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Domestic Threat Database Faulty; Reasons for Cold Weather Debated; Domestic Espionage without Court Approval

Aired December 16, 2005 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLPS, CNN ANCHOR, LIVE FROM: By the book, or Big Brother run amuck? The latter -- Senator Ted Kennedy's attack on reports that President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop inside the U.S. without judicial oversight in the wake of 9/11. The administration will not confirm or deny what would be a landmark shift for the super secret agency whose cold war mandate was breaking other countries secrets in codes. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales put it like this.


ATTORNEY ALBERTO GONZALES: We are engaged in a struggle against terrorism. The president feels a constitutional duty to wage that war aggressively in order to defend the American people, but to do so in a way that is consistent with the constitution, consistent with the laws. He understands the duty only to defend this country, but to defend civil liberties.


PHILLIPS: Be that as it may, there's nothing secret about the outcry right now on Capitol Hill.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: For the past three years, the administration has been eavesdropping on hundreds of calls without warrants or oversights. The use of the newspaper, Bush authorized domestic spying. While, the administration is not responding to the article, but they tell us, trust us, we follow the law. Give me a break. Across the country and across the political spectrum, no one is buying it anymore.


PHILLIPS: Former CIA director Stansfield Turner made headlines a couple weeks ago in the torture debate. He has no less agreed by reports of uncheck secret domestics surveillance. He joins me now live from Washington. Good to see you, sir.


PHILLIPS: Well, Senator Kennedy obviously saying, hey, the story's out there. The government is saying, trust us we've got to do what we've got to do. You feel the Bush administration broke the law. How so?

TURNER: Well, the pendulum is swinging back and forth. In my day when I was director of intelligence, we had just had a lot of investigations of abuses of intelligence and intrusions into American civil liberties so we leaned heavily on the side of protecting those liberties. Today, the emphasis on protecting us from another 9/11. This administration is leaning heavily on the side of getting all the information we can at any price. I think they've transgressed the law here. I think they've gone too far intruding into our civil liberties.

PHILLIPS: Sir, take me back to when you were head of the CIA and you said you were in a similar situation. What was that situation, tell me what happened?

TURNER: In the mid-1970s, there were several investigations by the executive branch and by the Congress of excesses of the CIA in the '50s and '60s. Specifically, the kind of thing we're talking about today, intruding into the private lives of American citizens, in particular. As a result of those investigations, we passed some new laws. We passed some new presidential executive orders, and we were very careful to be sure that we followed the law; we followed the executive orders and didn't intrude into American lives more than absolutely necessary.

PHILLIPS: Was there ever a time where you thought, you know what, I have got to maybe bend the rules, just for a moment here, to get what I need to be able to solve this situation?

TURNER: No, I didn't happen to come across that kind of a situation. If that arises today, I suspect the chief of intelligence would bend the law a little bit. If it was really going to be critical to the country. But I don't think we ought to have a procedure that allows that as a standard routine.

PHILLIPS: So what you do think is so different from the times, with regard to the threat of terrorism, when you were head of the CIA, to right now, dealing with what we saw in 9/11 and what we are dealing with, with regard to this war on terror? Do you see the difference so big that this needs to happen, this eavesdropping no matter what the cost?

TURNER: Well, it is more difficult today to get intelligence on these amorphous terrorist groups. In my day, we were getting intelligence against the Soviets and the military threat to our country. So it is a more challenging intelligence task today. I still think we have to do it within the limits of the law.

PHILLIPS: Let me just give one example. "The New York Times" cites this example, sir. It says what the agency calls, the NSA calls a special election program it began soon after September 11th. It looked for new tools to attack terrorism, the program accelerated in early 2002 after the CIA started capturing top Al Qaeda operatives overseas. It talks about Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan. The CIA seized the terrorist computers, cell phones, personal phone directories. The NSA survelience was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible. In addition to the ease dropping on those numbers and reading e- mail messages to and from Al Qaeda figures, the NSA began monitoring others that were linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds of them were in the United States. So then you think, wow, all right. We understand the agency's need to go after this type of Intel overseas and do these sort of taps overseas, but we're talking about hundreds of numbers in the U.S.

TURNER: There are procedures in the law to permit that to be done. And I believe what the problem here is that because of the exigency of the situation, because of the urgency of combating terrorism, the administration has taken it on to itself to skip that law and go ahead and do it.

PHILLIPS: So what do you think is the answer? What should happen right now? What decision should be made as this debate is going on?

TURNER: I think there's no question. We have laws in this country. Presidents have to confirm to the law. All the agencies of the government have to conform to the law. So we have to go back and get in line with the law. And then if it really is too cumbersome, we have to go to the Congress to get the law modified. I don't think it is too cumbersome, but perhaps it is.

PHILLIPS: Well, you said that times are definitely were different from when you were head of the CIA to what we're dealing with right now, with regard to these terrorists, inside and outside of the U.S. So don't we have to sort of change with the times? If we're dealing with a different type of enemy, a different type of communication, a different type of intelligence gathering? We have technology of course we are dealing with. Maybe the time -- maybe it's time to change the rules.

TURNER: It may we will be the time to change the rules. But the rules happen to be a law. And only the Congress can change that law.

PHILLIPS: Final question, sir, also in the article it talks about the NSA eavesdropping without warrants and up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. That list changes, some names are added, others are dropped. So the number monitored in this country could have reached into the thousands since the program began. How are those -- do you know how those individuals are selected? How do you choose which individuals you're going to monitor and not monitor? Does it always have to be linked to something terrorist-related?

TURNER: Yes, I believe it would have to be. In short, they pick up one conversation between some foreigners who is calling from outside the country into our country. That gives them the name, perhaps, of an American in this country. They monitor that American for a while. Find that he or she is in communication with either other people in this country or overseas, and some connection with terrorism. And so that expands and expands until they have a big network they're working with.

PHILLIPS: Sir, back when you were on international calls, says, in an easdropping situation, what did you do when you heard an American voice?

TURNER: In our day, we dropped the call at that point. That was not required by the law. But as I said at the beginning, this goes in cycles, and back in the '70s, the emphasis was on protecting civil liberties. And so we erred if anything on the side of caution. And didn't continue listening to a call in which a foreigner might be talking to an American once that American got on the line. Today, emphasis is more on getting the information because we're so determined, of course, to defeat the terrorists.

PHILLIPS: Stansfield Turner, interesting conversation. Sure appreciate your time today sir.

TURNER: Surely.

PHILLIPS: Well we talked about the NSA; we've talked about the FBI, but guess who else might be keeping tabs on you without your knowledge. Here's a hint our story comes from CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Pentagon has discovered problems in a classified database on domestic intelligence threats. Officials confirm the entire database is under review. That they have learned it inadvertently but improperly included information on people of groups in the U.S. that are not a threat to the U.S. military.

For more than two years, the military has maintained a little noticed database that at times can include information about anti war groups or others opposed to U.S. military policy. Is it illegal domestic spying? The Pentagon says absolutely not. In a statement, a spokesman says the Department of Defense uses counterintelligence and law enforcement information properly collected by law enforcement agencies. The use of this information is subject to strict limitations. The information must show a threat to national security, protection of U.S. military personnel or protection of military bases.

Apparently, some of the reports in the database prove to show no threat. They should have been deleted, but they were not, military officials say. Reports of suspicious activity can come, for example, from people who believe anti-war protests are threatening or from local law enforcement. But it's only valid for the Pentagon to keep the information if it can be proven to be a threat to the military.

The Pentagon is now informing the House and Senate intelligence committees about the problem and the A step it is taking to make sure that the military is not improperly collecting intelligence on U.S. citizens.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


PHILLIPS: Snow and ice, freezing temperature all before the official start winter, some forecasters say get used to it. We'll show you what has them predicting a harsh winter when LIVEFROM returns.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's the last pre-Christmas weekend and this cold snap might mess up your east coast journey. Airport delays from Canada to Atlanta. Sloppy roads and interstates and the sheer volume of holiday travelers will probably test your patience at some point this weekend. CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is here with the big weather picture.

Shall we start with those airport delays? Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know, just what folks don't want to hear when they are heading out to the airport. But we do have some, they are not to bad. Let's take a look at the latest ones. This is Realtime data. We have them from Boston and Chicago. We do have some rough weather in both those places, 45 minutes late is not too bad. But call ahead to your individual airlines so you can get a better idea of what you can expect before head out to travel. And if you're going to be heading out to the roadways, in the southeast, not too bad. Watch out for icy patches towards Charlotte and even in Atlanta, especially north of the city. Windy weather further to the north and into the east and some wintery weather for northern New England. But back out west where temperatures not looking too bad just really cold.

Towards Denver, only a high today of 25 degrees. That's cold. San Francisco we started off with fog, but warming up to about 55. San Diego in the 60s today. In Texas's we will be looking for some changes, you will see temperatures that will be mainly in the 50s for the afternoon.

But look what's coming up, a little bit of wintery weather moving into west Texas today and that system will work it's way towards the east in the next couple of days. And there might be some icy conditions towards the piedmont of North Carolina by the latter part of the weekend, so that may affect your travel on Sunday. But for today, the trouble spot remains here, from Minneapolis thru Chicago and snow showers there, and back up towards northern New England we will be seeing that wintery weather persist for ANNOUNCER: good portion of the northeast. Especially here towards Boston and then up towards Maine, we still have a wintery mix happening further to the north of the city of Boston. Right now we will be watching for some icy patches north and west tonight.

Temperatures tonight, Kyra, will be dropping below freezing in this entire region. So tonight on the roads, ice is definitely going to be a major concern.

PHILLIPS: All right Bonnie Schneider thanks so much. Some forecasters say don't look for relief from the chilly temperatures anytime soon. They are predicting this winter particularly brutal for a good many of us. As first seen on last nights "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano explains.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice over): Michael Schlacter is the chief meteorologist at a weather prediction company. What's your winter forecast?

MICHAEL SCHLACTER, WEATHER 2000: Cold, snowy and harsh. Lots of volatility, lots of frigid air coming down from Canada, pretty much from the Plains to the Atlantic. .

MARCIANO: Schlacter has his eye on something called the Greenland block.

SCHLACTER: Basically the atmosphere is like a river and runs like a fluid, and every once in awhile you get a boulder or a stone in that river that kind of blocks up the flow. One of those blocks is called the Greenland Block. You get high pressure her in Greenland, it blocks up the flow, you get a dip in the jet stream and lots of cold air is ushered down from Canada. .

MARCIANO: So he's saying the Greenland Block traps cold over the U.S, heading for a really cold winter. Especially in the East. But we're talking about the weather here, so naturally, not everyone agrees, especially government forecasters.

MIKE HALPERT, NOAA CLIMATE PREDICTION CTR: There's not a real strong climate signal in the eastern part of the nation and we have elected to allow the possibility of really anything happening.

MARCIANO: In other words, who knows? We have a hard enough time forecasting the weather three days in advance, let alone three months in advance. This year it's a whole lot harder. Blame El Nino, that warm pool of water in the Pacific Ocean. Well meteorologist used the El Nino southern isolation or enzo to help them predict the weather. The problem is --

HALPERT: There year there is no enzo signal and the conditions are largely neutral or they certainly were neutral when we started making these forecasts. Given the absence of enzo, and other climate factors play a much larger role.

MARCIANO: So the governments Mike Halpert falls back on tallying the average temperature for the past ten years to predict future temperatures. But other forecasters say El Nino is not the only predictor; Michael Schlater thinks the Greenland Block holds the key. This forecaster Dr. Judah Cohen looks to another indicator.

JUDAH COHEN, ATMOSPHERIC ENVIRON. RESEARCH INC: When there's more snow in Siberian in the fall, there does tend to be more snow fall here in the eastern U.S. in the northeast in particular.

MARCIANO: Dr. Cohen who works in Lexington, Massachutes says it's going to get really cold because of heavy snow cover in Siberia.

COHEN: Siberia kind of acts like the refrigerator for the northern hemisphere, if you have high snow cover it builds more cold air, this cold air really has only two ways to go, it can either go west into Europe, or it can also go north over the pole and slide down the east side of the Rockies here into the eastern U.S.

MARCIANO: Mike Halpert the government forecaster says he doesn't look at factors like the Greenland Block or the snow cover in Siberia for his forecast because he says there's new theories. But so far this year those new ideas seen to be right on the mark. Temperatures have been cold, well below normal for the east coast. And in New York City, nine inches of snow has fallen. One inch by now is about average. Officially, the first day of winter is still a few days away. And folks in the northeast are saying, El Nino, Greenland, Siberia, whatever, it's cold outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm going to buy a snow blower; I'm tired of shoveling. But I'm a little scared about my heating bill this winter.


PHILLIPS: Well are we earthliens alone in this universe. Apparently a good number of you think not. We're going to take a look at one couple's suppose out of this world experience coming up o LIVEFROM.


PHILLIPS: Let's go straight to the newsroom, Fredricka Whitfield working a story for us right now to do with the timetable on Iraq withdrawal. Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One day after Iraqis went to the polls, Republicans in the house, on Capitol Hill, are wanting to put on record and vote on their draft resolution that would not encourage any sort of timetable for U.S. troops in Iraq. In the bill, the use the word "victory" is also used throughout. Saying, quote, the House of Representatives is committed to achieving victory in Iraq and further down saying, setting down an official timetable for withdrawal of the United States armed forces in Iraq is fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory in Iraq.

Right now, they're in the middle of their 15-minute vote. They still have about eight minutes left in which to complete their vote. The Democrats in the house have said all along that this is politically motivated. And instead, they offered an alternative resolution that would simply congratulate the Iraqis for three successful elections in Iraq. But the Republicans rejected that. So this is their answer to that proposed resolution this time saying no timetable for U.S. forces to be imposed, those who are in Iraq. Another eight minutes to go before that final vote is taken.


PHILLIPS: All right Fred, we'll talk to you in eight minutes. Straight ahead, Howard Stern quits earth for space.

HOWARD STERN: Good morning, and welcome to the last show on terrerestrial radio for us. Big day for us. PHILLIPS: Does these mean no more call-ins to the control room? The shock jock leaves the FM radio station today for satellite broadcast. Thousands of fans gathered in midtown Manhattan to bid a big farewell and celebrate his move to satellite. Many people carried signs praising Stern and attacking the FCC. The controversial talk show host had crossed horns many times with the federal authority. He starts on satellite radio network next month.

Well it's hard to imagine but Google's on line presence can soon get bigger. Kathleen Hays joins us live from the New York Stock Exchange to tell us about some big expansion plans. So Kathleen you going to be listening to Howard Stern? .

KATHLEEN HAYS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know I must say I don't listen to him that much now Kyra. I don't know if I will listen to him that much more in the future. However, my producer down here Anthony has a very dear friend who was down in that crowd of people this morning to say good-bye to Howard Stern. I know there are fanatics out there maybe they're the ones to carry it on. Howard is big, we know that.

But this is big too. Google reportedly in exclusive talks with AOL, could be a setback for Microsoft, which has been whooing AOL since January. The "Wall Street Journal" reports that Google will pay $1 million for a 5 percent stake in AOL. Which along with CNN of course both owned by Time Warner. The deal being negotiated would allow AOL to sell advertising among the search results provided by Google on its Web properties. Google would only say, quote, we value AOL's partnership. No comment from Time Warner yet.

Shares of both Google and Time Warner are adding 1 .5 percent.

Now the broader stock market is mixed. The Dow Industrials are up about 22 points. No big deal today, at least they are positive. The Nasdaq deposit down .10 percent.


PHILLIPS: All right. Money can't buy love, but the Beatles going to court anyway for it.

HAYS: All you need is love, as the old Beatles song said. But let's add, you also need a fair share of the royalties. The Beatles which has not sung together since 1970 are suing record company EMI. The group members claimed they are owned $53 million in royalties.

Apple record, which is owned, by Paul McCartney and Ring go Starr and the families of the late John Lennon and George Harrison are saying an audit determined that EMI had not been fulfilling the terms of its contract. This is not the first dispute for Apple. The company had previously filed law suited against Nike for using the Beetle's song "Revolution" in a commercial. And against Apple Computer in a trademark dispute.

So that raps it, the latest from Wall Street. LIVEFROM continues right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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