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President Obama And NSA Deny Whistleblowers' Allegations; House Speaker Boehner Backpedaling On Immigration; Searching For Hoffa At What Cost?; The Lead Read: "The Silver Star"; No "Platinum" Shortcuts For Jay-Z

Aired June 18, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So everybody's e-mails are being collected even if they're not necessarily being read.

BINNEY: Well, Director Mueller of the FBI sad in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the 30th, he said I've gotten together the DOD where we've put together the database with one query I can get all past and future e-mails from a person. That was in a response to how would you prevent a future forth hood. That's one of his answers. Well, that says he's looking at U.S. citizen e-mail, past and future, as they come in.

TAPPER: Thomas?

THOMAS DRAKE, NSA WHISTLEBLOWER: That goes beyond just metadata.

TAPPER: Metadata.

DRAKE: A released index (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Metadata is just translated. This phone call was placed from this phone number to this phoenix number for this period of time, but you're saying it's more than that.

DRAKE: It's more than that because in a digital world, Metadata is really index of a concept and so, it is carried by the metadata. So, it's very easy to be able to go to the concept whenever you feel like it. And so although, you know, derive a lot from the metadata itself, it does beg the question, I mean there is a lot of disassembling going on for the president and the other that even include General Alexander. I mean, the metadata itself, when you're asking for Issa, for example, under that special court, which is being renewed every 90 days, to turn over 100 million plus phone records and then claim that you don't have the name associated with those numbers, it just stretches the bounds of credulity (ph).

TAPPER: You just don't think it's true. They are saying -- you think it is a lot more than that.

DRAKE: A lot more than that.

TAPPER: Let's go on what he heard from the president. He says the NSA is not listening to Americans' phone calls or reading your e- mails. I want to play this exchange from today with NSA head, General Alexander.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the technology exist at the NSA to flip a switch by some analyst to listen to an American's phone calls or read their e-mails?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the technology does not exist for any individual or group of individuals at the NSA to flip a switch to listen to Americans' phone calls or read their e-mails.

ALEXANDER: That is correct.


TAPPER: Now, Snowden suggests that the technology is there. You can flip a switch; listen to the phone calls, read the e-mails. Who's right?

BINNEY: Well, Snowden was a systems administrator, so he had access to the whole system, databases and processes communications lines, so he was responsible to keep it up and running. So he could go in to anything, basically change anything in there. So, what he's really saying is I can take a target number and put it in a target list and at that point it would be tested to the system to collect.

TAPPER: So, it does exist. It's not as simple as flipping a switch but if you are an analyst who knows how to do it, it's basically as simple as flipping a switch.

BINNEY: Analyst have certain rights to be able to add targets in the list, but assistant administrator can look at the whole system and do anything with it basically.

TAPPER: So an analyst does have the ability to flip a switch, so to speak, and listen in.

DRAKE: The technology exists. I mean, this basic question, he is disassembling gap. Because even under what they claim would be the particularized warrant to go after an American who may be suspected of wrongdoing, then they have to flip a switch in order to gain access to the content. So to say the technology does not exist really begs to the question and do we trust his word for it. There has been a number of cases that have been made public including couple of analysts in Forth Gordon in Georgia where they're actually listening in on NGOs and American citizens overseas.

TAPPER: Because they say that's one of the other ways they disassemble as they talk about the parse between domestic and foreign. If you're an American abroad, you're considering foreign.

BINNEY: Actually no. If you're an American, you're still an American. Once they discover you are an American, they should stop collecting. DRAKE: It is independent of where you are. You are a U.S. person. U.S. person does not have to be within the confides of the geographic but U.S.

TAPPER: All right. Well, Bill Benny and Thomas Drake, we're going have you back to talk about this as this controversial continues.

Thank you so much and thank you for your courage in speaking up for what you think is right.

In politics, when it comes to immigration reform you might say John Boehner has a lot of skin in the game. Tan skin, yes, but it's in the game. So, would he be will willing to let an immigration bill come to the floor of the House without a majority of Republicans behind it? He seems to have changed his mind on that.

And later, a tip mob boss could lead to the last resting place of Jimmy Hoffa. Yes, we're doing that story again.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the LEAD.

Now, it is time for the politics lead. Immigration reform legislation is coming to a head, so it's worth noting right now its biggest potential hurdle, House Republicans. House speaker John Boehner has a tough job especially with this bill in the past sometimes to get legislation through the House; he's had to bring up bills that he knew would not get a majority of Republican support. He doesn't like to do it, he says, but sometimes he has to.

Last Monday, in an unaired unedited portion of an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, for "Good Morning, America," one that he was kind enough to share with us, Boehner even patted himself on the back a bit for allowing the bills to pass the House without a majority of the Republicans backing him up.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are some bills that have passed, whether the majority of Democrats have been in favor and the minority Republicans. And I've been criticized for it. And my job as speaker is to ensure all members on both sides have a fair shot of ideas.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, GOOD MORNING AMERICA: If that means putting on the floor a bill that will get more Democrats than Republicans, majority of Democrats --

BOEHNER: I don't believe that will be the case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're open to it.

BOEHNER: We'll let the Housework its will.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Queue the record scratch because today, the speaker said something that sounded a little different.


BOEHNER: Any immigration reform bill that going go into law ought to have a majority of both parties' support if we're really serious about making that happen.


TAPPER: And he said that he was very un-inclined to bring up a bill that would not have the majority of House Republicans. Boehner's office insists this is not a flip flop. He's merely taking a firmer stance on hid preference to have majority Republican support.

So, what's really going on here? Let's bring in our panel, CNN contributor and former green jobs adviser for the Obama administration, Van Jones, CNN contributor and Republican strategist, Ana Navarro, and national editor for the Cook Political report, Amy Walter.

So, Ana, is this a back flip by Boehner, a flip-flop, or is he just under a little bit of pressure from House Republicans?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think I would call it a zig zag.

TAPPER: A zig-zag, not a flip-flop.

NAVARRO: Not a flip flop. Listen. The process of packing legislation particularly such controversial legislation and beyond, from the environment, to the political environmental we are in today, which is much different than when Dennis Hastert was speaker. You know the Hastert rule was one thing. Today, there are no rules in Congress basically so it's a much more difficult environment. But I think it's a sausage-making process, and what we are seeing is sausage making. And what we are seeing in sausage making.

TAPPER: Yes. It is very pleasant. It is like watching sausage being made.

NAVARRO: You know, all of those that think that the immigration bill is dead, no, it's not. It's chugging along. It's a difficult process. It's going require compromise. And I think what John Boehner is saying is completely right. It ought to have Republican support. I agree with that. And think --

TAPPER: What that means though, it -- I mean, teachers ought to make a million dollar as year, that doesn't mean that -- I mean, that is not reality.

NAVARRO: That's right. There's a big difference between ought and must, isn't there?

TAPPER: Van, what's your take on this? VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I feel sorry for the guy because you have the Republican Party, I thinks, that is getting torn apart on this issue and he's got a foot on both sides of it.

First of all, you do have these Republicans for saying itself, are you asking me to commit suicide twice? If I vote for this -- I'm a red state Republican. If I vote for this bill, I'm going to get primaried (ph), and then if the bill passed, there's Republican are seeing as immigration, some of these new voters are going to vote against me. So, you have some people on Republican saying, I don't want to do this. At the same time there are 80 purple district Republicans who need this issue to go away, who need immigration to move forward, and for Republicans to do right on it. He's stuck in the middle. And so, you are going see him go zig and you said zig and zag and go back and forth a while. But ultimately, the math on this will win out. The majority of Americans want this and dealt with, and I don't think to hold House Republican Party can keep us back row.

TAPPER: Amy, you watch the House very closely. Boehner has brought up bills that he knew needed to become law in his view, even though he knew that majority of Republicans weren't going to vote for it such as some of the tax cut extensions and economic deals. Would he ultimately be willing to let this be voted on if the House majority were to vote against it?

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, let's look what he has coming up next. How many chips does he have left to go with a vote that is not to have a majority of Republicans? He's got to deal with the debt ceiling. He has got to deal with the budget. Those are issues that are much more significant, not really so much just for the party but potentially for the health of the country and the economy. So that's where you would put your effort.

The bottom line on this, though, I think, ultimately for Republicans is where is the incentive? Life is not very complicated. No matter what your job is, you have to have an incentive to get something done. For these House Republicans there's very little incentive to vote for something. To Van's point, they're going to get primaried (ph) if they seat in the Republican district. And almost all of them do. The average Republican district right now is 75 percent white. There are nine Republicans in the House who represent a majority/minority district. Even those who sit in heavy districts have a significant Latino population, they're also very Republican districts. You have to -- the speaker has to find a way to get those folks to vote against their most immediate incentive, which is getting re-elected.

NAVARRO: Fortunately, I think we have Republicans who look past their district boundaries and look at the national interest and hopefully there's enough of those. I'm an optimist.

TAPPER: We will see. Ana Navarro, Van Jones, Amy Walter, thank you so much. Coming up on the LEAD, a new tip from a mobster sends federal agents to a field in a new search for Jimmy Hoffa's body, again. Will it be another expensive and pointless exercise?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time now for a feature we like to call "Explain This To Me." All day today, FBI agents have been searching for the remains of former Teamster's boss, Jimmy Hoffa, in a field not far away from the Detroit restaurant where he was last seen publicly alive. Does this story sound familiar?

It's practically an annual event. Yet, again, the FBI is acting on a tip that deems credible. This latest one comes from alleged mob boss, Anthony Zureli. Not to make light of a missing person's case, but this has gone on so long it became a punch line for lazy comedians more than a decade ago.

How often that it happen that there is a search for Jimmy Hoffa's body and just how much does all this digging cost? Let's go now to CNN's Tom Foreman for some answers. Tom, explain this to me, do they have to do this every time a dying mobster gives a tip?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the short answer is yes. I only say that because apparently every time it happens, they do.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Like magician in a blue shirt and white socks, Jim Riddle Hoffa -- yes, his middle name was Riddle, stood outside a restaurant in Michigan on July 30th, 1975 and vanished without a trace. Now in a field not far away, investigators are following yet another lead, digging up yet another possible grave, yet again spending taxes trying to solve the riddle of where Jimmy Hoffa went.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my fondest hope that we can give that closure not just to the Hoffa family, but also to the community to not tear a scab off with every new lead and bring some collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you do for entertainment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here at work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is entertainment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven days as week I have more fun here working than anybody can have on golf course.

FOREMAN: That was labor boss Hoffa on the CBC in 1960. So how many searches has law enforcement conducted for him? They responded to at least 15 substantive leads. In Michigan, where most of the digging has been done, one tipster suggested his body was trotted off to a horse farm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's probable cause to believe that the body of James Hoffa might be buried here.

FOREMAN: Some accounts put Hoffa's final resting place in New Jersey in the concrete of the Giants Stadium. Other versions have him sunk in the swamps of Florida, cart off to California, even crushed in a car and shipped overseas. How much is all of this searching cost? Based on just one search as reported by "The Detroit News," it's not unusual to estimate that the police agencies including FBI have spent well over $3 million trying to find Jimmy Hoffa with no luck. So do they have to do this every time there is a tip?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Hoffa body is in that field. No doubt about it. There used to be a barn in the field. Buried under the barn under a cement slab and that's where our understanding where his body may be.

FOREMAN: Maybe so. After all, it's still an open case and his family still wants answers and Jimmy Hoffa is still hiding.


FOREMAN: It is worth noting that because of new DNA evidence and that sort of thing, they're processing murders that happened more than 30 years ago. Maybe something could happen, but this guy would be 100 years old if he were around today.

TAPPER: There are so many missing persons cases in the United States. I have to believe that part of this is that very excited prosecutors and sheriffs and local FBI agents feel like they're going to solve it. It's going to a feather in their cap.

FOREMAN: What a thing it would be. I found Jimmy Hoffa. It's great thing.

TAPPER: Nobody would admit it's motivated. Thank you, Tom Foreman.

Another big dig for what is widely accepted as the most terrible video game in history. I'm talking about E.T. for Atari 2600. That came out in 1982. It's atrocious, not because my 9-year-old brother actually beat me at the thing. Sometimes they're so bad they become awesome however.

And now there's a mission to literally bring E.T. back from the dead. The game was rushed to capitalize on the popular move back in the early 80s. Atari paid Steven Spielberg tens of millions of dollars to license the name. It was finished pretty quick just in time to spoil Christmas morning for millions.

It was such a monumental commercial flop that Atari was reportedly left with somewhere around 3 million unused E.T. cartridges and rumor has it that Atari buried them in a New Mexico landfill. Now a Canadian company has purchased rights to dig up the landfill and film their quest for E.T. What a tremendously constructive use of time.

Coming up, sunscreen, check, beach towels check, hot car full of screaming children and a sick dog, double check, but if you're still looking for this summer's must read beach book to complete your vacation checklist, look no further than our lead read. I'll get the low down from bestselling author, Janet Walsh on her latest page turner.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for our "Pop Culture Lead." It's something actually that we call "The Lead Read" where we bring new books to take along on your summer vacation. Millions of people already know the moving pros of Jeanette Walls from her 2005 memoire, "The Glass Castle," which detailed her tumultuous childhood of squall lore and fantasy and a dysfunctional family.

The book became a huge success, selling more than 2 million companies. Jennifer Lawrence is in talks to star in the movie version. "The Glass Castle" continues to have an enviable run and seven years after its release, the memoir is still a "New York Times" bestseller. Currently number six on the paperback non-fiction list.

Now Jeanette Walls' latest book is not a memoir, it's a novel, "The Silver Star." It's about two sisters abandoned by their mother and fending for themselves in a small southern town during integration.

I spoke to Jeanette Walls earlier about her latest writing endeavor.


TAPPER: I can't help but think having read your memoir that being the main character in this novel and her sister was -- are versions of you and your siblings. Fair?

JEANNETTE WALLS, AUTHOR, "THE GLASS CASTLE": I'm fascinated by people who think sort of outside of the box, and Liz does. I come from a family of six. Four of them are very creative people, and I'm really riveted by people who make things up, and so, yes, there are a lot of parallels in being her sister and being my sibling, yes.

TAPPER: The mother says in the book at one point you have an ugly mouth, but it will take you far if you learn how to use it the right way, something like that.

WALLS: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: Is that something that your mother ever said to you?

WALLS: I am so impressed you picked up on that. My mother who for years was homeless -- I recently built her a home. I was going through it and it was a mess. I started yelling at her. Your place is a mess. I got a little harsh and afterward I got harsh. I apologized. She said don't ever apologize for who you are.

I said I've got an ugly mouth. She said your ugly mouth has gotten you far. For years I said I can't write fiction because I can't make things up. I still can't, but I steal things when I hear a good line. I steal it and put it in my book.

TAPPER: Before I let you go, I want to know how difficult was it to follow up "The Glass Castle," which was such a huge success. Is it tough over to write fiction than nonfiction? WALLS: A lot of people described as being freeing, write whatever you want. I find it a little intimidating. When you write nonfiction, you ask what really happened and with nonfiction it's what would happen. It's the difference of navigating on the road to navigating on the ocean.

With nonfiction you don't have to worry about it being real. The truth is there. You've got to dig for it. And with fiction, it has to feel real and you have to make everything credible. So I found it very challenging and a have interesting process but in the end I believe the two are very similar in that you're still trying to get to the emotional truths.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Jeanette Walls for stopping by to discuss her book, "The Silver Star." It's good. You should check it out.

Sorry, Jay-Z, but if you want your upcoming album to go to platinum, you'll have to get there the old the hard way. We told yesterday that the rapper inked a deal with Samsung for the company to buy one million copies of his album "Magna Carta Holy Grail." Those copies will then be given away to customers when they purchase Android phones.

But even though Jay-Z has reached the millions albums sold milestone before the records released, apparently those sales will not count on the official Billboard chart. Jay-Z does not seem too caught up in the technicality. He tweeted today if one billion get sold and Billboard doesn't report it? Did it happen, platinum. Also he's married to Beyonce, so he's got that going for him.

The Oxford English Dictionary is finally on the cutting edge of 2006. It's added 2,000 new or revised words. It's also interesting in seeing what they consider real words after we've been using them for years. Among the new entries, an updated version of tweets, but now includes the 140-character variety not just the sound that birds make, along with geekery, flash mob, and, of course, dad dancing, a term that my kids will certainly never have to use.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Jim Acosta who's filling in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" that's right next door. Jim Acosta, please take it away.