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NSA Spying on Foreign Diplomats and Officials Causes Controversy; Interview with Senator Marco Rubio; Two Americans Kidnapped by Pirates

Aired October 25, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And of course, Obamacare. Senator Rubio wants the penalty delayed because of all the website problems. The question is how and whether he'll succeed.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also new this hour, Halloween is supposed to be of course the time to cut loose and show everyone how creative and/or creepy you can be. But listen to this one. One university is telling students not to wear what they view as offensive costumes like dressing up like cowboys or Indians. Are they going too far? That is coming up.

CUOMO: But first this morning, relations between the U.S. and some of its closest European allies possibly hitting rock bottom this morning. German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling her trust in the Obama administration "shattered" after hearing reports the NSA tapped her personal cellphone. That has the White House on full-scale damage control, even publishing an op-ed in the "USA Today" promising to review procedures. Jim Acosta live from the White House. Good to be with you this morning, Jim. How much damage have these reports done?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going to have to see, Chris. Another day and more damage control here at the White House. And White House officials are not acknowledging that the U.S. is spying on foreign leaders, but they are saying that the president is ordering a review of surveillance programs.


ACOSTA: This morning, at a meeting of European leaders they all emerged unanimous, saying that reports of U.S. spying on their leaders jeopardizes U.S.-Europe relations and even the fight against terrorism. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke with President Obama on Wednesday after reports that her personal cellphone was tapped, joined her French counterpart to call for talks with the U.S. to renegotiate their country's intelligence sharing protocols. It's just the latest in a string of embarrassing revelations that started with NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

This morning, the White House is calling for a review of its surveillance programs. White house homeland security official Lisa Monaco writing an op-ed in "USA Today" saying, quote, "That's why the president has directed us to review our surveillance capabilities, including with respect to our foreign partners. We want to ensure we are collecting information because we need it and not just because we can." And she admits bluntly, "These disclosures have created significant challenges in our relationships with some of our closest foreign partners."

Merkel told reporters Thursday that trust between the U.S. and Germany needs to be rebuilt. In fact, "The Washington Post" reports this morning that the U.S. is quietly telling many foreign intelligence services that Snowden may hold details about their secret cooperation with the U.S. And "The Guardian" newspaper, which broke the Snowden story, reports that 35 world leaders may have had their conversations monitored by the U.S., each new revelation straining U.S. ties further.

France's president, Francois Hollande, said this this morning, "A rule of good conduct is that you don't bug the portable phones of people you meet regularly at international summits."


ACOSTA: And we should also report this morning that the chief over at the NSA, General Keith Alexander, gave an interview to a defense department blog that basically said that the U.S. has to find a way to stop these disclosures from happening, to somehow stop reporters from publishing these sorts of documents, either legislatively or through the courts. He didn't exactly say how that would be done but that it needs to happen because he says stopping surveillance here in the United States and around the world would ignore the lessons of September 11th. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Jim, thanks so much, starting us off from the White House.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in the Republican senator, Marco Rubio, joining us from his home state of Florida this morning to talk much more about this and many other topics. Senator, thank you so much for coming in.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: You heard Jim Acosta reporting there. I want to get your take in the latest on these leaks that have been coming out over and over again, Allegations the U.S. spied on the German chancellor on her cellphone. Now we have this op-ed, the president's advisers saying they'll review the U.S. surveillance programs. What's your take on this? Do you think trust in the U.S. has been compromised?

RUBIO: I think trust has been compromised for different reasons, not because of the spy program but because of our conduct of foreign policy or lack thereof in terms of having a clear vision. You see reports this week that the Saudis, for example, are beginning to say it they're going to go it alone in the Middle East. But that's a separate topic.

Let me just say this on the NSA programs, three things. Number one, an ongoing review of our intelligence gathering capabilities is the right approach because at the end of the day you want to make sure your resources are being used where you need them the most. Number two, these leaders are responding to domestic pressures in their own country. None of them are truly about any of this. They're aware of it because of my third point, and that is everyone spies on everybody. That's just a fact. And whether they want to acknowledge that publicly or not, and every country has different capabilities, but at the end of the day if you are a U.S. government official traveling abroad, you are aware anything you have on your cell phone, your iPad, could be monitored by foreign intelligence agencies, including that of your own allies. So I think a lot of what you're seeing is for the domestic consumption of their own public. But at the end of the day, everyone knew there was gambling going on in Casablanca.

BOLDUAN: That's one way to put it. I want to ask you about the rollout of Obamacare and the fiasco really surrounding it. You're pushing for a bill to delay the individual mandate care until the web site is fixed. The White House has so far given no indication they're open to that. That's really the core of this program. Have you heard back from the letter you sent?

RUBIO: No, we haven't, unfortunately, other than the statement by Mr. Carney at one of the press conferences saying I was less than sincere about our effort. I don't under that because a week ago when we met with the president he said after all this government shutdown stuff passed he would work with anybody to fix the things that were wrong in the law.

Clearly I want to repeal Obamacare. I think it's a bad law for the country. I think it's the wrong way to do a right thing, and that's help people access health insurance. But right now what I'm focused on is trying to save real people from real damage. I think it's unfair, it's fundamentally unfair to fine people, tax people, to send the IRS after people for not buying health insurance when the website they're supposed to buy it on doesn't work. That's all the law says. It says until that website is working don't fine people. I don't understand how anybody could be against that.

BOLDUAN: Are you in conversations, working with any of Democrats who are pushing very similar or almost the same kind of proposal you are?

RUBIO: We are reaching out to offices across the aisle as well. We're trying to get as many people to support us. I don't see this as a partisan thing. I think we're going to continue to have a debate about the merits of Obamacare. All this says is we should not be penalizing anybody until this website is working because that is the main way we've told people they'll be able to get health insurance. And I think that's something that at the end of the day will have to happen and something that should unite us. It shouldn't be something that divides us from a partisan perspective.

BOLDUAN: I want you to answer to the criticism you alluded to. Democrats argue that your fix prescription for a fix here and some by the others Republican is just a thinly veiled attempt to try to derail this law. You know and you said that you do not support it. How do you answer to them?

RUBIO: Again, they can say that. There's no doubt I would like to derail Obamacare. But that's not what this bill does. All this bill says is you can't penalize people until the website works. I don't understand how that is something that could possibly -- how somebody could take a position against something like that. I think that makes all the sense in the world.

BOLDUAN: Following that 16-day government shutdown and the hit that Republicans took for their approach in terms of linking funding the government to defunding the health care law, do you now stand with your leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who says there will be no more government shutdowns.

RUBIO: Again, I don't think the government shutdown was our choice, despite the way it's been presented to the American public. The fact of the matter is that me and my Republican colleagues, and the House actually acted on this, were prepared to fund the entire government, every single penny of it, including programs and elements of it we didn't agree with, as long as we didn't spend or waste a penny more on this broken health care law. It's the Democrats who decided to shut down the government because their point was unless we fund everything, including Obamacare, we fund nothing. They're the ones that shut down the government. You have to ask them.

BOLDUAN: It sounds like it's a difference in view point. You can't have those two things together. Mitch McConnell acknowledged it was a faulty approach to try to take on Obamacare when you're looking at a government shutdown. So you don't think that was a faulty approach?

RUBIO: Again, all I can tell you is the House passed a bill that funded the government but did not fund Obamacare. It sent it over to the Senate and the Senate leadership, the Democrats, rejected it. Had they accepted that Bill there would not have been a government shutdown.

BOLDUAN: You really think there was any chance the president would accept a bill that would defund a law that has his name on it?

RUBIO: Again, we have a disagreement, right, on a significant policy issue. But that is the most important power that the Congress has is the power to fund or not fund things. That's a constitutional power. It is the rightful power of Congress to decide what to spend their money on or what not to spend taxpayer money on. That's a legitimate exercise of Congressional power.

BOLDUAN: So another big issue that you have been a big part of and really championed, I want to ask you about, immigration. Back in the conversation, many would say finally. What are the chances you think a bill could pass Congress and get to the president's desk by the end of the year?

RUBIO: Remember, the Senate has passed a Bill. Now the House is discussing how to proceed. I'm not sure how they'll proceed. I think they deserve the time and space to figure that out, and I think they're in the process of doing that. But I don't have any great detail about that because they're working out that internally.

Beyond that point, though, I'd go back to something you just asked me a moment ago, and that is being realistic. You just asked me a moment ago, did we think it was realistic that the president would sign a bill that defunded his signature project? When some people said, of course, that's not realistic. I also don't think it's realistic to believe that the House is just going to take up and pass whatever the Democrats in the Senate are demanding.

And so I think there are many things on immigration that we can agree on, and I think we should move on those and make progress on those issues. And there are a handful that we have no consensus on in that country yet. And those issues may have to be delayed at some point until we can reach a consensus on how to approach them. I want to solve immigration. I think it's an important issue for the country to deal with. But I don't think we should not do anything because we can't do everything.

BOLDUAN: So a piecemeal approach you could be open for?

RUBIO: That was my original position and continues to be my preferred option because I just think we'll get a better result that way and I think we'll get a result that way. I think when you try to do anything big in Washington, it ends up running into headwinds. That's the direction the Senate went. I wanted to influence that process, so I got involved in it. But I continue to believe a series of sequential, individual bills is the best way, the ideal way to reform our immigration system.

BOLDUAN: In the end, whatever the final product would be, what do you think the chances are that it will include a pathway to citizenship? You know that's the bone of contention. Has anything changed?

RUBIO: In order to solve this problem you eventually have to confront that reality, that you have 11 million people living in this country who are here illegally and most will be here for the rest of their lives. What we have today in my opinion is a de facto amnesty. The status quo is a de factor amnesty. So we have to address that issue in a realistic way.

I think it gets easier to address that issue if we deal with some of the other issues first. And that's why I've favored the sequential individual bills. I think if people have real confidence that the law is being enforced, that we're not going to have this problem again, that there's real border security, I think you buy yourself more space and flexibility in finally dealing with those that are here illegally. But that's the toughest issue of all, as you touched on.

BOLDUAN: It does lend me to -- move me to think while this has been something people have been talking about and debating for more than a decade, it sounds like there isn't a near-term solution in the works, though.

RUBIO: Everybody is in favor of the concept of immigration reform, but when you start talking about the details of it, of course that raises all sorts of objections on both sides of the debate. But I just hope we're realistic here. We have a chance to move on 90 percent of it, and we shouldn't again allow the fact that we can't do everything to lead us to do nothing. BOLDUAN: Senator Marco Rubio, always great to see you and have you on. Thank you so much.

RUBIO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Let's head over to John Berman who's in for Michaela with more of the morning's headlines. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Kate.

An accident on a thrill ride at the North Carolina state fair sends five people to the hospital, two with serious injuries. They were getting off the Vortex, a ride that spins, twirls, and flips passengers upside down, when the ride suddenly started up again. Among the injured, the operator of the ride. State inspectors are now on that site investigating.

Hope for freedom delayed for Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel. The judge who ordered a new trial for his murder conviction now saying that Skakel is staying put, for now at least, until a judge can determine if he has the authority to let Skakel out. That decision is not expected until next week at the earliest.

New York police now saying they are losing hope of finding an autistic teenager who has been missing for weeks. And 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo walked out of his school on October 4th. And despite an extensive search he has not been seen since. The police commissioner is insisting the search does continue, but he does say hope of finding the teen alive is fading.

Demolition now under way at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the site of that horrific shooting in Newtown. Contractors reportedly told to erase every inch of the school. The job is expected to take several weeks. The students displaced after the mass shooting last year have been going to school in a neighboring town, and a new school is set to open in Newtown in 2016.

And a California congressman being called a hero this morning. Paul Ruiz was flying from Washington to Palm Springs when an elderly passenger became ill and collapsed. Now, Congressman Ruiz luckily is a physician. He and another passenger, a firefighter, were able to stabilize the man when the flight was diverted to Raleigh, North Carolina, for an emergency landing. No word this morning on the identity or the condition of the victim, but, again, lucky that the congressman was a doctor and willing to step in and help as really anyone should do in that situation.

CUOMO: Perfect. We will have to see what happened. Certainly he tried to do the right thing. J.B., thank you very much.

Let's get to Indra Petersons, keeping track of the latest forecast. Cold, cold, cold, did I get it?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That sounds so good, guys. Finally, after a week, people are saying yes, it is cold. I hear everyone on the street, too, by the way. They are saying it is chilly and there is a reason for that. Temperatures this morning below freezing for many of you, Kansas City, 30, Chicago below freezing, 31 degrees. That is what we're dealing with this morning into the mid- Atlantic and northeast.

Temperatures in the afternoon 10 degrees below normal, but once you add in the wind, gusts anywhere from 20 miles per hour out there, we're starting to feel that it's cooler out there than it really is. Sometimes it feels like 40. In the morning it feels like 30s out there. With the wind out there, we're still talking about a few like effect showers, nothing major. Even as we go through the weekend we see a system kick through. You get a chance for some light showers.

Otherwise that big story now is that that cold air has made itself go farther down to the southeast. Look at this, from the plains to the northeast, all the way down to the southeast, we are talking about freeze warnings out there. So many of you seeing those temperatures dipping below the freezing mark as the jet continues to dive farther down to the south. That is what we're all dealing with this week.

Look at those temperatures. Right now we're looking at Nashville below freezing, at 30. Atlanta this morning, you're waking up at 39 degrees. I want to say you into next week. A lot of people say what about next week? There's a big system we'll be focusing on as we start your next work week. Looking for blizzard conditions in Montana and Wyoming. The reason I want to bring this guy up, it will make its way across the country, and a lot of people have to make Halloween costumes, and it looks like Ohio valley into the northeast, maybe rain and wind for Halloween.

BERMAN: : Leg warmers on those costumes.


PETERSONS: I didn't mean your costume. I meant the your kids' costumes.



BERMAN: Thank you very much for that.

CUOMO: I can't say anything. Apparently I wore a dress at the first occasion I ever went to. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just a little surprised. That's all.

Coming up on NEW DAY, it's happened again. Have you been following this story? Two Americans kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria. We'll bring you the latest on the all-out search to find them.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, a Massachusetts teacher found murdered. One of her students now in custody. We're hearing this morning from a classmate who saw -- who sat two seats from the suspect on that deadly day.


CUOMO: A desperate hunt is on for two American citizens kidnapped, now likely being held by pirates after their oil platform supply ship was hijacked off the coast of Nigeria. I want to bring in Fran Townsend, CNN's national security analyst, here to help us understand this. Thanks for being here, Fran.

Another emergency situation involving pirates. Set the stage. Why are there still pirates? Why, in this age of sophistication, are these ships vulnerable, why always Africa? Set the stage.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure, well you know, people now, our viewers will remember, you have the Captain Philip's movie out. That was off the east coast of Africa, near Somalia.

And I think that's what most Americans - where we think we have the problem. Except, it's shifting more and more now to the west coast. This kidnapping is off the coast of Nigeria, volatile situation in that area. And more and more of these sort of pirate incidents over off the west coast. But normally on the west coast what you see is they're stealing from the ships, they're taking cargo, they're siphoning oil off and selling it on the black market. What's unusual off the west coast is this kidnapping. In the north of Nigeria you have Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group. We've heard a good deal about it. But in the delta region there are these gangs and marauders. Very dangerous area, difficult to get for workers, foreign workers to get life insurance if they have to go into the delta region because of these kidnappings and violent gangs.

BOLDUAN: The obvious question is for these companies who have to go through these waters, why not avoid getting close to the coast of Nigeria? Why not avoid getting close to the coast of Somalia. Why can't they?

TOWNSEND: You would if you could but of course business is run by commercial efficiencies. Right, 30 percent of the oil that comes from the region going to the United States comes along that coast. And so what shippers try to do is have sort of controls on the ship to be able to avoid being taken over. But it's sort of an inevitable sort of risk in the business.

BERMAN: What's the concern? In Iraq and Afghanistan there was a concern that the common criminals behind some of the kidnappings would look to terrorist groups and perhaps sell the hostages to sort of kick it up to a higher level. What's the concern there that this could be common crime ultimately gets connected to terrorism?

TOWNSEND: That's right. That's the connection between these gangs and the delta region and Boko Haram in the north. So you worry that they will align forces because the gangs don't have the connections to the west, push them north to Boko Haram, who then can plug into a larger sort of network, Islamic extremist network in the region.

CUOMO: How likely is it these people get back safe? TOWNSEND: Well, you have two Americans. The question is do they realize their Americans? How much do they know about the people that they are holding captive. And once they realize that they -- it's been very public, that both these people, both the captain and engineer are Americans, can they then leverage that or will they decide it brings too much attention, too much potential violence. People know how the Maersk Alabama and Captain Philips ended with the Navy S.E.A.L.s and the assault there. Do they decide that brings too much attention to them that they want to get rid of them, and either give them to Boko Haram, a more capable militant group, or want to release them? It's too early to tell.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Fran. Thank you so much for the insight. Clearly the situation is not over.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, she was one of the last people to see her teacher alive and now the Massachusetts high school student is recounting those final moments. Did she see the accused classmate at the scene? Details ahead.

CUOMO: And, he stuck out like a sore thumb. The man who wants to be governor, Maryland's attorney general, popping up at a teenage party. $50,000 in damage afterwards, underage drinking. Why was he there? Why didn't he do more to stop it? We'll take you through it.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching new day with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Friday, thank goodness, October 25th. Coming up in the show, a beach party -- a beach week party gets an unexpected guest. Maryland's attorney general caught surrounded by teens allegedly drinking alcohol and the man running for governor didn't stop it. We'll hear his response to the controversy and we'll talk about it in just a few minutes.

CUOMO: Halloween's coming. We're all thinking about costumes. Listen to this one. Students are asked to dress up as anything they want to as long as it doesn't offend anyone. How about the choices that are made, the directives that are given? Is this about PC gone out of control again? Are they good rules? We'll take a look at it, but first let's get right to John in for Michaela with this morning's headlines.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Chris. The White House reviewing surveillance operations at the NSA. This announcement coming in an editorial this morning in "USA Today." That as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with French officials, calling for a meeting with the U.S. to start rebuilding trust. "The Guardian" newspaper now reporting that the NSA had monitored the phone conversations of as many as 35 world leaders, including Chancellor Merkel.

Finger-pointing during the first congressional hearing on the trouble rollout of the Obamacare website. Contractors defended their work and blamed the government, really, for all the problem, saying only two weeks were spent on testing instead of the months they say they needed. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify next week.

The mystery of Maria may be over. A Bulgarian woman claims she is the mother of the blonde-haired blue-eyed girl taken by police from a couple in Greece. The woman tells investigators she left the child with a family she worked for in 2009. Her son adding they didn't sell her, they just didn't have the money to go back. A DNA sample from the woman will be taken today, and compared with that of the little girl.

Questions this morning about a shooting at an armory near Memphis. Tennessee National Guard recruiter who had been relieved of duty allegedly opened fire, wounding two of his superiors. Affiliate WMC reports a third guardsman was grazed in the arm. Authorities say the injuries are not life-threatening. The suspect is in custody.

The latest creation by street artist, Banksy, treasured before it could be trashed. The 24th piece in his month-long New York City residency, popped up on the shutters of Larry Flint's Hustler strip club. The piece is called "Waiting in Vain at the Door of the Club." Didn't stay up long. Workers cut the door and hauled the potential gold mine away on a truck before it could be defaced.

This guy has kept himself in the news and in the spotlight for this entire month in residency he's been here in New York City.

BOLDUAN: But still so anonymous at the same time.

BERMAN: Very much so.

BOLDUAN: All right, thanks so much, John.

This morning, students return to class at Danvers High School. This, as we get new information from witnesses talking about what happened just moments before the Massachusetts math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, was killed.