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U.S. Mulls Killing American Al-Qaeda Without Due Process; Castaway Heads Back to El Salvador; Hollande Coming Alone; Olympic Bobsledder Gets Trapped -- Twice!; Behind the Scenes, Making an Oscar

Aired February 10, 2014 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Just past the bottom of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And, right now, decision-makers at the highest level of national security are having this debate that really must rip at the core of what they stand for, whether to kill a U.S. citizen to protect the U.S.

A senior U.S. official says the target is an American man involved with al-Qaeda who may be plotting an attack against this country.

Now, the U.S. has acted against an American before. A drone strike killed Muslim cleric and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011.

And today the White House press secretary responded to the U.S. possibly targeting an American.

Jay Carney referred back to a speech President Obama made at the National Defense University.

The president had said that he thought killing an American without due process is unconstitutional and that it should never be done on U.S. soil.

But then he said this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen with a drone or with a shotgun without due process.

Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens, and when neither the United States nor its partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot, his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than they should be protected from a SWAT team.


BALDWIN: Joining me in now, NYU law professor Samuel Rascoff, faculty director of the school's Center on Law and Security.

Professor, welcome.


BALDWIN: Since drones have killed an American in the past as we saw, why is there this debate. Hasn't the precedent been set?

RASCOFF: In a sense the precedence has been set, but there was a lot of protest the last time they exercised this authority.

Killing an American without going through a court proceeding is an awesome responsibility and has sparked a lot of controversy. The president is going to try to think twice.

BALDWIN: I know the issue is precision, how precise this targeted killing would be.

We know what drones can do and what they call the collateral damage and unintended victims of drones.

How can any president justify legally continuing their use?

RASCOFF: Look, the issue is one of the core legal and policy issues that is at stage here.

When we are talking about a president who has a responsibility under the constitution not just a right to defend America against attack, how can a president not choose to use whatever means are available to him if in fact the president believes and this is the key question, that the threat that we are talking about, the individual that we are talking about poses a legitimate ongoing threat.

BALDWIN: What if the president determines that threat exists. He indeed wants to target said American. Is there anyone who can stop him?

RASCOFF: In the past, we have gone through a little bit of a conversation about whether it would be appropriate for courts to become involved.

The best answer is probably not. There is more latitude to get the courts involved in the process of restraining the president in instances where we think the president is acting lawlessly.

BALDWIN: Samuel Rascoff, NUY, thank you very much.

Now to the castaway, the castaway who says he has been lost at sea for more than a year, 13 months to be precise, he is heading home to Mexico.

Here he is boarding a plane. Doesn't look the same, does he? Clean shaven, rocking a fedora, if you will looking better than when we last saw him last week, washing ashore in the Marshall Islands with this scraggly beard, wearing only ragged underpants.

He washed up in a boat, this boat. He says he headed out to sea off the coast of Mexico. That was 13 months ago, got caught in a storm, drifted off path, surviving on fish and turtle blood and rain water and sometimes his own urine.

And CNN's Miguel Marquez has his movements today and suspicion still surrounding his story.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first leg of Jose Alvarenga's short trip home is now over.

He is accompanied by a diplomat from the El Salvadorian embassy in Tokyo, because they are not represented in the Marshall Islands.

The one thing he asked for was a photo with the president and he certainly got it, not just with the president, with the foreign minister and other dignitaries who gathered at the airport to take pictures with him.

He is the biggest celebrity that the Marshall Islands have seen in a very long time.

Now, when he boarded the plane in Majuro in the Marshall islands, he was brought to the plane in a wheelchair. He was able to get up the stairs with the help of two individuals.

And he looked frail, but in good condition. He said that he was feeling good. He said that he was very emotional and certainly looking forward to getting home.

We are learning new details about the first hours that he was found on Ebon Island, which is about 200 miles from Majuro.

He made contact with individuals on that island. He was dressed only in underwear that were completely tattered. He had a knife in his hand.

Once they got him to put the knife down, they were able to communicate with him by using pictures and charades. There happened to be a Norwegian anthropologist who spoke a little Italian there as well, and most of their language skills came from the TV show "Dora the Explorer," talking to him in Spanish.

During the flight, he didn't seem to have any issues whatsoever. I did pass by his seat at one point and the one thing he was doing was looking over the safety card.

This is the guy who doesn't ever want to be caught out and always wants to know where the exits are after his harrowing experience, 6,600 miles, 13-and-a-half months on the ocean.

And now he has about 24 hours before he will be home in El Salvador.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Honolulu.


BALDWIN: Can you blame him, looking at that safety card? I would be doing the same thing.

Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.

How about this? Have you ever planned a party and something major happens and forces you to up and change the guest list?

Not always easy, right? That is what's going on behind the scenes at the White House, because this recent announcement by France's leader about his love life has some Washington staffers scrambling.

We will explain, next.


BALDWIN: Behind the scenes, they have plans for the state dinner to honor Hollande, the leader of France.

As you may have heard, Hollande has a female problem, as in one too many.

His partner left him amid reports that he has been slipping away on a scooter for terrorists with an actress.

Jake Tapper is next. Jake tapper, as far as this dinner goes, the White House had to toss out the original limitations because they had the wrong picture on them.

What other headaches have been caused by the complicated love life of the French leader?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": The invitations had the name of his then-girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend. Those are fancy invitations. They are engraved and have the presidential seal in gold.

BALDWIN: Not cheap.

TAPPER: To trash them and get rid of them, there other things they will have to do, questions about protocol.

He takes the spouse of the visiting head of state to a local school and there is an event around education and children. That will not happen this time.

Also, the first lady usually has a coffee and tea with the visiting spouse. That will not happen.

Obviously, this is a moment where we revel and talk about the great relationship between the United States and France, and as was observed earlier by a senior official, we have come a long way. BALDWIN: Indeed we have. Thank you. We will see you in 15 minutes on the lead.

Coming up next, one of America's most famous winter Olympians takes to the slopes after a lot of controversy over his actions.

I'm sure you have seen this picture. The bobsledder tweeted this. He had to punch out of a bathroom when he was locked inside.

What are the chances something like this could happen twice? Rachel Nichols is in Sochi. She has the scoop, next.


BALDWIN: Ah, cue the music. Let's talk Olympics, because one of the best-known American Olympians hits the snow tomorrow in Sochi.

CNN's Rachel Nichols is standing by for us in Russia. Rachel Nichols, the man we call "The Flying Tomato," when will we see Shaun White? Tomorrow?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN ANCHOR, "UNGUARDED": Well, you're supposed to see him tomorrow, Brooke, but there have been a ton of problems with the half-pipe course that you're supposed to see him on.

First of all, it's been warm here. Remember, we are in Russia's only subtropical climate and it has been in the 50s today. That makes for soft snow. So that has been one issue.

There's also been some issues with the course's design and the construction that's been done around it in the past few days, and riders are saying that it is dangerous.

In fact, two-time Olympic medalist Hanna Teter went so far today as to call it, quote, "crappy." Shaun White said that he wasn't able to get in his training run.

These are problems. What's the deal? The half-pipe is supposed to be have a half bottom, because after you twist and cork and loop through all those tricks that they do, when you land, I don't know, you want it to be flat, right?

Instead, right now, they says that it's so bumpy some of the riders say it feels like a moguls course to them, and Hannah was even talking about maybe banding some of the other competitors together and asking them to move the dates of competition until the course was straightened out.

Now I don't think that that is going to happen and, by the way, right now, it's raining, so we'll see what happens with that.

Now, the rain actually could firm up the soft snow, but it will be an adventure, Brooke, no question about that.

BALDWIN: So, it's an adventure in balmy, Sochi. And I don't think it was the weather, though, that led to this picture and tweet from American bobsledder Johnny Quinn.

Little frustrated. Tell me why.

NICHOLS: Johnny Quinn should not be in small spaces. This is what we have learned from the Olympics.

Johnny Quinn had difficulties over the weekend. He went to go take a shower in his room at the Olympic Village. He has a roommate, but his roommate wasn't there, and he didn't bring his phone into the shower because, you know, most of us don't do that.

When he got out of the shower he realized he didn't have a towel with him, so he went to open the door and his door was jammed shut.

He obviously wanted to get out of there. He had quite a bit of struggle.

I talked to him and this is what he told me.


JOHNNY QUINN, AMERICAN BOBSLEDDER: My neighbors are my two other teammates on the bobsled, so I was banging on the wall, trying to get their attention, and nothing.

NICHOLS: It did not happen.

QUINN: And nothing, so --

NICHOLS: Did you have a panic moment?

QUINN: Not so much because I have running water, but I had nothing and I was sitting there banging on parts of the wall see if I could catch somebody's attention.

And as I'm banging on random parts, I kind of hit the door and it cracks and so I go a little bit harder and my fist goes through the door and so --

NICHOLS: Are you surprised at that?

QUINN: Well --

NICHOLS: Do you normally punch through doors?

QUINN: No. So, I see light and I was like, OK, it's time to get out of here now.


NICHOLS: You can see that Johnny punched through the door and it's also cardboard.

They released his door, which is a good thing, except he did something today, which was get into an elevator with two of his fellow bobsledders and guess what, Brooke. The elevator doors were stuck shut. They were trapped. They couldn't get out of there.


NICHOLS: And it's not so easy to punch your way through elevator doors.

Johnny tweeted out a picture and he had said in the tweet, you guys aren't going to believe me, but I swear I've got two other guys in here to back me up, and they all say in fact that the elevator was stuck shut.

Fortunately, the doors were not that hard to pry open. They did get some help getting out.

But as one of the guy said, it's a good thing that there's no doors on the bobsled to get stuck, otherwise when they go down for their next practice run, Johnny may not get out there.

BALDWIN: He seems like a nice guy, but don't get stuck in tiny spaces with Johnny Quinn ever.

Rachel Nichols, thank you so much.

The Oscar, coming up next, we'll show you what it looks like without all of the glitz and the glamour and the gold.

We'll take you live to where those statues are made.


BALDWIN: Well, we know the chief of General Motors, the new CEO is going to earn big bucks. But exactly how big?

The CEO, Mary Barra's total compensation will be $14.4 million just this year. That includes cash and stocks. $10 million will have to be approved by shareholders at their June meeting.

Hollywood's grandest, most glamorous night is a little over two weeks away. It's on March 2nd.

The luncheon is just getting started. You have 150 nominees all sitting together and eating lunch together at the Beverly Hilton Hotel today celebrating the honor of just being in the running for Academy Awards.

The class picture will be taking place, so combine the A-listers with contenders whose names often only make it to the credits. That's happening now.

Nominees are getting ready and so are the Oscars themselves, the statuettes. You're about to see what they look like underneath the shimmery gold.

Ted Rowlands is live inside the factory where these little guys are made. And, Ted, walk me through it.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're going to watch one being made right now, Brooke, watch an Oscar being born.

We're at R.S. Owens in Chicago. This is where they pour the liquid metal into this cast, which has then used for every Oscar awarded over the last 30 years.

Joseph Petree is with R.S. Owens. He's with us, watching this process.

The metal goes in there, and then an Oscar comes out?

JOSEPH PETREE, DESIGN DIRECTOR, R.S. OWENS: Absolutely. He gets cast and then after he's cast he sits for about 20, 30 seconds and then from there it's all about inspection and quality control.

ROWLANDS: Martin Vega is the caster right now and, Brooke, you're going to see in about two minutes -- or, two seconds an Oscar.

They don't come out gold. They come out silver-ish.

PETREE: Yeah. They go from being cast and then we cut the gate off. We go through a hand-grinding and a hand-polishing process. It's several steps that we go through.

After he goes through initial level of quality control, he then goes back to the engraving department where he gets an individual serial number put on him which will be with him for the rest of his life.

ROWLANDS: All right, let's run to the next step quickly, as we're running out of time.

David's going to come with us to the buffing zone and you say it's a seven-day process, basically to get one of these from start to finish, and then they are shipped off to Hollywood.

They are actually made one year in advance. So what we're seeing is this year's crop, but they will be awarded next year?

PETREE: Absolutely. These guys go through heavy handwork. Right now, they are being individually hand-polished.

After they're hand-polished, they then they go into our electroplating department.

ROWLANDS: And, next up, they color. They go from silver to gold and, Brooke, that is a five-step process, as well. They plate it, the different metals. It ends up being gold, but before it gets to gold it gets all of these others, copper and silver.

Look at this, though. They also make these. These are the nameplates. These go on at the Governor's Ball. This is for Leo DiCaprio. He hopes he wins it.

BALDWIN: I love it.

ROWLANDS: We're all out of time. Back to you, Brooke. There it is. There's Oscar.

BALDWIN: Ted Rowlands, the birth of an Oscar.

Guys, thank you both very much. Have to go. That was amazing.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. See you back here tomorrow.

Now we go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.