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Pistorius Officially Charged with Premeditated Murder; New Details on Newtown Shooter's Life; Belgian Jewel Heist; Automatic Spending Cuts to Start March 1; Report Links Chinese Govt. to Hackers

Aired February 19, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM, the motivation of a killer. Newtown shooter Adam Lanza reportedly trying to outkill Norway massacre mastermind, Anders Breivik.

Also remembering Reeva.

MIKE STEENKAMP, REEVA STEENKMAP'S UNCLE: We have to keep Reeva in our hearts forever.

COSTELLO: The girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius laid to rest this morning as he goes before a judge, charged with premeditated murder. The stunning, new details coming out of court.

Plus, spying on America. New concerns this morning that a secret Chinese military group is hacking into U.S. computers. Find out what they're looking for.

Plus this:

JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ACTOR: Are you going to walk me home?

BRADLEY COOPER, ACTOR: You have poor social skills. You have a problem.

LAWRENCE: I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.

COSTELLO: The road to Oscar: Jennifer Lawrence one-on-one on "Hunger Games", "Silver Linings", and the paparazzi.

We're live in the NEWSROOM.



COSTELLO (on camera): Good morning, thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello.

In an emotionally wrenching hearing today, a judge refused to downgrade the charge against Olympian Oscar Pistorius. He is now officially charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend. Pistorius wept as his attorneys tried to persuade the court that Reeva Steenkamp's death was a tragic accident.

Some key points from his affidavit: Pistorius said, "I heard a noise in the bathroom. A sense of terror overwhelmed me. It was pitch dark. I thought Reeva was in bed. I did not have my legs on. I felt extremely vulnerable. I shouted to Reeva to phone police...she did not respond."

Later, Pistorius realized it was Reeva in the bathroom. She died in his arms.

Pistorius' bail hearing is over for the day. CNN's Robyn Curnow joins us now with more. Good morning, Robyn.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And it was that testimony, wasn't it, it was those words, it was that explanation, that people have been waiting for since Valentine's Day. Perhaps that small explanation at least allowing some South Africans to hold onto hope that their icon was, indeed, telling the truth, that he thought that she was a burglar, that this was a terrible misunderstanding.

This affidavit here that I'm holding in my hand paints a very emotional, sad, tragic picture of what happened to Oscar, he says, that night. He didn't have his prosthetic legs on. He was scared, he was terrified, and Reeva was in the toilet, which was apparently a separate room from the bathroom. And we did hear the state saying earlier on that it was just over a meter wide by a meter wide, and so she must have been terrified because these bullets were just coming in this small space. There's nowhere she possibly could have gone.

Now, whether or not he killed her deliberately, as the state argues, that was premeditated, or as he argues, that it was an absolutely tragic mistake in the middle of the night, when it was pitch dark, well, this is going to be part of the foundation, of course, of the defense's argument throughout this bail application, which is going to continue tomorrow. Whether he gets bail, we don't know. It's going to be far more difficult because the state was very successful in trying to persuade the magistrate that he should be charged with premeditated murder.

COSTELLO: Robyn Curnow reporting live from South Africa this morning.

While the Pistorius hearing was underway in Pretoria, Reeva Steenkamp was mourned during a private funeral in her hometown of Port Elizabeth. Later, her uncle broke down while speaking with reporters.


MIKE STEENKAMP, REEVA STEENKMAP'S UNCLE: (INAUDIBLE) a family, but there's only one thing missing is Reeva.


STEENKMAP: We've got together, but we miss one. I don't think -- I will get over that, with the Lord's prayers and the statement that she stood for, abuse against women.


COSTELLO: The day before Reeva was killed, Steenkamp was in support of an event called Black Friday, a nationwide rape awareness day.

A possible motive for the Sandy Hook shooting is starting to evolve, and we have new details about the Newtown shooter's life. CBS is reporting that evidence found in Adam Lanza's bedroom suggested he wanted to kill morpheme than Anders Breivik. The Norwegian killed 77 people, mostly teenagers. The report also said Lanza chose Sandy Hook Elementary because it was an easy target.


BOB ORR, CBS REPORTER (voice-over): Officials have not publicly revealed what, precisely, led them to the motive, but sources say investigators have found evidence Lanza was obsessed with Breivik. They've also recovered what they call a trove of violent video games from the basement of Lanza's home. Sources say Lanza spent countless hours there alone in a private gaming room with the windows blacked out, honing his computer shooting skills.


COSTELLO: CBS reporter Bob Orr.

We have two reports for you this morning, CNN's Susan Candiotti, who has been on the case since the beginning, and the editor of "The Hartford Courant", Andrew Julian, whose paper is currently producing a documentary with PBS's "Frontline" on Adam Lanza.

Susan, I want to begin with you. You spoke with your sources at the Connecticut State Police. What are they telling you?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as police put it, they're saying that we're dealing with a shooter who's dead and now we're trying to rebuild history. Police are downplaying the CBS report. Quoting here, here's what they're telling me, quote, "There's no basis to the CBS story. We have not established a motive. It's inaccurate. I talked with CBS and told them that. The CBS story is not accurate whatsoever."

However, the spokesman also told me that the possibility that Lanza was trying to outdo Norway has not been ruled out; nor has anything else. Investigators reportedly suggest that Adam Lanza may have been trying to one-up another mass murder by topping Anders Breivik in Norway. As you said, he killed 77 people, mainly teenagers.

CBS news quotes law enforcement sources who found evidence of that as a possible motive in Newtown. Part of the evidence? News articles. "The Hartford Courant" reports that several stories about the 2011 Norway massacre were discovered in one of Lanza's two bedrooms. Connecticut investigators reportedly went to Washington last week to brief federal authorities and shared this theory. Lanza used guns including a military style assault rifle purchased by his mother. He shot her and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary and systematically killed 20 children and six teachers before taking his own life when police arrived. Lanza reportedly chose the school because of the large number of potential targets in that closed-in setting.

Now, a spokesman called that report speculative, of course, and says that no single motive has been confirmed, but we do know it's certainly under consideration. Carol?

COSTELLO: And something else that's just kind of eerie, Breivik, the mass murderer in Norway, says he trained for this attack, the attack he carried out, by playing the violent video game, "Call of Duty." Adam Lanza was holed up with video games in his basement much of the time. Did he play "Call of Duty," too?

CANDIOTTI: That's not something our sources are revealing to us yet anyway, so we don't know that. We do know, as you have said, and have reported that many of the violent games are found in the home and that he had that room in the basement where he spent a lot of time. Federal investigators have said that Lanza and his mother went to gun ranges several times.

That final investigative report is expected by the summertime. Remember that authorities are also trying to reach out to the online gaming community to see whether there was any communication between Adam Lanza and them, and they're still trying to piece together that computer hard drive. Not sure whether they've had much success yet.

COSTELLO: Yes, Adam Lanza apparently destroyed that before he went on his shooting rampage. Susan Candiotti, many thanks.

Now to our national exclusive interview with Andrew Julian. Andrew, your paper jointly produced tonight's documentary, which will air on PBS's "Frontline" tonight, on Adam Lanza. I want to ask you what you learned about this boy.

ANDREW JULIAN, EDITOR, "HARTFORD COURANT": Well, what we found was that he went from being a troubled boy, a boy who was shy and isolated, to being an even more distant and remote young man, a person who continued to retreat into the shadows and was never able to find a place in the world.

And what we're trying to understand and, as you just reported, is how do those issues that we understand from talking to people who knew his mother, tie in with these other things we're learning about violent video games and the Norwegian killings, to lead to Sandy Hook on that day.

COSTELLO: And I've seen parts of your documentary; they're quite eerie and I want to play a clip for our audience. It shows a mother of one of Adam's first grade classmates describing Adam Lanza's troubles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WENDY WIPPRECHT, SON ATTENDED SCHOOL WITH LANZA: Adam had his 6th birthday party and invited a group of kids to go. That's where I remember talking with Nancy. Nancy was concerned about Adam. He was shy, a little withdrawn, quiet. She was worried that perhaps he had some kind of neurobiological condition.


COSTELLO: "Some kind of neurobiological condition." I don't know what that might be. Did he develop his violent tendencies when he was very young, do you think, or did that happen later?

JULIAN: What they're talking about there is what's called Sensory Integration Disorder, which is a controversial diagnosis in the medical community, but it makes a person very vulnerable to touch and sound and other senses. That clip is from when Adam Lanza was at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the first grade, and from there, he goes to different schools. He's in different programs. His mother is trying to find the right educational setting that will work for him, and never really finds a place that does.

COSTELLO: And also in your documentary, Adam's mother apparently warned a parent in a Cub Scout meeting about her son.


COSTELLO: I'll play it. Let me show our audience this clip before we talk about it, I'm sorry. Here it is.


MARVIN LAFONTAINE, FRIEND OF NANCY LANZA: There was a weirdness about him and Nancy warned me once at one the scout meetings. She said, "Just so you know," and she says, "I know you wouldn't do this, but just so you know, don't touch Adam."

I go, "Well, I wouldn't touch him." She goes, "No, I don't mean like that, but I mean like, don't do an 'atta boy' thing or shake his hand and say, 'Way to go, brother.'" She said he just can't stand that.


COSTELLO: So only Mrs. Lanza could touch Adam but no one else?

JULIAN: Yes, that goes right back to that Sensory Integration problem, very vulnerable to touch and sound. And to your question earlier, there's nothing that directly ties that sort of condition, or his later diagnosis of Asperger's, to violence. That is not -- there's no direct link between -- those are developmental issues. They speak to how you interact with society. They are not in and of themselves conditions that are associated with violence.

COSTELLO: Wow. The "Frontline" documentary airs tonight on PBS. Andrew Julian, editor of "The Hartford Courant", who had a big part in that "Frontline" documentary, thank you so much for joining us this morning. JULIAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: On to other news now: $50 million worth of diamonds have been stolen in a daring overnight robbery of a Belgium plane with passengers on board. Eight masked thieves stormed the plane's cargo- hold and took the diamonds. The rough and polished stones were heading to Switzerland and, as senior international correspondent Dan Rivers explains, investigators want to know if it was an inside job.

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We don't know for sure what level of collusion there was with the airport authorities, but we're being told they cut a hole in the perimeter fence of the air field and simply drove on to the air field, pulled up right alongside the plane where this huge cache of diamonds were being loaded, and held them up. They did it without firing a shot. They were said to be heavily armed and masked, as you said, and made off with -- the figure we've got according to the exchange rate is about $67 million worth of diamonds. But that may go up because there's reports, unconfirmed, there may have been gold and palladium as well, so it could be a huge amount of money involved here.

And I think just the sheer audacity of this, as you said, it sort of reads like a plot of an "Oceans 11" film or something. They managed to get away with it without harming anyone. The only evidence that's been recovered so far is a van that was found on fire near the airport, so they obviously tried to cover their tracks and get rid of any evidence and the eight men that disappeared with the diamonds.

COSTELLO: Dan Rivers reporting. Twenty passengers were on board the plane at the time of the robbery. They were unharmed.

His vacation now over, President Obama diving right back into the world of Washington politics. In the next hour, the president is scheduled to speak about those automatic spending cuts, set to take place next Friday unless Congress takes some sort of action.

CNN's Christine Romans joins me now to break down how we could potentially feel these cuts if something isn't done. Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. And I guess the first question is what is this sequester, this wonky, horrible budget Washington word you keep hearing? I mean, it's a fancy word for budget cuts, forced budget cuts.

You could also think of the sequester as the "or else." Last year, it was decided we had to get our budget deficit under control, Democrats and Republicans together, or else -- or else we would have these draconian spending cuts start the beginning part of this year. They didn't get their budget act together and this is the "or else," the big budget cuts that are automatically going to happen.

You know, it's really frustrating, Carol, because this was never -- these were never supposed to happen. This was supposed to be something that was so terrible it would force Democrats and Republicans to the table to figure out our fiscal mess, and it just didn't work.

COSTELLO: No, it just proves how dysfunctional Congress really is.


COSTELLO: OK, so those draconian cuts, we hear how it will affect the military but how will it affect me?

ROMANS: It will affect all of us if these goes into place. And let me tell you why. First, look at education, for example. You would have cuts to education. It could be, by some estimates, up to 70,000 kids could lose their head start positions, more than 14,000 teachers and staff could be laid off.

It would affect criminal justice. border patrol, for example, the security of the border. Also, all FBI workers would have to be furloughed, for example, for up to 14 days. Look at the parks, you would have the National Park Service -- reduced hours, reduced services, something you would you certainly feel on your summer travel.

And travel, speaking of travel, what about longer wait times at airports, longer to get through TSA because of, again, furloughs, unpaid time off for folks simply because they don't have the budget anymore. You're talking about budget cuts for defense of 13 percent and for other agencies of 9 percent. It would certainly affect just about everything that you feel.

What you see on that screen right there, Carol, this is what Senate Democrats have proposed to replace the sequester. They've got more gradual defense cuts; they've got stopping direct payments to farmers; they'd like to tax the rich; they'd like to end some tax breaks and loopholes for sending jobs overseas - loopholes, for example, for energy companies. They think that they could come up with billions that way to replace the sequester. Presumably, the president is going to outline what he'd like to see happen later today when we hear from him.

But the sequester, a stupid Washington word for something that was never supposed to happen, that will be budget cuts that you and I will feel.

COSTELLO: I like when you say it like it is. Makes you want to beat your head against the wall, doesn't it?

ROMANS: Don't beat our heads. Our heads are fine. It's Washington.

COSTELLO: Christine Romans, thank you.

Once again the president said to speak this morning around 10:45 Eastern Time, he'll speak from the White House. Of course, we'll bring you his remarks live here on CNN.

Meteorite hunters are willing to pay big, big bucks to obtain tiny little pieces of rock that streaked across Russia and those pieces are quickly becoming worth more than gold. Plus --

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. Guess which country's gotten pretty crafty at stealing corporate data from hundreds of companies in the U.S.? A new reports spells out how the computer hacking is being carried out. The story is coming up.


COSTELLO: Nineteen minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

Colorado's Democratically-controlled House approves four gun bills, all in one day. They limit magazine sizes, prohibit concealed weapons on college campuses, stadiums and arenas and require background checks for all private gun purchasers. Gun buyers would have to pay for those checks.

Republicans and the NRA oppose the bills which now head to the Democratically-controlled Senate.

The meteor that streaked through the Russian sky could make some people very rich. Offers of several thousand dollars for the fragments are already coming in. Many people now searching for chunks of space rock as ads from would-be buyers fill up the Internet.

You may want to BYOB in Sacramento, that's "bring your own bag". Tonight, city leaders will talk about banning plastic bags. One plan would make shoppers bring their own bags or buy paper bags at a cost of 10 cents apiece.

And for the third day in a row, gas prices rise and in some places the price at the pump is downright obscene. In Los Angeles some are paying $5.19 a gallon. According to AAA, the national average is $3.75. That's up 10 percent this month alone.

This morning, an American security firm is linking the Chinese government to one of the world's most prolific groups of hackers. The Mandiant group just released its 60-page report.

Alison Kosik now joins me with some pretty disturbing details. I put it that way.

KOSIK: That's right. You know, you look at this Mandiant report that just came out, it's making some big allegations saying a unit of the Chinese military has stolen a boatload of data from over 100 organizations across 20 industries at least for the last six years. Now, this report didn't go as far as naming those organizations but it does say about 85 percent of attacks targeted U.S. organizations.

Here's a bit from the report I want to read to you, "The sheer scale and duration of these sustained attacks against such a wide set of industries, from a singularly identified group based in China leaves little doubt about who is behind it. We believe the totality of the evidence we provide in this document bolsters the claim that the group is unit 61398."

You're wondering, what is 61398? That's a unit -- it's a secret division of the Chinese military headquartered in a white building, in a neighborhood near Shanghai, where Mandiant said it traced the attack.

The Chinese foreign ministry -- surprise, surprise -- is denying the allegations -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So, what can U.S. companies do to protect themselves?

KOSIK: Well, and they are. They're doing just that. Many really are trying to step up their cyber security systems to guard against these cyber attacks. You know, even "The New York Times" recently hired Mandiant after it reported it was the target of the Chinese hackers, though "The Times" does say the attack didn't come from that unit 61398.

Now, the U.S. government is getting involved, Carol. President Obama issued an executive order last week making it easier for private companies that control critical infrastructure to share information about cyber attacks with the government. This order also directs the government to work with private companies on protection standards as well and you may have heard the president highlight the executive order in his State of the Union as well.

So clearly this issue is on the radar, and the big trick here is to stay one step ahead of the bad guys -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik -- that's tough to do sometimes.

KOSIK: I know.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik live from the New York Stock Exchange.

We're talking about what may have motivated Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza. But should we be talking about it at all?

It's our talk back question today.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, how should the media report on serial killers? Maybe, maybe now we know why, why a troubled young man opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School. It wasn't because he was unloved or bullied, but obsessed with mass murderers like Anders Breivik, a vicious Norwegian man who killed 77 people in 2011.


BOB ORR, CBS JUSTICE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officials have not publicly revealed what precisely led them to the motive. But sources say investigators have found evidence Lanza was obsessed with Breivik. They've also recovered what they call a trove of violent video games from the basement of Lanza's home. Sources say Lanza spent countless hours there alone in a private gaming room with the windows blacked out, honing his computer shooting skills.


COSTELLO: So as CBS reports, Adam Lanza was fixated on a real life serial killer and honed his shooting skills playing make believe. If this theory is true it reignites the debate over how much air time the media ought to give killers.

What if the media had never mentioned Breivik's name, never shown his picture, never reported a single story, and most importantly never shared with you the who, how and why?

The thing is, killers may be inspired by serial killers they see as media stars but they're also inspired by other things. Charles Manson, a serial killer, was inspired by the Beatles "White" album. Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon was inspired by the classic novel, "The Catcher in the Rye". And John Hinckley -- he was inspired by the movie "Taxi Driver" which he saw 15 times. He was so obsessed with its star, Jodi Foster, he shot President Reagan so Foster would "look into her heart" so he could gain her respect and love.

Look, it's easy to blame the media for the carnage, but in my mind, it's a bit simplistic. My guess is you find it essential to know why, it's why you watch the news or read a blog or newspaper or book, or watch one of the dozens of TV shows about serial killers. "Dexter", anyone?

So, dig deep this because what I'm about to ask you doesn't have an easy answer. Talk back question of the day: how should the media report on serial killers?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.