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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Will Ferrell; NSA Surveillance Ruled Unconstitutional
Aired December 16, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But could he do the job in real life? Stand by to see what happens when we go one-on-one.
WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer.
I'm Will Ferrell, and this is CNN.
BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, is claiming some credit for today's bombshell ruling against one of the U.S. government's most controversial surveillance programs. A federal judge says the mass collection of Americans' phone records violates privacy and the U.S. Constitution.
Snowden has issued a statement saying -- and I'm quoting now -- "A secret program authorized by a secret court was when exposed to the light of day found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's got more on today's ruling and what it means -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, from the beginning Edward Snowden portrayed himself as a whistle-blower, shedding light on illegal government surveillance.
It now looks like a federal judge is agreeing with him. Edward Snowden blew the lid off the National Security Agency's once-secret surveillance program, and now a federal judge could derail it altogether, ruling its collection of billions of records of telephone calls to, from and within the U.S. is likely unconstitutional.
The judge said -- quote -- "I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen."
If upheld, the decision has widespread implications. The judge says the NSA is violating Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. It comes hours after CBS' "60 Minutes" broadcast interviews with NSA leaders defending the program.
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: This number, the to/from number, the duration of the call, and the date- time group, that's all you get. And all we can do is tell the FBI that number is talking to somebody who is very bad. You ought to go look at it.
STARR: After acknowledging that Snowden stole 1.7 million classified documents, in an extraordinary twist, the NSA official in charge of figuring out how much damage he did says maybe he should get amnesty.
RICK LEDGETT, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: My personal view, yes, it's worth having a conversation about. I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured.
STARR: Legal experts say it may be tough to prosecute someone seen as a whistle-blower and amnesty could keep Snowden under a tight lid.
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Snowden is sitting on a huge amount of documents with highly sensitive and embarrassing material. We have only seen a fraction released and it's caused tremendous diplomatic and political problems for the White House. They would desperately like to see that material returned.
STARR: Now, you know, the NSA choosing to do these interviews, doing the interviews with CBS' "60 Minutes" clearly was its latest effort to defend itself in the public arena, but there may be a lot of blowback on that as well, "60 Minutes" now coming under a lot of criticism, especially in the Twitterverse, for not interviewing any critics of the NSA, only NSA officials.
And, as for amnesty, the White House's position is they still want Snowden sent back by the Russians and they want him prosecuted in federal court -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly do. All right, Barbara, thank you.
Now to the roots of homegrown terror, a startling new investigation into the accused Boston Marathon bombers and why they turned to violence that suggests that personal problems may have been more of a motivator than any extremist views.
Brian Todd is looking into the story and he has got the details -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, "The Boston Globe" says the brothers' personal failures and Tamerlan Tsarnaev's possible mental illness may have been the most significant factors in that plot.
Serious mental health problems, including possibly schizophrenia, personal failures and a sense his life was spiraling down and out of control, all may be factors, according to a new report in "The Boston Globe," that led Tamerlan Tsarnaev to plan and carry out the Boston Marathon bombings.
DAVID FILIPOV, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": The parents talk about him hearing voices. He tells a friend who is somebody he goes to mosque with the last couple of years that there are voices in him telling him what to do.
TODD: In its investigation, "The Globe" cites doctors who knew the Tsarnaev family, relaying what the alleged bombers' parents told them and a friend of Tamerlan's for the suggestion that he was mentally ill. One doc who knew the family even speculated Tamerlan had schizophrenia, though the paper found no evidence of a formal diagnosis.
What the paper says it did find was other potential factors behind the plot, including personal failures and family problems like the divorce of the Tsarnaevs' parents and infighting. CNN has learned Tamerlan Tsarnaev did have his share of setbacks, his failure to make the U.S. Olympic boxing team, an arrest for slapping his girlfriend, years on welfare, setbacks a friend told us earlier this years that could have steered him toward violence.
LUIS VASQUEZ, FRIEND OF TAMERLAN TSARNAEV: One of the sources of this could have been some kind of dissatisfaction of the bad, slow transition to coming to another country from a different one as a teenager. That's never easy.
TODD: "The Globe" says it found no indication that one radical Islamist leader or group influenced the Tsarnaev brothers to plot the bombings. Instead, the paper suggests, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's personal demons led him to latch on to radical Islam he allegedly found on the Internet.
Marc Fucarile, who lost a leg in the bombings, thinks the "Globe" piece makes excuses for the Tsarnaevs.
MARC FUCARILE, BOMBING VICTIM: It's trying to make us feel sorry for them. And it's all sad pitches of all these horrific moments in their family. Come visit my family now and see how hard it is.
TODD: "Globe" reporter David Filipov told us they're not trying to make excuses for the Tsarnaevs. He says they simply wanted to come to a better understanding of the brothers' behavior. The U.S. attorney's office prosecuting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would not comment on the "Globe" report.
Attorneys representing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not return our calls or e-mail -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The younger brother is still alive, as you point out. There's new information about him as well?
TODD: That's right. "The Globe" quotes anonymous friends and acquaintances saying that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sold marijuana at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, that he often made about $1,000 a week doing that and that he sometimes carried a gun to protect his supply of marijuana. Again, we got no comment from his attorneys or the U.S. attorney's office prosecuting him to that report.
BLITZER: Brian Todd with the latest on that story, thank you.
Still ahead, prayers for the 17-year-old victim of the Colorado school shooting from the dead gunman's family.
Plus, why is the basketball star Dennis Rodman heading back to North Korea, even after his so-called pal Kim Jong-un executed his own uncle?
And Will Ferrell sits down with me to talk journalism and other important issues for an anchorman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FERRELL: Don't touch the hair.
BLITZER: Don't touch the hair.
FERRELL: Or you're fired.
BLITZER: That's it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FERRELL: We're now hearing from the family of the dead gunman in the Colorado school shooting. They're joining in prayers for a 17-year- old victim.
Karl Pierson's parents issued a statement just a little while ago saying: "We are shattered by the tragic events that took place on Friday at Arapahoe High School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Claire Davis and her family."
They go on to say: "As parents we loved our son Karl dearly and we are devastated by what happened Friday. We cannot begin to understand why Karl did what he did."
CNN's Ana Cabrera is joining us with more on Claire Davis.
I understand, Ana, she is fighting for her life.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Claire Davis is still in a coma.
She is stable, but remains in critical condition. Family, friends are hoping for some good news. They want to make sure she feels their love and support and have set up this tribute to Claire here along the school along the fence. You can see they're bringing teddy bears, flowers, signs like this one that say "Pray for Claire, Warrior Strong," and they're hoping that all this positive energy provides Claire with the strength and helps fuel her fight to survive and to recover.
CABRERA (voice-over): Seventeen-year-old Claire Davis, an innocent victim of an unthinkable crime, this Arapahoe High School warrior now facing the ultimate fight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have faith. She's a fighter.
CABRERA: Three days after the shooting, Davis remains hospitalized with severe head trauma. A tribute outside the school is growing for the girl that friends describe as a great athlete and student who loves horses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Claire was just that person that you could always go to for help. She always had a bright smile on her face and was always there for anyone.
CABRERA: Now Davis is the one in need. Her family is asking for privacy and prayers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we love her to death and we're all praying for her.
CABRERA: The community is responding, hundreds of students from high schools all across the area gathering for this vigil over the weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Claire.
CABRERA: Lifting candles to the sky, shining light during a very dark time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Claire!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Claire!
CABRERA: People on social media also are writing about her, total strangers flooding Facebook with well-wishes and encouragement, and on Twitter, a campaign to get One Direction, Davis' favorite band, to come visit, with hashtag #get1DtoClaire.
(on camera): Do you think Claire is feeling that love right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most definitely. She knows we're all watching over her right now.
CABRERA (voice-over): Support is abundant, but so is the helpless feeling of wanting to do more for Davis, shot at point-blank range, all because she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
(on camera): What are your prayers for Claire?
PARKER SEMIN, ALUMNUS: I just pray that she would see light of day again and then, best case scenario, she gets to walk with all of her friends and classmates in May.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CABRERA: There are so many prayers and well-wishes. I did speak with a trauma expert today who tells me without knowing Claire's specific injuries, knowing she was shot in the head, that very, very, very, very best-case scenario, she has a very long road of rehabilitation ahead of her.
She did say, the doctor, Megan Raney (ph), telling me that the signs are good that 72 hours after this injury and all this happened that she is stable as far as the survival goes, but quality of life, Wolf, is another issue.
BLITZER: We, of course, all of our viewers wish her a speedy, speedy recovery. Ana Cabrera, thank you very much.
Some other news we're following right now. The retired basketball star Dennis Rodman is getting ready to go back to North Korea despite new political turmoil and potential danger. Only days ago, Rodman's self-proclaimed so-called friend the North Korean strong man Kim Jong- un had his own uncle executed.
CNN's Anna Coren is joining us now from Seoul, South Korea.
Anna, why is Dennis Rodman going back to North Korea at this time?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's certainly fair to say that Dennis Rodman is coming to North Korea at a very controversial time.
As you say, Kim Jong-un had his own uncle executed last week for treason. It was something that certainly shocked people here in South Korea and certainly right around the world. His uncle was his right- hand man, second in command, if you like, and also seen as an adviser to the young leader, the 30-year-old youngest head of state.
But, as you say, Dennis Rodman, he is arriving in Pyongyang a bit later this week. They are apparently very good friends and he is there to coach North Korean basketball players. We also understand that he will be returning to North Korea in January to put on an exhibition match with former professional basketball players, but that's what we know about his trip at the moment, Wolf.
BLITZER: Might get some insight into what's going on in North Korea during this visit. This is the first major foreign visit since the uncle's execution.
Is that what North Korea watchers anticipate? We will learn something about Kim Jong-un and what's going on?
COREN: Analysts say, Wolf, that North Korea feels much more comfortable having someone like Dennis Rodman as a mediator to the world, as opposed to any other diplomat or government official.
And, as we know, Dennis Rodman has certainly enjoyed the limelight. You know, when he came back from a recent trip -- this will now be his third trip to North Korea -- he said that Kim Jong-un wants to change, that he's a good guy, and that he's certainly misunderstood. So, I think Dennis Rodman wants to be the mediator, if you like, between North Korea, which, as we know is a global pariah. It's a hermit kingdom. It's developing a nuclear program. It's also at times declared war, raining fire on the United States. We also -- we obviously went through all of that a little bit earlier this year.
But it will certainly be interesting to see what comes out of this trip and what message that he has for the world.
BLITZER: Let's see if he can bring the American Kenneth Bae home with him. That would be encouraging.
All right, thanks very much, Anna Coren, reporting for us some Seoul, South Korea.
Just ahead, a very, very different story. I will go one-on-one with the comedian Will Ferrell. He plays a TV newsman in the new film "Anchorman 2." So what does he think? Do I have what it takes to be a movie star?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If this news thing doesn't work out for me, what do you think? Do you think I have got some potential on the big screen?
FERRELL: It's a great interview with you. Great to meet you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You probably know by now. Will Ferrell is back on the big screen as a legendary TV anchorman. And it's no wonder he wanted to sit down and talk shop.
FERRELL: I'm ready.
Good evening. I'm Ron Burgundy.
BLITZER (voice-over): He just may be the most famous anchorman in America. OK, maybe the second most famous.
FERRELL: I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal.
BLITZER: Will Ferrell, and his alter ego, Ron Burgundy, that much mustachioed Lothario of local news first cannonballed his way into television journalism nine years ago in the cult classic "Anchorman."
BLITZER: This week, he's back, this time taking the world of cable news by storm in a new sequel.
FERRELL: I'm a man. I'm an anchorman. BLITZER (on camera): In the sequel, "Anchorman 2," you are no longer in local news.
FERRELL: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: You work for a 24/7 cable news network, is that correct?
FERRELL: It's -- that's exactly correct. We work for GNN.
BLITZER: No relation to CNN.
FERRELL: No relation, no relation to CNN.
FERRELL: And so we find Ron and his lovable team of misfits thrust into the sophisticated world of 24-hour news.
BLITZER: So the whole concept of Ron Burgundy, people now associate you with Ron Burgundy.
FERRELL: With the Channel 4 news team, I'm Ron Burgundy. You stay classy, San Diego.
Ron is getting more famous than I am, which, that's OK. I can live with that. Ron's thrilled. He's finally getting his due.
BLITZER: He's got that red jacket.
FERRELL: He's got the red, burgundy...
BLITZER: It's a very impressive jacket. The mustache.
FERRELL: The mustache. Did you ever go with a fuller mustache?
BLITZER: Well, do you see any Ron Burgundy here? Any similarities? Any -- I do have the little mustache.
FERRELL: You have that, but you would really have to give it -- let it go.
BLITZER: I was going to wear a red sport coat, but...
FERRELL: Yes. Yes. But I think you know what? You have your established look.
BLITZER: But you notice the red tie?
FERRELL: I do. It's a very nice touch.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a little Ron Burgundy here.
FERRELL: And your hair looks great. Your hair looks great. That's the most important factor.
BLITZER: And you know what? When I get my makeup, and you know we all have to get makeup.
BLITZER: They never touch the hair. You know that.
FERRELL: Don't touch the hair.
BLITZER: Don't touch the hair ever.
FERRELL: Or you're fired.
BLITZER: That's it, very sensitive.
FERRELL: Yes. Yes. Yes.
BLITZER (voice-over): And while Ron Burgundy may not be my look- alike, Ferrell says he was modeled after another news anchor he once saw in a documentary.
FERRELL: You know, this all kind of started from a special that I had seen on Jessica Savitch.
JESSICA SAVITCH, ANCHOR: I get asked all the time if local newscasters are just blown-dry news readers, and I say, that's not true.
FERRELL: She was the first female to be paired with a guy in local news.
MORT CRIM, ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Mort Crim, with Jessica Savitch.
FERRELL: And it struck me that he had been 10 years out of the business and he still talked like this. He still used his newscaster voice. And he was saying how you have to remember, back then, I was not very nice to Jessica. I was a male chauvinist pig.
CRIM: I liked women, but I wasn't sure that their place was necessarily sitting beside me on an anchor set.
FERRELL: And Ron is kind of based on that.
You know, it was more watching -- remembering from a nostalgic sense of how big the local news anchor used to be.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: With five-time Emmy Award-winning anchor Ron Burgundy.
BLITZER (on camera): Are you surprised that it's caused such a sensation?
FERRELL: I think we had 10 -- we were rejected by 10 studios in one day. It took three years to get made because we had to convince -- we had to convince these studio heads that, no, this is going to be a funny movie.
Well, that's going to do it for all of us here at Channel 4 News. You stay classy, San Diego. I'm Ron Burgundy?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Damn it, who typed a question mark on the teleprompter?
FERRELL: Our initial reaction from the news world was like, there's some funny things, but it's not very realistic.
BLITZER: I thought it was hysterical.
FERRELL: And come to nine years later, I have heard from some people, especially in local news, who say it's the most accurate thing there is.
BLITZER (voice-over): Part of that accuracy, it turns out, is because, before he became a sensation on "Saturday Night Live," Ferrell had his own brief stint behind the anchor desk working for a cable access news show right out of college.
(on camera): Now, we did some research, our unit, crack research unit, on you.
FERRELL: You have a unit that smokes crack?
BLITZER: No. We have a crack research unit.
FERRELL: Oh, gotcha. Yes.
BLITZER: So, back in 1991 -- and correct me if I'm wrong.
BLITZER: Did you try out to be an anchor at a local cable access station called "Around and About Orange County"?
FERRELL: That's correct. I was an anchor. I was also a field reporter, local cable access show, "Around and About Orange County News." And I did it for about six months.
BLITZER: How did that work out?
FERRELL: It didn't work out.
BLITZER: It was terrible?
FERRELL: I failed and got into comedy.
FERRELL: You have to start out in places like Yuma, Arizona. And when you're -- you have to lug your own camera around. You have to do your own sound. You have to do your own editing.
And it was beyond my skill level.
Someone put this story in all capital letters, and I thought I was supposed to yell it.
BLITZER: Do you ever say to yourself, maybe I should have pursued that journalistic career?
FERRELL: Not one bit.
BLITZER: But you like to play it?
FERRELL: But I like to play it. I like to make fun of it.
BLITZER (voice-over): Which made me wonder, what if our roles had been reversed?
(on camera): If this news thing doesn't work out for me, what do you think? Do you think I have some potential on the big screen?
FERRELL: It's a great interview with you. Great to meet you.
BLITZER: If you were Ron Burgundy right now interviewing Wolf Blitzer, what would you ask? What would you say?
Well, first of all, Ron would be -- Ron would be a little nervous to be in your presence, because he's been out of the news game for a while and he -- he would probably be like, well, I'm here now with, of course, the esteemed -- it's Wolves, Wolfs, or Wolf?
FERRELL: Wolf, Wolf Blitzer.
Wolf, it is a pleasure to be in your presence, and I just have to ask you, do you use Vitalis hair spray?
BLITZER: I do use a hair spray.
BLITZER: But I'm not familiar with the name. I tell the makeup artist...
FERRELL: Oh, you should use Vitalis.
BLITZER: ... spray it, just don't touch it. FERRELL: Spray it, don't touch it.
FERRELL: I say that about numerous parts of my body. Spray it, don't touch it.
BLITZER: Yes. Don't ever touch it.
FERRELL: Don't ever touch it.
BLITZER: My hair, we're talking about.
FERRELL: And other parts.
FERRELL: That would be a typical Ron Burgundy sequence.
BLITZER: Yes. He would be -- because he did inspire a lot of a whole generation of journalists, as you know.
FERRELL: Unfortunately, he did.
BLITZER: Nothing else for me to say. Thanks to Will Ferrell for that.