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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Philadelphia Building Collapses; Judge Orders Restraining Order, Granting Child a Spot on Adult Lung Donor List; White House Reacting to Phone Record Allegations; Florida Hit by Tropical Storm; New Report Indicates Government Keeping Records of U.S. Citizen Phone Calls

Aired June 6, 2013 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Our starting point extreme weather, Florida in the thick of it as a tornado touches down. And now a tropical storm moving right in.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hold the phone. The government is reportedly collecting details on millions and millions of calls. The question is why.

ROMANS: A deadly building collapse and an unbelievable rescue. We go live to Philadelphia for the latest.

BERMAN: And the Jackson family dealing with more heartache as the king of pop's daughter reportedly tries to commit suicide.

ROMANS: Then --

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ROMANS: A 10-year-old little girl and her family may have their prayers answered. An update on the little girl who so desperately needs a lung transplant.

BERMAN: Good morning, everybody. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, June 6. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

Let's begin this morning with extreme weather. Tropical storm Andrea, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, beginning to bear down on Florida. Parts of south Florida are now under a tornado watch. Parts of central Florida are under a tornado warning. The outer bands coming ashore on the state's west coast. A tropical storm warning is in effect from just north of Ft. Myers to just south of Tallahassee. You can see the zone there, a big swath of Florida. George Howell is in Clearwater for us. Good morning, George. GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. For the most part this is a rain event. We are getting a lot of rain coming in. Believe it or not, we are at a bit of a lull. The biggest line of storms moved through an hour ago through this area. There was -- there were reports of tornadoes, tornadic activity, also concern about water spouts on that line of storms.

But now we are in this lull. When you look at the radar you see another line of storms coming our way. From what I can tell it's two hours out. That's where we'll see more of the rainfall, torrential rainfall. The gusty winds, we know wind gusts can get up to 40 miles per hour plus in the storm. Keep in mind this is a minor tropical storm but still bringing a lot of rainfall to the area and already causing some flooding in spots, Christine.

ROMANS: A lot of tourists in the area this time of year. I imagine people are told to beware of hitting the beaches.

HOWELL: Yes, absolutely. When you look out and you see the water choppy. You wouldn't want to be out there especially on the gulf side. Life guards are warning people about rip currents out there. And also, just with the choppy water. As long as the storm system stays overhead not a good place to be out there.

ROMANS: George Howell, the sun coming up. It is a cloudy, rainy day as the bands beat down on Florida. Thanks, George.

BERMAN: The storm will hit a lot of us over the next few days. Let's get the latest on that. Indra Petersons is here.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unbelievable. Florida already had so much rain and now they are dealing with a tropical storm. This is going to affect a lot of us as we go through the weekend. Where did it come from? This was tropical storm Barbara. It dissipated as it was in the gulf. It's reformed a circulation. It is the first storm now for the Atlantic hurricane season.

A little bit of trivia there, 60 miles per hour winds, not expected to strengthen. That's the good news. It's very early in the season. It will make it through Florida and also southern portions of Georgia, through the Carolinas, and then back up to New York. That's what we'll be dealing with. Heavy rainfall means the flood watch will be in effect as it makes its way up north.

But we'll also be watching, and we have mentioned the threat for tornadoes. Keep in mind you have more clear conditions right over the water. It's a little bit smoother there. Once it hits land you see friction. That spawns isolated tornados in the northeast quadrant. So that's what we're currently dealing with, two warnings still in effect currently now. We'll continue to monitor this.

Talking about storm surge anywhere from two to four feet, you have to add that to the heavy rainfall as well. Four to six inches of heavy rain, isolated amounts up to eight inches. As it makes its way up the Carolinas and New York we'll see that enhanced moisture bring just enough. You can see two to four inches of rain. Definitely a tough weekend in store for a lot of us. There is obviously heavy wind as well, and flooding. Up believable. Florida can't catch a break.

BERMAN: Big mess on the east coast. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: You wouldn't know it, but the United States government may have your number. A potentially explosive story now, the feds reportedly obtaining a top secret court order requiring Verizon to turn over telephone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency on a daily basis. Joe Johns live from Washington. Are we hearing anything from the White House?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, yes. A senior administration official issued a carefully worded statement this morning without confirming or denying the existence of the order, but pointing out that this document we are all talking about this morning first reported by the "Guardian" newspaper doesn't describe eaves dropping, listening in to anyone's telephone calls. It says the information of the sort described in this article from the "Guardian" newspaper has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States as it allows counterterrorist personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located in the United States.

The National Security Agency has apparently been collecting call detail records and much more from customers of the telephone giant Verizon business network services since around April 25 of this year, according to what appears to be this top secret order signed by a judge on that date. This is a judge from the U.S. foreign intelligence court. It was first made public by the guardian.

The order allows the government to collect information about local telephone calls including what's known as telephone metadata. The order which was requested by the FBI is top secret. Supposedly no one is supposed to disclose the existence of it unless the FBI director says it is OK.

We contacted Verizon asking about the document. Spokesman Ed McFadden told me, all I can say is no comment. The order appears to be under the Patriot Act. This isn't the first time questions have been raised about domestic surveillance in the U.S. It also came up during the Bush administration. But it's the first time it's come up during the Obama administration.

All kinds of reactions about this, including Al Gore tweeting just in the last night or so, "In a digital era privacy must be a priority. Is it just me or is blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" Christine.

ROMANS: We'll talk to tom in a moment. Most people are saying they can't believe it is legal for the government to have this much data. It is?

JOHNS: That's the million-dollar question there. So much of the domestic surveillance has been highly controversial. When you talk about it, everybody says I thought they were only supposed to be able to do this kind of thing on people outside the United States. So what we don't know is everything that came before and whether there was some justification because of some specific target or whatever. Those are the kinds of questions we need to ask today.

ROMANS: Joe Johns, thank you so much.

BERMAN: The document being released is the signed court document. There was a judge that signed it. Let's bring in Tom Fuentes, former assistant director with the FBI. Tom, first of all, why get these records? Huge numbers of phone records talking about who made the calls, where they are made, and the duration. How is this helpful to intelligence?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Good morning, John. I think the reason they want to have that is if a phone number comes up being connected to someone of suspicion they can go back and look at all of the number that is the phone number called or was called by, how long the calls were, what location the calls were made from, that type of information.

So it's not that someone or some group of analysts can sit there and monitor 50 million phone calls going through the computers. But it would create the ability to go back and see if you could connect phone calls.

In the case of the Boston bombing, for example, to go back to Tamerlan's phone records, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and look at who he called, who called him even locally within the United States and go back for a certain period of time. Normally the phone companies would not maintain those records for a long period of time because of the storage capacity mainly. Now they go from the phone company to the government, to NSA to go into their larger computer system to be held for future investigations.

BERMAN: Are these records you go after, trying to get a court order to do it because you are investigating something specific, someone specific, so there is one person or persons you're going after, or is it a blanket protection in case at some point you want to investigate someone?

FUENTES: That's what it is. It's a blanket order so you could go back at another time and look specifically at another phone number or group of phone numbers to see if it appears there is a group connection. So you're right. The idea is they would have everybody's phone calls in the first place so they could go back and look.

BERMAN: Are you surprised?

FUENTES: It raises questions if the government should have blanket coverage without suspicion about a particular number.

BERMAN: Are you surprised by the scope of this, by the scope of it?

FUENTES: Yes, I'm a little surprised by it. I'm surprised even at the computer capacity to store that much material. We are talking about a lot of phone calls that occur every single day within the United States and of course overseas. BERMAN: Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director, thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.

ROMANS: It's remarkable to think of the software they have to look for patterns to try to figure out --

BERMAN: We should be clear. They are not getting the content of the conversations. It's just the data, who is making the calls, where they are going, how long they last, that type of thing. We are talking about billions of data points.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, we'll be taking a look at some of the extreme weather that's hammering Florida and what we can expect up and down the northeast.

BERMAN: Plus, a federal judge rules in the case of a little girl trying to get a lung. We'll give you the details on the emotional story.

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BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Rescue crews now racing against time, searching for survivors in the ruins of the collapsed building in downtown Philadelphia. It comes after an amazing discovery overnight, a woman pulled from the rubble some 12 hours after she was buried alive. However, six people were killed, more than a dozen injured in that collapse. Our Don Lemon is following developments live this morning in Philadelphia. Good morning, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. At first we thought it was one person, then two, then three, then overnight we hear six people. And then that startling news. A woman found alive. You can see there they made headway with the rubble last night. Still clothes hanging on the racks inside this thrift score. She was in that rubble for 12 hours, a 61-year-old woman. But for the people who are having to deal with this, it's been almost 24 hours of hell.

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LEMON: A giant brick wall more than 100 feet long, four stories high, came down with a boom onto a busy Salvation Army thrift store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a great big crack.

LEMON: Claude Davis was across the street watching from his apartment.

CLAUDE DAVIS, WITNESSED BUILDING COLLAPSE: I looked and I seen the building crumble. Oh, it was painful. Oh, my goodness. I thought about all the people in there that couldn't get out of there. I screamed and hollered.

LEMON: Those people who couldn't get out include those who died ,and at least a dozen workers and customers at the thrift store in Philadelphia's center city. Jordan McLaughlin saw it happen and rushed in to help. JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN, SAW BUILDING COLLAPSE: People that fell over, people started screaming. They ran across the street. There were people inside the building. You heard them scream.

LEMON: Another rescuer, Harold Corbin (ph) seen in this video standing on the rubble helped pull four people out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were on top of the roof pulling them out. When we got there all you could hear was help and maybe see a hand or something through the rubble.

LEMON: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says they don't know how many people were inside the store at the time, so to prevent any further collapse, he ordered all traffic and trains stop, news helicopters grounded, sent in dogs to sniff human scent under the rubble and ordered a full investigation.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: This was an active demolition site. No violations, no complaints that we are aware of. All permits were valid.

LEMON: Also searching for answers, those who saw the tragedy up close who describe it as a war zone.

HAROLD CORBIN, PULLED VICTIMS FROM RUBBLE: We had tar, we had sheet rock, I mean you name it, a bunch of dust. You heard a bunch of cries -- help, help, help.

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LEMON: And that 61-year-old woman removed here around midnight is the only one who didn't walk away on her own volition. She's being treated at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania right now. And John, "The Daily News" headline says it all. It says "Raising Hell, How Did This Debacle Happen?" That's what investigators, and especially the mayor, are trying to figure out now. John, Christine?

BERMAN: A lot of questions as they pick through the rubble. Don Lemon in Philadelphia for us this morning. Thanks Don.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, one family's prayers answered. A 10-year-old girl now on the adult donor list to get a lung. Hear the moment she found out the good news.

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ROMANS: A federal judge's ruling may help a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl get the lung transplant she desperately needs to save her life. It prevents the Department of Health and Human Services from enforcing a rule that keeps Sarah Murnaghan, who has cystic fibrosis, off the lung transplant list. Children under 12 are not on that list. CNN's Jason Carroll joins us with the latest in this high stakes-legal battle. Good morning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. When I spoke to the Murnaghans last night they were so excited. They said they were jumping up and down in the hospital room. They were thrilled. All they ever wanted was a fair chance for their daughter. Now they say they finally have it.

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SARAH MURNAGHAN, NEEDS LUNG TRANSPLANT: Whoo!

CARROLL: This was Sarah Murnaghan's reaction after getting word a federal judge has temporarily helped her win a victory in the battle to save her life.

S. MURNAGHAN(singing) : Twinkle, twinkle little star --

CARROLL: In the late stages of cystic fibrosis, she desperately needs a lung transplant. Having been on the children's donor list for 18 months. Wednesday, her parents filed a lawsuit against The Department of Health and Human Services to get her included on the adult list. Current policy prevents children under 12 from being on the list.

But late Wednesday Judge Michael Bailson issued a ten-day restraining order directing the department to immediately cease application of the under 12 rule as to Sarah Murnaghan so she that can be considered for receipt of donated lungs from adults.

FRAN MURNAGHAN, SARAH'S FATHER: What the judge is allowing to happen today is allow her to be on equal grounds with the other folks -- the adults.

CARROLL: As Sarah became sicker over the past few weeks, the Murnaghans appealed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to change the policy . Sebelius said it was not within her power to immediately change it.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: The worst of all worlds in my mind is to have some individual pick and choose who lives and who dies. I think you want a process where it's guided by medical science and medical experts.

CARROLL: Secretary Sebelius also saying there are 40 adults currently in Murnaghan's region in need of a transplant. But the Murnaghans say Sarah is so sick it is likely she'll still be at the top of the adult list. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey says federal guidelines have to ensure fairness to both children and adults.

SEN. BOB CASEY, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: You have to be able to work within the rules but also to make the case when you believe that children could be adversely impacted by the policy.

S. MURNAGHAN I lost two teeth.

CARROLL: Time for Sarah still running out, but the Murnaghans believe now she has a fighting chance.

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CARROLL: Again the family feels confident their daughter will be somewhere near the top of the donor list in her region which is comprised of six states and the District of Columbia. Time is really of the essence in terms of finding a match because the family tells me the last two nights for Sarah have been very rough.

ROMANS: There are other people on the list. Now that she's on the adult list there, are a lot of other people on the list, too. Where does she go in the line-up?

CARROLL: It depends. You know, a lot of factors are going to play out here. What it really is going to come down to is who is the sickest person, rather than who is the sickest adult versus the sickest child.

BERMAN: And it's a ten-day injunction, so this has to happen fairly quickly unless more legal action takes place.

CARROLL: Exactly.

ROMANS: She's been waiting a year and a half. We hope for strength for her as he waits for her turn.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, Michael Jackson's daughter Paris rushed to the hospital last night sources say after an apparent suicide attempt. A former Jackson family spokesperson, Ramon Bane (ph) has known Paris since she was a little toddler. He's here to talk with us after the break.

BERMAN: An update on that tragic, deadly fire that killed five women headed to a bridal shower in a limo last month. Investigators now believe they know exactly what caused the fire. We'll tell you what it is. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: The White House reacting this morning to a report claiming that the government has obtained a top secret court order making Verizon turn over the telephone records for millions of Americans. A senior administration official tells CNN information like what's in the report is a critical tool for protecting the nation and of course review special intelligence orders and approves (ph) them to ensure they are within constitutional protections.

The British paper, "The Guardian" says Verizon is being forced to turn over the originating and terminating phone numbers as well as the location, time and duration of the calls. But not any information about the actual content of the calls. Not what you're saying. This comes as President Obama has selected embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to be his new national security adviser replacing the outgoing Tom Donilon. CNN's Jim Acosta has more on this from Washington.

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

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In selecting United Nations Embassador 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comments on Susan Rice and Samantha Power?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comments on Samantha Power or Susan Rice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

ACOSTA: While a number of GOP senators took a pass on the Ride 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 appointing Susan Rice or promoting her is probably not the best way to regain his authority. By all accounts I don't think anybody that disputes she misled the nation for several days.

ACOSTA: The Rice pick is a sign President Obama doesn't mind the fight. Last month he brushed off the issue.

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