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Missing Boy Case; Hobby Lobby Ruling; Ahmed Abu Khatallah to Face Trial in D.C.; Facebook's Data Experiment Triggers Outrage

Aired June 30, 2014 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: An investigation into the disappearance of a 12-year-old Michigan boy shows no sign of getting any clearer. Over the weekend, the stepmother of Charlie Bothuell was released from jail after police arrested her on unrelated weapons charges. Now, there are reports charges are expected to be filed in the case, but it's not clear who exactly is in trouble. Police are still trying to figure out where Charlie Bothuell was for nearly two weeks before he suddenly turned up in his father's basement. The family attorney says things were difficult for Charlie recently.


MARK MAGIDSON, BOTHUELL FAMILY ATTORNEY: He'd been failing in school. He'd been kicked out of a couple of schools. And he told his son, Charlie, the responsibility is now going to be you. You're going to have to go to school, like everybody else. And if you don't go to school, in the public school, I'm going to have to send you to a military academy.


COSTELLO: HLN host Jane Velez-Mitchell joins us now, along with Marc Klaas, founder of KlaasKids Foundation.

Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Thank you for being here.

Jane, do we know yet if the boy's stepmother was hiding him in the basement or elsewhere all along?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this is just a wild mystery, Carol. We know from this court document that the boy told cops that the stepmother told him, go downstairs to the basement, put him behind boxes, hid him there and said, don't come out no matter what you hear. But she also didn't provide any food for him, according to the boy.

Now, all this happened -- the disappearance happened while the boy was doing this very harsh exercise regime ordered by his dad. He took a bathroom break, which he wasn't supposed to do. We'd heard reports that the stepmom texted the dad, OK, and said he's not doing his chores. I -- here's the theory of the case, that they were both terrified of what the response of the dad was going to be when he got home because, remember, in this court document, the father reportedly admits that he beat the boy with a PVC pipe. Cops said they found a PVC pipe in the home with blood on it. And when they ultimately examined this boy in the hospital, he had scars all over his body, on his chest from the PVC pipe and on his buttocks. So maybe the stepmom says, look, you go downstairs, you don't come out in matter what, I'll take care of this. The dad comes home and then she says, you know what, he walked out.

But then she gets herself out of one pickle, she finds herself in another pickle because then the dad reports the boy missing. And then you have the whole question of, where was this boy because he wasn't there the whole time. We know cops searched that basement area several times. There is that back hallway. Was he being shuttled in and out and ultimately, oh, the cops were led there by somebody who said, you know what, if you go down there now, you will find this little boy?

COSTELLO: It's unbelievable. So, Mark, you've been involved in so many missing child cases. Is this unusual?



KLAAS: This is a wild case. Yes. Everything that Jane said, it's just unbelievable what's going on here. But a couple of things are really clear. Number one, you don't send the boy down to a basement and then let the police look for this child for the next two weeks. I mean this is going - you know this puts -- this hinders the credibility of every missing child case in America. Are there some kind of family dysfunction, some kind of shenanigans going on? And it also appears pretty obvious that Charlie may have -- very well may have been a victim of abuse.

COSTELLO: So, Jane, if what Marc says is true, should -- what kind of charges should be filed against these parents?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I don't know that you can lump them together. I mean it could be everything from filing a false police report, to possibly kidnapping. I think I'll leave it up to the cops it decide that and the prosecutors.

But I think what's apparent is that there was a very toxic situation in the home. You just heard the attorney for the family saying, you know, oh, the boy was in trouble. But there is a line between discipline and torture. And I believe beating a boy with a PVC pipe, where there's blood on it, that is child abuse.

And I've known from cases that I've covered, if a child in a household is afraid of the dad, there's a good chance that the wife is also living in fear. Remember, she had two little kids and she was on probation for a prior weapons charge. So she was kind of in a tough situation. This, to me, sounds like a toxic soup. I know that the dad's adult daughter is defending him saying, oh, he was a good dad, tough love, he put me on an exercise regime too. But I think that as his life progressed, maybe this regime and this tough love accelerated into something else that was really, really unhealthy.

COSTELLO: Oh, so, Marc, I don't know, I would hope that this little boy could have a happy ending. Can he? He's with his biological mother right now.

KLAAS: Yes. I think that - I think that the prognosis is good for Charlie. He's a positive little boy. If you read his twitter feed, he's gregarious. He's out there. He's not a dumb kid by any means. He's a smart kid. He's got an easy smile. I think that Charlie is going to be able to bounce back from this. Of course he'll need some psychological counseling and he'll need some love from his family in order for him to be able to do so. But, yes, I think that Charlie's going to be able to get through this and lead a good and positive life.

COSTELLO: I hope so. Jane Velez-Mitchell, Marc Klaas, thanks to both of you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, Carol.

KLAAS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a critical decision on Obamacare and private business. Why Hobby Lobby is fighting the law's contraception mandate and what it could mean if the retail chain wins the case.


COSTELLO: We're expecting a major ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court at any minute now. It deals with the government and religious freedom. In sort, will Hobby Lobby, a Christian owned company, be forced to provide emergency contraception as part of its health insurance plan? Hobby Lobby already covers birth control for its employees. Its issue was with a requirement in Obamacare to cover emergency contraception as well. The company objects to a couple of drugs, Plan B, Ella, and two forms of IUDs. Hobby Lobby insists these drugs can induce abortion, although the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says there's no scientific basis for that assertion. But Hobby Lobby is taking no chances. It's lobbying its position on YouTube.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While the Green family has no objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA approved drugs and devices under the federal mandate, providing four of the drugs and devices that have the potential to terminate a life conflicts with their faith.

STEVE GREEN, PRESIDENT, HOBBY LOBBY: This is an issue of life that we cannot be a part of taking life. And so to be in a situation where our government is telling us that we have to be is incredible.


COSTELLO: Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and Jonathan Merritt is a senior columnist for "The Religion News Service."

Welcome, gentlemen.



COSTELLO: Glad to have you here.

Russell, critics say Hobby Lobby is not a church, it's a corporation that employs 13,000 people that happens to be owned by evangelical Christians. If Hobby Lobby prevails, the court would have to decide whether corporations are religious people. Do corporations have religious liberty?

MOORE: Well, people have religious liberty and Hobby Lobby is a group of people, a family business, who want to live out their life and to freely exercise their religion and to run their business consistent with their Christian convictions. And that's what this case is all about, whether or not the government can say that you give up your right to freely exercise your religion once you go into the marketplace. We don't think that the government should do that.

COSTELLO: Jonathan, do you agree?

MERRITT: Well, I agree to some extent, but I think that, in the United States, religious liberties have never been completely and totally secure in all cases. I mean a person who's a Mennonite, who's a passivist (ph), still has to pay taxes that fund wars that he believes are unethical. So even though I'm a little bit torn on this case about whether they should rule or not because I happen to be very strongly pro-life, I do think that it gets complicated. People have raised questions about whether a Jehovah's witness would be able to restrict blood transfusions in their health care coverage for their employees or if you have an employer who's a Christian scientist, would they be able to say, well, we don't want to provide health care at all? And I think those are questions, if the court rules in the favor of Hobby Lobby, and I think that they will, then I think that the question is, how far will those rulings reach into the corporate marketplace?

COSTELLO: So, Russell, do you think Jonathan has a point?

MOORE: No, I don't, because that's the equivalent of saying, because the government allows CNN to operate, that that means that we have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. What this case is about is whether or not the government needs to demonstrate a compelling interest in forcing people to comply despite their religious objections and to provide the least restrictive means to do so. And so, no, I don't think that's the case at all. There's always a compelling government interest to keep people from killing one another, for instance, or from stealing from one another.

Religious liberty is not an absolute trump card. Neither is freedom of speech or freedom of association or any other of the First Amendment guarantees that we have. But what's important here is that the government cannot set itself up as a steamroller, paving over people's consciences.

COSTELLO: Well, I guess some critics just can't escape the fact, Jonathan, that a corporation is not a church. It doesn't perform religious exercises. So why should it have the same rights as a religious institution?

MERRITT: Well, I think folks like that would agree with Dr. Moore. I think they've argued that those individuals are protected under the federal RIFRA (ph). There are other people on the other side who have said, no, that federal RIFRA, it protects individuals from having their religious liberties infringed upon by the federal government and corporations are not people.

So I think this, you know, Dr. Moore raises a really important question. Everybody has to decide if they believe in corporate personhood. If you believe in corporate personhood, then I think you have to extend protections for religious liberties for religious business owners who say that certain policies violate their consciences. But if you don't accept corporate personhood, then I think this is sort of the opposite case for you. You say, well, then, why would we protect this particularly if the government believes that providing contraceptives promote the common good?

COSTELLO: Russell, is there some sort of compromise that the Supreme Court could come up with to please both sides?

MOORE: Well, I think what the Supreme Court can do is to say that the government must show a compelling interest to override people's deeply held faith commitments. And I think that's what the court's going to do. And I'm very optimistic about this case because we have a long history in this country of the government recognizing the guarantees, included in the First Amendment. They're not guarantees that are granted by the government, they're recognized by the government because they are natural rights for people to freely exercise their religious convictions. And the key issue here is that the government seems to be saying, you can believe whatever you want, you can sing whatever you want in your churches, but you just can't live according to your religious convictions. And that's not the American way. That's not the human way. And so I really think the Supreme Court is going to come down on the right side of this.

COSTELLO: Well, could you also look at it this way, Jonathan, that if Hobby Lobby prevails, that that gives corporations the right to impose their religious beliefs on me or you or my neighbor?

MERRITT: Well, that's certainly is what I think a lot of individuals are arguing. I agree with dr. Moore that our religious liberties must be protected. And I think that you do have to show that there is a compelling interest in order to uphold that. I think that historically we have seen that the government has said

there are times where the common good has trumped religious liberties. That's the question here. Certainly if you were to rewind the clock and go back to 1950s or 1960s, there were people making theological arguments for not allowing African-Americans to sit at their lunch counters. These were biblical arguments, these were theological convictions, and the government said I'm sorry, but this is at odds with the common good.

And so the question here is going to be whether or not the government believes that providing contraception promotes the common good to the extent that it would trump religious liberties. And so this isn't, I don't think, an open and shut case when we talk about it. Personally, as a pro-lifer, I'm sympathetic to this. I sort of hope they rule in favor of Hobby Lobby. But, constitutionally, I think it is a little more complicated than some people are assuming.

COSTELLO: Jonathan Merritt, Russell Moore, thanks so much for your insight. I appreciate it.

MERRITT: Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: I'm back in a minute.


COSTELLO: Republicans are taking aim at the White House over the decision to try the alleged mastermind of the Benghazi terror suspect in federal court. They call Ahmed Abu Khatallah a security risk. Khatallah arrived on U.S. soil on Saturday; he's already pled not guilty to one charge and is expected to be back in court this week.

CNN's senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns has more for you.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Security was extraordinary as Ahmed Abu Khatallah was brought to court just blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the White House. He's accused of being the ringleader in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

But raising his right-hand and swearing to tell the truth, Abu Khatallah pled not guilty to conspiracy to aid terrorists. He now has a court appointed lawyer, and a U.S. official tells CNN he was read his Miranda rights to remain silent aboard the USS New York, held there after being captured in Libby some two weeks ago. He's denied being part of the Benghazi attack, the official says, but told FBI interrogators about others he said who were involved.

On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," a top Republican said Abu Khatallah should have been taken to Guantanamo for more questioning.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Ten days is not enough and you will find no investigator say oh, I can do it in ten days.

JOHNS: Bringing Abu Khatallah to the heart of Washington is politically symbolic. President Obama and Attorney General Holder making the case that terror suspects should be tried in criminal court, that Guantanamo should be closed.

He's being held at this heavily secured facility in Virginia, especially designed for terror suspects, but instead of being tried in a federal court nearby, he'll have to be brought about ten miles into Washington under heavy guard each time he comes to court. That makes the capital even more of a terror target, according to the Republican who heads the House Homeland Security Committee.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE CMTE. ON HOMELAND SECURITY: To bring a foreign terrorist of his caliber who led the charge against Benghazi obviously raises a lot of security concerns.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: All right, let's dig a little deeper with CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Paul Callan. Hi Paul.


COSTELLO: Good morning. So we have successfully tried a terrorist in civilian court before. Why is there such a concern in this particular case?

CALLAN: Well, not only have we done it successfully before, but we've done it 500 times, we've tried terrorism cases in federal court. The most memorable one in recent times, I think, we tried the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden here in New York City without any difficulty.

So the federal courts have procedures available to handle these cases. They have mechanisms for screening classified information and closing the courtroom, and, of course, security -- I got to tell you, security in federal courts, it's harder to get into federal court than the White House with the security that's available. So we have the capability of doing it without difficulty.

COSTELLO: Well, the other concern is intelligence officials didn't get enough information out of this guy. He was entity interrogated on board a ship. He was not read his Miranda rights for 10 days; at the end of the 10 days, investigators said, "We're done," they mirandized him and then he appeared on American soil on his way to federal court.

Do you think that they could have gotten more information had it been more than ten days or had he been sent to Guantanamo?

CALLAN: Well, this is a legitimate question, but frankly I suspect with the techniques they have available, that in ten days they probably would get the valuable information that they would need.

And, of course, the federal government makes a policy judgment. They can decide to treatment him as a prisoner of war, do an ongoing interrogation and not bring him to trial in federal court. Obviously, an internal decision was made that they had enough in terms of the interrogation and it was time to try him publicly.

And, remember, the president is trying to close down Guantanamo. And I think, Carol, the thing that people have to remember, the biggest problem the U.S. is facing, is this war against terrorism -- it's not like World War II, where we had VJ Day, Victory Over Japan Day, and it ended, and we swapped many prisoners and everybody went home. The war on terror may go on forever and we can't keep people locked up in concentration camps forever. We got to try them in federal court. We're a civilized nation and that's the way we operate.

And I think -- so I'm not surprised that more of these cases now are going to federal court as we close down Guantanamo.

COSTELLO: But, let's face it, Paul, this guy didn't act alone. Why aren't they making more arrests and then I guess bringing them into the United States?

CALLAN: Well, he did not act alone. But he's in Libya. I don't know -- certainly our intelligence is better over there now ,and by the way he is pretty much a dummy. I understand that he's supposed to be the ringleader of this attack but he gave very public press interviews. There's videotape of him -- it looks like he's orchestrating the attack. So they can make a case out against him it seems to me fairly easily. So whether there are others out there they haven't apprehended yet is probably true, but I'm think you will see more being apprehended and brought back to the United States.

COSTELLO: Paul Callan, thanks so much.

CALLAN: Always nice being with you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here.

Still to come to the NEWSROOM, having a bad day? Blame it on Facebook. A controversial study triggers an online backlash among users. CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik is on that story. Good morning.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You mentioned that bad day. Well, what if you went to Facebook and Facebook made that bad day worse on purpose without telling you? Sounds crazy. Not so far fetched though. I'm going to have details coming up.


COSTELLO: If you are on Facebook, consider yourself a guinea pig. That's because the social media site altered the news feeds over nearly 700,000 users to conduct a controversial mood study. And guess what? They did not inform you.

Let's bring in CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik. Good morning.

KOSIK There's a lot of outrage over this, so let me back this up and tell you how this began.

This was an experiment two years ago for a week. So what Facebook apparently did was it tinkered with about 700,000 news feeds. So what happened was some people were shown a higher number of positive posts, others were shown more negative posts. Facebook apparently wanting to do this because they wanted to see what kind of emotional impact Facebook has on people.

So here's what they found out -- they found out users who were shown more negative content were more likely to produce more negative posts. Showed a positive group responded with more upbeat posts.

So, hey, it worked. But here's the problem, Facebook didn't tell anybody it was doing this. And of course on social media everybody is speaking out about this. Mixed reaction, mostly anger though. One comment stood out for me on Twitter, a privacy activist saying, "I wonder if Facebook killed anyone with their emotional manipulation stunt. At their scale and with depressed people out there, it's possible."

So a lot of outrage over this. Not really surprised, because we know that Facebook has had a lot of privacy issues in the past, Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, I was just going to ask you, did Facebook break any privacy rules?

KOSIK: Well, no, they didn't. The justification that Facebook is giving is that, whenever you sign up for Facebook, bet you don't remember this, you agree to their extensive terms of service. And in that 9,000 words terms of service is this data use policy which has this little itty bitty line about how your information can be used for research. So there doesn't seem to be any of these legal implications with this, but ethical implications -- ask anybody, it's got this kind of ick factor. We feel like we're being lab rats. It's got this creepy undertone of being manipulated and watched.

Now, the Facebook data scientist, Adam Cramer, he said -- he actually posted something on his Facebook page, and he said it was important with this experiment to see how being exposed to friends' negativity or even positivity can lead to people avoiding Facebook. He apparently in his post is feeling remorseful, saying I can tell you our goal was never to upset anyone. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all this anxiety.

So it sounds like maybe they're thinking maybe it wasn't such a good idea.

COSTELLO: Yes, and maybe they should ask first, right?

KOSIK: You think?

COSTELLO: The next time? Because there will be a next time. We all know that.

KOSIK: Of course.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik, thanks so much. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.