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CNN NEWSROOM

Pistorius Breaks Down in Court; NASA Loses Contact With Space Station; Glimpses of the Royal Baby Bump; Administration Discusses Strategies for Syria; Motive for Newtown Shooter?

Aired February 19, 2013 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: She is. I'm Michael Holmes.

MALVEAUX: This hour we're taking you around the world in 60 minutes.

We're beginning with South Africa. This is an amazing story. Everybody is talking about this, of course. Oscar Pistorius breaking down in court, tells a packed courtroom that he shot and killed his girlfriend, but he says he didn't mean to. The track star was so upset at his bail hearing today, he broke down every time anyone mentioned Reeva Steenkamp's name. The judge upgraded the charge, however, against him to premeditated murder. And for the first time we are hearing Pistorius' version of what happened that tragic night in his own words. That's just about a minute away.

HOLMES: Also, the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings may have gotten his motivation from the Norway massacre back in 2011. Law enforcement sources telling CBS News, Adam Lanza saw himself in direct competition with Anders Breivik. Breivik hunted down and shot 69 people at a youth camp, you'll remember, after killing eight others in a bombing in downtown Oslo. A spokesman for Connecticut State Police calls the report inaccurate speculation at the moment.

And this in Belgium. Thieves making off with $50 million worth of diamond. Eight masked robbers driving two cars on to a tarmac at Brussels Airport stealing those diamonds from a cargo hold on a plane, then getting away. The gems were en route from the Antwerp World Diamond Center to Zurich in Switzerland.

MALVEAUX: Now back to the courtroom in South Africa. That is where Oscar Pistorius, he cried uncontrollably today. The judge had to stop the bail hearing, ask him to get a hold of himself. This is for the first time Pistorius told his side of the story, that he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp accidentally because he thought she was an intruder. But because he was so distraught, his lawyer actually had to read the statement for him. Here's what the lawyer read in court. This is a part of the larger affidavit that was filed in this case. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: (voice-over): "I am an adult male, South African citizen and applicant in this application and seek to be released on bail. I make this affidavit of my own free will and have not been influenced. Contents is true and correct. I failed to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, because I had no intention to kill my girlfriend.

"I have been informed that I have been accused of murder. I deny the accusation. Nothing can be further from the truth, that I planned the murder of my girlfriend. I have no intention to relocate as I love my country. I earn 5.6 million rand a year. I've never been convicted of crimes. I deny that I committed murder in the strongest point. Even though I don't have to, I want to deal with these allegations.

"Reeva had bought me a present for Valentine's Day. We were deeply in love. We were deeply in love, and couldn't be happier. I loved her and I know she felt the same way. On February 13th, Reeva would have gone out with her friends, me with mine. She wanted to stay at home. I was watching TV. My legs were off. She was doing yoga. At the end of the evening, we got into bed.

"I'm acutely aware of people gaining entries into homes to commit crime. I've received death threats. I sleep with my 9 millimeter under my bed. I woke up to close the sliding door and heard a noise in the bathroom. I was scared and didn't switch on the light. I got my gun and moved towards the bathroom. I screamed at the intruder. Because I did not have my legs on, I felt vulnerable. I fired shots through the bathroom door and told Reeva to call police.

"I walked back to the bed and realized Reeva was not in bed. Then it dawned on me, it could be her in there. I kicked the door open, called paramedics and complex security. I tried to carry her downstairs for help. I tried to help her, but she died in my arms. I am mortified.

"With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that Reeva went to the bathroom when I went to close the balcony door. I trust the South African legal system and the facts will show that I did not murder Reeva. I believe the forensic evidence will prove what I am saying. I used a cricket bat to break open the toilet door.

"I am an international sports star. I will not evade my trial. After the shooting, I did not flee the scene. I remained until the police arrive. I don't know any of the witnesses in this matter and I won't interfere with any witnesses. My continued incarceration will be of no benefit to the state. Release would not disturb the public order."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, today the judge, he didn't make a decision on whether or not to grant bail at that hearing. The prosecutor said they needed more time to review the affidavit, to read them in court. And, obviously, I mean, Michael, you and I have been reading this ourselves.

HOLMES: Yes.

MALVEAUX: There are quite a number of inconsistencies as well. When he talks about some of these specific points. So we want to talk a little bit more about what we are hearing of this emotional day in court.

HOLMES: Yes. And we'll get into that, too. He says he kicked the door in, then he says he used the cricket bat. It was a very emotional day in court and we're standing to learn a little bit now, of course, more about his version of what happened.

MALVEAUX: So I want to bring in Paul Callan, a legal contributor and a criminal defense attorney. He's with us from New York. And also Robyn Curnow. She's following the case from Johannesburg.

First of all, you take a look at this, the affidavit here, and there are some inconsistencies when he talks about this case. Michael bringing up a specific one about kicking the door down but he didn't have his legs. That he was in one place of the house. That he screamed out his girlfriend's name, didn't hear anything. But it seems like she would answer if, in fact, she was in the bathroom. Do you see anything that's wrong with this story?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's just -- it's loaded with inconsistencies. I mean, first of all, he gets out of bed to close the door to the balcony. Presumably he doesn't have a gun on him at that point. He has to go back underneath the bed to get his gun. And, by that time, why wouldn't he have seen his girlfriend in the bed if she were there? And if she wasn't there, of course, he would know she was in the bathroom.

Then, when you get to the bathroom, why is the door locked? Why does he have to knock the door in? It sounds more like you have a girlfriend fleeing to the bathroom, locking herself inside and maybe an angry individual outside the door finally firing four shots through the door.

So I think the affidavit doesn't make out much of a defense for him, but it is something that they're going to try to hang their hats on.

HOLMES: And, Paul, when it comes to the court -- and the interesting thing in South Africa, too, and particularly at this point, of course, it's just a judge, there is no trial by jury in South Africa, which is interesting, too. Does his sort of break down in court, which one presumes would happen at trial as well, would that give him more credibility or how does that play, especially given the fact that you're really just dealing with a judge?

CALLAN: I think it gives him less credibility. And I'll tell you why. The breakdown in court makes you wonder about his emotional stability. There were press reports, by the way, about him tweeting to some of his followers a while back that he had gone into full combat mode when he came back to his house one day and he found out that the washing machine was going. He thought it was a burglar. So he seems to be a little bit emotionally unstable, a little too fast to reach for the gun. So I don't know that the crying in court is going to help him with the judge.

MALVEAUX: And, Robyn, tell us a little bit about how people responded in the courtroom when he broke down. That was clearly a very emotional moment for him. Did that seem to weigh or give any -- any credence to his story? Did people start to feel for him, even believe him?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know I just want to actually contradicts what your guest is saying. I mean I think a lot of people don't understand the context of living in South Africa. People, myself included, have high walls with electric fences, beams. You know, we have armed responses, panic buttons in our houses. The palpable fear that you feel when you go to bed at night is real. This is a nation of paranoid people, because the reality is, is that more often than not, the statistics speak for themselves, that you are sometimes or very likely to be confronted by armed men coming into your house. If you have money, you will do everything you can to barricade yourself, and still that doesn't help. We've had lots of stories of people, you know, in these gated communities being attacked or murdered in their houses.

So, if you understand the fear and the context of this, you know, that is why shooting blindly into the dark might sound a bit strange, but actually it's something many South Africans would do. And it's a valid point. Whether he was ration, I mean, there's no doubt that he didn't think first here. But, I mean, I think you've just to really put that into perspective. People are scared when they go to sleep in this country.

HOLMES: Right. Robyn, further to what I mentioned before, that this fact here -- I mean one would imagine that sort of testimony would ring true with people on a jury. There is no jury in this case. How's that -- tell us about the system, first of all, and how this is all likely to play out into that system.

CURNOW: Well, I mean, the first hurdle is this bail application, this bond application, which is obviously, you know, laying the foundation of what we can expect from the state's evidence. You know, they seemed very confident and they managed to convince the magistrate that, you know, premeditated murder was a possibility. The magistrate saying, listen, he was open to be -- you know, his mind to be changed.

So, first of all, we've got to -- Oscar's defense has got to prove, the onus is on them, to prove exceptional circumstances. And for them, they say this affidavit is an exceptional circumstances of what happened and the context of living in South Africa and being venerable because you have no legs. And when you're in bed, you're particularly vulnerable. So I think that will play into it.

Now, in terms of a trial, well, that's months away. Maybe, you know, at the end of the year. So, if he doesn't get bail, Oscar Pistorius is facing many, many months in a South African jail as he waits for this process to unwind.

MALVEAUX: And, Robyn, in the meantime, so many people are dissecting what they think happened in that house between that couple. It really is an extraordinary story. And it's popular around the whole world. I mean people are just debating, trying to figure out how somebody like this --

HOLMES: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Really a hero to many around the world, that this actually happened.

HOLMES: A big, big topic of conversation everywhere. We'll leave it there for the moment. Robyn Curnow and Paul Callan, thanks so much for your contributions there.

And while this hearing was underway in Pretoria, check this out, Reeva Steenkamp, at the same time, was being mourned during her funeral in her hometown, that's Port Elizabeth. Later, her uncle broke down while speaking with reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE STEENKAMP, REEVA STEENKAMP'S UNCLE: We are here today as a family. But there's only one thing missing. It's Reeva. We've got together (ph), at even this one (ph), and I think I'll never -- I will get over that with the Lord's prayers and a statement that she stood for, abuse against women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: The day before she was killed, Steenkamp had come out in support of an event called Black Friday. A nationwide effort to draw attention to violence against women.

MALVEAUX: And there were some tense moments for NASA. Ground control lost all communications on the International Space Station. There were six crew members on board the ISS, including two Americans. But the crew's commander has said that everybody on board is safe. They're doing well. But, of course, we want to talk a little bit about the details, all of this. Bring in our own Chad Myers and NASA public affair officer Josh Byerly, who joins us by phone.

So, Chad, explain for us, what actually happened? How is this even possible?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think we've all done this. You think you're upgrading your computer --

HOLMES: We're upgrading (ph) the space station, yes.

MALVEAUX: Really?

MYERS: You think you're upgrading your computer and all of a sudden, when you turn it back on, it doesn't work anymore. The upgrade didn't take. So when they were trying to get the software to a new level, the level didn't turn back on. So they did lose communication. And we might as well go ahead and talk to Josh, because he was right there.

HOLMES: Yes, Josh, tell us what happened. You tell us what actually did occur.

JOSH BYERLY, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, NASA (via telephone): Well, and Chad's got it exactly right. You know, we were doing a routine update of a software on board the computer. And the way they do that is there's a primary computer and a backup computer. And they swapped over to the backup computer so they could upload the primary one and we lost communication with the space station.

So, you know, the way that we talk to the station is by sending command and voice up to our tracking and data relay satellite system. Satellites which are about 22,000 miles out in space. They beam that back down to the space station. And right now we're down to communicating with the space station only over Russian ground stations once every hour and a half. There's another pass coming up in about 10 minutes, which, you know, this is the same way they used to do it back in the 1960s with Gemini and Apollo and things such as that.

HOLMES: Yes.

BYERLY: So, you know, the crew is working through this and they'll get it back up and running here shortly.

HOLMES: I just wanted to ask you, what happens in NASA when this happens and it's sort of a hello, hello? What or do you kind of expect this could be just a little phillip (ph) in the computer? Or does people sort of, you know, get a little worried?

BYERLY: Well, you know, it's obvious -- I mean, obviously, we need to talk to the station and command it and have control of it and things such as that. So, you know, it's not a panicked mood that takes over mission control. Anybody who's been here has seen that. I mean these guys have procedures to do this and the crew has procedures. So they just talk to each other when they get the chance and make sure that the crew is aware of what to do and they're working through the steps to get it back up and running.

MALVEAUX: So, Josh, have you had a chance to talk to anybody on board? I mean, what are they saying? Are they doing OK? Were they a little freaked out?

BYERLY: Yes, about 45 minutes after we lost communication, the station did pass over Russia and they talked to Kevin Ford, who is the commander, and he -- you know, the first thing that he said was that the crew was doing fine and that the station is stable, which, of course, is our main concern. And, you know, they had a quick little chat for about 10 minutes to talk about the procedures that needed to be done. So that's what they're working toward. And, again, we've got another pass in about five minutes. So we'll talk to them again.

MYERS: Hey, Josh, it's Chad Myers again. I just want to ask you, this computer really was only for communications. This thing never was really going to put the ISS in any danger by not working, right?

BYERLY: No. It's a command and control computer. So it's the computer that allows everything else on board the station to work and be monitored and for us to send commands. I mean, obviously there's lots of computers on board, lots of redundancy but, you know, we do need the ability to actually, you know, push buttons here in Houston and command things on the station and to talk to the crew. And that's the computer that allows us to do it.

MYERS: Very good.

MALVEAUX: All right, Chad, Josh, thanks. Appreciate it. Glad they're OK.

Here's more of what we're working on for NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. The royal baby bump. That's right, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, out in public.

Oh, come on. Everybody wants a picture. They want to see it.

HOLMES: Everybody? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Later on, hacked -- check this out -- hacked by China's army? We'll tell you how they hit everybody from "The New York Times" to Burger King.

Well, that's what some people are saying anyway. That's after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. Here are the stories making news around the world right now.

HOLMES: To London where Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, making her first appearance since announcing her pregnancy, first public appearance. There were those photographs. People around the world were watching for signs of this baby bump. She spoke at a charity she supports. I wasn't. Were you?

MALVEAUX: Yeah, well, you know, everybody's looking for it.

HOLMES: Yeah? She said she was a little bit nervous about being a mom. She's due to give birth in July.

MALVEAUX: And while everyone has been watching the American Airlines and US Air merger, there have been some big changes over at Delta Airlines. That's a place you and I fly out of a lot, out of Atlanta. Pay attention.

HOLMES: That's right, and it's affecting your frequent -- or ours, too -- frequent flyer miles. Delta calls them "Sky Miles." Now, the biggest change is that your status will be based on how much you spend, not just how many miles you fly. Oh, boy.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, we're spending a lot though, I think.

HOLMES: Well, CNN is.

MALVEAUX: Don't tell our bosses.

Delta telling travelers they're going to have to spend a minimum of 2,500 bucks a year just to reach the bottom wrung of the medallion program, so it's likely to hit the budget-traveler the hardest.

HOLMES: Yeah, it seems to be the wave of the future. It really does. Other airlines are doing that already, including Southwest and JetBlue. We'll see how that pans out. MALVEAUX: And we're following President Obama building his new national security team, but world events, of course, including those in Syria, not waiting for the White House or Congress to get their act together.

There's an estimated 70,000 people who have been killed in the uprising in Syria two years ago. And administration officials, they are revisiting what they can possibly do about this, including whether or not they're even going to arm the rebels and how are they going to get rid of Bashar al-Assad.

HOLMES: A lot of this being discussed over the last few months.

And then Wolf Blitzer joining us from Washington. You know, he doesn't even have -- the president doesn't even have the new security team in place.

The Senate hasn't confirmed Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense yet, David Petraeus' replacement, John Brennan not yet in place for CIA director, and Secretary of State John Kerry, he's still finding his way around the State Department.

What are they leaning to in terms of arming the Syrian rebels? This has always been just such a risking thing to do, though.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The president, I think, still is pretty much leaning totally against directly arming the rebels with U.S. military equipment.

They're getting non-lethal aid, some computers, some phones, humanitarian assistance, several hundred million dollars to the rebels, but as far as weapons are concerned, I think the Obama administration, at least for now -- and when you say the Obama administration, you mean the president of the United States -- together with the European allies, they're reluctant to do it because they're afraid that those weapons would get into the wrong hands.

Some of the rebels might be affiliated or associated with groups like al Qaeda, for example. They might be very anti-Israel, for example. If you provide shoulder-fired weapons to some of these groups, they could wind up endangering, potentially, Israeli aircraft or other aircraft in the vicinity. So, there are a lot of arguments against it.

The argument in favor of it is, Bashar al-Assad's regime has been brutal. You point out 70,000 dead, hundreds of thousands of refugees, if you add the internally displaced people, more than a million, either internally or externally. So, it's an awful situation.

It's by no means an easy call. The president rejected the advice of his top national security advisers a few months ago, including Hillary Clinton and General David Petraeus and Leon Panetta. I don't see a great appetite right now to reverse that rejection.

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, how does the administration counter from Iran as well as Russia that they are completely willing to supply arms to the rebels here? And you've got, at the same time, an American public here who looks at the tragedy in Syria, says, OK, you've got to do something here, but there is no appetite, or very little appetite among American people to get involved in another armed conflict.

BLITZER: Because you make a good point. The Iranians are assisting Bashar al-Assad's regime, Revolutionary Guard forces, equipment, military hardware, stuff like that. Hezbollah is from Lebanon, is, as well. And the Russians are continuing to sell military equipment to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

So, the weapons are coming in and they're clearly bolstering him, but this is a brutal, brutal battle that's under way right now. And at least as of now, I see no end in sight.

One of the problems that the president has had in terms of arming the rebels, directly providing military equipment to the rebels, is the U.S. and the Europeans did that in Libya and, to a certain degree, they're paying a price for that because some of those weapons wound up in the hands of the wrong guys, if you will. And there's a lot of instability in Libya as a result of that. Some of the weapons have even gone out of Libya.

So, there's a certain reluctance to get involved, once again, in this kind of arming of the rebels in what is a civil war.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely, Wolf. And, of course, Congress, there really isn't an appetite for members of Congress when you talk about the big fight over the budget, the budget battle, and where they spend the money to spend and to put more money inside of Syria.

HOLMES: Yeah, we could have a whole debate. Wolf, thanks so much.

We shouldn't have a whole debate about, you know, the criticism that, you know, 70,000 people are dead. What are we doing about it? There is precedent in the past. I mean, Congo leaps to mind, Myanmar, other places where people have died and the U.S. has not gone in.

MALVEAUX: Rwanda.

HOLMES: I think Rwanda was the classic. So, yeah, and the old saying, Syria is not Libya. And there are all sorts of geopolitical forces at play there, (INAUDIBLE) big mess.

MALVEAUX: Even the U.S. representative to the U.N., Susan Rice, does not believe that we should arm the Syrians. She was the one who gave the OK for Libya.

HOLMES: Yeah. Yeah, and yeah, they're very different neighborhoods. And, you know, there's a lot of nuance in all of this, even though people are dying by the hundreds every single day.

All right, let's move on. An unspeakable possibility, Adam Lanza, was he trying to compete with the worst mass shooting in Norway's history?

MALVEAUX: A new report says that could have been the motive for the school massacre in Connecticut. We're going to dig deeper after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: There's an eerie possible connection between the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and the Norway massacre that happened back in 2011. A CBS report says that Adam Lanza may have tried to top the death toll in that massacre, kind of a competition, if you will. You remember that Anders Breivik hunted down, shot 69 people at an island youth camp after killing eight in a bombing in Oslo.

But Connecticut state police are downplaying that report, saying that it is just speculation. "The Hartford Courant" co-produced a documentary about Lanza and spoke to family members about the potential motives. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW JULIEN, NEWS EDITOR, "HARTFORD COURANT": 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 that we're learning about violent video games and the Norwegian killings, to lead to Sandy Hook on that day?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So "The Hartford Courant" says investigators found several news articles about Breivik in one of Lanza's bedrooms.

And, Michael, you actually were there. You covered that Norway massacre. Are these similar in some way?

HOLMES: They're not. I mean, if there is some indication that he was trying to copycat in terms of the death toll, well, you know, that's his motivation.

There's nothing -- no similarities in terms of the motivation to Breivik, that's for sure. I mean, his was purely a political act. I mean, he was -- whether you think he's insane or not, he went after what he saw as a pro-government gathering on that island of Utoya. It was an annual sort of gathering of young politicians, if you like, the youth of the country getting together.

And that's what his motivation was. He hated the government. He thought the government was too pro-immigration. And that's what he was about.

And, you know, Lanza, you know, trying to get on the coattails of that just seems sick.

MALVEAUX: What do we know about Breivik? Because, obviously, you know, Lanza was somebody who was troubled. He was socially isolated. There were guns in the house. There's a question about, you know, why that was the case. But did he have social problems, developmental problems. Do we know anything about the other shooter?

HOLMES: Yeah, Breivik had some social problems as well. He was a bit of a loner in many ways, spent a lot of time in chat rooms and that, dealing with like-minded people. But he wasn't crazy, and he did not want to be seen as crazy. It was so important to him in court to be seen as absolutely sane and for what he did to be taken for what he said it was, and that was a purely political, anti-government, anti- immigration, a racist act.