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NSA Denying Database Spying; Martin MacNeill Murder Trial

Aired October 31, 2013 - 08:00   ET



CROWD: Let's go Red Sox!


CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, NEW DAY: Even stronger, the Red Sox do it, destroying St. Louis to win the World Series, the celebrations still going on in Boston. We're live at Fenway this morning. Celebrating a city that's come through so much.

KATE BOLDUAN, HOST, NEW DAY: Halloween scare, a giant storm system threatening trick-or-treaters across the eastern half of the country. Hail and blinding rain are on the move. We are tracking it all this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, HOST, NEW DAY: Damning testimony the daughter of Dr. Martin MacNeill accused of killing his wife, delivers what the prosecution hopes is a knock-out punch. What she said on the stand that could put her father away.

CUOMO: Your "New Day" continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is "New Day" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "New Day" everyone. It is Thursday, October 31st, happy Halloween everyone. In the end, though, Boston was strong, stronger and strongest, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in six games, tacking on their third world series win in nine years. And considering what the city's been through this year, this title might mean the most.

Our John Berman an unapologetic Red Sox fan was at Fenway Park last night to experience the thrill firsthand. Rachel Nichols host of CNN's "Unguarded" was there as well and they're both joining us from Fenway this morning.

Good morning you guys. John I'm so impressed that you're still standing on your feet. So first tell me what was it like to be there in the mayhem last night?

JOHN BERMAN, HOST, "EARLY START": It was an amazing thing to see. I mean this stadium was simply jumping. And the emotion was everywhere, the fans hanging on every single pitch. And it was a, you know, for a series that had a lot of nail biters. A really, really close, close series, last night, not so much.

I mean the Red Sox jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Shane Victorino cleared the bases with a bases loaded double. And from that moment on the Red Sox were really in control and you could feel the emotion building from fairly early. People began to believe it was going to happen, and it was going to happen now.

And the moment that it finally did happen, when Koji Uehara struck out the last batter this place simply erupted, and it wasn't just in the stadium that had the eruption. All around here, thousands and thousands of fans took to the streets and there were just huge, huge celebrations, mostly peaceful. There were nine arrests we're told by Boston police and we did see pictures of a car that was overturned somehow in this apparently winning a World Series gives people superhuman strength. But it was sheer jubilation on the streets of this city.

BOLDUAN: You can see it in all of that video. So Rachel, what's your take on the Series, on the big win and on the MVP?

RACHEL NICHOLS, HOST, "UNGUARDED": Yeah, I mean certainly a great performance by David Ortiz and an improbable win by this whole Red Sox team. This is not a team that was picked to win the World Series this year. Remember they finished last in their division last year. But in all of the celebration and the champagne, I had a minute to chat with Jonny Gomes who said I think we've changed the way general managers are going to assemble their teams this winter. He said, I think they're going to go for the players with the most heart, not the best numbers.

Of course, you mentioned Ortiz. He's got a little bit of both, and I also caught up with him in the clubhouse, you'll see the champagne on the lens but also take a listen to what he says.


DAVID ORTIZ, RED SOX: We've been through so much this year and just, you know, getting to this point, I think it changed a lot of people's minds you know and it's something that we dedicated to the whole city and I'm pretty sure that a lot of people that they're not even from this city they kind of enjoying this.


NICHOLS: You can sort of make out through all of that fog and champagne him talking about the dedication they've had to the city, the relationship they've had with the people of Boston.

These guys watched tribute after tribute to the victims of the victims of the Marathon bombings, the first responders who came in to help, they have really seen Fenway be a gathering point for this entire city, and several players told me last night people say that we cheered up the City of Boston.

They said no way, Boston carried us on their backs, they said, they're the reason that they won this title. Just that feeling, that push, that wave of emotion from this city. It's a lot to ask of a bunch of athletes to heal a city but it certainly feels this morning, that there's been a lot of emotional progress made.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point and it was so much more than just a game for that city, John. What do you think it does mean for the City of Boston?

BERMAN: I think it means almost -- it means everything, Kate. One of the most poignant pictures from last night was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the site where these bombings happened last April. And there's the yellow stripe across Boylston Street where the marathon ends, and there were people kissing the finish line last night. You can see the people there, such a tribute to what this city has been there.

And as Rachel said the Red Sox were part of it from the very, very beginning. And it was the Red sox who hung up the "Boston Strong" jersey in their dugout immediately after the bombings. It was the Red Sox who played the first game at Fenway after the bombers were apprehended. Don't forget this city was shut down for a whole day as they searched for the bombers. You know people were locked in their homes. The Red Sox were, too.

The players during the season they live in town. They couldn't leave their houses either. And then the next day after they caught the bombers, Fenway opens up, the Red Sox came from behind with a dramatic victory that day and that was the beginning of the recovery. That's also when David Ortiz dropped the profanity and it was heard around the world there.

NICHOLS: I want to see you work that into morning television.

BERMAN: But it was so fabulous, it was such an incredible moment. It was real Boston and the city rallied behind the Red Sox. The Red Sox rallied behind the city and it's been really an unbelievable love affair ever since.

NICHOLS: And guys, players said that that night they all gathered, sort of an impromptu team dinner and just talked about the raw emotions of what was going on in the city and it was a real turning point for the team. Because this is a bunch of guys who largely weren't playing together this season before.

A lot of newcomers on this team and the fact that they were just exposed so emotional, so heartbroken over what happened to their town it galvanized them, it made them feel one with the city and one with each other. It changed the course of their season and of course changed a lot of things for a lot of people in Boston.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Well it's great to have you both there. I know you probably are ready to get to sleep and there are a lot of people in Boston who are nursing some pretty nasty hangovers this happy Halloween. That's for sure. Great to see you guys.

CUOMO: What a great ending though, because it was born of fear. You know J.B. and I were there, standing next to each other for many hours covering the bombings when Boston strong was birthed. And there was so much resilience and strength. That's a tough city but there was fear.

And for now on Halloween the fake scary day, the fear to be gone cemented with this win. It's a joyous thing. It makes everybody a Red Sox fan.

BOLDUAN: It is. Everyone's a Red Sox fan today.

CUOMO: Even a Yankee fan.

BOLDUAN: You can go back to being a Yankee fan.

CUOMO: Now they can go back to still Boston strong but now at least the baseball stuff can return to normal.

PEREIRA: Can we look at the baseball fan of all baseball fans?

CUOMO: Yeah. Take a look at J.B.

PEREIRA: Look at what he posted. This is a happy fellow right there.

CUOMO: One of the thousand selfies he sent last night.

PEREIRA: He was so happy. I can't believe it.

BOLDUAN: I'm surprised he even knew the score.

CUOMO: Up there on the mound, tossing the ball.

BOLDUAN: John Berman.

CUOMO: Yeah it's John Berman obviously, you can tell by his feet.

BOLDUAN: Looking good, taking over.

PEREIRA: I had to share that with you guys.

CUOMO: All right, everybody, it is Halloween, we know it's trick-or- treat time but we also have to give you a little news you can use. It may be scary for all the wrong reasons. Why? Well the eastern half of the country is going to be dealing with some strong thunderstorms, hail, heavy wind, even the possibility of isolated tornadoes. Meteorologist Indra Petersons following all of that for you this morning. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, METEROLOGIST, CNN: Yeah we can actually take a look Chris at the developments we've already seen from the storm. I mean take a look at Colorado; they had heavy snow in the area. Then we take you to Texas, where central Texas, they had flooding, around Austin we've seen, just in the outskirts, even as much as 13 inches of rain overnight. And then of course we've already seen hail. So strong thunderstorms are out toward Kansas and even Nebraska yesterday.

We know all these elements are coming together. This system is actually strengthening and making its way to the east. So really if you're anywhere from the plains all the way to the east coast, you are going to be affected by this storm today. Fifty-three million of you, yes, million of you affected by the threat for severe weather.

These major cities in Detroit stretching all the way down through Houston. We just talked about this, you're talking about wind even as high as 50, 60 miles per hour, isolated tornadoes not out of the question and heavy rain expected to spread in.

So why? It seems like something you would see in the springtime take a look at the moisture coming in from the south. Look at the humidities. Notice we're seeing 70, 80, even 90% humidity. This storm is coming out from cold and dry air, moving into warm and moist air.

So that is the reason. You're getting these two very different types of air masses clashing. You can see actually see that moisture coming in out of the south and that is the reason we are dealing with this on Halloween.

Now the other side of it we're seeing the jet stream making its way over, so that's the reason we have the threat even for tornadoes through the forecast and of course strong winds and heavy rain, another three to five inches possible through the south. More like one to two inches when you get a little bit farther north, although the severe threat is a little bit more concentrated in through the north around the lakes. And strong winds we're talking anywhere from even 50, 60 miles per hour, that's Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Buffalo and then tomorrow into the northeast also talking about those strong winds.

So I know Halloween yes, it should be a fun night but it's also very important if it is just too dangerous out there, the best thing to do is stay inside.

BOLDUAN: Definitely be careful tonight. Thanks, Indra.

Now to the fallout and the way forward with Obamacare. President Obama has been rallying supporters and vowing to fix the problem with At the same time the Vice President and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are apologizing.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is at the White House with more this morning. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Kate good morning to you. And the federal website suffering another outage this morning. Interestingly enough, it turns out President Obama can commiserate with people who have tried and struggled to logon. Vice President Biden revealing that the Commander-in-chief himself has tried to get onto the site.


KEILAR: The highest ranking administration official to apologize for the rollout of the federal Obamacare website. VICE PRESIDENT, JOE BIDEN: We assumed that it was up and ready to run. But the good news is, though it's not and we apologize for that, we're confident that by the end of November it will be and there will still be plenty of time for people to register and get online.

KEILAR: Vice President Biden's comments came in an exclusive interview with CNN's sister network HLN. And it followed another high profile mea culpa.

SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBILIUS: Let me say directly to these Americans, you deserve better. I apologize.

KEILAR: Embattled Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was grilled Wednesday when she faced a House Committee led by Republicans looking for scalps.

SECRETARY SEBILIUS: Michelle Snyder is the one responsible for this debacle. Well excuse me Congresswoman; Michelle Snyder is not responsible for the debacle. Hold me accountable for the debacle, I'm responsible.

KEILAR: The hearing got downright weird at times.

(UNKNOWN MALE): Well Madam Secretary, while you're from Kansas, we're not in Kansas anymore.

(UNKNOWN MALE): I was in the third grade there and I thought I saw you on a tricycle.

(UNKNOWN MALE) Ever used a coupon?


KEILAR: One White House official told CNN that actually helped their cause as they confront a flood of criticism. But Republicans continuously pointed out the website was suffering an outage during Sebelius' testimony. And this comment seemed out of touch with reality.

SECRETARY SEBILIUS: The website has never crashed. It is functional but at a very slow speed.

KEILAR: President Obama made his own case in Boston. Addressing his campaign pledge that if you like your plan, you can keep it for the first time since some Americans have seen their policies canceled.

PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA: If you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law, and you really liked that plan, you are able to keep it. That's what I said when I was running for office.

But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is, you've got to replace them with quality comprehensive coverage.

KEILAR: Obama spoke at Faneuil Hall where Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts' Universal Healthcare Plan into law in 2006. And he took aim at Republicans for opposing Obamacare.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: If they'd worked with us like Mitt Romney did, working with Democrats in Massachusetts. Or like Ted Kennedy often did with Republicans in Congress, including on the Prescription Drug Bill, we'd be a lot further along.

KEILAR: In a written statement, Romney countered Obama before the event. Saying his state's plan "should not be grafted onto the entire country." And Romney called the installation of Obamacare "a frustrating embarrassment." Kate and Chris he clearly did not take kindly to President Obama showing up on his turf.

BOLDUAN: I'd say so. Thanks so much Briana, thanks for that update. Let's go to Michaela with the headlines.

PEREIRA: All right. Making news this morning the president's job performance is at its lowest point ever. A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll finds that the president's approval rating has sunk to 42%. That is down five points from earlier month. And 51% of Americans now disapprove of the president's job performance that ties his all-time high.

Another big drug smuggling tunnel found between San Diego and Tijuana. Authorities say it was just finished and had not been used yet. Apparently it's a lot like the 600 foot tunnel found a couple of years ago in the very same area. That one had lights, electrical rail cars, and a whole lot of marijuana. More than 75 underground passageways have been found along the border with Mexico over the past five years.

A new role for Robert Gates the former Defense Secretary was elected to the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America. He will be the National President of the organization starting next year. Gates was an Eagle Scout himself. There is some question if his experience ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" at the Pentagon might impact how the Scouts handle gay policy going forward.

Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker will be sworn in as New Jersey Senator today. Vice President Joe Biden will do the honors, swearing Booker in in the Senate chambers of the US Capitol. The rising Democrat star then will head to the White House this afternoon and will meet with President Obama. Booker won a special election earlier this month to fill out the term of late Democratic Senator, Frank Lautenberg.

And in honor of Halloween, check out this real life, well not really real life, vampire attack. This is YouTube prankster, Ed Bassmaster dressed up as a zombie vampire and unleashing his shenanigans on the streets of Philly. Most folks run. A couple of fist bumps, props for the effort.

My favorite though is this guy, totally not bothered, get away from me. Wasn't even spooked. That's fantastic. He actually did a really good job. He put the contacts in, the fake teeth, kind of mussed up his hair. He's lucky he didn't get a beat down, actually.

CUOMO (voice-over): Where was he?

PEREIRA: Philly.

CUOMO: He is lucky he didn't get a beat down.



CUOMO: She's no joke.



PEREIRA (on-camera): Doughnut dust --

CUOMO (on-camera): Doughnut always wins.

PEREIRA: Well, you don't want to --

CUOMO: You know what I'm saying. You know, doughnut is one of the most exclusive pleasures, it's all-engrossing.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, is the NSA taking advantage of a legal loophole to collect your information? We will answer that question for you.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Happy Halloween. The NSA says it has not been secretly tapping into Google and Yahoo! collecting your personal data, but the agency isn't denying that it may be monitoring some web traffic between the internet giants. The NSA says whatever it is doing is legal and authorized by the court. But guess what? That is not good enough for many of you.

Let's bring in Fran Townsend. She's CNN's national security analyst. Fran, happy Halloween.


CUOMO: Great to have you here. All right. First, let me answer my own question, are they exposing a legal loophole and spying on us?

TOWNSEND: You know what, this is one of these, I think, what General Alexander, the head of NSA said in front of Congress yesterday is if we're collecting data of Americans, we must have a court order and we're following the law. So the short answer to this is they don't collect American data without a court order or some legal authorization.

What they're not trying to explain because it's difficult to explain to Americans is they do have access to massive amounts of data, because they're legally permitted to collect foreign information. So, what does that mean? So, if it's a communication between two foreign powers or two foreign terrorists, they can collect that.

That's not protected the way your data is and my data is. Sometimes, do they make a mistake when they're collecting the foreign data? Does American data get caught up in that? Yes. But there are legal procedures they've got to what's called minimize it. They've got to get rid of it.

CUOMO: All right. So if it's not that loophole, could it be that -- what if they're looking at servers that aren't on American soil but are servers that are being serviced for American information use. Does that count? Are then they allowed to snoop on what I'm doing because it's going through a server somewhere?

TOWNSEND: No. They have to be very careful in terms of what they collect. You're protected, think of it this way. The flag is wrapped around you wherever you go anywhere in the world including your communication. So, unless, they have a court order, they can't collect your data. If they accidentally scoop it up, they have to minimize it. That is they have to take legal procedures to basically wipe it out.

CUOMO: All right. Two big questions. Once we move away from the law, because the real questions are policy questions. Is it needed, that's the big pushback right now, is the worth it question, right? You're spying on Merkel. You're tapping her phone. Is it worth it based on the information you're collecting? What's your take?

TOWNSEND: Well, you know, look, with foreign leaders, I care about our foreign leaders who are our allies. Are they talking to my enemies? Then I want hear it. Are they talking to each other about what they're going to tell us or what their policy positions are going to be? I want to hear that. And by the way, is Angela Merkel using that phone to talk to her intelligence chief deciding what they will and won't share with us? I probably want to listen to that, too.

CUOMO: Is it worth it, though? That's the -- have we gotten enough information to justify the intrusion? Is that a fair question? Is it the right question? And if it is, what's the answer to it?

TOWNSEND: No. Absolutely a fair question. And Chris, I think this whole debate has changed in a post-9/11 world where we have all this new capability. We are able to do surveillance. There are oversight mechanisms in place, but I think it's time for us to have a public debate about has our government made the balance right.

We have members of Congress who implement laws, who enact laws. And if Americans don't like it, they need to engage with their congressperson and talk about how should the balance between privacy and civil liberties versus our national security be made.

CUOMO: I get the sensitivities about American citizenry and what's going on and Big Brother and all that, but, you know, when you started raising 9/11 earlier in the week, it did make me think. There is so much fear about what we didn't know and we didn't have the right network and we wasted all this time on the war on drugs. We didn't have the infrastructure built up where we needed it now. I think we have to remember that and it's part of this debate about how much should we be talking about the spying that we do when it's so important to information gathering.

Appreciate the perspective. This debate is going to continue. I really think we're only like a third of the way through it.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Fran Townsend, Happy Halloween. I hope my mask isn't scaring you too much.


CUOMO: Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, stunning testimony from three daughters at their father's murder trial. Why they believe he killed their mother?


PEREIRA: That's the scariest part right there on the desk.


PEREIRA: Happy Halloween, everybody. Having a little bit of fun here in our studio in New York. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is time now for the five things to know for your NEW DAY.


PEREIRA (voice-over): It is party time in Boston as the Red Sox celebrate the team's third World Series in nine years. Sox fans now get ready to rock their best parade wear.

A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll this morning puts the president's approval rating at 42 percent. That's an all-time low. Fifty-one percent say they disapprove of the president's performance.

A monster Halloween storms are brewing. Some 40 million people from the Great Lakes to Texas could see severe weather today. Some towns in the Midwest actually postponing trick-or-treating until tomorrow or even Saturday.

An international watchdog group says equipment from all 23 of Syria's chemical weapons have been entirely destroyed. Now, all chemical weapons have been sealed so they cannot be used.

And at number five, is this the missing teen with autism, Avonte Oquendo? The young man missing now for weeks in New York City. Take a look at this picture. The one on the right taken on the subway train this week. Police are looking into it. His brother, however, doubts that this is his sibling. Keep an eye out for him if you're in the New York area.


PEREIRA (on-camera): We're always updating the five things to know, so be sure to go for the very latest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

You can call it blockbuster testimony in the murder trial of Martin MacNeill. Three of MacNeill's daughters taking the stand for the prosecution. The former Utah doctor is accused of drugging his wife and killing her in order to be with his mistress. The daughters say that their mom suspected their affair. Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands with more.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When court resumes this morning, Dr. Martin MacNeill's daughter, Alexis Somers, will be back on the stand. On Wednesday, she methodically delivered with prosecutors' hope was a knockout punch describing what happened in the days leading up to her mother's death.

ALEXIS SOMERS, MARTIN MACNEILL'S DAUGHTER: My mom was my best friend. She confided in me a lot and I did the same with her.

ROWLANDS: Somers testified that her father insisted that her mother, 50-year-old Michelle MacNeill, get a facelift and that he pressured her plastic surgeon to prescribe specific medications that prosecutors allege he would later use to kill her.

SOMERS: I was actually, I was really embarrassed because my dad was telling the plastic surgeon what medication he wanted.

ROWLANDS: Somers also testified that her mother suspected MacNeill was having an affair with nursing student, Gypsy Willis, and confronted him about it just days before she died.

SOMERS: He told her that she was crazy. He said that it's ridiculous. He's not having an affair.

ROWLANDS: Prosecutors maintained that after MacNeill drugged his wife with a dangerous mix of post-surgery medications, he drowned her in a bathtub. In addition, Somers, who's also a physician, described how her father overmedicated her mother a few days before she died which prosecutors believe may have been an experiment to see how she would react.

SOMERS: He said, 'yes, I think I gave her too much medicine.'

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please raise your right hand.

ROWLANDS: Two more of MacNeill's daughters also testified against him, 32-year-old Vanessa, who was shaking with nerves, talked about MacNeill's demeanor after her mother's death and how he hired his lover, Gypsy Willis, to be a nanny and 19-year-old Sabrina who talked about her mother being in good health the morning of her death and that later she saw Gypsy sneak in to her father's bedroom.