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Edward Snowden Granted Asylum In Russia; The Smartphone Wars; Source: CIA Polygraphing Operatives; Oprah's Reign Returns

Aired August 1, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now, it's time for our world lead.

Well, Ed Snowden certainly had plenty of time to study his English, the Russian phrase book. It's going to come in handy now that he's been granted temporary political asylum by the Russian government. It will last for a year, we're told, and at the time, he can enjoy the sweet, sweet liberty allowed under the regime of President Vladimir Putin.

Snowden flew into Moscow from Hong Kong, 39 days ago. He got stuck at the airport after the U.S. government revoked his passport. Earlier today, the moment Snowden has been waiting for finally arrived. He left the airport and completely ghosted the reporters waiting outside. His lawyer tells "Reuters" that he gave Snowden his certificate of refugee status and shove him in a cab and he was gone.

Snowden lawyer would not say much more about where he was going, for obvious reasons. WikiLeaks revealed that a staffer and legal adviser was with Snowden the whole time he was in the airport and apparently, she is still with him.

Snowden released a statement through WikiLeaks which reads, quote, "Over the past eight weeks, we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law. But in the end, the law is winning. I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations."

Snowden's father who told me on Tuesday that he does not believe his son can get a fair trial in the U.S. is planning to fly to Moscow soon to see his son, according to his attorney. * according to his attorney. Lon Snowden also told Russian State TV, quote, "I am so thankful to the Russian nation and President Vladimir Putin." U.S. officials did ask the Russians to return Edward Snowden to the states. Attorney General Eric Holder even sent a letter promising the Russians that the U.S. would not torture Snowden or put him to death, a good way to sweeten the pot. The State Department says it did not get a heads up that Russia was granting asylum and the White House, to say the least, did not seem pleased.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and in private to have Mr. Snowden expelled to the United States to face the charges against him. Mr. Snowden is not a whistle blower. He is accused of leaking classified information and has been charged with three felony counts and he should be returned to the United States as soon as possible where he will be accorded full due process and protections.


TAPPER: Snowden left the airport just a day after the "Guardian" published its latest bombshell report on the NSA's spying programs using information Snowden stole while working as a contractor. I want to bring in Julia Ioffe, she is the senior editor of the "New Republic," and an expert on Russia and this entire story.

Tell us, first of all, you spoke with Snowden's Russian attorney. What's his deal? What's going to happen to him now?

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": So he says -- he hinted that Snowden's money has basically run out, that he's been living on in this hotel in the transit zone. Now he says his father and his American attorney are going to step in. They are going to help him out. He's also looking for work. Now he also says that he's not wanting for job offers. That they've just been pouring in.

TAPPER: From whom?

IOFFE: One job offer came interestingly from Russia's largest social network. It look as lot like Facebook, suspiciously like Facebook and it also has the added bonus of letting users -- giving users access to a whole trove of pirated music, TV shows and movies.

TAPPER: I think we heard about that web site during the whole Boston marathon bombings.

IOFFE: That's right, exactly.

TAPPER: That's fascinating. I guess, one of the big questions right now for Snowden is, is there going to be any attempt by the Russian government, if they haven't done this already, to get him to come to them and spill more information?

IOFFE: I have a feeling that's already happened. You have Snowden insisting this whole time that he has not talked to the Russian Secret Service. A couple days ago a deputy prime minister who is very close to Vladimir Putin came out and said "we didn't learn anything new."

TAPPER: We didn't learn anything new implying that they --

IOFEE: That they learned something. It just wasn't new.

TAPPER: This wasn't new. Interesting and he wasn't talking about the press reports. He was talking about talking to Snowden?

IOFFE: Yes, that's right. TAPPER: Put this in the context right now of U.S.-Russian relations. Obviously, at the beginning of the Obama administration, there was the big reset, the attempt for the Obama administration to have a better relationship with Russia. Does the fact that Russia just denied the request of the U.S. to hand Snowden over, does that indicate that things have seriously gone wrong?

IOFFE: It seems like things are in a deep freeze right now. Compare this to the spy swap that we had three summers ago in June or July 2010 when ten Russian sleeper agents were found by the FBI all over the U.S. There were a quiet swap arranged, the spies crossed the tarmac in Europe, the spies just crossed the tarmac, got into their separate planes, flew away and that was it.

Here we've had this like slow grinding. For over a month, the scandal playing out, people in the White House that I've talked are extremely angry at the Russians. They're increasingly throwing their hands up and saying, you know, what -- how can we even work with this people? What are they good for? The problem is that we need them a lot more than the Russians need us.

TAPPER: And there is talk of the U.S. possibly boycotting some sort of summit with the Russians. It's unclear whether it would be the G-20 in St. Petersburg or some other meeting. Do you think that that actually will happen or is the need too strong?

IOFFE: Well, so what's happening is that there's a G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg. Obama is definitely going to that because it's not like the other countries, the other, you know, 18 countries did anything wrong. Then he was supposed to take a side trip to Moscow to meet one-on-one with Vladimir Putin. What's amazing is today this was just a such a big slap in the face of the U.S., they gave Snowden asylum and the U.S. is still saying, well, we're thinking about it. We don't know.

TAPPER: Interesting. Julie Ioffe, thank you so much for coming.

Coming up next, "Wired" is calling it the first real Google phone. The internet giant has not always had the best of luck in the market. We'll ask the man who runs Google whether he finally has an iPhone killer in his hands. That's our "Money Lead."

And in "World News," four Americans dead and Republican lawmakers assure us that we are not even close to knowing the whole story. An exclusive CNN report on how the CIA is making sure mouths stay shut about Benghazi.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Money Lead." Another banner day for your portfolio on Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed above 1,700 points for the first time ever. The Dow gained 128 points. Positive news out of the manufacturing sector and hopes of a decent jobs report tomorrow factored in. And the smartphone wars continue, two years ago Google bought out Motorola for $12.5 billion. The company now is releasing a new phone with hopes of staking a bigger claim in the market. Our Christine Romans spoke to Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the move.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, more than half of Americans already own smartphones and they're pretty loyal to their brand. Apple and Samsung dominate the market, but Google hopes to change that with the Moto-X, assembled, not made, but assembled in the U.S. and at a $200 price point, it's hoping to change consumers' minds. That might be a tall order considering the iPhone is expected to have a cheaper version to hit the market later this fall.


ERIC SCHMIDT, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, GOOGLE: Consumers are smart now and they're sophisticated as to what they want. You have to show them everything that they currently have with their product and then something that's better that's worth switching.

ROMANS: Why is it better?

DENNIS WOODSIDE, CEO, MOTOROLA: Well, I think better for several reasons. First of all, when you think Google, Google invented the self-driving car. We think of this as the self driving phone. It actually responds to you when you speak to it. You don't have to touch the phone to get it to do things. That's a huge advantage if you're in the car and you want to make a phone call or you want to navigate, not having to actually touch the phone. It will make a call for you.

ROMANS: Is it always on? Is that going to be part of the feature here? This phone is always on.

WOODSIDE: It listens for my voice and my voice alone. When I give it a command, I'll say, OK, Google now. It fires up and I can then say, call my wife or navigate to full auto and it will actually do that.

ROMANS: Are you going to make money on this or is the first -- will it be a profitable device for you?


ROMANS: Well, that is a very short answer.

SCHMIDT: But it's true and it's succinct.

ROMANS: And this phone is going to be assembled in the United States. That's part of the story about this, but it won't be made in the United States. Explain to me the distinction.

WOODSIDE: So for any product to be made in the United States, every component has to be sourced from the U.S. Now we're sourcing for about 16 states, but mobile devices source from companies located all around the world, screens from Korea and chips from Taiwan so it's assembled in the United States, meaning that 70 percent of the products are actually put together in a manufacturing facility in Texas. That employs about 2,000 people. And one of the reasons we're doing that is the phone is completely customizable by the user. So this phone is actually made out of teak and you can --

SCHMIDT: By the way, that's real teak.

WOODSIDE: This is real teak. This is real wood. If you think about phones, people are looking to phones as a fashion statement. We've only been able to buy phones in black and white. We're giving consumer more choice and a lot of consumers in the U.S. would actually like to choose to buy a product that's made here.


TAPPER: Motorola has actually spent 20 years studying hands. Why? The company claims the research actually resulted in a more ergonomically pleasing phone than the iPhone.

Coming up, we still don't know all the details of the Benghazi terror attack that cost four Americans their lives, but dozens of people working for the CIA were also on the ground that night. What were they doing? We have an exclusive report.

And then for something completely different in our "Pop Culture Lead," eat your heart out, Martha Stewart. Oprah Winfrey is back in the spotlight generating Oscar buzz and banking some bucks. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now for more world news, yesterday CNN brought you an interview with Ahmed Abu Khattala described by officials in both the U.S. and Libya as the leader in Benghazi of the al Qaeda affiliated militia group, Ansaw Al Sharia. Officials describe him as a person of interest in the investigation into the attack last September on the U.S. compound there is that left four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, dead.

But Khattala told CNN's Arwa Damon that he had not been contacted by any Libyan or American officials. Today, House Oversight Chairman Darryl Issa issued the State Department two subpoenas for documents related to the Benghazi terror attacks. Now we bring you this exclusive new information about what's happening at the CIA in the wake of the attacks.

Sources now tell CNN dozens of CIA agents were on the ground that night and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever they were doing and whatever happened that night remains a secret. Here's investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agencies Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out. Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's working.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress. It's being described as pure intimidation with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employees who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, writes, "you don't jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well." Another says, "You have no idea the pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Agency employees typically are polygraph every three to four years never more than that.

GRIFFIN: The rate of this kind of polygraphing is rare, according to former CIA operatives including Robert Baer, now a national security analyst for CNN.

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: If somebody is being polygraphed every month or every two month, it's called an issue polygraph and that means the polygraph division suspects something or they're looking for something or they're on a fishing expedition. It's absolutely not routine at all to be polygraphed monthly or bimonthly or whatever.

GRIFFIN: In a statement from CIA Public Affairs Director Dean Boyd, the agency asserted its being open with Congress. The CIA has worked closely with these oversight committees to provide them with an extraordinary amount of information related to the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, the statement reads.

"CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want and that the CIA enabled all officers involved in Benghazi the opportunity to meet with Congress. We are not aware of any CIA employee who has experienced retaliation including any none routine security procedures or who has been prevented from sharing a concern with Congress about the Benghazi incident.

Among the many secrets still yet to be told about the Benghazi mission is just how many Americans were there? The night Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed. CNN has now learned that number was 35 with as many seven wounded, some seriously. While it's still not known how many of them were CIA. A source tells CNN 21 Americans were working in the building known as the annex believed to be run by the agency.

The lack of information and pressure to silence CIA operatives is disturbing to Congressman Frank Wolf, whose district includes CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

(on camera): What do you think is going on here? Is this an elaborate attempt to push it under the rug?

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: I think there is a form a cover-up and I think there is an attempt to push it under the rug. I think the American people feel the same way. We should have the people who were on the scene, come in, testify under oath, do it publicly and lay it out. There really isn't national security issue involved with regard to that.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Wolf has repeatedly gone to the House floor asking for a select House committee be set up involving several intelligence committee investigators assigned to get to the bottom of the failures that took place in Benghazi. More than 150 fellow Republican congressmen have signed his request and justice this week eight Republicans including senators and members of Congress sent a letter to the new head of the FBI asking he brief Congress within 30 days.

But no Democrats have signed on. In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Wolf says he was contacted by people closely tied with CIA operatives and contractors who wanted to talk then suddenly he says there was silence.

WOLF: Initially, they were not afraid to come forward. They wanted the opportunity and they wanted it to be subpoenaed because if they're subpoenaed, you're force to come before Congress now that's all changed.


TAPPER: And, Drew Griffin joins us now. Drew, as you know, that's not all some lawmakers want to know about, what happened with the terrorist attack. There's this question of the weapons in Libya that where there and what happened to that.

GRIFFIN: Yes, the speculation on Capitol Hill has included that, Jake. The possibility that the U.S. agency's operating in Benghazi were actually secretly helping to move specifically service to air missiles out of Libya through Turkey and into the hands of Syrians rebels. We know two U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi. One was the State Department and the other was the CIA.

The State Department told us they were only helping the new Libyan government destroy weapons that were deemed damaged, aged or too unsafe to retain and that the State Department was not involved in any transfer of weapons to other countries. But the State Department, Jake, clearly told us they can't speak for any other agencies meaning the CIA and when you start talking about missions, the CIA just flatly would not go on record with us about that.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Drew Griffin, great work. Thank you so much.

If you have a tip for Drew and the CNN investigation team, go to

Coming up in our "Pop Culture Lead," stop giving away free cars and it turns out you lose some of your power. After a rocky couple of years, Oprah is back on the scene, why she is suddenly everywhere. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Pop Culture Lead." It turns out turning a profit is really one of Oprah Winfrey's favorite things. After years of trying to find its footing, her network Own is now celebrating its most successful quarter yet and it could come at a better time for the former queen of daytime TV as she once again tries to wheel the power of her brand on the big screen and on the political screen.


TAPPER (voice-over): She was once regarded as the midas of media, known by just one name, Oprah. For two decades, if Oprah touched your product, you could see gold. After she put Anna Karenina on her book club list in 2004, sales increased 5,421 percent. After she put Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet on her 2007 Oprah's favorites list, the company went from 175,000 web site hits a week to three million.

In 2008, two University of Maryland economists concluded that the endorsement of then Senator Barack Obama by Oprah whom they called a celebrity of nearly unparalleled popularity, well, they said that produced 1,015,559 additional votes for him.

OPRAH: I love this show. This show has been my life.

TAPPER: So when Oprah bid this tearful goodbye to her 42 million American talk show viewers two year later, it seemed likely that a good many would follow her and her favorite things to her new cable TV network.

OPRAH: Over this holiday break, my team and I would be brainstorming new ways that we can entertain you.

TAPPER: But it turned out OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, has attracted just a fraction of the ratings Oprah's daytime talk show, one-tenth. In fact, it wasn't until this week that OWN announced it is now, finally, cash flow positive.

MEETA AGRAWAL, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": When she went to Own and it didn't look exactly like the talk show that everybody knew and loved her for, there was a lot of disappointment there. I think what's been interesting is in the time since you've seen her slowly figure out what this network looks like and what her presence on the network looks like.

TAPPER: So now OWN can begin repaying the more than $500 million investment that the Discovery Channel made in the network. Oprah herself has said her team started before they were ready. She told CBS News she has learned from the experience.

OPRAH: If I knew then what I knew now, I would make different choices. I would say if I were writing a book about it, I could call the book "101 Mistakes."

TAPPER: But presumably the savvy businesswoman's network is now ready. One key to her success, bringing in someone with his own larger than life brand and built-in audience, Tyler Perry, the man behind "Madea," his driven the network's profits with two original shows, the highest rated on OWN.

And news of the new profitability comes at a time of renewed attention for Oprah. Tonight in Jersey City, she will host a 200- person fundraiser for Newark mayor and New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate, Cory Booker. While Oprah transformed back into her widely acclaimed role of "The Color Purple" for this ad, it's her highly anticipated performance in the "The Butler" this summer that has some people saying, O might stand for Oscar this year.

It's not that Oprah was ever gone, but those 101 mistakes are now in her review mirror and her mightiness is back,


TAPPER: That's it for us and THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I know turn you over into the able hands of Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." He's right next door. Mr. Blitzer, take it away.