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Tornado Rips Through Northern Iowa; Wildfires Spark Fear & Anxiety; NSA Leaker Snowden Still in Hiding

Aired June 13, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A major destructive storm unleashed on a huge part of the country. Tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods, with millions in its path.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Catching a predator. One mom takes matters into her own hands when a man targets her 11-year-old daughter.

BERMAN: And they just kept playing and playing and playing. It took nearly five hours, three overtimes. And with that shot, it really practically just ended.

The epic battle for hockey's biggest prize.

ROMANS: Up all night watching hockey.

Good morning, welcome to early start. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, June 13th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin with what could be an epic day for ferocious severe weather. An estimated 74 million people in the path of possible powerful tornadoes, high winds, hail. Storm chasers spotted funnel clouds yesterday in Pawpaw, Illinois, about 130 miles southwest of Chicago. Speaking of the Windy City, it lived to its billing. Chicago saw 50-mile-an-hour gusts yesterday, coupled with dime-sized hail.

BERMAN: In northern Iowa, two tornadoes touch downs confirmed. Wright County sheriff's office reporting extensive damage, downed power lines, lots of debris.

Two businesses took the brunt of the twister's wrath. The restaurant owner says she left just in time.


DEB ABEL, BUSINESS OWNER: Kind of looked at it and it felt like it kept getting closer. And so, we locked the door, and jumped in and took off for town. I kind of think that it probably hit about two minutes after that.

JEREMY HOGREFE, WRIGHT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: To me, it looked large and scary. We weren't sure what it was hitting or if there were injuries at that time.


BERMAN: Luckily, as you said, there were no juries reported, but there were power outages.

ROMANS: And check out this amazing starkly beautiful image of lightning hitting Chicago's Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.

Actually, if you look closer, you can see the bolt hit two buildings in downtown Chicago.

BERMAN: Knocked the new name right off.

ROMANS: The threat of the tornado is moving largely again today from the Midwest to the Northeast, even in D.C.

BERMAN: Indra Petersons following all of it for us. Indra, what's going to happen?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, unfortunately, there's so much to talk about. We're not just worried about only tornadoes, but these strong winds and ,of course, we have large hail, severe thunderstorms and then heavy rain and flooding. All of this still in the picture really for the next 48 hours.

Now, here is what occurred yesterday, 18 tornado reports, 137 wind reports and, of course, plenty of hail out there with all that severe weather. The set up is there for what we call a derecho.

I know you keep hearing this word probably about the last 24 hours. So, what is it? Well, derecho is a fast-moving long-lived wind storm. That's the key, long lived.

Violent thunderstorms and we continue to see these, wind gusts, greater than 48 miles per hour over 240 miles. And that is exactly what we have been tracking.

Now, currently, what we saw yesterday didn't reach the ground. We're not calling it a derecho, yet. A lot of those winds are a little bit higher up. But here's the set up we keep talking about.

All that warm, moist air is there. We have the contrasting with the colder, drier air. You need some kind of lift. So, you have that element. You have to lull out there.

And, today, we also have the strong jet stream above and all that is going to continue to bring some rotation. So, here you go. You can see what we have seen the last 24 hours or so. You can see the backwards "C." And with that, we are looking at the threat of severe weather today.

And, course, we do have the fire weather. We have Dan Simon out in Colorado where today we continue to have that very warm weather.

Tell us the latest, Dan?


The good news is the winds have died down, at least for the moment. Temperatures have fallen.

But this fire has become such a problem that federal authorities are going to be taking over the operations. A federal incident commander is on ground, getting updates, preparing for the transition.


SIMON (voice-over): Multiple wildfires burning out of control across Colorado, forcing thousands more to flee their homes. Hundreds of firefighters trying to gain control of the wind whipped flames as the evacuation areas grow.

TERRY MAKETA, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF: We have had incredible wind shifting. The winds remained consistent. And that has done a lot of things we are not expecting.

SIMON: On Wednesday, the fires roared through thousands of acres in near hours, fueled by hot temperatures, dry brush and gusty winds.

COLBY HELGERSON AND TED ROBINSON, FIREFIGHTER AND DENVER FIRE VICTIM: We watched the plumes of smoke as the fire was rolling over our neighborhood.

SIMON: And there's no sign of slowing down. This Boy Scout camp heeding the warnings and heading out of harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to make sure they are going to be safe.

SIMON: House and horses taken to safety. And this baby deer carried out by a fire as the out of the control inferno puts everything and everybody in danger.

PAULA WARREN, EL PASO COUNTY RESIDENT: The sheriff's came down and said you are going now. This part, not knowing whether I have a house or don't is the worst.

SIMON: About 60 miles to the Southwest, a smaller wildfire is threatening the iconic Royal Gorge suspension bridge, its structural integrity now being evaluated.

This sobering image snapped at a local baseball game gives a glimpse of the incredible size of these unpredictable fires.


SIMON: The conditions have gotten so bad that one of the evacuation centers, a church, it had to be evacuated itself because of the smoke in the area had gotten so thick.

John and Christine, let's send it back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks to Dan, tracking all these storms for us in Colorado. Thanks, Dan.

FBI Director Robert Mueller is sure to face some intense questioning later this morning on Capitol Hill. He'll be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee about the government's controversial data mining and surveillance operations. Under Mueller's watch, the FBI requests for records under the Patriot Act have increased 1,000 percent in the last four years.

The director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, told the Senate committee he has nothing to hide because he believes his agency's efforts were saving lives.


GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA DIRECTOR: It's dozens of terrorists events that these have helped prevent. This is not us doing something under the covers. This is what we are doing on behalf of all of us for the good of this country.


BERMAN: Alexander told senators that Americans expect the government to protect them with these kinds of programs.

ROMANS: The man who exposed the government's sweeping surveillance operation is still in hiding this morning, but he's not staying silent. Edward Snowden dropping another bombshell, telling Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post", U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks of other countries for years. And that includes thousands of targets in China.

Anna Coren live from Hong Kong this morning.

Anna, U.S. officials have said they don't know where Snowden is hiding. Can we assume he's still somewhere in Hong Kong?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, definitely, Christine. And I think from that article in "The South China Morning Post", they met with him yesterday. He has said he will stay in Hong Kong until he's asked to leave. He wants to fight the extradition order the United States throws at him and he wants to do it from Hong Kong.

You know, there's a reason why he's spoken to "The South China Morning Post", one of the most popular English dailies here. The reason being, he's reaching out to the Hong Kong people, addressing them directly. He wants them to decide his fate, not the U.S. government.

I want to read a quote that says, "People who think I made a mistake picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I'm not here to hide from justice, I'm here to reveal criminality."

So, you mentioned those explosive allegations that he made about United States hacking computer systems here in Hong Kong and also on mainland China. So, you know, this is something that is obviously going to embarrass the United States and anger American politicians who are calling for his extradition even more so.

ROMANS: You know, Snowden says he believes the U.S. is trying to pressure, Anna, to extradite him. What type is communication is really happening between the U.S. and Hong Kong? Any sense on what the officials there are going to do?

COREN: Yes, I think the words he used were bullying. Look, you know, the U.S. government isn't really speaking. Certainly, the U.S. consulate here in Hong Kong is not speaking. The Hong Kong and Chinese government are not giving comment, either.

So, we're really in the dark as to the communications in Hong Kong and the United States. Obviously, there is an extradition agreement. It is something that works very well between Hong Kong and the U.S. But China can step in here if they believe and if they believe in it's national interest to do so.

So, this is something that could play into the saga that is unfolding. The other thing is that Edward Snowden could apply for asylum. And this could drag out the process, Christine, for months, if not years.

ROMANS: All right. Anna Coren, in Hong Kong for us this morning. Thank you, Ana.

BERMAN: And amid calls for his prosecution, the reporter who told the world about Edward Snowden and the NSA's wiretapping program is speaking out again.

Glenn Greenwald of Britain's "Guardian" newspaper was on "A.C. 360", where Anderson Cooper asked him about New York Republican Congressman Peter King's assertation that Greenwald, he should be prosecuted because he, quote, "has said that he has names of CIA agents and assets around the world and is threatening to disclose that."

Greenwald responding to that assertion saying it's simply not true.


GLENN GREENWALD, COLUMNIST, THE GUARDIAN: The last thing I would try to do is read the mind and what goes on internally in the swamp of Peter King's brain. I mean, what I do know is that he has a history of radical and extreme statements. He himself was a supporter of terrorism for several decades when it was done by the IRA.

So, I don't know if he decided to make that up or hallucinated or what, but what I do know is that claims he made on national television about me were utterly and completely false. And they were serious charges I think he ought to be held accountable for.


BERMAN: Congressman King did not respond to a CNN request to clarify his comments.

ROMANS: Sadness this morning in the world of stock car racing. NASCAR driver Jason Leffler was killed last night in an accident at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey. He was taking part in 25-lap event for sprint cars when the car he was driving crashed. Leffler was 37 years old.

In a statement, NASCAR said it extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening for more than a decade. Jason was a fierce competitor in our sports and he will be missed.

All right. If I love tired, it's because of this. It was a triple overtime thriller at the Madhouse on Madison where the Chicago Blackhawks battles the glorious Boston Bruins in the NHL Stanley Cup finals. It went on for nearly five hours. It was tied 3-3 going into overtime.

So close at the end of the second overtime, the Bruins (INAUDIBLE) a shot barely, barely missed. Look at that. If only. I would like to go back in time and put that in.

Midway through the third, just around 1:00 a.m. here in the East, just a little bit before we normally wake up, that wicked deflection. The Hawks, Andrew Shaw wins it. It was incredible game.

The Hawks taken the first game of the series. They play again Saturday in Chicago. Quite a game, three overtimes, nearly five hours, ending at 1:00 a.m. Perfect for this block.

Coming up, turning the tables. What one mother did to try to stop an online sexual predator and the lessons to help you keep your kids safe.

ROMANS: And police misconduct are the only way to make him stop. What both sides are saying about this hazing incident in Texas.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START.

It's the first day of Sarah Murnaghan's life with new lungs. The 10- year-old Pennsylvania girl had transplant surgery Wednesday in Philadelphia. Doctors list her prognosis as good. She suffered from cystic fibrosis and needed a lung transplant to survive.

Last week, her family successfully fought to overturn a rule that barred children under from inclusion on the list for adult lungs. She was rushed to surgery as soon as compatible lungs became available.


SHARON RUDDOCK, SARAH'S AUNT: She really did well. So we are very, very, very excited and we are very, very thankful. You know, as much as I can't not be extremely happy, at the same rate, we are very sad that another family lost a child.

I, myself, lost a child four years ago from cancer. So, I have some idea of the depth of that feeling they must be experiencing. My heart goes out to them. They really are the heroes of the story. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A family spokeswoman says Sarah did in fact receive lungs from an adult. There were no complications from the surgery. Sarah is recovering in intensive care this morning.

BERMAN: We have another story this morning about a crusading parent out to keep her daughter safe. A mother known simply as Carolyn pretended to be her own 11-year-old daughter, using social media, to turn the tables against an alleged child predator. Here's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carolyn could not believe what she was reading. Quote, "Are you still a virgin?" Nor what she was seeing, nude pictures.

CAROLYN, MOTHER WHO BUSTED ALLEGED PREDATOR: I was overwhelmed. Unbelievable. I couldn't believe it. I thought it happened to other people, not here in my home.

ZARRELLA: It all started last month. Late one night, Carolyn who we will only identify by her first name, decided to check her 11-year-old daughter's phone. She found a bunch of Facebook messages, no big deal if they were from other kids, but they weren't.

CAROLYN: We see this guy, and he's actually a grown man. That's what set off the alarm in me.

ZARRELLA: The man charged with sending the lewd texts and pictures is this man, a 23-year-old, Michael Jerome Bradley. But Bradley might still be out there if not for Carolyn's dogged pursuit.

At first, police told Carolyn, they did not have enough to arrest him. So, pretending to be her daughter, she gave Bradley her phone number. He kept texting, so she picked up the phone and called him.

(on camera): What did you say?

CAROLYN: "Hey, you know this girl you keep texting, that you keep harassing on the phone, she's only 11 years old." I'm like, "If you don't stop calling her phone and texting her, I'm going to call the police."

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Carolyn says Bradley still didn't know he was texting mom and mom was texting him back.

CAROLYN: All a while, he's thinking it was her.

ZARRELLA: Quote, "Hey, you know, it's my birthday just passed, I just made 12. I know I got a gift when I see you." Response, "Yes, birthday sex."

And another allegedly from Bradley, "You want me to pick you up from school? Let me know. I know you don't have much freedom." Finally, Carolyn had enough. Bradley, she says, went on and on, wanting a picture.

CAROLYN: I looked in paper and I just, boom, my eyes fell right on the perfect picture. I sent it to him.

ZARRELLA: It was this photo, a young woman from a Target ad. After that, Carolyn says is when Bradley sent more texts and the nude photos.

Now, police had enough to pick him up on several obscenity charges and unlawful communication.

CAROLYN: But the scariest part is, you know, you're just like oh my God, what if? You know, that's the biggest problem, the what if.

ZARRELLA: John Zarrella, CNN, St. Petersburg, Florida.


BERMAN: What if, indeed.

We did reach out to Bradley's attorney. So far, we have not received a response.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. Could the man accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for a decade, could he be angling for a plea deal?

Ariel Castro kept his head down and did not speak during his arraignment on Wednesday, pleading not guilty to 329 charges, including two counts of aggravated murder for allegedly causing one of the women to have a miscarriage. But Castro's attorney says his client is open to a plea deal. Prosecutors will dismiss the murder charges which would eliminate the possibility of the death penalty.

BERMAN: Caught on tape. Is this a case of police misconduct in Texas?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are under arrest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands on the truck. You are under arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just assaulted me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready to be tased.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground.



BERMAN: That video was captured on the officer's own body cam. He even say, get ready to get tased? Danny Henshaw (ph) says what happened to him was unfair.

But you don't see is what happened before the stop. Police say Henshaw drove away from an accident scene, evaded the cops and then refused to pull over. Henshaw denies all that, saying he will fight the charges. Police say they've received no complaints about the incident, although I'm not sure Henshaw was thrilled with it.


BERMAN: Yes. Getting tased, does not look like any fun at all.

ROMANS: No, it doesn't.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up, a big stock sell off overseas. Nikkei down 6 percent. Hong Kong, Shanghai down two. Six percent, that's a whole lot.

ROMANS: It's a big move for one day. It really is.

BERMAN: The question is, we will get the answer to -- should investors here be nervous? We'll tell you, when we come back.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Minding your business this morning.

A selloff overseas. Japan leading the way. Its main stock market plummeting more than 6 percent. The Nikkei is now in bear market territory. That means it's down 20 percent from the recent peak, 20 percent. Investors are worried about Japan's long term growth strategy.

Meanwhile, stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai dropped as well.

Here in the U.S., Dow is coming off its third straight decline, making the worst losing streak of the year. Wall Street worried about the Federal Reserve gradually tapering back a stimulus plan. That would pull money out of the economy, at the time when growth is, I mean, modest, at best. Because of that, we're seeing lot of volatility and nervousness. Yesterday, the Dow rose 100 points, then ended down 100 points.

The VIX, the main gauge of fear in the market, it's jumping as well. It has a long way to go to see what we saw during the recession.

And remember, the market has some wiggle room. The S&P 500 is still up 13 percent this year. Right now, Dow futures off about 70 points.

Fox Searchlights Pictures should have paid some of its interns. That's a ruling from a New York district judge. He says two interns on the movie, "The Black Swan" should have been compensated because they were basically employees, getting coffee, answering phones, arranging travel plans.


ROMANS: I know. I think we pay for that, don't we, John?

The judge says the internships weren't educational and Fox benefitted from the intern's work. It could have wide reaching implications, by the way, because unemployment for young people is so high, more of them are relying on internships.

So, beware, if you are having them do real work, employers, you have to pay them.

BERMAN: What is the alternative, have interns not do real work?

ROMANS: Just pay them. There's been a lot of scrutiny on this actually.

Yahoo getting a new lease on life to old email accounts. Beginning next month, web surfers will be able to claim a new handle that had previously used but became inactive. The move light the fire on customers who haven't logged in for a year. Use your Yahoo e-mail by July 15, or you may lose it.

BERMAN: A threat.

ROMANS: One of the most recognizable features of social media finally coming to Facebook today, the hashtag, Twitter to Instagram to Tumbler, already have them. Until now, users on Facebook couldn't click on hash tags. Facebook has stiff competition in advertising, looking for ways to stay competitive in the rapidly changing social media space. #welcometofacebook.

BERMAN: #welcometofacebook. It's a big day, a big day. Let's celebrate.

Coming up, it was a devastating blast. Fifteen people dead. There are so many homes simply destroyed in that small Texas town. Now, the federal government is saying no to more disaster money. We'll have the reaction from the town of West.

ROMANS: And frightening moments high above New York. Did you see these two workers trapped on that scaffold dangling from the 45th floor. The dramatic story and rescue, next.


ROMANS: Severe storms slam the Midwest. Tornadoes, hail, rain. It's not over yet. This morning, that system moves east with Illinois -- with millions, rather, in its path. BERMAN: A Texas town in shambles trying to recover from a massive plant explosion. The town is dealt another big blow, but this one comes from the government.

ROMANS: High-rise rescue.