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NFL Player Embroiled in Death Case; Paula Deen Apologizes; NSA Leaker Charges with Theft, Espionage; More Rain to Fuel Flooding in Calgary; Car Locks Hacked with Mystery Device

Aired June 21, 2013 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Paula Deen's PR disaster. The Food Network is dropping her after the TV chef admitted to using the N word. She publicly begged for forgiveness.

Plus, an NFL star under scrutiny after his friend was shot dead. This hour, the investigation and the unanswered questions about Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez.

And police don't know how thieves are doing it. There's a new mystery box that lets criminals unlock your car and steal everything.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I am Jake Tapper, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the unraveling of a beloved TV figure's career and image. Celebrity chef Paula Deen publicly apologized today for using a racial slur in the past, but her bosses at the Food Network announced they're dropping her anyway. The controversy exploded in recent days after Deen acknowledged using the N-word during a deposition in a lawsuit.

Earlier today, Deen promised she would release a video responding to the uproar, and, later, this video was published on YouTube.


PAULA DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I have done. I want to learn and grow from this inappropriate, hurtful language. It's totally, totally unacceptable.

I have made plenty of mistakes along the way. But I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners, I beg for your forgiveness. Please forgive me for the mistakes that I have made.


TAPPER: That video was later replaced by a new one. This time, Deen acknowledged the missed appearance on "The Today Show" this morning.


DEEN: The pain has been tremendous that I have caused to myself and to others, and so, I'm taking this opportunity now that I have pulled myself together and am able to speak to offer an apology to those that I have hurt.

I want people to understand that my family and I are not the kind of people that the press is wanting to say we are. I have spent the best of 24 years to help myself and others. Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me, but it's what in the heart -- what's in the heart, and my family and I try to live by that.

And I am here to say, I am so sorry. I was wrong, yes. I have worked hard and I have make mistakes, but that is no excuse.


TAPPER: Deen's apologies got odder, still, when she released a third video. This time, she targeted her comments to "Today Show" host Matt Lauer.


DEEN: I'm Paula Deen, and I'm here to issue an apology to Matt Lauer.

I was invited to do an interview with him this morning.

And, Matt, I am so sorry. I was physically in no shape to come in and talk with you. The last 48 hours have been very, very hard. And you know, I'm a strong woman, but, today, I wasn't. This morning, I was not. And, so, I do apologize.


TAPPER: Now let's get more on these videos.

CNN's Alina Machado talked to one of the people who videotaped Deen.

Alina, what did they say?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I spoke with the man who shot the second video. His name is Juda Engelmayer. And he's the senior vice president of a public relations firm in New York City. His firm does not represent Deen, but Engelmayer says he is his friend.

Engelmayer says Deen saw the first video, the one that is heavily edited, and thought it was overly produced. He told me she said -- quote -- "This is not who I am, this is not what I wanted to say, this is not what I'm about."

That's what Engelmayer says. Deen pulled him into a room and said she wanted to do this her way, so she used his camera and they shot the longer, unedited video, the second video we saw surface late this afternoon. Now, that's the video he says Deen wants out there as her official apology -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Alina, how does this friend of Paula Deen's say she's coping? MACHADO: Engelmayer says Deen is miserable. That's his words. He says she's very depressed and has been distraught since all of this came out -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alina Machado, thank you so much.

A pastor in Savannah, Georgia, who knows Paula Deen has publicly defender her. He's Gregory A. Tyson Sr. from the First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, and he joins us now on the phone.

Pastor Tyson, thanks for joining us. First, tell me about your relationship with Paula Deen. How well do you know her? How often do you see her?

PASTOR GREGORY A. TYSON SR. FIRST JERUSALEM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, I know her pretty well. I don't get a chance to see her that often, but I know her through our mutual friend, her employee, Hollis Johnson. That's how I met her years ago.

TAPPER: Now, obviously, this latest incident of the Food Network not renewing her contract, news that just came in the last couple hours, is because of her admission that she had used the N-word on occasion.

What is your thought about that?

TYSON: Actually, I'm just getting wind of that. I'm just getting home now, and I was loading some stuff into the garage and my neighbor just told me that. So, I wasn't really aware of the Food Network taking those type of actions towards her.

TAPPER: What do you think about her using the term the N-word?

TYSON: Who hasn't, Jake? The N-word...

TAPPER: I haven't. I mean...

TYSON: Excuse me?

TAPPER: I haven't. I have never used the N-word. I don't think it's necessarily something that everyone has said at any point.

TYSON: Well, the majority of people have said the word before.

But the point is, it's a matter of context that you meant it in. If it was a negative way, a slandering way, or try to degrade the opposite race or a person, because, obviously, within the same African-American culture, we use it.

It's been used against, towards each other. But when it's used in the way, a hate way, that changes the whole concept of using the word, when it's used towards the race as a hate mode. You understand what I'm saying?

TAPPER: Yes. No, I do, but here's my point, though. I mean, you have been defending her. And I'm wondering if you're at all personally offended and if you think that there's something else about Paula Deen that makes you like her and appreciate her far beyond that ugly word.

TYSON: Far beyond that ugly word, because she stated that she used the word, but it wasn't in a way, a hate, a negative way.

Just because you said the word, the N-word, doesn't make you a racist. I believe, to be a racist, it has to be some type of action shown towards the opposite race in a hate way or a negative way. To say that she's a racist because she admitted to verbally saying the word, the N-word, it doesn't make her a racist, does it? Do you feel that way?

TAPPER: Well, I didn't call her a racist. I certainly think it's a racist word, especially when used, as you say, by people who are trying to refer to African-Americans in a derogatory way. But my views on race and the N-word aren't really particularly germane right here.

I wonder what you think that your message should be to fans of Paula's who are right now wondering whether or not they want to support her. Obviously, there are a lot of people out there who are her fans. She's very successful, worth I believe $17 million. But this is the ugliest charge, or one of the ugliest charges that can be attached to a public official or a public figure's personality, reputation. What would your message...

TYSON: Right, and that's what it's meant to do. It's meant to -- this whole thing is meant to tear her down or bring her down. Somebody's angry at her.

And this is definitely an avenue that has been used throughout history to tag someone that everybody's going to jump on because it's a real sensitive subject and a topic. It's a chance to destroy her character, her name and everything that she stands for. But me personally, I can only tell you, personally, this woman can't be a racist, because someone that's a racist is not going to help the other race prosper, succeed or have success in any form or fashion. Why would someone that doesn't like the opposite race help them the way this woman does?

TAPPER: Well, tell us more about that, sir. When you refer to Paula Deen trying to help African-Americans, I know what you're talking about, but our viewers might not. What exactly are you talking about?

TYSON: I have seen this woman give to charitable organizations that are based on young black males.

I have seen people that deal with her give to young black males on her account. My personal friend, Hollis Johnson, was employed by Ms. Deen years ago, and we prayed together about him accepting the job, and he accepted it years ago.

Now, from where he's come from, from being attached and connected to this woman, it's phenomenal. This guy is majorly successful. And he has a limousine company and an executive limousine company that Ms. Deen gave hundreds of thousands -- thousands of dollars, over $100,000 to help finance this vision of my best friend, Hollis Johnson, to start his own company.

Would a racist do that? Would somebody that's racist help an African- American, black male not only pursue his dream, but fulfill his dreams of going into business for himself? That's the American dream for somebody to be an entrepreneur. Why would a racist do that? That doesn't make sense.

TAPPER: I hear you. I hear what you're saying, and that's why I wanted you to tell that story. Pastor Tyson, I want to thank...

TYSON: And I'm kind of passionate about it, because that doesn't happen. It doesn't make sense.

TAPPER: No, it's obviously an extraordinary story. I understand what you're saying and I agree with you.

We have to take a break right now, but I thank you for calling in and we thank you for sharing your stories, Pastor.

TYSON: Yes, sir. Any time.

TAPPER: All right.

Up next, an NFL player and a homicide investigation, why the spotlight on the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez is heating up.

And 100,000 people forced to flee catastrophic flooding in Western Canada. We will talk to one of them about a disaster that could get even worse.


TAPPER: Another public figure in hot water today. It's not clear how much trouble NFL player Aaron Hernandez may or may not be in after his friend was found dead less than a mile from his Massachusetts home. Wherever the investigation leads, the Patriots' tight end is under a red-hot spotlight right now.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is outside Hernandez's home -- Susan.


At least three search warrants have been executed so far, but no public filing of what evidence has been seized. Investigators have seven days to do it, but even then, it could be put under seal. The question everyone wants to know is, will that evidence lead to the arrest of New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez?


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): After staying away from home since Thursday morning, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez returned Friday afternoon, accompanied by his lawyer. He entered through his garage. A bit later, his lawyer left, avoiding reporters' questions.

(on camera): Mr. Fee, can you let us know what's going on, please?

(voice-over): Earlier in the day, two Massachusetts State Police investigators, one carrying paperwork, rang the doorbell and were invited inside. After a minute, they left, leaving as quickly as they came.

It hasn't been a good week for the player. On Friday, he lost an endorsement deal. CytoSport, maker of Muscle Milk, yanked its contract with Hernandez and issued this statement: "In light of the investigation involving Aaron Hernandez, CytoSport is terminating its endorsement contract with Mr. Hernandez effective immediately."

Monday night, police found the body of a friend of Hernandez, Odin Lloyd, shot dead. Lloyd's body was found less than a mile away from the football player's home. Tuesday, investigators searched Hernandez's home as part of the investigation.

On Thursday, Hernandez drove to Gillette Stadium as a news helicopter hovered overhead, tracking his white SUV. Hernandez hustled into the facility. Next, he stopped for gas, where he was bombarded with questions from reporters.

QUESTION: Can you tell us -- anything you want to say? What happened on Monday night? Can you just tell us what happened on Monday night?

CANDIOTTI: The family of Odin Lloyd also wants to know what happened Monday night. Police are not calling Hernandez a suspect in the murder, yet, Lloyd's family wants to know why police are searching Hernandez's home.

(on camera): What do you make of the questions that he is being asked and what would you like to know?

OLIVIA THIBOU, SISTER OF VICTIM: I would like to know why. He's a very great guy. What could he possibly have done to anger anybody to do that? And that's all I can really say.

CANDIOTTI: Do you think he might have had something to do with it?

THIBOU: I don't want to make a comment about that.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Olivia Thibou explained the relationship between Hernandez and the victim, saying her brother's girlfriend and Hernandez's fiancee are sisters. She confirms that on Friday, both men were at a nightclub together.

(on camera): As far as you know, ever have any angry words between them?

THIBOU: Not that I know of.


CANDIOTTI: The last time she saw her brother alive was Sunday afternoon, and several hours later, in the wee hours of Monday morning, police say he was gunned down. "The Boston Globe" reports that images of Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez were captured on a surveillance camera, and, it turns out, on the very same street where Lloyd lives -- Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you, Susan.

Many Americans may not be familiar with Aaron Hernandez, even if they're football fans, but CNN's Mary Snow joins us now with more on his career and questions about his past.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Jake, you know, he's used to getting attention on the field, but Aaron Hernandez's personal life is coming under scrutiny, and that includes a recent lawsuit.


SNOW (voice-over): Aaron Hernandez hasn't received this much attention off the field since the New England Patriots drafted him three years ago.

BOB RYAN, COLUMNIST, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": He was just another guy in that team, no better, no worse than all the rest of them, and no more interesting and no more outspoken and did not stick out in any way.

SNOW: A Pats fan growing up, Hernandez came out of the University of Florida a year early to enter the draft. At 23, playing as a tight end, he has a contract reportedly worth $40 million. By Thursday, the interest in him became so intense, his movements throughout the day were followed by Boston TV stations' helicopters.

Hernandez's time off the field is now under a microscope, and that includes a civil lawsuit stemming from an incident in February after a trip to a Miami strip club. A man who said he was with Hernandez that night claimed in court documents that Hernandez shot him after an argument, causing him to lose his right eye.

But according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and this police report, the victim wouldn't cooperate or name names and charges were never filed. There was also a shooting incident of two men in Gainesville, Florida, in 2007 while Hernandez was playing for the University of Florida. Gainesville police confirm Hernandez was questioned, but they say it was only briefly, and he was never charged with anything.

And sports columnist Bob Ryan says there were questions about Hernandez's college days and why Hernandez wasn't drafted earlier, given his talent.

RYAN: We knew about his problems at Florida, why he was drafted in the fourth round, instead of, perhaps, in the first or second round. There were questions about his -- quote, unquote -- "character."

SNOW: Questions surfaced about marijuana use. Hernandez addressed that after being drafted, saying -- quote -- "I had one single violation of the team's substance testing policy over the course of three years at the University of Florida." (END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Hernandez, as we have seen, has not said anything publicly. His attorney's office hasn't answered specific questions, only putting out a statement Wednesday, saying -- quote -- "It has been widely reported in the media that the state police have searched the home of our client, Aaron Hernandez, as part of an ongoing investigation. Out of respect for that process, neither we nor Aaron will have any comment about the substance of that investigation until it has come to a conclusion."

And, Jake, that was on Wednesday. We have not heard from the attorney's office since then -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Mary Snow. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, what killed actor James Gandolfini so suddenly? We will go to Rome next for the autopsy results and funeral details.

And one of the most hated FAA rules could be changing soon. You may not have to power down upon takeoff and landing.


TAPPER: Autopsy results are in for actor James Gandolfini, and new details are emerging about the dramatic events surrounding his sudden death in Rome.

CNN senior international correspondent Dan Rivers is there for us -- Dan.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, family and embassy officials have come here to the morgue where the body of James Gandolfini is lying to identify him. They're now going through the grim process of having to complete all the paperwork before the body can be released. The autopsy has now been carried out.

Family friend Michael Kobold described the process and what they found.

MICHAEL KOBOLD, FAMILY FRIEND: We received the results of the autopsy, which stated he died of a heart attack, of natural causes. The autopsy further states that nothing else was found in his system.

RIVERS: We have also had it confirmed it was James Gandolfini's son, Michael, just 13 years old, who alerted the authorities when he found his father slumped in a hotel room. They actually had to bash the door down. They administered CPR all the way to hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Now they are making arrangements for a funeral in New York Thursday, Friday, perhaps the latest Saturday. Meanwhile, the film festival that he was due to attend in Sicily is going ahead as a tribute to the 51-year-old actor -- Jake.


TAPPER: Thanks, Dan.

Up next, a major North American city underwater.




TAPPER: Houses are washing away. We will have a report on the flooding and talk to a woman who fled as the waters were rising.

And new moves to ease massive protests, but demonstrators say they have many reasons to stay on the streets.


TAPPER: Happening now: A victim of historic flooding shares her heartbreak. The water is rising, the rain keeps coming, and homes are being washed away.

Also, you may soon be able to keep your gadgets going during takeoff and landing -- details of a major rule change afoot.

Plus, a high-tech mystery. What is this device that unlocks your car for thieves?

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Jake Tapper, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: We have some breaking news in the NSA leaker investigation. Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is on the phone. Joe, what do you have for us?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Jake, this is confirmation of what a lot of legal consultants and advisers and so on have been saying for a while, and that is reporting by the "Washington Post" this evening that the accused, suspected leaker in the National Security Agency cases, Edward Snowden, has been charged in a sealed indictment in the Eastern District of Virginia with three charges. That would be theft, also conversion of government property as well as espionage.

Not a surprise. The fact is, we are told, as many have suspected and we reported as recently as 5 p.m. this evening, that those charges would be sealed in federal court, and the "Washington Post" now confirming that their sources are telling that. Our Justice Department sources have not confirmed that as of yet.

So, once again, Edward Snowden, according to the "Washington Post," charged with theft, conversion of government property and espionage in this long-running story involving the alleged leaking of materials from the National Security Agency -- Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks, Joe. Let's bring in CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's also on the phone.

Jeffrey, does espionage necessarily mean that you are working in collusion with another country?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (via phone): It doesn't. In fact, the definition of the crime of espionage is a lot -- is a lot broader than the conventional definition of, in the old days, spying for the Soviet Union. There have been leakers in the past, people who have given documents to the press, who have been charged with espionage just as Snowden did, but it's important to point out that espionage carries enormously high penalties. And if Snowden is found and convicted, and of course, neither has happened yet, he could be looking at decades in prison.

TAPPER: Are you surprised by these charges at all?

TOOBIN: No, no. It was a foregone conclusion that they were going to criminally charge him. What's interesting is they have not charged him with illegal disclosure of classified information. That is sort of the most obvious charge. But prosecutors have a lot of leeway, and of course, this is only the beginning of what is likely to be a very long legal process. Prosecutors could add charges. They could make different charges. So, this is, by no means, the Justice Department's last word on the subject.

And of course, just to state the obvious, Snowden has not been found and arrested. And if he's found in Hong Kong and arrested in Hong Kong, it is going to be a long and complex process to negotiate with the Chinese to get him back to the United States or get him back from wherever he is, because I don't think anyone knows for sure where he is at this point. Certainly, not -- it's not public where he is.

TAPPER: And of course, the latest development in the Snowden manhunt is that Nic Robertson, CNN's Nic Robertson reported that there is an associate of WikiLeaks who says he has a charter jet in Hong Kong ready to fly Snowden to Iceland, if Iceland's prime minister gives permission for that to happen without threat that Snowden would be extradited.

In terms of the legality of this all, Jeffrey, I know that Iceland does have an extradition treaty with the United States. Do you envision the prime minister ever promising he wouldn't honor that treaty, given the amount, the degree to which the United States government wants this man?

Reporter: Well, Jake, I don't want to overstate...

TAPPER: It sounds like we're losing Jeffrey Toobin on the phone there. All right, we'll come back to Jeffrey Toobin later today.

"The Guardian" newspaper is defending its decision to publish material from the NSA leaker. It's a response to concerns raised by Senator Claire McCaskill yesterday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I think "The Guardian" has an agenda. I respect the fact that "The Guardian" is putting this information out there and that it's been leaked. I get that's a role of journalism, but at the same time, there's been an awful lot of distortions around the facts of this information that's come to light and an awful lot of context that's been missing.


TAPPER: Here's what "The Guardian" is saying to us. Quote, "We were very disappointed to hear Senator McCaskill's comments about 'The Guardian' in her appearance on CNN yesterday. As an independent, global news organization, it is our responsibility to publish material that is in the public interest. We reported these stories to stimulate an open debate about the tension between security and privacy, a debate which is best held in public," unquote.

Coming up next, the days of turning off your cell phone before takeoff may end sooner than you think.

Plus, 100,000 people forced to flee catastrophic flooding in western Canada. We'll talk to one of them about a disaster that could get even worse.


TAPPER: In Canada, a grim forecast for Calgary. More rain is expected to fuel catastrophic flooding that's forced entire communities to flee. It's already on track to become the costliest disaster Alberta has ever seen. CNN's Paula Newton has the latest.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sheer speed and strength of the water took many by surprise, leaving them in awe of the destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy! There it is.

NEWTON: In Bragg Creek, Alberta, utter shock. Watch as an entire home is swept down river and under a bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, there goes a building! No idea. No idea where it came from. Somewhere up there.

NEWTON: And there was so much more devastation. Rivers swollen to levels not seen in a generation. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated, the community surrounded by water. Their homes ravaged first by torrential rain and flash flooding, and then those rising, raging rivers.

For a time, rescues were routine as hundreds of people saw the water around them rise several feet within just a few hours. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like everything, everything is destroyed there, our homes, like, everything.

NEWTON: Downtown Calgary, one of Canada's largest cities, was all but abandoned, leaving the waters to creep upwards as city officials anxiously watched key dams and bridges.

MAYOR NAHEED NENSHI, CALGARY, ALBERTA: I saw when I was out there a lot of things I've never seen before. I saw water levels that were incredibly high. I saw areas of the city that were deeply under water, things I've never seen before. Knock on wood. We haven't had any injury; we haven't had any loss of life.

NEWTON: Yet, there are many anxious hours ahead. Rain is in the forecast all weekend long. And even when the waters pressed, water levels could remain high for days to come.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


TAPPER: More than 100,000 people have been evacuated, as Paula Newton just reported. One of them joins us on the phone now, Nancy Ruiter.

Nancy, thanks for joining us. Where are you right now?

NANCY RUITER, EVACUATED DUE TO FLOODING (via phone): I'm sitting in a dry house up high on a hill in Calgary, Alberta.

So, explain to us what happened. The fire department showed up at your door to evacuate you? Did you expect that? What did they tell you?

RUITER: Yes, we actually got a call from a friend yesterday afternoon, saying that oh, my gosh, are you guys all right? Your -- I heard that your community was one of, you know, a whole bunch that were being evacuated. And we said, "Oh, my goodness, we've heard nothing. Nobody's come by." And we checked online and the radio. And then they said those communities that were affected by the flood in 2005, when we had the bad flooding, would need to be evacuated.

So, we were kind of not so worried, because we thought we were only two blocks from the smaller of the two rivers in Calgary, the Elbow River, and we didn't have any problem then. So, we thought, OK, this will be fine.

But then, all of a sudden, firemen were coming door to door. There were quite a few of them were going down our street, and they were going door to door handing out mandatory evacuation notices with the list of what to do and places to go and stay, if need be. And then we realized, oh, this is obviously a serious situation. And we heard the river was, I think three -- three to five times higher than it was in 2005.

TAPPER: Nancy, do you know if your house is OK? RUITER: No, our house is not OK. We knew that the river was probably going to crest at about 4 in the morning, so when we got up, we went down, and we walked down the hill towards our house, and it was just like a river through our house. And we just went down this afternoon, and the river has -- the water on our street has gone down. It isn't a river. It's not meant to be a river on our street.

But it -- we went into our house. We had to wade through knee-deep water, freezing-cold water to get to our house, and the basements of all of our -- of our whole community are totally flooded.

TAPPER: How many floors is your house?

RUITER: Well, all our houses here in Canada, we all have basements, and then two stories up above. So, it's basically a three-story house.

TAPPER: OK, and the basement -- so the basement or the first floor is ruined, but the upper two floors are OK?

RUITER: Yes. So, the floor below ground is, yes, just totally flooded. So, yes, but the rain seems to have stopped. It's been raining, raining, raining all day, and it seems to have stopped. There's still clouds around.

But the big problem is there's so much rain in the foothills in the mountains and that's what, you know, caused. And there's still a lot of snowmelt in the mountains, so the rivers were just raging higher.

And everybody's in absolute shock in the city. We have never, ever, ever seen anything like this anybody can ever remember, even older people, you know. It's just hard to imagine the whole city's been shut down for the whole day.

But as I understand it, Nancy, no -- no deaths or serious injuries have been reported. Is that right?

RUITER: No. It's, like, amazing. Yes, it's been absolutely horrific for what everybody's had to go through, but everybody has a smile on their face, thinking all their family and friends and everybody is OK.

So, the city's done an amazing job of evacuating, I think over 25 communities in the city, and warning people to stay away from the river. And people in Calgary know this time of year rivers are very dangerous, so I guess people have been listening, thank goodness.

TAPPER: Indeed. Thank goodness for that, and we're glad that you and your family are OK, and good luck with your -- with your house. Nancy Ruiter, thanks for joining us.

CALLER: Thank you.

Just ahead -- just ahead, more on the breaking news. NSA leaker Edward Snowden reportedly charged with espionage. Joining me next, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who Snowden leaked the information to, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Back to this breaking news. The "Washington Post" reports that U.S. authorities have charged the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, with espionage. "The Guardian" newspaper columnist who broke the leak story, Glenn Greenwald, joins us now on the phone. Also with us, CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who's in Hong Kong.

Glenn, I want to start with you. The charges are, according to the "Washington Post," espionage, theft and conversion of government property. You on Twitter are referring to this as overcharging. I suppose I should ask you what you think he should be charged with, if anything?

GLENN GREENWALD, COLUMNIST, "THE GUARDIAN" (via phone): I'm not sure he should be charged with anything at all. What he has done is an immense public service, an act of real Patriotism to inform his fellow citizens about things the government has been doing of great consequence in the dark and has triggered a debate that President Obama himself says that he welcomes.

And I think the key context here is that, in all of human history, all of American history before Barack Obama, a total of three whistleblowers -- three -- have been accused under espionage statutes, and since Barack Obama took office, this is now the seventh such case, more than double the number of all previous presidents combined. And I think that really illustrates how vindictive this president is, how much acrimony he has towards any kind of transparency, even though he ran on a platform of bringing more transparency than any other president in history.

TAPPER: Well, the government response would be -- and since the Obama administration would not give us someone to talk, I'll try to guess what they would say, which is that he was an official contractor and before that, a government employee, who knew the top-secret documents were not allowed to come to light, and this is not a surprise.

And in the view of the government, this has made it easier for America's foes, some of whom are terrorists and mean the U.S. harm, to evade our detection. How would you respond to that?

GREENWALD: When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, what he told the American people, in an effort to get them to vote for him, was that he considered whistleblowing to be among the most noble and Patriotic acts one can commit and that we need more protections, not persecution the way that the Bush administration was doing, he said.

This is -- there is zero evidence or any kind of information that has been disclosed as a result of Snowden's leaks, that it's remotely harmed national security. What this has done has opened the eyes of the American people. And people around the world to the fact that there is this massive spying apparatus being built.

And the duty of somebody in government when they see something going on that's wrong and secret is to come forward and blow the whistle. That's why Americans considered Daniel Ellsberg a hero, and it's exactly what Edward Snowden did here.

TAPPER: I want to get to Nic Robertson in a second. But Glenn, just because you bring up Daniel Ellsberg, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, and then he stayed in the United States. Edward Snowden, as far as we know, is in Hong Kong.

GREENWALD: Right. I was just on CNN several few nights ago with Daniel Ellsberg, and he was asked by Piers Morgan, "Do you think that it was wrong for Edward Snowden to leave the country and not stay?"

And Ellsberg said, "No, it's a completely different country. If you're a whistleblower, you are now guaranteed persecution. He's a 29-year-old. He knows that if he engages in whistleblowing, he will be threatened with life in prison."

So to demand that he stay in a country with a record of persecuting whistleblowers, as this country has, is unreasonable in the extreme. He want to be part of the global debate, not stuffed up into a cage somewhere. And he wants his freedom, because he believes he did nothing wrong and knows the United States won't provide that.

TAPPER: Nic Robertson in Hong Kong, you've spoken to an individual who is part of the WikiLeaks organization about his attempts to provide an escape for Edward Snowden from Hong Kong if he can get all his plans together. Tell us more about that.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this plan has several parts to it, we're told. We're not told the details of all of them or the specifics of any of them. But several different plans to get him out of Hong Kong and to get him to Iceland.

But they rely on the fact that Icelandic authorities would grant him asylum and citizenship if he was on their soil. And that wasn't been green-lighted at the moment.

But one of these plans would have been to fly Edward Snowden on a private business charter jet from Hong Kong at a cost of between 400 and 500,000 U.S. dollars to fly him all the way to Iceland. But this -- this is something that hasn't gotten off the ground yet.

Just picking up on what Glenn is talking about, the point of persecution, of course these charges now do set in motion a legal process here in Hong Kong. The chief executive must now look at those charges and decide whether or not to pass them to the court, to issue an arrest warrant. All the indications are that he probably would.

But the way that Edward Snowden can respond to these charges is -- is in one of the ways that Glenn just outlined. And that is persecution, political persecution; claim asylum, non-refoulement, non-return as it's known here, on the basis of persecution, or he could do it on the basis that, if he went back, he would be tortured, or on the basis that he would be subject to cruel and inhumane treatment if he went back to the United States. This political persecution, listening to Glenn, sounds like the avenue that Edward Snowden might be trying to pursue here.

TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson in Hong Kong and Glenn Greenwald on the phone. Thank you both so much for joining us at last minute.

Coming up, thieves caught on video with a mysterious box that unlocks cars. Police are baffled.


TAPPER: Here's a look at this hour's iReport "Hot Shots."

In New Zealand sheep graze a field near the mountains.

In Brazil, a toucan sings alongside a river. Near where a jaguar is on the prowl.

And in Colorado, well-wishers welcome back firefighters who battled forest fires.

"Hot Shots," picture coming in from our CNN iReporters around the world.

All of us with computerized car locks may be vulnerable right now. Criminals across the country have been spotted with a mystery box that lets them break into cars with ease. Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, police are stumped. They're getting reports across the country of crooks using a simple- looking device that can seemingly open up any vehicle.

(voice-over): Long Beach, California. A man walks up to the car and, using a small box, opens it. Right next to him, another man, also using a box, opens that car. The problem -- they're thieves. No keys. Now they've swiped all valuables from the cars.

In Chicago, exact same scenario. A man by the sedan unlocks it, no key. Alarm, disabled by some mystery device.

STEVEN DOI, THEFT VICTIM: You feel you've been outsmarted. I thought I had everything on lockdown.

LAH: The same thing happened to Steven Doi of Corona, California. His car's computer system was hacked, but the crook didn't get away clean. Doi's dash cam caught the suspect pacing, hold some mystery box.

DOI: I was like, whoa. You just see this guy just start walking right in front of the car. Sure enough in the video, you hear the door locks go "pop."

LAH: In just 18 seconds, the crook emptied out $3,000 worth of electronics.

(on camera): Same device, different cities?

MIKE BENDER, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: Same device, same premise.

LAH (voice-over): Mike Bender, ex-cop and auto theft expert, calls it the latest high-tech crime tool hitting New York to L.A.

BENDER: He's using the device in his left hand.

LAH: And like police across the country, he doesn't know exactly what it is.

BENDER: The ease that this is working and the frequency that we're seeing it reported throughout the U.S. means it's only become a greater problem.

LAH: Bender says your car is a rolling computer. What it takes to break in, not sledgehammers but hacking devices.

BENDER: If you can hack into the NSA, you can hack into G.M.

LAH (on camera): But federal agents may be closing in on exactly what these boxes are. Law-enforcement sources tell CNN they have one of these devices in Texas. They're now trying to figure out if this is the same device used in all of these car burglaries -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

Remember, you can follow us and follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. Tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom, or you can tweet me specifically, @JakeTapper, all one word.

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