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Kim Jong-Un Issues First Military Orders; Congress and Taxes; Interview with Jeb Hensarling; Ron Paul Leads Iowa Polls

Aired December 21, 2011 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks. A show of power in North Korea, Kim Jong-il's son and successor, Kim Jong-Un issues his first military orders.

The 19-year-old college student kidnapped? She vanished after making a frantic phone call. Her mother comes OUT FRONT.

And congress continues to play politics with our paychecks.

Ten days left to reach a deal. We asked representative Jeb Hensarling, the boss of the super committee if they'll get it done. Let's go OUT FRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. And we are in countdown. That's often like that was Washington D.C. and we are counting down now to a tax hike. Congress has ten days to reach a deal that will keep American taxes from going up on January 1st. If they fail to agree, the average American worker will lose $40 a week. Under fire today, Republican house members who rejected a deal that would have extended the payroll tax cut by two months.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Past the two-month extension, return to work on the year-long extension or else, explain to the American people, 160 million of them, why Congress would not listen to them.


BURNETT: The speaker in turn went before the cameras to make his point.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're here. We're ready to work, looking for our counterparts to sit down with us so we can do what the president, bipartisan leaders in the house and Senate all want. And that's to extend the payroll tax cut for one year.


BURNETT: Deja bill. Now, if he really wants to make a bill, why don't we have one? Let's asking Republican Jeb Hensarling from Texas, who is also co-chair of the deficit super committee which, of course, sir, I want to talk about. But, let me start first with this payroll issue. How is this going to end?

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: Well, I wish I knew, Erin. You know, my mother-in-law says the least you can do is show up. And we're waiting for our democratic colleagues to at least show up and negotiate. I mean, what's a little bit ironic here is that there's only one body of congress that has given the president what he claimed he wanted, and that is the house.

The house passed a bill that extends the Social Security payroll tax holiday for a year. The senate didn't do that. The house passed a bill that extended the extended unemployment insurance for a year. The senate didn't do that. The president said we need to work over the holidays. When we have members of congress in Washington right now tonight waiting on their democratic colleagues to come and work. So, it's ironic that it's the house that's giving the president what he says he wants and yet he criticizes us. I hope we can get this done.

It's also ironic, the reason we're here, frankly, is because the president's economic policies have failed and unemployment remains at or near nine percent, and the American people suffer. They need this. They need the temporary Social Security payroll tax relief, particularly at this time of year and I hope we can give it to them. I don't understand --

BURNETT: Well, everybody agree on that, right? I mean, the president wants that and you want it.

HENSARLING: I don't know if they do, Erin.

BURNETT: Well, he said he does. Why do you say that he doesn't? I think and it seems to me that the disagreement has been on how to pay for it. But, I'm also curious as to your view as to whether you think John Boehner has failed in his job, since the senate said they had a deal they could get through the house. He's the one that told him that. Is it his fault?

HENSARLING: No, it's not. Again, we wouldn't be here if the president's economic policies had worked in the first place. And what we're saying is, you know, our constituents are having to work over the holidays. Why shouldn't members of Congress be expected to work over the holidays and get this done?

I mean, since the dawn of our republic, the way we work out differences between the Senate and the house is through something called a conference committee. We have our negotiators ready. And the least you can do is show up.

The American people are getting sick and tired of congress not doing its job. And kicking the can down the road, bunting the ball, whatever metaphor or analogy, I don't understand, as you say, if everybody wants to get this done, then why don't we get it done? The Republican house is open for business. We invite democrat senators to sit down and negotiate this and get this done on behalf of the American people.

Representative Hensarling, let me just ask you, there's something that I wanted to read to you. This was from the S&P downgrade to America's credit rating which of course as we all know painfully was lost in August. They said this, quote, "the political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policy making becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed." That's why we got downgraded.

You were the co-chair of the super committee which was branded by us and many across the media as a super fail. Do you feel responsibility for the downgrade?

HENSARLING: What I think is that we've had policies and why, we're spending money that we don't have. We've been borrowing roughly 42 cents on the dollar, much of it from the Chinese and sending the bill to our children and grandchildren. I guess I failed to convince my democratic colleagues on that committee who were good men and women of the gravity of the situation.

Listen, if we gave the president and the Democrats every single tax increase that they have asked for which we think will hurt the economy, hurt job creation, but even if we gave them every tax increase they're insisting on, that's about 10 to 15 percent of the problem.

The American people are demanding some spending discipline and they certainly haven't seen it out of this president or out of the previous democratic congress. But right here, right now what we're trying to do is, number one, ensure that hard working American taxpayers get at least a thousand dollars of payroll tax relief where the Democrats are offering 160.

We're trying to give small businesses 12 months of certainty and not two months of uncertainty. We're trying to work through the holidays, whereas our Senate colleagues want to go on vacation. That's the issue here.

BURNETT: look, I get you, and I think everybody gets you in the sense that the two-month solution was a joke. And it's sad that's all that could get through. The fact that the house said they wouldn't even do that, they wanted to go back. I think it frustrates people even more perhaps than the two-month solution itself.

But, I want to throw one thing out to you. I just to get your reaction to this. I know you're frustrated on the spending side. But on the tax side, if you let the Bush cuts go away for everyone, you get $2.8 trillion. And if you could do a deal like that and then you could match it with $2.8 trillion in spending cuts, you'd have a grand bargain. What do you think?

HENSARLING: Well, I don't necessarily agree with that. You know that Republicans were willing to put tax revenue on the table, but we wanted to do it like every other bipartisan effort had done it, and that is through the pro-growth tax policy, where we lower rates but we broaden the base and get rid of all the special interest deductions and loopholes. We want to do that.

But again, Erin, I would say give the president every tax increase he wants. Snap back to the '01 and '03 rates. That doesn't solve the problem. And in many respects it's a diversion. It is spending.

BURNETT: It may not solve it --

HENSARLING: The deficit is the symptom but spending is the disease. Then you'd simply, Erin, have more taxes if I bid, you simply have more taxes chasing more spending.

Listen, some people would be willing to do that if you solved the spending problem. But, show me the spending discipline and ultimately you're going to --

BURNETT: OK. Are you one of those people? If I was on the other side and came to you with spending cuts, would you be supportive of those tax rates going back to where they were which, to be honest, are still among the lowest tax rates in American modern history?

Well, I got to tell you, for our business entities, particularly our corporations, we have the second highest corporate tax rate --

BURNETT: I'm talking about the income tax rate, the 35 to 39.6, the individual, separate from the corporate.

HENSARLING: Well, no. I don't believe -- particularly in this economy, you ought to be raising taxes on anybody. But again, there's a difference between raising tax rates and raising tax revenues, and it's pretty clear again, we're On the Record saying we want fundamental tax reform, something reject pd by the Democrats and the so-called super committee.

But again, right now what we're talking about is trying to get some payroll tax relief to the American people and create certainty for the small businesses that have to administer it, you know, were just somewhat incredulous after delivering to the president what he claimed he wanted to be criticized.

And so, really there's a simple choice for the American people. Should Congress work over the holiday? Should Congress not work over the holiday? Should we kick the can down the road, punt the ball down the field? Or should we get a 12-month agreement here to get this done.

And then should we do it in a way that works. If I could, let me read you one quote. I mean, the Democrats in the Senate didn't talk, didn't talk to the American people who have to do this. "National payroll reporting consortium." These are the people --

BURNETT: This is the thing about not being able to implement it by the 1st of January. HENSARLING: "A two-month extension could create substantial problems, confusion and cost affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employees and employers." Just one more then I'll get back to what you want to talk about. But the associated builders and contractors, the people who supposedly do all the shovel-ready projects said, quote, "this sort of temporary fix underscores congress's uneven ad hoc approach to the economy and causes more harm than good for America's job creators." My point is, we owe the American people a work product, but we owe them one that actually works.

BURNETT: All right, but my point is, a lot of people hear you tonight and they say how can you say that? You were part of the problem? It's hypocritical to hear that out of anyone's mouth, especially someone who was the co-chair of the super committee.

$1.2 trillion is what you were supposed to cut, right? That wasn't a lot of money. You know it. I know it. So, how do you feel, when I express the frustration of a lot of people, which is like come on? How could you say those things?

HENSARLING: I don't know. I was just talking about payroll tax relief. If you want to talk about spending, I think my record is quite clear. And again, I did something that most Republicans had not done. I was willing to put tax revenue on the table. The problem was I didn't see the Democrats.

And again, these are good people acting in good faith. But ultimately they weren't willing to do what was necessary in reforming our entitlement programs that are growing two, three and four times the rate of the economy.

So, again, I don't know. We were willing to negotiate in good faith, but unfortunately that effort failed. I'm sorry that it failed. But right now, what we're talking about is are we going to get a thousand dollars for the average middle income family or are we going to give them 150?

Are we going to ensure that small businesses can apply this, or are we not? Are we going to work over the holidays like our constituents do or are we going to kick back on vacation for two weeks? House Republicans want to get this done for hard working American taxpayers, and we want to get it done now.

BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, sir. We appreciate it. I got to say, I get so upset and frustrated. Like so many Americans, I want Washington to work.

HENSARLING: You and me both.

BURNETT: I think it's a great country and what's happening is upsetting.

Let's bring in John Avlon. And I'm upset. I know they want to get it done but they don't compromise. And I do. I feel like my hands shake a little bit when you have this conversation. JOHN AVLON, SENIOR COLUMNIST, NEWSWEEK, DAILY BEAST: Yes.

BURNETT: With all of them who do want to do the right thing, but they don't compromise with each other.

AVLON: That's right. And in this case, what you heard there was spin in a vacuum. He's talking about kicking a can down the road and he wants to stay focused on the payroll tax cuts. That's fine.

But he's talking about deficits and debt. I believe the congressman sincerely cares about that.

BURNETT: Yes, he does.

AVLON: But he had two chances this year to do something, to deal with the deficits and the debts. First as a member of the Bowles- Simpson committee and he voted against the recommendations. And if he and his Republican colleagues voted for it, it would have gone down to congress for not (inaudible).

And then after that failure, he got picked to co-chair the super committee. And he failed there as well. That's kicking the can down the load in a huge way. That's much more important to our fundamentals economists that are fundamentals than the payroll tax cut alone. What best of these talks about political brinkmanship, it's got Jeb Hensarling's face on it.

BURNETT: That was -- no one wants to take the blame. It's a human problem. But right now it's a problem hurting the greatest and biggest economy on the planet.

AVLON: That's right.

BURNETT: All right, John Avlon, thank you very much.

All right, just 12 days to go until the Iowa caucus. Ron Paul is leading on the poll, the fifth candidate to lead in Iowa. Will he win?

And, are we actually teaching terrorists how to kill us? The government thinks scientist should stop publishing their findings about bird flu and other viruses in medical journals. What do you think? Let us know. We are going to talk about it and got the reporting.

And speaking of viruses, we break down the latest viral hit in the number.


BURNETT: The online music service Vevo turns two this month. And it celebrated by releasing some pretty good numbers. In November, 63 million visitors went to the site watching an average of 15 videos and 15 ads each time.

Since the site launched in 2009, Vevo has paid out more than $100 million to songwriters, artists and labels, pretty incredible when you consider it's basically found money because music videos were never supposed to be profitable even during the MTV heyday of the 1980s, November Rain. Which brings us to tonight's number, 719-266-2837, that as a phone number for Call an Oates, an emergency Hall and Oates hotline.

The service created by Twilio lets you play one of four Hall and Oates songs. The line has already received 200,000 calls. Are you kidding me? And spawned a Twitter page and Web site for users who want to avoid long distance charges.

This morning when we suggested calling the number live on the air, we were told not to, due to legal rights and clearance issues, it's a big issue here. But, sometimes you just need to hear "Private Eyes."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to Call an Oates. Your emergency Hall and Oates helpline. To hear "One-on-One," please press one. To hear "Rich Girl" please press two. To hear "Man Eater," please press three. To hear "Private Eyes".


BURNETT: I'm watching John Avlon.

The wheel continues to spin in the race to win the Iowa caucus. And this week, the winner is Ron Paul. A new poll has Paul taking the lead over Newt Gingrich, 28 to 25 percent, with just 13 days to go. This makes him the fifth candidate to take the lead in Iowa which is apparently is a state that cannot make up its mind.

OUT FRONT tonight, to help us break it down is Gloria Borger, CNN's chief political analyst. He was with Ron Paul today in Iowa. John Avlon is with us and Brian Doherty who is writing a book on Ron Paul.

So, let me start with you, Brian, first. What does it mean for the Republican field if Ron Paul wins Iowa?

BRIAN DOHERTY, SENIOR EDITOR, REASON MAGAZINE: They should all be running scared because it means the Republican party is facing a serious change. That's actually going to have to face up to its responsibility to really be the party of constitutional limited government, to actually say we can cut a trillion in spending in one year as Paul has proposed. To say that we can't projecting our military force overseas recklessly and be, you know, a limited, affordable, you know, debt-free government. It's going to be a real wake-up call to everyone across party lines because no one is saying what Ron Paul is saying.

BURNETT: Wake-up call, John Avlon, but is this something he can sustain or does this mean if Ron Paul wins, Iowa becomes less relevant? AVLON: Well, it would certainly shake up the race. It's unlikely it would continue. But remember, New Hampshire is the live free or die state. The way I think to understand this with a huge libertarian population. They way I think to understand this with, a vote for Ron Paul are the ultimate anti-establishment vote. And that's been one consistent we've seen over the past year, a lot of anger at the establishment.

BURNETT: And some people are joining and a lot of people who have been very loyal to Ron Paul over the years.

Gloria, earlier today, you spoke to him about some incendiary newsletters that were attached to his name in the 1980s. Let's listen to a little bit of that.


RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not all the time. On occasion, yes.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Did you ever object when you read them?

PAUL: Well, you know, we talked about this twice yesterday as CNN has. Why don't go back and look at what I said yesterday on CNN. The one I said where 20 some years is 22 years ago? I didn't write them. I disavow them. That's it.

BORGER: But you made money off of them?

PAUL: I was still practicing medicine, that's probably why I wasn't a good publisher because I had to make a living.

BORGER: I mean, it's legitimate. It's legitimate. These things are pretty incendiary, you know.

PAUL: Because of people like you.

BORGER: No, no, no. Come on. Some of the stuff was very incendiary. And you know, saying that in 1993 the Israelis were responsible for the bombing of the world trade center, that kind of stuff.

PAUL: Good-bye.

BORGER: All right, all right. Congressman. I appreciate your answer.


BURNETT: You were very gracious. He was very defensive.

BORGER: Well, look. You know, he clearly believes, this is something that happened 22 years ago. It's irrelevant he believes to the race. We ask these questions because that's our job. This newsletter went out under his name. He says he was not involved with it, and nor did he read these or approve of these statements.

But this is the kind of scrutiny you get, Erin. You know this. This is the kind of the scrutiny you get when you become the front- runner in the Republican field. And so, he's going to have to answer lots of questions like this.

BURNETT: And what do you think, John Avlon? I mean, what Gloria was saying there at the end, saying Israel was responsible for the world trade center bombing. That is --

AVLON: I mean, that's so far off the reservation.

BURNETT: A very bizarre thing to say.

AVLON: Beyond the fringe. But Gloria's interview was great and she was gracious but persistent. And this is completely legitimate issue. If you're the front-r-runner in early state like Iowa, you get that scrutiny. And you can't dodge or say it's an old issue. If there that kind of incendiary remarks went out under your name in a newsletter, that's just a fact to be a front-runner. It's a totally appropriate lot of question.

BURNETT: Brian, do you think he can get beyond that to a mass audience?

DOHERTY: Yes, because that stuff "a," he didn't write it which she said to open our (inaudible), "b," that's nothing at all to do with what he's been running on this time and last time. And his enormous new wave of fans, they don't care about that stuff. That's not where they're interested. They are interested in a president who actually stands up for civil liberties, who doesn't believe the power to unilaterally assassinate or detain anyone he wants, who is actually going to bring the debt under control. Those are the issues he's running on and what voters care about right now.

BURNETT: So, Ron Paul getting a lot of attention. Gloria, go ahead.

BORGER: Those are the issues that are resonating with the Iowa voters. I mean, I was at a town hall session with him today here in Mount Pleasant. It was jam packed. And when Ron Paul spoke about big government, spending too much, having too much power, this is a candidate here. You can tell why he's doing very well. He received a standing ovation. So clearly, that anti-establishment, anti- Washington, anti-government message has a lot of resonance here.

BURNETT: All right, let me ask you about Newt Gingrich, sliding to second place in Iowa. It may or may not have something to do with some campaign ads launched recently. Earlier today he and Governor Romney had some words. Here is that.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speaker Gingrich has had a few less than generous things to say about me over the campaign. And you know I'm a big boy. That's the nature of a campaign, the point of distinctions of one another. And with regards to the heat associated with ads, you know, if you can't stand the relatively modest heat in the kitchen right now, wait until Obama's hell's kitchen shows up.


BURNETT: Newt Gingrich followed up with this.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants to test the heat. I'll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week one-on-one, 90 minutes, no moderator, just the timekeeper. He wants to tie up the kitchen, I'll be glad to debate him anywhere. We'll bring his ads and he can defend them.


AVLON: Look, you know, Mitt Romney is not disavowing the negative ads that are being unleashed by Pact associated with him. And Newt Gingrich is responding on it pretty poor saying, you want to bring it on? You want to stand motto in?

BURNETT: You bring in on, motto o motto, buddy.

AVLON: Let's have a real debate. That's I think the right response. And I'd like to see that kind of approach in politics be rewarded.

BURNETT: All right, thanks to all three. Appreciate it. We shall see. Getting excited in Iowa. And stay warm because there's no hell's kitchen out there in terms of temperature.

BORGER: It's not too bad.


BURNETT: Ron Paul may have decided he isn't running for a third party candidate. But, New Mexico's former Republican Governor Gary Johnson is. He's OUT FRONT with us tonight. And I really appreciate you being with us, sir.

Let me just start by asking you this. Why run as a third party candidate? Do you think America is really ready for that?

GARY JOHNSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Erin I haven't made the decision yet. But, you know, it's about the message, and it isn't just Ron Paul. It's me, too, and it's other. And I'm the messenger, Ron Paul is a messenger. At a point when people hear this enough, they'll recognize this is the direction for America.

And in this case, this is balance the federal budget. This is reducing welfare, but it's reducing warfare. This is gay rights and this is gun rights. I think the majority of Americans speaking with a broad brush consider themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I'm one of those, and I think I have a resume as governor of New Mexico to actually, you know, talk about what really needs to take place. One thing to point out what needs to take place, it's another thing to talk about the remedies and it's another thing to have a resume to show you can do all those things.

BURNETT: Interesting comment there, philosophy, physically conservative socially liberal. But, let me ask you this. Washington Post polls shows that Romney is the nominee is in a dead heat with the president, if a third party candidate is added, someone like you, in this case it was Ron Paul, the Republicans would lose. Would you be all right if you were spoiler?

JOHNSON: Well, I happen to think that third party running as a libertarian candidate for president, I think it takes from both sides. I think it takes from Democrats to, hey, let's stop the war. Let's stop the war on drugs.

On the Republican side, you know really, let's balance the federal budget. Let's not talk about a trillion dollar reduction over ten years. Let's talk about a $1.4 trillion reduction now. And I'm also advocating the fair tax which I really think reboots the American economy and it might send out pink slips to half of Washington lobbyists.

BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, Governor Johnson. Appreciate your taking the time tonight, sir.

JOHNSON: Erin, through very much. Bye.

BURNETT: Bye. Bad weather coming via Skype but he made it.

Kim Jong-Un, his first military orders from Korea coming up. And terrorists possibly using our own information against us. We are going to talk about that.

And the mother of a missing college student comes OUT FRONT.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus in our own reporting, do the work and find the "OUTFRONT 5".

First up, Congress has just 10 days to work out a deal on a payroll tax cut extension. If they fail, 160 million Americans will see an increase in their taxes.

Well, earlier tonight, Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling who was the co-chair of his super committee came OUTFRONT and read a quote from someone that described that, hey, look, if there's not a deal on the payroll tax cut, it shows how essentially dysfunctional Congress is.

Here's our exchange.


BURNETT: All right. But my point is, a lot of people hear you tonight and they say, how can you say that? You were part of the problem. It's hypocritical to hear that out of anyone's mouth, especially someone who was the co-chair of the super committee.

One-point-two trillion dollars is what you were supposed to cut, right? That wasn't a lot of money. You know it. I know it.

So, how do you feel when I express I think the frustration of a lot of people, which is, come on, how can you say those things?

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: I don't know. I was just talking about payroll tax relief. If you want to talk about spending, I think my record is quite clear. And again, I did something that most Republicans had not done. I was willing to put tax revenue on the table.


BURNETT: Number two, eight U.S. soldiers have been charged with the bullying death of a fellow soldier in Afghanistan. An army official told CNN that Private Danny Chen was hazed and abused in the days and weeks before his death. The 19-year-old was found in a guard tower dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The eight soldiers face various charges including negligent homicide, maltreatment and dereliction of duty.

Number three, parts of the western United States are about to get hit very hard by a winter storm. The severe weather team here at CNN tells OUTFRONT that areas around the Rocky Mountains could see 15 inches of snow in the coming days. Other parts of the U.S. will also get hit with heavy rain.

This winter storm follows a blizzard that hit the South yesterday. We're told that some areas could see a half foot of snow on Friday.

Number four, shares of RIM, which is the maker of the beloved, oh, yes, that's the BlackBerry, closed up 10 percent today, following rumors of a takeover. But analysts told us the rumors don't even make sense given BlackBerry's poor showing lately. BlackBerry's share in the smartphone market dropped to 11 percent in 2011. Microsoft and Nokia plotted to join forces to buy RIM, according to "Wall Street Journal." "Reuters" also reported Amazon considered a bid.

And I can tell you a very senior tech executive recently told me that the deal that is obvious needs to be done and should be done is a solo deal where Microsoft buys Research in Motion and they should do it right away.

It has been 138 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Not nearly enough because today, ratings agency Fitch called out the deficit super committee for its failure to get a deal done and warned that they could downgrade the United States in 2013.

You can go online to our Web site to watch our interview with Representative Jeb Hensarling, the co-chair of the super committee and how responded to that.

A new report today that Kim Jong Il's son and successor issued his first military orders actually just before his father died. According to South Korea's state media, Kim Jong Un, demanded that all military units stop field exercises and return to their bases. Intelligence officials say the orders were dramatic attempt to consolidate power and prevent defections. But will the move work?

Or is it more likely that Kim Jong Un, who is only on his 20s, as we said, 27 or 28, we don't even know his exact age, is simply in over his head without enough allies and could lose control of the country's military?

Joining me now from Washington is Chad Sweet, co-founder and managing principal at the Chertoff Group, a global security advisory firm.

What do you think?

CHAD SWEET, CHERTOFF GROUP: We think, number one, if you look at this move, if it is true he did, in fact, order the cessation of all exercises in the country, it's a smart move and the beginning of his consolidation of power.

Number one, it prevents any miscues with the United States for the South Koreans that those exercises could be a provocation. Number two, by pulling the forces back to the garrisons, he's able to have his political officers there to begin the indoctrination of the new regime. And three, it will enable him to monitor to see if there's any movement of military force that he has not authorized, it will be very evident to see that someone maybe trying to make, a faction of the military moving against him.

So, it's a wise move. He does appear to be in the initial stages in control. But again, this is very early. It's a watershed moment.

BURNETT: Chad, what is a better outcome for the United States purely pragmatically, forgetting all humanitarian concerns of which they are serious? Is stability and Kim Jong Un consolidating power better for the U.S. right now, or would we wish for him not to be able to succeed and there to be unrest?

SWEET: Stability is number one right now. But if we -- there's three possible scenarios. The best case for us would be something comparable to what, you know, Mikhail Gorbachev did in the Soviet Union which is to have an enlightened leader, where he basically consolidates power, retains control over the nuclear arsenal and keeps things stable, but then begins to engage the West.

He was educated in the West. Nobody knows his ideology. So, that could be an upside surprise. The more likely scenarios are two of the lesser evils. One is that he consolidates power and retains control of the nuclear arsenal but basically is so focused on his own preservation that he doesn't engage the West.

And the horrible scenario to contemplate is he loses -- he doesn't consolidate power, loses control of the arsenal --


SWEET: And there's an eternal devolution of power where nuclear weapons slip into the black market.

BURNETT: Obviously, it would show why stability and his leadership might be in our interest. Well, thanks very much, Chad Sweet.

SWEET: Thank you.

BURNETT: Nineteen-year-old Aisha Khan vanished after making a frantic phone call. Her mother comes OUTFRONT.

And police are still searching for Maine's missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds. Leads have been pouring in, but she has not been found.


BURNETT: Each night, we reach out to our sources around the world in "Outer Circle."

And tonight, we go to Egypt where the ruling military council expressed, quote, "great regret to Egyptian women over recent attacks on female demonstrators.

Mohammed Jamjoom is in Cairo tonight.

And, Mohammed, I know that you had arranged to meet with one woman beaten during the clashes around Tahrir Square. But tell us what happened when you saw her.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, when we got to the hospital to conduct the interview with Azza Hilar Suleiman (ph), Egyptian protester who had beaten by riot police. We found that her situation, her condition had deteriorated substantially.

Now, while her family gave us access to her. When he went into the room, it was a horrific scene, writhing in agony, screaming out in pain, saying she thought felt she was going to die, not able to take any questions.

Her case just another reason why so many women here in Egypt, and men as well, are outraged at the abuse that's been suffered by women protesters here this past week -- Erin.

BURNETT: Mohammed, thank you. And now to Syria where the main opposition group is accusing President Bashar al-Assad's regime of committing brutal massacres this week. Now, according to this group, nearly 250 people have been killed in a 48-hour period.

Rima Maktabi is following the story from Abu Dhabi.

And, Rima, what is the international community actually doing in response to this violence?

RIMA MAKTABI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the head of the Arab League has asked the Syrian regime to stop violence immediately and facilitate the mission of the observers that are expected to visit Syria within days. On the other hand, France said that the violence in Syria is alarming and said that the government should end this murderous spiral to which Bashar al-Assad is dragging his people. The opposition has called the U.N. Security Council to meet immediately and find ways to protect civilians -- Erin.

BURNETT: Rima, thank you. And now, let's check in with Sanjay Gupta. He's in for Anderson tonight.

What do you have on "A.C. 360," Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we're keeping them honest, as we always do.

Tonight, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is on top of the polls in Iowa. He's also on the defensive tonight, as you know, about racist rants published in the past in newsletters bearing his name. In fact, he walked away from an interview with Gloria Borger earlier today. We're going to stay on the story tonight, keeping him honest.

Also, this, a story I know you have coming up as well, Erin -- science versus bioterrorism. Should the methods and results be released of an experiment that if recreated could unleash a virus capable of killing 60 percent of those infected. The government is now asking scientists not to publish this paper.

We have those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" as well, Erin, at the top of the hour.

BURNETT: All right. Sanjay, I know you saw the results of the bird flu firsthand in Southeast Asia. As a doctor, what are your thoughts on it, how damaging can be -- how destructive, how serious?

GUPTA: This is very serious. At the time we talked a lot about bird flu. You remember, Erin, in the end, there were about 600 people who died from this. People thought the numbers would be much worse. Now, we're talking about this virus potentially becoming more airborne and more easily transmissible.

My thoughts, the information is going to get out there. Scientists probably need to know this so we can better protect, you know, countries and really the entire world from this. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

GUPTA: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: We're going to have more on that in a moment as well.

But now, a little girl in Maine has vanished. And today, police expanded their search for her. Ayla Reynolds disappeared on Friday. Her father, Justin DiPeitro, told police he was the last person to see her after putting her to bed on Friday night. Ayla will be 2 in April. She was last scene wearing green pajamas with white polka dots and she had a cast on her arm from a recent fall.

Chris Knowles is covering the story for us from Waterville, Maine.

And, Chris, police say 165 leads have come in for Ayla so far. Do you know where they focused their efforts today?

CHRIS KNOWLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They were all over this area, Erin. It was a multi-jurisdictional search as well. You had, of course, local police, state police, the game service of Maine. We're talking about game wardens, fish and wildlife, if you will.

As well as the FBI, their child abduction rapid deployment unit is here. And they, too, are expanding their search, expanding the area in the neighborhood where she was last seen. They're doing what they refer to as knock and talks. They're going literally door-to- door and talking to people. They say that in the past, that's been a very effective means to finding missing children.

The areas that they're looking for today, we had 80 searchers on the ground. They were looking in trails, wooded areas. They were also looking in a nearby river, the Kennebec River, and draining small ponds.

One such pond we visited a short time ago. Investigators were there busting through thick chunks of ice. Remember, even though winter doesn't officially start until 12:30 here a.m. in the morning, the temperatures here have been very, very bitter. We're talking about right now 28 degrees, and it's been like that throughout this week, morning lows of 12 degrees.

So, they had to bust through that ice to drain the water out of there. They can see the bottom. They're digging through it, all looking for signs of that missing little girl, Ayla Reynolds -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Chris.

And now to a missing teenager. Kansas police are searching for 19-year-old Aisha Khan who also disappeared on Friday. Now, investigators believe the college student may have been abducted. Aisha was studying at the University of Kansas in Overland Park when she made this disturbing call to her sister complaining she was being harassed by a drunk man who tried to kiss her.


AISHA KHAN: Oh, my gosh, it was so scary. My heart is like pounding. I've never got this scared in my life. And he left and he was so (EXPLICIT DELETED). Pick up your phone. I am freaked out right now. OK. Bye.


BURNETT: Aisha's sister went to find her but only found her book bag and her cell phone. The FBI is assisting in the search. There have been no substantial leads.

Aisha's mother is OUTFRONT with us tonight.

Fouzia, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

And let me just begin by asking you how you learned about your daughter's disappearance and what you know right now.

FOUZIA KHAN, MOTHER OF MISSING STUDENT: My -- I was at home when my other daughter called in. Actually I was calling her because I was expecting both of them at home with me. They were going to come and spend some time.

After they had finished their college, they were going for prayers, Friday prayers. And I never heard back from -- I was trying to call both of them, but I never heard anything. So, I was worried. And finally when I called my older daughter just answered the phone and then she gave it to my older son where he told me that we can't find her any where around the campus.

BURNETT: Let me ask you one thing which I know is a tough question. But I know that she was recently married. Obviously, she's very young.

Is there any chance that it was an unhappy marriage, that she may have run away from that or is that something that you don't think happened?

KHAN: No, never. Nothing like that. Nothing like that.

She was very happy in her marriage. She was very happy. Her husband missed her a lot. He's very shocked.

Everybody is shocked. We can't believe just what happened. It just seems like this is a dream, a nightmare for everyone. It's terrible.

BURNETT: Fouzia, if you could -- the person who abducted her, if she was abducted, could hear you tonight, what would you want to tell him, assuming it is a him?

KHAN: I would like to just -- you know, I would like to know that if he's looking at us, if he's listening to us, if Aisha had slapped him, I apologize behalf of Aisha. BURNETT: I'm so sorry, Fouzia.

KHAN: And we pray -- and we pray for him, too. May the Creator bring peace in his heart as he releases her. He will be in peace. We forgive him.

BURNETT: Fouzia --

KHAN: Please release our daughter and bring her back. We need her. We can't live without her.

BURNETT: Thank you so much for those incredibly gracious words. Many people wouldn't be able to say that. Thank you so much.

And we will keep following the story of Aisha Khan. We're going to take a brief break and we will be back.


BURNETT: Could scientific journals be teaching terrorists how to attack? That's what the U.S. government thinks.

For the first time, a national advisory board on biosecurity is cracking down on what scientists can publish and the worry is that the formula bird flu produced in labs in Wisconsin and the Netherlands could be used by terrorists. It's censorship in the name of national security.

Brian Walsh has been reporting on this for "TIME" magazine. He comes OUTFRONT tonight.

Bryan, what exactly is the research that's out there in your view? You've spent a lot of time talking to people. How damaging is it? What could terrorists find out?

BRYAN WALSH, SENIOR WRITER, TIME MAGAZINE: You have two labs that have taken the H1N1 bird flu virus, the virus you hear about occasionally infecting people in the wild and tweaked it such that it's still very deadly but now transmissible. So, that is what sort of really scares doctors that this idea that this virus could mutate in the wild and start spreading person to person while being very deadly.

So, you have those researchers having created at work. And now, the question is if they've published that, an ingredient list for doing that for someone who -- a terrorist, someone like that.

BURNETT: Why do they do that? To make -- I mean, the whole point was that it wasn't transmissible human to human. They assume it will be and they are doing this so they can come up with a cure, a vaccine?

WALSH: Well, that's exactly what they're looking to do. I mean, they want to better understand this virus. Does it have that capacity? If so, what would change? They could pass that information into those who might be working on a vaccine or a drug, sort of better understand your enemy is the idea with this kind of work.

BURNETT: OK. So what about publishing it? Is it censorship or fair?

WALSH: Well, I mean, for scientists to take the idea of open publishing very seriously, this is how your reputation gets done but also, this is how --

BURNETT: Scientific method, right?

WALSH: Exactly. If you want -- if you want people who would-be working the vaccine or in any other area, they need to be able to see this work, see it in journals. That's why there's concern about the idea of censoring any of it really.

BURNETT: And so, are there other things we think censorship could, if they succeed here, I would imagine there would be a lot of instances, where?

WALSH: I think there's definitely that concern. I mean, it's not the first time that they've thought about this, but it's not the first time you've had this panel actually go out there and say, look, the editors of this journal should think about what you actually put out there.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. Good to see you, Bryan.

And let us know what you think about that, everyone, on our blog, OUTFRONT.

Up next, the story of a little girl in Texas.


BURNETT: Tonight, a 4-year-old girl named Shakira (ph) is being treated at Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas. She's being treated by doctors there for free, who have worked miracles for this little girl.

Two years ago, Shakira, these pictures are hard to look, she was found in a dumpster in Pakistan, burned beyond recognition. She was found alive but only barely. It was believed she was injured in a drone attack as part of America's war on terrorism. Two other little girls found with Shakira in the dumpster died from their injuries.

Drones are a big part of why Pakistan has the lowest approval rating of the United States in the world.

According to the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, there have been 283 drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004. The Pakistani ambassador has talked about that, up to 3,000 people have been killed. And we're talking about civilians.

Recently when I was in Pakistan, I was talking to people who had known members of their families who have been killed in drone attacks. They said, and I'm quoting a man named Mohammed here, "That's a very big concern. That civilian could have been me. It could have been either one of us."

And now we have a face on this. Civilians like 4-year-old Shakira, because of the drone attack. They're performing surgeries on her face and hands and, as you can see, after the horrible things that happened to her, what brings tears to your eyes is her ability to smile, smiling constantly in these pictures.

As we think about drone attacks and the cost of the war on terror, sometimes it's important to think about putting a human face on what that war means. And tonight, that face is Shakira's but the miracle is American doctors saved her life.

Anderson Cooper starts now.