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Bond Set for $1 Million for Woman Who Plowed Car Into Parade; Report: Pentagon Spying on North Korea Through American Charities; Fisherman Saves Refugee Child Floating In Sea; Whale-Watching Boat Sinks, Five Killed; Experts: Bacon, Ho Dogs, Red Meat Cause Cancer. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 26, 2015 - 16:30   ET




Today's national lead: Bond is now set at $1 million for a woman accused of intentionally plowing her car into a crowd, killing four people. A mental health evaluation could offer some answers into how this homecoming horror story happened this past Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Cell phone video shows the car careening through a line of Oklahoma State University fans lined up for a parade. Those killed include Marvin Stone and his wife, Bonnie, Nakita Prabhakar and Nash Lucas, who was only 2 years old.

Today, the driver, Adacia Chambers, appeared in court on murder charges. Her lawyer insists alcohol was not a factor and that there have been warning signs about her mental state.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins me now live outside the courthouse.

Nick, what have you learned in court today?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, she said very little during her first appearance since being accused of using her car to mow down people at that parade on Saturday morning here in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

She just said yes when asked if she could hear what the court was saying about her. Bond, as you mentioned, was set at $1 million. The judge also permitting a motion filed by her defense attorney for her to get a psychological evaluation to be determined at a later date. She's also accused of driving under the influence, a charge that her attorney adamantly denies.

He says there's absolutely no way that she was drunk or on drugs while she's accused of crashing her car into this very packed crowd. We did learn a little bit more about her mental health history, though, an issue, according to her attorney, that played a big role in what happened here on Saturday. According to her attorney, she spent -- several years ago spent some

time in a mental health facility. He says he believes that that was more of a role in what happened Saturday than her being under the influence or impaired in any way -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Nick, you spoke with Chambers' boyfriend. What did he have to say?

VALENCIA: I did. On the way out of the courtroom, we walked out together actually and I was asking him about his girlfriend. I asked if this is the girl that he knew, and he described her as a Christian, somebody who doesn't take drugs or alcohol.

He was quick to point out he also is sober, doesn't take drugs or alcohol, and he says this is completely out of her character and not the person that he knows. We also heard from her father, who says that her son -- or her -- daughter, I should say, is somebody who is an upstanding citizen, a soft-spoken person who would give anyone a big hug if they saw her.

That's not the person described by her attorney. He described her as withdrawn today, somebody that was making very limited eye contact. Of course, we weren't able to see her. She appeared by TV monitor. And it seems that monitor was deliberately turned away from the courtroom gallery, but she was described by her attorney as being withdrawn and lacking any sort of emotion, Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

It could be the plot of any spy novel, smuggling espionage equipment with the help of Bibles and ski jackets. Employees who were never told that the charity they worked for was really a front for American espionage, it reportedly happened all in an effort to infiltrate North Korea -- that fascinating scoop coming up next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our buried lead now. A shocking new report alleges that for the most part of the last decade, a multimillion-dollar Pentagon plan for spying on North Korea consisted of essentially secretly hijacking American charity groups there, using unwitting volunteers to gather information on the ground.

It sounds like a TV spy series, but according to The Intercept, it's the real plot uncovered by a months-long investigation. The Pentagon using a Christian nonprofit called Humanitarian International Services Group and its president, Kay Hiramine, as a cover for espionage.

Sources told The Intercept that the group which has since closed allegedly ship contraband Bibles to the hermit nation to test security and transportation routes and then the Pentagon arranged for the group to smuggle in radio beacons and other spying equipment. Government funding enabled the charity to grow and with it the

Pentagon's knowledge presumably of Kim Jong-un's super secret regime.

The Intercepts Matthew Cole, who broke this story, joins me now, along with retired CIA operative Bob Baer, who is quoted in the story.

Matthew, first of all, does reporting this story put anyone at risk?

MATTHEW COLE, THE INTERCEPT: We don't think so, Jake.

First of all, the program ended about three years ago. So whatever assets they had put into place have at least gone stale. Secondly, we went to the Pentagon about two weeks before we published today to give them an opportunity to let us know whether there was anything that was harmful or dangerous. And they had no comment.

So I think the real question is whether or not programs like these that use NGOs, people who do legitimate humanitarian work are really -- whether it's a good policy for the U.S. government to use them as cover for espionage because of the risks that do come if it ever gets out.

TAPPER: Let's talk about that. What more can you tell us about these shipments into North Korea? You reported that the president of the group never told these volunteers what was going on.

COLE: Yes. It's a little murky as to who within the company knew.

We know that it's possible that there were a few other executives at HISG who knew, but as far as we can tell and from our sources, most of the workers of HISG had no idea. And the idea is that they acted as a cut-out.

The Pentagon would task them to get things into North Korea and they would use -- HISG and Kay Hiramine would use the network that they had of other missionaries, other aid workers who could get into North Korea at some regularity to move things, unwitting of the fact that they were doing it for the Pentagon, and in some cases moving equipment without knowing what it was that they might have been moving.

TAPPER: Bob Baer, as a former CIA operative, doesn't this raise red flags to you? I mean, this really theoretically could put innocent humanitarian workers at real peril.



I mean, you have to look at Abbottabad, where we're trying to collect DNA, and, you know, vaccination programs completely went under there. And the Pakistanis turned on them.

And this puts at risk all Christian missionary groups across the world that work in hostile areas. They're going to be called spies. And they're going to be looking at this North Korean thing. Yes, it puts them at risk, absolutely.

TAPPER: Matthew, this program was secret and you say with very little oversight throughout both the Bush and Obama administrations. Why was it able to continue as long as it did?

COLE: Well, first of all, the nature of the way it was classified meant that it was very limited in terms of who outside of the people in the Pentagon knew.

We know it was briefed to the Appropriations and the Armed Services Committee. We know it was probably briefed to the Intel committees, but in those briefings it's only the chair and the ranking members. No staff is allowed in. They're not allowed to take notes. The rest is held by the White House.

And so the question is -- you know, the indication that we got about how it was briefed as well was that they had an NGO that had access into what they called a denied area and that was something that they needed. They were very blind in North Korea. It wasn't out of nowhere that they came up with the idea to try to get in. They were desperate.

I don't think that there was any real mention of the religious association of both the organization that was being used and then the unwitting people in North Korea who were being used further down the line.

TAPPER: And, Bob, U.S. clergy and journalists and Peace Corps volunteers are protected from missions like this. There's a ban on operatives portraying themselves as those groups, but charitable groups are still fair game for spying?

BAER: Exactly.

Executive Order 12333, you can't get clergy, you can't do Peace Corps. You're absolutely right. But NGOs are fair game. But I think, Jake, the real thing is these operations never work. I have been involved in these going back to the '70s and they just don't work, this collecting what we call trash and ash.

And at the end of the day, if you don't really have controlled assets in North Korea, they're not going to work. So I think we put these missionaries at risk for no possible gain. And I think Cole's story is very good in seeing how desperate we are to get intelligence in North Korea. We just don't have any. This story tells us a lot of things about where we stand with that country.

TAPPER: And, Bob, it seems like it would be terrifying the idea of how many programs out there like this might exist. And there's just this very minimal if any oversight, as Matt describes in his -- as Matthew describes in his piece.

BAER: Absolutely. Well, it's the failures of the committees on the Hill. I mean, they don't really look at these things. They come in and they get cursory briefings. They don't really understand them. And the people on the Hill don't understand intelligence, don't understand these things don't work.

And this is why we're talking about it in the press, because American intelligence has failed us repeatedly in operations like this. And we as Americans need to know about this, especially when we're putting other Americans at risk and they're not witting.

TAPPER: Matthew Cole broke this story for The Intercept.

Matthew, thanks so much for talking to us. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: Bob Baer, thanks so much for joining. Appreciate it.

Screams of joy, "He's alive," after fishermen found this toddler floating in the ocean, a near miraculous rescue next.

Plus, experts warning that bacon can kill you. Is any amount safe to eat?


[16:30:11] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The World Lead now, dramatic video highlights the often deadly voyage thousands of Syrian refugees are making trying to escape their war torn homeland.

The video shows the rescue of an 18-month-old boy, a fisherman passing by spotted the toddler and others in the cold water strapped into life jackets. Turkish media reports they were initially in a refugee boat that capsized.

Keep in mind please as you watch the video that this boy does survive. He does survive.


TAPPER: The man cleared the water from the boy's lungs, wrapped him in a blanket and we can now report he is with his mother in Turkey, and according to her he has recovered. He is of course one of the lucky ones. More than 3,000 other refugees have drowned or disappeared trying to escape to Europe according to the International Organization for Migration.

Also in the World Lead today, a weekend sightseeing trip is now a desperate recovery search. One person missing after a tour boat capsized off of Canada's west coast.

Five others were killed when the whale watching boat sank yesterday afternoon off the coast of British Columbia's Vancouver Island. And with no storms in the area it is unclear what made that boat take on water.

CNN's Stephanie Elam just arrived not far from the search scene. Stephanie, what do we know about the underwater search operation? STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, Jake, that they've been looking for this missing person day and night. We understand that there have been five people that lost their lives, four of them being male, and their ages ranging from 18 to 76.

Now, there's one person out there and they continue to search day and night in these waters trying to find that individual who is still out there.

And when you take a look at how scary it was, there's some amateur video that we have that we can show you of this ship actually sinking.

According to some locals here it may be a case of just the weather not being rough as far as the storm, but the waves being rough. And that may have been enough to toss this boat and toss everyone into the water here.

So they continue to search, but it's not like it's right here off the doc where we are here. It's about eight nautical miles into the water here off the coast here on the western side here of this island which is Vancouver Island off the coast of the mainland of British Columbia -- Jake.

TAPPER: Stephanie, the same boating company was involved in another deadly accident. What are you learning about that case?

[16:50:11] ELAM: Right. That was in 1998. And there were four people on the boat. The operator of the boat and three tourists, they went out to see marine life.

And the way it has been explained is that there was a swell, a large swell that came up and tossed the boat into the water so quickly that there wasn't chance to get a mayday signal out.

After that happened two of the people died including the operator and two were rescued. At that point -- at this point though there's no reason to compare the two incidents other than to say there's been a tragic accident that has happened more than once with this same company -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Also in world headlines, a sense of panic in Afghanistan after a powerful 7.5 earthquake today, nearly 230 people are estimated dead with hundreds more hurt. The quake rattled northeastern Afghanistan early this morning.

People could feel it hundreds of miles away in the neighboring countries of Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan. The force collapsed homes and buildings.

Twelve girls died in stampede. The students were crushed while trying to evacuate their school. Poor infrastructure is making the search for survivors difficult. Tremors have been shaking the region all day. The epicenter is located in a rural area in the middle of the mountains where not a lot of people live. The United Nations is putting relief teams on standby ready to respond to requests.

Wolf Blitzer is now here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, Russia continuing to interject their warplanes into the Syrian conflict and you're going to have General Wesley Clark onto talk.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, and also Representative Adam Smith, he's the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. You saw him last week also on the Benghazi committee, very forceful, very tough on a lot of these issues.

Here's what's happening right now. Russia's obviously deeply involved in Syria. The U.S. now last week Secretary of State Kerry met with the Russians, met with the Turks, met with the Saudis.

But now apparently there's an effort under way to get another country involved in these talks to try to resolve what's going on in Syria namely Iran. Iran has a lot of influence in Syria as well.

The question is, is the U.S. now going to bring Iran into these negotiations to deal with the future of Syria? Iran is a major supporter of Bashar Al Assad like the Russians are. And will the Saudis for example who have their own animosity with the Iranians go along with this?

This is a very, very delicate issue right now, very sensitive issue. Will Iran be involved? We'll talk about this with Wesley Clark, Adam Smith, and we'll do some of our own reporting on what's going on. It's a big deal though.

TAPPER: Former President Jimmy Carter had a rather arch op-ed in the "New York Times" today saying that they wanted -- they had a proposal to try to bring peace to the region, but the Obama administration would not bend on demanding Assad step down looking forward to the segment.

Coming up, experts say hotdogs, bacon, red meat processed might pose as big a cancer risk as smoking. So does that mean you should stop eating bacon completely? That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our National Lead now, bacon it goes with everything. Whether wrapped, infused, sprinkled on top or served straight up, Americans pig out on the meat more and more.

But now those buzz kills that the World Health Organization has released a new warning bacon, hotdogs, and sausages they say can cause cancer. The public health group is putting processed meat in the same category as smoking and asbestos based on how certain they are about the link with cancer. I want to bring in CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, to break this all down for us. Elizabeth, explain this new warning.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the World Health Organization has been very plain and very clear about this that these meats are carcinogens. Let's take a look at the numbers.

What they say is that if you eat a hotdog a day or some other similar size portion of processed meat, you are increasing your risk of colon cancer by 18 percent. Now, that's not nearly as much as say smoking would, but still it's 18 percent.

And they say when you look worldwide processed meat is responsible for 34,000 cancer deaths worldwide per year. Now, when it comes to regular meat like let's say a steak, they say that's probably a carcinogen.

They say there's limited evidence. They're not as sure as they are with processed meat, but probably a carcinogen.

TAPPER: I assume the meat industry is not too pleased with this announcement.

COHEN: They are not too pleased at all. They put out a very strongly worded statement. I'm going to read you a part of it. They say cancer is a complex disease. No single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer. The available scientific evidence simply does not support a causal relationship between red or processed meat and any type of cancer.

TAPPER: Obviously people are not going to stop eating bacon or hotdogs or processed meats. Is there an amount that's safe to eat?

COHEN: There really isn't an amount. The World Health Organization didn't set a safe amount. They just said, member countries see if you want to make some guidelines for your citizens. So what we can do is think about risk.

If you want to take that risk, if you want to increase your risk of colon cancer by 18 percent by having a hotdog a day, that's your choice. You can do that.

I want to say, Jake, I was talking once to some doctors at Harvard who've been doing this exact kind of research, and they said when they looked at the evidence they decided not to eat processed meats hardly at all.

One doctor said I might go to a ball game with my kids once a year in the summer, then I'll have a hotdog, but he said other than that I just avoid it.

TAPPER: Yikes. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Please don't have any bacon or hotdogs this evening -- I'm just joking. Turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."