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Navy Yard Shooting Suspect Heard Voices; IRS Flags Tax-Exempt Applications; U.S. and Iran Exchange Letters; NSA Phone Records Opinion; Colorado Flooding

Aired September 18, 2013 - 05:00   ET



MELINDA DOWNS, FRIEND OF AARON ALEXIS: It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But who was this guy?


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: New information this morning about the gunman who murdered 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. His troubling past and what may have triggered his shooting rampage. We are live with more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's worse than I thought it would be. We lost absolutely everything we own.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Devastation in Colorado. Residents returning to homes destroyed by the worst flooding that state has ever seen. We will show you the towns and areas hit hardest.

SAMBOLIN: So sad, I was reading a report this morning about a woman who was talking about her experience. And she's telling us, the readers, you have no idea how bad it is.

BERMAN: It was so hard. It went for days and days and days.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, terrible.

BERMAN: Unbelievable.

All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's nice to have you with us this morning. It is Wednesday, September 18th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: We're going to begin with new potential clues in the Washington Navy Yard shooting. We're learning that suspect Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people before he was shot dead, he displayed erratic behavior for years and for the last month, that behavior only seemed to grow more strange and more troubling. He recently told police he believed he was being followed and was hearing voices in his head. We'll have more on that in a moment.

But, first, we're hearing this morning, for the first time, the emergency dispatch calls that went out just after the shooting began. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a report on the fourth floor, a male with a shotgun, multiple shots fired, multiple people down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have conflicting reports about the scene's security. So, we're sorting it now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, police confirm five people shot, could be others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can give me a briefing of how many we've taken, from which facility so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All units in the main triage group need to move left. The ambulances in line, you can move left, way out of the line of fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an officer down, Building 197 on the third floor. Also a female shot on the roof of building 1333, as they call it. Female on the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing a sweep of the building for security. We still have a second suspect possibly in. So, scene is not secure.


BERMAN: You hear the urgency in their voices so, so telling.

Our Pamela Brown has been following this investigation from the beginning. She is live at the Washington Navy Yard this morning.

Good morning, Pamela. What's the latest?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, John.

It's been nearly two days since the shooting at the Navy Yard, and we still don't know what a motive was. But we are learning more about Aaron Alexis -- how he was able to bring that shotgun into Building 197. We're learning more about his past run-ins with the law, about his time of military service, and also a time line of Aaron Alexis' movements leading up to that shooting suggest that this is mental health was unstable.


BROWN (voice-over): This morning, we're learning now details about how Aaron Alexis brought a gun on to the Washington Navy Yard. A federal law enforcement official tells CNN that the gunman entered Building 197 with a small bag. It's believed to have carried a disassembled Remington 870 shotgun.

He's been seen on surveillance video ducking into a bathroom with the bag and emerging seconds later with the gun. Moments later, he opens fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a report on the fourth floor, a male with a shotgun. Multiple shots fired. Multiple people down.

BROWN: As investigators continue poring over Alex' life, the trail of red flags leading to Monday's massacre is troubling.

August 7th, he calls Rhode Island police complains of hearing voices coming through the walls of the hotel room. According to this police report, Alexis said those voices were sending vibrations into his body using some sort of microwave machine.

August 25th, Alexis arrives in the Washington area, where he contacts a V.A. hospital for a second time for sleep problems.

September 14th, two days before the shooting, Alexis stops at this small arms range in Lorton, Virginia. An attorney for the range says Alexis practiced shooting, then paid $497 for a gun and two boxes of ammunition.

And on Monday, he accessed the Navy Yard with legitimate ID and proper security clearance.

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER FBI ASST. DIRECTOR: In a case like this where you've got so many red flags over a protracted period of time, it almost seems this is the thing that is bound to happen.

BROWN: Even more troubling, Alexis' record searching as a Navy reservist -- eight instances of misconduct, including insubordination, disorderly conduct and unauthorized absences from work.

HENRY: It's easy now to look back and piece it altogether and say somebody should have known. If you think about it over a long period of time, it's a little more challenging.

BROWN: He was honorably discharged in 2011 and remained his Navy issued security clearance which is good for 10 years.

A defense contractor he is working for is now pointing the finger at the military for overlooking his misconduct as a civilian and during service.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CHIEF U.S. NAVY SPOKESMAN: Looking at the offenses while he was in Navy, the offenses while he was in uniform, none of those give you the indication that he was capable of this sort of brutal, vicious, violence.

BROWN: Investigators are collecting evidence from multiple crime scenes, towing away his rental car, removing boxes of materials from his hotel room, interviewing family members in Brooklyn, all in hope of understanding why he did this.


BROWN: And in the wake of this shooting, we know that the administration has launched three investigations. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced a review of all Navy and Marine Corps installation security. Also, we're learning that the White House Office of Management and Budget will reexamine the standards for federal contractors and employees.

And CNN has just learned that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will order a review of all military installations across the world. Details on the investigation on that expected to be released later today -- Zoraida and John.

BERMAN: So many incidents, Pamela, over the last several years, not one of them raised a level of red alert or set off alarm bells but maybe the totality of them all should have. That's what these investigations will be looking into it.

Pamela Brown for us in Washington, D.C., this morning -- thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: Six minutes past the hour.

And we're hearing from friends of Aaron Alexis who insist they had no idea this man was capable of this.


DOWNS: It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who was this guy?

If there was something I could have stopped? Is there some type of behavior that I ignored or didn't see that I could have prevented this? But there is no answers.

He was very intellectual. His mind was sound. He can hold a conversation with the best of us. And he didn't -- he was not hearing voices. And if he did, he hid it very well.


SAMBOLIN: Isn't that something?

But a former roommate tells CNN, Alexis was paranoid and did carry a handgun because he was worried that someone was trying to get him.

And coming up in our next half hour, the stories of the victims who were at work that day and never made it home.

BERMAN: Their stories will break your heart.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no doubt.

BERMAN: With the victims, where our hearts and mind, every day right now.

All right. Seven minutes after the hour. There's some other news we're covering this morning.

Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political organizations seeking tax-exempt status for anti-Obama rhetoric, inflammatory language and emotional statements. "USA Today" got its hands on internal 2011 documents that described the extra scrutiny. "USA Today" reports that 162 groups were listed by name. The work of 21 of them was characterized as propaganda. More than 80 percent of the organizations on that list are deemed conservative.

SAMBOLIN: Still no official diplomatic ties, but letters have been exchanged between President Obama and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani. Officials in Iran confirmed the president sent Rouhani a message, congratulating him after the election and that he replied. Both countries have said they are open to talks about Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. and Iran haven't had formal relationship since 1980, and after Americans were taken hostage there.

BERMAN: A newly declassified secret court opinion shedding more light on the NSA's phone surveillance programs. The opinion by the FISA court says the program is constitutional and that House and Senate committees were told in 2011 that the court was approving the program. The judge's order also reveals that no phone company has yet challenged the order to turn over their records.

You know, I notice quite a chill coming in this morning?

SAMBOLIN: No kidding, it feels like fall.

BERMAN: It's fall.

Indra Petersons is here with a look at the weather.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Just going to ask, was anyone cold this morning. I know --

SAMBOLIN: Freezing.

PETERSONS: Always am -- so, yes and yes. We're definitely feeling that chill out there.

We're talking frost advisories and even some of the warning. Yes, cold air down from Canada is in place today in temperatures.

Take a look, some places in the 30s. We're looking at Saranac Lake, 34 degrees. Boston in the 50s, so a hint warmer than yesterday. In Danbury right now, 38 degrees, I agree, that is cold.

But we are going to be warming up, that's the good news. Over the next several days, we'll start see temperatures rebound and above normal right before we go to the weekend. So, we love that.

But we are going to be watching the Pacific Northwest today will be a front sliding through Denver. Not expected to bring much but an isolated shower is possible. And we'll be watching for that rain to spread into the Ohio Valley, eventually into the Northeast by the weekend. I don't know how that happens. Yes, there's a chance of rain.

So far away, right? Enjoy it. Just the middle of the week, beautiful out there today. I notice the temperatures pretty mild. A lot of 80s and 90s across the area.

BERMAN: Very nice.

SAMBOLIN: I'd like some 90s, if you can work on that.

BERMAN: By the next block, Indra, we want the 90s. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

All right. Ten minutes after the hour.

And coming up --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually not the river either, this is the street.


BERMAN: The rain has stopped. The search and rescue efforts in flood-ravaged Colorado are far from over.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just disappeared, and no traces of him all these years, they weren't very far from home.


SAMBOLIN: And an underwater mystery in Oklahoma. Six people vanishing decades ago, now police believe they've found them at the bottom of a lake. That story's coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

In flood-ravaged Colorado, it will be another day of search and rescue as crews continue working to help people in communities that have been cut off by the devastating floods. There is a bit of good news this morning. The number of reported deaths from the flooding has dropped from eight to six.

CNN's Kyung Lah got a look at some of the areas hardest hit by the flooding.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days ago, this was a desirable place to live. A small creek lined with homes and walkways, now a raging waterway. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just listen for whistle signals. I'll tell you. I'll kind of watch the river and make sure nothing comes down at us. Just work this house, work around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually not the river either. This is the street.

LAH: Door by door, FEMA task force teams look for folks who rode out the flood in this canyon neighborhood and warn them that it's not safe to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House is complete. Vacant. Next building recon.

LAH: It's been days since dramatic rescues through these treacherous mountain canyons. Hundreds plucked out of desperate destinations here by the National Guard. These are the people waving and signaling to rescuers who have run out of food, fuel and water, praying for dry land.

Officials estimate only a few hundred residents may still remain in flooded areas and not all of them want to go.

In this neighborhood, the team comes across this resident who refuses to leave.

LLOYD MUELLER, URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE, NEBRASKA: When we leave, we really can't -- you know, there's no way to police the whole area. So, if they're here, we definitely -- if they fall in, it's going to become a rescue scenario for us, and we're going to have to be going in after them.

LAH: The terrain has been completely redrawn through much of Boulder and Larimer Counties.

(on camera): Where I'm standing this used to be the road. Right in front of me, this is a new waterway. The stream used to be all the way over there. It used to be a small stream, you can see it's now a raging river.

(voice-over): The road in front of David Mamolen's house was ironically called Stream Crest Road. The new stream now surrounds his home.

(on camera): Why stay? If this is what it's looking like, why stay?

DAVID MAMOLEN, RESIDENT: Well, it's our home, 27 years been here. My son grew up here. I mean, it's -- and it's so beautiful.

LAH (voice-over): A different sort of beauty today altered by the deadly force of Mother Nature.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Boulder County, Colorado.


SAMBOLIN: It is 17 minutes past the hour. We now know the cause for that massive fire that destroyed the Jersey Shore icon. Investigators blame wires now damaged by Superstorm Sandy for starting the fire that burned through a big chunk of the boardwalk and dozens of businesses in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, New Jersey. The decades' only lines were likely damaged from seawater and sand from last year's storm.

Superstorm Sandy still wreaking havoc, right?

BERMAN: A year later.

SAMBOLIN: It's a crazy.

BERMAN: In Oklahoma, a discovery that could have helped to solve decades-old cold cases. Authorities pull two cars from the bottom of Foss Lake. That's west of Oklahoma City. Inside those cars, two sets of skeletal remains believed to be connected to the missing persons cases from the 1960s and 1970s.


BERMAN: Debbie McManaman's grandfather was among the missing. She says her parents spent years looking for him.


DEBBIE MCMANAMAN, POSSIBLE VICTIM'S GRANDDAUGHTER: It's been very traumatic. I can -- I can remember my dad having dreams at night. And getting in the car, as soon as he got off from his day job, taking my mom and they would look and look and look. Any trace.


BERMAN: Imagine that, decades of uncertainty there.


BERMAN: Amazingly, these cars were only found because the highway patrol was testing a new sonar device in the lake. So far, one of the skeletons has been identified, but police are not making that information public yet.

SAMBOLIN: Wow, that is incredible after so many years.

All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour here. On today's world warriors, there may be a pilot shortage on the horizon and it could result in fewer flights to smaller cities.

Airplane maker Boeing says by 2032, airlines will need almost half a million new commercial pilots. This is worldwide. That's because of retirement and airline (INAUDIBLE) more planes in the sky.

But meeting that demand may take a bit of time. The FAA now requires co-pilots to get 1,500 hours of flight time. That's up from 250 hours. That's a big jump. And next year, the minimum rest period before a pilot can fly will go from eight hours to 10, and it must include eight straight hours of sleep. That sounds a good idea. And analysts say larger airlines will scoop up all the pilots leaving regional airlines scrambling to find some. And that could make it harder if you are trying to get to a smaller airport.

BERMAN: A warning.


BERMAN: All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour.

And coming up, it could be a big day for your wallet. The Federal Reserve set to announce a change in policy, perhaps. And it could mean you'll pay on your next mortgage. "Money Time" after the break.


BERMAN: Hey there, it means it's "Money Time."

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Christine Romans is here. A big "Money Time" day.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The Fed, this is special music to the Fed. We got special music on Fed day.

Look, when will the fed take the training wheels off the economy? It's the most important question for your money. And we're going to know more today.

The Fed has pumped in $2.8 trillion, with a "T," trillion dollars in the stimulus, keeping rates low and juicing the economy. After its meeting today, Ben Bernanke and his team are expected to spell out the first tentative steps in cutting back those billions dollars of support.

That cutting back is called tapering. And the Fed's statement after its meeting at 2:00 p.m. is expected to give details. Ben Bernanke is going to hold a news conversation at 2:30 to discuss the Fed's decision. When I say this is the most important story for your money, I'm telling you believe me, it is the most story for your money, what Ben Bernanke and his team.

This is the most important Fed meeting I've seen since the crisis. Really critical here. A lot of economists think the Fed is going to begin scaling back $10 billion in treasuries per month, bringing total purchases to $75 billion. This is what they call a taper light.

Much of what the Fed may do has been priced into markets, though. Look at the steady climb in September. Yesterday, all three indexes closed higher for the year, guys. The Dow is up 19 percent, the NASDAQ up 24 percent. The S&P is up 20 percent.

It is not often I can say numbers like that related to the stock market -- an incredible, credible year, that September surge continues here. We've got futures higher this morning.

Let me tell you something else here, the Fed meeting -- it's also contending with this grim reality, household incomes are falling. The poverty rate isn't budging. It's one of the reasons why the Fed has frankly been pushing so much money into the economy, because in the recovery, they're worried about numbers like this.

Brand-new census data show 15 percent of all Americans, 46.5 million people live in poverty. The family threshold now, $11,720 a year. The number of uninsured Americans, though, dip slightly, 48 million, as more children and elderly gain coverage. And many of those children gaining coverage because of health care reform.

Speaking of health care reform, Walgreens about to become one of the largest lowers yet to make radical changes to its company-backed health benefits. According to "The Wall Street Journal", Walgreens will today release a plan to provide payments to eligible employees for the subsidized purchase of insurance starting in 2014. Walgreens just a latest of a growing list of companies making changes in health plans.

IBM said it would recently move thousands of retirees to private exchanges. Sears, Darden Restaurants have also said that would send employees to private exchanges.

We've seen companies you guys saying, look, I'm giving you 500 bucks --


ROMANS: -- we're getting out of the health care business. I'm going to give you 500 bucks, you go and buy insurance. We'll help you pay for health insurance on the health care exchanges.

A lot of companies saying de-coupling health insurance from what they do, which is -- you know, their own business is the way they'd like to go and they're going to use health care to do.

SAMBOLIN: I think it's just adding to all the confusion. There are so many Americans who say I have no idea what this means for me. You continue to offer different options, the companies do, in order to kind of stay of it. It gets even more confusing.

I wish there were a place to go where you click and say, OK, here's my information. Let me figure this out.

ROMANS: It's interesting because the government is putting all of that together, so that you will be able to navigate through it. And they're hiring thousands of people to be sort of your -- there's a word, not advocate, but your health care representative.

BERMAN: Navigator.

ROMANS: It's called navigator, you're right. Zoraida, here's your situation this is what's best for you. We're on the leading edge for this. There's going to be a lot more changes over the next couple of years. And there is, you're right, a lot more information to go through.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

All right. Coming up here, new questions this morning on what drove a former navy reservist to go on that shooting spree murdering 12 people. Our Pamela Brown is live in Washington, D.C. with new information about the slaying gunman's mental history. We'll have that after the break.