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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Florida Movie Theater Shooting Presser Coverage; 9/11 Mastermind's Writings Released; Pentagon Papers Leaker Honors Snowden; Does Springsteen Album Live Up To "High Hopes"; Unemployment Benefits Proposal Dead In Senate For Now

Aired January 14, 2014 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN PRESS CONFERENCE COVERAGE)

SHERIFF CHRIS NOCCO, PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA: No. I would say from the very beginning of any type of investigation, if we believe a crime has occurred, we're going to look at every possible angle. From looking at it with every possible angle, we determined that, yes, it was a second-degree homicide.

One of the things we do when we go into a case is we want to make sure there's justice that is served. We know any possible defense will be brought up in a courtroom. Knowing that, as the investigation is going on, we looked to see if there could possibly be a defense for Stand Your Ground. Working with our detectives, working with the state attorney's office, we don't believe there's any reason why the public defense -- any reason why Curtis Reeves' defense will be able to be justified and the fact that they say it's a standard (INAUDIBLE) case.

(CROSSTALK)

REPORTER: Can you explain that to me again? Can you say that again, please?

NOCCO: It basically goes back to the fact that when we go to court, we want a conviction. We're a state attorney's office (ph). We're in there to make sure that everything we do is properly done, that we are justifying our action. Going forward, because we determined that, yes, there was a homicide that occurred, we have to look at every angle from the initial part of the investigation, knowing what is going to happen in the courtroom.

In that time, one of the defenses that could be used is this Stand Your Ground. Through our investigation, we looked at it from that angle. We did not determine that Stand Your Ground could be a justifiable reason why he shot the victim. So that is the reason why we're working with our state attorney's office who has determined that the Stand Your Ground case, no, does not fly here in this case.

REPORTER: If I could ask you, did the state attorney send a representative to the scene -

NOCCO: Yes.

REPORTER: -- and did they work in concert with (INAUDIBLE) with the conclusion about Stand Your Ground?

NOCCO: Yes. The assistant state attorney, Mandy Garcia, who is outstanding, was there very early on. We have a very tight working relationship with him. We thank him for that relationship. He was there from the very beginning. We were working together with our detectives. We huddled up, and that was the conversation that was brought up. And one of the questions that we passed around -- because we listen to our detectives. We listen to the boots on the ground, the ones actually doing the job. We asked everyone, point blank, what's your belief? Everybody said, this is not a Stand Your Ground case.

REPORTER: Can we heard from your detectives on what he said to you about him defending himself?

DET. TIMOTHY HARRIS, PASCO COUNTY, FL. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Well, I would first just like to pretext that by saying it is an active, ongoing investigation. And so don't be surprised if that's the answers that you get to the majority of your questions that you've been listening to. Unfortunately.

REPORTER: Has he denied that he took a gun out and shot the gentleman who died?

HARRIS: No.

REPORTER: Can you give me your name?

HARRIS: My name is Detective Timothy Harris.

REPORTER: What did he say about the shooting?

HARRIS: Active investigation.

REPORTER: Did at any time Olson do anything more other than throw popcorn at -- let me ask that first. Did he throw popcorn?

HARRIS: That's still part of the active investigation. I can say that there were words that were exchanged between the two men.

REPORTER: Did he ever do anything physical?

HARRIS: No physical contact.

REPORTER: Towards -- towards Reeves, not at all?

HARRIS: Not that we've been made aware of. No.

REPORTER: Detective, it's been said that the suspect at one point, after the initial altercation, got up and left the theater. It was implied that he went to speak to someone in management or to complain to someone at the theater. Did he, in fact, do that?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. There was contact made with the manager, and he told the manager that the man had his phone and the manager said that, you know, he was glad that he made him aware of it --

REPORTER: I'm sorry. Explain that one more time?

HARRIS: He did report to the management that the gentleman was on his phone.

REPORTER: Did he get his gun at that time?

HARRIS: I'm sorry?

(CROSSTALK)

REPORTER: Did he get the gun at that time, or did he have it in his pocket all the time (ph)?

HARRIS: As far as we're aware, he was in possession of the firearm when he entered the facility. I know there was mention that he had left, went to his car. That's in fact not true.

REPORTER: Did the manager say he was going to do something after that conversation, or was it just left to --

HARRIS: I don't know exactly what the manager told him myself, but he was made aware of the situation. And I --

REPORTER: Did the manager ever come into the theater?

HARRIS: No, not that we're aware of. They hadn't had time.

REPORTER: Which sort of security video does the theater have that you can review?

HARRIS: Active investigation. So we're still working on that.

REPORTER: Is there a security system at that theater that will provide you any information?

HARRIS: There's a security system in the theater. Whether it ultimately provides us with any information is still to be determined.

REPORTER: Is there a camera in that room?

(END PRESS CONFERENCE COVERAGE)

TAPPER: You've been listening to the Pasco County Sheriff in Florida talk about charges against a former police captain, Curtis Reeves, Jr., who shot and killed a man in a movie theater after they got into a squabble because the man was texting during previews of the film.

I want to bring in senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin who is in Washington, D.C. Jeff, it's a shocking case. Reeves told police he was, quote, "in fear of being attacked." He says that the victim threw a bag of popcorn on him. Now, the police didn't directly answer whether this could be -- I think the police said they don't think it will be a Stand Your Ground case. I'm not sure whether they've ruled that out. What are your thoughts on this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well obviously, this just happened and the police and the city -- state's attorney are going to have to investigate it thoroughly. There's a lot to know, even though this seems like a very brief series of events. Undoubtedly, there are other events in the theater. There will be people who saw the full exchange.

The police officer, the former police officer is 71 years old. They are going to have to look into what sort of -- does he have any sort of criminal record? Does he have any health problems, any mental health problems? All of that is going to have to be explored before the authorities decide how he's going to be charged and for what penalty.

TAPPER: How much time could the former officer be looking at, if convicted?

TOOBIN: Well, this is Florida, and Florida is the number two death penalty case after Texas. So a homicide in Florida could be a death penalty case. Now I think given his age of the defendant, that is probably very unlikely. But certainly life in prison would be a possibility in this case, especially since the defendant here is so old to start with.

TAPPER: A shocking case out of Florida. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD, it was his evil plan that led to thousands of American deaths on September 11. Now, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed says he's had a change of heart when it comes to violence. What he's saying in his new manifesto, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEAD: Welcome back to THE LEAD live in Trenton, New Jersey. We have breaking news now from Capitol Hill. A proposal to reinstate long-term unemployment benefits has failed to clear two procedural votes in the Senate. That leaves more than one million unemployed Americans in a sort of limbo. So, what now?

CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is live from Capitol Hill. Dana, does this mean that hopes are dashed for reinstating these benefits, or are there other venues that they can proceed down?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not completely dashed, but certainly not looking good, promising, for this to be done before Congress goes on another recess in one week.

What's going on here is that Democrats and Republicans can't decide on several things. One, the length of the extension. Democrats said maybe three months but only if it's not paid for. If longer, they want it to be - they want it to be longer if paid for. And then the second thing is the idea of amendments, fairness. Republicans are saying that they don't -- they are being stifled. They don't have the opportunity to offer their version of how they want to do this.

All of this, Jake, despite the fact that you have eight Republican senators who have been working pretty much nonstop to try to have a bipartisan agreement. Senator Reid and some of his colleagues are doing the same. And still, still, they can't bridge their differences over something that all of these senators say they do understand is important for people who don't have jobs and haven't for so, so long. It's really a classic state of affairs right now in the Senate.

TAPPER: As of right now, the Senate bill for extending unemployment benefits, dashed, at least for now. Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Coming up next, a new honor for Edward Snowden. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Live from Trenton, New Jersey. In the World Lead, he was behind the unthinkable spectacle of death in September 11th, 2011, but now in just released documents, the admitted 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now saying that violence is not the answer to spreading Islam throughout the world.

For eight years, Mohamed has been held in Guantanamo Bay waiting for trial and we now know also fiercely working on a three-part manifesto detailing his views on America and the motivation behind al Qaeda. This is his first communication with the outside world since 2009 when he was accused of terrorism by the U.S. government.

In his latest statements, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed says, the spreading of Islam cannot be accomplished with violence, quote, "The Holy Koran forbids us to use force as a means of converting," end quote, truth and reality never comes by muscles and force, but by using the mind and wisdom.

The manifesto was published by "The Huffington Post" just a short time ago. Ryan Reilly of "The Huffington Post" is here with an in-depth look. Ryan, thanks for being with us. Back in 2009, Mohammed struck a very different tone and spoke of violence justified by Islam, quote, "Our religion is a religion of fear and terror to the enemies of God, the Jews, Christians and pagans with God's willing we are terrorists to the bone. His more recent comments obviously don't renounce his past action so what exactly has changed here?

RYAN REILLY, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Certainly. Well, it's not entirely clear. You know, the 9/11 attack certainly is not something he is distancing himself from. He says that that specifically in the document that that is something that was justified because they were defending the Muslim people, but he's not really -- he doesn't really have like a very coherent narrative for his beliefs and it's clearly he's working through these issues after being exposed to interactions with his legal team on a regular basis and coming into contact with Christians pretty regularly. So it's certainly not backing away at all from his attacks and the justification he believes for them.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan -- Ryan, it's Joe Johns in Washington. Jake's mic has gone out. We'll try to get back to him in just a minute. What was the biggest takeaway for you from this interview? Was there something special and unique and different that you haven't seen before in covering KSM? REILLY: Well, it's interesting because I think he talks about so many issues and he's very clearly up to speed on sort of current American affairs. He talks about same-sex marriage. He obviously opposes it. He talks about the Catholic Church's sex scandals suggesting that perhaps the reason it happened was that children were drunk on communion wine. So this is a wide array of issues that he weighs in.

He also takes a shot at the military suicide rate, suggesting that the people who -- the fighters in Afghanistan are happier because they are following Islam as compared to American soldiers who he says use their Playstations and go home and commit suicide. It's a wide array of issues including the overcrowding of the U.S. prisons that he seems to address.

So it's just sort of interesting to hear that perspective coming from someone who has claimed that responsibility and is believed to be behind the September 11th attacks as well as the slaughter of Mike Daniel Pearl.

TAPPER: Ryan, it's Jake Tapper. Sorry, my mic went out there. Joe, appreciate you picking up where I left off. After his comments were made public in 2009, a judge ruled that no more of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's comments would be release. So the government is releasing these documents now, this was allowed?

REILLY: They are not releasing them, but what did happen was last month, the judge made a ruling that essentially allowed this to happen. This statement was sent out to his defense attorneys as well as the entire courtroom including the judge. So this was a document that was unclassified, but the decision last month got away from the idea that all -- everything that he said was presumed classified allowing, you know, someone who received this letter to be more comfortable to make it public.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Reilly of "The Huffington Post," thank you so much, very interesting and chilling story in some ways.

In other world news, Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who took a treasure trove of the agency's secrets and leaked them to the world isn't a journalist, but he's a journalist dream source, which is why today in news we're breaking right now on THE LEAD, the Freedom of the Press Foundation is announcing that Snowden is joining its Board of Directors.

Daniel Ellsberg is a co-founder of The Freedom of the Press Foundation. You'll of course, remember him as the former U.S. military analyst who gave the infamous Pentagon papers to "The New York Times" back in 1971. Mr. Ellsberg, thanks so much for being here. Why has the organization decided to add Snowden to the Board of Directors even though he's not actually a journalist?

DANIEL ELLSBERG, CO-FOUNDER, FREEDOM OF THE PRESS FOUNDATION: Well, I'm not a journalist either. In fact, I'm a source. The same sort that he Edward Snowden has been and he represents the values, I think, of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, freedomfoundation.org, which are that investigative journalism is essential to the first amendment, freedom of the press, and of speech.

You can't have investigative journalism in the foreign policy or so- called defense area without, putting it very bluntly, leaks of classified information because the secrecy system and classification system has been so abused, always, that the information that the public needs to know to be the sovereign public and to have an influence on these policies is routinely classified no matter what abuses that conceals.

So he's acted. He's put his life on the line. I would say we admire. I admire him, personally, very much. He's a hero of mine. And we're very proud, actually, to have him join us on the board, which also includes, by the way, journalists, (inaudible) and Glenn Greenwald, who have been the channel into journalism for the revelations he's made which, in turn, have led to about half a dozen legislative proposals for reigning in the NSA and I think he's been a very valuable citizen.

TAPPER: Mr. Ellsberg, what do you make of Snowden's critics who say even if you believe that the metadata program should have been brought to light, there have been all sorts of leaks provided by Snowden that don't necessarily discuss the freedoms that we hold so dear in terms of not wanting to be intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance, but things that have actually hurt sources, hurt individuals in other countries trying to help the United States.

What is your response to those who say, not all of these leaks have been good ones and not all of them have been in the name of what the Freedom of the Press Foundation stands for?

ELLSBERG: Look, judgment has to be exercised on the question of what the public needs to know and ought to know and what has been withheld and there may be individual aspects of that where judgments may differ and my own judgment might differ. But remember, we heard these same warnings at the beginning, middle, and end of -- I should say, at the beginning and middle of the prosecution of Chelsea Manning over a matter of years. Blood was on people's hands and so forth.

At the end of the trial, they have not produced one scrap of evidence supporting those assertions that anything or any person has been harmed as a result of those revelations, which was the largest since the Pentagon papers and the largest until Edward Snowden. Now, as far as I'm aware, the government has not yet produced one scrap of evidence to back up the claims that he has actually harmed either procedures or people entirely.

So those have to be taken very skeptically, but I don't rule out the possibility that there could be some items there where judgment would differ from him. By the way, he very explicitly said he didn't want his own judgment to be the last word on this. He gave it to these journalists and returned to newspapers with very explicit warnings that they should exercise their own judgment and I think all of the items that you've been eluding have appeared in "The Washington Post" who found them newsworthy.

TAPPER: All right, Daniel Ellsberg, thank you so much, very interesting news, Edward Snowden joining the Board of Directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. We appreciate you for coming on THE LEAD.

Coming up on THE LEAD, the boss is back with a new album, but does Springsteen's latest offering live up to his high hope's name? Stay with us, our Pop Culture Lead is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from Trenton, New Jersey. In the Pop Culture Lead, what better place to be than New Jersey on the day that the boss releases his latest album. "High Hopes" is Bruce Springsteen's 18th studio album. Most of the album is either unreleased or reworked material. Some of it with the help of Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame.

Here is another song on the album, covering a favorite Australian punk band "The Saints." Check it out. Joining us now is Christopher John Farley, senior editor of Speakeasy, the "Wall Street Journal's" culture blog. Christopher, always good to see you. You're also the author of the new novel "Game World." So we only have a little time. What do you think of the new album? Is it good?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, SPEAKEASY, WSJ CULTURE BLOG: Yes, I think it's a really great garage sale at one of Springsteen's houses. I mean, you find some old stuff, stuff that looks kind of new and stuff you didn't even know that you were looking for. So I think Springsteen fans are going to love this album. If you're not a Springsteen fan, it may be confusing some of the stuff, but there are songs that are worth dusting off. "The Ghost of Tom Joe," one Springsteen's best song. He does a great cover here with Tom Morello who covered the song himself in his band. That's nice to hear it revived again on this album.

TAPPER: Springsteen fans like you and me, we always like to talk about how important he is. I guess this album -- is it important and does it even have to be important to be good, to an enjoyable album?

FARLEY: There are some songs -- like one called "The Wall," which is about a visit to a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That's a really moving song I think in a way. Springsteen doesn't have to be important, quote/unquote, "to be good." You think of the songs off of "Born to Run" and the "Screen Door Slams." It's a small moment, a personal moment that became important because it seemed to connect to listeners. I still think about it when I'm listening to it and driving in the car. Springsteen doesn't need to be important to be good. He just needs to be himself.

TAPPER: All right, Christopher John Farley, thank you so much. I'm excited about this new Springsteen album and not just because I'm standing in New Jersey. We'll see you soon, Christopher. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in New Jersey. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" back in Washington, D.C. -- Mr. Blitzer.