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Edward Snowden Speaks Out; Online Activist Demands Justice; Hacker, or Hero?; Chicago's Bloody Weekend

Aired June 17, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are they whistle-blowers or anarchists? Do they make us more safe or less?

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, everything you ever wanted to know about spying but were afraid to ask. NSA leaker Edward Snowden today fielded questions from the public from wherever he's hiding.

The buried lead, the Internet activist hailed a hero for bringing national attention to the Steubenville rape case. But now he says he may face longer jail time than the rapists themselves. Is that justice? Is it even true? Our exclusive TV interview with the man who went by the handle Kentucky Anonymous is coming up.

And the pop lead. It has miraculous powers. His father sent him to earth to save mankind. No, I'm not talking about Jesus. Superman. But the studio is counting on those Christlike similarities to sell "Man of Steel."

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the world lead. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden today did Reddit-style ask me anything with "The Guardian" newspaper from whatever hotel room or secret bunker he's in right now, a live online chat with questions from journalists and the general public on Twitter.

When asked how many sets of the documents that you disclosed did you make and how many different people have them, if anything happens to you, do they still exist, Snowden said, "All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming and it cannot be stopped."

And remember when the head of the NSA on Wednesday told Congress that these methods of surveillance, in particular the PRISM program to monitor e-mail communications, that that may have helped prevent dozens of terrorist attacks, well, specifically one from 2009?


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: DNI Clapper said that Section 702 collection was critical to the discovery and disruption of the plot to bomb the New York City subway system, the Zazi case. Is that correct? GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: That is correct, in fact, not just critical. It was the one that developed the lead on it.


TAPPER: Well, Snowden says that's also not true. In his online chat, he wrote -- quote -- "U.S. officials also provide misleading or directly false assertions about the value of these programs, as they did just recently with the Zazi case, which court documents clearly show was not unveiled by PRISM."

The last we knew about Snowden's whereabouts, he was in Hong Kong. China's Foreign Ministry today said that he has cooperated with China and he's not one of their spies. Snowden says -- quote -- "If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a place petting a phoenix by now."

Petting a phoenix? Folks, we cannot afford to fall behind China in the breeding of mythological beasts. I think we can all agree on that. It turns out a majority of people here in the U.S. do not support Snowden's cause. Some new CNN/ORC polling here for you, 52 percent of those polled disapprove of his actions, compared to 44 percent who support him, and most people, 54 percent, want to see Snowden extradited back to the U.S. and prosecuted for what he's done.

For more, let's turn to Glenn Greenwald, who has been breaking the Snowden leaks for "The Guardian." He also moderated Snowden's live chat on "The Guardian" Web site today.

Glenn, thanks for joining us.

GLENN GREENWALD, "THE GUARDIAN": Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: So in Snowden's online chat today, he said -- quote -- "The U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming and it cannot be stopped."

To a lot of people, that murder suggestion seems like a rather outrageous charge.

Is there any evidence that Snowden's life is in any danger?

GREENWALD: If you read news accounts of what U.S. officials are telling journalists, they seem to think that if he turns over, to the Chinese government or some foreign government, what is in his possession and what is in his head -- and there's no evidence that he intends to do so and he flatly denied having do -- done so.

But the U.S. officials are saying that if he were to do that, it would be one of the gravest and -- and most cataclysmic injuries to U.S. national security ever.

And so he's concerned that the only way that they might think to stop him is to physically stop him. I don't know of any evidence that they intend to do so. They've certainly targeted U.S. citizens in the past, whom they perceive as a -- a threat to national security.

But what he's really saying is, putting me in prison or killing me won't in any way prevent this information from -- from being disclosed. It's just a safety mechanism that I think he's using because, understandably so, he's fearful in his situation.

TAPPER: When you refer to the U.S. government having targeted people for national security reasons, you're meaning -- you're talking about Anwar al-Awlaki and -- and that -- that type?

GREENWALD: Right. And the general claim that they have the ability to do that. I'm not suggesting at all that the U.S. government would do that here or is going to. I'm just saying, from his perspective, one can understand why that concern is in his head.

TAPPER: Snowden seemed to be initially saying that he was releasing this classified information because he wanted the public to know specifically about the surveillance being done of Americans. But the leaks over the past few days, particularly the latest revelation that the NSA was spying on the Russians, these are the sorts of things we expect the NSA to be doing.

How is that whistle-blowing and -- and how does aiding a non- democratic some time adversary of the United States aid the cause of civil liberties here at home?

GREENWALD: So I would say a few points about that.

Number one is, I don't really think that his principle, or certainly his only concern, was that the U.S. is spying on its own citizens. In fact, from the first time that I spoke with him, he was very worried that, essentially, what the NSA was doing was destroying privacy globally, that by working with other governments, that by targeting citizens around the world, that they were destroying the concept of privacy and anonymity and Internet freedom and creating this worldwide, global surveillance net from which, really, nobody on the planet was -- was free.

But as far as the story that you just referenced, I think it's really important to understand the process here. He went through the documents and he found the documents that he thought were of public interest, including documents that describe various government surveillance capabilities on the grounds that the public should know what they're able to do so we could have a debate about what limits there should be on it.

He then gave those documents to "The Guardian," through me as well as some to "The Washington Post," with the instruction that we should all exercise very careful journalistic assessments and make the choice about what should be published and what shouldn't be.

So if there's an article that ends up in "The Guardian" or "The Washington Post" or wherever, it really isn't fair to blame Ed Snowden for that. He's not the one who made the choice to publish it. It's the newspaper that published it. And the story that you referenced contained very little about Russia. The idea was the British government spied on its allies at an economic Sunday -- summit in London.

You can debate whether or not that's a legitimate article to publish, but that decision was made by "The Guardian's" editors and not by Mr. Snowden.

TAPPER: And, lastly, Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, was on CBS over the weekend. And he took issue with the suggestion by Snowden and others that these surveillance programs are illegal and that there have been abuses.

And he pointed out, he argued, as the administration has that Congress has oversight and they are brought in the loop the specific committees, but also when it comes to specific white papers members of Congress were invited to see them in 2009 and 2011, that there is a court, a FISA court, and that there are also inspectors general.

They would take issue with the idea that there are abuses and that these are illegal.

Your response?

GREENWALD: Yes, it's totally false. Just go and look at what Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have been saying. They're Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee. They've been desperately trying to get the public to be aware of the fact that there were serious abuses going on in this program, given the Obama administration's secret (INAUDIBLE) as they called it. And they were constrained from doing anything about it, even talking about it in public.

So this oversight that they keep citing is important. It's symbolic. They -- even the senators who get alarmed by what they're seeing are barred by law from doing anything about it.

And as far as the FISA court is concerned, this is so crucial. The NSA does not need individual warrants to listen in on the communications or read the e-mails of American citizens when they're talking internationally to people overseas. They go once every six months to the FISA court. The FISA court rubber-stamps these vague guidelines that the ad -- that the NSA says they're using to make sure they're complying with the law.

And once that happens, the NSA can force telecoms and Internet companies to give them whatever they demand, under the guise that the FISA court has blessed their guidelines.

So this oversight that you're talking about does not involve looking over the shoulder of the NSA to see who they're spying on or making sure that they're not abusing their power. It's very symbolic and empty oversight that really ought not to give the assurances to anybody that these powers aren't being abused.

TAPPER: Glenn Greenwald of "The Guardian," thank you so much for your time.

GREENWALD: Thanks, Jake.

Snowden's disclosures are no doubt making for some awkward handshakes at the G8 meeting happening in Northern Ireland right now. President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have to stand there and act like all the other leaders don't know the U.S. and the U.K. spied during the G20 summit in 2009.

It happened in London when Gordon Brown was the prime minister. "The Guardian" reports the documents Snowden took show the Brits monitored delegates' phone calls and e-mails, as Glenn Greenwald and I were just discussing.

They also show how American spies targeted then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the summit by intercepting his calls. How on earth did President Obama explain that to Vladimir Putin, who may or may not right now be sporting a fat Super Bowl ring on his finger, as the two of them battled it out over Syria?

Their meeting wrapped up just a short time ago. Afterwards, Putin emerged and acknowledged that the U.S. and Russia do not see eye to eye on Syria, but says they have agreed to -- quote -- "push the parties to the negotiating table."

At the start of the summit in public at least everyone was all smiles, as President Obama talked up a new deal with the European Union.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Among the things we will discuss here are promoting new growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. And I'm pleased to join these leaders to announce the launch of negotiations on a new trade agreement that will help us do just that.


TAPPER: A new trade agreement. Hopefully, they won't be trading Internet cafes.

"The Guardian" reports that at the G20 summit in 2009, the Brits even set up fake Internet cafes to steal e-mail information from delegates.

Now, Internet cafe may sound to you as antiquated as malt shop, but back in 2009, they were what all the hip kids were doing. And, remember, a lot fewer places had Wi-Fi.

Coming up, he says all he did was put on a Guy Fawkes mask, post some videos, and then the FBI was at his door, but the feds are telling a different story. I will talk to the online activist who waged digital warfare on Steubenville's football team and is facing jail time for it.

And then a true crime story as gritty and twisted as the skin on a convenience store hot dog. We will tell you about an elaborate plot of stolen identities and exploited labor that allegedly all went down at a string of 7/Elevens.

Stick around for more of THE LEAD.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In the buried lead, stories we think are not getting enough attention, a drunk 16-year-old girl at a party raped by two high school football players. It was an outrageous case that shocked the entire country and forever tarnished the name of the town in which the heinous act occurred, Steubenville, Ohio, especially after images of the attack and about the attack went viral.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings, citizens of the world.

TAPPER (voice-over): Many of us first learned of the rape after this guy got involved, this masked man, threatening revenge on the whole team of high school football players, wearing that Guy Fawkes mask, the international symbol of the hacker group Anonymous.

His wrath was centered on not only those two young men, who were sentenced to juvenile detention after being convicted of rape in March, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond, both of whom may soon be moved to a residential rehabilitation center with a program for sex offenders.

No, Anonymous was also focused on the other players and students who allegedly documented the assault, who laughed about it and did nothing to stop it. Hackers compromised the team's fan Web site. Anonymous demanded the players apologize to the victim and if they did not, their personal information would be shared with the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These docs will be released unless all accused parties come forward --

TAPPER: When they didn't come forward, the masked man published this video.

That clip of another student at another party laughing about the attack went viral.

Ultimately, 2,000 people ended up rallying on the steps of the Steubenville courthouse demanding justice in what became not just an outpouring of support for the victim but opposition to cultural problem of rape. The man behind the mask we now know is Deric Lostutter, formally known online by the handle KYAnonymous. The 26- year-old cyber security consultant and aspiring rapper who goes under the name "Shadow".

Lostutter outed himself to the Web site Gawker after his Kentucky home was raided by the FBI, which was searching for evidence that he had hacked into the team's booster page. Lostutter said he had nothing to do with the hackings, said he only posted the videos. Lostutter says he's now facing three felony counts, including taking control of a secure computer and identity theft and some media outlets like Think Progress are outraged that if convicted of hacking, Lostutter could potentially face more jail time than the rapists.

Sentencing guidelines are a bit more complex than that headline would suggest, but this all feeds into this meme of injustice of a society that goes after the wrong people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relatives and phone numbers is being compiled as you watch --

TAPPER: But is it that simple? Not everyone thinks the Anonymous community acted heroically. False accusations have defamed innocent people, propelled wild and insane conspiracy theories. And in the view of some in law enforcement, complicated the investigation.


TAPPER: And Deric Lostutter joins me now.

Deric, thanks for joining us. Explain what happened when the FBI came to your door in April.

DERIC LOSTUTTER, ONLINE ACTIVIST: Sure. I was turkey hunting on April 15th and I had come back to the door and loaded up my computer to work and sat down and my dog jumps up on the door and I was expecting a T-shirt from that day. And whenever I opened up the door, I seen what appeared to be a FedEx truck in the driveway and out jumped 12 SWAT team agents fully loaded with assault rifles pointed at my face telling me to get down.

And they basically cleared my house, brought my brother's girl friend down and cuffed us all over three hours and interrogated us. We weren't read our rights to remain silent, we weren't Mirandized, they did not formally have us aware of our rights to a lawyer, they did not provide names and badge numbers as I multiply requested multiple times. None of those were given to me. So, it took me over a month to even track down my belongings.

They went through the accounts of my brother and his girl friend, who have no prior criminal history, nor do I. And they basically violated our Fourth Amendment, illegal search and seizure, and my lawyer has encouraged me to go and tell the world this story.

TAPPER : And the bottom line is they are accusing you or investigating you for hacking into the account of this booster of the football team, whose account was hacked. But you're saying you had nothing to do with it.

LOSTUTTER: Correct. The man who done it has came out in "The Herald" paper there in the Ohio Valley, as well as on his own Twitter account, publicly admitting --

TAPPER: You're talking about Batcat. That's his handle.

LOSTUTTER: Yes, JustBatcat on Twitter. TAPPER: But Batcat claims you approached him and asked him to break into the account. You're saying that's not true?

LOSTUTTER: I'm saying that's not true. People claim a lot of things online.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the case in the larger way. The two now convicted rapists were arrested within a week of the attack in August but you did not get involved in the case until December. What were you trying to achieve with your activism?

LOSTUTTER: Basically my specialty within Anonymous was what I referred to was weaponizing the media, which is getting people like you broadcast what needed to be heard to the masses in a more effective way than Twitter or social media. There was a lot of grassroots media movement going and it was picking up speed but it was also being squashed by basic, either the media ignoring or just not give them a shot.

So, I opted to build relationships with reporters and get the word out, that way higher authorities would get involved because I had heard chief McCafferty, the police chief there in Steubenville, is Trent Mays' cousin and handled the evidence and that would be a huge conflict of interest and would allow for potential cover-ups to take place.

So I felt it necessary in order to weaponize the media that this girl would get justice. She's thanked us many times, family friends stop by at rally, she's texted people who had screen-shouted text and send it to us. And our prayers go out to her, and we're just standing here with her at this point, just waiting for the grand jury to get done with what they're doing.

TAPPER: Very quickly, Deric, there is beauty in activism, but, of course, there can also be vigilante justice, especially if it's Anonymous. Obviously, the victim of the rape is our primary concern, and as you say, our hearts go out to her. But there are people in Steubenville who saw their reputations horribly and unfairly attacked by Internet activists.

Do you think that you played any role in any of that? Do you see that was also unfair?

LOSTUTTER: The thing about the Internet is it's an uncontrollable machine. However, with people going online to local leaks and things like, that was not run by me. It was a third-party site where people would submit stories to these other Web sites and things, and those would be put up for speculation. So, I have no control of that and I disagree with a lot of what is on local leaks but like I said, it's user submitted and the Internet is uncontrollable.

We were there for the Occupy Movement and we were there for Jane Doe, and we'll continue to be there until we're stopped. And I don't think we will be.

TAPPER: All right. Deric, we hope that you'll continue to be here on the show. We'll have you back to talk about the case as it proceeds. Thank you so much.

LOSTUTTER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: dozens of shootings in a matter of days in a major American city. And while you might call it shocking, some see it as progress.

And just when you thought soap operas had only one life to live, how the Internet may be the guiding light that rescues grandma's favorite pastime.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now, it's time for our national lead. Dozens of shootings and seven killed in one weekend. Baghdad? Nope. Kabul? Nope.

Chicago. The spree of violence started on Friday afternoon and went on through Father's Day, the youngest victim just 16 years old. Police say he collapsed a few feet from his home after being shot while trying to escape a gunman on a bike.

In total, there were 26 shooting incidents, but police won't say exactly how many people were hurt. As bad as it all sounds, police say the murder rate is actually down 33 percent compared to the same time last year.

It's a scheme so devious, it hard to believe it was cooked up at the same place you go to again your Slurpees. Nine owners and managers of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island and Virginia faced federal charges for allegedly hiring undocumented immigrants and using stolen identities to pull it off. The feds say they hired about 50 immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines, stole a portion of their pay and forced the workers to live with them and pay their rent in cash. The 7-Eleven spokesman said the company is cooperating with the investigation.

In politics, the president is in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit. With poll numbers like his latest, that's actually not a bad place for him to get a pint, or ten (ph).

Let's check in our political panel, in the green room.

Kevin Madden, you're a good Republican but you're also a good Irishman. Any recommendation of local beers for the president?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I know it's really easy for everybody to say Guinness. But there's a really good beer there called Smithwick's. Now, it's served in very good like 24 ounce cans. So, be very careful.

TAPPER: OK. Well, the Secret Service will be on that.

That and more and our politics lead. Stay with us.