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Christmas Market Terror Attack; Facebook, Twitter, Google Sued For Enabling ISIS; Tennis Star Kvitova Wounded In Knife Attack. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired December 21, 2016 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everybody, we'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Vause, live in Los Angeles.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Max Foster, live in Berlin with the very latest on the investigation on the terror attack. In the space behind me, the truck's been taken away but an intense search very much under way for the person who drove a truck into that crowded Christmas market. Police had arrested a man near the scene on Monday night but later released him for lack of evidence. Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured. German
chancellor Angela Merkel visited the site and attended a memorial here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Now, the attack has other cities on alert. New York stepped up security at its holiday markets. And Italy's interior minister ordered reinforced security at Christmas events in other crowded public spaces. Now, Germany remains on alert as police search for those suspects. Fred Pleitgen has the very latest details for you.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A massive manhunt under way across Germany after the horrific truck attack on a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin. ISIS now claiming to have inspired the attack. The suspect or suspects still at large and armed and considered dangerous, as investigators released the man arrested after the attack.
Captured on cell phone video, the immediate aftermath of the attack that left 12 dead and more than 45 injured. A truck with Polish registration and loaded with 25 tons of steel plowing into the outdoor market, dragging some pedestrians 50 to 80 meters, stopping only after knocking over a Christmas tree.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truck just jumped the curb and took a wrong turn and barreled through the crowd.
PLEITGEN: Inside the truck, the body of the trucks Polish driver. Berlin police say he was not at the wheel during the attack and appeared to have been shot to death. The truck company's owner says his driver appeared to have fought with the attackers. Within an hour of the attack police arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani immigrant. And a somber Chancellor Angela Merkel addressing a stunned nation seized on the suspect's nationality.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (Interpreted): We must assume that this was a terrorist attack. I know that would be especially hard to bear for us if it was to be confirmed that the person who committed this act was given protection and asylum in Germany. This would be especially disgusting.
PLEITGEN: But police released the Pakistani man after prosecutors could not link him to the truck or the scene. Merkel is facing a political backlash after Germany has taken in nearly 900,000 immigrants this year even as terror attacks are on the rise. Now, investigators are in a race against time, fearful that whoever is on the run could launch another attack.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: All right, Guy Chazan is Berlin correspondent for the "Financial Times." He joins me via Skype. Obviously, there must be a massive operation going on in Berlin and around Germany and in possibly Poland as well right now. But we're not hearing anything, are we, from the security services?
GUY CHAZAN, FINANCIAL TIMES BERLIN CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean, there were interviews with police officials yesterday on German television. They were saying basically that they're quite confident that they can make some breakthroughs in this investigation because there is a lot of evidence. They have loads of witness statements. They have fingerprints from inside the cab. They have DNA evidence from the truck. They also have evidence from the GPS system of the vehicle as it was traveling between Poland and Germany.
So there is a lot to work with. So they're pretty confident that they can sort of -- they can make progress on this investigation, but it could be also like finding a needle in a haystack. I mean, the guy just slipped away and, you know, obviously all the attention was focused on the Pakistani man that was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the incident and now he's been released.
FOSTER: And so they're on the back foot, aren't they, because whilst they're sitting in there interviewing him for hours and hours and hours they thought they had their man, it's pretty clear from Angela Merkel's press conference yesterday as well that she -- the information she had seemed to indicate that this Pakistani asylum seeker was the man as well and they were just sitting there whilst the guy got away. I mean, there will be operational reasons for them being very quiet right now but perhaps they've learned their lesson about saying too much too soon yesterday.
[02:05:11] CHAZAN: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think there was a sort of a lot of embarrassment yesterday I think in, in the press conferences of the various security officials and police officers as they sort of really admitted that they got the wrong man. So I think they are on the back foot at the moment. One of the problems that they're encountering now is the fact that there's so little video surveillance in Berlin. So there's really not much CCTV footage that they can work with. Germany is not like Britain for example where there are CCTV cameras almost on every street corner. Germany just lacks that kind of tradition. There's been a lot of calls to toughen the rules on video monitoring since the terrorist attacks that we saw in Bavaria over the summer. And those calls will now I think intensify.
And of course we're going to see a bit of a political backlash now against Angela Merkel and her refugee policy. I think that's now going to creep back to the top of the political agenda after being in abeyance for a few months. And she's going to have a lot of explaining to do.
But of course it is still early days. We don't even know whether this was carried out by a refugee or, you know, someone -- or perhaps it was someone who actually, you know, lived and was born and grew up in Germany. Who knows? At this stage, it's just too early to tell.
FOSTER: Well, ISIS claiming responsibility. But they provided no evidence have they that this was a soldier of ISIS, whether directed by ISIS or just inspired by ISIS? So they could just be being opportunistic on this one.
CHAZAN: Exactly. And officials have made the point that there's so far no video confession. Normally when ISIS claim responsibility they also release a video which shows the terrorist admitting it and making a final, a final video sort of appeal. But we haven't seen anything like that yet. So as you say, this could be entirely opportunistic. I mean, again, after Nice we saw that it's wrong to jump to conclusions about these, these ISIS' statements. So, so we'll see, we'll see how the investigation goes. But so far officials are not ascribing too much importance to that statement from ISIS.
FOSTER: The other thing that we often have when it's a very -- when there's military-style operations is that, the security services across Europe go into high alert and they just feels a higher level of tension across the, across the continent. We don't really have that. It feels more low key than we've had before.
CHAZAN: Yes. That's definitely the case although it does appear that intelligence services in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are cooperating on this. German media reports suggest that there is a high degree of cooperation on this particular case. I supposes because, you know, Germany's borders are open and the perpetrator could easily have slipped across into one of the neighboring countries. So Germany is definitely going to be needing help and cooperation from the intelligence services in other parts of the E.U.
FOSTER: OK. Thank you very much indeed for joining us Guy Chazan. We're following every step of this of course John. We're just hoping that the fact the security services are being very quiet at this moment and not giving us any information is that they're on to something and they are being quiet for operational reasons. VAUSE: OK, and Max, thank you. Max Foster, we'll catch up with you later this hour. Joining me here in Los Angeles is CNN Law Enforcement Contributor Steve Moore. Steve's also a retired special agent with the FBI. And Steve, thank you for coming in.
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.
VAUSE: Detaining and then releasing the wrong man. It's a pretty big slip up by the German authorities there. How big of an impact will this have on the manhunt right now? What did not get done when they thought they had the right guy?
MOORE: Think of evidence like sushi. It doesn't last very long. You don't want four-hour-old sushi. You don't want four-hour-old evidence. So while they were interrogating this person, evidence was spoiling, evidence was going away, evidence was dispersing. So that cost them.
VAUSE: OK. So if you were look for this driver right now, where do you focus the search? Could he still be in Germany? Could he have left the country? Are all these options on the table?
[02:10:03] MOORE: Yeah. All the options are on the table. This is what's concerning for -- for me as an investigator, I wouldn't know really where to center it. But you know that this driver was Polish and that he was, that he was dead inside the truck. So you might be looking clear over to Poland. And what you're going to want to do is follow that truck. There's going to be cameras, there's going to be stops it would have to make for regulatory reasons. You're going to look at the cameras and see who was driving it. And at one point you're going to say he was driving either at the German border or he wasn't. You're going to have to find him somewhere between Poland and Germany.
VAUSE: Switch your way back essentially.
VAUSE: They're saying they're going through all the CCTV footage right now. They're also asking for anyone who has cell phone video from the scene to bring it forward.
VAUSE: This is painstaking work but it has been effective. In the past they did this in Boston after the Boston bombing. Isn't that how they identified the Tsarnaev brothers?
MOORE: I believe that's the case and I've done this, where you get this film, and it is agonizing. It is painstaking. And people say, well, you know, how long will that take? Well, you may have, you know, for every, for every street corner, you might have 10 cameras on it. So to look at an hour is going to take 10 hours because you have to look at each one. So it takes forever to do that.
VAUSE: In the meantime, would you suspect that the driver of the truck, would he have gone to ground somewhere? Would he have a support network in Germany? I mean, there's also a suspicion that he may not be alone.
MOORE: My hunch, and it's only a hunch, but I'm at CNN to give you my thoughts.
VAUSE: Exactly, that's why we have you here.
MOORE: The -- my hunch is that this isn't one person. One person gets their own truck or their own car. Several people would be needed to overpower a driver, stop him somewhere, find a way to get it, and get it on the first time because we don't hear any other drivers saying somebody tried to hijack you. They got it the first time. So I'm guessing that there are several people involved in this and wherever -- whatever country you see this happening in where the truck was taken over, I would start looking there that's where your cell at least most likely is.
VAUSE: OK, let's get to the claim of not necessarily responsibility but inspiration by ISIS. Is it possible to know if that's just an opportunistic claim because they haven't really put any evidence forward to back it up?
MOORE: Because they don't have any evidence. I mean, ISIS -- whenever there's an attack, ISIS is watching CNN. They are trying to figure out, oh, did somebody do that in our name? And they're going to look, they're going to see what they've done in that area, see what kind of information they pushed out. I mean, lately they've been pushing out information on truck attacks. They looked at it, they probably are saying on the basis of everything we know this is probably us or people doing this in our name, therefore we're going to consider it inspired by us.
VAUSE: OK, Steve, good to speak with you. Thanks so much.
MOORE: Good to talk with you.
VAUSE: Twelve minutes past 11:00 here on the West Coast. Time for a break. When we come back, we are learning more about the police officer who assassinated Russia's ambassador to Turkey.
Also, the deadly fireworks explosion in Mexico. Investigators are looking at whether the blast was deliberately set. You're watching CNN.
[02:15:05] DON RIDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Don Ridell with your CNN World Sport headlines. The tennis star Petra Kvitova is recovering from a very serious knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic. According to a police spokesman, a man was masquerading as a maintenance man when the attack occurred. And in trying to protect herself the left-handed player suffered cuts to all five fingers on her left hand, also sustaining damage to nerves and tendons. Late on Tuesday night, Petra's management team released an update, saying she's recovering from a three hour and 45-minute surgery as well as company expected considering the damage.
In football news, struggling premier league champions Leicester City will be without their striker Jamie Vardy for the next three games. That's after the football association upheld his red card against Stoke City. Vardy was prolific in Leicester's title run last season and he was returning to form but he'll now miss the games against Everton, West Ham, and Middlesbrough.
In Germany, the mood is understandably tense after the terror attack in Berlin on Monday which saw a truck crash through a Christmas market killing 12 people. But this week's Bundesliga games have gone ahead as scheduled. Moments of silence were held before all four games on Tuesday. And they will be held ahead of the top of the table clash between Bayern Munich and Leipzig on Wednesday.
That is a quick look at your sports headlines. I'm Don Riddell.
VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. A huge fireworks market in Mexico has been reduced to rubble. A series of explosions tore through the crowded market on Tuesday, causing a frantic dash as people ran for their lives. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The video images of the fireworks explosion in the town of Tultepec, Mexico which is just north of Mexico City, are simply staggering and horrifying to watch. The video images showing the area where these explosions, these series of explosions went on and on, nearly three dozen people killed, more than 70 others injured.
The governor of the state where this town is tell CNN that three young children will be transported by plane to a hospital in Texas where they will be treated for their extreme burns. So you can imagine that many of the other victims still grappling and dealing with these same types of wounds as well. The burns could be a very serious issue for many of the victims and survivors of these explosions.
But the video images really capturing the drama and the intensity of the moment as people rushed to the scene to try to help what they could. Video images from the ground also showing the scorched fireworks stand. This is an open air market in the town of Tultepec and a town that is basically known as the fireworks capital of Mexico.
This is a huge industry in this town, and extremely popular especially this time of year as you head into the holiday season and New Year's festivities and that sort of thing. So it will be very common for thousands of people to be walking through this open air market to see all of the elaborate fireworks displays and fireworks pyrotechnics that were on display.
The governor of that state also tells CNN that they are looking to determine whether or not this was deliberately set. The exact cause has not been determined as emergency crews are still trying to sift through the scene looking for any kind of survivors and perhaps more victims of this, this explosion that's just seemed to go on and on, a horrifying scene in Mexico.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.
VAUSE: A Colombian cargo plane crashed minutes after takeoff killing five crew members. Video shows the plane plowing through fences and scraping the ground moments before bursting into flames. No word yet on what caused the crash. The plane's flight technician survived.
Nineteen minutes past 11:00 here on Tuesday night. Let's go back now to Max Foster in Berlin.
FOSTER: Yeah, Wednesday morning here. Following the attack on the Christmas market behind me. They're hoping to reopen it as soon as possible, possibly today in a show of defiance against that terrorism. But we are also learning more about another attack. And that's the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. The body of Ambassador Andrey Karlov has arrived in Moscow. Seven people have been detained for questioning including the shooter's relatives and friends.
[02:20:04] Russian investigators are now in Turkey and Turkey State Media say books on Al Qaeda and a Gulen movement were found in the shooter's home. Turkey blames the Gulen movement for July's coup attempt and now according to state-run media they say the Gulen group is behind the assassination. Fethulla Gulen is condemning the attack however. Our Nic Robertson spoke with a photographer who captured the horrific shooting. We have to warn you his report contains graphic images.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURHAN OZBILICI, ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHER: I heard shots very loud. Bam, bam, bam. I said this is terrible (inaudible).
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What did you do?
OZBILICI: Horrible. So, the people standing in front, they disappeared. They throw them on the floor. Then, they try -- they were trying to hide them to take shelter.
ROBERTSON: Were you afraid?
OZBILICI: I was shocked but -- I'm afraid but not much, not that panic.
ROBERTSON: Were you not afraid taken it? You've got a camera, he's got a gun.
OZBILICI: Well, I'm very sensitive and in difficult situation. I'm calm. I said I have a responsibility to record this event. And the ambassador was lying on the ground, not moving. And guy was making some politically motivated speech but I could not understand. I said, maybe he's speaking Russian, in Russian. Some people were screaming and crying so, I could not hear well. Then, he turned around the body and from very close range he shot one more time.
ROBERTSON: On the ambassador?
ROBERTSON: Just to make sure he was dead?
OZBILICI: I think so. When I learned that the guy was killed, I was very shocked. Why they killed him? He did nothing to take anybody hostage. He was alone. They have to capture him alive.
ROBERTSON: They could have done.
OZBILICI: I don't know, I don't know what is the reason -- motive behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: An incredible moment there. Nic Robertson there, interviewing the photographer who captured those chilling images. Well, despite the ambassador's assassination, the three countries with the most influence in Syria met in Moscow. The foreign ministers from Russia, Turkey, and Iran said they will work on finding a political solution to the brutal Syrian civil war. They pledged to first secure a wider cease fire so that aid can be delivered. Russia's foreigner minister says their plans will be most effective in dealing with the crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (Interpreted): I am sure that as we reach success in fighting terrorism, as we start the political process between Syrians with our help, as we reach success at these directions. We will be able to formulate our common approach which will definitely be based on declared goals. To win over terrorism, to restore territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence, and unity of Syria Arab republics. We are united in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Turkey says meanwhile evacuations from Aleppo will be completed by Wednesday and that around 37,000 people have been rescued so far. Earlier, I spoke to CNN Contributor and Former Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty about the foreign ministers meeting over there in Moscow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And when it comes to Russia, it's really solidifying their role in the Middle East. I mean, this is, this very interesting because you know who's not at that meeting and that's the United States. It's Iran, Russia, and Turkey, not the United States. And that's very significant.
So, they're moving forward. They have -- they're putting up a united front that is Turkey and Russia. And they're making it -- the Russians are making it very clear that they don't feel that they need the Americans or maybe even want the Americans. And are just moving forward on some type of resolution, what that will be precisely is not clear. But you're right, Max -- I mean, the diplomacy is moving fast, and the Russians solidifying whatever gains they have.
FOSTER: And how are the Americans viewing this? As they move away from -- or, you know, distancing perhaps from the United States and moving more closely with a longer term relationship with Russia.
DOUGHERTY: You know, there's not a lot I think that the United States can do right now. President Obama has made it clear. And he only has now, you know, a few weeks left in office. That he is not going to take any type of major action in Syria. And you have a new president coming in who has -- this is Mr. Trump, who's made clear that he feels that he could possibly work with Russia and possibly even work with President Bashar Al-Assad which seems unthinkable for us when you talk about unthinkable things, that certainly is that the United States or this president incoming would think of working with Bashar Al-Assad to fight terrorism.
[02:25:03] And that's the way Donald Trump looks at it, very black and white. He feels that the Russians have taken the fight to the terrorists. He wants to fight with the terrorists and defeat them. And that means that he can ally himself with Russia.
Now, when he comes into office, the details of that, how that would be done, and precisely what would happen, would Russia be leading the charge, would the Americans be following, none of those details are clear. But the overall picture seems to be that, you know, Russians defining pretty much what's going on in Syria.
FOSTER: And there's Donald Trump in a way with his sort of overtures to Russia, open the way for countries like Turkey to have closer relationships and build bridges with Russia?
DOUGHERTY: Well, yes. Although, I think that, you know, this rapprochement between Turkey and Russia really was entrained before Donald Trump entered the picture. But certainly if the American president is friendly with Russia then it gives encouragement to other countries who see which way the wind is blowing to move in that direction.
I think you might see it Max, mostly significantly on the issue of sanctions, economic sanctions against Russia which were introduced by the United States and by Europe as a reaction to what Russia did in Ukraine and also the annexation of Korea -- of Crimea. And so, if -- let's say, Donald Trump decided not to uphold the sanctions to weaken them or even get rid of them, that would give free rein to any other country especially some of the Europeans who wouldn't mind doing that, to simply go along. So, his relationship with Russia could be kind of a bellwether for other nations. This is not something traditional American foreign policy would necessarily accept, but this is the way it is with Mr. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Jill Dougherty following the attack in Turkey. Still ahead though here, the German chancellor horrified and saddened by Monday's Berlin attack. Now, her fellow citizens are trying to come to terms with the deadly rampage.
[02:27:23] Plus, U.S. President Barack Obama moves to cement his legacy ahead of the Trump administration.
[02:30:42] FOSTER: Well, a huge manhunt is under way here in Germany for the driver of that truck that barreled into a crowded Christmas market, and police arresting a man near the scene in Berlin on Monday night. But he was later released for lack of evidence. And official says there could be more than one suspect at large.
Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured. Thousands of people attended a memorial for the victims of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. ISIS claiming it inspired the attack. Shocked Germans still trying to make sense of Monday's horrific attack, Erin McLaughlin has more on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPODENT: At the scene of unimaginable horror, a 25-ton tool of terror is slowly driven away, leaving behind unanswered questions and a country in shock. Nearby a makeshift memorial grows by the hour. Young and old, people of all faith, gather to mourn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All over of 2016, we heard of all the terrible attacks that happened all over the world. And yesterday was a black day for human history. It's just depressing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and people go here to have a good evening. To have -- they drink wine and eat something and stay here, and with friends or family. And then they're dead after five minutes. It's shocking. Yes, it is.
MCLAUGHLIN: What remains of the Christmas market is eerily quiet. Children's rides stand still, and there's a heavy police presence.
Normally this Christmas market would be full of shoppers drinking spiced wine and looking for gifts but as you can see these kiosks are closed. As authorities look for answers and Berliners mourn their dead.
In the capital, a show of solidarity. At the memorial church, people gather to honor the dead. And officials prepared the country for the worst.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (Translator): I know that would be especially hard to bear for us. If it was to be confirmed that the person committed this act was given protection and asylum in Germany. This would be especially disgusting.
MCLAUGHLIN: German officials set free the asylum seeker they first arrested. No longer suspecting he perpetrated the attack. Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the church Tuesday, visibly shocked. It is Christmas week and the country has been shaken, and with it her political future. Erin Mclaughlin, CNN, Berlin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: We don't know whether it was an asylum seeker. We don't know anything about this attacker. ISIS claimed responsibility, but no evidence provided by them as to who their soldier is in their words. And nothing from the Security Services either. Presumably because they are look at this as an operational matter and they don't want to give anything away about their investigations, John.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah Max, all they know is that he is out there, he is on the run, he could be dangerous and he might not be alone.
A Trump spokesman says the president-elect is closely monitoring the aftermath of the attacks about Germany and Turkey. But his team will not say if he is receiving regular intelligence briefings. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is taking the daily briefings. And the transition team says Trump will response forcefully to any attacks when he is president.
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: I think it's going to be swift and fierce. Mr. Trump has made it very, very clear he understands the threat that Radical Islamic terrorism poses to our nation and frankly to our friends and neighbors around the globe, and that we've got to be able to call it what it is and then root it out by its very -- by the bottom. We cannot be being politically correct. We've got to understand the threat that we face and attack it straight on.
VAUSE: Western couple held hostage by the Taliban since 2012 are begging President Obama and Donald Trump to help free them. Caitlin Coleman is American, her husband Joshua Boyle is Canadian. A new proof of life video which the Taliban says it released shows them with their two young children. They say their captors will retaliate against them if certain Afghan prisoners as being held in Kabul are punished.
Barack Obama has less than a month left in office, and it seems he's spending the final days trying to defend as much of his legacy as possible, while the incoming president has promised to dismantle as much as he can. CNN's Athena Jones has details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[02:35:04] ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama moving to secure his legacy on the environment and beyond, before he hands the presidency to Donald Trump. Tonight new measures to bar offshore drilling indefinitely in the parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean, in part to prevent environmental disasters like the B.P. Oil Spill. BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: I share people's concerns about offshore drilling. I remember the B.P. Spill in the Gulf of Mexico all too well.
JONES: It's an issue that has been front and center for the president, who sees climate change as the greatest threat facing future generations. And believes the U.S. and the world must do more to combat it.
OBAMA: We're not moving fast enough. And for the sake of our kids we've got to keep going. America has to lead the world in transitioning to a clean energy economy.
JONES: President Obama's last-minute move is based on a 64-year-old law. Not an easily reversible executive order, creating a legal hurdle for the incoming president, a climate change skeptic, who has vowed to pull out of the Paris climate accords and to increase domestic energy production.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Every energy dollar that isn't harvested here in America is harvested instead in a foreign country, often, foreign countries not very friendly to us.
JONES: And the president isn't just taking action on the environment. He's also preparing to transfer an additional 17 or 18 inmates from the U.S. Prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to other countries, according to the "New York Times", slashing the remaining population there by nearly a third, though, stopping short of fulfilling his 2008 campaign promise to close the prison.
OBAMA: They will be judged harshly by history. And I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor.
JONES: President-elect Trump has promised to not only keep the prison open but to fill it up with quote, "Some bad dudes." Obama also, this week granting clemency to 231 people, mostly drug offenders. The most ever in one day, bringing the total number to a new record for any presidency, the White House signaling there are more acts of clemency to come. All part of a broader criminal justice reform effort. These final moves aimed at solidifying his agenda.
JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: They're all issues that he's talked about a lot and that he's attempted to get action on but all three are issues where he has been extraordinarily frustrated and unable to really move congress.
JONES: The president running through the tape and presenting a series of direct challenges to Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Thanks to CNN Correspondent Athena Jones for that report. It is 22 minutes before the top of the hour. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, the gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history pledged allegiance to ISIS. Has some victims' families are blaming social media for the massacre, and they're taking it to court.
[02:41:17] VAUSE: The families of the victims from the Orlando nightclub shooting are suing some big tech companies accusing Twitter, Facebook and Google of providing material support to ISIS. For more on this, CNN Security Analyst Hemu Nigam and Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Claypool, thank you both for being here.
Let's look at the legal hurdles here first, Brian. The Communications Decency Act, essentially shields computer services from liability for content. So how does that work, and that's a pretty big hill to climb in this case, right?
BRIAN CLAYPOOL, CRIMINIAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I would like to say it its insurmountable. I mean, when I first heard about a lawsuit, being filed as a result of the Orlando nightclub shooting, I thought that these families were going to be suing maybe law enforcement for not going in more quickly to get -- to shoot at Omar Mateen or possibly even the gun shop owner, or even possibly the FBI for not investigating. When I heard that they were suing internet companies, I thought of one thing, the Titanic, because these cases are sinking fast.
VAUSE: OK. But this law essentially gives a free pass to social media. I mean especially the site.
CLAYPOOL: Yeah, but there was a law enact. A federal law ...
CLAYPOOL: ... in the United States enacted in 1996, to make it easy for you and the viewers, basically it says if somebody else posts information on the internet. The internet provider is not responsible ...
CLAYPOOL: ... for that data and that cannot be sued and be held civilly liable for that. One exception is if where there's Federal criminal activity. And I think that's what these families are trying to do. And they're trying to say that the internet providers were materially supporting ISIS.
VAUSE: And with that this is the twist of the case because the lawsuit is arguing by matching user content with targeted advertising. Somehow the social media site is providing its own novel content. So Hemu, explain, you know, the technical aspects to this.
HEMU NIGAM, INTERNET SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, and I have to first say you mean, all our hearts go out to the families. We all feel that way. But that doesn't mean a lawsuit's going to solve that problem. And I think what Google -- Google is actually taking the lead on this. What they're doing is they're saying look, if you are looking for ISIS content, maybe you're somebody who might get recruited. There is advertising that comes up that takes you to places that you can get help or at least even for example see content of what happens when ISIS attacks such as what happened in the Berlin Christmas incident just two days ago, or yesterday. So Google is doing that. Twitter is actually doing a lot of things. And the companies are getting together and saying we're going to band forces and try to solve this problem not by ourselves but together and working with law enforcement.
VAUSE: But that right now the families are saying that there are researches, be it on Google, Facebook, or whatever, is what is essentially bringing all of this together, which it seems to be a novel legal approach, Brian.
CLAYPOOL: Yeah. I mean, the only way I think these families can prevail in this case is if they've got some information, for example, that Twitter or Facebook was aware of some really nefarious postings that might incite terrorism and then they didn't do anything to remove those. Because then you're possibly facilitating this, you're on notice. Bear in mind, these internet providers don't have a duty to canvass the internet to find these postings.
VAUSE: OK, with that in mind, this lawsuit is also alleging that the tech companies should not do enough to shut down Jihadist groups. They use this example of an ISIS linked Twitter Account. This is for the suit, "When its account @TurMedia332 was shut down, it started @TurMedia 334. When that was shutdown it started @TurMedia335. This naming convention adding one digit to a new account of the last one is suspended, does not seem as if it would require artificial intelligence to spot. Each of these accounts also uses and used the photograph of the bearded man's face over and over and over again".
So, Henry, from a technical point it wouldn't be easy to Twitter. To simply stop this accounts from springing out over and over again?
[02:45:03] NIGAM: Well, here is the reality. First let's give Kudos to Twitter for deleting 360,000 accounts ...
NIGAM: ... in the first place. Knowing that these ISIS folks are going to try to come back and create denude accounts and do kind of a cat and mouse game. But that said, there's a new initiative happening right now between Google, Microsoft, and Twitter where they're going to be fingerprinting indicia of an ISIS account and then using it by sharing it amongst themselves in the data base and saying here's a new account coming up, it looks very much like, this has the fingerprints of these other accounts, and I think you're going to see those accounts even disappearing.
VAUSE: So just to be very clear. These are legal responsibility here for these companies not just to, you know, sort of mow the weeds but to pull the roots as well?
CLAYPOOL: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, well if they're notified of some of these accounts that might be inciting mass terrorism then they have a duty to remove those accounts. But John, really I think the point that I'm troubled with here is, is this really the cause of a guy like Omar Mateen going into a nightclub and shooting up people? I think people in the United States need to be paying attention more to red flags. That he went out and got a gun at a place where he shouldn't have gotten a gun. So I think that to me is the bigger issue.
VAUSE: But, you know, just because, you know, Mateen -- Omar Mateen may have seen these videos of this Jihadi content online, doesn't mean he was influenced by it.
NIGAM: No, not at all. He could be talking to 10,000 other people in off settings. A lot of times what ISIS recruiters do is, they may target one individual and then immediately go into an app conversation, a cell phone conversation, all these other kinds of things they're doing. So this is one of those where making the causal connection is never going to happen.
CLAYPOOL: That's exactly right.
NIGAM: And I think at the end of the day what I think the world needs to know is you've got lawyers here who are filing lawsuits, giving false hope to families who have already been tragically hurt. And now they're going to say wait a minute, nothing's going to happen? Well that's because you went down the wrong path.
VAUSE: Do you think it is false hope?
CLAYPOOL: I think it is false hope. You guys just hit the nail on the head. You've got to prove causation that this -- was this a substantial factor in causing Omar Mateen to do what he did? I doubt it.
VAUSE: Guys, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
CLAYPOOL: Thanks, John.
NIGAM: Thanks, John.
VAUSE: Well, four officials linked to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan are now facing criminal charges. The state's attorney general has announced emergency services and water plan officials will face felony charges. It's alleged they misused millions of dollars in state funds and conspired to run the city's water treatment plant for more than a year when it wasn't safe for Flint residents to drink. Many residents later tested positive for lead poisoning, blamed on the contaminated water.
Well, still to come here, Czech Tennis Star Petra Kvitova shaken but lucky to be alive after surviving a knife attack, details just ahead.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is CNN Weather Watch. I'm meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Will the cold air finally going to retreat for some folks in the U.S. It's going to begin to retreat. So areas of the northeast and the mid-Atlantic will actually find the start to get some temperatures back up a little bit compared to where they have been. [02:50:10] Now, that system that moved to through portions of Southern Canada into the northern plain of the U.S. and into the Midwest not a big snow maker and it's already starting to finish most of its track and continue off to the east. What we're really paying attention to is this next system that is like to have started to make way into the southwestern region of the United States, bringing some much-needed rain to areas of Southern California and also into Arizona.
Now, here is a look at the forecast. Cloudy conditions for Los Angeles. High temperature right around 21 already starting to see those clouds building in from the next system. New York, high temperature of six, mostly cloudy skies but as we talked about the warming trend maybe they're getting back close to double digits by the time we approached the weekend. Dallas, a high of 19 degrees with mostly sunny skies, likely to maintain relatively nice weather, even into Thursday and Friday, Kingston looking at mostly sunny skies, high temperature right around 30 degrees. Mexico City nice partly cloudy with a high temperature right into the low to mid 20s where it will remain through the week.
VAUSE: A two-time Wimbledon Champion has a long road to recovery ahead. Petra Kvitova was stabbed during a robbery in her apartment. The tennis star has now undergone hours of surgery on her main playing hand. World Sport's Anchor Don Riddell has details.
DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yeah, but the sounds of it Petra Kvitova is very lucky to be alive but it remains to be seen how this will affect her ability to continue playing the game she loves. Kvitova is one of the best players in the world. She's one of the most respected athletes on the tour. And echoing the left-handed style of her compatriot Martina Navratilova, Kvitova was the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014. But on Tuesday morning she was eating breakfast at home when a man tricked his way into her apartment.
According to a police spokesman, this man was masquerading as a maintenance man but then once inside he went on the attack. Kvitova suffered cuts to all five fingers on her left hand, also sustaining damage to her tendons and nerves. Her assailant fled the scene. Remarkably, Kvitova was able to update her condition on social media, saying "In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand. I'm shaken but fortunate to be alive. The injury is severe, and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me, I'm strong, and I will fight this. Thank you all again for your love and support".
Well, late on Tuesday night, Petra's management team released an update on her surgery. And the details frankly are pretty sobering. It reads, "Petra has undergone surgery for three hours and 45 minutes. Considering the extent of the damage, the surgery went very well. Doctors repaired damage to tendons in all five digits of the left hand as well as two nerves. Petra will wear a cast on her hand for six to eight weeks and will be unable to bear weight for three months.
The circumstances are very different but it is hard not to think about Monica Seles right now. She was in the prime of her career when she was brutally knifed in the back during a match in Germany. Seles recovered two years later and in fact she won another major title. But honestly she was never the same again. Today's news really has sent shock waves through the tennis community. Martina Navratilova who Kvitova idolize, she's wrote on twitter "Just finding out about Petra Kvitova and the awful stabbing and injury to her hand. Pulling for you, Petra." And Caroline Wozniacki said, "Just heard what happened. All my thoughts are with her today. So scary. One of the nicest people I know." For sure the tennis community and sports fans worldwide are spending their best wishes to Petra Kvitova. It remains to be seen just how serious this is going to be. But we do wish her the very best. Back to you.
[02:55:10] VAUSE: Don Riddell, thank you. And tributes are being left around Berlin to honor the victims of Monday's attack. The Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin's iconic landmarks lit up with colors of the German flag. In one vigil dozens held hands to form a human chain. And near the scene of the attack mourners left candles and flowers at makeshift memorials along with messages of support and condolence.
Much more from Berlin with my colleague Max Foster in just a few moments. I'm John Vause. Thank you for watching "CNN NEWSROOM", live from Los Angeles.
FOSTER: Manhunt. Police in Berlin search for the driver behind the deadly attack on a Christmas market as ISIS says it played a role in the attack.