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American Held By Al Qaeda Pleads for Help; Public Fed Up with "Do-Nothing" Congress; Prominent Journalist Beaten in Ukraine; Target Customers PIN Data Not Compromised; Man in Drag Breaches Airport Security; New Technology Promises Fewer Delays; Walking Again on Four- Inch Heels

Aired December 26, 2013 - 17:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, in a shocking new video, an American abducted by al Qaeda pleads with the U.S. government to negotiate his release.

A new worry as well for the tens of millions of Target shoppers who have credit and debit cards compromised. Was their pin information also stolen?

And a multi-million dollar identification system fails to stop an airport security breach when a man dressed as a woman walks on to a runway.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

An American kidnapped in Pakistan by al Qaeda is calling on President Obama to help negotiate his freedom. In a new video, 72-year-old Warren Weinstein, a U.S. government contractor who was abducted more than two years ago, says he feels totally abandoned and forgotten. CNN pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following this story. Barbara, what can you tell us about this video?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, it is another proof of life video from Warren Weinstein, but this man appears to be in very rough shape now after all this time. He says he is not in good health. He has a heart condition. He has acute asthma, and the years certainly, when you look at him, have taken their toll. Have a listen to a bit more of what he had to say.


WARREN WEINSTEIN, AMERICAN ABDUCTED IN PAKISTAN: Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government. And I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here. And now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.


STARR: Now, the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and the conditions that have been set for his release are the release of al Qaeda prisoners being held, detainees in the United States at Guantanamo Bay, and of course, the U.S. maintains the position it does not negotiate -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And Barbara, the Obama administration, we've heard them repeatedly say, the president has talked about how al Qaeda has been so severely, you know, taken down from its abilities at one point, but what are the most recent intelligence reports showing?

STARR: Well, when you talk about that, that may well be the al Qaeda of 9/11, the old core, the traditional al Qaeda, but intelligence estimates are now very much saying there are new rising affiliates and they are posing new dangers to the United States.


STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned recent intercepts of messages from senior al Qaeda operatives in Yemen are renewing concern the group is planning new attacks. The intercepts don't indicate specific targets but are described by one source as quote, "active plotting."

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: There are multiple indications that al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula is plotting attacks both within Yemen against U.S. and other western structures, as well as overseas.

STARR: The group in Yemen already well known for the failed underwear bomber attempt to bring down an airplane Christmas day 2009. Four years later, the U.S. intelligence community believes it poses the greatest threat of an attack on the U.S.

JONES: They're still capable of conducting attacks outside of Yemen, including plotting attacks against the United States in multiple locations, including trying to conduct attacks against the U.S. homeland, especially by taking down aircraft.

STARR: Analysts say the group rebounded in 2013 from battlefield losses. U.S. drone strikes have had mixed results. A drone attack this month failed to kill an al Qaeda planner believed to be behind a plot to attack the U.S. embassy. Yemen says more than a dozen members of a wedding party were killed in that attack.

Yemen's al Qaeda leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, also advising the al Qaeda fighters across the region. And those al Qaeda affiliates from Yemen to Syria, Iraq and Libya are growing stronger. The threat they pose worries key members of Congress.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I absolutely agree that we're not safer today.

STARR: In Iraq, police are trying to crack down, but al Qaeda openly operates training camps near the Syrian border, and from there, al Qaeda has moved into Syria with weapons and tactics learned during the U.S. war in Iraq. Inside Syria, a key al Qaeda affiliate also stronger than a year ago. About 100 Americans along with potentially hundreds from Europe are fighting alongside thousands of militants. JONES: If they were able to return to Europe and to get access to the United States or return directly to the United States, they were not put on any watch list, they would pose a very serious threat. They're well-trained, they're radicalized, and they have the ability and the intent to strike the U.S. homeland.


STARR (on-camera): Now, analysts will tell you that all of this, the rise of the affiliates and the danger they pose, is part of the price paid for years of attacking al Qaeda central, they call it, the old core back in Pakistan. Many of those leaders gone now, including of course, Osama Bin Laden, and that's leaving the affiliates with more freedom, more autonomy to move around, to plan and plot to conduct attacks, gain financing, gain recruits, all of it posing very significant new dangers -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

And confronting al Qaeda is just one of the foreign policy challenges for the Obama administration in the year ahead. So, let's bring in now CNN foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, as well as Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Study.

So, Elise, I want to start with you first. We were talking with Barbara about Warren Weinstein who's being held in Pakistan. The U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists. It doesn't negotiate with al Qaeda. What are the options for freeing him?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, they don't look good, Brianna. As you said, they don't negotiate with al Qaeda or any terrorist groups because then that looks like if they're open for bargaining, that will just encourage more groups to kidnap Americans and in fact, that's what Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader, had said after they kidnapped Weinstein.

You have to know that this guy works for a private company, a private contractor. If the terrorists were looking for money, it would make it a lot easier. A lot of times in these cases, the company will try and negotiate on their behalf.

You know, short of some kind of rescue of Mr. Weinstein, looking at what kind of influence that their contacts on the ground might have with tribal leaders, other type of groups, this is the thing that the state department intelligence community would be looking to see. Who exact -- what elements of al Qaeda might be holding them? Is there anything they could exploit? But, the options don't look good.

KEILAR: It's not certainly a simple answer at all. And to you Vali, let's talk about the al Qaeda threat in Iraq. The U.S. is sending hellfire missiles to Iraq to try to confront that threat. They're sending drones. How serious is the threat of al Qaeda there?

VALI NASR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: It's quite serious, largely because the border between Iraq and Syria has pretty much evaporated. So, we're looking at a very vast area going literally from Aleppo all the way to Baghdad where al Qaeda is gaining ground, has room to maneuver, can recruit, train people and carry out attacks.

And in a way, al Qaeda is not able to connect the fate of Syria to stability in Iraq. And if this continues, not only are we going to be facing a very serious situation in Syria, but actually the viability and stability of Iraq itself will be open to question.

LABOTT: Well, I mean, also, you have to know that when the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came last month, there was a lot of talk between the government, the U.S. Congress and Prime Minister al-Maliki about the need to bring more Sunnis into the fold. This kind of political paralysis has really given al Qaeda a firm, fertile ground there.

And then when you look around the region, in Syria, in Somalia, in Libya, this kind of political instability is one of the main factors that gives al Qaeda fertile ground to nest there and flourish.

KEILAR: And also, Vali, I mean, when you look at Iraq, you realize no U.S. troops really in there in a combat way, and that's really the question in Afghanistan right now. After 2014, what will the U.S. presence be there? Do you think that Afghanistan and the U.S. can strike some sort of agreement, and how essential is it that they do strike an agreement to keep some U.S. troops there?

NASR: Well, it's important largely because if the United States wants the ability to use drones to fight al Qaeda in Pakistan, it needs bases in Afghanistan. But in a way, as your reporter shows, that the al Qaeda issue has now metastasized out of Afghanistan and Pakistanis across the region.

There are some false assumptions we made in our foreign policy that withdrawing from Iraq, withdrawing from Afghanistan, washing our hands of the Arab world, allowing the economy and political situation in that region to begin to go sideways, somehow would not impact us and that the killing of Osama Bin Laden and use of drones would put an end to al Qaeda.

And what we're seeing is that the decision to reduce American military footprint in the region has combined with the economic situation in the region, with political instability in the region, to actually create a much bigger al Qaeda problem that now runs all the way from North Africa and West Africa into Yemen, the core of the Middle East which in the past did not have a major al Qaeda presence, all the way to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And the solution we have to look for is not just what do we do with Afghanistan, but largely how do we connect these pieces together and have a foreign policy for the region that would prevent the spread of al Qaeda and its gaining much greater ground. And therefore, issues like Syria are very important. We're not engaged in Syria, which is a place where al Qaeda is actually gaining an enormous amount of strength on the ground and will have implications going forward.

KEILAR: And we're going to talk about Syria in just a moment, but I do want to turn to Egypt, because you look since the Arab spring and you wonder if in a way, Egypt is right back kind of -- in terms of progress. If Egypt is right back at square one, you have the interim military government now declaring the Muslim Brotherhood, a huge organization in Egypt, a terrorist organization, what are the prospects there?

LABOTT: Well, this is one of the fears and Vali wrote a lot -- very articulately about it is that this is the second phase of the revolutions right now. But, you saw that over the summer, the military got rid of President Morsi, this crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. This is an expansion of that and it's really significant. For the first time in more than a decade, it is illegal to become a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

So, this is going to expand the government's authority to crack down on these guys and the violence is going to continue, and there's a lot of concern about some kind of wider civil conflict. And for the U.S., who was concerned about their moves against the -- military moves against the Muslim Brotherhood in the first place, this is the exact opposite of what they wanted.

They wanted the military to bring the Muslim Brotherhood into the political fold, make them a political group. Now, this is likely to have them go underground, more conflict and the Egyptians are really ignoring what a lot of people think is a much bigger threat right now is Jihadist in the Sinai where al Qaeda is another place where they're gaining a big foothold.

KEILAR: So, we're worried about the prospect of civil war in Egypt and we're watching, Vali, civil war full blown in Syria. Right now, we heard just recently from Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, he said that the U.S. is now realizing that they've aligned themselves in a way with terrorists and that really, the Assad regime being in place is sort of the best option at this point. What do you think? It seems like there are no good options when it comes to Syria.

NASR: No. And actually, the Russian position all along was that we shouldn't get too excited about democracy in the region. We shouldn't get too excited about moderate Islamic voices or talking to the brotherhood. We should try to extinguish whatever expressions of Islamic activism and Islamic extremism there is. And events in Syria have now moved in the direction that the Russians wanted, which is there's no gray area left in the middle.

Either you have al Qaeda resurgent or you let Assad win. And they say, in this kind of circumstance, Assad is the lesser of two evils and it's better if the United States realize that and actually allowed Assad to win. That's the Russian position. They would like also to see the same thing happen in Egypt.

The Russians are very comfortable with the old Middle East in which you had secular dictators sitting on top of societies, keeping them closed and then fighting against all kinds of Islamic activists. And in a way, they are arguing that, you know, the U.S. -- the United States was wrong to get excited about an opening in the region and now the sooner that the United States goes back to supporting dictatorship, the better it would be.

But I don't think that's going to work for the United States very easily. Elise was saying that in Egypt, we wanted The Muslim Brotherhood to be included largely because the Muslim Brotherhood also has a presence in Tunisia, in Morocco, in Jordan, and variety of other places where we have to deal with them. It doesn't help us if they are characterized as a terrorist organization and he puts us in a very difficult position.

And we also shouldn't forget that al Qaeda's worst parts, Ayman al Zawahiri and people like him came out of the radicalized side of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and pushing the Muslim Brotherhood in its entirety underground and to the margins may actually make it much more difficult for the United States to deal with terrorism in the region.

KEILAR: Vali Nasr, Elise Labott, I appreciate your input, both of you. Very insightful. Thank you so much.

Now next, is this the worst Congress ever? Our new poll shows what the voters were saying. And voters were also handicapped hypothetical 2016 matchups. Does Chris Christie give the GOP the best chance against Hillary Clinton?


KEILAR: Lawmakers are on vacation right now and even though they surprised many by reaching a budget deal, our analysis shows fewer than 60 bills were signed into law during the first year of this Congress, which is getting a reputation as one of the worst ever. That's borne out in our latest CNN/ORC poll, but chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, says some on Capitol Hill are hoping for an improvement.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, 2013 has been Congress' least productive year in modern history. Lawmakers get that. They hear complaints from their constituents all the time. Believe it or not, there are some in the middle trying to make things better.


BASH (voice-over): Freshman, Angus King and Joe Donnelly, just wrapped up their first year in the Senate. Their take on the institution is telling.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: It's still pretty bad that we haven't been able to get more done.

SEN. JOE DONNELLY, (D) INDIANA: The more cooperation we can get, the better off we'll be.

BASH: A new CNN/ORC poll shows 67 percent, two-thirds of the country, call this the worst Congress of their lifetime and nearly three- quarters of those people, 74 percent, have lived a long life. They're 50 and older. Seventy-three percent say Congress has done nothing to address the country's problems. The public approval of Congress is still pretty low. Does that surprise you?

DONNELLY: No, because what they see every day on television is deadlock, in-fights and screaming. What you don't see every day is large groups of both Democrats and Republicans coming together saying how can we work through this process.

BASH: One thing that is bipartisan, the blame. The public doesn't trust either party. Fifty-two percent say policies of Democratic Congressional leaders will move the country in the wrong direction. Republican leaders fare only slightly worse at 54 percent, saying the GOP will move the country in the wrong direction. Moderate Republican, Susan Collins, spent a year organizing bipartisan discussion to solve big problems. She wants Americans to have hope for 2014.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I hope that the American people will realize that there are some of us who are trying to build bridges and bring people together and solve problems.


BASH (on-camera): Congress did leave for the year on a higher note than when it started, passing a bipartisan budget through the House and the Senate. Several senators told me that they had people coming up to them all over their states thanking them for being reasonable. One told me at first he thought it was a nice compliment, but then he realized that's a pretty low bar -- Brianna.

KEILAR: A pretty low bar, indeed. Now, besides offering a sour view of the current Congress, our latest poll shows Americans may be thinking about a change for the next Congress. And joining me now to talk about this, CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, editorial director of the "National Journal," and CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza, also Washington correspondent of "The New Yorker."

Thanks, guys for being with me on Boxing Day. Happy holidays to you. So, you saw Dana's piece. Americans think that this Congress is just the worst, but she also said the bar is low. Is this the worst Congress ever?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, it could get worse. We're only halfway through.



LIZZA: So, it's year one of a two-year Congress. So, --



LIZZA: They could do even less next year.


LIZZA: But look, when you have divided government with a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican House, that's historically a unique set of circumstances and not a lot gets done. Now, even given those circumstances, these guys managed to do less than previous Congresses.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it really raises the question of what do you think the purpose of Congress is. If you think the purpose of Congress is to, in a very forceful way, articulate the divergent views in the country of people who disagree, then you'll not say this is the worst Congress. They are doing that.

Most of these members feel like they are articulating the politics of their districts. You know, very few Republicans in the districts who voted for Obama, very few Democrats from districts who voted against him. They are articulated in the politics back home. But if you believe the point of Congress is that it is the place where we mediate our differences as a country --

KEILAR: Where we meet in the middle.

BROWNSTEIN: Where we meet -- we find some way to acknowledge that none of us are going away, then you would say this is a failure because they are rejecting -- particularly the House Republicans kind of reject that vision of the role. Even President Obama, not nearly as kind of engaged in that kind of vision as President, say, Clinton was or even "W" at the early parts of his presidency.

LIZZA: I think it was more of a victory for conservatives than liberals. Liberals believe in an activist government.


LIZZA: They want an aggressive legislative agenda. I think a lot of conservatives look back at this Congress and say, you know, we stopped bad things from happening and that's a success.

KEILAR: Well, let's take a look at a new CNN poll. Let's talk about a trend that we are seeing. Voters are feeling anti-President Obama right now. We know that. But this will show us just how much. When we asked registered voters, are you more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate who supports Obama? Forty percent said yes, opposes Obama, 55 percent. So, that's a 15 point spread there.

This is not good for the president, but is this significant enough, knowing the layout of the country, is it significant enough to really move the bar so that Republicans say may take over the Senate? What do you think?

BROWNSTEIN: I think those are scary numbers for Democrats, like many of these numbers. I mean, the history is that even though the Congress is deeply unpopular, historically, attitudes toward the president have driven these midterm elections more than attitudes toward Congress -- and if the president's approval stays in the low 40s, down to about 30 among Whites which is important because many of those key Senate seats -- states are less diverse than the national average, these are ominous numbers for Democrats.

LIZZA: Yes. With no way around it. Look at 2006, when Bush's low approval rating is what really energized Democrats and that was an election sort of a referendum on Bush's midway -- second term, Democrats took over Congress.

KEILAR: And it's never too early, right, to talk about 2016. So, let's go ahead and do that. We have a new poll out --

LIZZA: We're going to have --

KEILAR: Right. I know. Let's do that, 2024, right? So, Hillary Clinton, when you look at this poll for 2016, and of course, she hasn't declared although she says that she will this next year, she beats everyone handily except for who? Chris Christie. Forty-eight percent. These are registered voters. What is your choice in 2016? What do you make of this?

LIZZA: Well, first of all, it's good news for Christie because sometimes these early polls -- first, early polls are not predictive, but they can have a --

KEILAR: They're sure fun.

LIZZA: They can have a self-fulfilling nature, right? Christie can help raise money off of this. He can start telling the conservative wing of the party that I'm your best candidate. So, it gives him an argument this early in the process to start building an organization, reaching out to donors, and start making a case.

BROWNSTEIN: I think that's the real significance of this. I mean, if you look at 2012 and the Republican primary, the primary (ph) is pretty much divided almost exactly in half between a kind of a more upscale moderate economically focused managerial wing, a more populist downscale Tea Party evangelical populist wing.

And, you know, Christie I think is going to be viewed very suspiciously by that half of the party. And this is going to be an asset for him all the way through and a problem for some of the more conservative candidates in that he is probably going to poll better against Hillary Clinton than they do consistently going forward.

So, while this poll, you know, it is very far away and it's name I.D. and it is not significant, it does, I think, herald the dynamic that may be with us for some time through this Republican race.

KEILAR: And that's perhaps why 2014 is going to be so important in sending the message of what is 2016 --

LIZZA: It is very complicated for Christie, because frankly, he probably needs a Republican party that is a little bit broken. He needs to come in as the savior because he's running from -- KEILAR: What does that mean broken? So, in 2014, does that mean that we need to -- if he needs a broken Republican Party, does that mean 2014 is one where the air's out of the sails?


LIZZA: If the right of the party does well in 2014, it makes it hard for him to argue that he's the savior.

BROWNSTEIN: And that they need to change direction. I mean, the big problem Republicans have is the midterm electorate is much more tilted toward the voters that favor them, older Whites, than the presidential electorate will be. So, they can do very well in 2014 and really make no progress in solving their problems at the presidential level.

But as Ryan says, if they do well in 2014, they may be less receptive to an argument from someone like Christie who says look, we have to change direction in order to win back the White House as Bill Clinton did with Democrats in 1992.

LIZZA: Yes. That was the pattern in 2010 when the Tea Party was ascendant and it gave Romney a lot of trouble in 2012.

KEILAR: And that is why we will be watching 2014 so closely. Ryan Lizza, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

LIZZA: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Now, coming up, chased down on the road, forced out of her car, and brutally beaten. What is behind the assault on a prominent journalist?

And a woman who lost part of a leg in the Boston marathon bombing will astound you with the progress that she has made. Would you believe four-inch stiletto heels? You're in the newsroom or the SITUATION ROOM.


KEILAR: A civic activist and journalist known for investigating corruption among senior officials was beaten outside Ukraine's capital on Christmas. The beating coming amid political turmoil in Ukraine. This has drawn a protest from the U.S. Let's bring in CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, to talk about this. This is very disturbing, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, and when you see that video, really Brianna, it's two videos, in fact. It was really a vicious attack. There was the first video which is it shows her, she's driving to her home outside of Kiev. She's chased down and a car begins to ram her. It goes on for quite a long time. Then finally, they pretty much crash into her.

She jumps out of the car and then these men, armed, go after her with some type of, you know, sticks or something and beat her severely. And then the aftermath, you just saw the pictures. She is bloodied and in really bad shape, taken to the hospital.

So why did this happen? Well, it's not clear totally, but just hours before she was attacked, she posted a blog post and in that, she talked about a kind of country manor that was being built for the interior minister, but let's listen to what she says about this attack.


TETYANA CHORNOVIL, UKRAINIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST (Through Translator): I'm a person with a long list of enemies. Many people are trying to get me. It was not a provocation against somebody else. I'm sure about it. I mean, I'm a revolution activist, a very active one, and I am very well known as a journalist. I have undertaken many journalistic investigations which are still irritating all of them.


DOUGHERTY: So now the Ukrainian president's office has condemned this. He has ordered an investigation. And they apparently have identified two people, and I think they have been arrested. That was the latest we saw. And also a third has been identified.

But obviously, there are a lot of questions about this and it comes in the context of all those demonstrations that were taking place in Kiev downtown after the president decided not to go with that European Union deal. So it's in the context of that.

KEILAR: And the truth, Jill, is that she is lucky actually even to be alive. But when you talk about the fact that there are some suspects, what are the chances that someone is actually punished for this?

DOUGHERTY: That's a very good question because often these investigations take place but nobody really is arrested or if they are, they may be very low on the totem pole in terms of who actually ordered it to take place.

So it's beginning, unfortunately -- you know, I covered Ukraine, covered Russia, and this is not that uncommon. The video, of course, having it like that, is but this happens to journalists not every day, but not that infrequently, either.

KEILAR: Yes, and the video just shows you exactly, you know, what they're dealing with and what journalists in countries like the Ukraine are dealing with.

Jill Dougherty, thank you.

Now let's get to some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thirty-eight people are dead after two car bombs ripped through Baghdad targeting Christian Iraqis. Families were leaving Christmas mass when the first bomb exploded outside of the church, killing 27 and wounding 56. A second attack in a popular market killed 11 and wounded 14. Many there were finishing up their Christmas shopping.

Iraq's dangerous rise in sectarian violence in 2013, half of all Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homeland since the war in Iraq began 10 years ago.

And the Dow closed at a record high today. Sound familiar? Well, that's because it is the 50th time -- 5-0 time -- that this has happened this year. All of Wall Street had a great Christmas with the S&P 500 closing at a record high, the Nasdaq hitting a 13-year peak. All three markets gained at least 20 percent in 2013.

And the Los Angeles airport shooting suspect has pleaded not guilty. 23-year-old Paul Ciancia was in court for his arraignment. He faces 11 charges, including murder and attempted murder for allegedly opening fire at the airport and killing a TSA officer. Three others were wounded. This trial is scheduled to begin February 11th.

And love him or hate him, he may just be the best. LeBron James is the Associated Press' Male Athlete of the Year. James was the NBA's Most Valuable Player this past season, as he and the Miami Heat won their second championship together.

And the AP named Serena Williams the Female Athlete of the Year on Tuesday. Williams went 78-4, not bad, right, in 2011, winning 11 titles and more than $12 million in prize money. It was her third time at the top of the AP's list.

Now, next, hackers steal debit and credit card information on 40 million Target customers. Did they get the PIN numbers, too? We have new information.

And the security breach at a major U.S. airport with a bit of a twist. Details of what this person was wearing, coming up.


KEILAR: New developments in that massive security breach that compromised the credit and debit card information of 40 million, that's right, 40 million Target customers. Today, the company is giving new details about the investigation and CNN business correspondent Zain Asher is here to catch us up on that.

What's going on, Zain?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, there was a Reuters report that the hackers who compromised those 40 million debit and credit cards may have actually gotten access to people's PIN numbers as well.

Now Target for their part has come out denying this. They sent us a statement today saying, and I'm quoting here, "There is no evidence that unencrypted PIN data was compromised."

Now we have no idea at this point. It's obviously very early in the investigation. We're not sure what's true and what's not true. But I will say that if it is true, if people's PIN numbers were compromised as well, it does open a whole new can of worms, because it means that these hackers can actually go to the ATM and withdraw money directly from people's bank accounts.

It also means they can check your balance as well and figure out how much money is at their disposal, too. So, obviously, Target coming out once again denying this, but I will say that if you did shop at Target between the end of November and mid-December, it is crucial that you be safe and you check your statements with a fine tooth comb.

I can't emphasize that enough -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. It's so scary, the idea that someone would have access to your bank account. I mean, that's so much more scary --

ASHER: I know. It's crazy.

KEILAR: -- than a compromised credit card, which is, you know, obviously a major concern of us.

ASHER: Right.

KEILAR: Now a lot of people may not realize that these magnetic strips that are in these cards are actually old technology. What's the new technology and when might retailers upgrade?

ASHER: Right. So the new technology, if you want to call it that, is what they use in Europe, which is the chip and PIN system. It's very different from the magnetic strip because it means there's an actual chip on your card where all your data is stored. It's not transmitted so for the most part, if a hacker wants to gain access to your account, they actually need your physical card to do it, and they need your PIN as well.

So, in Europe, you are less likely to have these mass data breaches that you have in the U.S. so American banks are very good at detecting fraud but European banks are a lot better at preventing it. But the problem is, their system is a lot more expensive than our system in the U.S. -- Brianna.

KEILAR: That's right. It's the cha-ching.

All right, Zain, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. We appreciate it.

Let's get more now with Catherine Lotrionte, she is the director for -- I should say of the Institute for Law, Science and Global Security and a visiting professor at Georgetown University.

And not only that, Catherine, you're also a Target shopper with a Target debit card which I didn't even know existed. But in light of that, and what you know about security, what are you going to do moving forward? CATHERINE LOTRIONTE, INSTITUTE FOR LAW, SCIENCE AND GLOBAL SECURITY: Well, as a consumer, and someone that shops pretty regularly at Target, of course, I'm very concerned. But the larger issue is that the United States, we as a nation, haven't done what we need to do to protect our data, and the retailers, the companies themselves have not deterred the criminals. We've made it quite easy for the cyber criminals to get access to our personal data.

KEILAR: And right now there's a lot of people like yourself who are wondering oh, my goodness, is my PIN number out there floating somewhere, and even if everything looks OK in my bank account, should I still be concerned? Is it too late for those people who have seen their PIN information out there, what can they do?

LOTRIONTE: I think they should first contact Target. And the lack of information I think we need customers and consumers need a lot more information from Target, from the CEO. They say that 40 million customers' information has been compromised. They said that they have notified customers or are notifying customers by e-mail. I don't know how they get everybody's e-mail. I haven't gotten an e-mail from them.

KEILAR: And they have yours.


KEILAR: Whereas other people, they may not have their e-mail.

LOTRIONTE: That's right. With those that are using regular credit cards don't necessarily have e-mail contact. So they -- I mean, I am wondering where the CEO is, I'm giving out this information. And more importantly, what policies did they have in place to secure the data, were they followed and if they weren't followed, that's where people like Senator Blumenthal has called upon the commissioner of the FTC to not only investigate but to hold Target liable for any of the costs. If they were found to not take reasonable steps to protect it.

KEILAR: OK. So let's talk about what Target is saying. I think I'm going to know the answer to your question about whether we should be assured by this. But Target says, "To date there is no evidence that unencrypted PIN data has been compromised. In addition based on our communications with financial institutions they have also seen no indications that any PIN data was compromised." Should we feel reassured by that?


KEILAR: You don't.

LOTRIONTE: And I would not encourage customers to be assured that nothing, including their PIN numbers, have not been compromised. Then the question for Target is, they could -- why unencrypted? Why aren't they taking steps by encrypting data? The answer is because it costs money. But to protect our data, what the retail organizations in the country need to take seriously is it might cost them more money in order to protect the consumers' data. KEILAR: But you see the difference when you look at Europe. You're saying the retailers are responsible and the government is also responsible. Right? So that's what you're saying. Is it -- in Europe, is it that governments are saying OK, retailers, this is the mark you need to meet in terms of security, and the U.S. government doesn't do that?

LOTRIONTE: So there's three groups of entities or groups of people that point fingers at each other expecting the other to carry the costs. The credit card and debit card companies, and they are accused of not having secure cards. You talked about the magnetic strips. The Europeans have more secure cards but it costs money to implement those new cards.

The banks also are sometimes accused but also call upon the retailers to have more secure systems. And then there's the retailers themselves, the companies clearly -- I mean, where I come down is more needs to be done by the companies. The individual companies in retail, that's the face to the customers. Right? We're going in to Target, we're giving Target our trust.

Not really thinking about our bank, but we're hoping that Target and believe at least what Target says is that they're protecting our data. So that company, all the companies, need and they're not doing enough.


LOTRIONTE: That's the reality. They're just not.

KEILAR: And -- so you're calling on the retailers to do more? I'm sure this isn't the last of this kind of thing that we will hear of. So we'll see if maybe they do move in that direction.

Catherine Lotrionte, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

LOTRIONTE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Now, just ahead, how did a man walk on to two runways at a major U.S. airport? We have details of the investigation and the unusual clothes that he was wearing.

And stuck in frozen, 74 people on a ship at the bottom of the world. We will go live to Antarctica coming up in our next hour.


KEILAR: There was a security breach at Newark Liberty Airport and a multi-million dollar identification system failed to detect a man who walked on to a runway dressed in women's clothing.

CNN's Alexandra Field has been following this unusual story.

What's the latest, Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question on everyone's mind is how did this suspect go so far while going undetected. All four of New York City area airports including Newark here spent $100 million securing their perimeters with the latest technology. That includes radar, motion sensors, surveillance cameras, even with all that in place, two officials say a 24-year-old man was able to jump over the fence at the airport here on Newark on Christmas morning.

They say he made his way across two runways, and then reached Terminal C where an airline employee finally stopped him at Gate 70. That's when police arrested him. Port Authority investigators say they're looking into how all of this happened. They say they're still reviewing any surveillance video that could be available.

They're talking to personnel but they also tell us, Brianna, that there is no visual evidence at the moment when the suspect jumps the fence. They add that no planes were ever in danger. This all really amounts to something of an embarrassing situation, according to one official.

KEILAR: Yes. And we're going to talk about certainly the security system, but what do we know about this guy? And do we believe that he was harmless?

FIELD: Well, that's what officials think. He's a 24-year-old Jersey City man Siyah Bryant. They say that he had headed to the fence from the New Jersey turnpike. Apparently he told police he was in a car with someone when he got spooked and ran off. Police say when they were arrested him he was wearing women's clothing.

We don't know more about him than that but police say that it certainly didn't appear that there was any sort of threat in mind. He just sort of headed for the airport and managed to jump that fence.

KEILAR: OK. So, ultimately no harm, but I think the concern is that there could have been. The security system, has it had trouble before?

FIELD: Yes, this has come under fire before. Look, it's an expensive system. It surpasses what the federal regulations require. Back in 2012 in JFK, there was a similar incident. A jet skier ran out of gas. He told police that he crawled out of the water up onto the tarmac and he went undetected.

Again there -- so certainly this was a system that was put in place to try and enhance airport security, but at the same time there have been two breaches that are really calling the expense into question for some critics.

KEILAR: Yes. Weird circumstances sort of showing the holes in that security.

Alexandra Field, thank you very much for your report.

And, you know, we may soon see fewer flight delays, thanks to NASA.

CNN's Rene Marsh reports on a new technology.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Once everyone is on board, the plane doesn't usually take off right away. There's usually some waiting involved. So this new system is all about cutting back on the wait time so when the plane gets the green light, it doesn't get stuck in a traffic jam.

(Voice-over): Sitting on the runway, a frustration for flyers ready to take off but instead they wait, for sometimes what seems like hours.

(On camera): And you look out the window and you see a long line of planes ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think I'm never going to get home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrible. You know, if people -- if they had ways to fix this, and you want one to take off and take an hour to take off.

MARSH (voice-over): Now NASA, the same agency responsible for this --


MARSH: -- has developed software to help controllers make delays go away. It takes perfect coordination for air traffic controllers to get them in the right place at the right time to avoid passenger delays. NASA's software will make the choreography smoother.

TOM DAVIS, NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER: It's going to reduce your delays in bad weather by as much as 10 or 15 minutes, maybe, and in not so bad weather, you're going to feel less delay on the ground and you're going to feel a little bit less delay in the air.

MARSH: NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley created the new technologies called Precision Departure Release Capability.

(On camera): Think of it as a car pulling onto the roadway. The software says precisely when to pull out of your spot, knows you have to drive down a road, and through a light, merge onto a highway, and it would get you to your designated spot between this bus and this Honda on time.

(Voice-over): And that precision in the control tower means shorter lines of planes waiting to take off, a test that Dallas/Forth Worth airport last year showed a dramatic improvement.

DAVIS: The aircraft were able to merge into en route streams and hit their targeted slot in the overheard streams about over 80 percent of the time, which is up quite a bit from today's capability where they're able to hit it only about half the time.

MARSH: NASA's $5 million program is estimated to save $20 million a year, mostly in fuel costs. It will cut pollution and help get you where you're going on time.

(On camera): For now the FAA says it's too early to tell when the system could be deployed around the country.


KEILAR: Rene Marsh reporting there.

And coming up, we are going live to Antarctica, where explorers are stuck in sea ice. We'll be talking to the leader of the team, coming up.


KEILAR: She lost part of her leg in the Boston marathon bombing and now she'll astound you with her progress.

CNN's Poppy Harlow has her story.


HEATHER ABBOTT, BOSTON BOMBING AMPUTEE: I didn't look at it at all from, you know, the moment that happened.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heather Abbott is talking about her left leg, amputated after the Boston bombing. She wanted to remember it the way it was -- before.

(On camera): You calls yourself a professional heel wearer?

ABBOTT: I think I did call myself that.

HARLOW: Really?

(Voice-over): And today she is again. Walking on four-inch stilettos on her prosthetic leg. Nothing short of miraculous.

Take a close look. Can you tell which one is manmade?

ABBOTT: I can go out in public now with part of my leg exposed and nobody is staring at it because they can't tell. You can kind of see where there's, like, shaving marks?


Where, you know, somebody would have shaved.

HARLOW: It looks life-like. The cosmetic cover color-matched to her skin tone, down to the freckles and creases on the heel. Heather now has four prosthetic legs.

ABBOTT: This is my waterproof leg. And I wear this one in the shower.

Hr This one is for running, another for flats, and one for high heels.

ABBOTT: I kind of feel like my old self again when I wear it.

HARLOW: She had no idea she'd get this far until amputee advocate Aviva Drescher walked into her hospital room.

ABBOTT: She walked in with high heels and skinny jeans, and I couldn't tell which leg was real and which wasn't. It really helped me think OK, I'm going to be able to do this.

AVIVA DRESCHER, AMPUTEE ADVOCATE: Of course the priority when you lose limb is how am I going to walk? But beyond that is sort of a female rite of passage, which is how am I going to feel pretty? How am I going to feel sexy? How am I going to get a pedicure? How am I going to wear a bathing suit? I think those are all very normal questions.

HARLOW (on camera): I mean, it feels like skin.

ABBOTT: Some of them were cosmetic concerns that I had. I wasn't as vocal about, because they seemed sort of insignificant at the time.

HARLOW: Were you sort of embarrassed to ask?

ABBOTT: I think I was, yes, asking if I was going to be able to wear a dress again didn't seem like an appropriate question.

HARLOW (voice-over): But it is. And here's why.

DR. DAVID CRANDELL, SPAULDING REHABILITATION HOSPITAL: For Heather, having a highly cosmetic cover that matches her remaining leg was essential to her recovery. She is now able -- the confidence to go out in public.

HARLOW: This isn't the norm, though, for most amputees. Not by a long shot with highly cosmetic prosthetics often not covered by insurance. For Heather, it was a combination of insurance and donations.

(On camera): Do you think everyone should be able to have a limb like this and have it covered by insurance?

ABBOTT: Yes, I do. If I couldn't have a leg that looked like my own, I don't know that I would have recovered as well. It's upsetting to me that there are other men and women out there that aren't able to have a leg that looks like their own leg if that's what they want.


KEILAR: Now happening now delivery disaster. UPS is still sorting through that massive backlog.