Return to Transcripts main page


NSA Seizing Verizon Phone Records; Bracing For Tropical Storm Andrea; Deadly Building Collapse In Philadelphia; New Letter From Captured Soldier; U.S. Soldier Pleads Guilty To Slaughter; A Friend For Life; Political Picks

Aired June 6, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- 6 a.m. in the east.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we're going to start with this news, the U.S. government may have your number. Developing right now, the feds reportedly obtaining a top secret court order requiring Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions and millions of Americans to the National Security Agency, the NSA, on a daily basis, a lot of phone records here.

The newspaper "The Guardian" reports that the order was issued at the request of the FBI. The information being turned over to the NSA includes originating and terminating telephone numbers, who is calling and who you are calling as well as the location, time and duration of all these calls.

According to the report the order does not require the content of the conversations to be the turned over. The ACLU calls the secret court order alarming and beyond Orwellian. Joe Johns now joins us live from Washington this morning. Joe, you know, are we hearing anything from the White House on this? It seems like an enormous number of records here.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Nothing so far from the White House and you're right. It is an enormous number of records, John. You might want to watch what you say on the phone this morning. National Security Agency apparently collecting call detail records, it's what they are called, and much more from customers of the telephone giant Verizon Business Network Services since April 25th according to what appears to be this top secret order filed on that date and signed by a judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Court.

This was first made public by the British newspaper, "The Guardian." We're not talking about specific contents, John, as you said, but the company was supposed to hand over listings about who the calls were to or from both inside and outside the United States. The order also allows the government to collect information about local telephone calls as well as so-called telephony metadata for things like fax machines and all kinds of other telephone devices.

Again, it's not the content of the communications, but where the communication originated and the number where the communication was received. So this order was requested, we are told, by the FBI. It's top secret and virtually no one is allowed to disclose the existence of it unless the director of the FBI has said it is OK to do so. The order is supposed to be in effect for three months from July 19 of this year.

We contacted Verizon last night about the document and spoke to Ed McFadden who told me all he could say is "no comment." The order appears to be authorized under the patriot act. John, not the first time questions have been raised about domestic surveillance in the United States. There you see part of the order.

It is interesting also to note that while this kind of thing came up during the Bush administration it's the first the time it's come up with the Obama administration. So far no federal government authority that we know of has commented about it on the record. The reactions outside the government have come quickly.

Al Gore tweeted that in a digital privacy era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous. Newt Gingrich called it a problem simply of having a giant government -- John.

BERMAN: Joe, as you point out this kind of thing did go on during the Bush administration as well. The question is, what exactly if anything is different about this? The other thing is Congress has voted to authorize this type of thing, correct?

JOHNS: Yes, well, what you're talking about here is the patriot act. This order actually appears to be authorized under the patriot act. So, yes, it's been done before. We really don't know all the parameters because we don't have all the information about exactly what this order is and what it isn't. Typically in a situation like this, John, when you get such an order it's connected to a very specific threat. Say some type of terrorist threat or something like a hacker or what have you, but we don't know why this order was written the way it is.

BERMAN: It is a great point. Are they looking for something specific? We simply do not know because there is a whole lot of hush- hush going on this morning. Joe Johns in Washington for us, thanks so much.

ROMANS: We begin now with the first named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season taking direct aim at Florida. Tropical Storm Andrea starting to bear down on state's west coast and spawning at least one tornado. A tropical storm warning is in effect from north of Fort Myers to just south of Tallahassee. You can see the zone there.

George Howell is in Clearwater, Florida, for us bright and early -- dark and early this morning for you. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good morning. Yes, so you know, gusty winds out here, they come and go. Right now, we are in a lull. Also that torrential rainfall hits us and then moves on down the line. That's what the day will be like here throughout the next several hours along the Florida coastline. What we are seeing now, this storm, the meteorologists here, the local affiliates have been talking about tornado warnings. That's really the big concern. Just an hour ago, they were concerned about a center of circulation moving up from Adamsville moving up into the Tampa area. Again, they are watching tornado warnings as they come and go.

Our meteorologists, of course, can give us the very latest on that. Here is the concern with the storm. As it continues to track to the north, to the northeast, they are worried about obviously how much rain could fall, anywhere from three to six inches of rainfall causing coastal flooding throughout this area and also, storm surge.

Keep in mind the storm surge could be anywhere from one to three feet above the average high tide. So they are watching for the threat of flooding throughout this area. Keep in mind when you look at the radar, we are on the eastern side of the storm, the northeast quadrant, the southeast quadrant, the worst part of the storm to be in as it churns rain throughout this area.

ROMANS: All right, George Howell, of course, this morning, still dark and very rainy there. We'll see how it progresses when the sun comes up.

BERMAN: An uncomfortable morning for George and a lot of people in Florida this morning. Heavy rains in Texas causing several buildings to cave in, part of the roof collapsed at a Lubbock Motor Inn Motel. We are also hearing reports that part of the roof at the Lubbock Heart Hospital gave way and that rain may have seeped into patient rooms. No one was injured. For more now on the storms, let's go to Indra Petersons tracking every move. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. What we are dealing this morning again is the residual moisture from what was Tropical Storm Barbara. Now that went into the gulf, had broke down, dissipated, but all that moisture is out there and has formed Tropical Storm Andrea. That's what we are watching, currently seeing those steady winds about 60 miles per hour. Not expected to strengthen much. That's the good news.

We are looking at it to make a little bit of a north easterly turn starting to impact the big bend area of Florida up the eastern seaboard. Lots of rain in the forecast, the Carolinas up and eventually even all the way up through New York, heavy rain out there. The other concerns we have, of course, are the tornadoes.

Once you have the glassier conditions and you see the waves over land you have friction causing tornadoes out there. There is a tornado warning west of Miami. So definitely pay attention in that area. Listen to the NOAA weather radio for the latest details on that. Four inches to six inches of rain, isolated up to eight inches of rain possible.

So heavy rain where flooding has really been a concern. Flood watches for the next two days or so. We are talking about a foot of rain in Florida so something they do not need. And of course, heavy rain eventually making its way all up the eastern seaboard, two to four inches in New York so heavy rain. Not just a little bit of rain.

BERMAN: Not welcome at all.


BERMAN: All right, Indra, thanks a lot.

In Philadelphia this morning, there is joy amid the ruins of a collapsed building. A survivor was pulled from the rubble overnight. However, at least six people died when the four-story building collapsed onto a thrift store yesterday, search and rescue operations still ongoing. Let's get the latest from Chris Welch.


CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A late night breakthrough as crews on scene uncover a 61-year-old woman more than 12 hours after the collapse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were digging in and they felt her and she was able to respond.

WELCH: But others caught in the rubble weren't as lucky.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives and their families. At the same time, we pray those who survive will recover not only physically, but certainly mentally from the trauma of being in a building and it suddenly collapses.

WELCH: Harold Corbin, a maintenance worker, was there to help.

HAROLD CORBIN, MAINTENANCE WORKER, HELPED RESCUE: We were on the top of the roof pulling them out. There was just a narrow space to climb in to help. When we got there all you could see was "help" and maybe see a hand in the rubble. That's when the guys kicked in, ran straight up, jumped, and started moving stuff.


WELCH: At this point, investigators cannot confirm that there is no one left inside. They are stressing that this is an active search. They expect to continue through the night. Reporting in Philadelphia, I'm Chris Welsh.

ROMANS: New this morning investigators may have found the cause of a deadly fire on a San Francisco area bridge. KGO TV reporting investigators believe air springs in the back of a limo ruptured. That set in motion a chain reaction that led to the fire. Five women died in the car en route to a bridal shower.

BERMAN: Also new this morning tensions appear to be easing on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea welcoming a proposal by the North for talks on restarting operations at their joint industrial zone. A statement from Seoul says the talks will be a great opportunity to build trust between south and north. BERMAN: There is new hope this morning for the family of captured Army Soldier Bowe Bergdahl that he is still alive. Bergdahl's been in enemy hands since 2009. His family just received a letter to the International Red Cross. A spokesman says they are overjoyed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To hear this, this just brings everybody's spirits that much back up. Maybe I will get to shave my beard this year.


ROMANS: Sergeant Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan back in 2009. The last information the family received was a video released by the Taliban two years ago.

BERMAN: U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has admitted to the massacre of 16 innocent Afghan civilians, most of them women and children. Count by count he pleaded guilty yesterday to more than 30 criminal charges. He acknowledged he slipped away from his base in March of 2012 going house to house on a killing spree setting ten bodies on fire.

Bales said there is not a good reason in the world for the horrible things I did. His attorney blames brain injuries, PTSD and steroids that he says were provided by the Army Special Forces. The 39-year- old will escape the death penalty with the guilty pleas. A decision on life with or without parole is expected in August. Life with parole means he could serve as few as 10 years.

ROMANS: Victims of the Boston marathon bombing are running out of time to put in their claims for donated money. They have until June 15, next Saturday, to apply for money from the "One Fund Boston." But Administrator Kenneth Feinberg tells the "New York Times" so far only 50 applications have come in. The fund has collected nearly $40 million.

BERMAN: For Boston marathon bombing victim Erika Brannock, a life altering tragedy has provided her with really a lifetime friend. Early this week, Brannock became the last survivor of the terror attack to leave the hospital. She told CNN she desperately wanted to find the woman who saved her life that day.

ROMANS: That woman Amanda North of California used her belt as a tourniquet to stop Erika's bleeding after her leg had been blown off. North's friends saw the CNN report, told her about Erika and we flew her to Boston to meet the woman she helped save.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMAEL: My God. Look at you. Look at you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So glad we found you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have thought about you every moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know how to get a hold of you or what happened to you.


ROMANS: The last time they saw each other they were on the concrete and couldn't hear each other. They thought they knew each other's names, but both of their eardrums had been blown so they didn't understand each other. Last time they saw each other was that morning when Amanda helped her.

BERMAN: You see right there. The two women actually exchanged gifts. Erika gave Amanda a necklace with a dragon fly, which is a symbol of strength and Amanda gave Erika her favorite scarf. And as you can see the tears, they just kept on flowing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want you to just think of me whenever you wear this and know that I'm always there. This never goes away. We are friends for life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are. We'll always be connected.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never going to stop holding your hand no matter what happens.



BERMAN: Amanda told Erika there was a reason she was there at the finish line that day. She just felt an overwhelming compulsion to help her. That's heroism and bravery in that recovery.

ROMANS: It really is, so much chaos and a lifelong friendship. Wish them the best.

Coming up, big changes in the White House as the administration changes the national security team. Why one choice has Republicans crying foul.

BERMAN: Paris Jackson rushed to the hospital. We'll tell you what happened and what the Jackson family is saying this morning.


ROMANS: President Obama's choices for two key posts are signaling a new, stronger stance on foreign policy. But some political opponents claim he's trying to steam roll over the controversy over the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

More now from CNN's Jim Acosta. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED SATES: I am absolutely thrilled that she'll be back at my side, leading my national security team in my second term.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In selecting United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to become his next national security adviser, President Obama may have reignited the controversy over the deadly siege at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

It was Rice who went on the Sunday talk shows with inaccurate administration talking points that blamed the attack on protesters.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.

ACOSTA (on camera): Any comment on Susan Rice and Samantha Power picks? Any comments on Susan Rice and Samantha Power?


ACOSTA (voice-over): While a number of GOP senators took a pass on the Rice pick, a few notable conservatives who slowed down just enough to talk were livid.

Senator Rand Paul told CNN he's still convinced the White House is hiding something.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think because of that reappointing or appointing Susan Rice or promoting her is probably not the best way to try to regain authority. And you know, really, by all accounts, I don't think anybody who disputes she misled the nation for several days.

ACOSTA: The Rice pick as assigned, President Obama doesn't mind the fight. Just last month, he brushed off the issue.

OBAMA: The whole issue of this -- of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.

ACOSTA: Former national security spokesman, Tommy Vietor, says Rice's critics are wasting their time.

TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER NATL. SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: If you want to talk about talking points 10 months later, I think, the case is closed. The documents have been released. Susan did nothing wrong. It's time for these people who are taking political cheap shots to move on and get a day job.

ACOSTA: Either way, Rice doesn't have to worry. Her appointment does not have to be confirmed by the Senate.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.N. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE: And it would be the honor of a lifetime to fight for American values and interests at the United Nations.

ACOSTA: That's not the case with Samantha Power, the president's pick to replace Rice at the United Nations. Well-known for her passion on human rights issues, including the genocide in Rwanda, she's also had some missteps. As an aide to then candidate-Obama in 2008, she called his rival, Hillary Clinton, a monster. Some Jewish groups don't like her comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

POWER: Putting some online might mean alienating domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.

ACOSTA: But several Republicans said it's just too early to pass judgment.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R) ALABAMA: I'm not going to express an opinion.

ACOSTA (on camera): Samantha Power later apologized to Clinton and they buried the hatchet. As for her appointment, Arizona Senator John McCain put out a statement, praising the president's pick for the U.N.

As for Rice, McCain said, he'll make every effort to work with her.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is opening up about losing last November's election and going back to private life. In an interview with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, he talked about when his public bubble burst.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: What it's like one day to be one of the two most watched people in the world and the next day wake up in the morning and you're off to the Costco, you know, loading groceries in the trunk of your car. What -- can you describe what that's like -- that sudden shift?

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We lived our entire life, if you will, in privacy like most people do. And then there was this extraordinary period of a year or so when we were highly visible and there's a Secret Service around you and people are getting everything you want. You're in the hotel room and you can't leave. They put exercise equipment in the hotel room so I could exercise because I couldn't go down to the regular exercise room without being photographed.

So, you're in that kind of a very public bubble for a while. And then when it disappears -- and it disappears overnight -- when you lose the election, it's just gone -- snap, it's gone. And it's back to where you were before. And that feels right.


BERMAN: That's interesting perspective. Snap, it's gone. You don't think about that.

We're going to have much more on Mitt Romney, along with his wife, Ann, as they talk about losing the election. They're going to talk about the Republican Party's problems, also the White House controversy. All that coming up on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m., and "THE SITUATION ROOM" at 5:00 p.m.

ROMANS: So, this is his sort of ginger move back into the political conversation.

BERMAN: He's got a giant conference in Park City, Utah, this weekend.

ROMANS: Chris Christie will be there. A lot of other people.

BERMAN: A lot of people will be there. But it's the Romneys' chance to sort of dive back in to public policy in the public sphere. So --

ROMANS: To make a contribution there. We'll see that contribution is, I guess.

BERMAN: Democrats are going, too. David Axelrod is going there, too. So, he said Republican contenders, but also Democrats, too. It's more of a talky thing.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, home prices are on the rise but there are still some bargains out there if you're willing to look. We're going to tell you where there are prices, where the deals are in the housing market, next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. Minding your business this morning.

The Dow is below 15,000 for the first time in a month. It hit that mark yesterday even though we are expecting a higher open today. Probably not enough to get back above 15,000.

Wall Street plagued by fears about the slowing economy and when the Federal Reserve will stop its really aggressive stimulus plan. The Dow, though, let's put it all in perspective -- the Dow is up 14 percent this year. So many are telling me a pullback is warranted and necessary.

All right. Here is an odd sign that the stock market is up this year. You're getting more spam e-mail. A new McAfee study says nearly 2 trillion spam messages were sent out in March. That's double the amount that were sent out in December. It's a change from the past three years when spam mail was either declined or held steady.

Analysts say the jump in spam is due to more pump and dump stock scams, when scam artists tout a hot stock, drive up the price, then investors lose money when the crooks sell.

BERMAN: We should be psyched.

ROMANS: That means the economy is good, and everybody's looking for a sucker. So, be careful.

Buying a car without haggling over the price. It sounds too good to be true? It's a new service is offering. You choose the make and model, you put in your zip code and you can get a locked in price from local dealerships.

Edmunds been tested in three states. It's now expanding nationwide. The convenience comes at a price. You might not get the lowest price.

Gosh, it's like It's like hotel for cars and it doesn't take any --

BERMAN: I'm so bad at haggling for cars. I live in New York City, so I have a car until like 10 years ago. I don't know how to do it. They look at me like, OK, here, take it.

ROMANS: I got a car I could sell you, and a bridge in Brooklyn.

BERMAN: I would pay too much for it.

So, what's the thing we need to know about money?

ROMANS: Are you looking for a house? Because there are plenty of fixer uppers if you know where to look. A new RealtyTrac reports says there are nearly 4,000 bank-owned properties in Detroit that are under $100,000. There are 6,000 homes in Chicago, below $100, 000.

Most of the deals, bank-owned deals below 100 grand are in the Midwest.

BERMAN: Not a bad community.

Twenty-six minutes after the hour.

Coming up, Tropical Storm Andrea takes aim at Florida. Right now, parts of the state facing a tornado warning as well. It's a one-two punch.

We're tracking the storm, next.