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Profiting From National Tragedy; NBA Center Comes Out In Upcoming "Sports Illustrated" Issue; Failure To Communicate On Bomber Case?; Governor Perry Calls Cartoon "Disgusting"

Aired April 29, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay.

The Money Lead. If there's cash to be made, people are going to find a way to make it, even after a national tragedy. Businesses using the Boston terrorist attacks to their own advantage.

The Sports Lead. Not a single active player in any major American sport has never come out while currently playing until now. This NBA center is the center of attention after announcing today that he's gay.

And the Buried Lead. Drawing fire. A political cartoon from "The Sacramento Bee" blaming Texas policies for the tragic Texas plant explosion. Governor Rick Perry isn't laughing. But is there any truth behind the charge?

In our Money Lead, you've seen the surveillance footage and stills of the alleged Boston mMrathon bombings. Now companies in the monitoring industry see an portunity for some free publicity.

Wired's contributing editor Noah Shachtman, who edits the national security page Danger Room (ph) compiled some of the most notable PR pitches like this one from Ubiquity Broadcasting Corporation. This was in a statement announcing their new video intelligence software. Quote, "The Boston Marathon bombing has proven the need for real-time video and data analysis from all types of cameras." Fair gains for the companies or exploiting a tragedy?

Noah joins me now from New York. Noah, thanks for joining us. You did hear from some of the companies after your article. What was their reaction to your piece?

NOAH SHACHTMAN, WIRED CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Their reaction was something along the lines of, how dare you quote from our press release that we released to the public? How could you do such a thing?

TAPPER: Obviously your suggestion is that they are profiting over tragedy. How is that any different from what I'm doing right now? SHACHTMAN: Good question. Presumably you're not getting - you're not piling up contracts. You're just getting paid some sort of salary to do what you do and that you don't with every new tragedy try to pile up more and more money. So it's a little bit different.

But look, it is a fair question. These companies are just trying to take advantage of a marketing opportunity. It's just a question of how sleazy or not you believe that marketing opportunity to be.

TAPPER: Now, some of the companies were directly involved in the investigation. For example, I-Robot, their PackBot (ph) machine investigated one of the suspects' cars. We even saw a photograph of that. So, what's wrong with that company pointing that out?

SHACHTMAN: I don't think there's too much wrong with I-Robot pointing that out. As you know from your reporting about Afghanistan, they've sent tens of thousands of robots over there, saved countless servicemen's lives. They did some work in Boston. They're a Boston- based company. I think they're willing to crow (ph). They're kind of like one of the real deals.

It's the sort of wannabes that are a little bit more offensive. So, for example, there's a company called Face First. A facial recognition company that sent out a bunch of press releases about all the important work they're now getting because facial recognition caught the Boston bombers. There's only one small problem with that: facial recognition did not catch the Boston bombers.

TAPPER: Right. Now, these companies are trying to get their names out there. But what about some of the large defense contractors? What do you think their strategy is in terms of Boston?

SHACHTMAN: Well, they're more sophisticated, so they'll take a more low-key approach. But you can bet that all the major defense contractors, especially the ones that have worked in homeland security and video surveillance in intelligence analysis - and that's to say all of them -- are working the halls of Congress, working the halls of the various armed services promoting their products.

Look, as a journalist, I get these kind of pitches all the time. After the Syria chemical news broke last week, every dude with a gas mask tried to e-mail me. It's part of life, it's part of the way these companies do business, but it doesn't make it cool.

TAPPER: All right, Noah Shachtman, great story. Thank you so much for joining us. We'll have you on sometime again soon.

SHACHTMAN: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: We have breaking news on a record setting day on Wall Street. The S&P 500 closed at an all-time high, soaring just past 1,593 points. And the NASDAQ at its highest levels in 12 years. This is all thanks to positive news that the housing market is still on the rebound, analysts say. April marks the fourth straight month in the black for investors. Now it's time for our Sports Lead. The culture in the locker room drove him deep into the closet, but now NBA center Jason Collins has come out of the closet as the first openly gay athlete currently playing in a major American team sport. The story appears in next week's issue of "Sports Illustrated," owned by our parent company. And it begins with a big, bold, powerful announcement. Quote, "I'm a 34- year-old NBA center, I'm black, and I'm gay."

Collins played last season right here with the Boston Celtics. He also played with the Washington Wizards. Other pro athletes have revealed that they're gay or lesbian before, but Collins is the first man currently in a major U.S. team sport to do it. Tennis great Martina Navratilova, who blazed a trail for lesbian and gay athletes, tweeted these good vibes to Collins. Quote: "Well done, Jason Collins. You are a brave man and a big man at that. 1981 was the year for me; 2013 is the year for you." Kind of an interesting comment, kind of reminding people that she did it a long time ago.

Joining me now from California is Rick Welts. He's president and CEO of the NBA's Golden State Warriors. He publicly announced he's gay while he was president of the Phoenix Suns in 2011. You might recall reading about that. And from Washington, D.C., Dave Zirin sports writer for "The Nation."

Rick, let's start with you. You went through this very public process just a couple of years ago. What is your message to Jason Collins?

RICK WELTS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NBA'S GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Well, you know, I think what happened today is a very courageous thing. There's been a lot of anticipation, a lot of buildup to who would be the first active player to take this step. Reading his story today, I was very moved by it. Obviously, you know, touched by how difficult this path has been for him. He's reached a point in his life where this is important to him, and I think we'll look back on this as a historic day in men's team sports.

TAPPER: And Rick, when you came out of the closet, did you think that would cause any current NBA players to follow your lead?

WELTS: Well, I don't know that you can credit one with the other. I think the problem for me at the time was there had been nobody in a position like mine who had taken the step that I decided to take, and that's a real barrier. You know, Jason faced the same thing. No player had gone before him. He didn't have the benefit of seeing how people would react, of seeing what their experience would be. So, I really do think for a player, an incredibly courageous thing he did today.

TAPPER: Dave, the first openly gay athlete in a major American sport who's currently playing -- put this in perspective for us as Martina Navratilova suddenly did. It's not entirely new, but how big of a deal is this?

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS WRITER, "THE NATION": It's massively huge. I mean, any story that brings together Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, and The Rock in the same day, wishing well to Jason Collins tells you something about the cultural impact that this can have.

Look, homophobia has been part of organized men's sports as long as there has been organized men's sports. Going back to when Teddy Roosevelt would define men who wouldn't play football as sissies. It's always been if you want to play sports, you have to accept being in the closet.

Now, this has shifted more with recent years with more straight athletes, particularly in the NFL, speaking out on behalf of marriage equality and speaking out on behalves civil rights of LGBT people. But to have an active male gay player finally do this and take this step, I mean, there are no words for how historic this is.

TAPPER: And Dave, we're already seeing a response from other athletes, mostly it's been positive and welcoming. But Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace has deleted and apologized for a tweet that he sent out that said, quote, "All these beautiful women in the world, and guys want to mess with other guys." So, is that what most athletes and most professional sports fans are going to - is that going to be their reaction? Or do you think it will mostly be greeted with support -- and frankly I've seen a lot of even from conservatives on Twitter a lot of yawns. They don't think it's a big deal.

ZIRIN: Yes, I mean, that's one way of moving the goal post. I mean, if you can't talk down Jason Collins, what you try to do is take the air out of the message.

But it's been very, very encouraging. It's been a beautiful day to see so many people come forward and give Jason Collins love in the sports world, which has been so homophobic traditionally. I mean, think about someone like Kobe Bryant, who several years ago was caught on camera doing an anti-gay slur. And today he was putting out a very strong message of support for Jason Collins. It's a beautiful thing.

Now, one commentator on ESPN, Chris Broussard, said something very homophobic on ESPN today, did a little rant about that. But even the response to him has been so strong, it says something that we're in a new era in 2013. And the Chris Broussards of the world need to deal with it.

TAPPER: All right. Dave Zirin, Rick Welts, thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

ZIRIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: The Russians reportedly had him on tape talking about jihad with his own mother. So, why didn't the government do more to stop Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

And later, don't mess with Texas. Governor Rick Perry is furious over a cartoon, one that appeared in "The Sacramento Bee." And it wasn't over something Charlie Brown said to Lucy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: You're looking at live shots of the memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks here in Boston, attacks just two weeks ago today. We're live here at Copley Square in Boston, where many are still asking if there was any way this tragedy could have been prevented.

In our Politics Lead today, we ask this question: is this a case of intelligence failure? It's an issue splitting members of Congress.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's a failure to share information and missing obvious warning signs. We're going back to the pre-9/11 stovepipng.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't think we've seen any of the stovepiping issues that predated 9/11. I think we've fixed a lot of those problems.


TAPPER: Let's try to break through this. Is this just political spin, another blame game in Washington, blame this party, blame that party, or is there more to it? We'll seek answers from someone who was responsible for keeping the intelligence, keeping the information, flowing among agencies.

Joining me now from Washington is Ambassador Thomas McNamara. From 2006 to 2009, he was the program manager for the information sharing environment. This position was created by a law in 2004, quote, "The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act," unquote. In order to ensure that terrorism related information was shared effectively and in a timely manner.

Ambassador McNamera, thanks for joining us. So clear this up for us: do we have a stove piping issue? Are intelligence agencies still holding on to this information? Have we taken a step back in terms of sharing?

THOMAS MCNAMERA, FORMER HEAD OF INFORMATION SHARING: I doubt very much whether we've taken a step back anything like what we had in the case of 9/11 and even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Starting in about 2006, we actually created an information sharing system, but it takes years to get that up and running. We're talking about an information sharing system that's international, national, state, local, even out to the tribal and to the private sector.

And that information sharing system is functioning, but it's not functioning as well as we'd like it to and certainly in the case of the Boston tragedy, not as well as it ought to have. There were mistakes made. They're not mistakes of anything along the lines of or of the magnitude of what happened on 9/11, but nonetheless, mistakes were made. And we've suffered for it.

TAPPER: I've heard speculation by intelligence sources but no actual evidence. I'm wondering if you know of any indication that the FBI did not take the warnings from the Russian government seriously because they thought Tsarnaev was only a threat to Russia and not to the U.S. After all, the warning from the Russian FSB, the succeeding agency to the KGB, was that they were afraid he'd come to Russia and join an underground organization. Is that possible? Have you heard anything along those lines?

MCNAMERA: No. Although I've read it, I'm not sure it's accurate. But you'd have to ask the FBI. I can talk, though, to the question -- and we've talked about this before many, many times in this country -- connecting the dots.

The mistakes were twofold, I think. The first was that we didn't connect the dots that we had. Few though they might have been, they were serious enough that they should have been connected. For example, the notification to the FBI about this individual, and then six months later another notification by the same Russian intelligence agencies about the same individual.

Well, if a foreign -- a serious government and a serious foreign intelligence agency tells you twice in six months you should be looking at somebody, it's more than just a passing reference. And it appears that that connection was not necessarily followed up on.

Another thing is that, when a few months after that, the individual leaves the United States to visit precisely the area where the danger and the damage possibly was being looked at by the Russians, that's another indication.

And when he comes back after a six-month period -- six months is plenty of time to become indoctrinated in the jihadist ideology, if he wasn't before. And there are indications that he was already on the road, so to speak.

So, by January of 2012, there were enough dots that should have been connected. They didn't get connected. The people who were watching him come and go from the United States in the immigration and customs agencies appear not to have been aware of or were not sensitized to the information that the FBI and the CIA had. That's what I mean by not connecting the dots.

Now, there's a second --

TAPPER: All right.

MCNAMAERA: -- and I think equally important and maybe not as much talked about, and that is the -- from what I understand in and all the reports coming out of Boston, the state and local police were not informed about what the FBI, the CIA, Immigration and Customs knew about this case. In other words, they didn't have any dots. Therefore, they weren't able to participate in this.

Now, if the FBI decided it wasn't really worth them following up, it's very possible -- we don't know now, and it's too late to ever know -- that the local police might have felt that this was something that since it was in their home belly wick (ph) that they would like to keep up on. One of the advantages of connecting dots and passing that information on is that you get more manpower, you get more possible options.

That wasn't followed up, and therefore those options weren't followed up. And the main reason for that, and I here will be very critical of the FBI, among the federal agencies, the FBI has been known for many years for being the most reluctant to share information with state and local officials.

And I have, in my years in government, spent many years talking and working on these issues and continually, there were expressions of sincere frustration on the part of state and local officials because they weren't getting the information that they felt would put them in the loop so they could take action. The FBI --

TAPPER: All right, Ambassador McNamara --


TAPPER: Ambassador McNamera, thanks for joining us. I'm sorry, I have to leave it there. We'll have you back to talk more about what needs to be done in the wake of this tragedy. We appreciate your time.

Coming up, after a massive explosion kills 14 people in Texas, a cartoon pins the blame on the state of Texas. Well, that doesn't sit well Governor Rick Perry and now he wants an apology from a California newspaper.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live in Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. Now to a political cartoon targeting Texas Governor Rick Perry. The cartoon depicts Governor Perry boasting about loose regulations in Texas on one side with the image of the fertilizer plant explosion on West, Texas that killed 14 people on the other side.

Business is booming. Boom! It's by Jack Omen of "The Sacramento Bee," a celebrated cartoonist. Mr. Omen says he stands behind it, despite Governor Perry demanding an apology. Let's bring in Wayne Slater. He is my Texas guru. He is a senior political writer for the "Dallas Morning News."

First of all, Wayne, I want to get your personal reaction as a resident of Texas. Did this cartoon offend you? Was it too soon?

WAYNE SLATER, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Didn't offend me. I was in West that morning, early that morning, the next day, saw the havoc, saw the emotion that it caused for a lot of people. It was a heck of an experience, an extraordinary tragedy. But if you believe that the cartoon is making fun of or was mocking the first responders and others who died, then absolutely you're offended.

And apparently some Texans, a lot of Texans, felt that way. And that was basically what Rick Perry is saying, you're mocking our Texans including our first responders, so I want an apology. I didn't take it that way. I took it as a newspaper saying, you know, you preach lax regulation, and maybe we ought to look to see whether lax regulation contributed to this.

TAPPER: And the taste factor aside, does Jack Omen, the cartoonist, have a point in terms of Governor Perry's record on regulation in the state and worker safety? Is there reason to believe that had anything to do with this explosion?

SLATER: Jake, those are two questions. One, you know and I know Rick Perry has preached a lax or light regulatory climate here. He's gone to California. He's gone to other states and said, come to Texas, we have lower taxes. We have less regulation on business, at least onerous regulation on business. It's a good climate for you to work, to create jobs and to be.

So that's clearly created and sustained an environment that's fairly light when it comes to regulation. On the other hand, Jake, there is no conclusion yet. The federal and state investigations are under way. We don't know whether this was human error that would not have been stopped, would not have been prevented based on more vigorous regulation. We do know that the regulation was pretty light, both federal and state.

TAPPER: All right, Wayne Slater, thank you so much. And we will be right back.


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper live from Boston from Copley Square. I will now leave you with Wolf Blitzer and he is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Mr. Blitzer, take it away.