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Facebook Admits Experiment on Users; U.S. to Implement New Security Measures at Airports; Obama to Request $2 Billion to Stem Tide of Illegal Immigrants; Obama to Announce Executive Action on Immigration Reform

Aired June 30, 2014 - 14:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour. You are watching CNN.

And you thought those ever-changing news feed layouts and the questionable privacy settings were the worst of Facebook's crimes. Uh-uh. Now we're learning about a pretty creepy experiment. Let me say, let's say you're in a good mood, pop open Facebook, cruise your news feed and your mood darkens. You could have been one of Facebook's guinea pigs. As it turns out, Facebook has been allowing researchers, both inside and outside the company, to manipulate users' news feeds to hide either the good news, like newborn baby pictures, or bad news, like animal cruelty videos, just to see whether it affected the emotions of the users themselves.

Lance Ulanoff, chief correspondent and editor-at-large at "Mashable," joins me; and Laurie Segall, "CNN Money" tech correspondent.

Laurie, bring you in first, before we get frustrated that they're doing this. What do we know about the experiment itself?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Brooke, the premise was pretty interesting. The idea that there's this whole theory that you look on Facebook and see everyone putting their best foot forward, living these amazing lives, and you get depressed. So Facebook data scientists said let's do an experiment and see if this is actually the case. Well, they found that if you surface negative content in users' news feed they would post negatively, which is interesting. And you take this step back and say, wait a second, we know they collect data on us, but they manipulated our emotions, and that's where we call into the question ethics.


BALDWIN: Record scratch on that.

SEGALL: Absolutely.


BALDWIN: Why didn't, Lance -- do we know why didn't Facebook -- I presume this would ruin the experiment. But why didn't they at least say, heads up, we're about to manipulate your emotions for research?

LANCE ULANOFF, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT & EDITOR-AT-LARGE, MASHABLE: Well, one, they don't have to. You know, you sign the terms of service agreement and it says they can use your data for research. And, two, it might have freaked everyone out. They used about over 600,000 randomly selected Facebook users and then obviously surfaced or manipulated their news feed.

I think, you know, people's news feeds always seem so erratic and changeable anyway. I'm not sure people would have noticed. But right now, it's not part of Facebook's policy to ask first. They tend to do and then ask later.

BALDWIN: Because we click and say yes, and whatever, because we just want to hop on Facebook, and nobody actually pays attention or perhaps not enough of us pay attention to the fine print when logging on.

What is Facebook, Laurie, what are they now saying? I know it was pretty quiet, the story initially and only started to percolate a week later.

SEGALL: Sure. You know, I reached out for comment. Let me read what they said. They said, "We do research to improve our services to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process."

Now, that being said, Brooke, the data scientists behind this went on Facebook and has been commenting, and he said he is sad that he upset users.


And he did say that the internal review process is much better than it was a couple years ago. And I think Lance is very much correct when we -- Facebook has oftentimes asked for forgiveness and not permission. And that seems to be what we're seeing there. But it is completely legal for them to do that.

BALDWIN: It makes me wonder what else Facebook -- what else Facebook might be up to, Lance. I hear you, oh. What else could they be up to that we don't know about?

ULANOFF: I don't know why people are surprised here. You're putting stuff on Facebook. You know, the minute you do that, the minute you start sharing just sort of throw up your hands and assume that, one, probably a lot more people than you expect can see your stuff. And, two, Facebook is doing stuff with data.

I want to be fair to Facebook, though, because, you know, what they said in the study and the way it worked was they were not reading posts, per se. They were not reading the full posts. They were actually looking for sentiment-based words. They were looking for positive words and negative words, both for the kinds of posts they would elevate and then really reading how you were responding. So a room full of sad posts, they weren't reading your sad posts, they were reading the sentiment of it. So it's not quite as creepy as we think.

BALDWIN: Creepyish, if our emotions were affected by these posts, whether they were looking at it, I guess, or not.

Lance Ulanoff, thank you so much.

Laurie Segall, great reporting.

And just a quick reminder to you. We are watching the clock, waiting for the president. Live pictures outside the White House on this Monday afternoon. We now know the president will be speaking from the Rose Garden any moment. We are getting a little bit more insight on what he will announce. A White House official tells CNN that president will announce he is taking executive action on immigration reform. Keep in mind, for context, as we say executive action, this is one week after Speaker John Boehner told the president that the House will not take a vote on immigration reform this year. The backdrop to all of this, what we have been reporting on here for weeks now, this crisis unfolding along the border where these thousands of undocumented children coming up from central America, Mexico, coming into the United States, streaming across the border and all these detention centers, as young as 4 years of age. We'll watch for the president here in just a moment.

But first, also breaking today, the United States is considering new airport security measures to combat a new generation of bombs that could be undetectable at the airport? That's next.


BALDWIN: Just into us here at CNN, terrorists may be working on this new generation of bombs that could be smuggled on to a commercial airplane without being detected by security. U.S. officials telling us at CNN, the U.S. is considering new airport security measures because of these rising concerns, that members of the terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are developing explosives designed to avoid current airport security screening.

Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, first, as far as these undetectable bombs go, what more are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been a long-running concern for a number of months. U.S. officials have been concerned about it and warning about particularly AQAP, as you mentioned, and their master bomb maker you may have heard of before, al Asiri, developing bombs that can get past security screening. Don't have a lot of metal parts so can get through the pat-downs and screening machines. That's been an existing concern.

What's happened now is that concern has increased due to an additional vulnerability to that kind of bomb being identified by intelligence analysts. And now DHS is considering, what do they do to respond to that so that they can spot these things. They haven't decided what those measures are, but they are considering those measures. They have been concerned for a long time. I've heard this, Brooke, a number of times. And now clearly that concern is raised to a level where they're trying to consider what they can do about it.

BALDWIN: I am thinking, it's a holiday week, people are flying. We don't know how soon they'll be doing anything about it. What are you hearing from DHS?

SCIUTTO: It won't come that soon. It's something they're considering now. It won't affect the July 4th weekend. But something that has been a supreme focus of intelligence officials for some time now. They know that this is an intention of AQAP, to get a bomb on a Europe-bound airliner or an American -- a U.S.-bound airliner. They know they want to do it. They know they have incredible skill at building bombs, that they could sneak past security. So they have been watching this very closely. And now clearly they have seen something that has raised their concern even more. And they're deciding now, what can they do about it to protect us when we get on our planes. This is a constant process.

I'll tell you, I got a statement from a DHS official a short time ago, the Department of Homeland Security. He said DHS regularly monitors intelligence related to terrorist groups seeking to do us harm, including a number of measures seen and unseen, to fit an ever- evolving threat environment. That's what they wake up with every day, Brooke -- you can imagine -- looking at these threats, knowing they're changing, knowing that the terrorists are getting better at towing this kind of thing.


BALDWIN: Evolving with terror, sadly

SCIUTTO: Exactly. In response to that, we've got to get better. They've got to get better. And that's what they're considering right now.

BALDWIN: Jim Sciutto, thank you.

The militant group, ISIS, is claiming today it executed more Iraqi forces. The group released video that purports to show men they captured huddled here inside of the small building. The group claims it blew up the building with the men inside. That claim, however, cannot be verified.

An Iraqi air force official says Iraq hopes to have 12 Russian war planes flying combat missions this week. These planes arrived over the weekend. Iraq reached out to the Russians after the U.S. said it would take a while to get the F-16s from the U.S. they had asked for.

And more than one million Iraqis have fled their homes as this siege, this crisis continues. If you would like to help, you can. Go to This page here on offers links to charities, like UNICEF, Save the Children. Again,

And as we are watching and waiting, live pictures here from the White House. President Obama will be making this live announcement, presumably on the crisis unfolding along the U.S. border, thousands of undocumented children streaming into the United States. We are told the president will announce he is taking executive action. Stand by for that, coming up.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD: President Obama to take executive action on immigration reform. We're expecting comments from the president in the Rose Garden, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, any minute now.

Athena Jones, at the White House, has more on this.

Athena, we heard President Obama is going to be requesting $2 billion in emergency funds to stem the tide of illegal immigration at the border now, especially children. What will the money be used for?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Certainly part of the money will be used to boost resources at the border, boost our capacity to handle this huge influx of these unaccompanied minors that have been flowing across the border. They don't have enough space to house these children. They don't have enough people to process them, to make sure that humanitarian plans are being reviewed and to get them back to their home country. There is a lot the administration wasn't prepared for on this border issue and this $2 billion would help go to that.

But this announcement we expect to be larger than that, Jake. The White House says this is part of what they're calling a new effort by the president to fix as much as of our broken immigration system as he can through executive action. And, of course, that phrase, "executive action," is something we have been hearing a lot about the last couple weeks. We know that that could raise the ire of some Republicans in Congress who have already been accusing the president of abusing his executive powers. The president will also be directing the department -- the secretary of Homeland Security and attorney general to move available and appropriate resources, enforcement resources from the interior to the border. That's in part to help deal with these children flowing across the border. But he's also going to be asking his team to identify additional actions, executive actions we're talking about, and send him recommendations by the end of the summer on the steps he can take without Congress.

Why is he doing this now? Well, the White House says House Speaker John Boehner told the president last week that the House is not going to be voting on immigration reform bill this year. You know that the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill almost a year ago to the date. And the White House has long said, as have Democrats, that if the House would just hold an up-or-down vote on that bill, it would pass. But that's not going to happen, according to House Speaker John Boehner. And so the president coming out today, to talk not only about this current crisis on the border, but how to deal more largely with the immigration issue without the help of Congress -- Jake?

TAPPER: Athena Jones in the Rose Garden. We're expecting comments from President Obama any moment talking about immigration reform and the crisis at the border with an influx of it tens of thousands of children and young individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico.

I'm joined by chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, undeterred might be one word for what President Obama is doing. It's not just Republicans in Congress who have said President Obama has overstepped his bounds when it comes to using executive power.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's the United States Supreme Court. We saw last week, in the recess appointments case, the Supreme Court unanimously said that the recess appointments power had been abused by the president. And today in the Hobby Lobby case, again, the Supreme Court, this time only 5-4, said that the Obama administration had violated federal law in forcing private companies to subsidize birth control when they had moral and religious objections to it. So this is the president saying, come and get me, copper.


If you think I'm violating the powers of the presidency, then you're going to have to go to court to stop me. Because I care about this issue and I'm going to go ahead and do it.

TAPPER: Gloria Borger, one of the things I'm wondering about here is whether President Obama actually intends to take these actions or he's announcing to Congress, hey, you really need to act here and if you don't, I will. But more carrot -- sorry, more stick than carrot.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: More stick. Look, he's not announcing anything specifically new. He says -- he's going to say he's looking for these recommendations.

What the president started doing is, in January, he said, you know, I've got a pen and I've got a phone, right? And I'm going to start doing things by executive order, executive action, because I can't get anything through the Congress. The Republicans have responded -- and the Supreme Court has been on the side of the Republicans -- saying that this is an imperial presidency, as they call it. You have overreached time and time again. The Supreme Court agrees with us when it comes to recess appointments, for example, when it comes to Obamacare, for example, as we saw today.

And I've talked to some Republicans who are looking at their polling, and among their base and independent voters, the number-one issue is executive power overreach. Even more than Obamacare, but it provides a nice rubric for them to sort of throw everything into. So it's executive overreach. And the president is saying, OK, I'm calling you out on it.

TAPPER: Of course, it's good for the president's base, as well. BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: They love to see him, as well.

BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, President Obama expected to make comments on immigration reform any minute from the Rose Garden. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN. We're expecting President Obama to make comments any minute from the Rose Garden about executive actions he wants to take on immigration reform, as well as measures he wants to take right now through the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to stop the tide of illegal immigration coming into this country right now.

Especially, Gloria Borger and Jeffrey Toobin, among young people from Central America and Mexico.

I do want to talk about one particular case, a tragic case, involving the body of an 11-year-old immigrant found in brush near the border.

Alina Machado has more on that. She's in Miami.

What can you tell us about this story?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we know a few details about this child. But we know that his body was found on June 15th, in a small town called La Jolla, just a few miles west of McAllen, Texas. Investigators believe he was traveling with an uncle, and that somehow this child became separated from the uncle after they crossed the border. Now, his body was found, and according to investigators, they were able to find a telephone number that was inscribed on the child's belt. It was through that telephone number that they were able to connect with family members of the child in both Chicago and Guatemala. An autopsy has been conducted and, at this point, no foul play is suspended. But, Jake, authorities tell us that they believe this child died because of heat exposure.

TAPPER: A tragic story.

Alina Machado, in Miami, thank you so much.

Jeffrey, I want to ask you about why this rumor is spreading in Central America and in Mexico about -- that is encouraging all these parents to send their children or, in some cases, mothers to go with their children into this country? I've heard all sorts of rumors saying this is because the President Obama has not been enforcing the border controls. I've also heard this has to do with a law that President Bush signed in 2002 and then reauthorized in 2008, saying that if you come from a country where there is a threat of violence, you won't necessarily be sent back. TOOBIN: This is a tragic game of telephone that's going on through

Central America. And leading people to risk their lives, leading children to risk their lives, crossing the border, coming into the United States, with unrealistic expectations about how they will be treated here. Yet also creating this terrific dilemma for the United States government, because, you know, obviously, you have to take care of children who are at the border. You can't simply turn them back and let them die in the desert. But you also can't treat them in such a way that will encourage more of them to come back. So how you handle them, what sort of due process they get, do they get legal representation, where are they kept, who pays for it all, that is -- is in part what I think we're going to hear from President Obama. He said he wants $2 billion more from Congress to deal with this precise issue of all these children coming across the border. But under all circumstances, the U.S. government is going to treat them humanely, but they are also have to send the message, don't send anymore children because we -- we can't and don't want them.

BORGER: The president himself said that last week to George Stephanopoulos when George asked him about it. He said, do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they'll get sent back. And more importantly, they may not make it.

TAPPER: Although, there is a question about how many will be sent back.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: Because there is this law, although President Obama is asking Congress to help finance that law, change the law. It says, if you're a minor and you are coming from a place where there is a great danger to you, for instance, gang violence in Honduras or violence against women in Guatemala -- these are two of the countries in question here -- you might not be sent back. And it got to the point that actually the united nations high commissioner for refugees interviewed some of these children and found that there is a chance that up to 55, 60 percent of them will be able to stay here.

TOOBIN: Which creates the problem of the incentives. Because if, in fact, more than half are staying here, that message is going to get back to Honduras, which will lead more children to come this way.

BORGER: And that's why Vice President Joe Biden has been on the phone, the president has been on the phone. That's why the president is going to ask, in lieu of this -- not in lieu of this. As this $2 billion request makes its way through Congress, he's going to try and shift resources to the border right now, because there's a sense this just can't wait. You have an issue that needs to be dealt with. And if you wait for Congress to deal with it, you'll be waiting too long.

TAPPER: In the meantime, we should note, President Obama, who we're expecting to come out and speak any minute about the problem of immigration, illegal immigration in this country and the failure of Congress to pass anything, President Obama is talking about taking more executive actions.

I'm not exactly sure what steps he can take, Jeffrey Toobin.

TOOBIN: I don't know either. And I think that's one of the things we're waiting to hear. It may simply be he that tells his staff, come to me with recommendations. But that is -- it's -- it may be easier said than done, because he has already pushed the limits of his authority in certain areas. The Dream Act was very controversial. The law that said children who came here as very young citizens -- as very young people could -- who had an easier path to citizenship. He put in part of that through an executive order, which is regarded as very controversial by many Republicans. That was an immigration act he could take on his own. Is there -- are there further acts that he could do on his own? I suppose there are. Maybe we'll hear some today from him.

BORGER: Right. And this is also his way, honestly, of using the bully pulpit, literally, and saying to the American public, I have tried, I have not gotten anywhere. House Speaker John Boehner has just told me that the House has no intention of taking up immigration reform. We have a crisis at the border. Here's what I'm going to do about it.