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Interview With Congressman Tim Murphy; Obamacare Hearings; Pirates Attack Off Nigerian Coast; Pirates Kidnap 2 American Mariners; The Story of a Killer Whale

Aired October 24, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I hereby call this monkey court to order. The Honorable Congressman Bubbles has the floor.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is the lead.

The national lead. Don't blame us for the botched Obamacare Web sites. We're just the people who designed them. Contractors head to Capitol Hill for a hearing that one Democrat loudly denounced as a -- quote -- "monkey court."

The world lead. Pirates attack a ship off the coast of Nigeria and now officials believe they are holding two Americans hostage. How will the U.S. respond?

Also in world news, is he a pencil pusher or pushing Americans to serve mother Russia? The FBI is looking into whether this man is recruiting spies in Washington, D.C. Why all the spy vs. spy so long after the Cold War has ended?

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

We will begin with the national lead. Who is to blame for the mess that is the federal Obamacare Web sites? To hear the techies who designed and implemented the Web sites, it's not them.


CHERYL CAMPBELL, CGI FEDERAL: The system is working. People are enrolling.

ANDREW SLAVITT, OPTUM/QSSI: We identified errors in code that was provided to us by others.

LYNN SPELLECY, EQUIFAX: We have not experienced any problems or interruptions in the processing of data to CMS.

JOHN LAU, SERCO: We had no role in the development of the Web site.


TAPPER: Executives from CGI Federal, arguably the main contractor for, and several other vendors went before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today and when they weren't pointing the finger at fellow contractors, they were placing the blame on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, or CMS, which oversees the program.


CAMPBELL: CMS had the ultimate decision for a live go or no-go decision, not CGI.

SLAVITT: All of the concerns that we had which were mostly related to testing and the inability to get as much testing as we would have liked, we expressed all of those concerns and risks to CMS throughout the project.


TAPPER: So the clear message, they were rushed and CMS did not test the system end to end before the launch.

During the hearing, we also saw Republicans air concerns about whether the Web sites comply with HIPAA, the 1996 law that protects the privacy of your medical information. Congressman Joe Barton, Republican from Texas, pointed out a line in the Web site source code that says when establishing an account -- quote -- "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication of any data transmitted or stored on this information system."

Barton laid into the CGI representative over that.


REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: Are you aware this was in the source code, yes or no?


BARTON: You were aware? OK. Do you think that's HIPAA-compliant? How can that be? You know it's not HIPAA-compliant. Admit it. You're under oath.

CAMPBELL: Sir, that is CMS' decision to make.


TAPPER: That testy exchange may have just been the appetizer for what came a few minutes later, when Barton and Congressman Frank Pallone, the Democrat from New Jersey, got into it big time.


REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: HIPAA only applies when there's health information being provided. That's not in play here today. Once again, here we have my Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody

BARTON: Will the gentleman yield?

PALLONE: No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this is. BARTON: This is not a monkey court.

PALLONE: Do whatever you want. I'm not yielding.


TAPPER: This is not a monkey court. How do those congressmen find out about the sitcom I was pitching to NBC? Remember 1980s classic "Night Court" with Harry Anderson? Well, it would be just like that only with monkeys.

Back to the drawing board. Anyway, when they were pressed for an answer on when will ultimately be fixed, the contractors were vague at best. One vocal critic of the Web site debacle at today's hearing was Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.


REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The American public have been dumped with the ultimate cash for clunkers, except they had to pay the cash and still got the clunker. Take responsibility. Tell us what's wrong, fix it. Or try something else.


TAPPER: And Congressman Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania, and chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, joins me now.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

Did you hear anybody today take responsibility and accept the blame for what has gone wrong so far with the Obamacare Web sites?

MURPHY: Nobody.

Every one of them pointed at someone else. They said that their part worked. They never tested to see if it worked with anything else. They were just saying their little window was fine and somebody else has to take the blame.

TAPPER: Cheryl Campbell of CGI Federal also said that things are getting better, people will be able to enroll by the deadline. Do you think she's right?

MURPHY: Well, the deadline being March, we would hope so.

But, still, we did not get answers in terms of do they understand the depth of the problem and what happened. Whenever it came to those points, they would point to someone else. But they also said it was just two weeks before the rollout that HHS and also CMS changed things on them. But they really couldn't give us details of what they did.

I said, did you ask for more time, was more things happening? Couldn't get a straight answer on that in terms of the hearing. TAPPER: What do you think they changed? What would the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services change? We have heard speculation, informed speculation from health care experts that perhaps it was they didn't want the Web site to give people the price until they were fully enrolled and their names and Social Security numbers were in there, because of fear of sticker shock would chase away all the healthy people they need to join.

MURPHY: And that still exists. You can browse some general prices, but you can't find out the products and you can't find out if that price works for you.

What they changed in mid-September was they now wanted people to put all that data in first so they could lock it in, a lot of personal information. And then they would tell you what it was if you could get it. But that's where a big bottleneck occurred, and that's where people from CGI and other companies said maybe that was part of the problem here.

But they never tested out -- and I'm puzzled with these changes taking place, if they think they can overcome this now, 55 different contracts in this, why didn't they speak up at that moment and say you have made a huge change in the process here? Anything else to buy online, you look at the price first, you compare products, but not with something that's a life-and-death matter.

TAPPER: It does seem strange. What do you want in terms of accountability?

You have not signed the letter from I think it's 32 House Republicans calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign, for President Obama to demand her resignation. You have not joined that group, at least not yet. Who should be held accountable and who should, if anyone, lose their job?

MURPHY: Well, what I want from Secretary Sebelius is I want her to do her job. And her job is to tell us what happened, who made these decisions that made a difference.

With $500 million being spent, how much of that was wasted and how much additional money are we going to have to spend because someone didn't have proper oversight? When I have had hearings over the last 10 months, repeatedly, people from the administration said, don't worry, everything's fine. In fact, they even acted annoyed that we were asking questions, because somehow we were getting in their way.

Just a few days before rollout, they said everything was fine. As it turned out, at the very time they told us things were going to be OK, that appears to have been about the same week that they made these major changes and things unraveled from there. I would like to know, who are the people within HHS and CMS who were making these changes and these decisions? Where was that coming from?

We want to know, if it's from Secretary Sebelius or someone else.

TAPPER: What do you say to Democrats who say, you know what, you're not really concerned, you don't support Obamacare to begin with, you want it to fail, and this is -- these are crocodile tears, you're not actually that worried about it at all?

MURPHY: Well, that's silly.

And it's silly because none of their questions really pursued along the lines of who was responsible for what happened. Their questions were consistently things like, do you promise everything is going to be OK, are you really, really promising? They weren't seriously pursuing this. That is something that's important, something that is so important that they ran it through without any Republican support. Any amendments we put in, they removed before it got to the House floor.

They continue to push this through. And now they're saying, will you please help us make this work? Part of helping to make it work is just saying, I have got three quarters of a million constituents almost and they're saying this doesn't work, so tell us what you're going to do to change it before this whole new surge of techies comes in and does something which the White House isn't even telling us what's going to happen. They just have some plan that's private.

TAPPER: I guess the last question I have for you is you're a psychologist in addition to being a member of Congress. Since repealing Obamacare is not going to happen any time in the next few years, if ever, what do you want to happen to Obamacare to change it to make it better, so Pennsylvanians, who don't have health insurance -- and there are a lot of them -- will be able to get this product?

MURPHY: I'd still like there to be a confidentiality of records online and that's not there. I'd like to know the IRS can't access it. I want people to be able to buy their insurance wherever they want and not just one little restricted community.

The president said you can keep your insurance if you want it, I want that to happen. I want people to be able to keep their doctor. That's not going to happen. That needs to change.

So to have this marketplace where you really can buy the plan you want and see the doctor that you need at a price you can afford still needs to happen.

TAPPER: Congressman Tim Murphy, thank you so much and say hello to the beautiful Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

MURPHY: I'll do that. Thank you.

TAPPER: On the heels of accusations that the NSA tapped the German chancellor's phone, we just received some new information that could guarantee U.S. diplomats will be sitting at the lunch table by themselves at the next United Nations meeting.

According to classified documents released by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the NSA routinely monitored the phone calls of 35 world leaders. The story was first reported in the British newspaper "The Guardian." According to the report, senior officials in the State Department, Pentagon and even the White House were encouraged to share their Rolodexes to help the NSA pull it off.

I want to bring in CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, did this surveillance provide any useful counterterrorism information, if you're spying on Angela Merkel of Germany?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The answer seems to be no. This is the document "The Guardian" based their reporting on dated 2006.

It's remarkable how matter of fact it is, saying that U.S. officials were asked to provide their full Rolodexes, direct line, fax numbers, residence, cellular numbers of 35 world leaders, but it even references here that these have noted little reportable intelligence from these particular numbers, which appear not to be used for sensitive discussion.

So you have this set up as a case where you have angered in effect many of your closest allies with this intrusion and admitting from the very beginning that it did not provide you with much actionable or useful intelligence. So you get all of the pain and none of the gain, in effect.

TAPPER: Interesting cost/benefit analysis there. This is in 2006, this document, as you point out, during the previous administration, George W. Bush. Do we have any indication of whether or not this continued under President Obama?

MURPHY: Well, as you know -- and you mentioned Germany being one of these countries clearly that was on this list, and this set up this very awkward phone call between President Obama and Angela Merkel yesterday, where, in that phone call according to the White House, the president was able to say we are not now listening to your calls and we will not in the future.

He did not say we did not in the past. The White House has been pressed on this and Jay Carney was again pressed on this today, saying, wait a second, did this happen in the past? He wouldn't answer that question. In fact, this is how he characterized it when he was speaking to White House reporters today.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are not going to comment publicly on every specified alleged intelligence activity. And as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.


SCIUTTO: They keep repeating that point as well, that everybody spies on everybody, in effect. They also say they are reviewing this practice to get, in their words, a better balance between security concerns and privacy concerns, so presumably they understand that they haven't gotten that balance right. But it remains to be seen how far they pull this back.

TAPPER: Interesting. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up on THE LEAD: a ship attacked, its captain and crew members said to be Americans kidnapped by pirates. Will Navy SEALs be tasked with saving the captain, as they have before?

Plus, it could be a preview of what you can expect in 2016 if she decides to run, of course, Hillary Clinton heckled. What was the protester so angry about? That's coming up.


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

Now, time for the world lead. It's no doubt been an agonizing 24 hours for two American sailors kidnapped by pirates off the African coast. It happened yesterday in the Gulf of Guinea, about 40 miles outside Nigeria, an area that's been considered a piracy hot post over -- hot spot, rather, over the past year.

A U.S. official confirms that the ship captain and engineer were aboard an oil supply vessel when armed men stormed the boat and took them hostage.

Joining us now with the very latest on this situation is CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, have we learned any new information about who these kidnapped men are?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, sadly, Jake, nothing has been announced yet from either the company or the U.S. government which is monitoring the situation closely. We're told about these two Americans, the captain and the chief engineer in this pirate attack yesterday taken off the boat. At this hour, no word on where they are.

This ship, let's go back to the photo of it, the Sea Retriever, was going around in these West African waters resupplying oil installations. This is a very rough piece of territory off the coast of Nigeria, very violent. It has suffered a lot of pirate attacks.

Let's just look at some of the numbers on how the violence has grown. Last year alone, 62 attacks and if you look over the previous two years, in 2011 and 2010, a steady rise. A lot of the violence here is over the oil-rich revenues in this region, holding people for ransom but some 55 commercial mariners have been taken hostage in recent months. A very rough situation for the families, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Barbara, what now? Is there any hope of a rescue? That certainly has happened in the past. STARR: Well, you know, the world's attention was captured off Somalia, wasn't it, when Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama was rescued some years ago off the coast of Somalia. Here, it may be much more difficult. They don't have very good intelligence about where these people may be at this moment.

Right now, the Pentagon says there is no role for the U.S. military in any of this, but ironically, there is a military exercise in the region right now. A number of countries, including the U.S. and Nigeria, practicing how to improve security at sea -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

But with the movie "Captain Phillips" out in theaters now which dramatizes the real life rescue of Captain Richard Phillips by Navy SEALs in 2009, during a similar kidnapping, are we ignoring the still real plight of sea captains working on these dangerous waters?

I want to bring in sea captain, Don Marcus. He's presidents of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, which is a union. He's also a sea captain.

And you have been in not these pirate infested waters but other ones.

A lot of people want to compare this attack to what happened to Captain Phillips off the coast of Somalia. But you say this area, the Gulf of Guinea, is in a completely different situation. Can you explain?

CAPT. DON MARCUS, PRES. INTL. ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES & PILOTS: Sure. It's quite a different model. As Barbara said, the danger there is extreme. The model is, it's part of the oil and mineral industry. They're extracting great wealth out of this area.

The platforms are stationary, unlike the situation off the coast of Somalia, where you've got essentially cargo vessels carrying cargo from point A to point B within vicinity of the coast. These vessels and oil platforms are stationary. They are being serviced by small vessels that have low free board that are usually quite slow. They are much more vulnerable.

It's an entirely different industry and the model is quite different. Instead of capturing a vessel and the crew and taking the vessel to a safe haven and holding the crew hostage pending negotiations, the model in the Gulf of Guinea is more akin to theft and kidnapping.

TAPPER: They just want the oil?

MARCUS: Well, they want the machinery, they want the supplies, they want the oil. They want the crew, they take them ashore and hold them captive for ransom. It's a different model.

TAPPER: All right. What kind of training does a captain receive for situations like this? I know your organization does some of that training. MARCUS: Yes. Well, we have extensive training with our contracted employers at our training facility in Baltimore, Maryland. And that includes anti-terrorism training, small arms training, a number of different types of training, including some training to help you in the event that you are taken hostage. As far as the oil companies go, I can't speak to that. It's really a different industry and a different arrangement that they have and an entirely different scenario.

TAPPER: Based on your experience, what's going through the hostages' heads right now?

MARCUS: Well, they're in serious peril and you have to -- your heart has to go out to them and their families. They are being held somewhere ashore and they have to hope for the payment of ransom.

TAPPER: What advice would you give them?

MARCUS: Well, I think the only thing you could do is what Captain Phillips told mariners and our members, is to keep your composure and try to keep your sense of self and your courage, because it requires extreme composure to get through an ordeal like these men are going through.

TAPPER: I hope they make it through it.

Captain Don Marcus, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

MARCUS: Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up next, he trained infamous killer whale Tilikum and was there when the whale killed one of his co-workers. What does he think unleashed the whale's killer instincts? A sneak peek of the CNN film "Blackfish" is ahead.

Plus, remember that time Dick Cheney shot his friend in the face? We are learning how the story got out. Was then First Lady Laura Bush the one who spilled the beans? That's coming up next.


TAPPER: In our buried lead now, she was a veteran sea world trainer who dedicated her life to caring for the animals she loved, but Dawn Brancheau's life was cut short by a killer whale she had trained with for years and it turns out this orca had killed twice before.

So, why was it still being used to entertain? Is it simply too dangerous to keep these types of mammals in captivity at all? Those are the questions being asked in a new CNN film that premieres tonight. It's called "Blackfish".

CNN's Martin Savidge went to western Canada in search of answers.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Colin Baird grew up on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. As a teenager, he started working at a local marine park called Sealand of the Pacific.

COLIN BAIRD, FORMER KILLER WHALE TRAINER: I would go after school and weekends, you know, growing up and just thought that's how everybody grew up.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Sealand of Pacific used to be here, where this marina is. Now, there's nothing left of the old place. It was an oceanarium. That's an aquarium that was actually built in the ocean, and there were nets that separated the animals, the seals, the sea lions -- and the stars, the killer whales.

(voice-over): Baird eventually became a trainer, working with the three killer whales. His favorite a small male named Tilikum.

BAIRD: He was very easy to work. He was very easy going. He learned quickly. He learned well.

SAVIDGE: Among the other trainers, 20-year-old marine biology student Keltie Byrne. In February 20th, 1991, she had just finished a show with the killer whales when she slipped and fell into their enclosure. Baird arrived minutes later.

BAIRD: The three orcas were a little surprised that one of their trainers seemingly jumped into the pool, although fallen, and they were sort of excited about that. It was something completely out of the norm.

SAVIDGE: Witnesses say the whales, including Tilikum, kept Byrne from reaching the sides, repeatedly pulling her under the frigid water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They couldn't get her. And finally, she -- she didn't come up anymore.

SAVIDGE: Baird, a trained diver, volunteered to go and retrieve Byrne's body.

(on camera): The co-worker just suffered, drowned in someway related to the animals that are now in the tank that you are about to go in with.

BAIRD: Yes. But this wasn't a malicious attack. I mean, it was an accident.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The coroner's inquest listing Byrne's death as drowning due to or by a consequence of the forced submission by orca, killer whales.

She was the first trainer ever killed.

ANNA HALL, MARINE ZOOLOGIST: Oh my goodness. It was awful. It was awful for everybody. People in general just couldn't believe what had happened right here in our own backyard.

SAVIDGE: Not long after Sealand shut down, Tilikum was sold to SeaWorld in Orlando. But residents would hear about Tilikum again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff deputies have identified the 27-year-old man found dead in a killer whale's tank --

SAVIDGER: In 1999, a man's body was found draped naked on Tilikum's back one morning. How the man got there, SeaWorld couldn't say.

Then, in 2010, Tilikum pulled a trainer Dawn Brancheau into the water to her death.

When he first met Tilikum, Colin Baird had no problem with captivity and killer whales. Now, three decades and three deaths later, he definitely does.

(on camera): Do you blame him?

BAIRD: I don't blame him, no. This would never happen if he had been left in the North Atlantic.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Martin Savidge, CNN, Victoria, British Columbia.


TAPPER: SeaWorld declined CNN's request to be interviewed on camera but we did get a statement. I'll read you part of it. "Blackfish is billed as a documentary," they say, "but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and regrettably exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues."

You can see for yourself tonight. Be sure to tune in when "Blackfish" premieres this evening at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Let's check in in our political panel in the green room. Gloria Borger, some words of wisdom today from Maryland's attorney general, Doug Gansler. He is also running for governor. He suggests if you walk into a party full of half naked teenagers who are dancing on the furniture and they're all drinking out of red cups, don't jump to any conclusions. There is the Governor Gansler right now or would-be Governor Gansler.

He says it could be, I quote, "Kool-Aid". That's according to the state's top law enforcement officer. The attorney general pictured in the middle of this beach house rager in Delaware, king of reminiscent of "porky's."

Honestly, Gloria, t any point in your youth, did you go to any parties in high school where they served Kool-Aid in keg cups?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. That would be definitely no. It seems to me like somebody else is drinking the Kool-Aid around here. It may be Gansler.

TAPPER: All right. Stick around.


TAPPER: Stick around. THE LEAD will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)