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Crime Wave; TSA Flunks Test; NSA Loses Powers; Spike in Crime in Several Big Cities; Lindsey Graham Officially Enters 2016 Race. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 1, 2015 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:08] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The NSA loses powers it claims are vital, while the TSA flunks a huge test. How safe are we today?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead, the debate between your privacy and national security reaching a critical stage today, as Congress lets the NSA bulk data program expire, so information about our phone calls is safe from prying eyes, but how safe are we?

Also in national news, crime wave, gun violence surging in some of America's biggest cities, as Baltimore marks the worst month for homicides in generations. Have the Freddie Gray case, the unrest in Ferguson and the scrutiny cops now face contributed at all to this terrifying tipping point?

Plus, airport security under fire, a government watchdog finding fake bombs got through security checkpoints a whopping 95 percent of the time, 95, a new and terrifying report that suggests TSA officers might not be able to catch a cold, let alone a terrorist.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Los Angeles today.

We begin with the national lead. For the first time since America woke up to the new normal, the U.S. government no longer has the power to Hoover up information about every single phone call every single person in America makes. At 7:44 p.m. Eastern time last night, the National Security Agency officially shut down its phone metadata collection program, which means today is the first full day the government cannot automatically capture things like the phone number of every call you make, the time and duration of those calls, where you are or where the person you're calling is at the time of the conversation, or the device used to make the call.

So what is the harm of metadata? Well, opponents say, do you want government officials knowing when, say, for instance, you're phoning a doctor who specializes in something really personal and potentially embarrassing? The government, however, insists it needs this power now more than ever to track terrorists, especially given the threats from ISIS, a terrorist group so barbaric al Qaeda wants nothing to do with them.

And they are recruiting at such a quick clip in the U.S., the FBI has admitted it needs help keeping track of all the threats.

And with the Senate right now scrambling to keep these pieces of the Patriot Act alive in some way, President Obama now blaming a -- quote -- "small number of senators" of standing in the way. By small number, the president may have really meant one.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski live now on the North Lawn with the White House response to this.

Michelle, the White House is calling this action or a lack of action by the Senate an irresponsible lapse.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And they have been calling this that for days.

And without naming any names, they did mention things like campaign tactics and a desire to be in the Oval Office. So I think it's pretty clear who they're referring to on that one. The White House still will not spell out whether or not Americans are less safe now because these programs expire.

They refer us to intelligence officials for that. So, clearly, they don't want to go so far as to say today, though, there's a big change in our national security stance, but what they have been saying is that, as you mentioned, an unnecessary risk.

They also still won't give any concrete examples how any of these programs, not just the bulk data, but other things like roving wiretaps, have worked in the past. They say that national security concerns prevent them from giving away those kinds of details, but that what they would say today is that these are tools, and that there have been incidents in the past where these provided information that other methods couldn't.

What they would go so far as to say today, though, is that this is political posturing by the Senate. Here's the press secretary.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Unfortunately, what we have seen is a whole lot of posturing within the Republican Party.

There's a lot of politics being played on this and unfortunately it's coming at the expense of the national security and civil liberties of the American people.


KOSINSKI: And lots of criticism there still, but what we know is that this bill will likely pass. It's the one that's already passed in the House.

It takes the collection of bulk phone data out of the hands of the government, puts it with the phone companies. Opponents like Rand Paul still don't agree with that. They think that that's still an overreach. So, it will likely pass, but with amendments. There are senators who

want the national security measures to go a little bit farther, to make sure that the phone companies are doing this in a way that is useful. Bottom line, it's going to take a little more time. We might see a vote on this as soon as tomorrow, though, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thank you so much.

Joining me now is Barton Gellman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has done some of the most leading investigative reporting on the NSA. He's a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, also author of "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency."


Barton, a pleasure to have you on, as always.

Do you think the government lost an important tool here, or is the government overstating the case because they want as many powers as they can have?

BARTON GELLMAN, THE CENTURY FOUNDATION: They never willingly give up a power.

They can still get the phone records of anyone. As of today, for a couple of days, they can't get the phone records of everyone. The power, the difference is -- is slight. It might be a little bit slower for them to get what they're looking for, but no one has made the case that that is an urgent national security concern.

TAPPER: Supporters of the collection of bulk telephone metadata insist there have never been any abuses of the program. Is that true?

GELLMAN: It's really hard to define abuse. The government likes to say abuse is when someone does something that the government doesn't want it to do.

Other people think that the power itself and the secret interpretation of law that gave it that power for years without anyone knowing it in the general public, that's the abuse.

TAPPER: Now, others are saying, including Rand Paul, that private companies such as the phone companies having all of this data anyway isn't much of a difference.

I know you're a reporter, not necessarily an analyst, but is there a big difference between the government having all this information or private corporations, whether it's Verizon or Facebook having this information about us?

GELLMAN: Well, there are several differences. One is, the phone companies need it in order to bill you. They have to know who you called so they can keep the bills. They don't have to keep it for a long time. They don't have to cross-reference it with everybody else. They don't have to have this gigantic pre-computed database that draws social networks showing who's in communication with whom.

And when the government has information like that, it's just different.

TAPPER: I have read that intelligence officials believe that they have ways already right now, even in this period that we're in, to work around the expiration of the metadata program. Is that true?

GELLMAN: They do. They have lots. They some we know about and some we probably don't.

For one thing, there's a grandfather clause, saying that any ongoing investigation, any preexisting investigation, they can still use the power. And here's the thing. Their investigation is of -- they're enterprise investigations of terrorism that are never going to end. And so they could use that, if they want to, again, secretly, to keep getting what they're looking for.

TAPPER: Barton Gellman, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

And later this hour, we're going to take a look closer at how politics plays in the NSA debate and all the heat being taken by Senator Rand Paul because of it.

Let's turn now, of course, to another national lead, another big breaking story today, for the first time ever, the U.S. Supreme Court handing down legal judgments about what we post online, the high court ruling today in favor of a Pennsylvania man who posted several violent messages on Facebook. Anthony Elonis claimed he was just posting rap lyrics and that his words were not meant to be taken as threats.

That's of course not what his ex-wife thought.

Let's bring in Ariane de Vogue. She covers the Supreme Court for CNN.

Ariane, why was this case so important?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, the court today made it harder for the governor to prosecute alleged threats made on social media.

As you said, what was at issue is this man named Anthony Elonis. He posted really violent messages on Facebook after his wife left him. And he said he was doing it out of some sort of therapy, and sometimes the words were rap music.

But, in fact, they were really violent. One of them, he said, there's one way to love you, but 1,000 ways to kill you. And his ex-wife got scared. Eventually, he was convicted under this federal threat statute, but said he was wrongly convicted. He said that the standard used to convict him was too low. It was whether a reasonable person would think it was a crime.

And today the court agreed with him. So he wins, for now, but the court didn't get to a big constitutional issue. It just ruled at the statute at hand, and that's probably coming up later. TAPPER: OK. And then, I guess, you know, there are a number of

individuals who say that this is a defeat for parents, a defeat for victims of domestic violence. What's the latest on that front?

DE VOGUE: Well, so this is -- wasn't, like I said, a big constitutional ruling.

He held it to the statute, but two sides were really concerned on this. On one side, you had parents of children who were posting things on Facebook and they were worried about prosecutions coming too easily.

But, on the other side, you have domestic violence groups, groups worried about these threats on the Internet. And they didn't want to make it too easy to -- they were worried about these prosecutions and they wanted to make sure that the court kept a stern eye on that. So, that's what's at issue.


TAPPER: So it sounds like this is just the first step of the Supreme Court dipping a toe into the world of social media, with much more to come, in all likelihood?

DE VOGUE: And, in this world, the court moves -- moved slowly today, but there will be a lot of other cases coming down the pike in this big, new world of social media.

TAPPER: Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much.

In other national news today, a dramatic spike in crime in some of the nation's biggest cities, including Baltimore, which just saw its deadliest month in more than 40 years. What is behind this crime wave? What is being done to keep you safe? That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

[16:15:00] The national lead: several American cities are battling a spike in crime.

Take Baltimore, 43 homicides last month alone. That's the worst monthly total since 1972. The increase in homicides started almost immediately after Baltimore's top prosecutor announced charges against six police officers in the Freddie Gray case. He, of course, was the 25-year-old who died in police custody.

Gun violence in Baltimore also jumped 60 percent compared to this time last year. But get this -- Milwaukee homicides jumped 180 percent this year according to "The Wall Street Journal." New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, also all have had a recent surge in crime.

Sadly, the numbers across the country come after more than two decades of a steady decline in overall crime. Let's bring in David Klinger, a former LAPD officer and Redmond,

Washington police office, he's now a prompt of criminology and criminal justice at University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Also with me, CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander. He' president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and on President Obama's 21st Century Policing Task Force.

Gentlemen, to you both, thanks for being here.

David, let me start with you. Lots of cities with similar problems. Is there some sort of root cause to all of this?

DAVID KLINGER, FORMER LAPD OFFICER: Don't know for sure, but one thing that several people had been arguing for the last several weeks, particularly in the wake of what happened in Baltimore is de-policing. That is that police officers starting to pull back and not appropriately being aggressive. When I say appropriately being aggressive, what I mean is stopping and questioning people when in fact they do have reasonable suspicion, patting them down, they have reasonable suspicion, so on and so forth.

And if officers are merely responding to radio runs, and not stepping out, and talking to people who may be armed with a firearm and up to no good, they're free to prey on the innocent people in the community. It does make sense in the wake of concern on the past of law enforcement they are going to be unfairly prosecuted they'll step back and, unfortunately, that leaves a vacuum and the bad guys are going to step into that.

TAPPER: Cedric, what's your take? Why do you think we're seeing these surges in violence in so many major American cities?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT: Well, I think, as your guest just outlined, that certainly could be one reason for it and it could be a variety of reasons as well, too. Other things that could be happening in environment, Jake, that we're just not aware of -- not to just be able to look at these number of homicides that have been going up in Baltimore, but I think you have to look at what has been the uptick in other crimes such as thefts and burglaries and robberies. You might be able to draw a closer correlation there between police officers backing off as opposed to them doing what they were hired to do all of the time.

Because the one thing about homicides and murders, what you've got to be able to -- to decipher between each one that they all happened for a different variety of reasons. Did someone get shot and killed at a party because they stepped on someone's shoe? What is a robbery that was botched and went wrong? So you know, we've got to put a little science to this and we've got to be careful not to make arbitrary statements as to what might be driving these crimes up.

TAPPER: David, explain the mindset of police officers who are de- policing? Is it strictly they're afraid of being prosecuted unfairly? Is there anything else at stake? Is there resentment about the way in which many people in various communities throughout the country have been speaking about police officers? Is there -- forgive me for saying this but is there any petulance involved here? What is the mindset?

KLINGER: Among the officers that I spoken with, it's not petulance. Police office ever since I was on the job 30-plus years ago and even before that have been called all sorts of names in particular communities where there is tension between the police and the community. And so, I don't think it would be petulance, because that is sort of the standard background noise of being a police officer in major American cities.

But what I have heard officers in major cities on both coasts and here in the Midwest talk about is the concern of being unfairly prosecuted. And police officers, quite frankly, if an officer steps across the line, officers aren't going to be surprised if they step across the line, gets indicted, such as the officer in South Carolina who by all evidence at this point committed a crime.

What they're concerned about is overcharging. For example, how in the world can the two officers who merely arrested Freddie Gray be charged behind the death, so on and so forth? And that's what I'm hearing officers concerned about is am I going to be prosecuted for merely doing my job because a prosecutor has some novel theory where he or she wishes to get some skins on his or her political wall so that they can move up the chain? That's the concern I'm hearing officers voice.

TAPPER: Cedric, this weekend's "New York Post" cover read, "We need stop and frisk." Families of victims begging NYPD to bring back the policy after four murders this weekend.

[16:20:05] Now, some say not having this policy, which was very controversial, is a more permissive environment, allowing criminals to carry illegal weapons, not worried about getting caught. Does a policy like stop and frisk need to be put back in place?

ALEXANDER: Well, you know, I think that's going to have to be a decision that New York is going to have to take a real good look at. And maybe one of the issues, Jake, around stop and frisk, if you're going to do it, you got to do it according to the law. One thing you cannot do is go outside of how that is dictated by law, because if there's an abuse to stop and frisk, that's being done, then you're going to -- we're going to find ourselves back here at the same place.

But New York's a very smart city, has very smart leadership there, and I think they'll make a decision overall what's best for that city as they move forward, particularly at a time like this.

TAPPER: Cedric Alexander, David Klinger, thank you both. Appreciate it.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, an alarming undercover investigation show just how poorly TSA agents are doing their jobs. Weapons and mock explosives making it through airport security checkpoints. 95 percent of the time. So, what is being done to stop any real bombs? Plus -- new details on the torture and murders of a D.C. family and

their maid. We now know how the accused quadruple murderer may have gotten into the mansion.


[16:25:52] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Los Angeles today.

In our politics lead, the race for the White House is heating up. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is the latest Republican to declare he's running for president, bringing the total number of official GOP candidates to nine.

Graham is using the battle over the NSA's data collection program and long history of national security experience to try to draw a contrast between his campaign and that of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us now live from Central, South Carolina, where Senator Graham made his announcement earlier today.

Dana, is being a hawk on national security and international affairs Graham's basic pitch?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. He did, Jake, talk about the need to reach across the aisle on big issues, like immigration reform, he has done that, and to do that in the future, for things like fixing Social Security and Medicare. But his big push was on a muscular foreign policy with him as commander in chief.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Lindsey Graham and I'm running for president of the United States.

BASH (voice-over): With that, the ninth Republican made it official. Lindsey Graham's long-shot run is steeped heavily in his hawkish world view.

GRAHAM: I ought to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us. Not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them!

BASH: Graham barely scratching 1 percent in most polls knows he has a tough hill to climb. CNN is told he's running primarily to force a debate within the GOP on foreign policy.

GRAHAM: Those who believe we can disengage from the world at large and be safe by leading from behind, vote for someone else.

BASH: There are a not so subtle dig on Rand Paul, a non- interventionist and Graham's chief foil particularly on national security. For months, the two have exchanged long distance barbs and Graham was even caught rolling his eyes as Paul talked. SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight begins the

process of ending bulk collection.

BASH: Paul's headline-breaking filibuster temporarily stopped the government's data dragnet program, which Graham and most other Republicans call essential. It was a welcome contrast for Graham.

PAUL: So, little by little, we've allowed our freedom to slip away. We allowed the Fourth Amendment to be diminished.

BASH: Yet Paul is pursuing a different kind of primary voter, libertarians. His #standwithrand social media hashtag is generating buzz online and dollars for his presidential campaign.

PAUL: When fear and complacency allow power to accumulate --

BASH: He's even using some epic Senate floor speeches in this campaign video, which violated Senate rules prohibiting video of Senate proceedings for political purposes.

Paul's rhetoric is generating some unwanted headlines like making this accusation against opponents.

PAUL: Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.

BASH: This morning, he walked that back.

PAUL: I think sometimes going after people's motives and impugning people's motives is a mistake. And in the heat of battle, I think sometimes hyperbole can get the better of all of us.


BASH: Now, again, it is hardly just Graham who disagrees with Paul on this issue. Nearly every other Republican, either running for president or considering running for president, also disagrees. And Paul takes pride in that. His advisers, Jake, say that is why he is going to do well, they insist though, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But I am here in military-rich South Carolina, it certainly seems the do what you need to do mentality could likely prevail and that, of course, speaks to its son here, Lindsey Graham.

TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, meanwhile, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced Saturday that he is seeking his party's nomination. And in Iowa this weekend, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continued his sprint across the Hawkeye State delivering a populist message before capacity crowds.

What does all of this mean for 2016?

Joining me is CNN's newest political commentator, Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama, who served in the White House from 2008 until earlier in this year.

Dan, thanks so much for being here. Welcome to CNN.