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NSA Surveillance Program Debate in the Senate; Gen. John Allen Meets With Iraqi Leaders in Baghdad; Police Searching for Shooter in Northern Colorado. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 31, 2015 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:33] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: 32 minutes past the hour and some stories developing right now. The vice president and his family, a really difficult time for them right now, as they lose Beau Biden today. The 46-year-old died yesterday, in fact, following a battle with brain cancer. Biden called his elder son, quote, "the finest man any of us have ever known."

In Syria, at least 70 people were killed in a string of barrel bomb attacks according to the London-based Syrian observatory for human rights and opposition run Aleppo media center. And CNN cannot independently confirm those reports, but barrel bombs are oil drums filled with explosives and shrapnel. Seven women and children were among those killed on Saturday. Rebels accused the Syrian government of targeting civilians, but President Bashar al-Assad is denying those charges.

And former House speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to make his first appearance in federal court this week. He'll be arraigned on charges that he lied to the FBI about millions of dollars he allegedly agreed to pay to an undisclosed person to cover up past misconduct. Reportedly, the sexual abuse of a former student.

And Reuters is reporting that Secretary of State John Kerry is in the hospital this hour after injuring his leg in a bicycle accident near the French and Swiss border. This is file footage you see here of him cycling a couple of months ago. A spokesman for Kerry told Reuters after he told us that he is in stable condition and did not lose consciousness. He was there holding talks with his Iranian counterpart about the country disputed nuclear program.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's coming down to the wire for the Patriot Act. This afternoon, senators will be back on the hill in a rare Sunday session. If they don't reach an agreement, key parts of the Patriot Act expire at midnight, including powers often rising the NSA to collect telephone data on millions of Americans. CNN national correspondent Sunlen Serfaty joins us now.

Sunlen, Republican senator candidate for the presidency, Rand Paul, is digging in his heels.

[06:35:00] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor, and this afternoon, just as the Senate is set to meet, the National Security Agency will start shutting down parts of the government's both telephone collection program. Unless there is a quick resolution, which right now, does not seem likely.


SERFATY: On Capitol Hill, time is almost up and the scramble in the Senate is about to be on.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We shouldn't surrender the tools that help keep us safe.

SERFATY: Unless the Senate acts at midnight tonight, key provisions of the Patriot Act will expire including one under which the controversial bulk phone data program operates. It collects numbers dialed, and how long calls lasted, but doesn't capture the contents of conversation and other surveillance provision set to expire, one allowing the government to seek a court order on an individual for business records, roving wiretaps for burned phones and the ability to track a non-American lone wolf. All powers the administration claims are essential to fighting terrorists.

OBAMA: It would be irresponsible, it would be reckless. We shouldn't allow it to happen.

SERFATY: The House has already passed a compromised bill supported by the administration, which would extend the key provisions, but would reform the bulk data program. That telephone data would be kept in the hands of phone companies instead and will require the government to seek a court order for access.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The head of the Washington spy machine! Barack Obama!

SERFATY: Today, Republican Senator Rand Paul is preparing to get back in the ring. Vowing to do all he can to stop the surveillance programs, unless changes are made to weaken them.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all of the records, all of the phone records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant. Our forefathers would be aghast.


SERFATY: And unless Senator Paul unexpectedly gives in, it's likely these programs could be shut down for at least several days and that would force the government, of course, to adjust its counterterrorism strategy at a time, Christi and Victor, when the threat is, of course, already high.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sunlen Serfaty for us in Washington. Sunlen, thanks. PAUL: Meanwhile, the showdown of the NSA surveillance powers is

coming as America's point man on countering ISIS is pledging more support to Iraq. General John Allen met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad this weekend after losses in Anbar province that he calls frustrating. He has offered to send 2,000 anti-tank grenade launchers in addition to continuing air strikes. Retired Lieutenant General and CNN military analyst Mark Hertling is back with us.

So, we know that ISIS has made these key advances certainly. How plausible is it do you think that they could take an entire country like Syria or Iraq?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, at first, I'd like to speak first about Iraq, Christi, and it's critically important to have the government of Iraq counter this. And that appears to be happening in degrees. And that's what John Allen is doing. He knows Anbar province like no other. He was there when I was in the northern part of Iraq. He understands the implications of what's going on there. Syria is a completely different story. It's critically important to continue the fight and to continue to arm and train the Syrian rebels against the Assad government.

PAUL: You know, he was - General Allen was asked if ISIS can be entirely defeated, and his answer was, we have to deal with the political issues. We have to deal with - social, economic, religious issues, because all of that gives ISIS contact, cohesion and purpose. So, when you look at all of those political, social, economic, religious, they all require different remedies. We know that coalition is dealing with it militarily, but what are we missing?

HERTLING: Well, I think there is a lot going on behind the scenes, Christi. And first of all, I'll emphasize exactly what General Allen said. He has got it exactly right and that is what all of us have been saying, all of us who have worn the military uniform in the past are saying, you cannot just defeat this militarily. It has to be through a series of information actions and it has to be economically and it has to be socially. In order to do that you have to have good government in places. So, General Allen is attempting to combine the various lines of effort, which the administration has put together. Unfortunately, it appears that most Americans only focus on the military aspect of this and there is a lot going on under the surface with informational activity and with economic activity as well as diplomatic.

PAUL: All right. General Hertling, always good to have you here. Thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Let's take you to northern Colorado where a cyclist has been shot and killed, it happens about a month after a bullet hit a driver in the neck. And now police are saying there is possibly a connection, maybe a serial sniper in this case.


BLACKWELL: And one Muslim woman is claiming she was discriminated against at 30,000 feet. Coming up, we will tell you how a dispute over an unopened can of diet coke brought her to tears.

PAUL: First, in this month's "Ones to Watch" series we are exploring the world of classical music, and first up, South Africa's largest township Soweto where we found a group of young musicians who have swapped soul music for strings.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This precious wooden instrument is perhaps an unusual toy for a teenager in the - But 13-year-old Soweto boy Canyou carries it with pride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I most like about playing the violin is the sound, the texture of the music, the thickness, you know, of classical music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My ones to watch are beautiful string ensemble from South Africa. It's called Basket String Ensemble. They are from underprivileged background, but music lighten up their hope and future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Basket string ensemble is made up of 28 young musicians born and raised in South Africa's most populous black township Soweto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of parents grew up listening to, you know, sort of Motown or African jazz. Classical music wasn't - isn't really something that a lot of people listen to. And I think it's quite extraordinary that a lot of black kids are going to classical roots.


PAUL: You can watch the full show at



BLACKWELL: Police are searching for a shooter in northern Colorado and specifically at the small town of Windsor. But they are on edge. Authorities now say there's a connection between two separate shootings that happened within about a month of one another and just five miles apart. Our Erin McLaughlin has more.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two random shootings. Authorities now say are linked and fears in Colorado there's a sniper on the loose.

JOHN MICHAELS, WINDSOR POLICE CHIEF: Be vigilant. Beware of surroundings. See what's going on.

MCLAUGHLIN: The warning came Friday as police revealed there is new evidence connecting the fatal shooting of 48-year old John Jacoby to the shooting of 20-year old Corey Romero. Police won't say how they are linked, but they say the victims appear arbitrary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a reason to believe that the two victims know each other?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no indication of that at all.

MCLAUGHLIN: On May 18 in the town of Windsor, Jacoby was shot twice and killed while riding his bike. Five miles away and about a months earlier, Romero was shot in the neck while driving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 911. What is the address of emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm on the highway right now, and somebody just hit me and I'm bleeding from my neck and I'm scared.

MCLAUGHLIN: The FBI are involved offering a $10,000 reward. So far, no suspect has been identified. Adding to the mystery on that very same highway, at least two dozen reports of shattered car windows.

MICHAELS: I know there have been a lot of broken windows on I-25, car windows. Those have not been linked to this event. It's not that they have been discounted either.

MCLAUGHLIN: The news has this rural town on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes you stop and think. It's just, yeah, it's scary.

MCLAUGHLIN: Erin McLaughlin, CNN.


PAUL: Well, it was a turbulent flight for a pregnant mom and her child and not particularly for the reasons that you might be thinking. She claims she was kicked off a plane because her young son was crying. Does she have a legal case? We are going to take a closer look.


BLACKWELL: All right, moving forward now on the breaking news. Secretary of State John Kerry is in the hospital. He injured his leg in a bicycling accident near the French and Swiss border. This is video of Secretary Kerry from a couple of months ago cycling. A spokesman for Kerry told CNN he is in stable condition, did not lose consciousness. We will have a live report at the top of the hour.

PAUL: New this morning, a Muslim woman claims that she was discriminated against on a United Airlines flight to Washington. Taheera Ahmad says a flight attendant refused to give her an unopened can of diet coke, but then that same flight attendant handed an unopened can of beer to another passenger. Well, when Ahmad questioned the flight attendant, they replied, she says, saying, she might use the can as a weapon. Ahmad later took the Facebook and described her experience. She said she was humiliated. She was left in tears.

Joining us now to talk about this and a few other cases is criminal defense attorney and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson. So, Joey, when you look at this, the first thing you think is, first of all, could she sue for discrimination and what would she have to have? You know, compiled, what evidence would she need to get this case going?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure, Christi, good morning to you. Look, the reality is this, is that it comes down to what your damages would be. Absolutely, she can sue. Then, of course it will be a measure of how she was damaged and how she was affected and that will turn on the issue of humiliation. No one, of course, should be subjected to any type of discrimination. And remember, Christi, the country has taken great pains to really provide for people to exercise their religious freedom. You look at the First Amendment. Not only as it relates to freedom of speech, but the establishment cause. Establish whatever religion you want and a free exercise clause. Practice whatever religion you want. 14TH Amendment equal protection, everybody is entitled to equal protection under the law. And when you treat one person in a way that you don't treat another person, it becomes problematic because we know that apparently according to the facts, a can of unopened beer was provided to another passenger and there was no indication that they would use it as a weapon. And so the issue becomes was she treated differently than someone else? And to the extent that she could establish that she was, then, of course, her claim could prevail.

PAUL: OK. I wanted to talk about the fact that this doesn't seem to be the only legal issue for United Airlines. A pregnant mom says she was embarrassed after she says she was kicked off the United flight because her toddler was crying. Now, her story has gone viral. This is singer Sarah Blackwood. She posted on United's Facebook page that she was flying from San Francisco to Vancouver with a 2-year-old son who had been crying while seated on her lap. When the plane turned around, she was asked to deplane, to get off the plane. So, the airline says their contention was, look, that's not the case. The child wasn't in a seat. He wasn't seated. Blackwood says it isn't true. Joey, what do you think?

JACKSON: You know, it all turns upon the facts and the facts are that, look. If there is somebody who has a child there and the child, again, it's based on equal protection under the law and if she is being treated in a different way because she has a child or because she is pregnant or because something else, then it becomes problematic. The airline, of course, Christi, is going to say that for safety reasons, as a result of her not able to control her child, it provides a danger, not only to her and her child, but to the other passengers.


JACKSON: So, if you could establish that she is being treated differently because a child is screaming, children scream. Adults scream! So, the reality is that if she is treated differently predicated upon a child she prevails in her claim. In the event that the airline says we have a legitimate interest to protect her, to protect her child and to protect other passengers, then, of course, they prevail. So, these cases turn upon the facts.

PAUL: I don't know what will happen, Joey. All I know is we had a very heated debate in our newsroom today about children on planes.


PAUL: Everybody has got an opinion, right? Joey Jackson, thank you so much.

JACKSON: Absolutely. Thank you, Christi. Great to be with you.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, we did have a heated debate this morning.


BLACKWELL: A pitcher starting in the college world series getting a lot of attention on social media. People are talking about his numbers -- not 56, not his stats. We will explain after the break.


BLACKWELL: Coming up on the top of the hour now.

A college baseball team made it to the World Series. But it wasn't their playing that is really getting big attention online.

PAUL: Yeah. It's about the weight of their pitcher. But really, really? Is that what we are going to talk about, Coy Wire?

COY WIRE: That is what we are going to talk about. Have you seen the pictures yet?

PAUL: Yes.


WIRE: OK. All right. I think it's noteworthy and it's buzzing - it's all over the Internet. You have this picture of a pitcher that's gone by - and it's simply because he's a really big dude, and it raises an interesting question. Why in sports, when it comes to weight, do some athletes get the pass while others get a laugh? Here's this guy. He's been an - and he plays for St. Thomas Bob Cat. They were playing in an NAIA college World Series.

[07:00:00] COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: There's this guy. He's Ben Ancheff, plays for St. Thomas Bobcats. They were playing in the NAIA College World Series. He's listed at 6'2" 300, the starting pitcher for his team. Now, some say his weight makes him awesome, that he's a hero of sorts,

but others are saying that Ben making headlines because of his weight is fat-shaming. And we want to know what you guys think.

I mean, this is some -- is there a microcosm of what happens in our society every day with bullying? Is this fat shaming, or is this simply, you know, awesome stuff? Like people, this guy is a hero to them? I can be like that.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Sure. Like you can do it and it's not going to stop you, right.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We look forward to the responses online.

WIRE: #NewDayCNN. Let us know. We want to use your perspective coming up.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Coy.

PAUL: Thank you, Coy, so much.

Hey. Thank you for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: The next hour starts now.