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Hacking Your World; Putting Veterans Back to Work; Bridge Collapses; Putting Veterans Back to Work; Obama: Attacks Threaten "Trust and Discipline"

Aired May 24, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Rise of the machines.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, a warning that foreign hackers may have the power to control your world as if you're in Sin City, after a report that Iran successfully got into our grid. Just think about what happens in your neighborhood when one traffic light goes out. Are we ready as a country to fight off a cyber takeover?

Our national lead. It's something we all take for granted, having highways and bridges under us functioning. Is it time to put on the hardhats after two more cars take a detour into the water?

And our buried lead. Playing Lieutenant Dan in "Forrest Gump" set him on a path to give our nation's veterans a voice. I will talk to actor Gary Sinise about his latest mission this Memorial Day weekend to help bring real-life to returning heroes.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead today, imagine this. With just a few keystrokes by a foreign enemy armed with nothing more than a laptop, your city is suddenly plunged into darkness. Air traffic controllers at the local airport watch their radar screens go black. A critical banking system is taken down, causing a financial crisis. Hospitals cannot operate. Clean water is no longer available.

Sounds like a B-movie from the '90s, but the looming specter of cyber- warfare is very, very real, according to warnings from top intelligence and military officials. It's the kind of thing that keeps former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta up at night.

I talked to him about it back in 2010.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are now in a world in which cyber-warfare is very real. It could threaten our grid system. It could threaten our financial system. It could paralyze this country. And I think that's an area we have to pay a lot more attention to.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: And it's already happening.

Today, we learned that hackers from Iran had infiltrated U.S. oil, gas, and power companies. And they're far enough inside that people are starting to get really worried.

Here to talk about it is Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director of the FBI.

Shawn, thanks for being here.

Give us a sense of the risk here. How dangerous is a hack like this?

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Well, I think our critical infrastructure obviously is what this entire nation resides on.


TAPPER: That means power grids, telephones?

HENRY: Power grid, electricity, communications, transportation, the critical infrastructure that lets us do our day-to-day jobs, it's all run by computers, and if adversaries access those networks with some keystrokes, if they're able to disrupt some of the hardware or software, disrupt the actual control systems, they can have a devastating impact.

TAPPER: And what are our defense capabilities as a nation? What is the Pentagon set up for in terms of fending off these attacks?

HENRY: Much of this resides within the private sector to protect their own networks. The government is not out with a giant shield over the networks. For obvious reasons, people don't want because of privacy concerns the U.S. government into the networks monitoring the traffic.

So, really, the vast majority of this relies on the private sector. That being said, the government does share intelligence with DHS -- the FBI, rather, share information with the private sector to help them better protect themselves.

TAPPER: Are they doing enough? Is the private sector doing enough?

HENRY: I think that the awareness is critical and I think that that is really in the last year particularly becoming more of an issue, that people are becoming more aware.

The fact of the matter is a good offense will always beat the defense and the most sophisticated adversaries that we have seen are able to infiltrate most defenses.

TAPPER: Now, some skeptics out there say this is all just hype from defense contractors who want to make a buck selling their cyber- defenses to governments, to private industry.

Do they have any argument to make there?

HENRY: I think not. I think that this is clearly a legitimate threat. I think that we have seen the ramifications of it over and over again.

There's been theft of intellectual property and electronic espionage, but there are also adversaries who are calling for electronic jihad against U.S. infrastructure. That's been out there, so I think that the threat is looming and it's illegitimate.

TAPPER: Could it not be seen since we know now, the Pentagon acknowledges that we, the United States, have conducted cyber-attacks ourselves? We know about that Stuxnet virus that went into the Iranian nuclear program. Could it not be said that this is retaliation for the United States taking action?

HENRY: I think there needs to be discussions, government to government primarily, when you're talking nation state to nation state, about what the parameters are, that the red lines need to be defined and that there needs to be a strategy for how to combat this.

This can quickly escalate and become traumatic and tragic for many people if it's not handled in the appropriate way.

TAPPER: All right. Shawn Henry, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Have a meaningful Memorial Day this weekend.

HENRY: Thanks so much.

TAPPER: Also in world, an unruly passenger got in an argument with flight attendants and threatened to blow up an airplane. That got a flight from Pakistan to the United Kingdom grounded.

A British fighter jet escorted the passenger plane with 297 people on board to a safe landing at a London airport. Two men were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. Authorities don't believe that it was terror-related.

In our national lead today, a nightmare for some Washington state drivers. A bridge collapsed after a tractor-trailer with an oversized load struck part of the bridge, sending two vehicles into the water dozens of feet below. Amazingly, no one died.

Dan Sligh was one of the three people who fell into the freezing waters of the Skagit River.


DAN SLIGH, SURVIVOR: I saw the bridge start to fall at that point. Forward momentum just carried us right over. And as you saw the water approaching, it was just one of those -- you hold on as tight as you can and just a white flash and cold water.


TAPPER: The governor's office declared a state of emergency in three counties and they say the estimated cost to fix the bridge will be $15 million. The bridge was rated functionally obsolete, but to be clear that does not mean they knew it was not safe. That rating is more about the width of the lanes and how it can handle traffic.

The Washington State Department of Transportation just said in a press conference that the bridge was not found to be structurally deficient, which would be more significant. But the collapse does raise some serious questions about the safety of American bridges.

Joining me now from the site of the bridge collapse is David Goldberg. He's the communications director for Transportation for America.

David, thanks so much for being here.

How common is something like this, a bridge collapsing after being struck by a truck?

DAVID GOLDBERG, TRANSPORTATION FOR AMERICA: Well, bridge collapsing -- bridges collapsing fortunately are not a real common occurrence, particularly on interstates.

The last happened six years ago in Minneapolis. But bridges actually do fall with surprising regularity, usually just not of this significance. I guess unusual for a bridge to be knocked down by a blow from a truck, to be honest.

TAPPER: And how significant is it? I guess the question is, does this signify that there was something wrong with this bridge? I understand it was built in the 1950s. Is this indicative of a larger problem with American infrastructure, or is this just an incident of a tractor-trailer hitting a bridge and causing a calamity? Thankfully, no one was seriously wounded or killed.

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, this was a bridge that was built in 1955 and it was designed in an era before the interstate standards were really set. And it had outlived its usefulness in terms of today's traffic and today's loads like that big tractor-trailer.

So these things should have been -- should have been replaced. Many of them are out there and need to be replaced. The problem is they compete with all the other infrastructure needs and the big mega- projects that frankly are more sexy for ribbon-cuttings than the kinds of repair projects like this.

TAPPER: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave a C-plus to the 600,000 bridges in the U.S.; 11 percent of them are considered structurally deficient. How worried should Americans be when they drive across bridges?

GOLDBERG: Well, the worry is not so much that they will collapse like this with a lot of frequency, but the problem is that the system is aging and it's aging pretty rapidly. The typical bridge out there was designed to last 50 years and the average age is 44.

And if you look at the bridges that are structurally deficient, the one in 10 bridges that are rated as structurally deficient, something like the typical age of those is 65 years. And that's going to be -- we're going to have 65-year-old bridges coming every year from now -- now on, because we have been building them like mad since the 1950s. And we frankly haven't been keeping up with them like we should.

TAPPER: And, David, what should the government be doing that in your view they are not doing enough?

GOLDBERG: Well, there's a couple things that have happened in recent years that Congress in particular needs to pay attention to, because it's federal money that pays for the big bridges like this across the country.

And they are the ones that stand to hurt us the most if they fall or if we have to close them. And one thing is that we have to recognize the gas tax receipts are going down. We're getting more fuel- efficient cars and people are driving less, so we have to figure out a way to replace a lot of that money.

And the other thing that has happened in the last year or so is that Congress actually eliminated the fund that was dedicated to bridge repair and sort of said to states, well, you know, you just decide whether they should be fixed or not. But the problem is we have got political pressure to build a lot of the new projects, which competes with that repair money.

So you get situations like this where bridges should have been replaced. They're not going to be unless we have a dedicated fund.

TAPPER: So, it sounds like you're saying that the people who make these decisions need to be a little bit more focused on rebuilding and restrengthening things that already exist, as opposed to pursuing new projects?

GOLDBERG: Well, we certainly need to fix things before we build the new stuff that we can't afford to maintain. So, we have got to get the money together to fix the things and we have got to make it a priority to fix them, because this can't happen in America.

TAPPER: All right, David Goldberg, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD, he is best known for playing Lieutenant Dan on "Forrest Gump," but it's his real-life work with veterans that's making a much bigger difference than anything he does as an actor. I will talk to Gary Sinise about his way of giving back to the troops.

Plus, the Bluths are back, but will "Arrested Development" live up to all the hype? We will take a look at the cult show before its Sunday morning release.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now it's time for the buried lead. These are stories we think are not getting enough attention as they should be getting. Memorial Day is the day we thank those service members who paid the ultimate price in the service of our country and, of course, we also thank their families for sacrificing so very much for the rest of us.

But on this Memorial Day weekend, we at THE LEAD are also mindful of those troops who are still here, but are struggling.

And one man doing just that is the actor Gary Sinise. I caught up with him this week at an event sponsored by the GE Veterans Network. They're working together on something that matters, getting veterans jobs.


TAPPER (voice-over): Of all the characters Gary Sinise has played on stage, television, and film, you probably remember him best as Lieutenant Dan from the movie "Forrest Gump."


GARY SINISE, ACTOR: Thought I would try out my sea legs.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: But you ain't got no legs, Lieutenant Dan.


TAPPER: That defining role as a Vietnam veteran who loses his legs is not one that Gary Sinise forgot about when the cameras stopped rolling.

SINISE: There was a room full of 30 wounded Marines and soldiers in there. They were not in good shape, these guys.

I walked in and they started lighting up and calling me Lieutenant Dan just immediately. They didn't even know what my real name was. But they were calling me that, you know, from the movie. They recognized -- and I could see that they were lighting up.

And so I realized that Lieutenant Dan was going to be more than a character in my life.

With your help, we have made positive changes in the lives of so many grateful heroes.

TAPPER: Even before he played a veteran, it was the passion of this Emmy Award-winning actor to help our nation's returning soldiers. The son and grandson of veterans, his wife comes from a military family and his nephew is currently deployed in Afghanistan.


SINISE: I'm Lieutenant Dan Taylor. Welcome to Fort Platoon.


TAPPER: But it was the role of Lieutenant Dan that launched Sinise into the public eye as a fierce ally of veterans and it was 9/11 that made them his mission. He started the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2010, dedicated to supporting veterans, first responders, and their families.


TAPPER: He also plays bass in the aptly named Lieutenant Dan Band and he's toured military bases around the country and the world to raise funds for veterans groups.

But now, Sinise wants to help veterans transition into the work force. That's a lofty task. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately 783,000 veterans who are out of work. And according to numbers crunched by the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, for new veterans, aged 18 to 24, the unemployment rate averaged 20.4 percent in 2012, more than five percentage points higher than the average among nonveterans in the same age group.

(on camera): It doesn't make any sense to me on its face because they do have skills and they're eager to join the work force.

SINISE: If you look at the character of Lieutenant Dan, for example in "Forrest Gump", he was somebody driven from a military history, family history of serving in the military, wanted a long military career. That gets taken away from him, and then he's kind of lost. He doesn't really know where he's going to go.

So, we've got those stories out there. Thinking about what they're going to do transitionally is some -- somewhat difficult sometimes. So, they might not know where to go and what to do.

TAPPER (voice-over): There are also other more complicated reasons, of course, including PTSD and other wounds, businesses not understanding how military skills translate to their needs, and competition with nonveteran job seekers who have been in the work force longer.

So, Sinise and his foundation are now working with General Electric's Veterans Network to get the word out about their get skills to work program.

SINISE: It's a coalition of partners, educators, businesses, military leaders coming together to provide training, to retool the skills that military members, veterans learn in the service and reapply that to the private sector.

TAPPER: Meeting their audacious goal will be a challenge. They want to get 100,000 veterans into new manufacturing jobs by 2015.

SINISE: There are freedom providers. They sacrifice for us each and every day. Their families have gone through a lot in the last dozen years of war, but it's going to help our country as well to put these people to work in manufacturing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Our thanks to Gary Sinise. You can learn more about the Get Skills to Work Program at, if you're a veteran or employer who wants to hire a veteran. And you can see more of the good work of the Gary Sinise Foundation at We hope you all have a meaningful Memorial Day.

And one programming note: on Monday, Memorial Day, a special encore presentation of our CNN special on the heroism and valor shown by our troops during the October, 2009 Taliban attack on Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan. The assault resulted in eight Americans killed in action and a rare Congressional Medal of Honor for Staff Sergeant Clint Romashay. That's Monday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, a special Memorial Day tribute on THE LEAD.

# Tag You're It. Today, we want to honor those who have fallen in service. Send us your Memorial Day messages in 140 characters or less.

Mine? Thank you. We will no forget.

Tweet your messages to @TheLeadCNN. Use the #memorialmessage. We'll read some of the best ones at the end of the show.

Coming up on THE LEAD: It's a guaranteed meeting with H.R. Just tell that working mother next to you that she is too distracted with her baby to really do her job. Think nobody could be that stupid? Well, one man just proved you wrong.

Plus, I guess some people just don't have a conscience. Looters and scammers are targeting tornado victims. We'll tell you just what they're doing to make some money off the most vulnerable.

That's coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

More national news now. President Obama spoke about the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. Speaking to new grads at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the president said those kinds of attacks simply have no place in the armed forces.

Figures release this month show a huge jump, 35 percent in the number of cases of unwanted contact in the military in 2012 from just two years earlier.

In his speech, Mr. Obama tied cases like those to missteps by serviceman and women in the field, suggesting that a sexual assault hurts the military overall in the same way that, say, Abu Ghraib did.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In our digital age, a single image from the battlefield of troops falling short of their standards can go viral and endanger our forces and undermine our efforts to achieve security and peace. Likewise, those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong.


TAPPER: In an apparent reference to the recent IRS scandal, the president also noted that, quote, "As we've seen in recent days, it only takes the misconduct of a few to erode the public's trust in their institutions," unquote.

There is no mistaking the calls for change in how the military handles sexual assault cases. At least two officers responsible for preventing those attacks are under investigation for allegedly committing them.

The financial system fell apart after the big banks run mostly by men basically cannibalized the economy, but one billionaire says the last thing Wall Street needs is a nurturing mother. It's already being called Wall Street's Todd Akin moment. Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones was speaking at the University of Virginia spring investing symposium last month when he said that children were career killers for female traders. The video was just obtained by "The Washington Post."

Have a listen.


PAUL TUDOR JONES, FOUNDER, TUDOR INVESTMENT CORPORATION: As soon as that baby's lips touch that girl's bosom, forget it. Every single investment idea, every desire to understand -- every desire to understand what's going to make this go up or down is going to be overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience which a man will never -- which a man will never share, that emotive connection between that mother and that baby.


TAPPER: Jones who has four daughters has since backtracked in the statement and said, "Any man or woman can do anything to which they set their heart and mind."

Never argue with people who buy ink by the gallon. That's some sage advice from Mark Twain.

And now with the White House under fire for monitoring journalists as part of their leak investigations, what do you think, Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker", is the Obama administration wishing they'd never messed with those reporters?

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: You know, I don't think the story has gotten that much attention yet. Look, there's a -- look, we feel these issues of the First Amendment more strongly because we're in the press, but it is a First Amendment issue. I mean, not to be too earnest about it. But I don't think it's just because that we are reporters that this is incredibly important to us.

TAPPER: Well, I want you to be too earnest about it.

LIZZA: That's why.

TAPPER: We're going to have you come out and be earnest, along with the rest of us.

That's coming up in our "Politics Lead." Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

"The Political Lead"? Don't mess with the press unless you want to get famous for it. Now, Attorney General Eric Holder could effectively end up reviewing his own actions after having personally signed off on the seizure of a reporter's e-mails. We've got all the latest.

"The Money Lead": Across the country, fathers and mothers will be threatening to turn this car around right now. Get ready for gridlock as 35 million Americans pack up and hit the road this weekend, except for those of us smart enough to embrace the stay-cation.

And, "The Pop Lead": If you don't know them already, it's time you met the Bluth family. "Arrested Development", the cult classic nobody wanted to watch on television is about to blow up on Netflix, we think, with a brand new season.