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THE SITUATION ROOM
Feinstein Calls for "Total" Intel Review; The Man Who's Spreading Snowden's Leaks; Obamacare Web Site Restored after Crash; Does Obama have A Management Problem?; Bill Clinton Tries To Close The Deal; Putin: Gays, Lesbians Welcome In Sochi; Chris Brown in D.C. Court; What Happened to Obamacare Girl?
Aired October 28, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, new revelations about U.S. snooping on allies, sparking anger abroad, questions at home, did all of that massive surveillance take place behind the president's back?
Bill Clinton back to doing what he does so well. The former president is on the campaign trail trying to help an old friend and trying to help Democrats take back a key governorship.
And the pop star Chris Brown back in trouble again. He's still on probation for assaulting the singer, Rihanna, and now faces serious new charges.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up. But this just coming into CNN right now. A very strong reaction to the latest reports of U.S. spying abroad from Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She's calling for a total review of all intelligence programs so that committee members can know just what is being done by the intelligence community. And regarding eavesdropping on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Feinstein says -- and I'm quoting -- "It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem."
American officials have some explaining to do here at home and around the world.
Let's find out what's going on from our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This is a very strong statement from Dianne Feinstein. She confirms, in effect -- and she's the chair of the Intelligence Committee -- not only that she's upset, that the intelligence community wasn't informed about all the snooping, including on the German chancellor, but that the president, she says, wasn't informed, either.
And, in effect, she's confirming all of these reports. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. This had been the burning question, what did the president know, that old question, what did the president know and when did he know it?
Now we have the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee telling us he did not know and senior administration officials telling us that, as well.
Senior administration officials telling CNN the president did not know of the surveillance of other world leaders, including allies, until the administration conducted a review this summer and then ended the program. A senior administration official went on to say, quote, "It's not reasonable to expect that the president would have been involved in or necessarily briefed on decisions about individual intelligence targets. Rather, he approves a set of intelligence priorities and then it's the responsibility of his administration to determine how to carry those out."
SCIUTTO (voice-over): White House Spokesman Jay Carney warned that critics of NSA surveillance should be careful what they wish for.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're one attack away from assessments about what went wrong in our intelligence capabilities and collections. The work that's being done here saves lives.
SCIUTTO: Whether listening in on the leaders of close allies, such as German Chancellor Merkel, saves lives, the White House didn't have an answer, though it confirmed it is reassessing such high level surveillance as part of its overall intelligence review.
On the Hill today, European lawmakers went head-to-head with Congressional leaders on NSA spying.
The head of the delegation told me their discussion was frank.
(on camera): You had a very stern message to deliver.
CLAUDE MORAES, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CIVIL LIBERTIES DELEGATION: I think we had a very robust and strong message when we came to Congress today. This mass surveillance, which has come through the allegations, is something that's disturbing to European citizens. They feel very uneasy. They don't know why it's happening, why our strongest ally is doing it.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): And today, they had more to talk about regarding Spain, where the NSA reportedly collected data from some 60 million phone calls in 30 days, leading to one more U.S. ambassador summoned to explain.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: European officials tell me that NSA surveillance in Spain and France only included metadata, not the content of the calls. Still, it is the spying on heads of state still causing the greatest outrage.
A senior administration official goes on to tell me this does not mean the NSA was going rogue or operating out of bounds and that part of the review the administration is conducting is to ensure that intelligence agencies are getting, quote, "effective guidance from policy makers."
So an admission there from the administration they were not getting that effective guidance, which seemed to allow this to go on without the president's knowledge.
BLITZER: And if you read this tough statement from Dianne Feinstein, which I read, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she says flatly, with respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies, including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany, "Let me state unequivocally, I am totally opposed."
She's not mincing any words.
SCIUTTO: Well, she is not. And to be fair, we do have another senior administration official telling our own Evan Peres that the president would at least have to approve the framework of these programs, that these programs are presidential programs. They would require an executive order and they would at least include the information about countries targeted, maybe not individual leaders targeted. So it's plausible that he would not know that Angela Merkel, for instance, that her cell phone in particular would be targeted. But at least the framework of these programs, listening in on leaders, would require presidential oversight.
So you have conflicting information there about how much the president would know.
BLITZER: And she's also upset the Senate Intelligence Committee wasn't informed, either. Clearly, she believes they should have been informed about all this.
SCIUTTO: Well, major questions about oversight regardless.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
So we're seeing one stunning allegation after another about U.S. surveillance abroad. The material handed over to a reporter by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
And it's providing a seemingly endless stream of revelations. Those revelations are rocking America's relationships with some of its closest allies.
And Christiane Amanpour, our chief international correspondent, is joining us right now -- Christiane, you just spoke to Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who has been breaking all of these Edward Snowden leaks.
What was the headline?
What did he just tell you? CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, that they have thousands and thousands of documents, but also, that he just simply rejects what, for instance, Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, British Prime Minister David Cameron, many, many U.S. and other Allied officials are saying, which is that this is dangerous, what they're doing, that they're putting all sorts of people at risk. They are compromising all sorts of abilities to close down terrorist cells and plots and this and that.
He rejects that and he always has.
This is what he said to me on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN GREENWALD, REPORTER, BLOGGER: Every terrorist who's capable of tying their own shoes has long known that the U.S. government and the U.K. government are trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can. That isn't new. We didn't reveal anything to the terrorists that they didn't already know.
What we revealed is that the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists, but is directed at innocent people around the world. None of this has anything to do with terrorism.
Is Angela Merkel a terrorist?
Are 60 or 70 million Spanish and French citizens terrorists?
Are there terrorists at Petrobras?
This is clearly about political power and economic espionage.
GREENWALD: And the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: So he gets very, you know, angry and righteous about the fact that what they're doing is in the public interest, Wolf, even though so many people are questioning, mostly governments, obviously, are questioning why he's doing it and why Snowden is doing it.
BLITZER: Did you get a sense, Christiane, how much more information has not yet been released, Snowden related documents, if you will, that are still out there about to expose more U.S. secrets?
AMANPOUR: Well, they clearly are sitting on a huge trove of them. As he said to me, that there are so many, a mountain of it, like thousands and thousands, he said. But they've chosen, so far, only to put out, in his words, 250. So we don't know whether there's more. He is never going to be, you know, drawn into saying precisely what. But there probably will be more. But he did talk a little bit about his new media online venture. And that is saying that he wants to make that a place where there will be no sort of cozy relationship between the press and government, and that this will be a place where government, where power, is actually held accountable. So you can imagine that this new venture is also going to be very much like this leaking that we've seen from Snowden via Glenn Greenwald.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour in London for us.
Christiane, thanks very much.
Government officials say the Obamacare Web site is working again, a day after a contractor's networking failure caused a system crash. But for so many people, the Web site was barely working anyway. And now some Democratic lawmakers are calling for a refund from the companies that built it at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to American taxpayers.
CNN's Joe Johns has got the latest developments for us.
What are they -- Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's even more than that. The latest salvo over HealthCare.gov came just this afternoon when three House Republicans slammed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for blaming problems with the rollout on the government shutdown.
But the latest issue with the Web site wasn't political at all. It was another big technical problem over the weekend that only got fixed today.
JOHNS (voice-over): Is it working or not?
Twenty-seven days after it was supposed to be open for business, the HealthCare.gov Web site crashed again over the weekend. It was up and running again on Monday. The administration blames this latest problem on one of the 56 contractors for the project, a subsidiary of Verizon called Terremark, which was responsible for Web site capacity issues.
CARNEY: The HealthCare.gov technical team continued troubleshooting the issue with the online creation account process.
JOHNS: Meanwhile, the administration had other pressing problems -- a triple threat on Capitol Hill. Republican Chairman Darrell Issa and his House Reform and Oversight Committee wanted a slew of documents related to Obamacare and the rollout by 5:00 p.m. today. That deadline came and went.
But Issa has more on his mind than the Web site. He wants to ask the administration about Obamacare in general. REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM: Are we actually rolling out an effective, cost- effective program? And what's next in the way of other problems?
JOHNS: On Tuesday, in a different committee, we'll meet Marilyn Taverner, a former nurse who was administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Her agency was supposed to be quarterbacking the Obamacare rollout, and no doubt she'll be reminded of what she said in August before the Energy and Commerce Committee.
MARILYN TAVENNER, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: When Americans will be able to compare and enroll in affordable health care coverage and that implementation is on track.
JOHNS: And on Wednesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has her turn on the Capitol Hill witness stand.
But she's become a "Saturday Night Live" punch line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY NBC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or 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 --
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, that is fun.
JOHNS: The Republican Senatorial Committee is trying its hand at comedy, too, now selling these "Error 404" bumper stickers, which is a message you get when a Web site malfunctions.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JOHNS: Five Democratic members of Congress have now asked the Justice Department to review contracts for the companies that built the Obamacare Web site to see if the government can get any of its money back. No word yet from DOJ. But the short answer for now is probably not, because it's still a work in progress.
BLITZER: We don't have a final number -- and we know it's hundreds of millions of dollars.
Is it $400 million, $600 million?
I've heard all sorts of numbers, how much that Web site cost American taxpayers.
JOHNS: Right. The number that's been kick around a lot is $500 million.
But who knows?
You have to add in how much it costs to fix it sort of while the airplane is in the air flying so -- BLITZER: Because they're going to ask Kathleen Sebelius how much have we already spent, how much is being spent to fix it, how much more will it cost --
BLITZER: Those numbers maybe will come out Wednesday during that testimony.
Thanks very much, Joe Johns, for that.
Up next, nobody can campaign quite like Bill Clinton, and now he's doing it to help an old friend and to help Democrats try to win back a key political office.
And with the Winter Olympics only three months away, unfinished construction isn't Russia's only problem. Now, a startling turnabout on a social issue that sparked worldwide outrage.
BLITZER: Ellis Island is reopening today for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit exactly one year ago tomorrow. Visitors can now walk the halls of the popular immigration station and American immigrant Wall of Honor outside. The immigration museum will remain closed through the spring.
Much more news right after this.
BLITZER: Between the U.S. spying revelations and the problem with the Obamacare website, it seems President Obama may have a management problem on his hands. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here watching all of this for us. Is the president on top of these critically important issues?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it seems to me that at the very least, Wolf, there's some kind of a management problem over at the White House. You have the president saying he's angry that he didn't know that the website was having problems with his signature domestic legislative achievement.
He also, we're now told, didn't know about Angela Merkel's cell phone being tapped as well as other friendly leaders' cell phones being tapped, until very recently. And so, the larger question that I think you have to think about here is, how does a president actually get to know what he needs to know? Now, you know, on the face of it, you might think all that's pretty simple, he just asks.
But you know, the way the system is built here is that a president is really isolated. This is a president who prides himself by the way on not being disengaged, on asking a lot of questions, on being up to date on everything, but the way the system is built, people don't like to give the president bad news. When you're at HHS, the question is, did they want to give the secretary of HHS bad news? Did the NSA want to give the president all the information about whose lines were being tapped or did they consider it just a data point? I would argue that Angela Merkel's cell phone is a little bit more than a data point. Did the president ask the right questions or did he not know that those questions even need to be asked. Why wasn't the NSA more forthcoming to the president of the United States?
BLITZER: And Dianne Feinstein has just confirmed publicly that this spying on Angela Merkel's telephones goes back to 2002. It's my understanding President Obama, she says, was not aware of Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem. He's met with the chancellor of Germany on numerous occasions.
You would have thought somebody would have said to him, Mr. President, by the way, you know, we listen to her phone conversations on her cell phone, you should know this.
BORGER: You know, I talked to people on both sides of this. Some say if he didn't know, he should have known. He should just have assumed it. Others say, well, this is the way the NSA operates and you need to pierce that and you need to change the system, because just because as Jay Carney said today, just because they can gather all this information doesn't mean that they should gather all this information. That's why it's clear the president is having a review in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures.
But there is something wrong with the way we operate when the president of the United States doesn't know these very basic facts, and Dianne Feinstein as chairman of the intelligence committee is also outraged that she didn't know because she opposes it.
BLITZER: Somebody should have told her, too.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Bill Clinton is once again doing what he does so well, hitting the campaign trail, this time, for his old friend, the Virginia gubernatorial candidate, the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe. Polls show the former Democratic chairman is leading the Republican, Ken Cuccinelli. But Clinton warns Democrats not to take anything for granted in next week's election. CNN's Erin McPike is on the scene for us covering this for us. So, what's the latest, Erin?
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this race is still relatively close, but McAuliffe does seem to have the edge now. Democrats want to hang on for just one more week so they're bringing out Bill Clinton to vents like these that's about to start here in just about an hour so they can make a splash and in doing so, they hope to freeze out attention on Ken Cucinelli and his complaints about Obamacare.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, (D) VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to welcome back to Virginia, the 42nd president of the United States of America, Bill Clinton!
MCPIKE (voice-over): He's back on the campaign trail. The former president is in the middle of a whirlwind four-day tour of Virginia to help one of his closest and most loyal friends, a man who stuck by him even at his darkest hours.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just telling you things that I know about him that make my blood boil when I read all these sort of cartoon characterizations of him. He is a very, very good man.
MCPIKE: Democrat Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chair and top fundraiser for Clinton in 1996, is trying to close the deal with voters in a race of his own, which wrapped up next Tuesday. In Clinton, he's got one of the most famous closers in politics, a southerner who can help him turn out votes in the more conservative parts of the state with a way of helping smooth things over.
CLINTON: Look, the computer glitches, it's a bad deal, but they'll fix that out.
MCPIKE: Despite concerns about Obamacare, McAuliffe has been leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, in every poll of the race since mid-July. In a place like Virginia, with its heavy concentration of federal workers, the government shutdown did no favors for the Republican Party.
Now, the GOP is making a last ditch effort to turn the tide. Potential 2016 Republican hopeful, Rand Paul, hit the deeply conservative Liberty University to help Cuccinelli energize the far right.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: I thought maybe this morning, we do an experiment. Maybe we can all get our phones out. That's probably against the rules. We all get our phone out and we try to sign up for Obamacare. But then I realized we only had an hour and we would never even get started.
MCPIKE: And a conservative Super PAC will air a commercial tonight during the world series blasting McAuliffe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terry McAuliffe is Obamacare's biggest backer. Defeat Terry McAuliffe and elect Ken Cuccinelli who told the truth about Obamacare from the start.
MCPIKE (on-camera): Now, remember, Ken Cuccinelli was the first state attorney general to sue the federal government over Obamacare. And tomorrow, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, will be out here in Northern Virginia campaigning with him and talking about that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Erin McPike, Thanks very, very much.
Coming up, a dramatic standoff outside a movie theater. You're going to see how it all played out. That's ahead.
And with the winter Olympics now just three months away, there's unfinished construction and it isn't the only problem the Russians have. Now, a startling turnabout on a social issue that's sparked worldwide outrage. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the other stories we're monitoring in the SITUATION ROOM right now.
Dramatic ripped off (ph) video of police in Raleigh, North Carolina closing in on a suspect after a two-hour standoff outside a movie theater. It reportedly started when the theater manager was confronted by two men who attempted to rob him. One was immediately taken into custody. The other reportedly ran back into the theater. No one was injured in the incident.
Two of the four inmates who escaped from an Oklahoma jail over the weekend are now back in custody. The inmates managed to pry open a maintenance hatch in their shower and get out through a crawl space. It was the first escape from the two-year-old facility. The other two men are still on the run.
The man charged in Michael Jackson's death is now free. Dr. Conrad Murray was released from the L.A. County Jail today after serving two of a four-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Murray's lawyer says he'll try to get his medical licenses reinstated in certain states so he can resume his career. Michael Jackson died in 2009 from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic, propofol.
A federal judge has ruled parts of a controversial new Texas Abortion law unconstitutional just 24 hours before it was scheduled to take effect. The suit filed by Planned Parenthood on behalf of women's health providers across the state says the law violates the constitutional rights of women and puts unreasonable demands on doctors who perform abortions.
The Texas governor, Rick Perry, just issued a statement saying today's decision will not stop the state's ongoing efforts to quote, "protect life."
Five people are dead and dozens injured after a jeep plowed into a crowded part of China's landmark, Tiananmen Square, and burst into flames. The crash temporarily blocked off the area which remains under heavy police presence. The driver, two passengers and two tourists were killed. No word yet on the cause of the accident.
With a controversial Russian law on homosexuality triggering, protests and possible boycotts of the winter Olympic Games, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, today, seemed to roll out the welcome mat. The state-run news agency quotes him as saying "we are doing everything so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi regardless of nationality, race, or sexual orientation."
That may encourage visitors but will the city of Sochi be ready for all of them? The games are only three months away. CNNs Phil Black has more.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a distance, this Olympic park looks close to ready. Shiny new sports venues finished and tested but look closer. There's still so much to do. Top of the list, finish the stadium. It's not hosting any sport, but it will be the stage for the opening ceremony. The people directing that spectacle have demanded big changes to the design, including a roof.
Russia is not famous for its efficiency so delivering all this on time will be a statement to the world. It's one reason why President Vladimir Putin is taking such a personal interest. Dmitry Grigoriev manages the speed skating arena. He says Putin's regular visits and direct oversight have made a big difference.
DMITRY GRIGORIEV, VENUE MANAGER, ADLER ARENA: I'm hoping --
GRIGORIEV: -- for the past (ph), believe me.
BLACK: But you're seeing things happen?
BLACK: Sochi's other challenge, overhauling the city's Soviet-era infrastructure. The skyline is a mess of cranes and partially completed buildings, many of them much-needed hotels. And then there's the traffic. It's appalling. Sochi's mayor, Annatole Paemo (ph) is firmly on Team Putin and insists somehow it will all be fixed in three months.
Security is an especially big concern at these Games because Russia's Islamic terrorists have promised to disrupt them. And organizers can't even rely on Mother Nature to deliver the white stuff. It's subtropical here, so snowfall is patchy. That's why they're storing vast amounts of last season's snow just in case.
Phil Black, CNN, Sochi.
BLITZER: Up next, hurricane force winds in Britain: death, destruction and blackouts. We'll have the details.
And four weeks after the website rollout, where does Obamacare stand now? Where is it headed? We'll have a serious debate.
BLITZER: These two people are dead and a third reported missing after what some forecasters predicted could be the worst storm to hit southern England in a decade. Hurricane-force wind gusts of close to 100 miles an hour left hundreds of thousands of homes without power; roads and railways blocked by fallen trees. Flood warnings are in effect across the region.
Up next, four weeks after the website rollout, where does Obamacare stand right now? Where is it headed? A major debate between "The New York Times" columnist Nic Kristoff and Bill Kristol, the editor of "The Weekly Standard." There you see them. They're both standing by live. Get ready. Serious talk, right after this.
BLITZER: The Obama administration is reporting that a weekend crash of the Obamacare website has now been fixed. Things are back up and running again. But up and running is, of course, a relative term. Four weeks into the Obamacare rollout, where does the controversial program stand right now? Where is it heading?
Let's have a serious discussion right now between "The New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof and Bill Kristol, the editor of "The Weekly Standard." Thanks very much for coming in.
Nick Kristoff, do you have a good understanding how the administration could screw this up, the signature achievement of President Obama, during these past four weeks?
NICHOLAS KRISTOFF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, it's astonishing. I think the Republicans completely blew it when they were diverting everybody from this mistake by focusing on the government shutdown. And then the Obama administration completely blew it by having an absolutely awful rollout and then waiting so long to acknowledge its severity and waiting for the surge.
So the only thing I can say is that I think that attention was broken among so many different folks in the Obama administration, that there was no single adult really in charge.
BLITZER: Do you have a good understanding, Bill Kristol, of what happened here? Because I would have thought the last thing this administration would have serious troubles with was the rollout of a website.
BILL KRISTOFF, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think the Obama campaign was good at their web operations, but a campaign is a private sector operation with a ton of flexibility, doesn't have government procurement rules and other such things. I think for a conservative, this is an example of perhaps why you don't want big government running huge chunks of the U.S. economy and you would prefer to have reforms where they're necessary that are private sector and free- market friendly.
BLITZER: One of the major criticisms, Nick, is that the president promised in -- three years ago when he was rolling out, when he was pushing for Obamacare four years ago, if you have an insurance policy, you can keep your insurance policy. If you have doctors and like them, you can keep your doctors. You don't have to worry about that. But clearly, that is not necessarily turned out to be the case.
KRISTOFF: Yes. I think that is a fair criticism. I think there are a lot of people who have been very worried by the letters they are getting, saying that their policy has ended.
Now, in fact, in many cases, that's because a better policy is going to be offered, and I think that as we get closer, some of those people are going to be happy with what they end up with. But there's no question, it's a real shock to a lot of people and is something I think that the administration did not do a good job of managing expectations on.
BLITZER: The good news, Bill, and you can weigh in on this, is millions of people who couldn't afford health insurance or had pre- existing conditions or they're old and feeble or they're sick or whatever, now for the first time in their lives, will be able to get health insurance, either subsidized by the federal government or through Medicaid or some other procedure. You welcome that, right?
KRISTOL: Well, look, Medicare did provide health insurance for the elderly; Medicaid for the poor. There's a reasonable debate about whether we should expand either of those or find other ways to insure, and Republicans have plenty of proposals on this to insure those with pre-existing conditions.
But I think this is -- the big story is not the website. They can fix the website presumably. They can't fix this part of Obamacare, which is the destruction of the private insurance market for 19 million people who were purchasing individual health insurance plans. They are now going to be forced, 16 million of them it looks like, will be forced into the exchanges where most of them will have to pay more, and most of them are going pay more for a plan that in many cases will be inferior or will provide a bunch of benefits they don't want. They liked -- they are young, healthy, they liked having a catastrophic plan.
These were responsible people. These are not the young invincibles who don't want to have health insurance. And that's why I think the Republican -- the bill that's being introduced in an hour by Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House -- not a back bencher, this is a leadership-sanctioned bill -- if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. I think they will bring it to a vote in the house. I think that is going to get Democratic support. I think it can get some support from the Democratic senators.
I mean, President Obama said over and over again if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Why can't you keep it if you like it? If you want to subsidize more people, sick people, fine. That's a traditional public policy debate. But taking away, preventing people from having the health insurance they want, that seems odd.
BLITZER: Nick, go ahead.
KRISTOFF: Let me push back at that a little bit. You know, there's no question that this is complicated and there are going to be mistakes that go beyond the website itself. But the same was true of Medicare when it was launched. Same was true of Medicare Part D, the drug benefit. And at the end of the day, what we have and what we have had is a disaster. I mean, we, according to the World Health Organization, our health system ranks 38th globally, even though we spend more than any other country.
And so there's no question that there are going to be problems and difficulties as we move ahead. But we're moving up from an extraordinarily -- a system that does an extraordinarily poor job providing efficient health care to Americans.
BLITZER: Let me move on to another subject I want both of you to weigh in on. The U.S. spying on friendly countries, on allies. Dianne Feinstein just confirming that the U.S. has been eavesdropping on Angela Merkel's phone calls since 2002. That, she says, is a big problem.
Nick, first to you. Do you support this program, this NSA program that's been going on now, apparently for years, of spying on friendly allies?
KRISOFF: I think the basic problem has been that there's been no adult supervision. I think that too often, people have been spying because they could, because they had the technical means. And there wasn't somebody saying look, what will we actually gain from this, and what are the risks if it's disclosed? The truth is that at some point, there are real risks of disclosure. So it's kind of the classic foreign policy dilemma that you have very modest tactical benefits and a huge strategic risk. And that has now blown up in our faces.
KRISTOFF: I would say if you're going to eavesdrop on phone calls of the German chancellor, that has to be something that the president of the United States authorizes and thinks frankly is worth the risk of exposure, as Nick says. You can't just have the bureaucracy doing that. I would like to know, did this president or the previous president, for that matter, sanction that? And if so, maybe they thought it was worth it. I don't have a principled problem with spying, with listening to other people's calls, even some allies, if we think it's important. But you shouldn't do it in a haphazard way, which generally damages relations with a real ally.
BLITZER: Which raises the question, Nick, do you think it's true that the president of the United States would not know that the NSA is listening in to Angela Merkel's phone conversations?
KRISTOFF: You know, I'm a little mystified by that. I talked today to a former senior CIA official and asked about that. And this person said that in the past, when there was an effort to listen to a head of state or head of government, a major person, that was approved by the national security advisor or by the president. That it wasn't something that was just done blithely by the intelligence folks.
In this case, what we're reading is that indeed, the president did not know and was taken by surprise. And I do think that the government, the bureaucracy, has an amazing capacity to operate with one hand not knowing what the other is doing. So, I really don't know what is going on right here.
BLITZER: Well, Bill Kristol, this started back in 2002, if you believe Dianne Feinstein, who has been briefed, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Do you think the former president, George W. Bush, didn't know?
KRISTOL: I don't know. But I think he might have. I mean, I was, as you know, Wolf, I was Vice President Quayle's chief of staff 20 years ago, had access, sat in with him on you know, very obviously classified briefings, the daily presidential briefing. And there were -- I don't want to give anything away that I shouldn't, but I'm not, you know, there were obvious moments when there was information that could only have come from an intercept. We would be having, let's say, preparing for a meeting with a foreign leader, and they would say we have reason to believe the foreign leader has on his mind, will intends to raise at this meeting the following points or following objections to U.S. policy. That could be an intercepted leader himself. It could be an intercept of one of his advisors. But there is clearly some penetration of a foreign government's internal communications.
I don't know. Maybe they never revealed that fact in their briefings of President Obama, but it would be hard, if they had that information and didn't, it's a little hard to understand.
BLITZER: It's hard to believe that they wouldn't tell the president of the United States, especially as he goes into a meeting -- and he's had many meetings with Angela Merkel -- that they're listening in to her phone conversations. But apparently, if you believe Dianne Feinstein, the president didn't know.
All right. Nick Kristoff, thanks very much. Bill Kristol, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, serious new legal trouble for the pop star Chris Brown. This time, right here in the nation's capital. We'll have a live report from the courthouse on what's going on.
Plus, remembering a rock and roll legend. That's next.
BLITZER: The music world is mourning rock and roll legend Lou Reed, known for this hit, "Walk on the Wild Side" among so many others, has died at the age of 71. He was a member of the iconic '60s and '70s Velvet Underground band before going solo. The band was inducted, by the way, into the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been credited with inspiring some of today's biggest artists like REM, David Bowie, U2 among others. Reed is said to have undergone a liver transplant back in May.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More legal trouble for the pop star Chris Brown. In court today, right here in the nation's capital -- excuse me -- after being arrested on a felony assault charge.
Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's outside the courtroom. He was there inside, seeing what was going on.
What is the latest, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest is that Chris Brown is to appear just about any minute from now inside D.C. Superior Court here to face his arraignment on those assault charges.
This is the latest in a string of his run-ins with the law over the past four years but this one could land him some serious jail time.
TODD (voice-over): Chris Brown was in Washington to host this party at a nightclub Saturday night. According to the police report, the victim, Isaac Parker, tried to get into a photo being taken of Brown and a female fan early Sunday morning outside the W Hotel in Washington.
At that point, according to the police report, Brown said, quote, "I'm not down with that gay -- expletive," and, quote, "I feel like boxing."
The victim told police that Brown and his bodyguard each punched him in the fact.
Here's an eyewitness.
ABRAHAM LUAKABUANGA, WITNESSED FIGHT: He's hurt. Seriously hurt. You know, he -- his shirt was full of blood. You know, that's -- I'm talking about the nose. I didn't see him throwing any punches or whatsoever. It was like, why this?
TODD: This arrest could have severe consequences for the popular Grammy Award-winning R&B singer. Brown, who signed his first record deal at age 15, is serving probation for felony domestic violence against singer Rihanna from what happened on the eve of the Grammy Awards four years ago. Her bruised and bloody face seen in this picture from TMZ.
His probation was revoked briefly this year after a hit-and-run accident when a woman said Brown went, quote, ballistic on her. Screaming at her after rear-ending her car. He was given an additional 1,000 hours of community service, but probation rules from the Rihanna case require Brown to stay out of all legal trouble. What could happen now?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The new arrest and potential new crime, even without a conviction, can trigger a violation of that probation and the judge can, again, decide to send him to state prison for the duration of his probation. (END VIDEOTAPE)
TODD: That could be for up to a year. Well, what happens now is that Brown's probation attorney -- excuse me, well, his probation officer will write a report on this D.C. arrest and send to an L.A. Superior Court judge, who will then decide on possible jail time for Brown.
The L.A. County District Attorney's Office is not commenting right now on this D.C. arrest. The victim Isaac Parker, according to police, was treated for bruised and swollen face and released from a D.C. hospital -- Wolf.
BLITZER: More troubles for him. All right. Thank you, Brian.
Coming up, so what happened to the now famous face of the troubled Obamacare Web site? There she is. Jeanne Moos trying to solve the mystery.
BLITZER: Check this out the two proud fishermen posing with catches when a sea lion jumps out of the water, grabs the fish right from the guy's arms. The sea lion has a reputation for sneaky behavior.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: She was the face of the Obamacare Web site. Now she's gone.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those twinkling eyes, that inviting smile. Well, you can wipe that smile off that Web site.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Notice anything missing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That lady. Healthcare.gov underwent a facelift. Actually a un-facelift you might say.
MOOS: More like her face was lifted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her picture has now disappeared.
MOOS: Disappeared before we even got to identify it. "Where oh where has the Obamacare Web site girl gone?" Someone tweeted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe she's happy about it. Who knows?
MOOS: Flesh and blood replaced by soulless icons, the government says are meant to better guide those seeking insurance.
(On camera): We in the media were hot on tracking down Obamacare girl, but her trail stayed cold. I personally begged for her to reach out.
If this is you, call me.
Never heard from her.
(Voice-over): The "National Review" put her on its cover with the tagline "abandon hope, all who click here." The satirical Web site "The Onion" adjusted her eyes and captioned it, "People on healthcare.gov. stalk photos now visibly panicking." And the conservative blog Red State replaced her with a painting entitled "The Scream."
(On camera): It was almost spooky how prophetic "Saturday Night Live" turned out to be. During a skit making fun of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "SNL: showed the homepage with Obamacare girl missing before it was known she'd been removed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Consider using our little rez Web site with simpler fonts and graphics.
MOOS: Now instead of being plastered over the shoulders of anchors, she's been plastered on a milk carton by a Republican group.
A fake Twitter account is sending out tweets in Obamacare girl's name. "Fire me before Sebelius," she tweets. "Oh, hell to the no." Does that sound like a mystery girl worthy of being serenaded by Roy Orbison?
Luckily for Obamacare girl she was already safely off the Web site. Secretary Sebelius called in tech support.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I.T.? Can we get someone from I.T. in here?
Jeanne Moos --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Best day.
MOOS: CNN, New York.