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A Secret Service Failure?; U.S. Suspends "Non-Lethal" Aid to Syria; Politifact's "Lie of the Year"; The Award Show Critics Love to Hate; Oprah Gets "Golden Globes" Diss; Safer at Home

Aired December 12, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time for the World Lead, he was supposed to interpret the day's speeches into sign language. Instead, this man now identified as Thamsanqa Jantjie basically flailed his arms. Observers say Jantjie was hired to interpret at the ceremony honouring Nelson Mandela, gesticulated without any discernible meaning and didn't even know the signs for "thank you" or "Mandela."

In an interview with CNN David McKenzie, Jantjie defended his performance, but admitted something that's less easily laughed off than his wild gesturing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sort of disability do you have?



TAPPER: He told the Associated Press that he saw angels and was hallucinating while onstage. The A.P. also reported that Jantjie had been institutionalized at length and has had violent episodes. How did someone with serious, potentially volatile mental health issues wind up standing inches away from world leaders?

Here to talk about it, former Secret Service agent and author of "Life Inside The Bubble, Why A Top Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All," Dan Bongino. Sir, thanks so much. And before we start, we should disclose that you are running for Congress About of as a Republican from Maryland but we are not talking about politics today. We are here to talk about security, your experience as a former Secret Service agent.

So this man, this interpreter, not only did he get into the ceremony, but he was allowed into the inner ring near the president. This seems like a fairly big deal. Is this a failure of the Secret Service?

DANIEL BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I don't think so. That's not me trying to put lipstick on this, either. Clearly it was a failure. He was not only in the inner ring, he was in the inner, inner ring, the arms distance of the president, distance buys you time. There is no time to react if I'm within arm's length of you. If I know what I'm going to do, there's no time for the Secret Service agent, for me, no precognition here.

It was a failure but I believe it was a failure on the South African front. I'll tell you why, having done a couple of these advances on foreign soil, especially the short time line advances. I did the signing of the START treaty in Prague. There's a significant trust component. I have worked with the South Africans. They are very competent. I think they were overwhelmed.

TAPPER: The Secret Service did e-mail us to say that it was South Africa's responsibility to vet the interpreters. They say security measures were in place, agents were nearby ready to take action. I know they don't have jurisdiction for international events, but is the Secret Service allowed to do any vetting on their own? Would they be able to find out if an individual like this had some sort of institutionalization in his past?

BONGINO: Yes, and yes. We do and we can. The problem is, we're used to United States operational law enforcement standards. NCIC, National Crime Information Center, we can just run your name and get basically an entire criminal history on you. Those standards don't necessarily apply overseas. So even if this individual, he may have been arrested and had a mental health history. They may not have known at all and if they don't know, our intelligence sources aren't going to know either. There's a co-dependency there.

TAPPER: We talked about this before the memorial. We talked to Bob Baer, former CIA agent, a gentleman who worked in operations for a former White House. Instead of months, weeks to plan, this was a matter of hours. Ultimately, if you had been head of the secret service, do you think you would have given the go on this or do you not have the say? The president wants to go to the Mandela memorial, he's going to go?

BONGINO: Well, realistically speaking, this isn't the movies. If the president wants to go, he's going to go, but they could have planned in advance. The Reagan funeral, the Secret Service had a plan. Everyone knew Mandela was in poor condition. They should have planned this out. The Reagan funeral, I was there --

TAPPER: The South Africans.

BONGINO: Yes, like we did with the Reagan funeral. We knew he was in bad shape, planned it out in advance. When he unfortunately passed, it was seamless. The South Africans should have known that and planned in advance. It's their responsibility and they didn't.

TAPPER: All right, Dan Bongino, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. We'll have you back to talk about politics.

In other world news, Syrian rebels going to have to get their medical equipment and generators from somewhere else, at least for the time being, now that both the U.S. and Britain have suspended quote, "nonlethal aid to the rebels." This after a group called "Islamic Front" seized a weapons depot from the Free Syrian Army in the northern part of the country. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on a trip to Singapore explained the U.S. move.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are going to continue to help in the humanitarian area, which we have been doing consistently, but this is a problem. What has occurred here, big problem.


TAPPER: As far as lethal aid from the U.S., we will go ahead and call that what it is, weapons from the CIA, it's not clear whether that will stop, too. This all comes about a month before the U.S. is scheduled to take part in the talks in the hopes of ending the ongoing war in Syria.

I want to bring in our foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott. Elise, specifically what kind of nonlethal aid are we talking about, how will it impact the rebels?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, it's nothing that's really going to turn this conflict around. It was nonlethal aid, food, medical supplies, communications equipment, trucks. But what this meant, the fact the Islamists seized these warehouses that belonged to the moderates is really a wake-up call for the administration that their policy on Syria is really in shambles right now because Islamists are gaining a lot of influence in the country, not just battling Assad but battling their own moderates.

These are not guys in a cave in Afghanistan. These are al Qaeda linked rebels that are acting with impunity on the ground. In the last couple days, the State Department is criticizing them for massacres on the ground. There's a real concern right now that the country going to be overrun by extremists.

TAPPER: So the policy in Syria has been criticized by foreign policy hands, including some who used to work for the administration, the Obama administration, as incoherent. Now it seems as though what's going on in Syria, even worse than whatever policy we have, just completely a mess. Is that what you're saying?

LABOTT: Well, I think the administration only has itself to blame because one of the concerns, one of the arguments of President Obama early on for not arming the rebels, not providing more lethal support, was there is going to be more extremism in the country, we don't want the country to become a safe haven for al Qaeda.

Well, right now, it's becoming a playground for al Qaeda linked groups that are rivalling Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries. This is ahead of this peace conference in a month. These moderates on the ground are really weaker than ever. Now the administration has to regroup, my sources are telling me they are trying to discuss whether there are some Islamists that they can work with.

There's a sliding scale of bad guys here. Some are linked with al Qaeda, some have more Islamic tendencies. They are trying to see whether they can bring these guys into the fold so they can all have a common goal of trying to get Bashar Al-Assad out. It doesn't look good right now.

TAPPER: What a mess. Elise Labott, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

This just in to CNN, North Korea's state news agency says the uncle of Kim Jong-Un has been executed. North Korean state news agency, KCNA, flashes traitor, Jang Sung-Taek executed.

Coming up, in politics, we unveil's lie of the year in a town where lies are as common as flies. What could possibly merit a special honor?

And the Pop Lead, Bob Barker, you are 90 years old today. Come on down! You will never guess where Barker is spending the big day. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In politics, it's this town's most abundant natural resource, misinformation. But which fictions, flips topped the charts in 2013 and which earned the grand prize for most mendacious? Let's bring in Angie Holan, editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning fact check site,, run by the "Tampa Bay Times" to unveil the top ten lies of the year. Great to be here.

I will to read the statements in countdown order. You can set the record straight. Number four, courtesy of a column by Ann Coulter, no U.S. trained doctors will accept Obamacare. Quick, to the truthometer.

ANGIE DROBNIC HOLAN, EDITOR, "POLITIFACT TAMPA BAY TIMES": Experts told us this is ridiculous and nothing we could find in the law connected where doctors were trained with what kind of insurance you had.

TAPPER: Pants on fire.

HOLAN: Pants on fire.

TAPPER: Number three, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the IRS is going to be in charge of a huge national database on health care that will include Americans' most personal secrets.

HOLAN: The IRS is not keeping people's health care records. The only role they play is if someone gets a subsidy to help them buy insurance. The IRS would verify their income and they already have that information. They know how much money we are making.

TAPPER: OK, number two, according to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, President Obama granted all of Congress an exception to Obamacare. Survey says?

HOLAN: We rated this one false. Congress has to have insurance just like all other Americans and the law actually forced them out of the federal employees plan and on to the online marketplaces so they could experience what it's like to shop with everyone else. Not exempt.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz's office e-mailed us saying the senator's statement was 100 percent correct. The Obama administration granted Congress the ability to keep federal health subsidies to purchase Obamacare exchange plans. That's an exemption from the law that private sector firms don't get.

OK, anyway, moving on to the most important, the lie of the year, control room, I don't know if we have this. Can I get a drum roll? Here it is by popular demand, the number one lie of the year, based on something the president first said in 2009 and updated in 2013.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. What we said was you could keep it if it hasn't changed since the law's passed.


TAPPER: So this was the runaway favorite with readers, 59 percent voted for this as lie of the year.

HOLAN: Yes, the editors of Politifact selected this because it had the most impact on the national debate. It's something we first flagged back in 2009. We said this is partly right, the health care law does leave in place the existing health care system, but it's partly wrong because we knew back then not everybody would be able to keep their health care plan. This was the year it was proved false as these cancellation letters went out.

TAPPER: That upgrades it from theoretically possibly true, possibly false to pants on fire lie, the fact it was implemented and if you like your health plan, you can't necessarily keep it.

HOLAN: Well, what happened was the president came out later and said, we never said that, we said that if your plan hadn't changed since the law was passed, but we went --

TAPPER: That's not what he said.

HOLAN: We found 37 separate instances where he said clearly with no caveats that you could keep your plan. And that got the pants on fire rating. That excuse.

TAPPER: So that's the evolution on why --


TAPPER: -- the ranking changed from half true to pants on fire.

HOLAN: Well, the original statement is partly accurate. The lie of the year is not the most wrong statement. It's the most significant impact then the excuse got the pants on fire overall.

TAPPER: OK. So the lie about what he had originally said is lie of the year.

HOLAN: They are both lie of the year because this is something over a bunch of years. It's something we have been watching for many years and you know, it's --

TAPPER: Are you going to give him an award? Do you present him with an award of some sort?

HOLAN: You know, he can get in touch with us if he wants a prize.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

A quick note, we did reach out to Congresswoman Bachmann, Ann Coulter and the White House for a response to today's segment, but we did not hear back by showtime. For more background on these statements, check out

Up next on THE LEAD, the Golden Globe nominations are out. Some major snubs might make you wonder whether the show is trying to shed its image as the groupie of the award season bunch.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Pop Culture Lead, it's one of the biggest award shows of the year, but many think of the Golden Globes as having the refinement of a teen girl at a One Direction concert when it comes to its celebrity obsession. Here's how former host, Ricky Gervais summed it up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. Bit louder, bit trashier, bit drunker, and more easily bought.


TAPPER: So when the nominations were announced this morning, imagine the shock on the faces of critics when they learned the Hollywood Foreign Press Association passed on the opportunity to have one of the biggest stars on the planet front and center as a nominee. Oprah Winfrey nowhere on the list, failing to get a best supporting actress nod for "The Butler."

She's not the only one to make this year's snub list. Is it a sign that this show is suddenly trying to go highbrow? Joining me now live from New York is Melena Ryzik. She is a writer for the "New York Times" carpetbagger blog. How are you?


TAPPER: Oprah and snub are two words we rarely hear together, but she wasn't the only shocker on the snub list.


TAPPER: What gives?

RYZIK: Yes. You know, that's one of the reasons we watch these award shows is we never know what's going to happen. Oprah was a surprise. She won a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild yesterday. They cared about her performance in "The Butler," but some other people were left off the list. The movie "Saving Mr. Banks" with Emma Thompson, show got the nod but her co-star who played Tom Hanks who plays Walt Disney did not.

That's a surprise although the Globes were able to get Tom in there as a nominee for "Captain Phillips." So he is going to show up. There are always movies that are missing and TV shows that are missing. That's part of the reason we care about this stuff is we get to talk about it.

TAPPER: One of the things about the globes as opposed to the Oscars is it's not an academy, not a number of directors voting for who they think is the best director. It's kind of a mysterious group, members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They have been criticized for a long time. You think they're responding to this criticism or just further proving that they play by their own rules?

RYZIK: Yes. I think they are kind of a unique organization in Hollywood. They are not critics groups or industry professionals. They are mostly freelance writers for publications around the world, but not some of the more well-known publications, maybe some of the smaller ones. They are present in Hollywood and active and they do pay attention to what happens and watch the movies.

So this is their way of kind of throwing their weight around, perhaps, and showing we have an opinion, too. We may be showing you different things than the Oscars, but that's why we watch the show. They like to tout themselves as having the most stars per capita because they've got TV stars and movie stars, so this is a way to show we can do what we want.

TAPPER: People also watch the Golden Globes because they think it can be the predictor of what the sentiment will be for the Academy awards. Does this year's list of nominees add to what is already a fairly confusing Oscar race?

RYZIK: It is a really confusing Oscar race. There is no real frontrunner. There are a lot of great movies this season. Everyone I talked to this year, all the people who were nominated, they were especially excited to be nominated this year. One of the reasons we do watch the Globes is as a predictor, but over the last decade or so, they haven't had as great a track record at saying what the best -- eventually best picture winner at the Oscars going to be.

That's actually because of the way they schedule the awards shows. This sounds very glamorous, but it's because of the way, when they make their dates for the awards shows, by the time the Globes happen, the Oscar nomination ballots are already in. That is not going to affect who gets actually nominated.

TAPPER: We only have a little time left. Give me the top two contests you are going to be watching at the Golden Globes.

RYZIK: You know, the best actor race this year at the Globes and eventually down the line at the Oscars is a really tight race. The globes have an advantage because they split it up into drama and comedy so they get to nominate twice as many people. But as far as for the Oscars are concerned, there are at least a dozen people fighting for those five slots. I think the screenplay category going to also be an interesting one to watch because there are a lot of original stories this year that people are paying attention to.

TAPPER: What else in terms of the screenplays you're talking about? Which ones do you think are really in contention?

RYZIK: Well, for -- well, the American hustle is a late-breaking movie to the awards race and is a real talkative movie. It got a nomination and the writer was also the director, David O. Russell. The way he makes movies is unusual. He allows people to kind of add lines as they're filming in addition to writing the script so that's going to be an interesting one to see play out.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Can you guess Bob Barker's age without going over? You don't dare be the person who bids one more than my guess. The legendary former TV host turned 90 years old today and celebrated by making an appearance on his old show. You might say his most notable achievement is getting the chance to do something we all considered after watching Adam Sandler movies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want a piece of you. I want the whole thing.


TAPPER: Happy birthday, Mr. Barker. Here's hoping you treated yourself to a new car.

The Sports Lead is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, it can also closely resemble a train wreck. Now the MLB Rules Committee has voted to eliminate home plate collisions possibly as soon as next season. The new rules will force runners to slide into home instead of plowing over catchers to knock the ball loose. Certain people on my staff are calling it the no, after you, rule. No, I didn't just hire Pete Rose. Both the owners and players still have to approve the proposal.

After his coach tossed him under the bus, President George W. Bush was there to pick him up. The former president sent a supportive letter to University of Alabama kicker, Cade Foster this year after one of the worst games of his college career, missing two field goal attempts, having a third blocked and being pulled in the Crimson Tide's last second loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The loss cost Alabama a shot at their third straight national title.

Foster posted a pic of the letter on his Twitter and Instagram. President Bush wrote, "Dear Cabe, life has its setbacks, I know. However, you going to be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43." because that's his number and that was the number President George W. Bush was. Classy move by a big Texas longhorn fan.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I will be back in two hours on Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Follow me on Twitter. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.