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No Charges Imminent for Snowden; More Government Scandal Uncovered; Obama Administration Drops Plan B Appeal; Interview with Former Attorney General Antonio Gonzales

Aired June 11, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield and we have a very busy show ahead, the day's main news and, as always, our take on "Daytime Justice."

The trail goes cold on Edward Snowden as the firestorm over his secrets that he exposed gets every hotter, the entire U.S. House in a closed-door briefing today.

And former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is in our house. He's going to weigh in on what it all means to national security and your personal privacy.

Also, an ex-cop accused of shooting his wife in the head and then burning down the house to cover it up. Did the jury buy his story that she was the one who took her own life? We are on verdict watch in Kansas.

And, Houston, we have a problem. Was that Splenda in the coffee or was it antifreeze? Two prominent Texas doctors, one went to the hospital, the other in jail.

First up this morning, we are now learning that charges are right now being prepared against Edward Snowden, that 29-year-old NSA contractor behind the massive leak at the intelligence agency.

He's still in hiding. His last known whereabouts, Hong Kong. And there is something else breaking about Mr. Snowden. Since he may just not be checking his e-mail or actually anyone else's right now for that matter and CNN is seen in Hong Kong, here is a message from his employer. You're fired, Edward.

In a statement Booz Allen Hamilton says this. "Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden was an employee of our firm for less than three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. Snowden, who had a salary at the rate of $122,000, was terminated June 10th, 2013." That's yesterday.

And the reason? Violation of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy. That may be the understatement of 2013.

It all comes as a reporter for "The Guardian" who broke this story is now promising to reveal even more information about what he calls an invasive spying program. Programs, plural. Joe Johns has been following this story from Washington. All right, so do we have any idea right now, as the officials say they're readying charges, exactly what the charges are going to be?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, not at the all. In fact, authorities tell us that no charges are imminent.

It's not clear whether something could happen today, tomorrow or next week quite frankly.

What we also know, though, and that's talking to legal authorities, the most popular charge in a situation like this is unauthorized disclosure of U.S. secrets. That's what a number of other individuals have been charged with in this kind of case.

But until we understand the full parameters of it, it's not smart to speculate, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And here is what I don't understand. Time would seem to be of the essence, Joe, because there is no extradition that can get under way until there are actually reasons to extradite. Right now there are no reasons. He's just a guy.

Is there not some concern on the part of this government that they're letting him slip away?

JOHNS: Well, there are some concerns about that. In fact, I talked to one law enforcement official today who said, with all the media circus, if you will, going on in Hong Kong right now, would you stay there?

So I guess there is even a question as to whether this individual is actually still in that city or somewhere else at this time.

Of course, it's very hard to go and get somebody until you have charges and as far as we know, they don't have charges, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I'm resisting the temptation to say "from Russia with love" here, but Russia is saying that, if asked, and I can hear you smiling, they have said that if they're asked, they will consider some kind of an asylum for him.

What else do we know about that?

JOHNS: Well, not much more than that, and it seemed like a pretty blanket statement, if you will, but that doesn't mean that they're going to grant asylum. It means that they're going to consider it.

And that's the position a number of other countries are -- I have to say there are a lot of countries in the world that do not have some type of extradition agreement with the United States, but the question is whether a guy like Edward Snowden would actually want to try to go and live there.

BANFIELD: OK, Joe Johns, live for us, thank you for that. It's 2013 which means it's the year of controversy, it seems. Did you hear the one about the U.S. ambassador allegedly out cruising public parks for prostitutes, or the State Department security personnel who were supposedly hiring hookers while on assignment over overseas?

If none of these ring a bell, it could just be because the State Department allegedly did not want you or anybody else to hear about those things. And that's not all. Lots of suspected misconduct at the State Department may have been routinely swept under the rug.

I want to bring in our CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty who's been watching this.

There is a neighborhood called Foggy Bottom and that is where the State Department is located and perhaps it is aptly named because there seems to be a lot of confusion as to not only what went on but why we don't know much about it.

What is going on?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, I think it's important to point out that these are, and you use the word a lot, allegations, and they are coming -- the allegation essentially boils down to senior State Department and diplomatic security officials may have covered up or even stopped investigations of inappropriate or perhaps criminal misconduct by staff.

Now, all of those allegations are based on an internal State Department inspector general report and a memo prepared in connection with that. And I have to note that, as I read it, there is a reference to some of that information coming from agents who were working together in what they call a "collegial atmosphere."

So, again, back to these allegations. The story, by the way, was originally broken by CBS and we, CNN, got those documents from a lawyer who was representing one -- a former investigator.

So what are the allegations? Well, in that memo, they have eight examples. One of them is that a State Department security official allegedly engaged in sexual abuse of local security guards and when he tried -- when an agent tried to look into it, he was not given enough time allegedly to investigate.

Another one is when Secretary Clinton was the secretary of state, members of her security detail allegedly used prostitutes in countries when they were traveling abroad.

In another case, allegations of an underground drug ring in Baghdad.

And then finally, there is another one which is an allegation that a U.S. ambassador routinely ditched his security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from prostitutes and minors, and when diplomatic security tried to investigate, it is alleged that a senior official back here at the State Department ordered him not to open an investigation.

Now, Monday, the spokesperson for the State Department, Jen Psaki, said this.


JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: I can confirm they would be fully investigated.

I'm not going to talk about specific cases, but I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case -- in any case is preposterous.

And we've put individuals behind bars for criminal behavior. There is record of that. Ambassadors would be no exception.


DOUGHERTY: And, so, this morning, also, Ashleigh, that -- a U.S. ambassador issued a statement denying those allegations and calling them baseless.

Meanwhile, you have up on Capitol Hill, of course, looking into this, Ed Royce from the House committee on foreign affairs, who wants to launch and is launching an investigation by -- his staff are going to be doing that. And he also wants to talk about Secretary of State John Kerry.

BANFIELD: I would bet that would be just the beginning of an investigation with allegations that unbelievable. Jill Dougherty, thank you for that.

Got some top stories to bring to you now, and this one just in to CNN. A bomb threat has led to the evacuation of the campus at Princeton University.

Here's what I can tell you. The students apparently there were warned on the university's website. You can see the page up on your screen right now. They've been asked to stay off campus up they're told otherwise.

We're following this developing story. We're going to bring you more information as we get it. But again, a bomb threat to multiple, unspecified campus buildings, apparently called in at Princeton University. We'll watch that story for you.

Also, I have an update for you on former South African leader, Nelson Mandela. He is still in serious condition, but stabilized. He's in a hospital in Pretoria. The 94-year-old was rushed there three days ago with a recurring lung infection.

His daughter, the South African ambassador to Argentina, flew back to be with her father.

President Obama urging Congress to act on an immigration reform proposal that's finally hitting the Senate. Today's vote is expected on open up the debate, but where the bill goes from there is really still up in the air. President Obama has said it is up to lawmakers now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you genuinely believe we need to fix our broken immigration system, there's no good reason to stand in the way of this bill.

A lot of people, Democrats and Republicans, have done a lot of good work on this bill. So if you're serious about actually fixing the system, then this is the vehicle to do it.


BANFIELD: The proposal would create a 13-year path to citizenship.

And the morning-after pill will now be available to all women, over- the-counter, regardless of how old they are.

The Obama administration has decided to drop its appeal of a judge's ruling on the Plan B pill, a ruling that allowed it to be sold without a prescription, but the decision does not apply to a two-pill version of the emergency contraceptive.

Just ahead, has revealing top secret, NSA snooping tactics damaged our national security, or has it exposed government gone bad prying in to our private lives?

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is joining us live to weigh in on this and other questions.

Also, what would Julian do? Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who knows a thing or two about leaks and avoiding extradition has a bit of advice for Edward Snowden. You're going to hear it.

And also ahead, how hard could it be to find six impartial jurors? Believe me, nothing is simple in the Trayvon Martin case, and you'll see just what George Zimmerman's lawyers and prosecutors are up against in that Florida courtroom.


BANFIELD: I want to show you one of the headlines in "USA Today," "A Hero or Is He a Traitor?" Seems to be a big question, but the question really for the American people and eventually perhaps the courts for decide when it comes to that man, Edward Snowden.

He says he disclosed classified information on principle and did not want to hide. But he's hiding. He is definitely in hiding, possibly somewhere in Hong Kong, possibly somewhere else by now.

Joining me now is Alberta Gonzales, who served as White House counsel under President George W. Bush. He was this country's 80th attorney general as well. With a bigger resume, he served as former justice on the Texas supreme court and a judge. He's now an attorney in Nashville. I need to take a breath after that c.v.

Judge, I'm very glad to have you on the program today because, just as we were coming to air, came the news that the charges are being readied against Mr. Snowden.

Not a big surprise, but I'm still wondering what those charges will be. You're a perfect person to ask.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The charges will depend, of course, upon the facts, and there a lot of details here that are simply unknown.

Clearly there is an unlawful publication of classified information. That in itself is a violation of the Espionage Act. So I think that this young man is in some serious legal jeopardy, quite frankly.

It's interesting that I think he made this disclosure on a matter of principle and yet he's not willing to stand behind that principle and feels like he needs to go into hiding. I think that what's happened here is very, very unfortunate. I think it could do some serious damage to the security of our country. And we'll have to wait and see what charges are announced by the Department of Justice as a result.

BANFIELD: And when you say inaccurate, Judge, I'm curious because one of the first things that struck me is that there a young man who is 29 years old with exactly about three months experience at least at Booz Allen who seems to have some extraordinary access to very damaging information. How much information do you think he really has and is his outrage justified based on what he doesn't have?

GONZALES: That's the problem here is that even though someone may have a security clearance, some of these programs are so sensitive that they are compartmentalized and he may not have had access to this specific program or all the details of this specific program. And so when you work in the position that this individual apparently did, you might get snippets of information and you may not know the fact that it's been cleared by members of Congress. That it's been cleared at the highest levels of the Department of Justice.

It is reviewed by a judge in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. So you have all of this information that you're just unaware of. And so you make certain presumptions and assumptions and then so you simply release the information even though the resultant picture that may a rise is one that is incomplete and inaccurate in terms of what the government is actually doing to secure our security.

BANFIELD: Nonetheless, there is a great deal of outrage as to the scope, the breadth of this collection of data. Regardless if whether a FISA judge okayed it, regardless of whether every 90 days there is oversight by Congress. You in your duties with the Bush administration took it on the chin, not only as White House council, but as AG for the warrantless wiretapping system that was in place and has since been done away with.

Do you think that the Obama administration is being rightfully criticized with regard to how widespread the collection is? Not the legalities of it, because we all know it went through the right channels. It's just how big and fat the collection is.

GONZALES: Well, part of the problem here for any administration of course is being able to defend what they're doing. When you're talking about a classified program, when you don't want to inform the enemy about what you're doing, and what your capabilities are, it's very hard to defend what you're doing to the American people.

And of course that it's a conundrum that bedeviled the Bush administration and now that's the issue that's confronting this administration. And what the American people need to be hopeful about is the fact that the administration is taking advantage of all available tools, all available technology to learn information that will secure our country.

But I think it's also appropriate, and this is an extraordinary power, it's also appropriate to be concerned about potential abuses. I support will this kind of activities so long as we have the appropriate checks and balances to guard against potential abuses.


BANFIELD: So, where is it an abuse, judge? That's that's exactly the line everyone's trying to draw right now. Many said that warrantless wiretapping wasn't abuse. But if we're all trying to be secure and we're prepared to give up a little liberty for security, as Ben Franklin said, you can go so far as to have neither. Where is the line? Should they be looking at the e-mails? Should the be looking at the websites? Should they be just triangulating metadata, or should they be able to listen in?

GONZALES: Well, of course we don't know exactly all the details of what these programs entail. And that's again as I said, that will be the challenge for the administration in terms of reassuring the American public that they're doing everything that they can to protect our country. But doing so within limits of the Constitution.

One of the things -- there is a lot of misinformation about what our rights are. For example, the courts have clearly already held that information -- your personal information in the hands of third parties, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in that kind of information. It may be protected by statute, but again, if you're talking about the Constitution, the Constitution wouldn't apply with respect to protection of those kinds of records. So we need to get to the bottom of what's going on here to the extent we can do so without jeopardizing our national security, and educating the American public about what are our legal rights under the Constitution.

BANFIELD: Mr. Attorney general, I want to break for a short moment, but not before I let you know that after the break, I want to tap into some questions about the IRS and the Tea Party as well as Eric Holder and his tenure on a very difficult job. I think you know a thing or two about that.

If you can stay put, would you mind if I ask you those after the break?

GONZALES: That'd be fine.

BANFIELD: All right, we're back in a moment with the Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.


BANFIELD: The Former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is still with me live from Nashville.

Judge, I wanted to show you some statistics that have come from the Pew Research Foundation. This is a recent poll about how we feel about our safety and security versus this snooping (ph). Americans on the NSA phone monitoring, 56 percent decided it was acceptable to 41 percent saying it was not acceptable. And then in addition to that, 62 percent of those asked what's more important: investigate threats or your privacy? Investigate the terror threats 62 percent felt that to be more important than not intruding on privacy.

I think a lot of us were somewhat surprised at those numbers, but it does beg the question is the genie somewhat out of the bottle as we have navigated through the war on terror for almost 12 years now and as we continue to put just about anything we can shake out there on Youtube, is this the new reality?

GONZALES: I think we're facing an extraordinary and evolving threat against the United States. Our enemies have demonstrated a willingness to use any tools available to hurt the United States. And again, I for one support this government's use of the latest technology so long as we have the appropriate checks and balances. But I think the American people expect the government to do so, to move forward and to protect them, but to do so within the limits of the Constitution. And I know the professionals at the NSA, the FBI, and CIA work extremely hard to ensure that whatever collection is done is done so consistent with the law.

BANFIELD: Let me switch gears a little bit because there is so much that I want to cover with you. Before the NSA story broke last week, the president was fielding some questions, a lot of questions actually, on the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups and the Justice Department also reading e-mails of reporters from the Associated Press. They also looked into the e-mails of Fox News reporter James Rosen suggesting he might actually be a coconspirator in a crime. That was walked back upon significantly.

So I want to ask you this, Judge. When the security of the nation is a grave concern and leaks are important to ferret out, is the media fair game in your estimation?

GONZALES: I think it's fair to say that when you're confronting a very serious leak and General Holder is on the record saying this is one of the most damaging leaks that he's seen, so we have a very serious leak, the national security of our country at serious jeopardy, where the department has exhausted all other sources, and where the leadership at the department at the highest levels has made a careful and serious evaluation of the circumstances, yes, I do believe it is appropriate at that point this time to pursue the media if the media can be helpful in solving a crime, the commission of a very serious crime. After all that is the job of the Department of Justice. And unfortunately what you have is a collision of two very important rights. Two important interests. The interests of pursuing criminal wrongdoing and also the interests of the media and ensuring the maximum flow of information to the American people. Typically those interests can be accommodated. Occasionally they cannot and we have difficult decisions that have to be made by the attorney general at the Department of Justice.

BANFIELD: So, let me ask you this -- back when you were in the administration, Valerie Plame, a CIA officer, her name was leaked to Robert Novak and there was a hue and cry about ferreting out that leak. At the time he was the chief of staff for the vice president. Do you know if his phone records or his e-mail records were subpoenaed in secret so that that leak could be plugged?

GONZALES: I don't know that and the reason I don't know that is because I was recused from that investigation. Beginning with my time at the White House, and then when I came over to the Department of Justice, I was recused, Pat Fitzgerald was in charge of that investigation under special council status. So I don't know the specifics about the particular investigation.

BANFIELD: I should also mention by the way, I just have a quick correction, the Associated Press was phone records. I said it was e- mails, but it was phone records that were looked at.

But, let me ask you about the attorney general. Eric Holder has been having to answer a lot of critics in the last few weeks. And he has been in that chair for a very long time. Strangely enough, people might not understand, but that job apparently is only held longer, I think, by Janet Reno in the last 50 years. She lasted longer than Eric Holder as attorney general. You know how hard the job is. You know how much criticism, is Eric Holder -- should he be counting his days? Is this too long? Is he unfairly getting criticized? Where is your stand right now on Eric Holder and the job he holds?

GONZALES: Well, you used the term lasted longer than anyone else. Sometimes it feels that you're just sort of hanging on. It's an extremely difficult job. The attorney general is usually in the middle of every controversial decision. And whichever way he goes, he'll typically make half the nation unhappy with the particular decision.

As to whether or not General Holder should remain in that job, from my perspective, you don't look only as to whether the attorney general is effective, but is the Department of Justice effective? Is the work at the department getting done?

This is a distraction no question about it. I know how tough this is on General Holder. How hard it is on his family. But we need to look also at what effects that upon the Department of Justice. Obviously General Holder's effectiveness is important to the effectiveness of the department, but as to whether or not General Holder should leave, that's a decision that has to be made by the president and by General Holder and his family. BANFIELD: Judge, is he doing a good job?

GONZALES: What I will say is this, I'm struggling to find the right answer because there is so much information I don't know that forms the basis of his decisions and of course he's working for a different kind of president than the president I worked for.


BANFIELD: Yes, I know. That's why I asked.

GONZALES: I have no reason to believe that he's not acting in good faith, and doing the best job that he can do with the information that he has. It's a very, very difficult job. He's operating under very difficult circumstances. As a former occupant of that chair, I just hope that he does the very best that he can.

BANFIELD: Judge Alberto Gonzalez, thank you. Good to see you. And I'm glad that you're enjoying your life and teaching and it's good for you to take the time especially in times like this to help us understand what's happening, even if we can't get to the bottom of a lot of that stuff.

GONZALES: Thanks for having me.

BANFIELD: Good to see you, thank you.

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, has a little advice for Edward Snowden, the man who says he released classified security documents for a good reason.


JULIAN ASSANGE,WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: I would strongly advise him to go to Latin America.


BANFIELD: Latin America? Well, where's Snowden now?