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FAA Backs off Electronics Rules; Obamacare Website Woes; NSA Spying on Google and Yahoo!; Snowden Starts New Job in Russia; Group Says Syria Can No Longer Make Chemical Weapons; Marine Faces Discharge After E-Mail; NSA Director Says Story of NSA Spying on French, Spanish Phone Calls False

Aired October 31, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Watching movies, reading e-books, playing those electronic games, we all love to do it. Well, the FAA says you'll soon be able to do it all on a plane, even during take-off and landing.





HOLMES: The Obamacare website apology tour. But what's next? Can the website really be fixed by the end of the month?

MALVEAUX: And if you use the internet at all, you probably use Google and Yahoo! So there is something that you need to hear today about those tech giants and NSA spying. Google says it is now outraged.

This is AROUND THE WORLD on CNN. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Homes. Thanks for your company today. And welcome again to our international viewers all around the world this week.

MALVEAUX: We are waiting for the White House briefing. They're going to respond to the latest NSA spying allegations. Also we expect they're going to comment on the problems with the website, the Obamacare website. We're going to bring it to you live as soon as it happens, keeping a close eye there on the White House.

HOLMES: We're all familiar with when you get on the plane, shut off your cell phone, turn off the gadgets. Anything with a power button, turn it off. Well, it's been that way for years, but apparently things are about to change. At least in the U.S.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Federal airline officials made this big announcement today. It was just a couple of hours ago. It looks like the airline's going to have to change the preflight videos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are clear and insure your mobile phones and electronic devices are turned off. If you're --


MALVEAUX: All right, I love that little video there, Delta.

Chris Lawrence at Reagan National Airport.

And, Chris, I'm one of those people who's in the back of the plane on my phone trying to get the last little bit in here, if it's an e-mail or a message or whatever.

HOLMES: You're not at the back of the plane. You're at the front. Come on.

MALVEAUX: Well, I am - I am afraid (INAUDIBLE) at the front of the plane still sneaking it in. Chris, what's the difference here? What can we do and not do?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, I'm glad you called Suzanne out on her first class travel. That's the first thing. But I've got to tell you, you won't be able to - you won't be able to stay on your phone during take-off, landing or while you're flying. You won't be able to make calls and be on the phone, but you will be able to keep it on, listen to music. The same with your iPad. You'll be able to watch that movie or get a jump on reading your book on your Kindle. You will no longer have to turn those devices off.

Basically that's the big change. It's going to be rolling out airline by airline, plane by plane. They've got to make sure that each plane is sort of set up to handle any interference. Many already are. You know, if you've been on a plane lately, a lot of the airlines are already offering Wi-Fi on board. So those planes are already set up to handle the interference. And the FAA expects that many airlines will be jumping on this very, very quickly. So it may not be very long before you start to see these new rules taking place. The FAA, just a few minutes ago, made an announcement touting the new rule.


MICHAEL HUERTA, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: I am pleased to announce that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. Today, the FAA is providing the airlines with the implementation guidance to do just that.


LAWRENCE: So again, there's been a lot of changes in technology since these rules went into effect 50 years ago. A lot of people had been wondering, hey, you know, if I'm not transmitting anything, why can't I watch a movie? Why can't I read my Kindle during takeoff or landing. Now you can.

Suzanne and Michael. HOLMES: And, Chris, I suppose, you know, we've got the international audience watching AROUND THE WORLD all this week. I mean often what happens in the U.S. flows through around the world. Is there any indicator on that? And I suppose a lot of people who travel through the U.S. going somewhere else, they will be beneficiaries of this.

LAWRENCE: Yes, this is going to basically, Michael, impact U.S. carriers. You know, international airlines will set their own rulings. Already, for example, Emirates allows phone calls during many of their flights. Of course they don't allow that with any flight that's basically going into or coming out of the United States. But this is going to impact a lot of U.S. carriers. Delta already saying they're ready to go by tomorrow. It remains to be seen if the FAA could sort of verify all their planes before then. But airlines are definitely ready to jump on board with this.

HOLMES: All right, Chris, good to see you. Our Chris Lawrence there at the airport.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to be on a Delta flight tomorrow, so I'm going to try it out and see.

HOLMES: And you will be at the pointy end, I'm sure.

MALVEAUX: All right, I'll get an upgrade if I have to.


Well, President Obama's popularity not faring well right now. This is amid, of course, the website failures and the NSA spying fallout. The president's approval rating seeing an all-time low in the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" polling. Only 42 percent of Americans approve of the job that he's doing. That is down 5 percent from earlier this month. Fifty-one percent disapprove.

HOLMES: Yes, but the Republican party also at an all-time low. Nobody comes out of this smelling like roses. Just 22 percent say they approve of the GOP, 53 percent have a negative view.

MALVEAUX: And people still trying to log on to the Obamacare website this morning, they saw the same frustrating message many have seen before, the system is down. Even Vice President Joe Biden says he didn't even bother trying to log on because it was clear he actually wouldn't get online. But the site now back up later. The administration making a lot of apologies for all these mistakes, all these launch problems since October 1st.






HOLMES: Everyone's taking responsibility, aren't they? Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius there telling a congressional committee she made a mistake when she told the president that was ready to go for the launch. Laurie Segall joining us now from New York.

Laurie, Sebelius did promise the vast majority of consumers will have an easier time shopping online for health insurance by the end of November. That's a month away. What chance those tech fixes will be done?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying it will be done. I got on the phone with an entrepreneur recently who said, I'm not really sure if they're actually going to be able to meet that deadline. But, you know, for everyone's sake, let's hope they do.

But what we're seeing here, guys, is just how much was wrong with the website when it rolled out. I mean clearly it's come out that they didn't test it enough. I mean the complexity of this website shouldn't have been tested end to end in two weeks. In Silicon Valley, where they really know what they're doing with a website kind of like this, they would have spent months testing this kind of thing.

And also what we're seeing is that Obama said about a week ago, he said, you know, the overwhelming traffic, it highlighted underwhelming problems. And what we're really seeing are the bug in the site. And it's one thing after the next. And really you see that there were just too many cooks in the kitchen here.

MALVEAUX: Laurie, talk a little about the security concerns here. Yesterday in the hearings we saw Republican Representative Mike Rogers accusing Sebelius essentially of putting private information out there without the proper security checks that you would normally have in place. Some call that a red herring. But we did have a hacking test out the website last week and was able to get in, if he wanted to, and tamper with folks' accounts in that website. So has this been addressed?

SEGALL: I think they're in the process of addressing this now. It's tough because they're just trying to keep the website on board. But I've been speaking - there was a vulnerability found that showed someone could go in and reset your password, which is pretty scary if you think about it.

I spoke to one hacker, I'll say, Suzanne, who just told me, he said, I've been looking at the code and it's riddled with vulnerability. So right now we're having the conversation of whether the website will stay up. I think we'll eventually have the conversation of whether it's secure because this, as we all know, is a high profile website and it will be a target. MALVEAUX: All right, Laurie, thank you. And it's interesting because Secretary Sebelius did say that they were going to try to close that loophole, that gap in security as quickly as possible.

HOLMES: Yes, a bit of a worry if security is an issue. The website being down, one thing, but security, that's a whole other argument.

Let's go to Washington. Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker is being sworn in as New Jersey's new senator. Vice President Biden administering the oath in the Senate.

MALVEAUX: And later on, Booker's going to do it all over again with the president this time at the White House for the traditional photo op, as they do. As you recall, Booker won a special election to serve out the last year of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg's term.

HOLMES: Coming up here on AROUND THE WORLD, an Italian magazine accusing the NSA of spying on Pope Benedict XVI. The spy agency denies the claim, but it drums up all kinds of questions about the NSA's activities abroad.

And speaking of the NSA, the man who leaked the spy program to the world gets a new job.

You're watching AROUND THE WORLD.


MALVEAUX: We don't have time to list all the countries, companies, private individuals who are angry still at the National Security Agency over spying allegations. Of course that would take a long time.

HOLMES: Yes, be here all day if we did that. Well, you can add Internet giants Google and Yahoo! to the list. Both of those companies accusing the NSA of secretly breaking into their databases and collecting information about their millions and millions of users. Elise Labott is watching this today.

You know, the NSA, though, they came out and they said, no, no, didn't do it, didn't happen. Google and Yahoo! are saying, oh, yes, it did.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, what their - what the NSA is saying is, whatever it does working with Google and Yahoo! are within the bounds of this FISA court, this intelligence court. And, actually, these companies are mandated to give them the information. And so they don't need to access their databases illegally.

But this program that's been talked about, this -- it's called MUSCULAR, and it's operated between -- jointly between the U.K. counterpart and the NSA is somewhat outside of the bounds of this domestic court. And so the question is, look, they've said in the past that they're sifting through all these foreign e-mails for key words that might trip them up. So they must be listing to something. So the question is, it's all about, I think, the parsing of words and how they're doing this. MALVEAUX: And what are they actually collecting? They're collecting things that people are looking for, are searching for, through Google or Yahoo!?

LABOTT: Well, this is metadata, again, right?


LABOTT: They're not accessing the actual e-mails, but they're kind of sifting through, mining data so that they can have data points. So if you have a phone call that causes some concern, and then if you have an e-mail that causes some concern, this is supposedly supposed to help them connect the dots and foil anything that might be in the works.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, connecting known phone numbers with who's been calling them and vice versa.

LABOTT: Exactly. Exactly.

HOLMES: All right. Good to see you, Elise. Thanks so much.

MALVEAUX: Oh, we've got one more question.

HOLMES: Oh, you have one more?

LABOTT: One more.

MALVEAUX: The pope. The pope.

HOLMES: Oh, oh, sorry, yes, the pope.

MALVEAUX: There are reports the pope -


MALVEAUX: They've also - they've also been spying on the pope? Tell us about that.

HOLMES: Yes, what's that?

LABOTT: Well, there was a story in an Italian magazine that between 2012 and 2014 -- '13, the NSA was spying on 46 or so million phone calls of the Vatican along the lines of some of the claims that we've heard before. Vatican said, don't know about it, don't care. The NSA said, in a very carefully worded statement obtained by our Evan Perez, "the NSA does not target the Vatican. The magazine claims that the NSA targeted the Vatican are not true."

Now, you look at these statements. That's a very carefully worded statement.

HOLMES: It is.

LABOTT: The question is, did the NSA target some specific individual in the Vatican, like the pope, which this magazine claimed, or did some other agency was looking at this type of thing? It's a very carefully worded statement. That does not say that the U.S. is not spying on the Vatican. So I think this is part of the problem that the administration is having, getting in front, proactively trying to quash this story, trying to manage it, when you have these leaks every day, something different. So they really need a better strategy to kind of get in front of this, I think, be a little bit more transparent, because these leaks are coming.


HOLMES: And it's pretty hard to protect the system of intelligence gathering -

LABOTT: Exactly.

HOLMES: -- when that's happening, the drip, drip. Yeah.

Elise --

MALVEAUX: Good to see you in person.


LABOTT: Good to see you.

HOLMES: Come down more.

MALVEAUX: Come back.

LABOTT: I will.

MALVEAUX: Imagine what they're saying on the phone with the pope? I'd like to be in on those calls.

HOLMES: I don't know I'd want to know.

MALVEAUX: All right, we're also learning today that the NSA troublemaker now has a new job.

Of course, we're talking about Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who is wanted for leaking classified NSA documents.

HOLMES: Yeah, got to make a living, apparently.

Russia's official news agency, reporting that Snowden starts tomorrow doing computer maintenance. Guess what? For one of Russia's largest Web sites. They didn't say which Web site.

Russia gave asylum, of course, to Edward Snowden back in August.

MALVEAUX: We're also following Syria. It can no longer produce chemical weapons. That, at least, is according to an international group that is overseeing the effort to eliminate the country's chemical weapons' arsenal.

HOLMES: Yeah, the next step, of course, is for Syria to destroy its existing weapons and stockpiles.

What it's done now, these inspectors, is sew up the raw materials, if you like. Here's Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, Germany, and the organization that's been tasked with monitoring the destruction of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons' program says that Syria has destroyed all of its production, mixing, as well as filling capabilities.

It says that the organization visited some 21 sites of 23 that were declared by the Syrian government. Two sites, apparently, were too dangerous to visit because of the ongoing civil war situation in Syria.

The next big task is going to be destroying all of the chemical weapons that Bashar al-Assad still has. That's more than a thousand metric tons of mustard gas, sarin, as well as VX.

Back to you.


MALVEAUX: And following this, a single e-mail, that is all that it might take to end this Marine's career.

He exposed an insider threat, and his e-mail might have saved lives, but his actions could also get him discharged.

So will the punishment fit the crime?


HOLMES: Welcome back.

A decorated officer in the U.S. Marine Corps faces possible discharge after writing an e-mail that could actually have exposed a threat to fellow Marines. Some say that Major Jason Brezler should be given a medal instead.

Here's Ivan Watson with this troubling story.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jason Brezler is not just a New York City fireman. He's also a highly-decorated officer in the U.S. Marine Reserve, serving four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, now facing possible discharge on less than honorable terms after serving 13 years.

KEVIN CARROLL, JASON BREZLER'S ATTORNEY: For a man like Jason Brezler, being asked to separate from the Marine Corps that you love so much would be an even worse punishment than jail. WATSON: Legally, Major Brezler cannot speak about his case because it's still under review, so his attorney, Kevin Carroll, is speaking for him.

Here's what he says happened. Brezler was in the U.S. in the summer of 2012 when he received an urgent message to his Yahoo! e-mail account from his fellow Marine officers in Afghanistan's turbulent Helmand Province.

CARROLL: The subject line of the e-mail he received said, in all capital letters with three exclamation marks, "IMPORTANT -- SARWAR JAN IS BACK!!!"

WATSON: Brezler had a history with Sarwar Jan, an Afghan police commander.

CARROLL: When Jason was serving in Afghanistan in 2010, he caused Sarwar Jan, an Afghan police official, to be fired from that position because he was raping children.

WATSON: Brezler responded, attaching a classified document, warning the Marines that Jan was a threat.

CNN has repeatedly tried to get an official account of what happened next, but every major military agency involved has declined to comment.

The Marine Corps has only said that, due to the mishandling of classified information, Major Brezler has been ordered to show cause for retention in the U.S. Marine Corps.

They say his use of unsecure Yahoo! account breached security. But others say, the warning could have saved lives.

What do you think would have happened if the commanders had listened to the advice of Major Brezler?

GREG BUCKLEY, SR., FATHER OF SLAIN MARINE: I would have had my son.

WATSON: Less than two weeks after Brezler sent the Marines that e-mail warning about Jan, Greg Buckley's son, Lance Corporal Greg Buckley, Jr., was shot and killed along with two other Marines at the same base.

BUCKELY: He was in the gym with his friends just working out, (inaudible) and walked in with an AK-47, given to him by the chief of the police, Sarwar Jan, and at about 8:30 at night on August 10th, executed three Marines.

CARROLL: The only reason that the shooter was on that base and had access to weapons is because he was the child sex abuse victim of the Afghan district police chief.

WATSON: The suspected shooter was reportedly a teenage servant of Sarwar Jan. Afghan officials say they do not know their current whereabouts. Fourteen months later, U.S. Central Command has yet to publish the results of an investigation into the incident.

The only person facing any charges is Major Brezler, for using an unsecure e-mail account.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: It's wrong to be going after the one person who seems to have done, by all accounts, did the right thing.

WATSON: Unanswered questions leading many to come to his defense.

BUCKLEY: They should be giving him a medal, not prosecuting him.

WATSON: We're told the Marine Corps is not commenting further on Major Brezler's case to avoid influencing the three officers he'll face at his board of inquiry next month.

Until then, Brezler will focus on his current job, fighting fires and saving lives.

Ivan Watson, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: Senator Ted Cruz, making another bold statement about Obamacare, this time he is comparing the people who run the website to Nigerian e-mail scammers.

The Nigerian community is offended. That's next on AROUND THE WORLD.


MALVEAUX: You're watching AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes.

And a special welcome, of course, all this week, to our international viewers.

MALVEAUX: One of the top stories this hour, federal air officials are now allowing you to use certain personal electronics on board commercial flights, even during take-off and landing.

HOLMES: Yeah, apparently, you still have to switch off your cell phone part of it, the actual making-a-phone-call bit.

But video players, games, e-books, no problem. You'll soon be able to have those on.

The transportation secretary says the public has spoken.

MALVEAUX: Anthony Foxx says, "We believe today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumers' increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights."

Domestic flights, I guess.

HOLMES: Yeah, that's is just for the U.S. Other airlines around the world, they'll be making their own decisions on that.

The director of the National Security Agency has been before a congressional committee this week, talking direct -- taking direct questions about how his department collects intelligence.

MALVEAUX: Journalists who published Snowden's leaked NSA documents told CNN that he does not believe General Keith Alexander when he insists the NSA is following rules.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's being very specific, and he's talking particularly about the reports of earlier this week, the tens of millions of phone calls in France and Spain, and he said it's completely false.

What is your reaction to that?

GLENN GREENWALD, COLUMNIST, "THE GUARDIAN": Notice what he didn't offer, which is any evidence for the truth of what he's saying.

This is, remember, an agency that is extremely beleaguered in the middle of a very intense scandal, both at home and abroad. It is an agency whose top officials have a record of lying to the Congress and to the American people through the media, including General Alexander.

And these claims, which I was astonished to watch journalists yesterday go on television and treat as though they were the gospel, are simply accusations made without evidence.

This reporting has been going on for months, Christiane, in Germany and Brazil. They've never once denied that this reporting's accurate.

Suddenly, they make this assertion in the middle of this scandal, and I think some skepticism is warranted.


MALVEAUX: Now, General Alexander specifically denied a "Washington Post" report that accused the NSA of breaking into the databases of Yahoo! and Google.