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Obama Lays Out Plans to Help Inmates; Highlighting the Need for Treatment and Education Facilities for Inmates; Chipotle Stocks Fall in E. Coli Scare; Chipotle Closes Stores After E. Coli Outbreak; New Airstrikes Target ISIS In Iraq And Syria; New Book Explores Catastrophic Fallout From Cyberattack. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 2, 2015 - 16:00   ET





We're looking at live pictures right now, President Obama at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he's laying out new plans, a bit controversial, to help, he says, thousands of federal inmates get out and stay out of prison. As many as 6,000 inmates were granted early release over the weekend.

Today, the president is calling on Congress to -- quote -- "ban the box," meaning banning employers from asking about jail time on initial job applications.

Here's some of what he just said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From all these conversations, I have at times despaired about the magnitude of the problem.

I have asked myself, how do we break the cycle that has young children somehow on that pipeline where they end up incarcerated?

And yet what's interesting is, I have been really hopeful as well during the course of this year, because what I have seen is that there are people across the board, folks who work inside the criminal justice system, folks who are affected by the criminal justice system, who are saying there's got to be a better way to do this.


TAPPER: President Obama also visited a drug treatment facility earlier today to highlight the need for treatment and education programs.

Joining me to discuss these programs is CNN contributor and former Obama adviser Van Jones. Van, let's start with just the timing of this. This is a man who's

been president for roughly six-and-a-half years. He's got about a year-and-a-half left. Why now? Has he wanted to do this forever and he's just now finally got the space to do it?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think it's been smart for him to let some Republicans lead on this.


You have got Republican governors. Rick Perry closed three prisons and brought crime down at the same time. People notice that. Kasich in Ohio pushed for criminal justice reform. You have Deal in Georgia, a Republican, hard-core Republican governor, and got 100 percent of the legislature to begin to close prisons, completely reform that system.

So you now have Republican governors out there that have proven you can bring crime down and incarceration down at the same time. So he has the space now to bring the federal government into alignment with a lot of states.

TAPPER: The NYPD commissioner, Bill Bratton, expressing concern, pointing out that just because somebody is in prison for a nonviolent offense doesn't mean that that person is not violent or that the original crime before it was pleaded down or whatever was not violent.

How do you make the argument to people in the neighborhoods where these inmates are returning this is going to be good?

JONES: Well, listen, first of all, I have deep roots in Oakland. I live in Los Angeles. This is a real issue every day.

There are 600,000 people who leave federal and state prisons every year right now. This is just 6,000. This is literally a rounding error on the overall number of people who are coming home. And we have been doing this the dumb way. We basically take people out of physical prison and then we put them into economic prison, where you say, you can't get a job, you can't vote, you can't get a student loan, you can't get an apartment. Good luck.

And then, surprise, surprise, half of the people wind up in trouble again. Well, the great thing about what Obama's doing, he's not just opening the door letting these 6,000 people out. He's got a whole federal interagency process that has come together to put millions of dollars on the table to help these folks land on their feet.

What I would say is, don't just do it for the 6,000. You have got 55,000 federal inmates that come home every year. We should be doing this completely differently. When people come home from prison, that's the time to step up and make sure they land on their feet, not put more barriers in their way.

TAPPER: Just a few days ago, I talked to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker about this. As you know, he's been very active in this movement and trying to draw legislation draft legislation. Take a listen.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: When a person comes out of prison, what are we doing to these folks when we slap on all of these collateral consequences that prevent them from getting a job, a business license, a Pell Grant, a loan?

We need to start doing commonsense things that when somebody comes out of prison, we are -- believe, like the prodigal child, that we should empower that person to reintegrate into society, as opposed to closing doors, where they go back. And it's why we have these outrageous recidivism rates in our country that just cost taxpayers more money and destroy more lives.


TAPPER: But that's also one of the arguments, Van, that this actually -- the way that we're doing it now is more expensive because we're not putting the money up on the short end. And so we're ending up spending all this money on crime and prisons.

JONES: Well, here's the thing you got to be clear about.

These 6,000 that are coming out, you can't have 6,000 people at a baseball game without somebody doing something stupid. So, somebody in that group is going to do something bad. We need to get ready for that. But the reality is that people, when they are given an opportunity and if you spend the money the right way, they tend to do better.

Right now, you spend so much money on people when they're locked up. You talk to the average grandma in Oakland, she will say, listen, I knew my 10-year-old was in trouble when he was 10. I couldn't get any help for tutoring, I couldn't get help for counseling, I couldn't get any dollars to help the kid when he was little.

Then he turns 16 and he gets in trouble. Now they spend $100,000 a year locking him up. And when he comes home, there's no more money. Well, hold on a second. If you gave me the $100,000, I could have kept him out of trouble or I could help him now.

You only spend the money when you have them locked up. That's a way to make sure that people actually come out worse and don't do better. So what you're seeing right now with the Obama administration, and not just this administration, Republican governors too, saying we got to spend this money more wisely.

TAPPER: All right, Van Jones, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In our money lead, Chipotle closing dozens of restaurants after more than 20 people were sickened by E. coli. But does the company even know what specifically caused the outbreak?

Plus, is our nation prepared for a cyber-attack that could wipe out power across the country for potentially years? Ted Koppel says, no way. And his scary warning is coming up.



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

The money lead now, people potentially losing their lunch while others lose millions of dollars, as Chipotle stock fell today on news that it was temporarily closing dozens of stores in reaction to an E. coli scare; 22 cases of E. coli have been reported so far, sending eight people to the hospital, all of them in Oregon and Washington State.

Most of them ate at the burrito chain before they became sick.

CNN Money's Cristina Alesci joins me now.

Cristina, we still don't know what exactly is causing this, though, right?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The source is still unknown.

And, Jake, this is a case where Chipotle's two biggest selling points are also its biggest weakness, because, remember, their items are highly customizable, so the people who got sick most likely all had different things in their burrito or their bowl.

Also, Chipotle also prides itself on freshness. Well, if you're not cooking the food, then you're not killing pathogens, so, both right there really complex things for the investigators both on the state and the federal level to work through at this point.

But one thing is for sure. There will be more cases, because now that the news is out, anyone that's eaten at a Chipotle and feels sick in those areas will go ahead and go to the doctor's. Remember, this isn't just a tummy ache. Some E. coli infections actually result in long-term health implications.

So this is a big problem for the company. Now, the cases have been linked to six stores. But the company's gone ahead and closed all of the stores in those two states, that's 43 in total. That could lead to a hit in sales, but here's the thing, Jake.

At the end of the day this is a company that has been successful because of its reputation. Its reputation for wholesome food, for good food, and this is not the first outbreak they've seen.

In Minnesota, just a couple months ago they had a problem with tomatoes. So, listen, most consumers when it comes to these kinds of outbreaks they pay attention to the news for a little while, then it goes away.

Here though we have a restaurant chain that prides itself in providing the best ingredients possible. So there is a little bit of a higher standard. Look, no one is saying this is 1993 Jack in the Box where obviously that was horrific example of food -- lack in standards in food safety where several children died, but clearly major concerns for Chipotle here. I'm hearing the company is just trying to figure it out -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you so much. Also in world news today, it is something the president on many occasions had vowed not to do.

But today we're getting a clearer picture of his options for putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and how close they could be to combat.

Combat such as this coalition air strikes, pounding ISIS safe havens and oil fields as Kurdish fighters desperately try to reclaim cities taken by ISIS terrorists.

CNN Barbara Starr joins us now live at the Pentagon. Barbara, do we know what's next for U.S. troops in Syria?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, funny thing but not a surprise. The Pentagon is already talking about expanding the mission yet again, an effort that could put even more U.S. troops on the ground and in danger.


STARR (voice-over): U.S. special operations forces preparing for a new assignment on the ground in Northern Syria arriving within weeks working with local fighters to help them go against ISIS, the Pentagon says.

Fresh air strikes on the Syrian-Iraqi border part of the effort to cut ISIS supply lines and isolate their strongholds forcing them into vulnerable battlefield positions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is putting ISIS on the defensive. They can't continue their offensive movement if they have people fighting against them.

STARR: The ultimate goal, get U.S. supported fighters as far south as Raqqa, ISIS' capital. But for now the local Arab and Kurdish forces are poorly equipped. The Pentagon has yet to provide heavy weapons, but U.S. air support is moving in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do have small arms and trucks, but they also have mortars and they now have overwhelming forces coming in from the air. When you're talking about combining A-10s and F-15s with ground forces in a desert environment, you have a significant advantage over ISIS, which doesn't have those aircraft.

STARR: And the Pentagon considering further expansion including more special operations forces for raids in Syria and Iraq against ISIS leadership, more Apache helicopter gunships for low altitude attacks and possibly U.S. forward air controllers on the ground to help pick out targets.

U.S. troops in Iraq may now be based with smaller Iraqi units closer to the front lines. All still as advisers the Pentagon insists. A U.S. official tells CNN the Russians are also expanding their operations now flying from a third air base just as the administration is trying to keep up the pressure on Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been saying they have a strategy that is doomed to fail.


STARR: And behind the scenes Pentagon officials will tell you none of this adds up to being a game changer to ultimately defeat ISIS. Even this will not be enough and it will be a very long road ahead -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr, thanks so much. A stark warning from Ted Koppel, the U.S. government is entirely unprepared for a cyber-attack that could wipe out power for years. But Koppel says one religious group knows exactly how to react. He joins me to explain next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our National Lead, what keeps national security officials up at night? Believe it or not, the power grid, incredibly vulnerable to cyber-attack, officials say, and the repercussions could be catastrophic.

This is what happened in New York back in 2003 when just a few overgrown trees disrupted the grid. That entire state lost power. Airports shut down, Wall Street stopped trading.

And that was nothing according to a new book that argues that the U.S. is now more vulnerable than ever to a cyber-attack that could blanket this country in darkness without heat, working water, working toilets, working medical equipment for up to two years.

Legendary journalist, Ted Koppel, investigated just how unprepared the United States is to defend such an attack in his new book, "Lights Out," Ted, my former boss, thanks for joining me today.

TED KOPPEL, AUTHOR, "LIGHTS OUT": I was never your former boss, but thank you.

TAPPER: I answer to your show when I reported to "Night Line," you were my boss. Let's move onto more important matters. You suggest in the book that our power grid could not have been designed worse if our enemies had built it. Explain exactly what you mean. Where are these vulnerabilities?

KOPPEL: Well, the vulnerabilities lie in the internet. The internet as one army intelligence officer told me was designed so that professors could exchange good ideas. It was never designed to be defended. And when something is designed without even the concept of hacking being the possibility, then superimposing defenses on it later is very, very difficult, all but impossible.

[16:55:05] TAPPER: A congressional commission to which you refer in the book estimated that only one in ten of us would survive a year into a nationwide blackout because of starvation, disease, societal breakdown.

In your book you quote many top officials who share your concerns about this potential cyber-attack, the former CIA Director Panetta, former NSA Director Alexander. But what's the problem with Congress and the power companies? Why is there not the will to fix this?

KOPPEL: It's not a question of will. As I say, the internet is not designed to be defended. It's much easier -- we have tremendous attack capabilities in terms of cyber warfare. Anything that anyone can do to us we can do to them in space.

But the fact of the matter is when it comes to defending something like, you know, the power industry is made up of 3,200 companies. The biggest, the best are fairly well defended, even they can be penetrated.

The smallest don't have the money for it and are not well defended and because of the nature of the internet if you can penetrate one of the small ones, you can work your way back to the computerized systems that controls the balance between energy production and energy consumption.

What has to happen on the grid is there has to be a perfect balance between power that is generated and power that is consumed. If for any reason at all you can get into that computerized system, which maintains that perfect balance, you can destroy the whole thing.

TAPPER: So what do you recommend? What needs to happen?

KOPPEL: Well, what needs to happen at the very least is we need to be prepared for the consequences of this. And I would say, Jake, we are at a perfect time in our history, we're right at the beginning of a major political event in our nation's history, the presidential campaign.

We need to be talking about it. The candidates need to be looking at it. We need to have a public discussion of what if anything the federal government can do to deal with the consequences of an attack like this.

The likelihood of it happening, the Chinese are already in our grid. The Russians are already in our grid. Either one of them could knock out if not an entire grid at least a significant portion of it.

The Chinese and the Russians though aren't likely to do it because of the many interrelationships we have with them. But only just behind them are the Iranians in terms of their capabilities. Little bit more likely. North Koreans, much more likely, the Syrians actually have a very effective cyber-attack capability and most frightening of the all, groups like ISIS, which apparently has about $2 billion that they have stolen over the past couple of years. With $2 billion you can buy a lot of expertise and the experts can buy the equipment they need off the shelf.

TAPPER: In the event of one of the grids going down, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster preparedness recommends that families, individuals have a two-day supply of water, some cash, few flashlights, portable radio and batteries. You are now an expert on this issue. Do you have more than that in your emergency kit?

KOPPEL: I do. I must tell you I spent three days in Salt Lake City with the leadership of the Mormon Church. The Mormons who have 200 years' worth of experience of dealing with disaster and having been in effect driven across the country ending up in Salt Lake City -- well, wasn't Salt Lake City at the time.

But ending up settling near a Salt Lake because Brigham Young figured it was relatively secure, nobody else would want to come there. This is an organization 6 million Mormons in this country, an organization that is accustom to preparing for disaster.

We have a lot to learn from them. Not the least of which is members of the Mormon Church are encouraged to have at least a three to six- month supply of food, water, extra cash in order to take care of themselves in the event of a major disaster.

TAPPER: Do you mind if I ask what you have beyond what FEMA recommends?

KOPPEL: Well, we've got -- I have just over the last couple of months because of what I've learned I've purchased freeze-dried food, couple of months' worth of freeze-dried food for all of my kids and their kids. We have seven grandchildren.

We've purchased enough food for all of them. We have plenty of water and we have plenty of freeze-dried food, and we have a couple of emergency generators. Even they may turn out to be a problem because you're going to have trouble getting the fuel for emergency generators if you're using diesel.

We're on natural gas, but natural gas has to be powered through the lines ultimately by pumps that are run by electricity.

TAPPER: Ted Koppel, thanks so much. The book is "Lights Out, A Cyber Attack, A Nation Unprepared Surviving The Aftermath."