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North Korean Nuclear Threat; Interview with Ohio Senator Rob Portman; "A Change of Heart" on Gay Marriage; Interview with Michael Oren; Talking Tough on Iran; High School Football Players on Trial for Rape; Plane Crashes Near Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport; Celebrity Hack Attacks

Aired March 15, 2013 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: an urgent response to North Korea's chilling nuclear threats -- the United States now beefing up its missile defense systems out on the West Coast. A stunning turnaround on gay marriage by a leading conservative. In a CNN exclusive, Senator Rob Portman explains the personal reasons behind his change of heart.

And a bizarre and tragic medical mystery -- a man dies after receiving a transplanted kidney tainted with rabies. How could this happen in the United States of America? How many other people are at risk right now?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Forget about all those wacky scenes of North Korea's leader joking around with Dennis Rodman. The United States, the Obama administration right now taking the North's threats of a nuclear attack very seriously.

The Pentagon has just announced it will beef up America's defense missile systems out on the West Coast in California, Oregon, Washington state.

Let's go straight to CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's watching what's going on.

Chris, a lot of us are stunned by this decision, but update us on what is going on.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we just came out of a briefing where we learned the Pentagon is going to spend a billion dollars to put new interceptor missiles on the West Coast. Now, that plan includes react investigating a missile field that the Obama administration deactivated just a few years ago when it concluded that North Korea didn't pose enough of a threat.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): If a nuclear missile is ever fired at the United States, this is the best hope to stop it, 30 interceptor missiles which can be launched from ground silos in Alaska and California. Now the Pentagon is deploying up to 14 more. CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The reason we're doing what we're doing and the reason we're advancing our program here for homeland security is to not take any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat and to assure any contingency.

LAWRENCE: North Korea tested a long-range missile in December. It conducted its third nuclear test in February and just this month threatened a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. That caught the Pentagon's attention.

JAMES MILLER, U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: North Korea's shrill public pronouncements underscore the need for the U.S. to continue to take prudent steps to defeat any future North Korean ICBM.

LAWRENCE: But as far back as the State of the Union speech President Obama said the U.S. would:

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

LAWRENCE: But Republican congressional sources say the president's actions have been anything but firm. In 2011, the administration mothballed one Alaskan missile field, arguing intelligence showed there wasn't enough of a threat, a short-sighted move say the congressional sources. "The intel didn't change. This is right where we expected North Korea to be."

And that is in possession of a missile that could travel nearly 5,000 miles, in theory, since North Korea has never successfully launched a long-range ICBM.

STEVE PIFER, BROOKING ARMS CONTROL INITIATIVE: I think what you see is mainly a political signal to North Korea that no one is going to be intimidated by their December launch and the subsequent nuclear test.


LAWRENCE: Getting that one missile field back online and getting the 14 new missile interceptors, the cost is going to be about $1 billion. They hope to have these ready by 2017, Wolf.

BLITZER: It takes that long to get all the missile defense systems ready, is that what you're saying?

LAWRENCE: It does because you have had some problems with this system, Wolf. They did a successful test in January, but now they are in the proses of getting another interceptor ready to do a second test. They are not going to buy before these interceptors are ready to fly.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence with ominous reports coming out of the Pentagon, including the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. Thanks very much.

Just how serious is the North Korean threat? How capable is the United States of defending itself out on the West Coast, in Alaska and Hawaii as well?

Joining us now is the nuclear weapons expert Joe Cirincione. He's president of the Ploughshares Fund, a real expert on the subject.

I couldn't help but notice, Joe, your tweet earlier when we heard that Hagel was making this announcement. You tweeted this. You said: "This move stuns me. U.S. putting in more interceptors that don't work against the North Korea threat that doesn't exist."

All right, explain your skepticism here.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: The National Academy of Sciences came out with a study last year, it was briefed to the Congress, that said basically the existing missile, the ground-based interceptor system, is deeply flawed, is technologically troubled. They recommended a brand-new interceptor, brand-new radars, a brand- new site.

And here is the administration doing what many members of Congress wanted to do, pouring new money, a billion dollars, into the same old interceptors. To their credit, they are trying to fix it. They're trying to develop a new kill vehicle, if that kill vehicle won't be tested until late fall of this year. So that is part of the reason you're seeing the delay.

A billion dollars,we don't have that kind of money lying around anymore. It would be justified if the North Korean threat were that serious. I just don't believe it is. North Korea is still years away from the ability to field a missile with a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States.

BLITZER: You just heard Chris Lawrence report they don't think the new missile defense system would be in place until 2017. Would the North Koreans have a missile capability with a nuclear warhead ready for use against potentially the United States by 2017?

CIRINCIONE: Highly unlikely. They have been making fits and starts in this -- in their missile technology. They have tried three times to launch a long-range missile. They just succeeded for the first time. They would need to do at least two more tests.

And here is the really good news. If they actually were to threaten the United States, we would see them assembling this. It takes them days to put this up in the launchpad. We could intercept it on the ground. That is my best kind of missile defense, pre-boost intercept.

The other really good news out of the Pentagon today was kind of buried, but it's the cancellation of the phase four system for the European missile defense. They decided they didn't need this, that the Iranian threat was not developing quickly enough. This is a big deal because it potentially unlocks a deal with Russia who's been complaining about this part of the system. We may be able to now get a nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia because of what the Pentagon did today.

BLITZER: But you heard the president earlier this week. He gave an interview to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in which he made it clear he is deeply concerned about this North Korean threat, takes it very seriously, and says the United States has to worry about it because of the margin of error if you will that we don't know exactly what North Korea is up to.

CIRINCIONE: Well, the American public is very worried about this.

The way I look at this announcement and the kinds of statements you heard from the president and secretary of defense and top officials is that they want to reassure the public that they're doing everything they can. This missile defense system, I have to tell you, has got so many technological problems with it that it's doubtful it would ever work.

It certainly won't work if the North Koreans don't cooperate. That is, if they do something other than a simple threat -- the system is designed to intercept a simple threat. If they launch a missile with decoys, pieces of wire, chaff, jammers, balloons, then the missile interceptor can't see the target and the whole thing fails. But it's the job of the Pentagon and the president to reassure the public. That's what they attempted to do today.

BLITZER: Very quickly, to reassure the public is one thing, but are you saying U.S. taxpayers are throwing away a billion dollars for a system that doesn't work?

CIRINCIONE: We spend $10 billion a year on missile defense. We have spent about $250 billion over the last few decades. We still aren't anywhere close to a system that can actually protect the United States from a determined adversary.

Yes, I'm saying we are wasting our money. We do have very a defense that works. It's called deterrence. If the North Koreans or anybody else would dare attack us with a nuclear missile, it would be the last thing that regime ever did. They would be wiped off the face of the earth.

BLITZER: Joe Cirincione, thanks very much for coming in.

CIRINCIONE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, the CNN exclusive -- conservative Senator Rob Portman, he tells our own Dana Bash about the very personal reasons that led to his stunning change of heart on the issue of gay marriage.

And dramatic testimony in the trial of two high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl.


BLITZER: Now to a CNN exclusive, a stunning reversal by a leading conservative on the issue of gay marriage.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio made the declaration to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Portman, thank you for inviting us here today.

And you invited us to make an announcement.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Well, yes. Thank you for coming.

I am announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about. It has to do with gay couples' opportunity to marry.

And during my career in the House and also the last couple years here in the Senate, I have taken a position against gay marriage, rooted in part in my faith and my faith tradition.

And I had a very personal experience, which is my son came to Jane, my wife, and I, told us that he was gay, and that it was not a choice and that he -- you know, that's just part of who he is and he had been that way ever since he could remember. And that launched an interesting process for me, which was kind of rethinking my position, you know, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders, and going through a process of, at the end, changing my position on the issue.

I -- I now believe that people ought to have the right to get married.

BASH: Talk a little bit more about the moment that your son came out to you and your wife.

PORTMAN: Well, my son is very close to me and my wife. And he -- he had worked on the campaign and so we got even closer during the campaign. He came to me as a college freshman and said, you know, after the campaign was over, after I was already elected to the Senate, that, you know, he wanted to tell us that there is something about him we didn't know, as well as we thought we knew him. And it hasn't, of course, changed our view at all of him.

BASH: What was your reaction when he told you?

PORTMAN: Love, support, you know, 110 percent.

BASH: Surprise?

PORTMAN: Surprise. Yes.

BASH: You had no idea?

PORTMAN: No idea, yes.

BASH: Did he ask you to change your position on gay marriage and gay issues?

PORTMAN: Not initially. In fact, I wasn't thinking about policy or, you know, positions. I was just thinking about him as my son and someone who I love very much and am very proud of. So, that was not an initial discussion. But over time, yes, we started talking about that more, and he was helpful as you can imagine and giving me some of his perspective on it and information about it. He's a very bright kid.

BASH: Did he push you?

PORTMAN: No, not really. I mean, I think he's happy and, you know, proud that we've come to this point. But he let it be my decision just as, you know, it's going to be his decision as to the role he plays going forward in this whole issue. He's, you know, I think, again, happy that I've ended up where I have, but he is a private guy. He's like most college kids, normal college kid who doesn't want to necessarily be out front on this issue but it's part of who he is.

BASH: Does he -- he obviously knows that you're doing this. How does he feel about you deciding to take the political plunge like this and make an announcement that you're flipping your position on this issue?

PORTMAN: Well, he is on spring break right now, so he was here with me for a few days this week just hanging out and going to meetings with me and so on. So he knows what I'm doing. And he's back home now.

But, you know, again, I think he's happy that I'm doing it. He also realizes this will probably put a little more focus on our family and that isn't necessarily something we're comfortable with, but I felt it was important for me to come forward and talk about this, one, because I've made my decision. Second, because this court case is coming up and I anticipate I'll be getting a lot of questions from members of the media about what my position is as will other members of the House and the Senate. And I wanted to be absolutely clear and not mislead anybody.

So he didn't dictate the timing but the timing in a way is a combination of both coming to a change of heart on it, a change of decision, and feeling comfortable about that. And, second, the fact that I think this discussions going to be one that we're going to be having here in the Congress after the oral arguments at the end of this month and up to the decision and beyond.

BASH: You say you'll support that. Changing your position is one thing and, certainly, a big deal. But, then, are you going to take it to the next level and be activist on it? Are you going to go home to Ohio and say let's change this state law and get rid of the ban on gay marriage? Which is probably one of the -- one of the most sweeping in the country.

PORTMAN: Well, people are going to know my position. But as you know, I've never really been involved in this issue one way or the other. I have voted consistent with again my beliefs at the time.

BASH: But does your son and the new experience with your son change that? Will you be active on it?

PORTMAN: You know, I'm kind of an economic policy wonk. That's why I got in this business. That's what I've always focused on. So, how to get the economy going, get jobs back.

And I spent, you know, hours this week in the budget committee. I'll be going back soon. The budget is on the floor next week. And those will continue to be the issues that I'll put my primary focus on.

BASH: And what do you say to a gay constituent in Ohio who says, I'm so glad he changed his position but why did it take him learning that he has a gay son? Why didn't he as my representative care about my rights before, before that?

PORTMAN: Well, I would say that, you know, I've had a change of heart based upon a personal experience. That's certainly true. Dick Cheney I think had a similar experience. I've talked to him, by the way, about this.

And, you know, it wasn't an issue I had given much thought to prior to that. Maybe I should have, but the reason I got into public service was because of my concern on the economic and budget issues. That's always been my focus.

BASH: You just walked into the very last question I promise I will ask which was going to be about Dick Cheney. You said you did talk to him. Did you call him for advice because he had a situation very similar?

PORTMAN: Yes. I mean, I spoke to him personally -- I actually met with him.

BASH: What did he tell you?

PORTMAN: Rob, do what's in your heart. You know? I mean, he was -- he was a good person to talk to because he also was surprised by the news and in that case, you know, his wonderful daughter who he loves very much, and it forced him to rethink the issue, too, and over time, he changed his view on it.

And I followed his advice. You know, I followed my heart.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And Dana is joining us now.

Nice interview, Dana. Very nice and very important. Obviously, it wasn't an easy thing for Senator Portman to do. Tell us what's going on right now. Is that the same feeling you got from him, sort of a difficult decision to come out in favor of marriage equality?

BASH: Yes. I think it was a difficult decision all around and at that moment the most difficult decision that he felt was the one that he made to do the interview. He did one television interview with us, which was wonderful for us to get a chance to talk about it, but it was clear why he did that one interview, because it was very difficult.

He is, you know Senator Portman well. He is very press-savvy. He's very comfortable in front of the camera and he was certainly comfortable.

But he was a different kind of Rob Portman than I've seen before. He was trembling a little bit. He was clearly nervous.

I was thinking about it afterwards wondering if it was because of the subject matter, I think that was part of it. But I honestly think because he wanted to do right by his son and make him proud and, you know, his son sent out a tweet saying exactly that today, and he is especially proud of his father today.

BLITZER: Yes, he's handled it in a very impressive way. Very moving, I must say, the whole situation.

Thanks, Dana. I know you're going to be back with more during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, maybe a little more in our 5:00 p.m. hour as well. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're also going to get reaction to Senator Portman's announcement from some conservatives over at the CPAC conference that's under way here in Washington, the Conservative Political Action Conference. Lots of big names speaking today.

We're going to get full coverage in our next hour on that story as well.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets hacked. You're going to find out who else is being targeted. That's ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As fighting rages inside Syria, the first Syrian rebels trained by U.S. military and intelligence officers have returned from Jordan. That word from a rebel spokesman who says some 300 fighters were trained to use antitank, antiaircraft and other weapons systems. More news right here on THE SITUATION ROOM in a moment.


BLITZER: President Obama is taking his message on clean energy to Chicago.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?


Well, President Obama toured the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago. He is pushing congress to take action on his so-called Energy Security Trust Plan. He wants to use $2 billion in oil and gas revenue over the next decade to wean cars and trucks off fossil fuels and lessen the country's dependence on foreign oil. And the Vatican is denouncing allegations newly elected Pope Francis deliberately failed to protect two fellow Jesuit priests during Argentina's military dictatorship. They were kidnapped decades ago when the current pontiff headed Argentina's Jesuit order. The Vatican says the claims which appear in a book by an investigative reporter are false and defamatory.

And all right, how about this unexpected duo? Russian President Vladimir Putin is enlisting Hollywood action star Steven Seagal to get Russians back in shape. The two have opened the martial arts center outside Moscow. Mr. Putin reportedly wants to bring back the type of mass physical fitness program that was popular under Joseph Stalin.

And one of the more interesting facts about President Putin is he is a black belt himself. So, not entirely surprising, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That's interesting, though, that Steven Seagal is now helping him in this effort. Very impressive.

Thanks very much, Lisa.

Up next, President Obama has some tough words on Iran's nuclear program just ahead of his visit to the Middle East next week. Here's a question: are the U.S. and Israel on the same page when it comes to Iran's nuclear program? I'll ask Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Orr. And he is standing by live.


BLITZER: As the U.S. rushes to boost its missile defenses against a threatened North Korean nuclear attack, President Obama has been talking tough about Iran's nuclear program, using words like red lines, saying all U.S. options are on the table.

All this comes as he prepares to head off for the Middle East in the coming days, his first official visit as president of the United States to Israel.

Joining us now is Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The president was pretty precise in talking about Iran's nuclear program capability in an interview he gave Israel's Channel 2, that aired yesterday.

I'll play the clip.

OREN: Um-hmm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon. But obviously, we don't want to cut it too close.


BLITZER: Is that your assessment, the Israeli government's assessment, that it would take a year, between now and a year, for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon?

OREN: Well, we -- we certainly appreciate the reaffirmation of President Obama's commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We're -- we're signed onto that program.

Now, our intelligence analysts, together with American intelligence analysts, look at the Iranian nuclear program. We see many of the same things. We draw many of the same conclusions.

But I'll just refer you back to something that Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the general assembly last September, where he said the main issue is not when Iran gets a nuclear weapon or even how long Iran takes to get a nuclear weapon. The one question is, when we can no longer prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, because the Iranian program is not only just building up on its nuclear stockpile, it's also moving underground. And there's going to be a point where we'll no longer be able to the prevent them.

And that brought -- that point is not in the distant, distant future.

BLITZER: That's not a year from now?

OREN: Not in the distant future.

BLITZER: So when is it?

OREN: Well, back in September, the prime minister said it would be some time in the summer.

BLITZER: This coming summer?

And so you -- is that the current Israeli intelligence assessment, that by this summer, that red line, if you will, where Iran has a capability to develop a nuclear bomb, takes place?

OREN: Not just the capability, it's when we can no longer see it. Just last week, the Iranians announced that they're building 16 new nuclear sites. I guarantee you, they're not going to be above ground.

They're installing centrifuges, IR2 centrifuges, that will triple the time that they can put out enriched uranium.

And so instead of being able to break out over the course of, say, two months, it could be reduced to a matter of weeks. And that will take place underground where nobody is going to be able to see it.

BLITZER: Is your government and the Obama administration on the same page in terms of intelligence assessment, that this summer is, in effect, the so-called red line?

OREN: Well, again, we look at the same set of information and we draw many of the same conclusions. But there are structural differences between them -- between us. Israel...

BLITZER: What are the differences between Israel's assessment of when that red line takes place, which you say this is summer, and the U.S. assessment?

OREN: It's not a difference of assessments, it's a difference of, say, clocks. I mean, Israel has a small clock that's moving very fast. America has a bigger clock that's moving slower.

Israel is a small country in Iran's backyard threatened with national annihilation by the Iranian regime. And we have certain military capabilities.

America, a big country far away from the Middle East, not threatened with destruction on a daily basis by the Iranians yet. And America has vastly bigger capabilities, so it can afford to wait longer.

BLITZER: So are you saying that if Iran doesn't back down and halt its nuclear program by this summer, Israel will take action?

OREN: I'm saying Israel will reserve the right to defend itself and that right has been recognized by President Obama. President Obama has said only Israel has the right and the duty to decide how best to defend its citizens.

BLITZER: But a lot of US...

OREN: And we are threatened.

BLITZER: -- a lot of U.S. analysts -- excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Ambassador -- don't believe Israel necessarily has -- has the capability to deal effectively, destroy Iran's nuclear program, if you will, that the United States needs to do that.

OREN: Israel has the ability to defend itself. It has the right and the duty to defend itself, Wolf.

BLITZER: So you could do it by yourself?

That option you're holding open if the U.S. doesn't do it?

OREN: Our position, just like America's position, is that all options should remain on the table and those options are real.

BLITZER: When the president meets next week with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will this be issue number one?

OREN: It will be one of the major issues we -- we discuss across the table. Of course, there's a wide range of issues. The -- the Middle East is in turmoil, whether it be the situation in the Sinai, in Syria, attempts to reanimate the peace process, and, yes, to address the advancing Iranian nuclear program. BLITZER: Is the peace process getting off the ground at all?

Do you see anything happening on that front?

OREN: Well, that's a question I think you're going to have to pose to the Palestinians. We, together with (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: And the president will meet with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

OREN: And I -- I expect he'll pose that question to them. We, together with the United States, share the same policy. That's -- we call for the resumption of direct talks without preconditions to discuss all the core issues -- refugees, borders, Jerusalem's security -- to reach a solution based on two states for two peoples.

The Palestinians are not there. For most of the last four years, they've refused to negotiate. We hope they'll come and rejoin us at the negotiating table.

BLITZER: They blame Israel's continued expansion of settlement activity on the West Bank.

OREN: Well, in the past, we ripped up settlements out of Gaza, 21 settlements, 9,000 residents to advance the peace process. We didn't get peace, we got rockets rained down on us.

We froze settlement construction in the West Bank, you know, for 10 months to get the Palestinians back to the table.

The Palestinians have a lot of preconditions. It's not just settlements. We have no preconditions. We have a lot of things that we ask the Palestinians to do, but we don't for -- we don't form them as -- as preconditions.

We think the only way to resolve this conflict is through direct negotiations.

BLITZER: One final question. He's going to make a major speech, the president, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, but not before the parliament, Israel's Knesset.

Some Israelis are saying why?

OREN: Well, I think it's important that he reaches out to a wide swath of Israeli society, particularly young Israeli society. We have the youngest population per capita of any modernized industrialized country in the world. And they're representing Israeli universities. We have six major universities. Three of them are among -- listed among the 100 top universities in the world.

So it's going to be a great audience. And it's important to hear the message about the president's vision about the future and also to hear him express his appreciation for Israel's achievements in technology and science.

BLITZER: We'll be watching every step of the way.

I know you're heading back to Jerusalem to be on hand for that visit. Safe travels.

OREN: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

And just ahead, dramatic testimony in the trial of two high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl.


BLITZER: Railway crews in London may have stumbled on a burial pit containing victims of the "black death." Workers have unearthed 13 skeletons possibly dating back 700 years. Scientists will examine the bones to determine if the victims died of the 14th Century plague which killed millions. Much more news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It is day three of the trial of two Ohio football high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. The players insist they're innocent.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester is following the case for us and has this report. But we need to warn our viewers, some of the testimony in this trial is very graphic.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a case that has riveted and divided a community, two Steubenville, Ohio high school football players on trial for raping a 16-year-old during a night of parties in August.

In this picture, the accused 16-year-old Malik Richmond on the left and 17-year-old Trent Mays on the right, carrying the alleged victim by her hands and feet. Prosecutors say she was too drunk to consent. The defense says they are innocent.

The case has taken on a life of its own on social media. In this video from Dead Spin, teens talk about the alleged crime in a vulgar fashion.

UNIDENTIFIED TEEN 1: What if that was your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED TEEN 2: But it isn't.

UNIDENTIFIED TEEN 1: What if it was?

UNIDENTIFIED TEEN 2: If that wasn't my daughter I wouldn't care. I'd just let her be dead.

SYLVESTER: Thursday in court, a computer expert read hundreds of text messages from up to 17 different cell phones one from the alleged victim saying, quote, "I think I was drugged. I have no memory after I left."

Another sent from Mays' phone said, "Yes, dude, she was like a dead body. I just needed some sexual attention." In another messages, he denied having sex with the victim, but did say there was sexual activity between the two.

The defense questioned who really sent the messages. The case has prompted protests and touched many in the community. Both the local prosecutor and judge recused themselves because of connections to the people involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was born and raised here. It is a good town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has it divided the town?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it has.

SYLVESTER: Some see the football players as getting special treatment where others see the alleged victim as targeting the team or outsiders stirring up trouble. Lisa Sylvester, CNN.


BLITZER: CNN's Poppy Harlow is in Steubenville, Ohio right now where the trial is unfolding. Poppy, this is causing a lot of emotional reaction clearly, in the area and indeed around the country. What is the main strategy of the defense?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will get to the defense in a moment, Wolf, but first let me lay out for you if I can what I just came out of witnessing in court. All day the prosecution has been putting witnesses on the stand.

But today is the first day that we have heard from eyewitnesses, teenagers did say they saw this alleged rape occur. Now in Ohio, rape is not necessarily defined as sex between two people. It is any sort of penetration, digital penetration that is unwanted from one individual to another.

So the first eyewitness that took the stand is a 17-year-old, a friend of both of the co-defendants, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond. He said he was in a car with them between two parties late that night in August and he said that he was sitting next to Trent Mays and the alleged victim and saw Trent Mays digitally penetrate that victim with his fingers.

He said that he went on to videotape that on his iPhone for a couple minutes then delete it the next morning. Then the state brought their second witness today, an 18-year-old, also a friend of the co- defendant's, who said after that car ride when they got to a home and went into the basement, the victim was lying naked and the Malik Richmond also penetrated her with his fingers.

The defense strategy in all of this is twofold. They are saying, first of all, aren't you reconstructing your memory of the night through all the media attention, the social media that it has gotten, and then they also talk about how intoxicated really was this girl?

Was there consent or was there not? That's key in all of this. Was she agreeing to? We know she wanted to go earlier in the night with those boys. Where does it fall? Right now, a third state witness, an eyewitness on the stand as we speak -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the defense argument, their main contention will be?

HARLOW: Their main contention is, was this girl really too drunk to make decisions? They say she was walking on her own. Others say that she was stumbling, Wolf, at the same time we know from a lot of testimony that earlier in the night her friends asked her to stay with them and she said, no, I want to go with these two boys.

So where is that line going to be drawn? Also, questions about how can you prove who sent these text messages that are very damning and finally because there has been so much media attention on this that all these witnesses have seen are they possibly reconstructing the night in their head because of all that's been discussed?

And those are points the defense has made. We still haven't heard from the alleged victim in this and we also have not seen either of the defendants take the stand. We believe that is still to come. This has to be wrapped up by Sunday.

The visiting judge said this has to end by Sunday. If these two young men are convicted since they're juveniles the maximum they could serve is until they are 21 years old -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Poppy, thanks very much. We'll stay in touch with you.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Tiger Woods, Chris Christie, and Mitt Romney, they're all getting added to a list no one wants to be on. We're going to explain.


BLITZER: You're looking at these live pictures coming in from a small airport, executive airport near Fort Lauderdale in Florida. These are pictures coming in courtesy of our affiliate WSVN. It looks like there was a plane crash at this executive airport in Fort Lauderdale.

You see firefighters on the scene. A lot of cars clearly have been destroyed very, very severely damaged. We don't know about injuries. We don't know what kind of plane other than it was a small plane we are told, but fire and rescue teams are on the scene right now.

These once again are live pictures coming in. Looks like a plane crashed into those cars over there and you can see what's going on. We'll get more information and update you as more information comes in. Once again, this is the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport down in Florida.

Other news we're following including sensitive personal information splashed across web pages, if it's happening to the rich, famous, and powerful, what about you?

Our Brian Todd has some answers for us. Brian, there's new information coming in. What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these suspects have gone after more celebrities and politicians posting their most sensitive financial information for all to see. A sports icon, rising political star, and last year's Republican presidential nominee are among the latest targets.


TODD (voice-over): Mitt Romney, Tiger Woods, Chris Christie, new names added to a web site's postings of what it claims are the personal financial records of people in public life, their mortgage information, credit card debt, the alleged data on Christie shows he sometimes has a high American Express balance.

His spokesman calls the breach a disturbing intrusion. We cannot verify that the information is accurate. A law enforcement official tells CNN investigators are looking into how the perpetrators got the data and whether it was hacked or not.

The FBI, Secret Service, and Los Angeles police are all on their trail. I spoke with Michael Gibbons, former head of the FBI's Computer Investigations Unit.

(on camera): How are investigators tracking these suspects?

MICHAEL GIBBONS, FORMER CHIEF, FBI COMPUTER INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION: The addresses of computers will lead you to other computers, lead you to the little detail filings and snippets of files and you may do forensic captures of whole computer systems looking for a piece of evidence from other system across the globe.

TODD (voice-over): Two credit agencies, Equifax and Trans Union, confirm information on their clients was accessed. How easy is it for an impersonator to fake an inquiry and get data about you from a credit agency? I called for a free credit report to learn the type of information they ask for.

(on camera): My mailing address is -- my Social Security number is -- just hung up with It was all automation. They asked for my full name, my mailing address, my date of birth and my social security number.

For that, they did offer a security safeguard asking me if I only wanted the last four digits of my Social Security number to be posted with this credit report.

(voice-over): Online they also asked me four challenge questions. It seems the people who exposed this information are confident they'll never be caught. On the web site, they openly taunt their targets posting pictures of Kim Kardashian and Tiger Woods crying with the first lady's apparent information a note, blame your husband. We still love you, Michelle. Here's the picture in Hulk Hogan's file. Hillary Clinton, ouch. Is there arrogance to these suspects? Marc Maiffret is a former hacker who is now with the cyber security firm called "Beyond Trust."

MARC MAIFFRET, FORMER HACKER: I mean, there is an inherent arrogance to that. You know, we've seen that plenty of time with different hackers. Those I worry about more are the folks you don't hear from.


TODD: Maiffret says when some hackers show their cockiness and swagger it can catch up to them. So why do they do it? Well, Maiffret who once hacked Pentagon and other government systems says most of the time it is just to show they can -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there any indication, Brian, that money has been stolen from the celebrities?

TODD: A law enforcement official we spoke with was not aware of any money being taken, but the official said that some of the address information may have been used. In the past hackers and others have done what is called "swatting."

They find the home addresses of celebrities and they'll make maybe a fake emergency call and send the police to the person's home. That's been done with Ashton Kucher and Justin Bieber in the past.

BLITZER: Very worrisome developments indeed. All right, Brian, thanks very much.

One update we're getting more information on the breaking news we brought to you just a few moments ago. These are pictures coming in from Fort Lauderdale, the executive airport there.

Fire rescue officials tell us a twin engine plane crashed near the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport just outside the downtown area. It services smaller planes. Officials tell us the plane appears to have struck a building before crashing into those cars. We're getting more information and will bring it to you as it comes in.