Return to Transcripts main page


Two School Threats in Two Days; Possible Deaths from Poison Gas; NSA Can See Most U.S. Web Traffic; Aussies Should Rethink U.S. Travel

Aired August 21, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a country with no leader and no end to this out-of-control violence. And now the former dictator could walk free. Does this essentially reverse the Arab Spring?

I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

A man armed for war walks into a school.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank god no one was hurt. No one.


BALDWIN: But some parents aren't satisfied.

Dr. Phil under fire today for a tweet about sex and drunk girls.

Plus --


BALDWIN: -- another personal struggle for the vice president.

And after a baseball player is murdered, new calls to rethink visits to the U.S.


TIM FISCHER, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I don't believe your Second Amendment provides for semiautomatics, or automatics, in the suburbs.


BALDWIN: We'll debate.

Great to be with you on this Wednesday.

Got to begin with a really tough, frightening start to a school day today. A suspicious man just outside of a school in Cherokee County, Georgia, not too far from Atlanta. Apparently this guy was standing on school property. He ran when he was spotted by deputies directing morning traffic. And so when the deputies caught up with him, they discovered he was armed.

Look at this. Not one, not two, but three knives. And you see the gun here. Looks like a semiautomatic. Turns out it was a BB gun. This guy's name is Todd Christopher Grigg. And he, I can tell you right now, is under arrest.

And today's unsettling discovery outside a school for young kids comes, as you know, on the heels of what we watched unfold right around this time yesterday. That school shooting just east of Atlanta.

We have lots of new details today about the man who walked into this school, elementary school, with an AK-47 and allegedly fired at police who were then, of course, called to the scene. Turns out, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill was on probation for texting a threat to kill his brother and he'd been ordered to attend anger management classes. We also just learned he was carrying several hundred rounds of ammunition with him at the school.

When you hear from parents, a lot of them are not satisfied with the school's response. They say they weren't notified about the gunman right away. They heard about it by watching TV. The school says the safety of the children was its top priority.

And that brings us to this video. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on the phone inside the school gymnasium. I'm getting confirmation we have a shooter on the second floor.


BALDWIN: Very lifelike. Dramatic. But let me tell you, not real. This is a drill at a school in West Orange, New Jersey, complete with emergency responders. You saw the ambulance, panicked parents. Really, just actors. The cost? $140,000 funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

So all of these stories here begs the question, what has changed about the safety of our schools since the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut? I want to bring in HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks here.

As we were sitting this time yesterday -


BALDWIN: We were saying, thank goodness, that evacuation plan seemed to have worked at this school. But now we know this guy gets in the school with an AK-47. You know they had the school security. You have to be buzzed in.

BROOKS: Right.

BALDWIN: He gets in behind someone else. Thank goodness for that school clerk. The worker who talked him down, who negotiated. BROOKS: Right. That bookkeeper, she is the true hero here, Brooke. Look, I was a negotiator for over 22 years and -- with the metropolitan police department, trained by the FBI. And I guarantee you, she had probably no training, but she negotiated with this guy and she talked him down. She kept his anxiety level down. Because, in an incident like this, you call it the most important phases of stuff like this is the beginning. The initial stabilization and control phase. She stabilized that incident and kept things from getting out of hand.

BALDWIN: Let's listen to her. She has spoken out.


ANTOINETTE TUFF, SCHOOL BOOKKEEPER: I began to tell him some of my life encounters and some of the things that actually was happening to me. And to get him to be able to start talking with me and opening up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say?

TUFF: He said that he hadn't taken his medication and that he was going to die anyway and that he was OK with dying and that he was going to kill all of the police officers and that he wanted me to know that he was not going to hurt me. And I told him, OK, and that it was going to be OK.


BALDWIN: Thank goodness it all was OK. You know, staff, faculty, students, safe.

BROOKS: Right.

BALDWIN: But the next question then, of course, is, since Newtown, in terms of school security, what has changed?

BROOKS: Right. Well, you know, we talk about Newtown, but every -- all law enforcement, look, it kind of - what after -- what happened after Columbine and now we have Newtown. You know, there are different earmarks.

BALDWIN: New markers (ph).

BROOKS: But a lot of things -- a lot of things have changed. You know, every time something like this happens, Brooke, all school systems, they look at what we can do better to enhance security. I know at this particular school, you've got cameras inside. You had the camera to -- or a card to swipe to get in. Somebody tailed - you know, kind of piggy backed on someone, another worker going in. And that's one of the problems because you don't have the money to put cops in every single school. And some people will say, well, why don't we have enough cops to put in every single school, especially elementary schools, because children, you know, are our biggest gift.

BALDWIN: But it's just tough, though, to still hear from parents -


BALDWIN: Who were trying to figure out, you know, where is my son or daughter.

We're going to talk with the police chief -

BROOKS: That's a notification system. You have to have a robust notification system.


BROOKS: If -- all school systems have to. And, you know, that is something that they'll probably take another look at now.

BALDWIN: We'll talk to the police chief top of the next hour.

BROOKS: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: A lot of questions. And also kudos to those folks reacting as quickly as they did.

BROOKS: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Mike Brooks, thank you very much.

BROOKS: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Now this.

If it's true, the video you're about to see shows the deadliest attack in Syria since the civil war began back in March of 2011. As many as 1,300 killed east of the capital, Damascus. So the pictures we're about to show you, incredibly graphic. So I just need to warn you, if you have kids, get them out now. I said deadliest. It's actually not the bloodiest. And you'll see -- you won't see blood because rebels say this was a chemical attack. CNN cannot authenticate this footage. The Syrian government denies it used such tactics. But now here is the video as it was posted online.


BALDWIN: Joining me now, senior international correspondent Ivan Watson.

You've reported extensively from inside of Syria. Again, just so this was happening right around the capital city of Damascus. We'll get to the video, which is just tough to listen to, the cries, in just a moment. You don't need to speak that language to understand the grief.

But we know that there is a U.N. team of inspectors in Syria trying to figure out, investigate, whether or not that was chemical weapons that were used. Do we have any news from them?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So far, no, they're not really talking to journalists as far as we know.

This is not the first time that there have been allegations of chemical weapons used on the Syrian battlefield.


WATSON: In fact, the Syrian government, the rebels, the U.S. government and Russia, which supports the Syrian regime, all agree that some chemical weapons have been used over the course of this horrific two-year war on the Syrian battlefield. What they don't agree on is who has used them. The government, of course, accuses the rebels of using the chemical weapons. It would be surprising in this case because the area, according to reports that we've seen that got hit, where all these people got killed, was in rebel hands. So unless they made a mistake, why would they bomb their own people?

BALDWIN: Do this to their own children?

WATSON: And, of course, the opposition accusing the government of carrying out these attacks.

BALDWIN: When you - when you look at the pictures and you hear the screams and you have to wonder, you know, if, in fact, this ultimately is confirmed, if chemical weapons were used --

WATSON: Again.

BALDWIN: Again. I would guess it would be a game changer, but it would be again.

WATSON: No, I think we've seen that certainly the international community is very reluctant to intervene in this mess of Syria.

BALDWIN: That is a mess.

WATSON: But I have to remind you, those awful pictures, and they just, like, punch me in the stomach because I've been covering this for two years. I've watched this country tear itself apart. Over the course of this conflict, you've had more than 100,000 people killed, according to the United Nations. You have close to 2 million people, Syrians, who have officially registered with the U.N. having fled the country to neighboring Jordan, Iraq, Turkey. I mean there have been tens of thousands of people fleeing to Iraq, of all places, which not too long ago was -

BALDWIN: A mess.

WATSON: It's impossible to imagine running away to there for safety. That's about 10 percent of the Syrian population has fled across borders while many more people have been forced to flee their homes inside the country. The scale of the devastation, what this has done to Syrian society, is so traumatizing. Now let me give you an example. I know some of the original protesters from more than two and half years -- two years ago, who used to come out and chant, "democracy," and we want an end to dictatorship and we want to stop, you know, oppression of human rights and police brutality.

BALDWIN: Now what do they say? WATSON: One of these guys -- more - no, two - I know two guys who have basically joined al Qaeda groups. Who have gone from saying, we want countries like the U.S. to help us fight against this dictator. They've seen so much killing, and they haven't seen much help, that now they've become full-fledged jihadis. It's very difficult to know where this is going to (ph).

BALDWIN: That's part of the issue, whether or not the U.S. or other - other allies jump in and try to intervene because it's very nebulous, it's very -- we don't know who we'd be harming, ultimately.

WATSON: This war morphs, I would argue, every three to six months. So you had a year plus ago, you know, farmers and engineers and defected soldiers just looking for shotguns to defend their villages. And now, especially in the north here along the Turkish border, areas that I used to visit --

BALDWIN: Because you were based in Istanbul.

WATSON: I used to be fed here by - I used to stay with families. I wouldn't dare go in there because there are thousands of al Qaeda affiliated rebels who control those areas and it's very dangerous for somebody like me to go there now.

BALDWIN: Ivan Watson, we appreciate your perspective and your reporting in an incredibly dangerous part of the world. Ivan, thank you.

WATSON: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up, huge, huge news out of Egypt today. Already under a state of emergency. More than 900 people killed in fighting just this past week. And now Hosni Mubarak, the dictator thrown out of power in 2011, locked up during the Arab Spring, will soon be released from custody. An Egyptian court ordering the release of the former president convicted in the deaths of protesters in the uprising. But it's important to remember here, the 85-year-old was granted a retrial on those charges earlier this year, so he still faces the possibility of being returned to jail.

The NSA surveillance network can reportedly see about 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic. This is according to this report out today in "The Wall Street Journal." They've been investigating. So this report says that the NSA sometimes keeps the content of e-mails between U.S. citizens and then filters some domestic phone calls that use Internet connections. The NSA has recently stated that it only, in their word, is touches, touches 1.6 percent of the world's internet data.

Joe Johns, let me bring you in on this one, from Washington. And what does this "Wall Street Journal" report tell us as far as, you know, how the NSA is filtering e-mail and Internet traffic?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like NSA has a second shot. And some of this we already knew. The NSA asks the telecommunications companies, Brooke, to give it streams of traffic that the telecom company reasonably believes to contain foreign intelligence information. By the way, that's not everything that happens on the Internet or on telephones. But it's still a lot of information. Then NSA weeds out the communications that look most relevant, say, based on an e-mail address, perhaps, or a telephone number or who is the sender or receiver. And, Brooke, they sort of go from there.

BALDWIN: So then what about the companies themselves, Joe? The telecommunication companies, their role in getting this information?

JOHNS: Again, the telecom companies get the first crack at determining what can be filtered out. And we've known this also, they do this with searches, based on the criteria that the NSA gives them. And that, in turn, is based on an order issued by the intelligence court. We've tried before to get the telecom companies, especially Verizon, to talk to us about these programs because Verizon's program was the first one to come to light. But they're not allowed to talk about this publicly. And they don't.

We do know that, based on sources, what the article says appears to be accurate. Lawyers at the telecom companies are sort of gate keepers. It's the lawyers who first try to decide what information the NSA is supposed to get.

BALDWIN: Joe, thank you.

Speaking of the NSA, of course, we reached out to the NSA for response. A spokesperson says this. Let me read this. "NSA signals intelligence mission is centered on defeating foreign adversaries who aim to harm the country. We defend the United States from such threats while fiercely working to protect the privacy rights of U.S. persons. It's not either/or, it's both." That's the NSA to us here at CNN.


TIM FISCHER, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: There is murder, mayhem on main street USA every day of the week. But you hide from that. You don't face up to that. And you let your congressmen and senators escape and dance around the bush.


BALDWIN: Provocative words from someone who's calling for a boycott of the United States. All of this today after police say teenagers killed a college baseball player because they were bored. Well, my panel has something to say about that. That discussion is next.

Plus, as if this dad and daughter haven't been through enough already, the family of kidnapper James DiMaggio is asking for a paternity test on his victim, 16-year-old Hannah Anderson. More on the case, coming up.


BALDWIN: The senseless killing of Christopher Lane, the Australian college baseball player police say was gun downed by three teenagers in Duncan, Oklahoma.


CALLER: There's a young man in the -- he's just standing in the ditch and he's got blood on him.

DISPATCHER: Is he breathing? Is he conscious? Is he talking to you? What's he doing?

CALLER: He's not conscious. Is he still breathing? Barely.


BALDWIN: These teens now charged in the killing, 15, 16, 17 years of age. The two youngest charged as adults with first degree murder. And then this. This is a video posted on the social media site Vine. It shows the youngest man here laughing, and you see the rifle, showing it off. Prosecutors call them thugs who went hunting for someone to kill out of boredom. But on the other side of the world, in Australia, the U.S. gun debate that people have watched from afar just got very personal.


TOM FISCHER, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: You are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA per million people than here in Australia. And people should factor that in. They should think twice in the circumstances but it's jogged (ph) along by the senseless killing, the shooting in the back of an outstanding young Australian on a scholarship in the USA, which has caused quite probably deep seated anger right across Australia.


BALDWIN: What do you think of this? I want to bring in Ben Ferguson, CNN political commentator, and Marc Lamont Hill, professor at Columbia University and host at "HuffPost Live."

So, gentlemen, good to see you.

You know, that was the interview this morning with the former deputy prime minister of Australia. And he actually came out yesterday and asked for Australian tourists to consider boycotting travel to the U.S., essentially to send a message to Congress.

Ben Ferguson, do you think our gun culture impacts tourism?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that it does overall. I think you've got a politician here that is seeing that he can use the death of one of his citizens to his advantage for political gain with upcoming elections. And that, I think, is the saddest part of all of this. I mean there are a lot of people that come to America with scholarships and come on full rides. I had the opportunity to play tennis in college with three different students from Australia. One from Melbourne, one from Waga Waga (ph) and one from Sydney. And I can't imagine if this would have happened to them. But the bigger issue here is, why are they using this for political gain instead of remembering this young man for what he was, which was obviously a phenomenal student, athlete on top of that. And instead, it's being used for politics. And I think that's really sad that they're doing that in Australia.

BALDWIN: Mark, I see you shaking your head. You know, do you think they're playing politics here or -

MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": Well, first - well, first of all, the biggest tragedy here isn't the use of political discourse. The biggest tragedy is that this young man has died.


HILL: And I actually - when -

FERGUSON: Sure. Absolutely. I agree with that.

HILL: When tragedies befall American citizens, whether it's someone being captured in a hostage crisis or someone is killed on foreign borders, we often link it to that country's particular set of politics as well. So that's not an uncommon thing for us to do.

And, no, these kids weren't simply killed because of bad gun policy. You have -- or this child wasn't killed because of bad gun policy. There are three young men who clearly have mental illness, who clearly have some issues with violence, who clearly need to be punished and disciplined, who need to be punished appropriately. That's the key issue here.

But access to guns does matter. The fact that these three young men, who clearly had issues, had such easy access to a weapon, is a problem. It's not the only problem because you could argue that even with really tight gun laws, they still would have committed a crime. That might be true. But easy access is a problem here.

BALDWIN: What about the fact, when I think of Australia and you think about guns, you know, you think about the sweeping gun reforms there. Assault weapons, bans, background checks. This all came out, you know, I feel like in discussion because of Newtown, because we remember, some people remember, that mass shooting in the state of Tasmania. That was 1996. And so since then there has not been a single mass shooting ever since - ever since that horrible day. And so do you think that the United States, and legally speaking nothing's really changed since Newtown, but should we be looking at, you know, how those successes in countries like Australia, as far as how we make policy here? To either of you.

HILL: Yes.

FERGUSON: I think you have to look at it a little bit, certainly. But I also think you have to look at the context of Australia. Australia's gun laws have been much more liberal than Americas have ever been. And Australia has had -- it was a lot easier for them to get, I think, many of their guns off the streets in Australia mainly because of how little time they were even being manufactured and sold in Australia. And that's something you have to take in this dynamic.

The other thing is, we do have laws here that don't allow for minors to have these types of weapons or purchase them on their own. So laws were broken here. I think the bigger issue, if anything, we should look at is, why are three minors driving around without their parents' knowledge that, one, they have a gun, and, two, they're driving around in a car to go shoot somebody? You've got a massive issue here with parenting in America, especially with kids like this. And that's the tragedy that we're not looking at.


FERGUSON: Gun -- fixing this through gun crimes or fixing it through gun policies are not going to fix the parenting issues of why is your 15-year-old son out at night shooting someone in the back because they're bored.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Marc.

HILL: OK. Well, Ben said two things that I strongly disagree with. First, the argument that we can't do anything about guns because we have so many that we can't get our arms around it, that the problem is just too unwielding(ph), is, to me, a problematic argument. You're essentially saying that we can't do anything because it would be really hard or we can't get all the guns, so we shouldn't get any of them. Implementing Congress' gun legislation --

FERGUSON: That's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is, is America's a different country than Australia is.

HILL: I agree. I agree. Because of -

FERGUSON: And we have a - we have a different set of rules in this country.

HILL: But let me finish. Ben, Ben, Ben. But, Ben, let me finish. Let me finish though, Ben.

My point is that, yes, America is a different country. America actually has a wider and more vigorous gun culture. America has greater levels of access to guns for its citizens, therefore we need even more intense laws. And as far as the parenting piece of this, yes, of course you should be a responsible parent. But all parents make mistakes. All parents are imperfect. But if you have an imperfect parent, a troubled child and then you have easy access to guns? That's a recipe for disaster. I'd like to have troubled parents, troubled kids and no guns if I could choose it. And we have that option through sensible reform with guns. Don't get rid of the Second Amendment. Don't abolish all gun rights. (INAUDIBLE) reform.

FERGUSON: Then here's what I would say. What -- here's my question about that, though. What law would you have passed to take the gun away from these three young men whose parents obviously didn't know what they were doing with their lives, where they were, or why they're so bored they're driving around trying to find a random person to kill because they were bored? HILL: That - the issue - but that's a problematic question. The issue isn't what law could prevent them from --

FERGUSON: No, it's not. It's a - it's what you just proposed. I'm asking you what law you think we should do, since you said my idea was not a good one, I'm asking you for a resolution to the problem. And I don't think you have one.

HILL: Well, let me -- I would have one if you let me finish. The -- my answer is --

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Marc.

HILL: We impose laws that prevent people from making straw (ph) purchases. We impose laws that prevent large numbers of guns into urban centers so that when they fall off the back of someone's pickup truck, and I don't mean that in a racial sense since I'm saying pickup truck in the sense that they don't really fall off.

FERGUSON: Those --

HILL: When that happens, young teenagers are going to have (INAUDIBLE) access to them.

FERGUSON: We already have those laws.

HILL: No, but, Ben, that's the issue.

FERGUSON: You just quoted laws that we currently have.

HILL: You can't legislate responsibility - Ben, you can't --

FERGUSON: You just quoted laws that are already on the books. So I'm asking you, what new law would you pass?

HILL: I'm talking about intensifying and enforcing - I said intensifying them and enforcing them.


HILL: No, you can't legislate against individual responsibility or you can't force individual responsibility, but you can make it harder for irresponsible people to have weapons of mass destruction.

BALDWIN: OK. Hang on. Let me jump in. Because if you talk about, Marc, if you talk about intensifying laws, I guess this is my final question, and to both of you. Do you -- when do you ever think -- let's say 10 years, 50 years, that the majority of the country will be on the side of Marc Lamont Hill?


HILL: They already are, Brooke.

FERGUSON: I don't - HILL: They love me. They agree with me. The problem is, the NRA is so powerful, the gun lobby is so powerful that a disgruntled minority rules the majority.

BALDWIN: That's what it is?

Ben, go.

FERGUSON: I - I don't think the country's going to go there because the weapon that was used to kill this unfortunate student was not a weapon of war. It wasn't even in the category of guns that they would have - that many liberals proposed to get rid of. This is not as much about the weapon as it is about a culture where you have kids raising kids and you have 15-year-old kids driving around so bored that they shoot people because they want to watch it and their parents don't know where they are. This is a parenting issue we have in this country more than anything else.

HILL: So teen moms (ph) lead to first degree murder? Teen moms lead to first degree murder? That's your argument? Kids raising kids leads to that?

FERGUSON: I'm saying these young teen boys -

BALDWIN: All right, guys.

FERGUSON: Were charged with first degree murder.

BALDWIN: Ben Ferguson -

HILL: Yes, but -

BALDWIN: We got to cut it there. Ben Ferguson, Marc Lamont Hill. I appreciate a good, healthy discussion and both sides and all the way around tragic, this young man killed. Horrible, horrible, horrible. To both of you, thank you very much.

And you have heard about CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta changing his stance on medical marijuana. Well, just moments ago, CNN's Jessica Yellin asked the White House about marijuana and the president's stance. That sound is just in. Stand by for that, next.