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Crews Battling 5 Fires in Colorado; NSA Director Faces Grilling; Clashes Intensify in Turkey; Spurs Rout Heat, 113-77

Aired June 12, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Fire after fire after fire. Colorado burning, homes in flames, treacherous conditions. Thousands of evacuated as the battle rages overnight. We are live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Crackdown, tear gas, water cannons, an all-night battle. We're live in the middle of the chaos on the streets, as key U.S. allies erupt overnight.

BERMAN: And who are these guys? The NBA finals take an unlikely turn. The Spurs pummel the Heat. But you'll never guess the players giving LeBron James a headache this morning. Pretty cool game.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesdays, June 12th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's start with the wildfire. It's burning out of control in Colorado.

Right now, crews are battling five separate fires across the state. The most troublesome, the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs. It's already consumed 7,500 acres and forced the evacuation of some 5,000 homes. Fire crews get no help from Mother Nature this morning. Conditions are extremely hot and dry with gusty winds.

Dan Simon live from the fire lines for us in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Good morning.


We're about a mile or two away from the fire. I can tell you it's pretty smoky out here. Not the easiest conditions to breathe.

I'll tell you what? This fire shows absolutely no signs of letting up. We're expecting high temperatures today and high winds. So, this could be a very difficult day.


SIMON (voice-over): Raging wildfires across Colorado are forcing thousands to get out of harm's way.


SIMON: The Black Forest Fire south of Denver multiplying in size in just hours, and engulfing thousands of acres in its path. This thick billowing smoke visible for miles, massive flames consumes dozens of buildings in this heavily wooded area.

TERRY MAKETA, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF: We are still at zero containment. The fire is still pretty well-scattered. It's not just one wall of fire.

SIMON: Firefighters say record-high winds and high temperatures are fueling the fast-moving fires.

MAKETA: With night fall, we hope that the wins have certainly died down since earlier today.

SIMON: The Black Forest Fire, one of at least fires ablaze across Colorado. Some 150 firefighters and the National Guard aiding in the battle.

MAKETA: We have other fires around the state that are also draining the resources. But right now, I cannot be more pleased with the support that we've received.

SIMON: This area is no stranger to devastating fires. Last summer, the Waldo Canyon Fire killed two and destroyed 346 homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not experienced with wildfires. I'll tell you what? I won't underestimate it again.

SIMON: And Colorado was not alone. In northern California, a firefighter was killed while fighting a wildfire caused by lightning.

Lightning was also the cause of another growing wildfire near Kingston, New Mexico. And earlier, not showing any signs of slowing down.


SIMON: Well, this fire has already taken out or damaged dozens of homes, no official count right now. One of the big challenges today is resources with several fires burning throughout the state. They have to get more folks in, I'm sure that will happen today.

Right now, Christine, this fire has zero percent containment.

ROMANS: Whoa, that's not good.

All right. Dan, not everyone heeded evacuation orders, right? Some people are having trouble getting out. What are officials telling them to do now?

SIMON: Well, I have to tell you, you know, they're experienced with wildfires in this area. So people generally have a good sense of when to stay, when to leave. At this point, they're telling folks: if you haven't left, now is the time to really -- stressing that people need to take this fire seriously.

Hopefully, more people do that today. We don't have a precise number in terms of the number of people who stayed in their homes, but apparently, there are a few who stayed so hopefully those people will heed those warnings, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Dan Simon -- thanks, Dan.

So, can those fire crews count on any help from the weather today?

Indra Petersons is tracking the weather, the extreme for us.

Good morning.


Unfortunately, it looks like the heat will still be on. The bigger problem is how dry it is out there. We're talking about single-digit humanity. You can see all the red flag warnings around the area.

Now, there's a chance of thunderstorms later on in the week, but it's so dry. It looks like the real threat could be more lightning. Unfortunately, that could potentially cause more fires.

I want to show you the contrast here. Look how warm it is. These are forecasted highs with the afternoon today. Notice, we see 90s and then you see 70s on the other side.

There's a big temperature difference there. And with that, the bigger weather story should be the severe weather. There's actually a moderate risk out again today. Notice all the moist air. Once again, we have all these ingredients. We have the cold, dry air, the plain dry air, all that lining up right on the front as the low road over the ridge.

And with that, we have that moderate risk out there today. What does that mean? We have the threat for tornadoes. And especially, some very large, straight line winds out there in big cities, we're talking about Chicago, Indianapolis, and even Columbus, Ohio. Tough day out there.

BERMAN: All right. Be on the look out in the Midwest.

Indra, thank you so much.

Another news now, the man behind one of the biggest security leaks in the U.S. on the run. A major development is expected today.

The director of the National Security Agency testifies on Capitol Hill. There could be fireworks. There could be tough questions. He will be grilled on the comprehensive controversial data-mining operation that the NSA oversees.

He might also be asked if anyone has any idea where the leaker is now.

Here's Joe Johns. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: Sitting in my desk --

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators are asking, where in the world is the man at the center of the scandal, former intelligence contract worker Edward Snowden?

Members of Congress were told at a briefing at the Capitol that the National Security Agency doesn't know.

A real irony says former Justice Department official Andrew McBride.

ANDREW MCBRIDE, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: On one hand, the NSA is collecting all of this information, and we have liberties on the other hand, they don't know where this guy is?

JOHNS: Chief both the national security agency and the U.S. cyber commander, Keith Alexander, is heading to Capitol Hill and can expect a grilling this afternoon.

At least one member says he was surprised by the scope of the surveillance program.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I did not know one billion records a day were coming understand the control of the federal executive branch.

JOHNS: It's part of the growing outcry for the government to make more information available to the public about its secret phone and Internet tracking program. And it's not just politicians. Internet giants, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, are calling for greater transparency, and permission to tell the public what they gave out.

And lawsuits are threatening, including the ACLU challenging the constitutionality of the phone program. Suspected leaker Edward Snowden says he wants that debate.

SNOWDEN: The public needs to decide whether these programs or policies are right or wrong.

And I'm willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them and say I didn't change these. I didn't modify the story. This is the truth. This is what's happening. You should decide whether we need to be doing this.

JOHNS: While a law enforcement official says there's no time frame for when charges will be filed, legal experts say the most likely charge is unauthorized disclosure of classified information under the Espionage Act.

MCBRIDE: There's one felony that pretty clearly applies and that's the disclosure felony which has a 10-year max. So you can stack those up any way you want, under the sentencing guidelines, basically, he's looking at 10 years.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: More questions this morning about the State Department's handling of alleged misconduct in its ranks.

An internal memo from the department's inspector general obtained by the CNN claims high-ranking officials stepped in to stop investigations, including a U.S. ambassador and a member of then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail accused of soliciting prostitutes. A security official in Beirut accused of sexual assaulting foreign guards and an alleged drug ring operating near the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

The State Department responding, saying, "We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly."

CNN obtained a statement from the ambassador whose name has not been made public, calling the claims against him baseless.

BERMAN: Now, to the gripping intense situation in Turkey. New developments this morning.

Protesters are scheduled to sit down face-to-face with the man they're rallying against, the prime minister. Protests reaching a fever pitch in Taksim Square last night. Demonstrators fending off tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades. At times, they set off fireworks in celebrations also in protests.

Our correspondents have been on the ground in the thick of all of this, covering every flare-up.

Let's take a live look right now from Taksim Square. There has been cleanup there this morning. But now, we're seeing riot police back out there.

Senior international correspondent Arwa Damon joins us live from Istanbul, overlooking Taksim Square.

Good morning, Arwa.


And the scene here is quite different as to what it was 24 hours ago. But what we are seeing this morning is the Gezi Park demonstrators, they barricaded themselves from the park to the front entrance -- the entrance that is closest to where the riot police are lined up. There have not been any clashes so far this morning.

But just take a look at some of the images that show what happened just last night.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We've been watching all day, tear gas, fires, Molotov cocktails, filling the air in the heart of the city.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know what sparked this police move but they say some sort of altercation. They've been seeing that, though, all day. So, no specific reason why that itself would be -- cause a trigger such an enormous response by police.

DAMON: We're in the park right now, putting our gas tasks on once again because there's more tear gas.

You can see -- people are trying to help us out, because of the tear gas. The entire front part of the park right now has been cleared out because of the intensity of what was just fired in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The violence we've been seeing in the center of the city have been fueling so much of the popular response.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Up to this point, it's kind of building up step- by-step. The government and prime minister is trying to get involved in our lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There doesn't seem to be a specific police plan to retain control over this part of the city.

DAMON: Violence is just evolving in the last few minutes. And riot police push their way forwards, down the side street, running on the park in that direction. There's now tear gas coming into the park.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not tear gas, but instead, fireworks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of tear gas in the air. A substantial police presence in the very center of the square itself. And, of course, the question remains what exactly is the ending here?


DAMON: Now, the prime minister is supposed to be holding a meeting in the Turkish capital in Ankara in just a few hours. But what the government is saying, if individuals -- some of the people who have been part of the protests.

But we spoke with one man who is a member of the Taksim solidarity platform. That is the core umbrella group that is responsible for the Gezi Park demonstrations. He says that they were not even formally invited. And that all those who would be attending this meeting were effectively people who allied themselves with the government.

He was saying that for those individuals, the protesters that have really been a part of this from the very beginning, they, by and large, believe that negotiating, speaking with the government at this point in time would be completely fruitless, because of the government's heavy-handed attitude, use of force, towards these demonstrators, but also because of the government, the prime minister's rhetoric towards these demonstrators as well. BERMAN: And the prime minister's party calling for counter- demonstrations over the week. It's hard to see how the protesters will count them sitting down with the government leaders today.

Arwa Damon in that square in Istanbul -- thanks for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: President Obama travels to Boston today to campaign for Congressman Ed Markey who's running for Senate. Markey, a Democrat, faced off with a debate last night, with Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez, who's new to politics. It was second of three debates before a special election held in two weeks. Markey's been in Congress for more than three decades. He's hoping to win the Senate seat formally held by now secretary of state.

BERMAN: Think about this is being overshadowed by the Bruins in the Stanley Cup, the Red Sox in first place. No joke, the Boston marathon aftermath and the Whitey Bulger trial. So, not a lot of people paying attention to the Senate race right now.

George W. Bush, back in the black. First the first time since 2005, a majority of Americans see the former president in a positive light. The Gallup poll finds that 49 percent now view the former president favorably, compared to 46 percent who had an unfavorable view. Back in 2009, just after leaving office, Bush's favorable review was 40 percent. Unfavorable, 59 percent.

ROMANS: Game three of the NBA finals was beat down, pure and simple. The San Antonio Spurs routing the Miami Heat 113-77 to take a two games to one lead in the series. The Spurs made a fines record 16 three-pointers. Sixteen three-pointers in one game.

BERMAN: That's a lot.

ROMANS: Danny Green, who led the team with 27 points, hit seven threes. The next two games in San Antonio, tomorrow night's game four is a must, must-win for Miami.

BERMAN: You know, and the other guy for the Spurs that are great is this Gary Neal who wasn't even drafted. So, Gary Neal and Danny Green are the guys who beat LeBron James. King James --

ROMANS: Look at all those threes. Unbelievable.

BERMAN: So, you know, King James, like, a bad game. He looked like duke, maybe an earl, the squire. You don't want to being beaten by these no name guys.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, the man accused of holding three women hostage for nearly a decade. He's back in court. We'll have the latest on the charges facing Ariel Castro.

BERMAN: And take a look this. Yes, that is a naked man running wild in a San Francisco subway station. Even bigger news, he's an acrobat. We'll tell you more, next.


BERMAN: In Ohio today, Ariel Castro is scheduled to be arraigned on more than 300 counts. This is the Cleveland man accused of kidnapping and holding three women captive for close to 10 years.

Our Pamela Brown reports.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's our first glimpse inside the so-called "house of horrors," where Ariel Castro allegedly held Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michele Knight against their will for more than a decade. FBI agents are once again analyzing evidence and re-creating the terrible scene.

This video from our affiliate WOIO shows a disco ball and super garland hanging in Castro's front room.

Wednesday, Castro is making his second court appearance, facing an astounding 329 charges, including aggravated murder.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The vast number of charges is the prosecutor's way of signaling this is a very important and heinous case.

BROWN: His defense attorney told CNN that Castro will plead not guilty to all the charges in this indictment, in which he's accused of using vacuum cords, chains and tape to restrain the girls in his basement. And did purposely and with prior calculation and design caused the unlawful termination of Michele Knight's unborn baby.

But this indictment covers just half the time the women were allegedly held, meaning more charges are likely.

Legal experts say the prosecutor's office is playing a balancing act.

TOOBIN: What makes this case unusual is that as much as prosecutors want to throw the book at Castro, they also have to consider the needs of the victims, who may not want to testify, who may not want to relive this appearance.

BROWN: An attorney representing the victims tells CNN the survivors continue to have confidence in the prosecutor's office and sincerely hope for a swift and just result.

Donations continue to pour into the Courage Fund set up to help the women, now at nearly $1 million.


BROWN: Since returning home a month ago, the women continue to heal privately. One family friend said they're adjusting to their new lives, visiting nail salons and going to the park.

CHRIS KELLY, ADVISOR, CLEVELAND COURAGE FUND/JONES DAY LAW FIRM: They're exceptional human beings, having gone through this ordeal and to be able to come out of it and start to heal and move forward so quickly is amazing.

BROWN: Pamela Brown, CNN, Cleveland, Ohio.


ROMANS: An unnatural, bizarre scene, a naked man terrorizing people at a San Francisco BART rail station all caught on camera.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police is on their way. Ma'am, run, run!




ROMANS: Wow, this actually happened last month but the video we're only seeing the light of day right now. The man is seen lunging at people, doing handstands, back flips. At one point, he rolls on the ground again.

BERMAN: Ah, avert your eyes.

ROMANS: Gross. Nude.

Friends described his behavior as completely out of character, saying he's an acrobat and a performer who seems to be having a breakdown. They say they don't think drugs were involved.

But can you imagine? You're on your way to work, he's toughing people, pulling them.

BERMAN: Words I never want to say, let alone see -- naked acrobat.

ROMANS: Lunging --

BERMAN: Lunging naked acrobat. It would be scary, no joke.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, one of the country's biggest pharmacy chains paying big money to the government. We'll tell you what Walgreens is accused of doing that will cost you $80 million.

BERMAN: We're not talking naked acrobatics.

ROMANS: No naked acrobatics.


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

The unrest in Turkey hitting that country's main stock market. Stocks in Istanbul have wiped out all of their gains for the year. Borrowing costs there have been surging, topping 7 percent there today. Compare the interest rate on short-term bonds here in the U.S. is around 2 percent.

Analysts say all this volatility in emerging markets especially like Turkey is not unusual. But this drop so quickly is a clear sign of uncertainty. It could hit the Turkish economy. Turkey relies heavily on foreign investors and on tourism.

In the U.S., stocks are coming off a selloff, futures coming to a modestly higher open.

Walgreens paying $80 million to several allegations that it let painkillers like Oxycodone get to the black market. It's the biggest settlement in the Drug Enforcement Administration's in history. The DEA said a Walgreens in Florida got an unusually large order for prescription painkillers for some of its pharmacy. The distribution center did not report it.

The DEA said Walgreens knew these drugs weren't for legitimate medical use. The distributor and pharmacy involved are banned from dispensing controlled substances until next year. As to Walgreens, it says it identified specific compliance measures to enhance its ordering processes and inventory system.

If you're in the habit of dozing off at work -- John Berman, stop, wake up -- be careful where you rest your head. A bank clerk in Germany nodded off for second while doing a transfer and she accidentally held down the keys on a keyboard, it changed the amount from $82 to $293 million.


ROMANS: Eighty-two to $293 million, the bank corrected the error.

BERMAN: Overdraft, slightly.

ROMANS: That was a big, a big --

BERMAN: I've never done that one when I fall asleep. I just get like magic marker on my pants and stuff like that.

All right. Coming up, the NSA leaker on the run. But wait for this -- we'll tell you what he left behind back home in Hawaii. This is going to surprise you.


ROMANS: The pictures tell the whole story. Colorado on fire, homes destroyed, thousands evacuated, including 800 prison inmates. This could be just the beginning.