March 15th, 2012
11:46 AM ET

Mississippi Convicts Perks Before Pardon

CNN's Ed Lavandera reported on two Mississippi convicted murderers that received driver's licenses and bought cars before being officially pardoned by Gov. Haley Barbour.

Topics: AC360 • CNN
March 15th, 2012
09:39 AM ET

Abramoff advice for Blagojevich: Prison a 'horrific experience;' being celebrity is not fun

On Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff discusses his experience at Englewood Federal Prison in Littleton, Colorado and explains what Rod Blagojevich can expect as a celebrity behind bars.

Abramoff says, “Well, it's horrible. They strip you out of all your clothes, take away all your possessions and put them in a box and ship them to your family. Put you in the prison garb and basically thrust you among the inmates. Most of whom are frankly friendly and not hostile, but it’s completely disorienting environment. He's a celebrity. So he will be the celebrity of the prison. I think that Jeff Skilling who is there, is probably happy that he is arriving because being the celebrity in prison, take it from me, is not fun."

He continues, “I think you're scared going in because you don't know what you're about to encounter, but generally you're not scared. The prisons are pretty well maintained in the sense that if there's violence, they'll get down on it very quickly. That doesn’t mean there is violence. There is violence, but for a white collar criminal, what you basically have to do is stay out of the business of people who are making trouble and people who are breaking the rules. It's tempting there to break the rules because too many people are doing it.”

He adds, “And some of them are not going to react well to the fact that a lot of attention is going to be paid to him. When I arrived in prison, they locked the prison down that day because the media was all over the place. I imagine it will be same for him. That's not a good thing to enter the prison under a lock down scenario because the inmates don’t like that. They have to stay in their cells or their cubicles or whatever it is. Basically he has to keep his head down. If he plays to the celebrity, plays to the attention and plays all the hoopla made about him, he will wind up in trouble in prison. The authorities don’t like that. They want inmates to be inmates and not celebrities.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs week mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

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Topics: CNN • Soledad O'Brien • Starting Point
March 15th, 2012
09:12 AM ET

Puerto Rico rep.: Santorum view on English language adoption for statehood is narrow, limiting; 'it's a non-issue'

On Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (D), of Puerto Rico, discusses Rick Santorum's comment about the requirement for Puerto Rico to adopt English as the official language for statehood.

Pierluisi says, “It's incorrect to say that there's a federal law imposing English as the only official language in our states. The Constitution doesn't provide anything along those lines either. And in Puerto Rico, as a matter of fact, we have two official languages, English and Spanish. Santorum's view is narrow and limiting view of what America is all about. English is the predominant language in the U.S. and will continue to be so, whether Puerto Rico becomes a state or not. In Puerto Rico, 90 percent of our parents want their children to become fluent in English. So, it's a non-issue and shouldn't be a factor in determining whether Puerto Rico can join the Union or not.”

Political strategist Hank Sheinkopf offers, “Puerto Rico is not going to be a state. This is not the first time a referendum on the issue. It’s nonbinding. [Pedro Pierluisi is] not a congressman. He’s a resident commissioner. He has no power, the fellow we just saw on television - $25 billion goes out of this country every year to Puerto Rico in transfers and aid. It’s the nuttiest thing you ever heard, it’s a colony.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs week mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

March 15th, 2012
08:42 AM ET

Fmr. CIA head of Bin Laden unit on US soldier: could be moved back to Afghanistan

On Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, Gary Berntsen, former commander of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit in Afghanistan, discusses the potential fallout of the U.S. moving the Afghanistan shooter to Kuwait, Leon Panetta security scare and sustained American presence in the country.

On the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghans being moved to Kuwait, Berntsen says, “The Afghans are not going to be happy about this…. There are members of the Afghan parliament that are complaining already, I’m sure that they will cull members of the Karzai administration in front of them to question them on this…. I suspect that Afghans will want him tried back in Afghanistan. Moving him out to Kuwait doesn’t preclude the Army from moving him back in there to Bagram for a trial in the end.”

He continues, “They did a poll about a year ago on the Afghan men between the ages of 20 and 32, and 90 percent of them didn't know why we were there, didn't know about 9/11. Afghanistan is a country with a very, very low literacy rate. We are losing the I.O., the information operations war, the propaganda war. The Taliban respond very quickly to attacks. They put out information that the United States are occupying force, despite the fact that we're there at the desires of the Afghan government that we built thousands of schools. I mean, we've done a lot of good work there. The majority of Afghans support our presence there, but, you know, Pakistanis, Iranians, militant groups on the Afghan border don't want us there and are conducting a propaganda war against the U.S. with some success.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs week mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

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Topics: Afghanistan • CNN • Soledad O'Brien • Starting Point