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CNN NEWSROOM

Manhunt for Four Escaped Inmates; NSA Denies Report Obama Had Known about Spying; Community Honors Murdered Teacher; Crime Brown Charged with Felony Assault

Aired October 28, 2013 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERIFF GENE CAIN, CADDO COUNTY, OKLAHOMA: Not for sure they are armed but you got to -- you got to think they might be.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Now the national manhunt for these four men who pulled off the escape, which played out like a scene from "Shawshank Redemption."

Also --

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.

HARLOW: Angela Merkel's phone reportedly tapped. Germany enraged. Now German intelligence officials are expected to come to the U.S. demanding answers.

Plus more mud on the face of healthcare.gov.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're working out the kinks in the system.

HARLOW: Failure in a networking component, the site crashes again as the jokes pile on for Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you tried restarting your computer?

HARLOW: And Chris Brown, arrested for assault again.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Good morning from Atlanta. Happy Monday, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Carol Costello has a well-deserved day off.

We're going to get to that news on Chris Brown in just a moment but first this. It has been an uneasy night in an Anadarko, Oklahoma. Fifty miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Four inmates are on the loose as we speak after a daring jailbreak and police say they may be armed and dangerous.

You see them right there. I have to tell you, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, a small town, stuff like this is not supposed to happen, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And how it happened reads honestly like a far-fetched script straight out of Hollywood.

Let's get the latest on the escape and the manhunt that is now under way. Our George Howell is in Anadarko, Oklahoma, with the latest.

Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. So we know that those inmates were being held here at this detention center to be shipped off to a state prison but they had different plans and literally slipped through the cracks and then walked right out the door.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL (voice-over): A desperate search is under way this morning for four inmates after their bold escape Sunday morning from this detention center in Anadarko, Oklahoma, about an hour outside Oklahoma City. Their names, Dylan Three Irons, Prime Brown, Anthony Mendonca, Triston Cheadle, all considered armed and dangerous.

CAIN: Any time you know anybody breaks out of prison or anything you're going to say they're dangerous. We're not for sure they're armed but you got to -- you got to think they might be. Well, you know, they wasn't when they left but we don't know what they picked up after.

HOWELL: Each man was sentenced on criminal charges ranging from burglary to meth possession and parole violation. The details of their spectacular jailbreak read like a film script, a real life "Shawshank Redemption."

Officials say the men busted through a maintenance hatch above the shower in the jail. They crawled through a pipe space beneath the roof where the air conditioning and plumbing are located, then they knocked out a cement block to get to another room. That took them directly to an unlocked side door, which they simply pushed open to their freedom.

CAIN: We got officers just checking all the abandoned vehicles and checking residents where we might know they have relatives living. We're doing that right now.

HOWELL: Caddo County Sheriff Gene Cain says authorities only realized the escape after they were tipped off by someone who saw the inmates walking near the courthouse still wearing their orange jumpsuits.

CAIN: We immediately started a headcount on our prisoners and we did find that we had four missing.

HOWELL: The men later ditched the jumpsuits which officers found but there is still no sign of the escapees and that has residents here worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope they're not at my house when I get back.

(LAUGHTER)

That's all I hope. You just prepare yourself. I'm a gun owner, I've been all my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: So, Poppy, at this point we understand that this detention center was built some two years ago. Those maintenance hatches they were supposed to be sealed and shut, but in this case, clearly they weren't.

We've been reaching out to the sheriff to try to get comment on their investigation into how this happened in the first place first of all, and of course their search for these men at last check they have no new leads as to where the men could be and they are asking anyone with information to call them, Poppy, to help track these men down.

HARLOW: I was wondering about that. I mean, so many strange things, so it's newly constructed, two years old, they ditched their orange jumpsuits outside. But you have to think, what were they wearing? How did they get clothes to run and escape and not, you know, be noticed walking around without any clothes on?

What do we know about this search in terms of how many teams are on the ground? Is it all being handled locally? Is the FBI coming in? Do we know anything about that?

HOWELL: And those will be the fresh questions that we want to talk to the sheriff about. We've reached out to them and hope to learn more about that investigation. That search for these men. And, you know, the question is, are they still here in this county? Are they still in this state? Certainly we do know that there is an active search, the scope of that we hope to find out a little more this morning.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely. A lot of questions. George, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Well, now to this. With growing outrage over reports that the United States spied on some of its top European allies, a new report suggested that President Obama knew nothing about it until this summer. The "Wall Street Journal" citing unnamed U.S. officials reports that the NSA ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some other top world leaders after an internal White House review this summer. Meanwhile a top Republican lawmaker is defending the NSA surveillance program abroad saying it keeps allies, quote, "safe."

Congressman Mike Rogers told our Candy Crowley reports that the U.S. spied on millions of French citizens was misguided.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Maybe there's something more to that. And I would argue, by the way, if the French citizens knew exactly what that was about they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It's a good thing, it keeps -- the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe. And so I -- this whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation state interests I think is disingenuous candidly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So Mike Rogers calling it disingenuous there. In other words something kind of like this classic scene from "Casablanca."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is to leave here immediately. This cafe is closed until further notice. Clear the room at once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can he close me up? On what ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your winnings, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. We'll talk a lot more about all of this and the fallout throughout the show, but CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The newest Edward Snowden documents reveal more spying on America's closest allies. In Spain, reports the NSA listened in on 60 million phone calls in a single month and in Germany the "Bild am Sonntag " newspaper reports President Obama was briefed by NSA chief Keith Alexander about spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls back in 2010, contradicting White House assurances the president was not aware of the extent of the surveillance.

The NSA quickly denied the report telling CNN, "General Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Merkel."

The NSA's denial a clear step beyond the White House's willingness up to now only to deny present and future monitoring. CARNEY: I can tell you the president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.

SCIUTTO: German intelligence officials are expected to come to the U.S. to challenge their American counterparts on the spying after a German official accused the U.S. of breaking, quote, "German law on German soil." But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers defended the NSA surveillance on CNN Sunday, saying, it was both well- regulated and essential to keeping Americans and Europeans safe from terrorism.

ROGERS: I think the bigger news story here would be, Candy, if the United States intelligence services weren't trying to collect information that would protect U.S. interests both home and abroad.

SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Meantime, another problem emerging with the Obamacare Web site, it kept users from applying for coverage totally online for a short while. The administration is blaming a vendor networking issue, saying an attempted fix actually resulted in crashing the system last night. A spokesman for Verizon says the company immediately began working on the problem to fix it as quickly as possible.

All right, go Sox, a little bit of history made in last night's World Series game. For the very first time ever, the fall classic ended on a pickoff. St. Louis's Colton Wong was tagged out at first base. The Boston Red Sox beat the Cardinals 4-2, evening out the series two games each. Game five taking place tonight in St. Louis.

And still to come, Conrad Murray. You know that name. You know the face well. The man found guilty for causing Michael Jackson's death, well, he's now out of prison. This news broke overnight and wait until you find out what he plans to do now that he's out. We're going to tell you, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Checking top stories for you this morning.

Conrad Murray is a free man. He was released from a Los Angeles county jail this morning after serving two years for causing Michael Jackson's death. The jury found Dr. Murray's negligence led to the singer's death from an overdose of propofol.

Murray's medical license, they were suspended after his conviction but we're hearing that he plans to file for reinstatement so that he can practice medicine once again.

Meantime, Miami Dolphins' center Mike Pouncey has been ordered to testify before a grand jury in the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation. According to "Sports Illustrated," he was served with a subpoena in Foxborough an hour after his team lost to the New England Patriots.

Pouncey is a close friend and former college teammate of Hernandez. Police view him as a witness who could help them with their investigation.

In money news a recall involving broccoli salad. Taylor Farms has recalled more than 5,000 pounds of broccoli salad kit products because of possible listeria contamination. The kits were shipped to stores in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

You see those states on your screen. There have been no reports, though, of anyone getting sick.

Meantime, parts of Kansas could see tornadoes and hail. Indra Petersons is with us to talk about this.

This is quite a nasty storm system, right? Pretty early in the season.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Yes. Definitely something we're looking at, Poppy, that has to do with all the snow that is out in the Pacific northwest. This huge system today bringing tons of snow. I mean, as much as 18 inches of snow today possible in through Montana, even portions of Wyoming, even the high elevations of southern California, so this is the key here.

It is this exact system that has to blend with the warm air just east of it. In order to get that severe weather in through Kansas. You can actually see that difference there.

You're looking at warm air in the south, very cool temperatures where we're seeing that snow in the Pacific northwest and then you have the jet stream moving right through Kansas, so with that, of course, we have that severe weather threat.

Mostly here what we're talking about is strong winds and even some hail. An isolated tornado isn't something we can rule out. The big thing that matters here the system will be making its way to the northeast. They've be looking for that by the end of the week -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Just in time for me to make it back there and enjoy the weather that might be coming our way.

Appreciate it.

PETERSONS: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Thanks, Indra.

All right. Well, relatives and friends are gathering to honor a beloved teacher who was killed last week. The funeral for 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer begins in just about 45 minutes, held at the St. Augustine Church in Andover, Massachusetts. Hundreds of people gathered there yesterday to pay their respects and meantime we're hearing from the mother of the 14-year-old boy who is charged with Ritzer's murder.

Our Alexandra Field is outside of the church.

And, Alexandra, you've been covering this since the day it broke. Set the scene for us there?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, a week ago friends and family couldn't have imagined it but within an hour they will gather to say good-bye to Colleen Ritzer. It will happen right here in her hometown at her home church. Hundreds of people are expected to come out, among them more than 200 of a beloved math teacher's students.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD (voice-over): Hundreds of students, friends and colleagues line the streets of Andover to pay tribute to a beloved math teacher, Colleen Ritzer.

CAROLINE RUFO, RITZER'S FORMER COLLEGE ROOMMATE: She is an inspiration to all of us. She is an inspiration to me to live life to the fullest every single day.

FIELD: This Massachusetts community paid their respects this weekend with pink flowers and balloons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd like to honor Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer.

FIELD: A favorite teacher's favorite color.

RUFO: Colleen was a wonderful person, our room was decorated with inspirational quotes everywhere.

FIELD: A legacy of inspiration that her students are carrying with them.

At a football game over the weekend, players wore decals in Ritzer's honor.

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: The kids have been very strong and you know, they're percent veering. They're going to pull through.

FIELD: The body of the 24-year-old teacher was found in the woods behind Danvers High School last Tuesday. Philip Chism, a 14-year-old freshman in her algebra class, is charged with her murder.

Prosecutors have publicly pointed to a motive, but the suspect's mother is speaking up, a statement released by her son's attorney says her heart is broken for the Ritzer family and the loss of their daughter and sister, Colleen Ritzer. She says her son was born in love and is dear to her, very dear. She is struggling to understand this.

As the mystery continues, Ritzer's memory lives on.

RUFO: Just extreme loss, like there's just going to be a void forever in our hearts where, I don't know that anything can ever fill that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RUFO: Pink flowers have been placed outside the church in memory of Colleen Ritzer and a fitting tribute to a Danvers High School teacher, Danvers police have also sent their own honor guard -- Poppy.

HARLOW: What a sad, sad day. At least they'll remember the best of her there. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right. Still to come, we told you about Chris Brown at the top of the show. We'll get into it more. He is headed back to court. He was arrested this weekend. We'll tell you latest about the latest charge he faces and the serious legal consequences that it could hold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: What a song and what a legend. Rock fans this morning remembering a poet and a true legend, singer/songwriter Lou Reed died Sunday at his home in New York. His publicist did not release any details.

Reed was known for tackling taboo topics like drug addiction and homosexuality in his music. He actually had one top 40 hit, even though he was so well-known. That hit "Walk on the Wild Side". It was about drag queens. He was 71 years old. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

Meantime, singer Chris Brown in trouble once again. Here's what happened: Brown and a bodyguard are charged with felony assault accused of attacking a man early on Sunday outside of a posh hotel in Washington. Brown's representative and lawyer did not immediately respond to our calls for comment.

But this arrest could have very serious legal consequences for Brown. He is still, remember, on probation in connection with that 2009 attack on his former girlfriend, Rihanna.

A.J. Hammer is with us from New York.

So, A.J., what do we know about what happened? This was around 4:30 in the morning on Sunday, right?

A.J. HAMMER, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: Yes, and it is serious. According to police, these two allegedly assaulted a man outside a W Hotel in Washington, D.C., after leaving a party Brown was hosting. The report says the alleged victim wanted a picture with Brown, and when an argument ensued, brown reportedly used a homophobic slur.

Police say Brown own his bodyguard punched the victim in the face causing as it was put "significant bodily injury" which led to the felony assault charge and of course this is the latest drama for the Grammy winning singer known for his explosive temper, four years ago Brown pled guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna.

It was March 2011 when Brown apologized again after an emotional outburst following an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America", and a year later injured in a bottle smashing fight from the rapper Drake reportedly over Rihanna in a New York City nightclub.

Brown does remain on probation for that domestic violence could be conviction and if this is seen as a violation he could face up to four years in prison, Poppy, and he already has had two probation violation charges in the past year, both just resulted in additional community service. But if this goes the wrong way for Brown, it could meantime.

HARLOW: I wonder, A.J., are you surprised we haven't heard anything from Brown's team on this yet?

HAMMER: I think they're probably crafting their statement and waiting for the arraignment to happen, expected to happen sometime after 1:00 p.m. in Washington, D.C. Once that goes down, maybe we'll see a press conference, or get some kind of release. We'll be waiting on that. And he already has a hearing scheduled in California to address his probation status on November 20th.

HARLOW: Yes. All right. A.J., appreciate it. Thank you.

HAMMER: You got it.

HARLOW: Still to come it is a new week, another week, but the same story for the Obamacare Web site. We're going to tell you about the latest embarrassing breakdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Happening now in THE NEWSROOM: an amusement park ride operator faces assault charges, accused of tampering with the ride that injured five people.

Plus --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Consider using our low res website with simpler fonts and graphics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That from "Saturday Night Live".

Healthcare.gov still under fire. Just last night, the Website crashed again and now, the face of that so-called Obamacare girl, well, it's gone from the site.

And shiny new sports venues almost ready to go, but there's a lot more to do before Sochi is ready for the Winter Games.

NEWSROOM continues now.

Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow, in this morning for Carol Costello. OK. Here's yet another sign of how deeply flawed the Obamacare Web site is. The latest crash which angered and frustrated people trying to enroll happened last night. Nearly four weeks after a dismal launch, the site is an easy punchline for comedians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the regular English site isn't working, try signing up in a different language like say Icelandic. And then choose one of four simple plans, fjordflug (ph), heugelhoffer (ph), trollish (ph), or high-five. Now, that's fun.

And if our site keeps freezing we're also provided links to other helpful Web sites, such as Kayak.com.