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NSA Leaker A Hero Or Traitor?; Before School Rampage, A Troubled Life; Lawmakers Trade Barbs in IRS Targeting Probe; Deer's Head Gets Stuck; Million-Dollar Scam Targets Bieber's Tour

Aired June 10, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, shy and always on his computer -- that's how one person describes the man behind one of the biggest leaks in the history of U.S. intelligence. Just ahead, we go live to Edward Snowden's hometown right here in the Washington, DC area, where neighbors are now speaking out.

Plus, hero or traitor? It's the debate that's now raging around the world. Our own Jeffrey Toobin has some very strong views on this.He's standing by live.

And it reads like a Hollywood script -- details on a million dollar scam targeting Justin Bieber's tour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The whereabouts of the man behind one of the biggest leaks in the history of United States intelligence now unknown more than 24 hours after outing himself on camera as the person who exposed sweeping U.S. surveillance programs targeting millions of Americans' phone records and Internet data from overseas.

Many are divided right now over whether Edward Snowden is a traitor who seriously endangered U.S. national security or a hero defending privacy.

Our Brian Todd is in front of Snowden's mother home in Ellicott City, Maryland. He has been talking to people in the neighborhood where he once lived -- Brian, what are you discovering?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've got new information tonight about this man at the center of the NSA leaks. We've learned more about his motivation, about his background, and from here, about the people he left behind.


TODD (voice-over): Described as shy and self-effacing, the man who says he was the source of leaks detailing massive U.S. surveillance programs tells "The Guardian" newspaper why he did it. Edward Snowden says, quote, "I'm not different from anyone else." EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: I'm just another guy who sits there day to day in the office and watches what's happening and goes this is something that's not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.

TODD: Snowden said that from a hotel in Hong Kong, after having left his girlfriend in Hawaii, where they reportedly shared a home. She's not the only person with whom he may have severed ties by leaking and then going public.

(on camera): Edward Snowden told "The Guardian" that the only thing he fears is the harmful effects of all of this on his family, some of whom he said work for the U.S. government. We've confirmed that his mother, Elizabeth Snowden, works here at the U.S. district court courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland with the title of chief deputy clerk for information technology and administrative services. Officials here said she was not available to speak to us.

(voice-over): Elizabeth Snowden also did not return our calls and e- mail. Outside her home near Baltimore, she was no more eager to speak to reporters.

ELIZABETH SNOWDEN: Please do not get in my way.

Thank you.

TODD: "The Guardian" says Snowden moved to Maryland from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where he spent his youth. CNN has learned Snowden went to elementary and middle school in Crofton, Maryland, went to Arundel High School nearby. But according to "The Guardian," he never got a high school degree.

He enlisted in the Army in 2004, was discharged the same year. He told "The Guardian" it was because he broke his legs in a training accident.

Snowden told the newspaper he was able to land tech jobs with the CIA and later the NSA, and he moved up quickly. That surprises Joyce Kinsey, a neighbor of Snowden's mother's, who saw Edward Snowden on occasion at the mother's condo.

JOYCE KINSEY, NEIGHBOR OF LEAKER'S MOTHER: When you say hi to him and everything, he'll say hi, but he's always looking down. He's not looking at you. And it's like he doesn't make eye contact. But he was very personable and very nice. And I always saw him on the computer. I could see him out my window and I could see him on the computer.

TODD: Edward Snowden told "The Guardian" he had high hopes when President Obama vowed a more transparent administration, but that he became disappointed in the president. We've learned Snowden's name is on two contributions last year, totaling $500, to libertarian Ron Paul's campaign.

Snowden tells "The Guardian" he hopes for asylum in Iceland. But his mother's neighbor worries about those he left behind. KINSEY: And now his mother and his sister, they're going to have repercussions because of this.


TODD: Now people who appear to be law enforcement officers did make an appearance here at the mother's house earlier today.

CNN has also learned that investigators visited the girlfriend before she left Hawaii.

We at CNN have tried at various places to make contact with the girlfriend, but so far, we have been unable to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There are some interesting details, Brian, he's given about how he departed from his girlfriend, made his exit from Hawaii to Hong Kong.

Update our viewers.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. He told "The Guardian" newspaper that he basically started planning for this about this about three weeks ago, that he laid the foundation for it about then, and that told his employers at the NSA that he needed to be away for a couple of weeks to receive treatment for epilepsy. And then he -- that he told his girlfriend, at least in the most recent days before he left for Hong Kong, that he just needed to be away for a few weeks and that that was kind of assumed, because of the nature of his job, that he could be vague and that maybe she would think nothing of it. And that's how he left.

BLITZER: And he wound up in Hong Kong.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

Let's talk about the political impact of all of this.

Joining us, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief national correspondent, John King.

The president -- he's got another problem. He's got a lot of problems right now.

How should he be dealing with this latest disclosure, this guy comes forward and says I leaked all this information?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, this is a president now who's dealing with issues he never thought he was going to have to deal with, with drones, surveillance, leaks.

But when you continue some of the policies of George W. Bush, you're going to have some of the same questions that are raised about them.

I would argue that this is a moment, now that the president has said -- and he said this last Friday -- that he welcomed the discussions on these kinds of surveillance issues, I think he ought to at -- ought to actually lead the discussion. I think he ought to get out there, speak with the American public, say not only why this kind of surveillance is defensible, but why he thinks it is essential in a post-9/11 world and lay it out there for the American people within the strictures of what he can say given the classified nature of the program.

BLITZER: But presumably, he'd have to declassify more sensitive information.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they de -- over the weekend...


KING: -- they did declassify a little bit of information so that the intelligence agencies could try to explain what they said was right and what they claim is inaccurate about some of the news accounts or who has access to this data and what exactly are they grabbing.

But to Gloria's point, the president has to do this. Number one, they're going to push to charge and then try to extradite Mr. Snowden. So there's a law enforcement investigation part of this.

But in terms of politics, we're approaching the mid-term election and the president's second term. Congress is about to go home for the summer, Wolf. We're moving from June toward July.

If the president wants to get things done, A, he should start picking things that the Republicans share the interest, even if they don't agree with him, things like immigration reform. But if you go back just to May, his speech at the National Defense University, that was to talk about drones. He laid more of it out and tried to explain it.

Because if you go back to Candidate Obama, he said he was going to have his attorney general and his national security team scrub everything that was Bush was doing and throw out anything unconstitutional, anything that invaded civil liberties. So as the president said, he clearly thinks he needs to do this. But it's his own base. You have Ron Paul and the Rand Paul, the former congressman and senator now, on the one hand; Udall and Wyden now on the other hand. So you've got a libertarian and a left saying let's have a public debate about this. If the president doesn't try to get ahead of it, guess what, he'll get dragged along with it.


BORGER: And we all know that President Obama in particular believes in the power of a well-organized speech. He's done this time and time again and I think now is another opportunity for him.

And, by the way, the American public is on his side on this.

BLITZER: Well we...


BLITZER: -- I want to just tell our viewers. We just got these Pew Research Center poll numbers...

KING: Right.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- and NSA tracking calls of millions of Americans to investigate, acceptable or not acceptable?

John, 56 percent say it's acceptable, 41 percent say not acceptable. That's an impressive majority.

KING: It's an impressive majority, but that doesn't mean people don't want their government to be held accountable and they want to be assured by people they trust that their government is doing things in the appropriate way.

So when you add it to the questions about this to the IRS controversy and the questions about that, there is a basic question about can you trust your government, do you trust these bureaucracies?

And so who do you trust?

The president, certainly among Democrats, is the most liked Democrat. Among Independents, it's in...

BORGER: Right.

KING: -- and Republicans.

But if he doesn't get out and say, here's why I'm doing this, you need to trust me, then it does open it to the questions.

BORGER: And, you know, the president said last week, the president said, look, nobody is eavesdropping on your phone calls. He has to explain that, because this leaker basically said that he had the wherewithal and even, perhaps, the authority to go into your e-mails and to listen to your phone calls, that he could potentially do that.

And I were talk -- I was talking to some intelligence sources today who said he absolutely did not have the authority, that would have been illegal. And one source said to me, it would be like if you have a gun saying you have the authority to shoot somebody. You don't, just because you have that tool.

BLITZER: And then the other question in the Pew Research Center poll, investigating terrorism, even if it intrudes on your privacy?

Once again, 62 percent said investigate terrorism, 34 percent, don't intrude on privacy. So the public, at least on this is -- at least in this one poll, it's impressive.

KING: That's held relatively steady since 9/11, too.


KING: That's one of the stunning things that holds pretty steady on that line.

BLITZER: It's pretty steady since then.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead at the top the hour, we're going to have a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, Traitor or Hero?, Inside the NSA Leak. We're going in-depth for the hour.

When we come back, our own Jeffrey Toobin says Snowden is no hero and deserves to be imprisoned. But others strongly disagree. We'll have a debate. That's coming up.

Plus, it reads like a Hollywood script -- how bad information about a Justin Bieber tour cost one man $1 million.


BLITZER: Across the Internet today, people are taking sides over Edward Snowden. Dozens of Facebook sites have sprung up supporting or criticizing him for exposing the huge scope of the U.S. government's secret surveillance program.

So here's the question, is he a hero or is he a traitor?

We're joined now by CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and Kathleen McClellan, the Government Accountability Project. That's a private organization.

Kathleen, I'll start with you.

Do you think he broke the law?

KATHLEEN MCCLELLAN, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Well, whether or not he broke the law is a less important question than whether or not the government broke the law when it spied on millions of Americans suspected of no wrongdoing.

BLITZER: Well, so do you -- do you regard him as a hero?

MCCLELLAN: I think it's very courageous in this climate of an unprecedented crackdown and a war on information, a crackdown on disclosures of information, for anybody to consider making a whistleblowing disclosure, which is what he made, because his disclosure reasonably evidences government waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, illegality or a threat to health and public safety.

BLITZER: I'll take that as a yes then -- Jeffrey, you strongly disagree.

Tell us why.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Every 29-year-old who doesn't great with what the government is doing doesn't get permission to break the law, damage national security and then run off to China when he's done. I mean it is not the way you protest in the United States. That's -- you know, there are ways to do it.

I'm not sure this government program is a good program. But stealing documents from the NSA and then turning them over to Glenn Greenwald is simply not the American way. And I think it's a disgrace what he's done.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Kathleen.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I mean, that's obviously one opinion. But unfortunately, those legal channels that Mr. Toobin referenced are not effective. And you can ask some other NSA whistleblowers that are clients of ours at the Government Accountability Project, Thomas Jake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe, who raised concerns years ago about this same exact kind of surveillance. And not only were their concerns ignored, but the government prosecuted them, criminally investigated all of them, and prosecuting Mr. Jake under the Espionage Act.

Unless, of course -- until, of course, we know what happened there, that prosecution collapsed under the weight of the truth. So, to say that there are internal channels that are effective and that are safe is completely false. That's just not the case. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Just because you don't like a government policy doesn't mean you get to win when you fight the policy. There are lots of responsible people in this government, Senator Udall, Senator Merkley, who are appalled at these policies. They are out there speaking against them. They need allies. They can get -- people who are upset can join with them.

But you don't get to just disclose it on your own and then run off to China. I mean, here's a guy who's concerned about free speech and he goes to China? A country that represses more free speech in an hour than the United States does in a year?

MCCLELLAN: I think he explained why he went to Hong Kong. But I think that focusing on him is a transparent distraction from where the focus should be, which is on the message, which is on his disclosures. And I think there's some clear confusion here about what a whistleblowing disclosure is. And what Mr. Snowden disclosed is not a policy debate, it's evidence of government illegality. And --

TOOBIN: He exposed a court order, a court order, which said they had authority to do it. I mean, I don't see how that's illegality.

MCCLELLAN: Section 215 of --

TOOBIN: Now, it may be a bad program, but -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

MCCLELLAN: Well, if you ready section 215 of the Patriot Act, it requires that every investigation that has information collected under that act be related to international terrorism or counterintelligence. Now, I don't know collecting millions of Americans' innocent phone calls is related to international terrorism or stopping counterintelligence, unless, we're all counterintelligence agents.

That said, he doesn't even have to be right about the illegality to be a legitimate whistleblower. All he needs to have is a reasonable belief and reasonable people do believe that there is debate here. Reasonable people do believe that there is a chance that this is illegal because those reasonable people include Senators Ron Widen of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado who have been read into these programs and who know about them and raise serious concerns about them.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, go ahead and respond, then I have a question for Kathleen.

TOOBIN: They certainly do. And they may even be right. We are here. The reason we're here is we're talking about what he did and what he did -- he wasn't a whistleblower. As you know better than I, whistleblowing has a specific legal definition and there are ways, legal ways, to be a whistleblower. Giving documents to Glenn Greenwald and running off to China is not one of the legitimate ways of being a whistleblower.

BLITZER: Can you not hear us, Kathleen?

MCCLELLAN: I can hear you.

BLITZER: All right. Well, here's the question I have, when he or any other person gets top secret security clearances, they have to sign a document pledging they will not engage in any unauthorized release of classified information. He clearly went ahead -- this was not authorized by the government for him to release that kind of information.

So, clearly, he broke that confidentiality, that agreement that he signed when he went to work for the government. Kathleen?

MCCLELLAN: Hi. I'm having a little trouble with the ear piece, but I do want to say that secrecy agreements are not loyalty oaths (ph). They're contracts. And if we're talking about a breach of contract here, we should be talking about the contract that was breached with the American people when the government started spying on millions of them with no suspicion of wrongdoing.

BLITZER: But there are criminal penalties. There are criminal penalties that you pay if you violate that confidentiality agreement.

I think she's having trouble hearing me.

TOOBIN: Wolf, if I can just talk about, you know, these agreements, you know, they are not allowed -- there's no provision in these agreements that if you don't like what the government's, doing you get to decide unilaterally as a 29-year-old expert in precisely nothing for that -- you get to go disclose all this information because you happen not to like the government policy. I mean, you can't have a government that functions that way.

MCCLELLAN: That's always the argument that's thrown up against every whistleblower in the history of the United States.

TOOBIN: It's a good argument. MCCLELLAN: Well, it's not a good argument because it's distracting from the actual message, which is why is the government spying on all of these people? We're not here because of something that Mr. Snowden did.

We're here because of something the government did, which was monitor innocent Americans' communications and do so in a way that was so alarming that even two senators who knew everything about the program said that Americans would be shocked and angry when they found out, and one American was shocked and angry and that was Mr. Snowden and he decided to do something about that.

And I think that that's courageous, especially considering the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on free speech and on whistleblowers.

BLITZER: I got to leave it there, guys. But just to be precise, Senator Wyden and Senator Udall, even though they disagreed with this program strongly, they made clear a long time. They've made it clear in the past few days. Neither one of them, Kathleen, as far as I know, has justified going ahead and releasing classified information to the press, right?

MCCLELLAN: I think that they don't need to justify releasing classified information to the press. That's not what we're talking about.


MCCLELLAN: Information that is classified to cover up government wrongdoing is not legitimately classified information.

TOOBIN: Wolf, I wrote about this on -- at today, and believe me, most of the people on Twitter, they are attacking the heck out of me. Most people agree with Kathleen, at least, if you believe my twitter Feed.

BLITZER: It's an excellent column, and you, guys, had a good debate. And we're glad both of you were with us to debate, I suspect, only just beginning. Jeffrey Toobin, Kathleen McClellan, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Just ahead, at the top of the hour here at special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM right at 6:00 p.m. eastern, much more, traitor or hero, inside the NSA leak. We're going in depth where the hour (ph) right at the top of the hour.

Coming up, a surprise move from Hillary Clinton. Even President Obama is now commenting.

Plus, new products, new software, and a surprise from the people at Apple. Lots of news happening today right here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the other stories we're monitoring right now in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER (voice-over): The Philadelphia district attorney says a grand jury will investigate Wednesday's deadly building collapse to determine whether anyone besides a crane operator will face criminal charges. The operator has been arrested and charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person. An official says he was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time. He maintains his innocence.

They started picking a jury today for one of the most anticipated files in the U.S. Neighborhood watch guard, George Zimmerman, faces second-degree murder charges for last year's killing of teenager, Trayvon Martin. Two hundred potential jurors were called to court today. Another 100 will be called in tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Apple rolled out its new products today. They include completely redesigned operating systems for the iPhone and iPad, Mac Book airs with an all-day battery, and a streaming music service called iRadio. The biggest surprise maybe that it's a new line of Mac Book pro computers will be assembled extensively right here in the United States. Investors weren't expressed at first class (ph). Apple stock closed about one percent lower.

Hillary Clinton's just joined twitter. Her first tweet thanks a couple of supporters who've created the Twitter and Tumblr accounts. Text from Hillary, she tells them and I'm quoting now, "I'll take it from here." On her homepage, Clinton describes herself, as among other things, a pants suit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, and TBD. TBD, to be determined.

That TBD has a lot of people talking. And look who's already responding. President Obama tweeted, "Happy to welcome Hillary Clinton to Twitter." Stay tuned for the real hash tags tweets from Hillary.


BLITZER (on-camera): Hillary Clinton.

Justin Bieber, he also tweets, by the way, is a worldwide phenomenon, but some bad information about his overseas concert ended up costing one man a million dollars.

Also, very ominous developments in Syria's civil war right now. It looks like this week, this week could be decisive for President Obama and U.S. policy.


BLITZER: Happening now, he exposed U.S. spying on phone calls, data mining on the Internet. Does it make Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor?

Outsiders who consider the U.S. an enemy are taking over large swaths of Syria right now. It could lead to huge developments this week here in Washington. Major decisions on the table.

Plus, the disturbing past of the man blamed for the latest deadly rampage at a U.S. school.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just the mention of the name Justin Bieber and people start opening up their wallets, sometimes without even asking questions. As CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman reports, a California investor has a million reasons to regret hooking up with the concert promoter who turned out to be a con man.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To Todd Weinberg, a wealthy investor and entrepreneur from northern California, 22-year-old Walid Ahmad was the picture of success. So Weinberg felt very comfortable trusting the young man with his money, a lot of his money. After all, Ahmad was the toast of Norway, where the press hailed him as an innovative genius for supposedly inventing a solar energy cover that could charge iPhones. The Norwegian government even put up this video of Ahmad and his then business partner meeting with Norway's minister of trade and industry to show off the invention.

TODD WEINBERG, INVESTOR: Walid is apparently a celebrity in Norway. They call him the Mark Zuckerberg of Norway.

TUCHMAN: And then there are these photos of Ahmad with famous people, from royalty to rich business leaders.

WEINBERG: We've got Walid Ahmad here toward the back, Kofi Annan here, Ted Turner, crown prince and princess of Norway.

TUCHMAN: And this letter of thanks from Barack Obama, from whom he claimed to be the Norwegian election chairman. Not on did Ahmad brag that he knew and posed for pictures with people like the queen of Jordan, he also sent out photos of himself with well known people like former U.N. ambAssador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III. So to Weinberg, it wasn't a stretch that this young genius could be managing this Scandinavian concert tour for none other than Justin Bieber. It all started with a call Weinberg received from a good friend in the music industry.

WEINBERG: He said he had come across an opportunity through his group, and he runs in circles down in Los Angeles that are legit.

TUCHMAN: Weinberg was told about this young whiz kid named Walid Ahmad.

WEINBERG: Walid claimed to have paid, according to the contracts, $4.5 million to Scooter Braun (ph) Management for the rights to five shows in Scandinavia.

TUCHMAN: Scooter Braun Management handles Bieber. So, it all started to sound real to Weinberg. Weinberg was asked to invest a million dollars, with $860,000 going directly to Ahmad so he could supposedly secure concert venues. The rest of the money went to two California management companies that Ahmad had brought in to prepare for the concerts.

A series of emails from legitimate looking contracts followed.

WEINBERG: I was told that I would get a percentage of the ticket sales. And the ticket sales were significant. I mean, it could be a 10x return on my money.

TUCHMAN: So, you thought could you have gotten $10 million for your $1 million investment.

WEINBERG: That was conceivable.

TUCHMAN: In his e-mails, Ahmad was reassuring writing, "The most important thing for me is that everything is clean and based on a relationship."

Were you suspicious at all in the beginning?

WEINBERG: I was suspicious in the beginning. And as a result I had a lot of various stipulations that I needed -- I need a lot of answers to my questions.

TUCHMAN: And Ahmad apparently had no problem providing them. The team met last August at this Burbank, California restaurant.

WEINBERG: He was Prada and Gucci head to toe. He was arrogant but also, he was a nice guy but he also had a bit of an edge and bit of arrogance to him.

TUCHMAN: Weinberg thought the meeting was impressive.

One of the people he met that day was the 2011 Miss Finland, Pia Pakarinen, who was going to promote the Bieber concerts. To further convince Weinberg, Ahmad arranged a conference call with a person Weinberg was told was a top member of Bieber's management group. But it wasn't long before things started to unravel.

WEINBERG: We start getting kind of word from Norway from one of our contacts there, I think the Justin Bieber tickets have actually gone on sale and it's sold out.

TUCHMAN: And these were the tickets you were preparing to sell?

WEINBERG: Absolutely. And we're thinking that's impossible.

TUCHMAN: There were never going to be any tickets. It was all a con job orchestrated by Walid Ahmad. Weinberg was frantic. He calls the FBI.

Ahmad had flown back to Norway, where he posed for these photos and then made what would be a fateful choice. He flew back to San Francisco for one more meeting with Weinberg.

At this San Francisco restaurant, Weinberg, now wired by the FBI convinced Ahmad to talk to him about the Bieber deal.

This is where the end game began. This is the exact spot with Todd Weinberg sat with his hidden microphone looking directly in the eyes of the man who stole his million dollars.

Ahmad gave Weinberg a sob story that his life was ruined. And then he alarmed Weinberg by adding he was going to start over, not in Norway but in Pakistan.

WEINBERG: I'm thinking there's just no way I'll see this kid again. He'll be gone, my money's gone, it's over.

TUCHMAN: The FBI made the decision the time had come to pounce. One day after the restaurant meeting, Walid Ahmad came here to the San Francisco International airport for a flight to Amsterdam and if he's to be believed, a flight to Pakistan.

But just before he boarded the plane, he was arrested by the FBI.

As for Ahmad's friends in high places, a spokesman for Scooter Braun says they've never heard of him. And neither has CNN founder Ted Turner. The former Miss Finland said she had no idea what Ahmad was up to either. Martin Luther king III said he vaguely remembers getting his picture taken with Ahmad but does not know him.

As for Andrew Young, who met Ahmad at a U.N. foundation gather in Norway, he says he's shocked at what became of who he believed was a rising star.

ANDREW YOUNG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: He used my contacts for things that I didn't know about, nor did he ever discuss with me. The first I heard from this was when he'd been arrested and his lawyer called me and told me what he'd been charged with. And my first reaction was there must be some misunderstanding.

TUCHMAN: But there is no misunderstanding. Today Ahmad has traded Louis Vuitton for prison garb in Los Angeles. Ahmad refused to talk to CNN. Todd Weinberg, at least for now, hasn't gotten any of his money back.

WEINBERG: It's all that I've got to not to get on an airplane and go visit him in prison and just sit across from him and just ask him why, why would you do this?

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, San Francisco.


BLITZER: Ahmad is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty to wire fraud. The government is asking for a prison term of more than eight years, saying Ahmad show no remorse and has a history of defrauding people.

Just ahead, a dangerous spiral. Strident opponents of the United States gaining the upper hand right now in Syria. They could force President Obama to make a huge decision later this week. Also, disturbing new details about the gunman blamed for the nation's latest school massacre.


BLITZER: This could be a very decisive week for President Obama and Syria. A high-level U.S. source tells me strident anti-American proxies are coming in and taking over major portions of the country. We're talking about fighters supported by Hezbollah, Iran and anti- U.S. militias coming in from Iraq. They seem to be gaining the upper hand right now over the rebels, and it's getting to the point where the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad's regime may be nothing more than a facade, with the real power being these outside, anti-American proxies.

CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty has this.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: After a devastating defeat of rebel forces in the city of Kucear (ph), the Obama administration is facing the unnerving possibility that President Bashar al Assad's forces, with the help of foreign fighters, are turning the tide against the opposition.

"It's really bad," one senior official tells CNN. "Is it fatal? We don't know."

At Kucear (ph), rebels were no match for foreign fighters supporting the regime who have been pouring into Syria. From Lebanon, Shiite fighters from Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. From Iran, military training experts and fighters. From Iraq, Shiite militia.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPT. SPOKESWOMAN: Hezbollah and their influx of fighters there and help from Iran had a dramatic impact on helping the regime.

DOUGHERTY: There's no question, officials tell CNN, that opposition fighters need a lot more weapons and ammunition. A sign of the seriousness of the situation, secretary of state John Kerry cancelled a trip to the Middle East to attend meetings on Syria at the White House. The president inching closer to signing off on providing heavier arms to moderate rebel units that have been vetted. Also on the table, a possible no-fly zone, but that scenario, officials tell CNN, is less likely.

The question now, one official says, at what point is the situation so bad that we have to do something different from what we have been doing? Until now, the focus was on forcing President Assad to step down. Now there's a new calculation.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: What is much more serious is what happens if Assad stays. Because Assad is now tied to support from Iran. Far more it than ever before. Assad is now tied to support from Hezbollah in Lebanon. There is a serious question as to what Iraq's role has been.


DOUGHERTY: And there's no debate in the administration, Wolf, about how bad the situation is, but the question, officials are telling us, is what is President Obama going to do about it?

BLITZER: That's why this week could be decisive if he makes those decisions, and we anticipate these meetings will be critically, critically important. Jill, thanks very much for that report.

When we come back, we're learning more about the suspect in that deadly Santa Monica shooting rampage and the troubled past that might have motivated him to kill.

Plus, a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM coming up right at the top of the hour. Traitor or hero? Inside the NSA leak.


BLITZER: We're getting answers today about the man blamed for the latest shooting rampage in a U.S. school. Investigators say John Zawahri killed his father, brother and three others before police killed him Friday in the library at Santa Monica College.

CNN's Casey Wian is keeping up with the latest revelations.

What is going on right now, Casey?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, life here at Santa Monica College is slowly returning to normal but there's lots of questions that remain about the shooter who terrorized this campus Friday.


WIAN (voice-over): It's often said that pictures don't lie. Well, John Zawahri's driver's license photo, showing a smiling seemingly happy young man certainly doesn't square with this image of a hulking gunman in combat gear, carrying enough weaponry and ammunition to kill hundreds of people.

DEBORAH FINE, SHOOTING VICTIM: I'll never forget his eyes. They were just so intense and so cold.

WIAN: Zawahri attended Santa Monica High School. This is his yearbook photo. And Santa Monica College, where his shooting rampage ended after police shot him dead a day before his 24th birthday. A neighbor of the Zawahris described the family as friendly but troubled.

THOMAS O'ROURKE, NEIGHBOR: There was a bitter divorce and they -- and when the kids were minors, they split custody between the two parents. When they got to be an adult, one child went to live with the mother and the other boys stayed living here.

WIAN: Here is the house that erupted in flames Friday where Zawahri's father and brother were found shot. Zawahri had suffered mental health issues and was hospitalized a few years ago after allegedly talking about harming someone. A law enforcement source told CNN.

CHIEF JACQUELINE SEABROOKS, SANTA MONICA POLICE: The police department did have contact with this individual in 2006. However, because the individual was a juvenile at the time, I'm not at liberty to discuss the circumstances of that.

WIAN: The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office plan an autopsy on Zawahri's body Monday.


WIAN: That's not likely to provide any clear answers as to why he killed his father, his brother, three strangers and tried to kill many others. Police continue to investigate the motive behind yet another young man's deadly shooting spree -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And he had a lot of ammunition, as you point out as well. All right. Thanks very much, Casey Wian reporting.

Amid all the new fallout here in Washington from the NSA leaks, other scandals already brewing haven't gone away including the growing battle, some political battle between lawmakers inside the IRS targeting investigation.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here in THE SITUATION ROOM working this story. Seems to be intensifying.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does, well, you know, remember, last weekend, right in this very studio on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION", the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee made waves by seeming to make a conclusion in this investigation before finishing it.

Well, just yesterday, his Democratic counterpart kind of did the same thing. But after a month of investigating, we've been digging and talking to the investigators, and it actually appears they agree on more than meets the eye.


BASH (voice-over): Two Sundays in a row, two different political parties, two very different takes on the status of their bipartisan IRS investigation.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved, and if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.

REP. DARRELLISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: This is a problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington headquarters, and we're getting to proving it.

BASH: The Republican takeaway from interviews with IRS employees in Cincinnati is that tax attorneys at IRS headquarters in Washington were heavy handed and may have contributed to inappropriate questions to Tea Party groups and unacceptable delays in their tax-exempt applications.

Democrats involved in the same IRS interviews getting the same answers say there's no evidence Washington was involved when problematic questionnaires were sent to Tea Party groups.

Despite that divide, believe it or not, there is bipartisan agreement on a major issue. Sources in both parties tell CNN that so far they have found no evidence Tea Party targeting was politically motivated and it's not just that. Republicans tell us they agree with something Democrat Elijah Cummings revealed to CNN's Candy Crowley.

Who at the IRS first flagged a Tea Party application for extra scrutiny?

CUMMINGS: He was a 21-year veteran of the IRS, and he was -- he described himself in the interviews in response to a Republican attorney's questions as a conservative Republican.

BASH: The reason that IRS screening manager in Cincinnati gave for flagging that first Tea Party group was to get guidance from higher ups on how much political activity is too much to still be granted tax-exempt status.

CUMMINGS: In his interview, Candy, he said over and over again, I want it to be consistent. And so that's how all of this got started.



BASH: Despite agreement in several key areas, politics persists. Republicans clearly think the IRS issue resonates with voters, launching this new video.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The First Amendment rights are being violated.


BASH: And talking to congressional investigators in both parties, one thing is abundantly clear, this whole IRS-Tea Party mess reveals a bureaucratic morass that is worse than people fear about the government and the big agencies.

Wolf, it kind of makes you want to put your money under the mattress and go live in the woods somewhere.


I talked to all these investigators about --

BLITZER: You're going to do that --

BASH: -- the craziness. We're not going to do it but it's tempting.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

Stay with us for a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM coming up right at the top of the hour. We're on the trail of Edward Snowden, from his boyhood home in Maryland to Hawaii, now to Hong Kong.

Coming up, what you need to know about the man who exposed some of America's deepest secrets.


BLITZER: Weather they deserve it or not, ostriches have a reputation for burying their heads in the sand.

Jeanne Moos has the story of a deer that got its head stuck in -- well, take a look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A deer stuck in a bag. A deer stuck in a jar. A kitty stuck in a hole.

This is the story of critters in over their heads in. In this case, in a Doritos bag.

A sheriff's deputy on patrol spotted this deer at the side of the rid, after midnight down in the Florida Keys.

DEPUTY BECKY HERRIN, PIO, MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I suspect that the deer was just trying to get to that last Dorito in the bag.

MOOS (on camera): And this deer didn't just go for a bag of regular Doritos. Judging from the color of the packaging --

(Voice-over): The green is a giveaway that the deer was hankering for chili lemon chips. The animal was passive as the deputy pulled off the bag, and then it scampered away.

HERRIN: Save all the lives in the world and nobody pays attention. And then you remove a bag from a deer's heads and it's all over the country.

MOOS: At least this deer in Minnesota could see, but it couldn't eat or drink. It kept showing up in Janet Murphy's yard with its head stuck in a plastic jar. Janet turned for help to an animal rescue organization called Wildwoods.

(On camera): They showed her how to use a catch pole. Sort of like a dog catcher uses.

(Voice-over): Janet managed to get the loop around the jar.

NANCY WOLFE, PRESIDENT, BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF WILDWOODS REHABILITATION: And the apparatus tightened up. The deer stood up, it started jumping around and it was a little bit of a rodeo.

MOOS: The struggle lasted a few minutes. WOLFE: Eventually she just gave it one hard tug and the jar came off the deer's head.

MOOS: The deer seemed dazed after days without a drink and it headed for water.

Is this what they mean by curiosity killed the cat? Don't worry, in this case, it wasn't fatal. This kitty in Oregon was found with her head stuck in a hole under an air-conditioning unit.

KAREN BURNS, SHELTER MANAGER, HUMANE SOCIETY OF CENTRAL OREGON: She was tranquilized and relaxed, we were able to push her back through the hole. We had to jimmy a rope around her to kind of pull her down to a bigger hole.

MOOS: When they finally popped her out, she was uninjured. She'll be put up for adoption.

One lesson from these jarring images is that when people litter, animals are left holding the bag, even a bag of Doritos.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.