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Snowden Blasts NSA; Britain Spied on Delegates; Iranians Elect Centrist President; Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson's Alleged Choking Stirs Outrage; Colorado Authorities Focused First on Fire Suppression

Aired June 17, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Brand new revelations about government spying. Britain's "Guardian" newspaper is reporting that the U.K. monitored phones and stole passwords during a 2009 London summit.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Iran elects a new president. Who is Hassan Rouhani, and what will he mean for U.S.-Iran relations?

MALVEAUX: And a British tabloid runs shocking photos that it says shows Food Network star, Nigella Lawson, with her husband's hand around her throat. It reportedly happened right in the middle of a restaurant.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes.

MALVEAUX: So good to have you back.

HOLMES: Good to be back from vacation. Well, not every - that's a funny thing to say, isn't it, good to be back from vacation. Good to see you again, we'll put it that way.

MALVEAUX: We missed you.

Well, the man who leaked some of the big U.S. intelligence secrets, apparently he's got a lot more to say. We're talking about Edward Snowden speaking out today in a live online chat.

HOLMES: Yes, I was looking at this just before the program. Snowden condemning what he called criminal acts by U.S. intelligence agencies. Now, this is all, of course, according to "The Guardian" newspaper.

MALVEAUX: Nic Robertson is in Hong Kong where Snowden is believed to be hiding out.

So, Nic, first of all, what have we learned about this - his decision, first of all, to go live and to actually talk about this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's clear he's got a lot more to say. And it seems very much that he doesn't want to use the traditional media. In fact, he has some disdain, distaste for using them, sort of reaching over their heads by this mechanism of talking directly to people. When I was checking just before this forum began about an hour ago, he had about a thousand questions. We're an hour into it and he's answered perhaps about seven or eight of those questions so far.

Some of the first questions came from the journalists that have been dealing with him. Ewen MacAskill from "The Guardian" asking him, if Iceland was your preferred option to go to, why did you end up in Hong Kong? And he said, well, it was very dangerous for me to leave the United States. There was a risk NSA employees must give 30 days' notice before they leave. There was a distinct possibility, he said, that I could be interdicted on route and he need to be - he needed to land in a country where the legal framework would allow him, he said, to continue with his work and releasing this information. And Hong Kong provided for that.

He was afraid as well that if he got to Iceland, he could be shut down quicker before he could field (ph) public support. So this isn't - this is a - sort of an indication to what the man is thinking right now. He still wants to build public support for his position, explain more. That's what he's doing now.

Glenn Greenwald, also from "The Guardian," asked him a question and this was -- allowed Snowden to defend himself saying that he hadn't compromised, given any information on ongoing military - U.S. military operations against valid targets. Defending releasing information about how hospitals, other places, were hack, saying even at times this allowed computers to crash.

So a lot more questions for him to get through. It's very slow, this whole process. And from what we understand, and as far as we know at the moment, Snowden's still in Hong Kong, right here, answering these questions.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Nic. We appreciate it.

The controversy over the secret surveillance going now internationally.

HOLMES: Yes, it is. A report that Britain spied on delegates at a 2009 economic summit, the G-20. That's adding fuel to what is a fiery debate.

MALVEAUX: Britain's "Guardian" newspaper based its report on more documents provided by Edward Snowden.

HOLMES: And, of course, as we've been discussing, he is the source of the leaks about secret U.S. Internet and phone surveillance. Dan Rivers joining us from London.

Dan, the report says that Britain's intelligence agency even set up a - it was a fake Internet cafe to intercept delegates' e-mails. What other specific charges of who was targeted, who was not? And, really, is anyone surprised? I mean country's snoop on each other, don't they?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean I think that's one reaction that I've seen a lot on Twitter and social media is, you know, what, you're surprised that spies are spying at things like the G-20. That's what they're paid to do. But this goes into a lot more specific details about how they were doing that. As you mentioned, setting up a fake cyber cafe hoping to trick delegates from certain countries who'd be trying to circumvent spying techniques in their hotels, say, or in official areas by going to a cyber cafe. They might think they were safer. Well, in fact, the cyber cafe was run by MI6, one of the spy agencies here hoping to monitor their keystrokes, things like monitoring their Blackberries in real time and feeding that information in real time back to U.K. ministers and officials to try and inform them as debates were going on, so trying to give the U.K., in this case, a strategic advantage at some of these talks. In 2009 they were talking about banking reform in the wake of the financial crisis.

I think what's interesting here is this lays open the idea that this isn't just about preventing terrorism and masses of national - you know, security policy. It's about economic policy as well. And that's clearly something the spy agencies here anyway are allowed to do.


RIVERS: Part of their mandate includes promoting the economic wellbeing of the U.K. And in this case it seems that gives them the mandate to go and spy on friendly countries if they think that gives them intelligence about economic matters.

MALVEAUX: Right. And talk about "The Guardian" report here that also says that the U.S. tried to eavesdrop on then Russian President Medvedev? What do we know about that?

RIVERS: Yes. I mean this appears to be NSA officials at a place called Menwith Hill up in Yorkshire, which is officially not actually a U.S. base, although there are hundreds of U.S. NSA officials working there. It's a highly, highly secret installation with lots of satellite dishes that pick up information from all over Europe and all around the world. The suggestion was, as you say, that they intercepted Russian communications going from London back to Russia during this G- 20 conference. The timing is embarrassing. All happening as some of the same people are turning up in Belfast and (INAUDIBLE) for the G-8.

I don't personally think that many of the Russian or Chinese officials will be particularly surprised, probably because they're up to the same thing themselves.

HOLMES: Exactly. Yes, exactly.

Dan, good to see you. Dan Rivers there in London with some perhaps not so surprising revelations really.

MALVEAUX: Yes, not surprising. They're all snooping. Everybody's snooping on each other, you know?

HOLMES: We're becoming cynical about it, I suppose. It's like, yes, what do you expect?

MALVEAUX: I think we are a little bit. President Obama is dealing with the Syrian civil war at the group of eight summit, of course, while controversies at home seem to be taking a toll on his approval rating.

HOLMES: Yes, Syria, of course, very high on the agenda. At the top at this meeting in northern Ireland, the world's most powerful nations extensively (ph), the G-8. Now, in a speech today, President Obama pointed to the peace agreement brokered by the U.S. that helped end decades of violence in northern Ireland.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To those who choose the path of peace, I promise you, the United States of America will support you every step of the way. We will always be a wind at your back. And as I said when I visited two years ago, I'm convinced that this little island that inspires the biggest of things, this little island, it's best days are yet ahead. Good luck. God bless you and God bless all the people of northern Ireland. Thank you.


MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, back at home, the president's approval rating has dropped eight percentage points. This just over the past month or so. The new CNN/ORC poll, his approval rating is at 45 percent. That is the lowest in more than a year and a half.

HOLMES: That's a big dip, isn't it?

Well, it is a new day in Iran. A new president has been elected. We're talking about Hassan Rouhani holding his first news conference today.

MALVEAUX: Around the world, people are starting to learn who he is and what he might actually do. I want to bring in Reza Sayah, who covers Iran for us, joining us from Abu Dhabi.

Reza, first of all, he's called a centrist. He's considered a moderate here. Campaigned on a slogan "hope and prudence." That was his platform there. What do we make of his stance? I mean he's trying to appeal to reformers but also conservatives. Is he going to be any different than what we saw before in Ahmadinejad?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, it's way too early to figure out if he's going to bring about some real change. But Hassan Rouhani is certainly talking the talk. He sounds like a man who wants to bring about real change and he sounds nothing like the current president, the blustery and unbending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He had his first press conference today. He sounded very heartfelt in thanking the people who probably won him this vote, and that's Iran's youth. He sounded very moved with what he saw over the weekend, the tens of thousands of young Iranians who poured out on the street celebrating his win.

He repeatedly said that a moderate approach was the key in fixing Iran's problem. And here was probably his most noteworthy statement. When he was asked about Iran's nuclear program, he came out and said Iran is prepared to be more transparent. Right now Iran is meeting minimum IAEA guidelines when it comes to inspections. They're not in violation technically. Washington and the west wants increased inspections. And Mr. Rouhani said they're ready to be more transparent. Take a listen.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT (through translator): Of course our nuclear operations and programs are fully transparent, but we are still prepared to bring and show further transparency. We can make it clear to the whole world that the measures and activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran are totally within international regulations and mechanisms.


HOLMES: Now, Reza, real power, of course, plays not with the president but with the supreme leader, the Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei. Their relationship is going to be key. How is that at the moment? What sort of influence might he have?

SAYAH: That's one of the unknowns. We can say that this is a man who was part of the supreme leader's inner circle. Remember, the supreme leader appointed him to a number of important posts, the national security advisors. So this is a man who has the supreme leader's ear. Can he go to the supreme leader and convince him to back down, to compromise when it comes to this nuclear issue. That's one of the big unknowns. The other big unknown is the other player in this. This is Washington and western powers. They have to give up something in return. Today, Mr. Rouhani made it clear that he's not going to open up more inspections without something in return. And without a relationship that's mutually respectful. But there's certainly lots of more talk about optimism, guys.

MALVEAUX: All right. Good.

HOLMES: Interesting days ahead.

MALVEAUX: Very good.

HOLMES: Yes. Reza, good to see you. Reza Sayah there in Abu Dhabi.

MALVEAUX: On to neighboring Turkey now. The prime minister facing new pressure against his leadership. Watch this.

You're looking at demonstrations here today. This is the Turkish capital, Ankara. Thousands turning out after the country's two main unions now calling for this march and a nationwide strike in support of anti-government protest movement that swept the country.

HOLMES: Familiar pictures to us now. Protestors facing a tough crackdown by riot police. For more than two weeks now, officers repeatedly using tear gas, and lots of it, also water cannon to break up the crowds. MALVEAUX: Still, many Turks support the prime minister, Erdogan. This was their rally. Watch this. Very festive. All those flags waving, music playing. This was yesterday's pro government demonstration in Istanbul. The prime minister addressed his supporters and slammed the international media for what he called lying in reports about the violence in Turkey.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, back here in the United States, the Supreme Court just struck down the citizenship provision in Arizona's controversial voter registration law.

MALVEAUX: So this was a 7-2 decision. The court said that federal law trumps Arizona's Proposition 200. Now, what is that? That measure passed by voters back in 2004 required anyone registering to vote in a federal election to show proof of identity.

HOLMES: Yes. Today's ruling could impact other states as well. You've got to look at Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee, they all required proof of citizenship before residents can register to vote. Significant decision there.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in the spotlight.

HOLMES: Yes, this after photographs, pretty disturbing ones too, surfaced that a British tabloid says show her husband's hands around her throat. She is the daughter of the former chancellor of the exchequer. We're going to take you live to London and that restaurant where it all allegedly happened, when we come back.

MALVEAUX: And it's an international he said/he said. Did Vladimir Putin really steal a Super Bowl ring from the owner of the New England Patriots? We'll take you -

HOLMES: He told him to keep it. He (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: I guess. We're going to take you live to Moscow.

HOLMES: Also, the pope gives his blessing to a bunch of bikers. Wait until you see the video. That's when we come back.


HOLMES: All right, some of the stories making news AROUND THE WORLD right now.

Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, out of the hospital today. Good news for the royal family.

MALVEAUX: He's been recovering from abdominal surgery. A statement from Buckingham Palace says the Duke of Edinburgh is in good condition and he's going to recuperate at home for about two months or so. HOLMES: Now in South Africa, Nelson Mandela's wife says the family is overwhelmed by all the support that they have been receiving from right around the world. Graca Machel says people have sent e-mails, there have been social media messages, of course, and flowers, lots of them.

MALVEAUX: And Mandela has been in the hospital since June 8th with a recurring lung infection. His condition still listed as serious, but South African president, Jacob Zuma, says Mandela's health has improved now.

HOLMES: Yeah, some good news there, too.

Now, that blind Chinese activist -- you'll remember him -- he says he's being forced to leave New York University. Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest in China last year by scaling the wall of his house.

MALVEAUX: So he and his family were granted asylum in the United States. He got a fellowship at NYU. Now he says that the school is bowing to pressure from China. "The New York Post" reports that NYU wants to build a new campus in China. The university says that Chen's fellowship never intended to last more than a year.

HOLMES: The husband of TV celebrity Nigella Lawson says it was all just a playful tiff, but tabloid pictures appear to show him putting his hand around her throat, causing quite a stir in Britain.

MALVEAUX: So, Matthew Chance outside the London restaurant where, supposedly, this incident happened, what do we know about this?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that there was a very series of very prominent photographs that have been splashed across the front pages of the British newspapers which are very disturbing, indeed. You know, Suzanne, this is an illustration of the fact that fame and celebrity can't necessarily protect you from the risks of domestic violence.

Take a look at the images, as I say, that have spread across the British media. There's Nigella Lawson, one of the most prominent TV chefs in the country. She's very well known in the United States and elsewhere in the world as well. You might be able to make out around her neck there is a hand. That hand belongs to her millionaire husband, Charles Saatchi, who's a prominent art collector and an advertising executive. He's has issued a statement playing down, essentially, those images, that statement saying that there was no grip. It was a playful tiff, is what he's calling this. But the pictures, he says, look for more drastic and violent than actually what took place.

Nigella's tears, he said, in some of these images -- Nigella Lawson is shown crying, they weren't because of any hurt they were suffering. They were because, he says, they both don't like arguing. Apparently, the argument was about an intense debate, in his words, about their children and it ended in this. It took place in this restaurant in the middle of Mayfair, which is a very upscale neighborhood of central London, just behind me.

And, again, the outrage that's being expressed by the public about this issue has been virtually universal, so a great deal of scandal caused by these images, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Matthew, I mean, I've got a double-barreled question for you. First of all, what is the status of any police investigation, if there is one, and also, a lot of people who have seen these photographs which have been widely published now are saying these are two very prominent people in British society and here they are, allegedly with a hand around her throat in public. Nobody did anything.

CHANCE: Yeah, look, in terms of the police inquiry, there hasn't been a formal complaint. Now the police don't necessarily need a formal complaint in order to press charges, but at this stage, they're not doing that. They're merely looking into the facts around this case to see whether they need to launch a formal investigation.

The big issue, I suppose, here is the fact that these scenes were played out in such a public arena. The restaurant here behind me in Mayfair has said -- issued a statement saying that it was not aware of this incident when it actually took place.

But there's been a lot of sort of anger expressed in social media and other platforms as well that someone at the restaurant didn't actually intervene to stop this incident as it took place. So as I say, very scandalous affair, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Matthew, thank you. Yeah, it's unbelievable ...

HOLMES: It is.

MALVEAUX: ... that that really happened and nobody intervened.

HOLMES: I mean, the waiter or somebody or the person taking the photographs. And these are very senior sort of members of British society. She's the daughter of the former chancellor of the exchequer, the treasury secretary in American language, so she's extremely well known. He's one-half of Saatchi and Saatchi, a multimillion-dollar-making advertising company and one of the big art patrons in Britain. These are pretty public people.

MALVEAUX: It seems at least an investigation is appropriate here.

I want to go to the site of the deadly Colorado fire. It is now a crime scene. This is coming up. We're going to take you there live, find out what or whom investigators are actually trying to find behind this.


MALVEAUX: The site of the most destructive fire in Colorado's history is now a crime scene. Two people died in the fire. This is near Colorado Springs, and the sheriff of El Paso County is getting some help now as he's trying to figure out actually what caused this fire. HOLMES: Yeah, federal and state authorities now on the case, and George Howell is in Colorado Springs.

George, tell us the status of this investigation. What even led authorities to think this was less than an accident?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, absolutely. They're looking at all possibilities. Was this arson? Could it have been started by a lightning strike? They're looking at everything, and we know that there's an arson investigator here along with several others.

When you consider how big this fire is, they have a lot to look into. Again, more than 15,000 acres of scorched land, we know that some 483 homes were destroyed in this fire. Obviously, they're going to take the time to look into this.

But right now the focus is on fire suppression. Until that is concluded, we will still have people waiting to get back into these areas, but again, after that, they will start determining the cause of this fire.

HOLMES: Yeah, you've been talking to the fire incident commander about the strategy for the next couple of days, when people can get back to their homes, that sort of thing.

HOWELL: Right. Rich Harvey, he is the incident commander here. He had some good news for people yesterday. He said that the fire is 65 percent contained. That's great news when you consider where we came from. For instance, on Friday, it was 30 percent contained. Then it went up to 45 and 55 percent contained, and we had a lot of weather come through. That rain helped with this fire effort. Rich explained to me the next few days, gave some insight into what he and firefighters plan to do. Take a listen.


HOWELL: How do you deal with this fire over the next couple of days? What do you do?

RICH HARVEY, BLACK FORESTFIRE INCIDENT COMMANDER: Well, you know, the perimeter work is done, so now we're focused on coming interior and making sure that all the heat that could eventually create sparks that could get over our line are done. And we call it mop up, search and destroy, find any piece of heat, put it out.


HOWELL: So that's the good news. We're at the mop-up phase in this fire where they've held the perimeter, they're going inside, they're looking for those hot spots, dealing with that. And at some point we will move on to the next step where we'll learn the cause of this fire from investigators and, eventually, the recovery part where people can start going back into these neighborhoods.

But, again, Michael and Suzanne, the timeline is still uncertain. It could be several days before that happens.

MALVEAUX: George, thank you so much.

Michael, when you just take a look at those pictures there and that car that was ablaze, I mean, this last week, I mean, it was just incredible. It went from zero containment and, thank God, you know, things are looking a lot better, but many, many people impacted by that huge fire.

HOLMES: Hundreds of houses. I mean ...

MALVEAUX: Unbelievable.

HOLMES: ... massive and massively destructive.

All right, coming up here on AROUND THE WORLD...

MALVEAUX: CNN getting exclusive access to pro-Assad troops on the front line. We're going to take you live to Syria after a quick break.