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U.S. Spies on Americans; Second Child Prioritized for Adult Lungs

Aired June 7, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: 9:31 on this Friday morning. Hope you're rising and shining today. I'm Christie Paul, in for Carol Costello. Here are some of the stories that we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

Stocks on the rise. There goes the bell as Wall Street opens for business. Investors are looking at the latest jobs report. It shows 175,000 jobs were added in May. But the unemployment rate did tick up to 7.6 percent.

Flash-flood watches in effect right now from Georgia to Maine as tropical storm Andrea moves up the east coast. Forecasters say Washington could get as much as 6 inches of rain today. And all of you in New York City, you could see rain fall at a rate of -- I don't know, an inch or two an hour they say.

And the investigation into the Philadelphia building collapse is starting. Now that the search for survivors is officially over. Six people were killed Wednesday. When the four-story wall of a partially demolished building collapsed on to a Salvation Army store. Officials say, they are quote, "absolutely sure" that there are no more victims in that rubble.

All right. Let's talk. If you are, you know, just getting on our iPhone, you're getting on your e-mail, or thinking about making a phone call, security versus privacy, this long-running debate is ramping up now following several reports of the government surveillance on your phone calls, e-mail, even pictures, both "The Washington Post" and "The Guardian" say NSA is accessing the central servers to some of the top U.S. technology firms through a program called PRISM.

Some of the surveillance started we know back in 2007. But look who were talking about. Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, AOL, Paltalk, YouTube. A lot of those companies deny the government has that access, though. But Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of course is THE SITUATION ROOM. The tuition room is with us now.

And, Wolf, I think people are -- they're just waking up thinking this is unbelievable.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: You know, it's a major development. A lot of this has been going on. We really didn't know the full extent of what was going on until the past 24 to 48 hours. But it's obviously a huge, huge issue. We've got two people who I want to bring in right now to discuss what's going on.

Jeffrey Rosen is the legal affairs editor of the "New Republic," Julie Myers Wood is the former assistant Homeland Security secretary during the Bush administration.

And Jeffrey, let me start with you. And I'm going to read to you a statement that the director -- that the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, released overnight. I'll put it up on the screen.

"Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats. The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans."

Is Clapper right?

JEFFREY ROSEN, LEGAL AFFAIRS EDITOR, THE NEW REPUBLIC: We can't know whether Clapper is right because the administration has not disclosed the legal memos or the authority under which it's seizing this data. If "The Washington Post" account is correct, literally billions of pieces of content on the Internet are being scanned. The administration assures as that it's filtering out the communications of ordinary Americans to a 51 percent accuracy rate. But we can evaluate that.

And broadly, my question is, how is this consistent with the Fourth Amendment's requirement that generally you need warrants particularly specifying places to be searched and things to be seized? We cannot answer those questions until the administration gives us more information.

BLITZER: Julie, are you ready to answer those questions?


JULIE MYERS WOOD, FORMER ASSISTANT HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, certainly -- certainly they're very important questions, and I think that the information that's come out over the last two days, you know, takes to us a point where we say, are we ready to have a new national conversation? You know, technology has changed a ton since the Patriot Act was forced -- brought into law in 2001 and since those amendments.

And, you know, we need to think about what is our government doing? And are we happy with it? It's very important that we protect national security. I think it's very important that we think about how we use meta data and data mining effectively. But we've got to make sure that we're considering the broader privacy implications here.

BLITZER: "The New York Times" editorial board, Julie, in a very stinging editorial released late yesterday said this. "The administration," referring to the Obama administration, "has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism -- the truism that the executive branch will use any power it has given and very likely abuse it."

Do you agree with "The New York Times"?

WOOD: I rarely agree with "The New York Times," and in this instance, I also don't agree with them. I think the administration, you know, went to Congress, told Congress about what they were doing and they also got a signoff from a judge. And you know, that makes this case different than the issue involving drones. But I do think it's important. You know, data analytics have changed so much over the past 10 years. And we need to think about, are we happy with big data being big brother? And are we comfortable with what the government is doing?

But I think we -- need to have a broader national conversation about that, to make sure that we're protected and to make sure that the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans are also considered.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, you are a real legal expert. All three branches of the U.S. government signed off on this program, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. All are part of this expanded surveillance program that the NSA engages in.

ROSEN: That's truth but some of the original authors of the Patriot Act are now having second thoughts. Representative Sensenbrenner suggested that if Section 215 of the Patriot Act is being used, as "The Guardian" reported yesterday, to allow local, domestic and internal telephone logs of American citizens to be scanned from Verizon, you'd think that's never what the Patriot Act intended.

The administration's interpretation of both that and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes judges appear to rubber stamp. Eliminates the requirement that this data is meaningfully connected to terrorism investigations and is the kind of general fishing expedition that Justice Antonin Scalia so eloquently denounced in his dissenting opinion just on Monday in a case involving DNA collection.

He says the framers of the Fourth Amendment would be appalled to think that the government could generically scan an awful lot of data of innocent Americans without some kind of warrant or probable cause. So the fact --

BLITZER: The Patriot Act --


ROSEN: Could have signed on this does not assuage constitutional concerns.

BLITZER: But as you know, Julie, the Patriot Act was approved right after 9/11. It was reauthorized during the Bush administration and then more recently during the Obama administration. Are the people who are implementing it right now breaking the law?

WOOD: I don't think we have enough facts to know that. I'll tell you that a judge who looked at what the Obama administration proposed found that it was legal. But I do think, to Sensenbrenner's point, I think a lot of things have changed in terms of whether we are now doing what the Patriot Act, you know, first thought was appropriate. And so it's time to look at as analyst have developed, time to look at where are we now, and where are we now as a country and how can we be most effective?

Yes, I personally think we've got to look at this meta data, we've got to think about it, but I want to make sure that the controls are in place. And so that's what I'd like to hear from the administration. How do we know that the appropriate controls are in place, so that there's not misuse of this administration. And it's not turning into another, you know, IRS scandal, where they're focusing on people for all the wrong reason rather than just trying to protect our country.

BLITZER: All right. Both of you, hold on for a moment. I want to continue this conversation. We'll take a quick break.

Jeffrey Rosen, Julie Myers Wood, will continue with me, right after this.


BLITZER: All right. Let's continue our discussion right now. The latest revelations into what's called data mining by the federal government.

Jeffrey Rosen of "The New Republic" is still with us, as is Julie Myers Wood, a former assistant Homeland Security secretary during the Bush administration.

Jeffrey, it's not every day "The New York Times" editorial page is slamming the president of the United States, while at the same time the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" is praising the president on this issue of national security.

In an editorial today entitled "Thank You for Data Mining," the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board says, "We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but data mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security. The data sweep is worth it if it prevents terror attacks that would lead politicians to endorse a far greater harm to civil liberties."

It goes on to say, "Amid many real abuses of power, the political temptation will be to tie data mining into a narrative about a government out of control. Such opportunism can only weaken our counter-terror defenses and endanger the country."

Basically they're saying, Jeffrey, this program is saving American lives by preventing terror attacks.

ROSEN: Well, they don't have enough evidence to make -- to evaluate that claim yet. The government has refused to share the algorhythms that it's using to filter out the data of Americans. It's basically using the "trust us" model, and saying don't worry, we're not looking at innocent American data. We're stopping terrorist attacks. It is possible for the administration to disclose exactly what's being collected, what the oversight is, and basically Congress I think might be able to find some bipartisan agreement as Representative Sensenbrenner said that it's appropriate to data mine when you believe that someone is a suspected spy or terrorist.

BLITZER: Well --

ROSEN: But it is not appropriate to sift through the data of billions of content of innocent Americans without some kind of individualized suspicion.

BLITZER: You have the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, agreeing with the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, saying this has prevented terror attacks and saved lives. Listen to Mike Rogers.


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Within the past few years this program was used to stop a program -- excuse me. Stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that. It's -- it's important. It fills in a little seam that we have, and it's used to make sure that there is not an international nexus to any terrorism event that they may believe is ongoing in the United States. So in that regard, it is a very valuable thing.


BLITZER: All right. Julie, they want specifics, though, the critics of this program, whether on the left or the right, they say, you know what, it's nice for Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein or President Obama, for that matter, to say these kinds of things, that these programs are absolutely essential to prevent terror attacks, but they want specifics.

Should the American public know what's going on?

WOOD: Well, certainly I think we've got to give a lot of weight to those in Congress that have looked at this and thought about this and those in the executive branch that are tasked with protecting our country. At the same time, I think it is appropriate to see -- to have some transparency for the most transparent administration ever, right, to give some transparency into the controls that are being used on these business rules.

And I think that folks would feel a lot more comfortable with this if we knew more things about the controls, how information is being protected and really what business rules are being applied so at the end of the day, we are focusing on terrorism, we are preventing American lives from being harmed.

BLITZER: You saw that picture on "The Huffington Post." I assume Jeffrey President Obama supposedly morphing into President George W. Obama. That was a pretty stark image out there especially coming from "The Huffington Post". Take a look at that George W. Obama. Is that kind of criticism fair?

ROSEN: Well it is true that the Obama administration has asked for far more foreign intelligence surveillance act orders than the President Bush. The Bush administration asked for less than 20, he Obama administration this year more than 200. And these programs do appear to be not only continuations, but vast, vast expansions of programs that began under President Bush.

So I think it's certainly fair to see that sort of continuity, just as the Congress in the 1970s saw continuity between the domestic spying of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. I do think it's a fair analogy.

BLITZER: Do you think -- Julie we're almost out of time. Do you think the President is being hypocritical, given his criticism of President Bush, when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination back in 2007-2008?

WOOD: Well he sure changed his tune. But I'm really glad he did. When he looked at you know what's being done to protect our country, he didn't just dismiss it out of hand. He actually looked and thought, are some of these things that were in place in the Bush administration, do you think it makes sense to protect our country today. And I'm really glad he is thinking about what's best for our country versus politics on this very important matter.

BLITZER: So he basically saying Jeffrey, trust me, I know what I'm doing, I wouldn't want to do this, I'm a constitutional law professor, I understand privacy versus national security. The country needs this. What you're saying is Mr. President, with all due respect, we don't necessarily trust you.

ROSEN: We don't. And I -- again I teach constitutional law too. I think it's disappointing that a president who understands the Constitution better than any of us would be so insensitive to the constitutional dimensions of this. Trust us the framers of the constitution knew and candidate Obama stressed is never an adequate protection for privacy and the fact that this President actually sponsored legislation that would have prohibited the very act that's engaging in as President suggests how dramatically he has in fact changed his tune.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic thanks very much for coming in. And the former assistant homeland security secretary during the Bush administration Julie Myers Wood thanks to you as well -- a good serious discussion. We're going to have more of these discussions coming up throughout the day here on CNN.

In the meantime let's go back to the CNN NEWSROOM. Christi Paul is standing by -- Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes Wolf -- boy we certainly learned a lot now and thank you so much. And I know he's going to be back in our second hour and you'll be joined at that time by former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and an international security specialist. We're looking forward to that. They'll be discussing the thin line that's appeared between our privacy and our security as American citizens.

Back in a moment.


PAUL: I'm so glad to have you on board with us today. I want to get you caught up on what's making news.

Tropical storm Andrea is one thing we're really looking at because it's a massive rain-maker. And it's moving up the East Coast right now. Wind speeds have dropped. The storm has prompted flash flood watches at 13 states. The projected path is similar to tropical storm Debby. And that sums up to two feet of rain last year, so something to watch for obviously.

Two Massachusetts residents have sued "The New York Post" over libel over its description of them, of three days of them, I should say, three days after the Boston bombing. The newspaper put a picture of the two on its front page under the headline "Bagmen". A lawyer for the plaintiff said "The Post" accused the two of being the bombers. The Post said it did not identify them as suspects.

And the new jobs report is out the government says 175,000 jobs were added in May with the unemployment rate edging up to 7.6 percent. CNN's Christine Romans says the numbers show lay off have slowed but hiring is still not as robust as it needs to be.

And in sports, San Antonio beat Miami in game one of the NBA finals, Spurs Tony Parker put a dagger in. Checkout his possession in the final minute of play there he goes despite being pounded by LeBron James, Parker threw up that ball just before a shot clock violation and then it goes. The Spurs win 92-- 88.

Well a second child is edging for the possibility of getting the lung transplant he desperately needs now. What a judge said about the case of Xavier Acosta and what it could mean for others who are waiting for new lungs?


PAUL: A second child dying from cystic fibrosis is a step closer now to a lung transplant. This is after a federal judge Thursday ordered the nation's top health officials to grant 11-year-old Xavier Acosta -- there he is -- priority status for a transplant from an adult donor. Now remember the same judge issued essentially the same ruling on Wednesday for 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan.

National correspondent Jason Carroll joining us now from New York, he's been following this case. Well I'm wondering, there is probably a lot of people in similar positions than this Jason who are watching us and thinking what does this ruling mean for me?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I think, first of all, this is a huge ruling for not just these two children but children everywhere who are in need of a lung transplant or an organ transplant. Basically the family now believes that this puts them in the pool of adults so that they will now be able to have priority with the rest of the adults who are also in need of a lung transplant.

Early this morning, I spoke to the attorney who represents both of these children and the attorney basically says this is good for children everywhere. This is good for Sarah. I want you to listen to exactly what he had to say just less than an hour ago.


STEPHEN HARVEY, ATTORNEY FOR SARAH MURNAGHAN: Sarah has -- is very severe and her doctor testified that she would be in the top five percent in terms of severity, which means not only is she very sick, but it also means when she is according to her severity, which is all we are asking, that she is likely to get a lung.


CARROLL: The big question now becomes, Christi, will there be a change in policy? I have a letter here -- a letter that is from UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing. This is the organization that oversees and maintains all of these lists -- basically, this letter written to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They're holding an emergency meeting on Monday.

As a result of this meeting, they could come up with a policy change. Again, this is a huge step for both of these children and could possibly be a change in policy for all children. We'll have to wait and see what happens on Monday.

PAUL: Yes, a lot of people in this position are anxious to know how this is going to affect them. Jason Carroll, thank you so much, great story that we are following. Good to see you.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM begins right after the break. Join me.