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Violence in Egypt; Chris Christie's Decision on Medical Marijuana; NSA Audit Contradicts Obamas

Aired August 16, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Decision time for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and medical marijuana for sick children.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. Breaking news: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives a conditional veto to a bill on sick children and medical marijuana. We will talk to the father who confronted Christie publicly and begged for him to sign off for his daughter's sake. What does he think of this conditional veto?

The world lead, death returns to Cairo. Two days after government forces slaughtered hundreds of them, supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsy are back in the streets in a mass show of defiance.

And the national lead, new revelations about the National Security Agency spying on you. The spy agency broke privacy rules protecting Americans thousands of times. What about all those assurances President Obama gave us just a week ago? Was he being, shall we say, selective with the truth?

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

Breaking news in our national lead. Just moments ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave what is called a conditional veto to a medical marijuana program for sick children that could be seen as a good thing for supporters of the bill, at least as far as the governor sees it. He says he is sending the bill back and asking for two changes and then he says he will sign it.

One change, instead of edible forms of marijuana available for everyone, he wants it available only for minors. And, two, though adults using medical marijuana only need to sign off from one physician registered with the state for the program, he wants children to receive approval from both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist in order to be able to get medical marijuana, and only one of them needs to be registered with the state.

All this comes just two days after a father named Brian Wilson publicly confronted and asked him, nay begged him to sign the bill on behalf of Wilson's ailing 2-year-old daughter, Vivian.

BRIAN WILSON, FATHER: I'm just wondering if I can have a half-a- minute, because we have been trying to get in touch with you. We can't get through to you. I was wondering what the hold-up is. It's been like two months now.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Sir, because these are complicated issues.

WILSON: We have had this discussion.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I know you think it's simple. And it's not. It's simple for you. It's not simple for me.

WILSON: We have had our experts reach to you. Have you heard from our doctors?

CHRISTIE: I have read everything that has been put in front of me and I will have a decision by Friday. I wish for the best for you, your daughter and your family. And I'm going to do what I think is best for the people of the state.


BRIAN WILSON, FATHER: Do you think it's best for the governor to come in between the doctors and their patients? Is this a nanny state?


CHRISTIE: Sir, I'm making -- I'm elected to make these decisions. I will make the decisions and I will make it in time...


WILSON: Our elected representatives have spoken to us and told you that they wanted to. Please don't let my daughter die, Governor. Don't let my daughter die.


We spoke with that father, Brian Wilson, on THE LEAD yesterday. Now he joins us via Skype.

Brian, what's your reaction to the governor's decision? He wants to make these two changes and then he's willing to sign the bill. What do you think?

WILSON: It's not what we were expecting. We had a few ideas of what he would be doing. There was a general consensus on what he might do.

Everyone expected a conditional veto, but this is kind of even lower than the worst-case conditional veto that we thought. So while it is a small victory, he kind of put himself all over it and really just maintains the idea of making one of the worst medical marijuana programs in the country and one of the most unsafe medical marijuana programs in the country and really loves to insert the government in between the parents and the doctors and really get in the way of letting them make the best decisions for themselves.

So it's a small victory, but it's kind of ludicrous in a lot of ways.


TAPPER: Let's talk about what this means specifically for your daughter. You have already talked about obviously that you would want her to be taking some sort of oral form of medical marijuana. Limiting it to children as opposed to having it available for everyone, that would not affect her.

This would say one more person in addition to a registered pediatrician, which I imagine you have at least one of, having a psychiatrist as well, which is what the -- I think he said the local New Jersey association of the academy of pediatrics or something along those lines has recommended. Is that too onerous a task?

WILSON: Well, the pediatrician and the psychiatrist are ready or existing. So, initially, you have to have -- currently before this law came through, you had to have the pediatrician, you had to have a psychiatrist and you had to have a doctor on the medical marijuana registry, which is a whole different issue.

But you had to have one of them issue you a card. The quest for children was always finding anybody on the registry who would see a minor. Normally, it wasn't somebody who was even one of their doctors, it would be someone who could find. We had to call about 20 different doctors or 25 different doctors to find someone who would even entertain the idea of seeing a minor.

So in most cases this is not going to be the child's pediatrician. Then we had to talk to our pediatrician. Our initial pediatrician wanted nothing to do with it. We went back to our initial pediatrician, who was sympathetic. She signed up and said, I have talked to you guys.

But when I talked to the lobbyists for the pediatrician group in New Jersey, they have no idea why the psychiatrist is on here. The New Jersey Psychiatrist Association from what I was told by the same lobbyists wants nothing to do with this.

The psychiatrist is just a roadblock. There's no rhyme or reason to have a psychiatrist be part of this decision. You're talking about sick kids who aren't even mentally necessarily even capable of talking. Vivian can't even talk. She has the card. She already got a psychiatrist because somebody did us a favor and had a psychiatrist write this for us.

But the whole thing is just -- it's a roadblock. To keep that in is just telling patients -- parents who are suffering with these horrible diseases with children I'm going to make it more difficult for you to get this treatment for your child. The edibles are great. The other two -- the strain lift, that's wonderful. We're really happy about the lifting of the strain.

The edibles, we're happy for Vivian, but what about all the adults? Governor Christie is basically telling all the adults you have no other option but to smoke marijuana in order to make this -- in order to use it. You cannot have access -- it's not necessarily a safe thing to do. You know, let's have a safe program here.

TAPPER: OK. Brian Wilson, we thank you. Good luck with your daughter Vivian and we will check back in with you as the story develops. Thank you so much. And obviously our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and your daughter.

We want to quickly remind that CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta's high-profile documentary "Weed" re-airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. You do not want to miss it.

Turning now to the world lead. In English, it translates to day of anger or day of rage, a blunt and yet extremely accurate way of describing the events in Egypt today. Police firing tear gas at supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy. And in many instances, it's not just tear gas, but live ammunition; 17 people have been killed just today in clashes between protesters and police. And 40 others have been wounded according to state TV.

Thousands of Morsy protesters today amassing in the streets undaunted after Wednesday's show of force against them by Egypt's government. On that day alone, Egyptian security forces killed at least 580 people when they raided two camps filled with Morsy supporters. There was also this extraordinary scene at one of Cairo's bridges, protesters jumping and climbing off trying to make it to the street in order to escape gunfire.

The military overthrew Morsy and deposed his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, on July 3 and installed an interim government. Morsy was democratically elected, but then allowed Islamic hard-liners to hijack the 2011 revolution for their own means. If anything, life under Morsy was not better and quite possibly worse than under his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, who led with an iron hand for 30 years.

The Obama administration was no fan of Morsy and refuses to call his removal a coup, because that would mean it would have to cut off the $1.5 billion in aid the U.S. gives Egypt every year, $1.3 billion of which goes to the Egyptian military.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki joins me now.

Jen, thanks for being here. Thanks for being here. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: The U.S. has provided tens of billions in aid to the Egyptian military over the years, mostly in the form of assets, weapons and ammunition and the like.

I guess the big question right now, as the world watches, is for the Americans, are supplies that the U.S. has given Egypt now being used to kill civilians in the street?

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Jake, first let me say that what's happening on the ground in Egypt, what we have seen over the past couple of days is deplorable, is horrific. There are not enough adjectives to describe it. You have heard the president and the secretary describe it in that way as well. We're obviously looking very closely at our broad relationship with Egypt. You can't have business as usual when hundreds of civilians are being killed in the street. But we have a broad, enduring partnership and strategic relationship with Egypt that's been going on for decades.

So, that's why we're doing this review very carefully. We have taken some steps to cut off certain forms of aid, but we're continuing to review day by day.

TAPPER: But are American munitions that were given by the U.S. to Egypt, are they actually tools of slaughter? Do we know that one way or the other?

PSAKI: Well, Jake, obviously we're watching every event that is happening on the ground very closely. And regardless of where these tools are from, this is horrific what is happening to civilians on the ground.

And it certainly is not acceptable to the president, to the secretary of state, to anybody in the administration. And we are evaluating and reviewing the events that are happening on the ground and the steps being taken by the interim government every single day.

TAPPER: All right, I don't waste your time or our viewers', but I will respectfully note you're not answering that question.

I want to move on and play you something that former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who used in the building that you're in right now for the administration you work for, what P.J. Crowley told me yesterday about the president's reluctance to call this a coup.


P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: I think we missed an opportunity six weeks ago to call it a coup. The fact that we haven't undermines the credibility of the United States.


TAPPER: His basic argument is that if we had called it a coup and then held out the threat that we weren't going to give any aid or actually started to not give any aid and paved the way for the Egyptian military to get that aid back, we would have more influence. Do you think he has any point that he's making?

PSAKI: Well, obviously, Jake, these issues are being debated within the administration.

But the reason that we continue to provide aid to Egypt is about a broad, long-term relationship that has to do with our own national security, regional stability, and Egypt has played for decades a very important role on that front, and our own belief that in order to help the Egyptian people and the country get back to a long-term and sustainable democracy, that it's important to continue to be a partner.

So we look at all of those pieces as we're making these decisions. If these were easy decisions to make, we would have made them long ago. But our aid and our relationship is very important strategically to the United States.

TAPPER: And lastly, Jen, if could you give us any sort of update on the terror alert that was issued. My understanding is that almost all, if not all, of the U.S. embassies across the Muslim world have reopened. Does that mean that the alert is done and we are no longer fearful of this specific attack?

PSAKI: Well, we evaluate information that's coming in every day.

And I do appreciate your question, because there's been some confusion, especially in Egypt. We have had a travel warning in place there since July 3. We have updated it to ask American citizens to abide by the curfews that have been put in place. We still do not certainly support the state of emergency that's been put in place.

But, in other countries, we have reopened our facilities. They remain closed in Lahore, and we make decisions day by day. But our bottom line here is keeping American citizens safe, keeping visitors safe, keeping our personnel safe. And that's how we will continue to evaluate.

TAPPER: Is the terror alert over, though? Is it done?

PSAKI: We continue to evaluate threats day by day. I can't speak to it more than that, other than to say that we felt comfortable enough to open up the posts that we opened up. There are some that remain closed. And we look at information as it comes in every single day.

TAPPER: All right, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

PSAKI: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: The U.S. government is keeping an eye on you, but there are rules to what they can spy on, right? Right? Yes, but that doesn't mean the rules are always followed.

Plus, he's accused of cheating and lying, but is A-Rod a snitch, too? The other players he reportedly offered up to Major League Baseball. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In national news -- remember last Friday from President Obama held that news conference for making a four-point plan to make the NSA programs more transparent? He said something during the Q&A which had the benefit of being technically true for almost a whole week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you're not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people's phone calls or inappropriately reading people's e-mails. What you're hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused.


TAPPER: So, just focus on what President Obama was talking about there. He was talking about what we were hearing about these programs, what we were reading about the government abusing these programs and -- yes, it's true, we weren't reading that until of course last night when The Washington Post produced an internal audit and other top secret documents from that perpetual thorn in the side of U.S. intelligence, Edward Snowden. And contrary to what you just heard suggested last week, those documents show that the NSA broke privacy issues thousands of times a year.

Gellman writes, quote, "The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications," unquote. Gellman adds most of that was not intentional. Still, the infractions run across the spectrum from outright law-breaking to typos that wrongly led to phone and email intercepts on Americans and foreign targets in the U.S.

I want to bring in the man who broke the story, Barton Gellman, who is with The Washington Post and he revealed these abuses in the story last night. He's also a senior fellow with the Century Foundation.

Mr. Gellman, thanks for joining us.

Let's try to put this in some perspective. A lot of the defenders of the administration are saying 2,776 incidents over basically a one year period over 2011 and 2012. How much is that really when you look at everything the NSA does?

BARTON GELLMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look, it's a tiny percentage of the data they collect, search, store, et cetera. That's absolutely true. You could look at it another way. You could say this is a case where the absolute number matters a lot. You know, there are a billion passengers a year on airline flights. So, we only lose 1 percent of the luggage. So that's 10 million. You have to decide whether this really matters absolutely or whether you only care about sort of A for effort.

TAPPER: Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein who has been criticized a lot for not being enough of a watchdog when it comes for these programs. She released a statement just a short while ago on the report and let me read part of her statement. She says, quote, "The committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes." She says they've been briefed on these incidents.

Now, you were in touch with her office with the story. What's your take on what she says in this statement?

GELLMAN: Well, she had a couple of interesting things. The thing about no intentional abuse she said before. What was new was that she said her committee needs to take much more proactive and extensive efforts to find out things that the NSA is not reporting to her.

TAPPER: We just played what the president said last week about NSA abuses when it comes to these surveillance programs. He said there are checks in place to prevent these abuses. Do you think the president knew about this audit when he made those comments? How do his remarks line up with your reporting of these thousands of incidents of rules being broken?

GELLMAN: Well, he certainly knew what the figures were, whether he'd seen this particular audit or not. And his staff knew that I was getting close to doing the story. I think I'd call attention to two other words than you did in his statement, which is inappropriately reading people's e-mails and also abuse.

He defines abuse apparently quite narrowly, which is, you know, someone stalking their ex-wife, someone, you know, looking for a movie star. If the employees of the NSA is trying to do his/her job, makes mistakes or cuts some corners or does the other things that led to these things, that's not abuse as they see it.

TAPPER: It's remarkable also just because there are people who are covering these stories, you, me, Glenn Greenwald, Spencer Ackerman, a million others, and he's obviously parsing these words, he's obviously choosing his words very carefully.

GELLMAN: That's for sure true. Look, here's another way you know the numbers. They do report the aggregate numbers to Congress twice a year. And when you try to get these reports under Freedom of Information, they have a headline statistical involving complains incidents and everything else below that is blacked out and then there is a characterization there were a small number of incidents.

So, they're not prepared to let us decide by reading ourselves what's small and what's not.

TAPPER: Lastly, Barton, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall just released a statement that said, quote, "We believe Americans should know that this confirmation," the story that you wrote and the administration confirming it, "is just the tip of a larger iceberg."

So, bottom line, Barton, with everything you've seen, do you think there's any sort of cover-up of any specific abuses of the surveillance program being carried by the NSA?

GELLMAN: I have no reason to think there are abuses in this "stalking your ex" category that I was talking about before, but who knows? So, cover-up maybe not the right word but obfuscate is certainly the right word. I just talked about the statistics. They have done everything they can to avoid any particular granular information about what they do from coming into a public debate that the president said he welcomed. TAPPER: Bart Gellman, thank you so much. Keep up the fantastic work.

GELLMAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: nothing spices up a ball game like a full on tantrum. But could a major change in the rules of Major League Baseball mean an end to one of the most entertaining parts of game?

And later, a princess arrested in Oregon for being involved in an alleged cockfighting ring. That's our buried lead and it's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In the sports lead, it looks like Alex Rodriguez did not learn the two greatest things in life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.


TAPPER: How very true.

"60 Minutes" reports that A-Rod's inner circle leaked other players names in the most recent drug scandal pounding Major League Baseball, including former MVP Ryan Braun and one of A-Rod's current teammates, catcher Francisco Cervelli. Rodriguez was among 13 players suspended following an investigation into the biogenesis clinic. He is the only one who appealed the ruling.

Major League Baseball has existed since mid-19th century. Next year, we can welcome it to the 21st century. MLB announced it will dramatically expand the use of instant replay in 2014 to pretty much every play outside of the sacred strike zone. On other plays, managers will be able to challenge controversial calls. It's a system that threatens to deny us of one of the most entertaining parts of America's favorite pastime, a manager's nose to nose, dirt kicking, profanity spitting volley with an ump.

Somewhere, Billy Martin and Earl Weaver are weeping into their beers.

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

Ryan Lizza, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says the party isn't fighting. They're just having a family discussion. Where is the line in the Lizza household between debate and all-out civil war? Does Dillon give you the old "what for" sometimes?]

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Usually when inanimate objects are being thrown, I think that's when we've moved off debate into something else. What about in the Tapper household? TAPPER: Have you ever heard this trade "Stupid, daddy." Does that ring a bell at all?

LIZZA: Yes, he's 6 now. So, it's getting stupid is like, if I can keep it to stupid, that's good.

TAPPER: All right. Stay with us for the politics lead. We'll be right back.