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Direct U.S. Help For Syrian Rebels?; Deadly Shooting At Coastal Carolina University; Scare For University Of Maine Basketball Team; Hot Air Balloon Plunge On Tape; Rallies To Remember Trayvon Martin; Increase In Breast Cancer In Young Women; Chuck Hagel Reports For Duty; Exclusive: Convicted CIA Whistleblower; Former CIA Officer's Plans After Prison; Brawl On the Court!; Indiana Goes Down; Late Night Laughs With Daytona 500 Winner; A Closer Look At Charities

Aired February 27, 2013 - 07:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. In a few minutes, we'll have an exclusive interview with John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who begins a 30- month prison sentence tomorrow. He was among the first CIA officers to confirm that detainees were being waterboarded.

First though, John has got the look at the day's top stories. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. The U.S. is moving toward giving Syrian rebels direct aid including sending non- lethal military equipment and possibly providing strategic military training.

Sources stress the U.S. is not yet considering providing weapons to the rebels. A senior Obama administration official says Secretary of State John Kerry is discussing these changes with European allies this week.

We have a developing story in North Carolina right now, the search is on for the gunman who shot and killed a sophomore on the campus of Coastal Carolina University. The school warning people stay indoors. The deadly incident happened last night at a residence hall at the school, which is not far from Myrtle Beach. Police say the suspect skip campus in a vehicle.

A scare for the University of Maine women's basketball team, while traveling to a game in Boston last night, their bus went off Interstate 95 in Massachusetts coming to a stop on the roadway's shoulder. The bus driver was air lifted to a hospital. Police says he may have suffered some kind of medical emergency. Four other people were injured as well.

We have some stunning footage to show you this morning. We're seeing amateur video for the first time, capturing the moment a hot air balloon in Egypt exploded and plummeted some 1,000 feet to earth. Nineteen people were killed when the balloon crashed yesterday. A British tourist and the pilot are in the hospital right now. An Egyptian aviation official says the company that operated the balloon, Sky Cruise, was licensed and working legally.

But a tourism official says Sky Cruise and other companies were known to violate safety and security instructions by flying out of East Luxor instead of the recommended West Luxor.

O'BRIEN: Do we know yet exactly what happened? How going out of East Luxor or West Luxor would make a difference?

BERMAN: Apparently they feel West Luxor is safer, but again, they are investigating right now. No word yet on what caused the explosion.

A rally was held in Sanford, Florida last night in honor of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot by George Zimmerman one year ago. Martin's parents joined hundreds of people who turned out to remember their son at a rally in New York City.

Zimmerman claims he shot Martin in self-defense. Martin's parents claim he racially profiled their son. But last night, Zimmerman's attorney told Piers Morgan there is no basis to a charge of racism.


MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Once the FBI got involved, we know that everything they looked into, they found absolutely no racism. As a matter of fact, they found a lot of events and instances where George was what you might call an absolute nonracist.


BERMAN: We're going to hear more from Mark O'Mara when he joins Soledad later this morning. That's at 8:30 Eastern Time.

We have some disturbing medical news this morning. Cases of advanced breast cancer in younger women are on the rise. We're going to turn right to senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, tell us exactly what the study found because the headline is fairly alarming.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is fairly alarming. The entire story actually is fairly alarming. Take a look at these numbers. What the study found is that if you look at 1976, about 250 women that year were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer that spread to another part of the body.

Today, it's more like 850 women. This is particularly alarming. They are trying to figure out if this is true, do other stories. To read more, go to and read a story by my colleague, Caitlin Hagan.

BERMAN: Elizabeth, what is driving this increase? Do we know?

COHEN: You know, what they really don't know, they just have guesses at best. So for example, it may be women are taking more birth control pills now than they were before and maybe that women are having children later. And having children can protect you to some degree against breast cancer.

They really just don't know. What they do know is they are not telling women in their 20s and 30s to get mammograms. There are too many downsides to mammograms to recommend it. For everyone since really so few women this age are getting breast cancer. They do encourage women of any age to know your breasts. If you notice redness, a bump, lump, or anything, go to the doctor.

BERMAN: All right, Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta, thanks to you.

Right now, I believe we have live pictures, Chuck Hagel, the new defense secretary arriving for his first day, officially on the job. He will be sworn in later today. It was a very brief picture of Secretary Hagel. He will spend much more time in his new job as defense secretary.

O'BRIEN: On that pavement right there, he'll be walking across that pavement.

Can I ask a quick thing about the breast cancer story. How much of it do you think could be that there are better ways of determining if people have breast cancer? So all those years ago, only 250 women, relatively small number, that number grows dramatically because the ways you can discover if women have breast cancer is better.

BERMAN: Same with autism. Is there more of it, or are we detecting it?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: In 1976, we were detecting breast cancer --

O'BRIEN: Technology in that field has --

ROMANS: That's true.

O'BRIEN: I was going to give the advice, know your breasts, but I will let that go and move on.

ROMANS: I want to hear the joke.

O'BRIEN: It's a good one. But on TV, no, I'm not going to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the food supply -- there are so many hormones used in food and if that has an impact on people.

O'BRIEN: I know people are investigating that. Interesting.

So this time tomorrow, a CIA officer-turned-whistle blower, John Kiriakou is going to be on his way to federal prison in Pennsylvania. Remember last month, he was given a 2-1/2 year sentence for being among the first CIA operatives to confirm the use of waterboarding among detainees back in 2007. He hasn't let his punishment dampen his spirits. He had a farewell party like farewell he's going to prison party last week. Here's what it looked like. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were right and they were wrong.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And people will know it. It might take a while, but the truth will bear.


O'BRIEN: John Kiriakou joins us now from Washington, D.C. It's nice to have you with us. So you're about to begin a 30-month prison sentence. How do you feel going into that? How are you feeling about that?

JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA OFFICER: You know, I feel oddly optimistic. It's kind of hard to explain, but I have said several times over the past couple of weeks that I wear my conviction as a badge of honor, and I mean that. I believe my case was about torture, not about leaking. I'm right on the torture issue. The administration is wrong, and I'll carry that with me.

O'BRIEN: But your conviction was about disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer who was involved in the interrogations that were happening at Guantanamo. That's why you got 30 months in prison and a lot of the outrage around the waterboarding.

A lot of the outrage and support comes from the fact that are you a whistleblower, but the conviction is based on revealing the name of a -- a covert officer. I mean, how can you say -- my conviction is a badge of honor, how is that possible?

KIRIAKOU: Well, because, like I said this case was not about leaking. If the administration was going to pursue leakers, they would pursue the likes of John Brennan and countless officials in the White House, the Defense Department, Capitol Hill, the jails would be bursting with administration officials and with present and former CIA officers.

And that's just not the case. I went on ABC News in December of 2007 and blew the whistle on the waterboarding and on the CIA's torture program and the FBI never stopped investigating me from that day until they were able to patch something together in early 2012.

O'BRIEN: You did provide --

KIRIAKOU: Yes, I did provide the name of a former colleague to the name of a reporter seeking to locate former CIA officers who would agree to sit for an interview with him. Unbeknownst to me, that reporter instead provided the name to the Guantanamo defense attorneys. It's a mystery to me as to why the administration hasn't pursued the reporter.

O'BRIEN: Well, Mr. Cole who is the journalist who you provided that information to said that he had asked you, not if you knew someone who was retired who would sit for an interview, if knew the name of a covert officer who had a supervisory role in the rendition program, right.

I mean, that was the gist of the problem. So part of your defense to me sounds like, listen, everybody is leaking, I'm the one who has gotten a raw deal out of this. Isn't the leaking illegal and wrong? I guess, I just don't understand your pride in that part, as much as I do understand your maybe pride in being a whistleblower.

KIRIAKOU: Well, I think the two are intertwined. I think the government was looking for something that they could pin on me. They found something, and they went with it, but my punishment is not for leaking. I believe my punishment is for whistle blowing.

And Matthew Cole is absolutely wrong. He sought to -- he told me he was looking to interview people for a book. He sent me the cover of a book. His activities with the ACLU and John Adams Project were surreptitious.

O'BRIEN: Well, we wish you the best of luck as you head off to your 30-month sentence. I know you have a wife and five kids. What are the ages of your kids?

KIRIAKOU: It's 19, 16, 8, 6 and 16-months.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk to you when you come out on the other side and see --

KIRIAKOU: Thanks very much for having me.

O'BRIEN: It's our pleasure. Thank you for talking with me. I appreciate it. We have to take a short break.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, it started out a strong sprint, but it ended not so good. NFL Combine, we'll update you what happened there.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Was it basketball or hockey? The Pacers and Warriors got involved in a brawl on the court, spilled into the crowd in Indiana last night.

Joe Carter has got a look at that and much more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Joe. Good morning.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORST CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Good morning, Soledad. You know, I heard the news come down last night that the Pacers were involved in a brawl, spilled into the stands. I thought, no, I'm thinking Ron Artest, 2004, at the Palace. It wasn't that bad, but you know, it was a pretty good scuffle.

The Pacers Roy Hibbert and the Warriors David Lee are the two that initially get into it. They start mixing it up that's when things get heated quickly. I want you to watch Stephan Curry. Tries to stick up for his teammate, but the big man Hibbert just tosses Curry aside, not once, but twice.

Keep in mind, Curry is a foot shorter and 95 pounds lighter. When all was said and done, six technical fouls were handed out. Indiana's Roy Hibbert was ejected from the game. The Pacers would go on to win.

Number one Indiana taken down by unranked Minnesota last night. The Hoosiers simply manhandled in the paint and under the basket. The Gophers one step quicker on both ends of the court in the second half and Minnesota really needed this win to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. The loss pretty much guarantees Indiana will lose their number one ranking. Gonzaga of all teams could be the new number one next week.

Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, he is making the rounds on talk shows. He was on Letterman last night and, of course, during his moment, Danica Patrick's name came up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, if you were racing this, then would you have something by God.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, DAYTONA 500 WINNER: Hard time turning that one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it like with your buddy Danica Patrick there?

JOHNSON: She was in the race? I didn't hear about that, really?



CARTER: He was thinking about that line all night. He had that one locked and loaded.

This is NFL Combine news you don't want to make. Shamarco Thomas, he used to play defensive back for Syracuse during his 40-yard dash, his foot gets caught up and down goes Thomas.

Our sports editor has so much fun with that one. Not all that bad for him, he did run the 40 again and he did put up the fastest time among all safeties. So they will always have a memorable video to share with his friends and family.

For your entertaining sports news, including Minnesota's huge upset over number one Indiana, go to Soledad, he's projected to be a second round or third round pick, so he could be a millionaire in a few months.

O'BRIEN: You're right. It ended well for him. It was all good. Little trip didn't matter. All right, Joe, thanks. Appreciate it.

Still ahead, a new book exposes the flaws and frauds of the non-profit world. Where are the millions of dollars going? We'll take a look that right after this.


BERMAN: So each year in the United States, Americans donate almost $300 billion to over 1 million non-profit organizations, but where is that money going and is it being used effectively?

A new book takes a close look at the world of charitable organizations, it's called "With Charity For All: Why Charities Are Failing And A Better Way To Give." This book exposes fraud and flaws in a system with little accountability and the book says the charitable sector has simply lost its way.

Ken Stern joins us now. He is the former head of NPR. NPR is a non- profit organization. How did your experiences there factor into this book?

KEN STERN, AUTHOR, "WITH CHARITY FOR ALL: WHY CHARITIES ARE FAILING AND A BETTER WAY TO GIVE": Well, my experiences on NPR sort of got me on the trail of trying to understand the charitable sector more broadly.

NPR I think is a great organization, but even when I was there one of the challenges I found it was very hard to talk to the organization about accountability, measuring itself and trying to find out whether it accomplished its mission.

The organization like many charities are framed by their own narrative and I would go to the board meeting and ask people for their visions of success and they'd give me 15 visions, different definitions of success and come back the next day and there would be 15 more.

BERMAN: You write about a lack of accountability in the charitable sector. You say it starts right from the beginning a study out of Stanford University who says the IRS has approved more than 99.5 percent of all charitable applications.

This statistic reveals the first troubling truth about our process for deciding what is a charity and what is not, we don't have one. We permit almost anyone with a basic facility with government forms to start a charity. From the very beginning you say the system is flawed.

STERN: Actually I understated, it's actually 99.8 percent. Anyone with a facility with government forms can start a charity. When you look at the charitable sector a lot of charities are really for-profit organizations for all intents and purpose.

The charitable hospital system probably the best example, more profitable than for-profit hospitals, they pay their executives into the millions of dollars in compensation and the research shows there are no more charitable than for-profit hospitals and a lot less charitable than government hospitals.

BERMAN: You're critical of well-known charities, the Red Cross and DARE, which fights drug abuse among kids. What are your complaints or what are the flaws you see in these well-known groups?

STERN: Well, they're very different. I would say overall the biggest challenge is in addition to the uncharitable charity is the vast majority of charities don't do research, they don't benchmark themselves, don't make themselves accountable to the public for effective service.

DARE is actually a great example, 20 years of research showing it's ineffective and some cases harmful to some of the kids who go through the program. It's not only ineffective. It stays in business, but also blocks more innovative and successful programs from getting into the schools.

BERMAN: So the question is what can we do if you're someone who wants to give to charity we should all give to charity, how do you find the right one if there are problems in the Red Cross and DARE? How do you find who to give money to?

STERN: So the problem doesn't actually start with the IRS, it starts with donors. Americans are the most generous donors in the world, the average family rich or poor gives about $2,700 a year, but Americans actually don't focus on the most effective charities.

Americans don't put work into finding charities that are innovative and effective. They give to famous brands. They give to the charities of the friends. They give to charities easy to give. They give out of habit. This conversation will last longer than the average American puts into research in charities each year, takes work to find the great charities.

BERMAN: All right, Ken Stern, the book is "With Charity For All." It is bound to start a lot of conversations and maybe start some controversy as well. It's nice to see you this morning.

STERN: Thank you for having me on.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a day until Pope Benedict officially steps down. We'll tell you what he's told his tens of thousands of faithful at the Vatican this morning. We take you live to Rome for that.

And then homes crushed and highways closed, a deadly winter storm is on the move right now and unfortunately lots more suffering ahead for the millions of people still in its path. We'll take a look at the forecast. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, faith and gratitude is his final public farewell this morning. Pope Benedict thanks Catholics worldwide.


POPE BENEDICT XVI: I continue to accompany the church with my prayers and ask each of you to pray for me as well as the new pope.