Return to Transcripts main page
Mandela in Critical Condition; NSA Leaker Seek Asylum in Ecuador; George Zimmerman Trial to Begin
Aired June 23, 2013 - 15:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Breaking news out of South Africa now. South African officials are saying that former president nelson Mandela is in critical condition today.
Current president Jacob Zuma and several other officials have visited him in the hospital, President Zuma saying, quote, "Doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba" -- that's what many call him -- "is well looked after and is comfortable," end quote.
The South African civil rights activist has been hospitalized with a lung infection since June 8th. Again, Nelson Mandela, if you're just tuning in, in critical condition in a South Africa hospital. It was just days ago that one of his grandchildren said that he was in an improving condition and now this turn of events according to the current South African president Jacob Zuma that former president Nelson Mandela in critical condition. We'll keep you posted on his situation.
And other breaking news we are following, a very busy day. The man behind the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden is heading now for Ecuador, according to Wikileaks. The organization helped Snowden get to Hong Kong to Russia today. He landed in Moscow this morning. Ecuador's foreign ministry tweeted today that Snowden requested asylum there. Russian news agencies have been reporting that he could also make a stop in Cuba on the way possibly to Ecuador.
The U.S. said today that it is asking those countries not to let Snowden in. And a source tells us that the U.S. has revoked Snowden's passport. President Obama is being briefed on the situation at the White House.
So this is becoming quite a diplomatic nightmare for the U.S.. Both China and Russia seemingly don't - don't seem to comply to U.S. requests and are allowing him to move freely. Jill Dougherty is joining us right now. So Jill, what's the latest on what you're hearing as to when or if Snowden will be taking off from Russia?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation right now, Fred, is that he is at that airport and he's apparently in Moscow and he apparently is in a hotel. He, in effect, is in legal limbo because he did not have a visa to come in to Russia and now we understand, of course, that his passport, U.S. passport, was revoked. So there are many questions as to what exactly can happen now. Would the Russians allow him to go on to Ecuador? Would they follow and do what the United States wants them to do, which is to turn Snowden around and send him back to the United States?
That was a statement that was issued just about an hour ago by the State Department saying that that is the way according to U.S. law that somebody with a felony arrest warrant should be returned, especially if they don't have a passport, as we were saying, return to the United states. But no indication from the Russians exactly what they're going to do. So Fred, it is a complex situation and it would appear that already the Chinese now have him, you could almost say out of their hair because for the Chinese, Hong Kong and China, of course, one country but two different systems a little bit. And they were not that eager to get involved in this. It would appear either. So now the ball is in Russia's court and we have to see what will happen next.
WHITFIELD: So U.S. relations with China and Russia, no surprise, hasn't been great. And I just spoke with former CIA director James Woolsie not long ago and he was mentioning that this really is an affront to the U.S. but China and Russia wouldn't hesitate for a minute to do something like this. So what does this mean for the U.S. going forward as it tries to work things out with China or Russia?
DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, I think if you talk to the Chinese and to the Russians, they would take it differently. They would, of course, say no offense intended but, obviously, in the political sense of how this is turning out it really does look bad and I think politically here in the United States that's where it is really going to be bad for the relationships with both countries because you can already hear from Chuck Schumer talking about and (INAUDIBLE) both of them saying that essentially, you know, Russia and China are sticking it to the United States and they should not be allowing Snowden to move on.
So I think it's going to be very bad for the relationship. And it also raises, you know, ultimate questions. With Ecuador what happens with Ecuador. Relations with them. Very complex. And a cascading series of results coming from this.
WHITFIELD: Jill Dougherty in Washington, thanks so much. Keep us posted.
So again, right now, Edward Snowden in Moscow after flying from Hong Kong today. Passengers who say they were on Snowden's flight describe what it was like for them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I do not even know who is Edward Snowden. I saw that there was a black car near the aircraft. A car with a regular registration number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In the cabin all was quiet. Departure was not delayed. There was nothing unusual.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw two cars pulled up to the jet. Everything was fine. The border guards boarded the plane. No one was detained. Everything was fine. Then, three buses with passengers left the airport. Everything was fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Phil Black joining us now live from Moscow. So Phil, reports that Snowden just might spend the night there. What more do you know about his whereabouts? Is he still in the airport or did he find a back door?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT:: Yes, Fredericka, we believe he is still there. No one knows for sure. He has not seen leaving the place and diplomats from the Ecuador embassy here in Moscow have spent much of the day at the airport. Their vehicles clearly visible with the diplomatic number plates and so forth, even the ambassador's own car was there. We understand that he has been airside at the airport in the transit area dealing with Snowden directly himself. So yes. We understand that he's spending the night in the transit area of Moscow's (INAUDIBLE) Airport. With the hope of catching a connecting flight out of Moscow tomorrow. It's not likely to be a direct flight to Ecuador because there aren't any.
The speculation and again it is just speculation, we can't confirm it, it looks like he would probably take a flight to Havana, Cuba and then from there, one or more connecting flights that he hopes will eventually get him to Ecuador. Fredericka?
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Phil Black. Appreciate that.
So Washington likely pretty aggravated with Moscow and Hong Kong for enabling Snowden to escape from their clutches. White House correspondent Dan Lothian joining me now. So Dan, what options does the U.S. have?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the main option is that they hope that law enforcement and whatever country Snowden ends up in will immediately detain him and send him back here to the United States. They had hoped that would have been Hong Kong. There's hope that perhaps even Russia will jump in on this. But at this point, it's unclear. We know there are a lot of discussions taking place behind the scenes with U.S. officials and also officials in Hong Kong, as well.
But, you know, officials here at the White House are relatively tight lipped. We do know that the president has been getting briefed throughout the day, getting updates from his national security team. But there's sort of tricky diplomatic situation and you know, you've been talking about what's been happening with Russia and the role that Russia could potentially play in all of this. And Russia has had a quite frosty relationship with the United States. Officials here not talking about how this could potentially damage, further damage that relationship.
But Chuck Schumer, Senator Chuck Schumer, did talk quite a bit about on "State of the Union" this morning. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: What's infuriating is Prime Minister Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden's escape. The bottom line is very simple. Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it's Syria, Iran and now, of course, with Snowden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: And of course, you know, officials were not really thinking that Russia would be a major factor in all of this. They had expressed confidence that Hong Kong would have gone along with this treaty between the U.S. and the United States and extradite Snowden back to this country. But instead now we have this cat and mouse game, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: A cat and mouse in a big way. All right. Thanks so much, Dan Lothian. Appreciate that, from the White House.
All right. So many U.S. lawmakers have publicly condemned Edward Snowden's actions. Just yesterday House leader Nancy Pelosi was boo'd, in fact, when she made comments referring to Snowden as a criminal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: As far as Snowden, he did - went on to have a disagreement with you, he did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents. We don't know - I understand. I understand. I understand. But it did violate the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Pelosi was speaking at a Net Roots Nation conference in California. She said earlier that more transparency in government intelligence programs would be welcome.
All right. Word that admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden is on the move has been raising a whole lot of questions all day long. Like why was he able to leave Hong Kong? And will the U.S. indeed be able to intervene? More questions like that, the legal ins and outs coming your way.
And in Massachusetts, a man is found dead near the home of a NFL player. The latest on police searches at the home of NFL's Aaron Hernandez.
And fans rally behind Paula Deen. But another corporate partner is having second thoughts.
WHITFIELD: All right. Now to the latest of the case involving New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez. For the second time investigators searched his home near Boston. They're looking in to the death of Odden Lloyd, a friend of Hernandez. Lloyd's body was found less than a mile from Hernandez's house. Susan Candiotti is watching the investigation.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had plans for a quiet Saturday afternoon it didn't turn out that way. For the second time in a week, investigators this time almost twice as many as before descended on his home in several cars and spent four hours conducting a search.
A local lock smith was involved going in and out. So were at least two police dogs. Investigators wearing gloves carried equipment and cases. No outdoor sightings of the famous homeowner but his lawyer from a firm with offices from Boston to Hong Kong arrived two hours in to the search. For a flash, the football player appeared at his front door looking outside. Police are not calling Hernandez a suspect in the murder of Odden Lloyd, shot to death Monday. However, investigators are making the star football player a focus.
Lloyd's body found less than a mile from the Patriot tight end's home and on Saturday police continued to guard the scene. Lloyd's family describes Hernandez as a friend and says the two partied at nightclubs together. The girlfriends of both men are sisters. Surveillance video reportedly shows the men together on the street where Lloyd lives hours before Lloyd's body was found.
Authorities on Thursday also searched this Providence, Rhode Island, strip club in connection with the murder investigation. Police tell CNN detectives seized surveillance videos taken inside Club Desire that covered more than two days. It's unclear whether they're trying to document whether the victim and Hernandez may have been there or for another reason.
CANDIOTTI: And it is very quiet out here today at Aaron Hernandez's house but meantime back at the home where murder victim Oden Lloyd lives, his family tells me they cannot imagine why someone would want to kill him and who that might be. They have no comment on whether they think Aaron Hernandez might have some answers and so everyone remains on the wait to find out where this investigation will go.
WHITFIELD: Susan Candiotti, thanks so much.
All right. The Food Network has fired Paula Deen after 11 years but many of the celebrity chef's fans are upset over the decision. Deen has admitted and apologized for using the n-word and fans say she should be forgiven. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it right? No. I mean, she could have used another term. But hey, it was a mistake that she made.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She made a mistake and probably shouldn't have said that but she apologized and I think maybe we ought to take it for what it was worth. It sounds like it was sincere. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a learning lesson for her and it's a learning lesson for the people that do forgive. So I will forgive her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Deen and her brother are being sued for alleged sexual and racial harassment by a former manager at their restaurant. Our Nick Valencia joining me now. So, Nick, what more is being said and what about her many endorsements and sponsorships?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's going to be the key to all of this as the fallout continues. I spoke earlier to QVC, that's the popular home shopping network and they said they are going to reexamine the business relationship and meanwhile while all of that happens, Fred, there's still so many that are coming out in support of Paula Deen. They're saying that the media has blown this out of proportion. That Paula Deen is from an era where this word was on condoned and where his word was used and there's sort of being apologists for her but despite all of her supporters, you know, those that are going after even the food network, bashing them for a knee jerk reaction. There are others who are saying there's just absolutely no excuse for her use of that word.
Take a listen to an interview that we had on Friday night on CNN's "Anderson Cooper."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, ESSENCE: She's profiting off of southern culture today. So to say that she was born in a time when that was OK, I don't buy that. I feel like her fried chicken has come home to roost and she has to make a real effort and get uncomfortable to make a historic connection to where she's living and how she's living.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: So many people in the United States, has become a larger contextual issue about race in America and, Fred, they say that it's still a very real issue.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Nick Valencia. There's more to this. Paula Deen made a whole lot of money selling an old-school southern way of life. But one writer says she went overboard. More from him in our next hour of the "Newsroom."
All right. And the heavens deliver a rare treat to moongazers. Let's call it a super moon. That' what they're calling it. It happens when the moon is full and at the same time at its closest point to the earth in its orbit. A super full moon is 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than most full moons and that makes it the biggest, brightest moon of the year according to NASA. Moon gazers saw the super moon at 7:32 a.m. Eastern time. Today.
All right. Hong Kong turns away a U.S. extradition request and Edward Snowden now catches a plane to Russia. We'll look at the legal fallout from Snowden's flight. Plus, court watchers nationwide prepare for the murder trial of George Zimmerman. Opening statements get started tomorrow. We'll have a live preview from Florida, next.
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S DAD: It's difficult sitting there and seeing the killer of our child sit there with this fixed stare as if he did nothing.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think you're ready for the trial?
TRACY MARTIN: Mentally, I'm ready to get it over with. Physically, I really don't think I'm prepared.
WHITFIELD: We're one day away from opening statements in the high profile George Zimmerman murder trial. He is charged with second- degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. You just heard from the victim's dad.
The state and prosecution will lay out their case to the jury tomorrow. Our Martin Savage is in Sanford, Florida, where the trial will take place. What is the expectation tomorrow, the sequence of events?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the expectation's huge, certainly, by those following the story and following it very, very closely. But here's what we expect to happen tomorrow morning. First thing 9:00 is when everyone goes in to the courtroom and even though this trial officially began with jury selection, it is the opening statements that in the minds of many people signals the start of the real trial here. The first thing, though, people will be listening for, is there any other last-minute motions, this is the final moment before it all really begins where the defense or the prosecution could raise an issue to the judge and say, "Wait a minute, judge. Before we start, there's this."
Now assuming there isn't anything like that, then they will go in to the opening statements and then, of course, the state will go first and they'll make their presentation on why they believe it was George Zimmerman who profiled Trayvon Martin as he was walking through the neighborhood and then eventually confronted, shot and killed him. That's why he was charged with second degree murder.
The defense will go next and we're told that it's going to be Don West that makes the opening statement on the part of the defense. He's the co-counsel in this case in addition to Mark O'Mara. Dan West is a really smart guy and that's not demeaning anybody else in that court room but he's very cerebral. So you could probably expect that his opening statement, very thoughtful, very careful. No drama. No theatrics. It's going to be a straight forward presentation of why they say George Zimmerman acted in self defense, Fred? WHITFIELD: And have the attorney revealed anything to you prior to, you know, tomorrow about how they may direct their case to the jury made up of six women?
SAVIDGE: No. They haven't. I mean, you know, part of this is that, of course, they say they're pleased with the jury they have. Sexual orientation, whether it's male, female, that doesn't matter to them because they say they have an impartial jury. And that is what was critical. Both sides all they ask is that the jurors use - and they both used the same exact word. Common sense here when weighing the evidence and making a decision. The judge did, of course, warn all the jurors that, "Listen, you must only weigh based upon what you hear inside this courtroom, not from any other source." Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Martin Savidge, thanks so much. We'll be watching. You will be there at the start of proceedings tomorrow there in Sanford, Florida. Appreciate it.
All right. Something else of huge interest really globally. The Edward Snowden case, well, it was already a rather tangled legal web and today events made it even more complicated. The man behind the NSA leak stays one step ahead of the U.S.. We'll look at the next step potentially in the U.S. government's pursuit of him.
WHITFIELD: All right. Breaking news of South Africa now. South African officials are saying that former President Nelson Mandela is now in critical condition today. South African President Jacob Zuma says, "Doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are assuring that (INAUDIBLE) which is how many call him there is well looked after and is comfortable." Mandela has been hospitalized with a lung infection since June 8th.
And now to this other piece of breaking news, pretty sizable that we're following. The man accused of leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs has really been on the move. Edward Snowden has jumped from continent to continent in just a few weeks and today he made his way from Hong Kong to Moscow.
Tom Foreman joining us now. So Tom, this has been anything but easy. It's a rather complicated but he's making it look simple that he's gone from place to place like this.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right, Fredricka. It is anything but simple. Think about this. He's managed to make this latest run from Hong Kong up to Moscow here. While these enormous diplomatic and political powers of the United States have reached out to try to catch him. Part of this made a little bit possible for him, things like this - Wikileaks putting out a statement saying that he's an American whistle-blower who revealed a global surveillance regime and all that he's really looking for is safe haven in a democratic nation.
This is part of the PR campaign here, basically to say this is a hero the world should help protect him. While the U.S. government is saying he's not a hero. He is somebody who did something very wrong and he should be returned to face the music here. But beyond that, it's the simple physical equation here. AT last report, the last place we believe him to be is right here in the airport in Moscow. This is a great big airport that serves the whole area down here.
And we hear a lot of rumors about where he may be going. Possibly going through Cuba on to Ecuador, maybe directly to Ecuador or maybe Venezuela. There are a lot of different equations. It looks like the Cuba route but in fact a lot of things have looked differently on this story for a number of days now. So we don't know where he's going to wind up.
We do know this though. If you look at the entire world out there right now, pretty much everybody over in the western hemisphere, over here, excluding Cuba has an extradition deal with the United States. So if he lands anywhere over here, there is an interesting framework under which he could be returned to the United States to face the charges against him. That includes by the way Ecuador which is right down in here or Venezuela down here. That's not so much true when you move to other areas. Europe has such a deal with us. These are very general lines, I'm drawing here. India, Australia, some other places down here. But most of Africa does not have such a deal and notably neither does Russia or China. But here's the tricky part about all of that.
Even in the places where there's no deal, there are provisions where a country like Ecuador could refuse to fulfill the extradition treaty if they want to and they feel they have grounds to. They could do that. But the flip side is true, also. Even in nations that have no deal with the United States for extradition, they could hand him over if they wanted to and if they decided it is in their interest politically or they think that in terms of how they look to the world, this is the right move, he could be handed over.
That is why, Fred, even though it may look simple that he is traveling around right now, arguably, every hour of his day is filled with peril that he may be scooped up by the authorities and brought back here to face the music and there is a fair chance that no matter where he winds up that will be true for the rest of his life.
WHITFIELD: Yes. It would be the case for the rest of his life but for now, it seems like he has an incredible cadre of protections around him. We understand that the Wikileaks has provided escort by way of their legal counsel so that he's been able to go from point "a" to point "b." But you are right still unclear what could happen next.
All right. Tom Foreman appreciate it. Thanks so much.
All right. CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes is joining us now. So Tom, this is pretty extraordinary. The U.S. tried a few things. It didn't work in terms of trying to get the cooperation from Hong Kong. But at this juncture, how concerned or worried are national security personnel about what kind of information he may provide to, say, Russia while he is there waiting his next step? TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hi, Fred. I'm not sure that they're too worried about how many secrets he has with him or in his possession. Obviously, he can tell them a lot of information about how extensive the U.S. surveillance of other countries has become, including Russia, but I think right now it's a political football or he's a political football for all of the countries that we're talking about.
Now, not so sure that a back channel deal wasn't struck with China and Hong Kong to say, look, you know, they're not going to grant him asylum and at the same time they are not going to deport him back to the U.S. So they'll just let him move on and let China off the hook for not having to decide whether or not to grant him asylum and make him a permanent resident of China. So that may be going on what he's doing in Russia, what he is doing communicating with other countries.
You know, we just don't know all the background. What we do know is that with assistance of Wikileaks and apparently he is gathered some sponsorship from some fairly wealthy people and looks like he has resources at his disposal to try to use them legally to get him in to another country which he would believe will not turn him back over to the U.S.
WHITFIELD: Hmm. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is facing his own troubles but he has the protection while staying at the Ecuadorian Embassy there in London. We do understand he has a press conference tomorrow out of London. Perhaps off the balcony. We look forward to hearing from him.
But since we're hearing reportedly that Wikileaks provided some counsel, they have helped to afford Edward Snowden this kind of access to travel, ultimately, might Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also be facing some potential U.S. charges of say harboring a fugitive or assisting, you know, in harboring a fugitive?
FUENTES: I think he hasn't been charged. I'm sorry. In the earlier investigations of the Wikileaks case, he's not been charged and I think he is enough removed to not show that he's directly involved in it and it was done through subordinates. So I think he would have the same issue here, you would have a hard time proving that while he's in the custody of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London that he's able to orchestrate this personally.
So even though other people of Wikileaks are assisting Snowden, it would be difficult to say that Assange personally did it. Unless he makes that admission tomorrow during in his press conference. We don't know for sure what he's going to say at that time.
WHITFIELD: If you were working this case and still with the CIA, to what degree would you be trying to negotiate or talk with, say, Ecuador if Russia is off limits?
FUENTES: Actually, Fred, I was in the FBI.
WHITFIELD: Sorry. FBI. FUENTES: Dealt with many international extradition cases of trying to get subjects back to the United States for many years, as a matter of fact. In this situation, this becomes for the U.S. it is in the hands of the State Department. Even though the Department of Justice has filed the charges, the request for assistance for other countries would come from the U.S. State Department to the Foreign Ministries of the given host countries.
And so this rises to the level of a national policy issue that's beyond the individual law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the charges have been brought. The warrants have been filed but this is a matter for the State Department. The other issue with this is that since his passport has been revoked, if he attempts to be in another country, they have to grant him asylum or deport him. He's not traveling on legal U.S. documents anymore.
WHITFIELD: They may have given him perhaps some documents --
FUENTES: It is possible. They could have -- I'm not sure that -- well, we'll see if they think that's in their best interest. It's possible but, you know, there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes diplomatically and politically that we are just not going to see right away.
WHITFIELD: Yes. OK. Tom Fuentes formerly of the FBI, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
FUENTES: Thanks Fred.
WHITFIELD: I knew that.
All right. Insight on Edward Snowden from an intelligence point of view, as well. We'll be talking to -- a representative or former representative from that other agency, the CIA. We'll be exploring what kind of impact there is on intelligence for the U.S.
Plus, an incredible scene in Canada where a town of 10,000 is mostly empty now. Almost all have evacuated as floodwaters like these had their way.
WHITFIELD: In Canada, massive flooding has forced thousands to evacuate around Calgary and surrounding areas. Three flood victims were found in a river south of the city. Now the water is targeting even more communities. Paul Vercammen has been watching the floodwaters.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mayor of Calgary saying today with the sun out that we have turned a corner. You can see behind me that the floodwaters are receding. With some of these cars the water was up to the windows. Now sunny, clearer, off in the distance the Bow River. This is what caused the evacuation of some 75,000 people in Calgary including most if not all of the entire downtown. The power is still out here. And off on the horizon, the Calgary Stampede. The huge rodeo here that is beloved in the town. The mayor says that the show here will go on.
MAYOR NAHEED NENSHI, CALGARY, ALBERTA: Some people will be able to return to work on Monday. The downtown will look a little more normal by the middle of the week and 13 days from today I will be wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and riding a horse to lead off the Stampede Parade the greatest outdoor show on earth. And we are going to do it.
VERCAMMEN: The next concern where the Bow River turns in to South Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat. They say 10,000 of the 61,000 people in that town have been evacuated. That river expected to crest between 6:00 a.m. and noon on Monday.
Now back to you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Paul Vercammen there.
All right. Edward Snowden has become quite the legal diplomatic headache for the United States but it's the impact on the U.S. intelligence gathering that could have the most long-lasting influence. I'll talk with a former CIA operative Bob Baer about how Snowden's actions could affect his former agency.
WHITFIELD: All right. More on this breaks news of Edward Snowden. A man behind the NSA leaked now in Moscow after leaving Hong Kong and now possibly heading toward Ecuador. The South American government confirmed that Snowden has requested asylum there. This all happening after Snowden fled Hong Kong this morning. Outraging U.S. officials who were trying to have him extradited.
A source said the U.S. has now revoked Snowden's passport. So now that Snowden is on the run and aligned with powerful friends what are the chances the U.S. will be able to bring him to justice? Bob Baer a CNN contributor and former CIA operative joining me now from Irvine, California. So Bob, we know that among the charges, theft of classified government documents as well as espionage. But clearly, that did not stop Hong Kong from allowing him to leave to go to Moscow and now not likely the U.S. will have any cooperation with Russia. Right?
BOB BAER, FORMER CASE OFFICER FOR THE CIA: We're going to get -- it's very clear at this point that the Chinese were cooperative in moving him out of Hong Kong. They didn't intend to honor the extradition request and incidentally I understand the request was sent to Peking rather than Hong Kong which was the proper place to send it.
Because the Chinese government has control of this man not Hong Kong. It was the Chinese government who decided to send him to Moscow. It was the Russian president who agreed to take him, let him land there. So this is a high power stakes. You have to keep in mind the damage that this man has done to U.S. Intelligence, the national security. WHITFIELD: To what extent do you see that damage? Because I think there are a lot of people who still don't understand that or have a hard time understanding why so aggressively pursue him? What kind of damage are we talking about?
BAER: He tapped in to message traffic at the National Security Agency which shows in totality, our intercept ability to intercept, for instance the Chinese military communications, any number of systems in China and the rest of the world that would cross through his desk or at least there is the fear of that. Now the Chinese and maybe the Russians will know what we're listening in to and they will be able to correct their weaknesses. This is a catastrophe. There's no other description.
WHITFIELD: Do you worry that because reportedly he had told "The Guardian" he has other information that he wanted to reveal. He has not yet. But is it your concern or worry that he would reveal that to Russian authorities while he is spending time there?
BAER: Oh, absolutely. My understanding is he took a thumb drive, stuck it in to his computer and just downloaded and downloaded. Who knows what he has on there? I'm sure they are doing a forensic investigation right now. But you can count on it that this is major, major damage and in order to pay his way in Moscow as he did in China, he handed this stuff over. There's no other explanation and I think that's come out in Congress today. They're talking about it.
WHITFIELD: So he was a former contractor doing some contract work for the CIA and in your view now, do you believe that there have been some modifications within the CIA in terms of access that contractors would have just in the short amount of time that this short time -- time span, since his information was revealed in "The Guardian" newspaper and as well as "The Washington Post" to today? Do you think there have been some changes already put into place at the CIA that would limit access that contractors would have?
BAER: Oh, I think absolutely they're looking at it. But keep in mind it's 70 percent of the intelligence budget, about that goes to contractors. You know, getting contractors out of the government, out of the intelligence business will take years and years. They're so entrenched and they are just everywhere. They're writing their own contracts and takes a very, very long time.
WHITFIELD: All right. Bob Baer formally of the CIA, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. From Irvine, California.
All right. A lot of folks are mourning the loss of the big Hollywood star to a lot of his fans James Gandolfini and Tony Soprano were one in the same. The actor died last week in Italy and his family has revealed new information today about his final return home. That's coming up right after this.
ENRIQUE IGLESIAS, SINGER: Hi, I'm Enrique Iglesias. We can make an impact on people in need. Love, Hope, Strength is a rock n roll cancer organization.
(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): This is just the eligibility.
IGLESIAS: They're getting people to register for bone marrow transplant. It is extremely easy all it takes is one of these and one person and you just get a swab and that's it. So that's how simple it is and that is how you can save someone's life.
I think part of the mission on this tour was that we get different ages in our shows and different ethnic backgrounds and I thought a lot of people would sign up. I think it comes a point and you reach a certain age where you feel responsible.
You want us to get crazy?
You have a certain level of power and by power I mean you can communicate to your fans, especially now a days with twitter, with facebook, I feel like I can do something that's positive. It's a good thing.
WHITFIELD: The late actor James Gandolfini, his body may be back in the U.S. by tomorrow. A family friend released a statement saying the plan is to depart Rome tomorrow afternoon and then arrive in the U.S. Monday evening. The actor passed away in Italy last week.
His most popular role was that of mob boss Tony Soprano on the HBO series the same name "The Soprano's." Robert Thompson professor of television and popular culture joining me now from Syracuse because James Gandolfini really was more than that character but he did symbolize a lot. Professor, good to see you.
Yeah, I mean --
WHITFIELD: Yes go ahead.
ROBERT THOMPSON, PROF. OF TELEVISION & POPULAR CULTURE, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: I mean, it's true. He'd become -- I mean, the mob story had taken the place of the western as the great American epic. If not in the 1930s at least by the 1970s. And when "The Sopranos" came out, it takes that whole American epic and updates it in ways that were especially for television really exquisite.
WHITFIELD: But isn't it extraordinary? What is it about that character? Tony Soprano was despicable. I mean, he was -- you were engaged with the show. It was an incredible story being told all the time. But I mean, looking at the video right now, he was not a lovable, likable guy. He is not the guy you wanted to be but there was something about him.
Viewers were enamored by his character; viewers were enamored by the show "Soprano's." Is it kind of -- is it the new, you know, "Godfather" of today or is it something very different from the "Godfather" following?
THOMPSON: Yes, well, this whole anti-hero idea that I think that you are describing very aptly is really nothing new. What had happened was when Hollywood started with their code and then radio and then television for a good part of the 20th century there were these rules that when bad people were portrayed they had to, in fact, get their come uppance (ph).
They had to be punished. Which was completely artificial. If you look at most of the history of great story telling, the Greek myths, Achilles was a hero but he was a nasty guy who did some really bad things, Shakespeare. What about Macbeth and Richard III? The bible is full with hero's right up to King David. Who did some pretty despicable things? We had this like almost century of Hollywood and radio and television where all the bad guys were punished and all the good guys were good and I think Tony Soprano reminded us how compelling really bad guys can be.
WHITFIELD: Wow. Fascinating stuff. Well, many mourn the loss of James Gandolfini. And of course his body again making its way from Italy to the states. The family says that his body will be back in the states tomorrow evening and then funeral proceedings at such later on in the week. Thanks so much. Robert Thompson for joining us. Appreciate it from Syracuse.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. We'll get you up to speed on the dramatic movements involving admitted NSA leaguer Edward Snowden all that coming up next. A live report from Moscow just minutes away at the top of the hour.