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NSA Surveillance Hearing Testimony Examined; Kidnapping Averted in Colorado; Oklahoma Authorities Search for Escaped Prisoners

Aired October 29, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The president, while not admitting or denying anything, he is trying to calm this diplomatic storm with the promise of this review. Joining me now, Mike Baker, former CIA covert operations officer, he's also the host of the new show "Americans Declassified," premiering this weekend. Mike, welcome back. Nice to see you.


BALDWIN: Let me just play a little sound talking about Diane Feinstein, she says the U.S. should not be snooping on its allies. But this is what James Clapper said today.


LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: It's one of the first things I learned in intel school in 1963, that this is the fundamental given in the intelligence business, is, leadership intentions, no matter what level you're talking about. That can be military leaders as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that the allies have conducted or at any time any type of espionage activity against the United States of America, our intelligence services, our leaders or otherwise?

CLAPPER: Absolutely.


BALDWIN: So I thought that was pretty interesting, Mike. I just wanted to ask you about that, since you know about the intel community. Have there always been -- how would you react to this notion maybe of tensions between the intelligence community and, say, the administration?

BAKER: Well, look, this has been going on forever. It's some people refer to it as the oldest profession, if not the second oldest. So the idea somehow that France and Germany and Spain are outraged over this, but at the same time, frankly, are doing the same thing, every country to the degree that their resources allow is spying on their friends, their neighbors, their allies as well as their enemies, of course.

But it was interesting to hear James Clapper during this hearing kind of obfuscate and work around the issue of exactly how much the president is aware of in this program. And Clapper is right that the president's not going to know the day-to-day goings-on of NSA. Of course not.


BALDWIN: So you believe that? Let me just jump in. I asked Bob Baer the same question last hour. I'm going to ask it to you. Do you buy the fact the president said he did not know?

BAKER: Absolutely not.


BAKER: And nor do I believe Dianne Feinstein saying the same thing, that she's unaware -- think about it. She's saying for 10 years this was going on and I'm shocked and outraged and I didn't know. Wait a minute. Look at her position. That just means she's just the least curious person along with the president that we have working in Washington. I don't understand why they would go this route.

BALDWIN: So, OK, that said, do you think that the tapping of U.S. allies' personal cell phones of world leaders, is that fair game? Is that necessary?

BAKER: Well, it would be pure speculation for me to say whether it's necessary at any particular moment.

BALDWIN: Just knowing what you have ever known.


BAKER: Right. You know what? Honestly, I understand the reason for the collection effort. I do worry that there are times when we're not looking at it from necessarily a particular operational perspective.

What I mean by that is I understand why we have collection programs that have the wide parameters that allow us, if necessary, to do that. But what I'm worried about is, just like any other collection program, particularly when you were talking about the technical collection, is that we want to make sure that we're doing it for an operational purpose, not just because we can, not just because we can put all this material in a box, set it in the basement and hope maybe someday we're going to need it.

I'm more concerned from a tactical and an operational perspective that we're doing it for the right reasons.

BALDWIN: It's a great point. Let me quote something. This is from Christopher Dickey, writes for The Daily Beast and "Newsweek." He wrote this.

"In fact, there was something terribly cyclical and dangerous about the ebb and flow of intelligence community abuses and public reactions over the years. The spooks overreach, the public overreacts, and what should be the reasonable business of spying gets vilified and cut back until one day disaster strikes and the public wonders why nobody warned us. Yes, think 9/11."

Does he have a point?

BAKER: He does have a point. Look, these things always happen in cycles. Typically, there's this outrage. Frankly, the European allies are playing to their public. There's a bit of theater that's involved in all of this. And because now that it's out in the spotlight, you know, they need to come out there and say, we are shocked, we are outraged.

But, typically, there will be an incident like this, and now if the White House does follow through and Senator Feinstein follows through on their claim they're going to restrict practices, that essentially they're going to write laws that narrow the parameters where our U.S. intel community works, then what they're really saying is we're making national security decisions for political theater reasons. I think that's a very dangerous course of action.

BALDWIN: Mike Baker, I appreciate you. Thank you very much for weighing in on this.

BAKER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: First, a formal apology and then a vow to make things right. That's what we heard today from the woman whose agency oversaw the creation of, the Web site for Obamacare.

She is Marilyn Tavenner. She would not reveal how many people have been able to sign up for coverage so far, so, new no numbers yet, repeatedly saying those figures won't be able until next month. But she said she is well aware of the problems with the site and that those problems will be fixed as soon as possible.


MARILYN TAVENNER, ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Some have had trouble creating accounts and logging into the site, while others have received confusing error messages or had to wait for slow response times. This initial experience has not lived up to our expectations or the expectations of the American people and it is not acceptable.


BALDWIN: Speaking of not acceptable, CNN Money has now learned that a cyber-security expert found a way to hack into users' accounts, found a way to hack into And he says it wasn't even that hard.

Alison Kosik with now from New York.

Alison, who is this person and how did he get in?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And as if the Obamacare Web site didn't have enough problems already, Ben Simo -- he's a software tester in Arizona -- he figured out a way to hack into users' accounts.

All you have to do is guess an existing user name and the Web site, guess what, will confirm it exists. Claim you forgot your password and the site will actually reset it for you. You can even view the site's unencrypted source code in any browser to find the password reset code. Plug in the user name and the reset code and the Web site displays the three security questions. Answer the security questions wrong, and guess what?

The Web site spits out the account owner's e-mail address again unencrypted. I know it sounds complicated. But Simo, Brooke, Simo says when someone with the most basic understanding of Web site code could figure this out, yes, it could be a problem.

BALDWIN: But according -- here I guess is the silver lining now. According to our reporting, that problem has been fixed, yes?

KOSIK: Yes, it has. By Friday, all of these problems were solved. Social Security numbers and health information were not at risk. But people's addresses and phone numbers were potentially exposed for three weeks. It was so easy to hack into the information in the first place. In fact, Simo said this really seemed sloppy.

He says when he tried to report it to an Obamacare hot line operator, they referred him to law enforcement, which he said wasn't very helpful either. Big sigh.

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik, thank you.

And stick with me. In 20 minutes, we're going to talk to someone else and we're going to take a closer look at the troubles continually plaguing this White House, the Web site and also the administration in general and how President Obama has handled all this criticism. Stay tuned for that.

But coming up next, this frightening story out of Colorado, a young girl in her bedroom snatched in the middle of the night. Police say a man cut the screen off her bedroom window, climbed into the house, but then the story takes a whole other twist. We will explain how the girl was able to get away.

Plus, a chilling murder mystery for Los Angeles, human remains found in two waste treatment plants. Police are working to identify them and figure out how they got there.


BALDWIN: A disturbing find at a Los Angeles County water treatment facility, a woman's upper torso discovered inside this sewage storage tank. The sheriff's department believes the discovery is related to the remains that were found Saturday in a water treatment plant just about 30 miles away.

A spokesman tells CNN affiliate KCAL and KCBS that the only way for someone to actually get into this system is through a manhole cover or a sewer line. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. MIKE ROSSON, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Anything coming into this plant comes in through a 72-inch line and goes through a centrifugal pump. So you can imagine, you know, what kind of damage to a large -- or a person's body would happen going through a centrifugal pump.

QUESTION: This doesn't have the appearance of an accident. People don't just fall in a manhole cover.

ROSSON: We're treating it as a homicide right now, but there's a lot of information that has to be unearthed to determine the actual cause of death and what's behind it.


BALDWIN: Police, they are working to figure out whether the two sets of remains belongs to the same person. They're also asking for anyone with information about a missing woman to call police.

And this is one of the boldest attempted kidnappings Colorado investigators say they have ever seen. This 8-year-old girl found the courage to break away, to scream, to fight from her captor who police say grabbed her in the middle of the night, snatched her from her bedroom right through the window.

This happened Monday in Aurora. You see what's left of the screen from the window. Police say the child kicked and screamed until she escaped and could run back home. And now this all-out manhunt is under way. And this is the man, here's the sketch, take a look, from police. They want this guy. They're offering $10,000 for his capture. That's the largest reward in the history of the Aurora Police Department.

Mike Brooks, law enforcement analyst, HLN, she did the right thing.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: She absolutely did the right thing. It probably saved her life, Brooke.

I think about the case in Bremen, Georgia, we had just not too long ago at a Wal-Mart where a little girl was snatched by a stranger, by a predator. And she hollered and kicked and screamed and it saved her life. Same thing happened here.


BALDWIN: What about -- I know that these forensically trained investigators, they have obviously been questioning this 8-year-old girl. How do you -- what kind of questions do you ask?

BROOKS: Right. Well, they usually bring in someone who specializes in dealing with children. You know, it looks like she probably had maybe talked to her parents about if something like this happened. And she knew to kick and scream. But they were able at least to get a composite drawing, the one that were just showing a moment ago, of a white male with short blond hair. They believe he that was driving a late-model BMW, either silver or gray in color. This happened right around 16th and Hanover. That's right off one of the main drags, Colfax Avenue, that runs through Aurora into Denver. So there's a lot of businesses around there. I guarantee you the investigators are combing through, looking for surveillance video from those businesses.


BALDWIN: So, they want to know who. They want to find this guy. I was reading in "The Denver Post" that this girl's grandmother said she was sitting in her bed, she was doing homework in her bunk bed. At the time, there was another child who was asleep in this room. This grandmother said this man grabbed her and said, "I know your family," but police are treating this as a stranger kidnapping, which is pretty rare.

BROOKS: Right. It is because but one of the things that law enforcement does, they will talk to the parents, they look at the parents and they want to make sure that no one in the family had anything to do with this, so they can move on with other parts of the investigation. They want to totally clear them.

But they think this was a total stranger abduction, that there's a predator out there somewhere.

BALDWIN: That he would have been watching her?

BROOKS: There's a good possibility. You never know, because I don't know if she takes a bus to or from school. But we hear about this happening all around the country all the time. In fact, they were sending notices out to the schools in the Aurora area with the description, with the composite, letting parents know that there's -- this guy is out there and is wanted.

BALDWIN: Aurora is on it. Hope they get him. Mike, thank you.

BROOKS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Police in Oklahoma, they are desperately searching for two inmates who escaped through the ceiling in the shower of a county jail early Sunday. We reported on this show yesterday two of the others have been captured.

But these are the guys right here. After being spotted by investigators as they were walking to a convenience store, the sheriff's office says both men appeared very wet and very dirty and were less than 20 miles from that jail. The store clerk described the arrest.


LINDA HARLEY, STORE CLERK: These two guys came in. We ain't never seen them before. So, we just kind of watched them, made sure they weren't trying to steal anything. And so they paid for their stuff. They walked outside. And the cops, like about 10 of them, drove up here.

That one just stopped. And they put him in the car. The other one ran down the alley. And the cop got him. And that was pretty much it.


BALDWIN: Here are the two men who remain at large. They're considered armed and dangerous.

Sixty billion dollars in damage, more than 100 people killed. Today marks one year since Hurricane Sandy came ashore and wreaked havoc on the Northeast. So many of the storm victims are still picking up the pieces and rebuilding, but vowing not to give up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going anyplace. We're going to give it at least another shot.


BALDWIN: Coming up next, we have an update for you on those rebuilding efforts and a look back one year ago at that devastating day.

And the White House under fire, the president facing criticism on a number of issues from health care to spying. Has President Obama done enough to answer critics? We will talk about that coming up.


BALDWIN: Some positive news for homeowners to pass along to you. Home prices made their largest annual gain since the days of the housing bubble. For the month of August, the Case-Shiller home price index increasing by 12.8 percent from last year. Just perspective here, that's the biggest gain since February of 2006.

Despite the rebound, though, overall home prices are still about 20 percent below their peak in July of 2006.

And now those images from last year's devastatingly deadly superstorm Sandy remain all too fresh on the mind of many Americans, and especially those survivors who are still recovering, still reeling from the aftermath.

I mean, few will forget the massive flooding that followed when the powerful hurricane slammed into the Northeast. Few places around New York City and New Jersey were spared. Thousands were displaced. And people who today are trying to rebuild, they're dealing with another kind of storm, getting help from FEMA. Costly flood insurance mandates are preventing some folks from getting loans they so desperately need to fix their homes.

CNN takes a look back at the coverage that day and the lasting imprint left by the storm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandy is 1,000 miles wide, packing gale-force winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second largest tropical system that we have seen in the last few decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no extra room here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're telling folks here, it's going to have the seas of a nor'easter and the winds of a hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The surf continues to pour in. This is an area that should not see this water this high up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Bloomberg said that, in fact, the crane structures and all these sites have been examined. They have all been tied down.

BALDWIN: More breaking news right now. We are learning -- look at these pictures with me. This is a partial crane collapse in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really blowing in Atlantic City. It's one of those gusts we're getting. It wasn't this way for the whole last couple of hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, we have horizontal rain and wind and sand, Brooke. This is the other problem with these coastal communities. If you look at the boardwalk right here...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can tell you right now the water behind me in the Hudson River, soon, it's going to crest right over where we are right now.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has now made landfall not that far from Cape May Court House in Southern New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the whole north side of my town is totally underwater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're now at about, I would say, six to eight inches. And I told you about five minutes ago we were at 4.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Five minutes ago, I was able to walk to the boardwalk, which is about two blocks from where we are now. It's now impossible to get over there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things are not good at all in Hoboken right now. Unfortunately, the Hudson River has breached our city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see flashes of light behind me. It's not lightning. PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": Breaking news, extraordinary pictures of a Con Ed plant explosion. This happened on the Lower East of Manhattan in New York on the 14th and FDR cross-street there. You can see a dramatic picture of a transformer exploding at that Con Ed plant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Power is out. And that's a pretty incredible thing. Power is out in Lower Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The seawater is rushing into the Battery Tunnel. I don't know the extent of it.

MYERS: You can see the shine down at the bottom. That bottom shine is the water that's now filling the tunnel.

COOPER: I want to show you a picture of a Hoboken -- I believe it's the PATH -- the subway stop PATH train station. Just got some new images, a house fire in Rockaway, Queens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-four homes on fire in Breezy Point, Queens; 50 homes already burned to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The alleyways between the homes are actually quite thin, so the trucks couldn't get to the home where the fire first started.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 700-ton tanker has run aground on Front Street in Staten Island.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have three towns have just been devastated, the town of Moonachie, the town of Little Ferry, and the town of Carlstadt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're not even exactly sure why this happened. This is not a zone that sees this type of flooding.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: It's devastating. It's absolutely devastating. We're just at the beginning of the tour down the rest of the coast. You know, we saw scenes of this a little earlier today by video. But seeing it in person on the ground is a whole different thing.


BALDWIN: Just one year ago.

The White house on the defensive today, officials taking some pretty tough questions from Congress on Obamacare and the United States' spying policy. President Obama has said he did not know about some of the specific details for each. Is that response enough, or should he take full responsibility? We're going to discuss that next.

You're watching CNN.


BALDWIN: Bottom of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And want to talk about the White House because two key White House policies hitting some rough waters in recent days. First, you have the administration having to explain intelligence gathering operations that ensnared world leaders here. And, number two, they have to defend the merits of the president's health care law.

Today, the woman whose agency oversaw the creation of the Obamacare Web site said, I'm sorry. Marilyn Tavenner apologized at a congressional hearing this morning. But when asked how many people have managed to sign up for coverage thus far, she said everyone just has to wait to get that tangible number.


TAVENNER: We will not have those numbers available until mid- November. And we will have those numbers in mid-November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you getting those numbers?

TAVENNER: Am I getting those numbers? Not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no numbers on who's enrolled? So you have no idea?

TAVENNER: We will have those numbers available mid-November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you not know how many people have enrolled?

TAVENNER: Chairman Camp, we will have those numbers available mid- November.


BALDWIN: You may not know her name or her face, Marilyn Tavenner, but you certainly know her boss. She is Kathleen Sebelius. And, tomorrow, it is her turn to sit in that seat and answer some pretty tough questions from lawmakers.

It could prove to be uncomfortable, to say the least, since a number of lawmakers have called for Secretary Sebelius to be fired over the rollout of this Web site. Meantime, the White House is also dealing with the aftershocks of the NSA spying revelations in which world leaders, including allies like Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, they're angry over word that the U.S. eavesdropped on their private conversations.