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NSA Gone Too Far?; Putin Talks Snowden; Fed Starts the Taper

Aired December 19, 2013 - 05:30   ET


BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes past the hour this morning.

ROMANS: All right. There's new pressure on the NSA this morning after a panel of outside experts hand-picked by the White House has told the president enough is enough. The spy agency they say should not have blanket authority to gather up phone records and should make internal changes as well.

Chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has been looking into the recommendations.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Christine, the key headline here is accountability. Accountability to Congress, to the public, to the White House, and you see that reflected in the 46 recommendations in this panel's report.

For instance, they recommended Congress pass legislation to move all these phone metadata from the NSA's hands back to the phone companies' hands, in the private hands.

For the White House they recommended whenever the NSA is listening to the conversations of foreign leaders that the White House give approval right up to the president.

And for the public, a series of recommendations. One being they want the next head of the NSA to be a civilian, that that would send a good message but also that the NSA restate its mission as it should have been which is to focus on foreign intelligence on foreign targets.

Now the president doesn't have to accept these recommendations. He says he's going to look at them, pick the ones he wants to follow but I am told by a senior administration official that they know that they have a trust gap here both at the American public and the foreign public and that in January it's likely the president will make a speech explaining what restraints they are going to put the NSA under going forward -- John and Christine.

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Jim for that report.

Thirty-two minutes after the hour. And the Senate giving final approval to a bipartisan budget that will head off any chance of a government shutdown next year. Actually that's not true, while the debt ceiling limit could still be hit, that we'll get shut down technically.


BERMAN: The next stop for the budget is the president's desk. He's expected to sign the bill. Nine Senate Republicans join Democrats to pass the budget comprise which have been negotiated by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray. The House overwhelmingly approved this bill last week.

ROMANS: Said up to half -- this bipartisan deal also could send up to half the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay back to countries -- the country they came from. This deal lifts most of the restrictions on transferring detainees overseas and is seen as a victory for President Obama and his bid to shut down Guantanamo Bay. The measure part of a broader defense bill awaiting final passage in the Senate this week.

They're working. They're working on Capitol Hill finally.

BERMAN: Working on something.

A longtime Democratic senator is set to become to next ambassador to China. The White House tapping Montana Democrat Max Baucus who already announced he would leave the Senate when his term expires next year. If confirmed he heads to China at a time with growing tension following China's recent dispute with Japan over airspace rights.

Baucus is not known for having much expertise on China. He spent many years in the Senate's Finance Committee. There are a lot of political reasons possibly for this pick. Baucus, as we said, was set to retire at the end of next year. This could boost Democrats' chances of keeping the seat, though it still will be a scuffle.

Also Mr. Baucus has been awfully critical at times of the Obama administration and specifically Obamacare so this gets a vocal critic far, far, far away.

ROMANS: It's far away but it is one of the most important jobs out there.

BERMAN: Crucial.

ROMANS: Right. Especially now.

All right. The Obama administration playing damage control over the treatment of an Indian diplomat in New York. Secretary of State John Kerry has now expressed his regret to a senior official from India over the arrest of Devyani Khobragade. The deputy consul general was taken into custody last week. Taken into custody, charged with visa fraud and paying her housekeeper a fraction of the American minimum wage.

Her lawyer told Piers Morgan police went too far.


DANIEL ARSHACK, ATTORNEY FOR DEVYANI KHOBRAGADE: She was handcuffed. She was strip searched. She was put in a cell with another people and treated like an ordinary U.S. citizen charged with a crime. The fact is, she isn't an ordinary U.S. citizen. She is a diplomat with immunity, and she should have never been treated this way.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thus far all indications are that standard procedures were followed, but because we recognize that this is a very sensitive issue in India, we are continuing to review exactly what happened in this case.


ROMANS: The U.S. attorney in New York says Khobragade was given additional courtesies and she's allowed to make multiple phone calls, he claims. India's Foreign Ministry is pledging to bring Khobragade back to India to, in his words, the foreign minister saying this, in his words, restore her dignity.

BERMAN: Yes. A sensitive, sensitive diplomatic mess right now to say the least.

Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is now being called a terrorist facing a new round of criminal charges for allegedly conspiring with foreign groups to commit acts of terrorism. He's already on trial for the murder of opposition protesters.

Morsi was driven from office in July by the Egyptian military. He and 35 other defendants are also accused of divulging defense secrets to foreign countries and funding terrorism training for the Muslim Brotherhood.

ROMANS: Dennis Rodman has now arrived in North Korea for a visit he says is about fun. Not politics. Rodman is making his third trip to the repressive nation and he calls its leader Kim Jong-Un his friend. This time he plans to run training sessions for a basketball team and he downplayed the timing coming after Kim's execution of his own uncle.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA STORY: It has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with me, man. What is done is done and whoever got anything, you know, North Korea, I mean, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years. I'm just going over to do a basketball game and have some fun.


ROMANS: Years and years, but recently, you know, he executed his uncle. Your friend executed his uncle.

All right, the team he's training will take part in an exhibition game against former NBA players in January when they gather to celebrate Kim Jong-Un's birthday.

BERMAN: You know he says he is going just to have some fun. It's a heck of a time to be having fun there with the executive of Kim Jong- Un's uncle not to mention the Americans being detained there.

Thirty-six minutes after the hour. Let's get a check to your forecast for the day. Indra Petersons is here.

ROMANS: Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. I have good news. It's going to be warming up. I mean, today we're talking about New York City, 42. How does 69 degrees sound by the end of the weekend? Probably a lot better. And that is going to be the trend all up and down the East Coast. 61 in Atlanta, you're going to get to about 72 by Saturday.

But it's not all sunshine. There's a little key there. Watching a couple of storms as they make their way across. First one today we're watching it go right into the Midwest where overnight tonight, pretty much in Wisconsin back through St. Louis we could see some icing so some freezing rain advisories are currently up, then it goes over the lakes and then shifts into rain for the northeast by Friday. So for tomorrow.

Then we have another system out there. This is kind of the more aggressive system. This one's a little bit stronger. Remember I showed you how warm it's expected to be in the southeast? Well, you combine that with that cool system moving across and we do have that severe weather threat.

So for the southeast heavy rain. We're talking about isolated tornadoes cannot be ruled out and that shifts into the Carolinas back into Florida for Sunday, and that's not the only story because you have that huge temperature contrast between the southeast and the northeast so for the northeast, it does mean the threat for icing as we go through the weekend as well.

So a lot going on. Hard to cover all of that quick but I hope you got the idea.

BERMAN: I don't want the ice. No one wants the icing.

PETERSONS: Yes. Right. Yes. A little north of us will get rain. But still.

BERMAN: Yes, right. Thanks, Indra.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

If you shopped at Target on Black Friday, keep an eye on your credit card and debit card statements. The Secret Service, the Secret Service now investigating whether hackers made off with credit and debit card numbers and other personal data from stores. Reports this morning indicate this breach may have lasted weeks. Some say the hackers could have taken enough data to create counterfeit credit cards.

BERMAN: All right. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. Coming up, an armed robbery on board a bus turns into a shocking takedown when passengers revolt. The whole thing caught on camera. That's coming up next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Forty minutes past the hour.

The members of Russian punk band and some activists from Greenpeace could soon be getting their freedom now that the parliament in Russia has approved amnesty for some low-level criminals.

It's not clear this morning if they'll be released or if this all just a political ploy ahead of the Olympics.

Diana Magnay is live in Moscow.

Diana, what are you hearing?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a huge amnesty that's been granted. Thousands of prisoners might be released and you qualify if you're, for example, a mother which both those two Pussy Riot activists are or if you're informed or if you're elderly but it's going to take a long time. Possibly up to six months, the penitentiary service tells us, to go through the documents and to see whether each individual prisoner qualifies.

And Russian president who is, right now, giving his annual press conference said about the Greenpeace detainees because there's obviously been so much uproar internationally about their case. He said, you know, we didn't grant this amnesty because of them. If they qualify, all well and good but they shouldn't go around exercising PR stunts if they want to bring attention to the plight of the environment.

So we'll have to wait to find out whether this -- the Pussy Riots or Greenpeace qualify but it looks like they might -- Christine.

ROMANS: And, you know, Diana, Vladimir Putin just making some interesting comments about the NSA spying scandal and Edward Snowden. Fill us in.

MAGNAY: Absolutely. He was asked whether the whole spying scandal had deteriorated relations between or -- yes, deteriorated relations really between him and President Obama. And he said, well, in regards to President Obama, I envy him because he can spy and get away with it. He also said that he hadn't met Edward Snowden, that he respected him, he thought he was an interesting individual with a noble cause.

And he also said those activities of the NSA were justified in the fight against global terror but just should follow some stricter guidelines and as a former KGB agent, himself of course Christine he knows what he's talking about.

ROMANS: I'll say. All right. Thank you, Diana Magnay, for us this morning.

BERMAN: Forty-three minutes after the hour.

We're hearing more this morning about just what happened during a deadly shooting at a Reno doctor's office. A gunman killing a doctor and critically injuring another doctor and a patient before turning the gun on himself. Police say the gunman was carrying a shotgun and fired five rounds. And those who saw him say they knew something was wrong.


VICKI GRIFFIN, EYEWITNESS: He seems calm, yet agitated at the same time, because of how he took the rifle or shotgun or whatever it was and banged it on the nurse's desk three times. He started swinging the gun and telling everybody in the waiting room, you need to get out, you better get out, you should get out.

MAC VENZON, DEPUTY CHIEF, NEVADA POLICE: The fact that the shooter went through the first and second floor, made his way to the third floor of the building would indicate to me that it's not a random event.


BERMAN: The gunman's identity has not yet been revealed. Police say they think they know who he was but are waiting to confirm that with his family.

ROMANS: Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez now facing a wrongful death suit from the family of a man he is accused of killing. Odin Lloyd's mother says Hernandez was responsible for her son's death and seeks to block him from collecting on more than $3 million of his NFL salary.

Meantime, another person with ties to Hernandez has been found dead. Tabatha Perry was 27 and had survived a car crash that killed another Hernandez acquaintance. Police say her death, Perry's death is not considered suspicious.

He's been ordered to stay away from campus. A Harvard University sophomore accused of being behind a bomb scare that all but shut Harvard down. 20-year-old Eldo Kim made an appearance in federal court in Boston to face charges that he e-mailed a threat to police and the student newspaper claiming there were explosives in four buildings. No explosives were found.

Prosecutors say Kim did it to get out of taking a final exam. His lawyer called he's claimed remorseful and shattered.


IAN GOLD, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was on the morning of finals. He's someone, a 20-year-old young man under incredible pressure. That much is clear.


ROMANS: Kim for now will live with his sister in the Boston area. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

BERMAN: Fire crews in California hoped to have the Big Sur wildfire under control as early as tonight. Right now the fire is about 74 percent contained. That is a big improvement over the last few days. The Big Sur blaze has scorched some 800 acres, destroyed nearly two dozen homes and other structures.

So when an armed robber started terrorizing passengers on a bus in Seattle, some of those very passengers took matters into their own hands and it was all caught on camera. Take a look at this. This surveillance video shows a man pull out a handgun and robbed two people. But when he pointed his gun at another man, that -- too much. One guy lunges at the robber, starting a fight that ended with the suspect on the ground. One of the passengers who was robbed and fought back says they all did what they had to do.


CHRIS BRIGGS, BUS PASSENGER: He came up to me and stuck the gun at me and took my phone. It was just kind of one of those things that no one gave any thought to at once -- once things started happening.


BERMAN: The accused robber is a 19-year-old with no past criminal history. He's now in custody and could face 15 years in prison.


BERMAN: Brave passengers.

ROMANS: Wow. Imagine watching that unfold. All right.

BERMAN: Big risk, though.

ROMANS: Right. You're right.

Imagine being stranded on a plane for five hours. That's what passengers at Boston's Logan Airport say happened to them. Five hours, that's two hours more than federal rules allow. The Lufthansa flight was supposed to be headed to Frankfurt but they got caught in Tuesday's snowstorm and those on board say the crew did little to make them comfortable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We boarded the flight at 3:30, came back in at 9:00.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're told we can't put our seat back and that we can't use our cell phones, that we can't -- we can go to bathroom for emergencies but we can't loiter in the aisles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They offered us a little plastic cup of water and one little bag of goldfish crackers in the shape of airplanes.


ROMANS: The plane was eventually brought back to the gate but passengers say it took another four hours to get their bags back. The airline blamed the broken snow plow but the agency that runs Logan Airport says that only accounts for about half of the five-hour delay, two and a half hours because of a broken snowplow. The passengers were eventually given vouchers for a hotel room and rescheduled on a Wednesday night flight.

BERMAN: Yes. The goldfish in the shape of airplanes probably not enough.

ROMANS: I spent eight hours on a plane one time before all these new rules were in effect. And I was just so thankful I did not have a baby with me.

BERMAN: Did you have goldfish in the shape of airplanes?

ROMANS: I had nothing. I --

BERMAN: Because that would have made the whole thing better.

ROMANS: No. I had nothing. But I didn't have a baby with me that was key. If you had a baby with you, forget it, that would have been worse than hell.

BERMAN: Forty-seven minutes after the hour. He is a reality TV show star but this morning, he is under fire for some comments that he made about African-Americans and gays.

Phil Robertson from "Duck Dynasty" in an interview with "GQ" magazine seemed to equate being gay with bestiality and prostitution. He also suggested that blacks in Louisiana were happier under Jim Crow than they are now.

Robertson has been put on hiatus from the show and issued a statement saying, quote, "I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and, like him, I love all of humanity."

ROMANS: In New York a man and a dog will get to stay together after both tumbled on to the subway tracks and remarkably they survived. Not much worse for the wear.

Cecil Williams worried he would have to give up Orlando when the dog retires the next year but the group Guiding Eyes for the Blind says they have received enough donations to ensure Orlando's needs will be taken care of. He can live on his life as a pet and Williams will get another guide dog to replace him.

Williams praised his best friend for helping him stay calm as a subway train barreled in on them.


CECIL WILLIAMS, SURVIVED NEAR COLLISION WITH TRAIN: Angels I believe are here and that is what saved me down on the track. Orlando is my best buddy. He's my pal. When we fell over, you know, he stayed down with me, you know, and he was licking my face and he was doing some things, you know, but he was there for me. He's always watching out for me, he's always looking for me. That's his job.


ROMANS: Wow. OK, the train rolled over the top both of them. Both are OK. Williams is set to head home today after spending two nights in the hospital. He only suffered minor injuries during that fall.

BERMAN: That whole thing is just so amazing. What a miracle that they both survived it. Now it's great that they can be together.

ROMANS: Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY."

BERMAN: Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan with us now. Hey, guys.


CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, NEW DAY: I still say the dog knowing to lie down in the middle of the tracks is the most extraordinary thing about that story. The man knowing to lie down, listening to the people, impressive. But the dog knowing to do that, amazing. Amazing.

We'll have an a different update for you on that coming up.

Also, we're going to be talking about this arrest of an Indian diplomat. There is a back story here, right? We're dealing right now with the geopolitics of it, why is India so angry, why they're reacting this way, now Secretary of State John Kerry is involved. But what it's all about. We're going to take you through why this happened in the first place.

BOLDUAN: And there are serious concerns about food safety this morning. This pops up over and over again. But it is no less concerning when we talk about something like this. A new study says an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella has sickened hundreds across the country and the report argues that current policies may be to blame. Is the FDA doing enough to protect you and to protect all of us?

We are going to talk to experts bout it.

BERMAN: Important stuff. Look forward to seeing that.


BERMAN: Thanks, guys.

BOLDUAN: Thanks.

BERMAN: Coming up for us next, here comes the taper. Can you see the excitement on her face there? What -- how will it impact you? What you pay, how you're saving for retirement.

Christine Romans has all the answers and more. "Money Time" is next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time." Actually it's taper time because the taper is here.

BERMAN: We changed the whole name because of the taper.

ROMANS: The taper is here. The taper is here.

Look, on Wall Street it's being called the token taper, the mini- taper, taper-tots.


Ben Bernanke announced Wednesday the Federal Reserve is trimming --


Don't laugh. I have to get through this.

Trimming back its bond-buying programs. But only a little bit. Like $10 billion a month. Assuring investors the Fed was in no hurry to raise interest rates down the road. All of this was a perfect mix. The Goldilocks mix for investors.

Overseas markets are following it up with a big rally. The Wall Street rally was big. Investors had agonized about this taper for months, but then now they've decided that they love it. Both the Dow and the S&P record highs as markets took this Fed announcement as a nod of approval also for the economy, right?

So they're still flooding the zone but they're also saying the economy is getting better. It was a good combination.

Let's look at the big picture. Yesterday's rally was even more impressive because for the year the Dow was up 23 percent, the Nasdaq up 35 percent. S&P 500 up 27 percent.

Folks, you don't have a year like that very often.

So what helped Bernanke make his decision? The economy is now performing better, the job market is improving, it's far from great but it is improving. GDP is stronger, housing, big rebound there and auto sales, we know, have been solid. A good sign for the economy.

For consumers the Fed news means mortgage rates are going up, probably gradually, same for car loans. And the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates quickly. That's the reason for this taper. Like savings rates will eventually go up, too. That is a good thing for investors.

You know, savers have really been slammed the last few years. You know, if you take a lot of risks, you buy stock, you buy commodities, you've been rewarded. The Fed got all this money in the system. But by keeping interest rates low that means that people like us who put money away for a rainy day haven't been getting any interest on it so that's been tough.


ROMANS: Hopefully that'll change. BERMAN: People like us who keep money in the mattress.

ROMANS: People who don't have any money.

BERMAN: Things like that.

I like taper-tots, I also like taperina, tapertina, you know. The little ones like that.

ROMANS: Tapertina.

BERMAN: All right. We'll be right back.

ROMANS: Taper-tot is my favorite.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. 16-year-old Ethan Couch could be heading for prison after all. Prosecutors wanted the Texas teenager who killed four people while drunk driving but was given probation on an affluenza defense, they now want him to go to jail on assault charges. We will have more coming up on this controversial case on "NEW DAY." Legal analyst Sunny Hostin will join Chris and Kate to talk about it. That's coming up at the 7:00 a.m. hour Eastern time.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We felt it was important to allow people to see the full report to draw their own conclusions.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Pushing the limits. A new report requested by the White House urges new restrictions on the NSA's spying program, but will they take them?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hacked. The Secret Service investigating this morning, have hackers been stealing credit card information from shoppers at Target throughout the holiday shopping season?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Fowl play. A "Duck Dynasty" star now suspended indefinitely from the hit reality show over anti-gay remarks. The debate raging about his future this morning.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.