of roadside bombs. A Pentagon spokesman says Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been analyzing the deadly threat for the past couple weeks and decided more troops are needed right away. The White House earlier approved sending 21,000 additional troops by the end of the year, boosting the U.S. force to 68,000.

A roadside bomb is blamed for killing two U.S. troops today in Afghanistan. Three other U.S. servicemembers were also killed today in a gun battle with Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan. The military says Taliban fighters have become more skilled at building and hiding the bombs commonly called improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Mourners gathered today to remember two firefighters who died battling the largest fire in the history of Los Angeles County. A crowd gathered at Dodger Stadium to honor the fallen firefighters. And Vice President Joe Biden hailed the two as part of a special breed of heroes unafraid to risk their lives to save others. Ted Hall and Arnie Quinones died when their vehicle slid down a step 700-foot embankment in Angeles National Forest. Firefighters are still fighting the blaze, which is about 84 percent contained.

Police in California are looking for art thieves who made off with a rare collection of Andy Warhol paintings. Get this, more stuff as well, the stolen pieces included large pop art, portraits of champion boxer Muhammad Ali, tennis pro Chris Everette and basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Los Angeles police say the multimillion-dollar collection was taken from the dining room of businessman, Richard Wiseman (ph). A million-dollar reward has been offered for information leading to the recovery of that art.

I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. I'll see you back here at 7:00 eastern time.

Meantime, "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer begins in just a moment.