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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Wildfires Hit Parts of Colorado; Whereabouts of NSA Leaker Unknown; Protests Continue in Turkey; New Developments in Cleveland Kidnapping Case; Tech Industry High-Paid Internships

Aired June 12, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our "STARTING POINT" this morning, thousands running from the flames as wildfires in Colorado force evacuations, destroys homes, and charring acres of land right now. We are live on the ground with the latest.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Riot police on standby this morning after a night of tear gas and water cannons in Turkey to fight violent and chaotic protests now. Can demonstrators and the prime minister reach a peace (ph)?

BERMAN: We could see fireworks on Capitol Hill as the director of the NSA testifies on cybersecurity, some say spying. What will he have to say about the agency's controversial data mining program and the man who leaked the top secret information.

ROMANS: And this is not what a group of fishermen were expecting at the end of their line. Yes, incredible video of a killer whale trying to steal their catch just for the halibut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN (on-camera): It's not a good morning when you start like that. I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, June 12th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

We're following developments this morning from Colorado where hot, dry, and windy conditions are fueling wildfires, five of them. Right now, crews are battling all these different fires. Emergency Management Officials say that 800 prison inmates are being evacuated as a precaution. Some 5,000 people living in the area threatened by the biggest of the fires have been told to leave their homes.

CNN's Dan Simon live in Colorado Springs last night. Not a good night for firefighters, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely not, John. This is a very destructive wildfire that has already taken out or damaged dozens of homes. And with powerful winds and record temperatures, this could be a very long day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPRINGS: Raging wildfires across Colorado are forcing thousands to get out of harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out, get out, go! Get in your cars now!

SPRINGS: The black forest fire south of Denver multiplying in size in just hours and engulfing thousands of acres in its path, The thick billowing smoke visible for miles, massive flames consuming dozens of buildings in this heavily wooded area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are still at zero containment. The fire is still pretty well scattered. It's not just one wall of fire.

SPRINGS: Firefighters say strong winds and record high temperatures are fueling the fast moving fires.

TERRY MAKETA, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF: With nightfall a little bit cooler air, hope that the winds, they have certainly died down since earlier today.

SPRINGS: The black forest fires is one of five 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 resources but right now I could not be more pleased with the support we've received.

SPRINGS: 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 tell you what, I won't underestimate it again.

SPRINGS: And Colorado is not alone. In northern California a firefighter was killed while fighting a wildfire caused by lightning. Lightning also the cause of another growing wildfire Near Kingston, New Mexico. In early a devastating fire season not showing any signs of slowing down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: So let's see where things stand now. Micki Trost is with us, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention Control. She joins us live from Colorado Springs. Nice to see you this morning. So give me a sense of what the situation there is this morning. We've been hearing overnight zero percent contained and some weather conditions that are perfect for fires. What are you seeing there right now?

MICKI TROST, COLORADO OFFICE OF EMERGENCY, DIVISION OF FIRE PREVENTION CONTROL: Here at the black forest fire we are seeing smoke still coming up through the air. The state office of emergency management is activating the state emergency operations center this morning to support the five fires that are occurring right now in the state of Colorado.

ROMANS: We're going to show these five active fires now. They multiplied in just hours on Tuesday, the big meadows fire, the royal gorge, the black forest, in El Paso county and a couple others, you can see where they are. So what is your biggest obstacle at this point?

TROST: You know, there are a couple things they are working with, the fire weather. So again today we have red flag warnings, fire weather watch, so those high temperatures, low humidity, the winds. And then again we have five fires in the state so coordinating those resources and getting them where they need to go.

ROMANS: Two things you've got to do. You've go to coordinate the resources to fight the fire and you also have to move people out of the way. I know you've moved some prisoners. I also know that you're ordering evacuation of some of the neighbors. Talk to me as you fight the fires what you do to get people out including those prisoners.

TROST: A lot of those evacuations are at the local level, so supporting local agencies to get the word out to make sure people know they need to leave, they need to leave now, and they need to stay in touch with those local agencies to keep up to date on what the fires are doing. Down at the Royal Gorge fire, yes, they have moved prisoners as a precaution. And the smoke is affecting them down there.

ROMANS: You've had at least nine fires since the middle of May. Is that an unusually high number?

TROST: Unfortunately last year we saw a similar thing happened last year. We had several fires that occurred when we had the fire weather come through, the hot temperatures, the winds, low humidity. So unfortunately we saw it last year, and we're hoping that the number of fires is lower this year.

ROMANS: We know that wildfires are actually over time over history they've been a natural way to cleanse the forest. Now you have residents here, you've got populations to consider. What are you telling people what is the best thing that residents in the area can do in this situation?

TROST: You need to prepare. You need to mitigate around your property, be ready no matter where you are in the state. If you have vegetation around you you're in the wild land urban interface areas. To really work with your state foresters, work with your local fire departments to mitigate your properties. And then to be ready to have your preparedness kits ready to go so that you can be out of your home for three days up to a week if something like this strikes.

ROMANS: Be ready and then be ready to run when you need to. Micki Trost, thank you very much, and best of luck to you as you try to battlw those flames, thanks.

BERMAN: The man at the helm of the massive security agency and its data operation mining is set to testify on Capitol Hill this afternoon. Keith Alexander is sure to get grilled by senators, many of them demanding greater transparency from the agency. Also, senators want to know the whereabouts of the man who blew the lid off the secret surveillance program. Our Joe Johns joins us live from Washington this morning. A lot of questions for Keith Alexander, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, John. It's still early, but we're starting to see indications of how far one of the greatest intelligence gathering complexes in the world might be having a hard time finding its own guy. We know the FBI is helping out, but the whereabouts of Edward Snowden are unclear this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: 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 in 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 the one hand the NSA is collecting all this information and we have no liberties, and on the other hand they don't know where this guy is.

JOHNS: Chief of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, 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 a billion records a day were coming under 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 programs, 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.

EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: 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 the most likely charge is unauthorized disclosure of classified information under the espionage act.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: A lot of legal authorities say that if and when charges against Snowden have been presented before a magistrate, and it could have already happened in a secret court doubt, the next step would be to cancel his passport. The question is how well prepared he is to be on the run. John?

BERMAN: And on the run he will remain until apprehended by some U.S. authorities. Joe, thanks very much.

ROMANS: More questions this morning about the State Department's handling of alleged misconduct in its ranks. An internal memo from the department of inspector general obtained by CNN claims high ranking officials stepped in to stop investigations, including into a U.S. ambassador and a member of then secretary of state's Hillary Clinton's security detail accused of assaulting a prostitute. A security official in Beirut accused of sexually assaulting foreign bars, an alleged drug ring operating near the embassy in Iraq. The State Department responded saying "We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly."

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's spokesman says she was unaware of the investigation. CNN obtained a statement the ambassador, who called the claims against him baseless.

BERMAN: Now the unfolding turmoil in Turkey. New developments this morning, protest leaders are scheduled to sit down face to face with the very man they've been riling again, the prime minister. And right now a strained calm. Protesters are trickling back into Istanbul's Taksim Square, with riot police on standby.

ROMANS: Protests reached a fever pitch in Taksim Square last night, demonstrators fended off tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades, and at times they set off fireworks in celebration of the protests. Our correspondents are on the ground covering every flare up, including CNN international correspondent Arwa Damon. She joins us this morning from Istanbul. Arwa, it looks calm behind you, but people are gathering today.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning to you both. What you see behind me in Taksim Square itself is pretty much almost normal traffic. Riot police still only have one road blocked off, otherwise there's been cars flowing through, normal human traffic you'd see as well. Taksim Square is at this point in time clear of demonstrators. They're all congregating in Gezi Park right off of the square itself. But a starkly different situation than what we were seeing a few short hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been watching all day, tear gas, fires, Molotov cocktails filling the air in the heart of the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know what sparked this police move. I think there was some sort of altercation. They've been seeing that all day so no specific reason why that would be cause to trigger such an enormous response by police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're putting our gas masks on once again because there's more tear gas being fired. You can see people trying to help us out because of the tear gas. The entire front part of the park has been cleared out because of the intensity just fired in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The center of the city has been fueled up to the spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is building up step by step. The governments and the prime minister is trying to get involved in my life.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of this is just evolving in the last few minutes and riot police pushed their way forward. They're on the side street running in that direction. There's now tear gas coming into the park.

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of tear gas in the air, a substantial police presence in the very center of the square itself and of course that question that remains what exactly is the end game here?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: There is that meeting you were talking about supposed to be taking place in just a few hours in the Turkish capital of Ankara. However, protest leaders that we've been speaking to here are saying they're not going to be attending. They believe at this point in time talks and negotiation with the government would be fruitless. So it's difficult to see how that meeting could lead to any breakthrough when it comes to ending this current standoff.

ROMANS: Arwa Damon, thank you, live this morning in Taksim Square in Istanbul.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, getting a closer look inside the home of the man accused of keeping three women captive for three years as Ariel Castro makes his second court appearance, what we can expect, next.

BERMAN: And then this was just ugly, an all-out brawl on the field after that. Dodgers young star gets hit in the face, and then more players get hit. We'll show you this wild, wild behavior coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: New developments in this morning in Cleveland. Ariel Castro is scheduled to be arraigned in just about two hours.

ROMANS: He's the Cleveland man accused of kidnapping and holding three young women captive for close to ten years. CNN's Pamela Brown is in Cleveland for us this morning. She's got some new images for us. Good morning, Pamela. PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine, good morning to you. We are getting a closer look inside Ariel Castro's home with some new video this morning. Meantime, Ariel Castro will be appearing in the courthouse behind me at 9:00AM eastern time. He'll be making the appearance in person and is expected to plead not guilty to the hundreds of charges he faces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: 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 once again analyzing evidence and recreating the terrible scene.

This video for our affiliate WOIO shows a disco ball and silver garland hanging in Castro's front room. This morning 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 of 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 purposefully, and with prior calculation and design, cause the unlawful termination of Michele Knight's unborn baby. But this indictment covers 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 as much as prosecutors want to throw the book at Castro, they have to consider the needs of the victims who may not want to testify, who may not want to relive this experience.

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 at $1 million.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There she is!

(APPLAUSE)

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

CHRIS KELLY, ADVISER, 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Today his arraignment at 9:00AM eastern time is expected to be very quick. Castro will appear in person, he'll plead not guilty to the charges. He is expected to waive a full reading of the charges. Also today, a trial judge will be appointed. From there the schedule will be set, you'll see pre-trail motions, potential negotiations for a plea deal.

The other charges from a grand jury are expected to be filed sometime this summer. The big question remins: will Castro face the death penalty for the aggravated murder charge he faces? We'll have to wait and see.

ROMANS: All right, Pamela Brown in Cleveland for us, where you'll be covering, obviously, that hearing when it happens in just under two hours. Thanks.

BERMAN: Interesting to see his demeanor there. You remember his first court appearance he barely raised his eyes the whole time.

ROMANS: Yeah. All right.

Opening statements get underway this morning in the federal muder and racketeering trial of accused mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger. The 83- year-old spent 16 years on the run before being captured in 2011. Prosecutors say from the late 70's to the mid 90's he rose to the top of Boston's notorious Winter Hill gang. He's charged with 19 murders along with loan sharking, money laundering, and shaking down bookmakers and drug dealers for protection money.

BERMAN: It's a huge deal up in Boston. An incredibly interesting trial.

Meanwhile, the gloves came off at Dodgers stadium last night. Bad blood when the dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. Look at that. That was the Dodger's rookie sensation Yasiel Puig just getting hit in the face with a pitch. Bounced right off his nose there. That led to a bench-clearing brawl.

Puig was one of three Dodgers ejected along with three Diamondbacks. There were two other players hit as well by pitches. This one was plain ugly. It's been a long time since we've seen a brawl like this. We'll have much more on this a little bit later.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, they're at the bottom of their company's totem poles, but interns, not you, not anchors, interns at Google might be making money, more money than you. You will not believe how much Google interns are making, and I suspect we are not qualified to be Google engineers.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Minding your business this morning. Pictures like these -- the unrest in Turkey not something that investors like to see. This country's stock market has taken a dive. Stocks in Istanbul have wiped out all of their gains for the year. Borrowing costs, another way we measure things -- how much it costs to borrow money -- they have rising sharply, topping 7 percent today. Compare that with the U.S., the short-term interest rate on a 2 percent here. Also, the U.S. stocks coming off a sell-off so Dow futures are rebounding up this morning about 70 points.

Remember when interns didn't get paid at all?

BERMAN: Those were the days.

ROMANS: Google interns are paid on average $6,000 a month. That pay and all the perks are so famous there's a new movie based on it, "The Internship," starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan. Google interns have to commit to three months of work. That means most will get paid nearly $20,000 during this stint. No comments from Google.

BERMAN: I know what I'm doing this summer now.

ROMANS: I'm telling you some of these, like, anything that is in high demand, like computers and engineering, those internships pay very, very well. And there's, you know, they really look for good kids and they pay them a lot of money.

BERMAN: You probably have no know what you're doing.

ROMANS: Actually, yes. An internship there is not to find your way.

BERMAN: Not qualified.

ROMANS: You need to contribute something.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT a naked man harassing computers (sic) an acrobat caught on camera.

ROMANS: Computers or commuters?

BERMAN: He's harassing somebody and he's completely naked, and he does handstands. This is a bizarre scene on the subway.

ROMANS: The Bicycle! When he's doing the bicycle on the -- that's too much.

BERMAN: We'll show you more of what happens of you can bear it.

ROMANS: There it is, there it is.

BERMAN: Oh, no. No one should see that.

(LAUGHTER)

This is a killer catch. Fishermen got more than they bargained for. Oh my gosh. That's a whale, and that was a naked acrobat before that. We'll have both after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Developing this story: fire still burning out of control in the Rockies.