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Cyber-attacks On Russia; Attack On Oil Tankers In Gulf Of Oman; New: Staten Island Mother Dies At Dominican Republic Resort; U.S. Women's Team Pushes Back Against Critics After 13-0 Rout; House Intel Committee Holds First Hearing On Deepfake Videos. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 15, 2019 - 20:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin tonight with breaking news. The U.S. ramping up cyber- security attacks against Russia in an unprecedented way. According to "The New York Times," the U.S. has targeted Russia's electrical power grid and planted potentially crippling malware. This malware has been placed at a depth that has never been attempted before. And it's, reportedly, been placed without President Trump's knowledge.

"The Times" reports the president has not been briefed on this operation out of concern that he might either end it or discuss it with other foreign officials. Instead, according to the paper, officials have been acting under new powers slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer.

With us now, one of the reporters behind this incredibly researched piece, "The New York Times" David Sanger. His new book, by the way, is called "The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age." Also, here with us, former CIA officer, Evan McMullin. We should note, Evan launched a third-party run for president in 2016.

David, what is the reason for ramping up this cyber operation?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the main reason is that Russia, of course, has been in the U.S. power grid for many, many years and has gotten incredibly aggressive there. We cite in the story, and you've reported before, about many of the cases where Russian malware has been found inside nuclear power plants, water plants, all kinds of substations and so forth.

Now, we've never known for sure, Ana, whether or not that is there because the Russians really have an intent to go turn off the power sometime. They never have. Or whether it is there to prepare them if there was ever a conflict.

The U.S. strategy, until now, has been largely one of surveillance. But not one of placing incredibly aggressive malware back in their systems. And that has changed over the past year, as you said, and as the story reports, because of new legislation and new presidential orders that allow U.S. cyber command to go take far more aggressive defensive actions and some offensive actions for deterrence purposes. We just don't know if it'll work.

CABRERA: David, one of the more stunning revelations in your reporting is that President Trump is not being briefed. Explain.

SANGER: So, these new -- this new legislative authority for cyber command gives the secretary of Defense the opportunity to simply order these as part of what's called traditional military activities. And so, in cyberspace, you can begin to do things that prepare the battlefield, much as you would if you were patrolling the Persian Gulf or sending air flights over Russia or doing something undersea.

And the president is not briefed on each and every one of them. What makes this particularly interesting, though, is we know, from other reporting in other cases, that the chairman of the joint chiefs, the intelligence officials, and others, are reluctant to give very in- depth briefings to the president on issues related to Russia for the uncertainty about how he'll react.

CABRERA: And, Evan, the president, we know, is supposed to meet face- to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit later this month. Shouldn't he know about an operation like this before meeting with Putin? Couldn't it put him at a disadvantage, if he doesn't know about it?

SANGER: It might. And I'm sure that he knows, generally, that U.S. Cyber Command has gotten significantly more aggressive. And he signed an order, executive order, national security order number 13 last summer, that devolves a lot of power to cyber command to take actions like this without coming up for presidential approval.

But when we did our reporting, we discovered that, in fact, there has not been extensive briefings, that we could find any indication of, that suggest the president understood the depth of the operation.

CABRERA: Evan, your reaction to the president apparently not knowing.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER OFFICER, CIA: Yes. Look, in conventional and normal times, certainly this would put a president at a disadvantage or, perhaps, not prepare him as well as he could be prepared to sit down with Putin.

But we're not in normal times. This isn't a conventional president. This is a president who came to power with the support of Russian backing. This is a president who, you know, as recently as this week, is saying that he would accept foreign help if it -- you know, in certain circumstances again.

[20:05:00] So, you know, this is a president who has a -- has a track record of telling or talking about sensitive operations that he shouldn't to the Russians. So, this just isn't a normal time. And I think we can't look at it in that way. The president can't be trusted with this kind of information and for natural reasons. Therefore, the security services are hesitant to give it to him.

But not only does that put him at a disadvantage, although I think it's warranted, it also, more importantly, puts the country at a disadvantage. Where we can't trust the commander in chief, the chief executive officer of the country, with information, national security information that's critical to keeping our elections, our power grid, and other key assets secure.

CABRERA: Putting the president's direct involvement in all this aside, Evan, advocates of this strategy say it's been long overdue. They point out that Russia has already inserted malware that could wreck U.S. power plants, oil and gas pipelines, water supplies. Is this a new cold war?

MCMULLIN: You know, David's reporting is excellent on this. And, you know, he also is saying that, look, some of this has been happening for some time. What we're -- what he's reporting on is an escalation or a deepening of efforts, an improvement of U.S. efforts. But, on some level, I'll say, we've been involved in this before and in the past. Again, this is a step up, not, sort of, something that's entirely new.

And so, I say that just to say that that, you know, it's a -- it's a -- it's a move in the right direction. I'm encouraged to hear this, that we see parts of the Executive Branch, government officials working hard to protect our country, even though they can't entirely bring the president in or trust him with knowledge of everything they're doing, which, again, is definitely suboptimal. It is a step in the right direction.

What I'll say, though, is that this isn't necessarily going to help us deter some of Russia's cyber malign cyber-activities against the United States in and of itself. Because the Russians will look at this and say -- and make a judgment about our willingness to use these tools.

And the use of these tools can be lethal. If you deny power to, say, a couple of hundred thousand or a million Russians, you're talking about the possibility of creating traffic accidents, turning off infer -- or turning off electrical equipment that people depend on to stay alive in hospitals and at home, and causing other problems. These can -- this can be a lethal step.

And so, you know, would we apply these tools, for example, in order to defend our elections, our political infrastructure? Probably not. And so, their deterrence strength or value is probably not quite right to protect -- to deter the Russians from taking much of the malign activity or making much of the malign activity they have, over the last few years at least.

CABRERA: Now, David, when you wrote this story, obviously, you take into account, when you're reporting, if this is going to create some kind of a national security concern among the officials. So, that wasn't one of their concerns. They believe Russia already knows about what they're doing? Or explain how you, --


CABRERA: -- you know, went about that.

SANGER: Sure. So, this is, obviously, something that comes up very frequently in our national security reporting. And I -- certainly it comes up a lot in cyber, because so much about cyber is wrapped in secrecy. We went to the U.S. government. We explained exactly what we had. They chose not to go speak about it.

But we also asked them a question. Do you see anything in the reporting that we've got here that is likely to be harmful to American national security, which is your way of saying, are we telling the Russians here something they don't really know? And, as the story suggests, some of these operations, at least some of them, were designed for the Russians to see them. And they were designed for the Russians to see them to try to get exactly that deterrent effect that Evan referred to.

Now, this raises a really critical question, that he touched on, which is, we, sort of, need a big debate in this country about whether or not the power grid, and other elements of critical infrastructure, are a legitimate target for cyberattack on both sides. Because if they aren't, if we come to the conclusion they're not, then we have to be willing to give up some of this activity in return for some agreements from China, or Russia, and other major players, to give it up themselves. That doesn't solve the problem, because there are so many other actors in cyber. But it does need to be the beginning of a conversation that we had during the cold war about when and how we would use nuclear weapons. What you would target. What's off limits?

[20:10:00] And to do that, we have to have an open discussion in the United States about what we're willing to put off limits for our own weaponry.

CABRERA: All right, David Sanger, Evan McMullin. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

SANGER: Thank you.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Tomorrow marks four years since Donald Trump rode down an escalator and then later rode into the White House. The president will formally launch his reelection bid Tuesday in Florida. And he's launching a new line of attack against the Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, after the former vice president changed his view on the Hyde Amendment. That's the law banning federal abortion funding with few exceptions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And he wanted to be the tough guy. He's not a tough guy. He's a weak guy. But he wanted to be the tough guy. He has really recalibrated on everything. He's -- everything he says, he's taken back two weeks later, because he's getting slammed by the left. And he's stuck with this stuff. I mean, he's really stuck with it.


CABRERA: But after days of jabs between the president and Biden, the Trump campaign may suddenly be changing its strategy. With us now, our Sarah Westwood at the White House, and "Politico" reporter, Alex Isenstadt.

Alex, let me start with you because you have new reporting this weekend. You're hearing that the Trump team is now turning its attention to Elizabeth Warren in a big way, after her rise in the polls. What's going on behind the scenes?

ALEX ISENSTADT, REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes. You know, look, it's an interesting thing, Ana. There is, sort of, a reassessment going on within the Trump campaign and the broader Republican political apparatus. And there's this widespread belief that, yes, Joe Biden is ahead in the Democratic primary for now, and he very well may end up winning the Democratic primary.

But it's Elizabeth Warren, right now, who's gaining traction, it's her who has the, sort of, coherent message. And a message, specifically, that's populist-minded in tone and one that threatens to cut into Trump's own, sort of, appeal to blue collar voters who say, what you have is the Trump campaign, sort of, taking a new look at Elizabeth Warren, as she moves up in the polls.

CABRERA: But let's look at some of those polls. They are starting to go Warren's way in Nevada, for example, a key early state. But Bernie Sanders is still holding onto second place nationally. So, why isn't the Trump campaign as worried about Sanders, Alex?

ISENSTADT: Well, you -- look, you have -- when you look at Warren, and you talk to Trump advisers about her, what they say -- they say is that, as a potential general election candidate, she might actually be fairly competitive against Trump. When you -- she, potentially, has appeal to suburban female voters that are going to be critical in this election. She, potentially, has appeal to blue collar voters that, of course, propelled Trump to the presidency.

And so, she has this, sort of, disciplined campaign style. And that has really caught the eye of Trump advisers. And so, yes, they are still paying attention to someone like Bernie Sanders. You could expect some attacks on him. You can expect some attacks on Joe Biden, which you just heard the president do in that clip. But you are going to see more attention on Elizabeth Warren.

CABRERA: Sarah, the president is, obviously, not giving up his attacks on Joe Biden, as we just saw. Is this what his campaign sees as a winner?

WESTWOOD: Well, Ana, there are certainly some, within the campaign and inside the president's inner circle, that don't think that attacking former Vice President Joe Biden is a good thing for the president to be doing. They fear that that could elevate Biden above the rest of the Democratic candidates. It really takes away the opportunity for the campaign and Trump to, sort of, define all the Democratic candidates together and define them by their most extreme positions, which could be politically advantageous to President Trump.

They know that there are polls out there, internal polls, external polls, that do show that Biden could, potentially, be the best positioned to defeat President Trump in some of those states that will be key to his reelection effort. And they know that they are just, sort of, feeding the perception that Biden has been trying to create for himself. Right, which is that he is, sort of, above the fray of the Democratic primary and is now positioned to head into the general election. And someone who is getting under the president's skin.

Of course, there's another school of thought that, perhaps, by Trump going after Biden, that could, sort of, hasten attacks from other Democrats on Biden. And, sort of, help everybody else gang up on Biden. But, certainly, there is a contingency within the campaign and Trump's circle that don't want Trump to be making those attacks on Biden.

CABRERA: Alex, we have seen other Democrats in the field go after Joe Biden. Do you expect they'll follow the president's lead and also start to turn their attention toward Warren?

ISENSTADT: You know, it's going to be interesting to watch these debates that are coming up at the end of the month. And, obviously, there is going to be a lot of focus on Biden, because he gives Democratic candidates an opportunity to, sort of, contrast themselves with him. And to, sort of, present themselves in, sort of, more of a liberal light which, of course, is where the Democratic primary electorate is.

But if you see Elizabeth Warren continue to gain traction, which you've seen her do in a number of different polls that have come out, you can bet that she is going to be getting more and more attention from other Democrats who are running as well.

[20:15:00] CABRERA: And, Sarah, the president certainly came out swinging four years ago. Four years ago this weekend, in fact, when he began his quest for the White House. He won't be at Trump Tower this time. What can we expect Tuesday?

WESTWOOD: Well, yes, Ana, four years ago tomorrow will be the launch of his campaign. And so, President Trump is expecting to have a massive rally in Florida. Florida was, obviously, a state that was very important to his election in 2016. That is showing there, on election night in 2016, sort of, demonstrated to everyone that he was on his way to defying expectations about his performance nationwide.

So, it'll be the first time that we do see Vice President Pence and President Trump on the same stage at a rally since election night 2016. That's according to the campaign. The campaign saying that they have nearly five times as many requests for tickets as that venue in Orlando will hold. And so, they're planning to, sort of, formalize the activities outside of the arena. They're calling it 45-fest to try to deal with that overflow crowd that they are having in Orlando. And while this is President Trump formally kicking off his reelection campaign, we should note that, behind the scenes, the Trump campaign has actually been ramping up for months. They're now up to about 80 staff members at their headquarters in Rosslyn. But this will, really, just be more of a symbolic kickoff for President Trump's reelection effort.

CABRERA: Sarah Westwood, Alex Isenstadt, thank you both.

ISENSTADT: Thank you.

CABRERA: Still ahead, U.S. officials say they now have additional information to prove Iran is to blame for the suspected attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

And an eighth tourist has now died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. Her family says Dominican officials are resisting doing toxicology tests.

Plus, why experts say we are just months away from the widespread existence of deep fake videos that could have a massive impact on the to 2020 election and beyond.



CABRERA: There are still more questions than answers, after this week's attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Now, in the latest twist, the U.S. now says Iran tried to shoot down a U.S. drone shortly before the tankers were hit. And officials say the drone was attacking Iranian small boats, closing in on those tankers, when it was almost struck by a surface to air missile fired by the Iranians. Iran denies any involvement.

CNN has not seen footage from the drone, but U.S. Central Command did release this video. The military says it shows Iranian forces removing a mine from the hull of one of the ships. And CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran, Iran. And, Fred, there are a lot of accusations being leveled. There is a lot of conflicting information.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Yes, a lot of things still very much unclear as to what exactly went down there in the Gulf of Oman. And the Iranians, really, not commenting on very much of it. All they're saying is, flat out, they had nothing to do with the attacks on these tankers.

But, for instance, they're not commenting on that U.S. allegation that they allegedly fired a missile at a U.S. drone before the attack took place. And also, they're not commenting on that video which, apparently, shows an Iranian patrol boat going up to one of those tankers and the crew taking something off the side. Now, the U.S. believes that that could very well be an unexploded mine.

However, the crew of that very ship, apparently, told the management of the company that they work for that they don't believe that the ship was struck by a mine. And, apparently, some of the sailors say they saw projectiles firing -- being fired at the ship and then hitting the ship. And they believe that is what caused the damage.

Now, of course, there are other allegations that are out there as well. The U.S. pointing out that they said that, apparently, the Iranian Navy was making it difficult for tugboats to try and get to the other tanker that was also struck. The company that owns that tanker, however, came out and said it also has no information as to the Iranians getting in the way of trying to recover that tanker.

And the latest information that we have is that the tankers, both of them, apparently, are now out of Iranian waters. That is according to the Iranians. Also, the crew of one of the tankers has arrived in Dubai now. So, those sailors there definitely now out of Iran, where they had been brought to after they were taken off the tankers.

The Iranians, for their part, again, are saying they were not behind these attacks. And they accuse the Trump administration of trying to destabilize the situation in the Gulf of Oman -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you. I had a chance to talk to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. And I asked him about this attack in the Gulf of Oman. Here is part of our conversation. Secretary, first, do you have any doubt Iran was behind this attack?


LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think, from all the evidence I've seen, both the video and, obviously, what Intelligence seems to be providing, that it was probably a pretty good case that Iran was involved behind these attacks.

CABRERA: Why? Why would Iran take this action? What are they trying to accomplish?

PANETTA: Well, you know, my experience with Iran, going back to when I was director of the CIA and also secretary of Defense, is that when Iran wants to send a message and they feel cornered, they tend to use their threats in the Strait of Hormuz as their weapon. And so, I can remember, in the past, we would have small ships deploying out and threatening vessels going through the Straits of Hormuz, and we would have to deal with that.

And so, what they do when they feel like they have no alternative is to go ahead and send a signal to the world that they could shut down the Straits of Hormuz. A third of the oil in the world goes through those straits, and it would damage not only our national security but our economic security if those straits were closed. So, I think that's why they use these kinds of attacks, is to send a message that if they wanted to, they could ultimately close the straits.

CABRERA: What should the response look like then?

PANETTA: I think the response has to be on several different levels. [20:25:00] So, one, obviously, we do need to make sure that we have sufficient military strength in the region to deal with that threat, so I'm pleased that we are building up our forces in the region. Secondly, I think it is important that we build an approach, using our allies, to try to deal with Iran. We can't just do this militarily. Nobody wants a war, another war in the Middle East, for goodness sakes.

So, let's develop a viable diplomatic strategy to try to open some doors with Iran. And, obviously, the United States is unable to do that on their own.


PANETTA: Abe tried -- Abe tried to do that. I think the better approach, frankly, is to go back to Russia, to China, to Great Britain, to Germany and to France, those allies that sat down with us, when we negotiated the Iran Agreement. And try to reorganize that coalition of allies, in order to see if they can't open up another diplomatic channel to Iran.

Any kind of confrontation in the Middle East with Iran is going to be destructive to Russia, to China, to the world, because of the oil supplies that'll be interrupted. So, it makes a lot of sense for all of those countries to work together to try to find an agreeable diplomatic course of action that can help resolve the issues that are involved here.


CABRERA: And, now, new questions tonight, after another American tourist dies in the Dominican Republic. What officials say happened this time.


[20:30:23] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Another American tourist has died at a Dominican Republic resort, triggering a fresh wave of questions and concerns. Her name is Leyla Cox, a 53-year-old from Staten Island.

According to her son, Cox was celebrating her birthday at a resort when she passed away.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has been looking into this. Patrick, what have you learned?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, Dominican officials are struggling to explain the death of another tourist who passed away while on vacation here. This is the seventh incident in the last year of an American tourist dying in the Dominican Republican under mysterious circumstances.

The woman who passed away, her name is Leyla Cox. And according to her son, Will Cox, who talked to hour affiliate WCBS, she died on Monday. The U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo told him that she died of a heart attack, but he said that his mother was healthy, that she was on vacation here celebrating her 53rd birthday and that she was an active person, and he's not aware of her having any heart trouble.

We've spoken to the hotel where she passed away in a resort town of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. And they said that she felt ill and had to be taken to the hospital.

But Will Cox told our affiliate, WCBS, that his mother died in the hotel. So there's still not a lot of clarity to this incident or to the other incidents of the other Americans who have died. Some may have had previous health conditions. Others appeared to die just hours after drinking from their mini bar. So a lot of more questions than answers here.

Dominican authorities are keeping tight-lipped about this. So much of this country depends on tourism, particularly American tourism. There are over two million American tourists who visit the Dominican Republic every year.

So perhaps, it's possible that some could have just died here because of natural causes. But many of the relatives feel that something suspicious is happening, that they need further clarification as to what exactly took place, how the relatives passed away while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

They are hopeful that the FBI's involvement in some of these cases and the release of toxicology reports, expected in the next few weeks, could shed some answers. Ana?

CABRERA: Quite the mystery.

Patrick Oppmann, thank you.

The U.S. women's soccer team sets a World Cup scoring record with a 13-0 win over Thailand. So why are they getting criticized about it?

And officials arrest a 10th suspect in the shooting of baseball legend, David Ortiz, as the suspected gunman speaks out. Details just ahead.


[20:35:43] CABRERA: More now from the Dominican Republican, tonight, significant developments in the shooting of baseball legend, David Ortiz. A 10th suspect has been arrested after reportedly turning himself in to police.

Authorities are not revealing his full name or his photo right now, only identifying him by his nickname, "The Bone."

Also new, we're learning Ortiz may not have been the intended target. The accused gunman is speaking out and insisting he meant to shoot someone else. He says he got confused by Ortiz's clothing which was similar to his intended target. Prosecutors say the suspect is lying. They've charged eight other men and one woman as accomplices in the shooting. Ortiz is recovering from his injuries in Boston.

Team USA, the reigning women's World Cup champs, set to square off against Chile tomorrow, and their first game sparked controversy, a historic 13-0 blowout victory over Thailand.

Now, the American squad criticized by some for their celebrations and for running up the score.

Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy writes, "So much joy, so much winning but too many goals and too many choreographed celebrations after the outcome was long decided. I know this is not youth soccer. But is it too much to ask for a little old-fashioned dignity and sportsmanship even at this high-level of play?

Joining us now, CNN sports analyst and USA Today sports columnist, Christine Brennan.

Christine, just on that sportsmanship issue, was their reaction over the top? Was it excessive celebration?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Ana, certainly the 13 goals were extraordinary. And you want to keep your foot on the gas, because there's a goal deferential issue, so that part of it, I don't have any trouble with.

The issue of the celebration, especially at the ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th goals, I think it's valid to ask, was it a little much? And I know people say, well, OK, that's sexist, because we wouldn't ask that about the men.

Well, the U.S. men wouldn't score 13 goals in a year. So -- and that is true. It took them 54 weeks to score 13 international goals. U.S. took -- women took 90 minutes. So there's that kind of funny aside.

But I think it's valid to ask, I think journalistically. When you've got Megan Rapinoe, the team captain, who by the way, has done more for equal rights for women and the entire team has including equal rights and hoping for Thailand to have more equal pay with the men, the women's team versus the man.

I think it's valid to ask that question. I don't think it's sexist to ask it. I think sexist -- there are sexists who are asking it, but I also think it's a valid question, something I've asked about Olympic teams in the past, men's and women's.

But it is interesting that it has been the focus now for what, five days after the most dominant team in the world, the U.S. women, won that game the way they did. And I think that has been a little excessive, frankly.

CABRERA: Well, here's someone who's defending the celebration and there have been a number of defenders. Let me just read a couple of comments. You have this from a Philadelphia Eagles' tight end, Zach Ertz, who has married a team USA's defensive midfielder, Julie Ertz, and he defended the team's victory and their reaction. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZACH ERTZ, AMERICAN FOOTBALL PLAYER: First of all, the first tiebreaker in the World Cup, for the group stage, is the goal differential. So it would be a crime for them to take their foot off the gas and then finish second in the group, because they took the foot off the gas.

[20:40:06] Second, the best way to build team chemistry, and I think you guys saw that a couple of years ago with us, with the way we celebrated with one another.


CABRERA: The team chemistry point, I hadn't thought about that.

BRENNAN: Yes. Well, and again, this is the first game that they were playing in four years -- the World Cup was four years ago, they won in Canada. The U.S. is the defending champ. Then, the last time we really saw them on the world stage in a big competition was the Olympic Games in 2016 where the U.S. lost to Sweden early, never made it to the medal round.

So there's certainly pent-up excitement and emotion in coming out there and playing.

Again, no problem at all with the number of goals. Because if Sweden were to score 14 goals against Thailand tomorrow, everyone would say, well, then why did the U.S. take their foot off the gas? So there's that part of it.

And, frankly, I think that the Americans get it. I think that even if they say, we're going to keep celebrating, I also think they understand the world is watching and that is a fact.

But any U.S. team, Ana, in an intentional stage, they're going to be scrutinized, male or female in a way that other teams are not. Love them or hate them, the United States gets all the attention.

And another thing that they put themselves out there, because it was 13-0, again, totally valid. And because the celebration's got intense near the end, we can have that conversation, yes or no, on whether that was a great idea. Again, I don't think that is pure sexism to discuss that.

Now, the U.S. better win, because they are so out there and, you know, that locker room wall thing, right? People are going to be gunning for them. They always win anyway, but if they have to play France in a week and a half in the quarterfinals, you know there's going to be a lot of interest and there'll be a lot of people rooting against the Americans probably in part because of this which is a shame because they are such great role models for so many young people around the world.

CABRERA: Good point. Christine Brennan, thank you. And our good luck and cheers to the women's team. We hope they represent team USA well as they continue through the tournament.

All right. Experts and lawmakers are sounding the alarm on deepfake videos, saying technology is becoming so advanced, so quickly, that the threat could impact the 2020 election. What experts are doing to stop them, next.


[20:45:15] CABRERA: This week, the House Intelligence Committee held its first hearing on deepfake videos, videos that use artificial intelligence to alter existing footage of an individual to make it appear that they said or did something that never actually happened.

So check this out. The video there on the right is a clip from Saturday Night Live. And on the left, that's a deepfake video made by USC to show just how easy it is to be tricked. It looks nearly identical.

Lawmakers worry that deepfakes may be used to influence the 2020 election. And House intel chair, Adam Schiff, set up that hearing this week. Now is the time to act. And as warning of a technological revolution that will enable actors to disrupt campaigns.

Computer science professor at U.C. Berkeley and digital forensics expert, Hany Fareed joins us now.

Professor, is Adam Schiff right? Is it now or never to deal with this?

HANY FAREED, PROFESSOR, U.C. BERKELEY: The time is now. I think what we've been seeing over the last two years are two things that are important to understand. One are highly effective misinformation campaigns meant to sow civil unrest, meant to disrupt our elections, meant to commit fraud. And we've seen the rise, as you're saying, of these new deepfake phenomenon.

And when you combine those two, that seems like a real threat. Because we are now entering an age where it's going to be hard to believe what we see or hear, and I don't think it takes a stretch of the imagination to see how that can be weaponized particularly as it pertains to the upcoming elections, both here and abroad.

CABRERA: Just how big is the problem currently? Are there deepfake videos floating around right now on social media?

FAREED: There are. I mean, they're floating around. And here's what I can tell you, about every three to six months, the technology improves dramatically. So if you had asked me six months ago, I would have said, yes, they're pretty good, they're not quite there.

But I think we are probably months away from technology that will become almost indistinguishable. We are seeing highly sophisticated voice synthesis, highly sophisticated face swap and lip sync deepfakes in the form that you just saw at the lead end. And when you start combining those, I think we are months, not years, away from being able to create highly compelling fakes. And it's important to understand that these are not in the hands of Hollywood studios. You can download this code for free online. And so that means a lot of people have access.

And then, of course, we have the ability to broadcast that to the tunes of millions of people and we saw that actually recently with that simpler fake with the Nancy Pelosi fake just a few weeks ago to the tune of millions and millions of views. And then, of course, we have the social media companies that are not aggressively dealing with misinformation campaigns on their platforms. And that's in many ways the perfect storm.

CABRERA: How is the average viewer supposed to be able to spot a deepfake?

FAREED: Well, that's the right question to ask. And that's a really hard question to answer, because the technology is getting better and better. And so what we are doing here at U.C. Berkeley is developing technology that will, at least, help journalist, people like you, sort out the real from the fakes, so that the reporting can at least be accurate.

But what we are concerned about is that the fakes are getting better and better and the average person will, in fact, not be able to tell the difference. And then, of course, once we enter that time, everybody will have plausible deniability. Anybody will be able to claim that anything that they see or hear is fake. And now, we're in a very interesting landscape when -- if everything can be fake, nothing is real. And I think that's a problem for our democracy.

CABRERA: Tell me more about what you're doing, this system you're building to identify deepfakes and how it's going to work and who is going to be able to use it.

[20:50:59] FAREED: Yes. So what we're doing is what we've noticed is that when people talk, people like President Trump, people like Speaker Pelosi, they have very distinct characteristics, the way they move their head, the way they move their eyes, their eyebrows, their mouth. And those are tend to be fairly distinct.

And so we build what are called soft biometric models that capture these sort of essence of the way people talk and what distinguishes them from other people.

And then what we've noticed is that in the creation of deepfakes, those properties of the biometric model are violated. And it allows us to distinguish the real from the fake. And our hope is to be able to make this available in the coming months, by the end of the calendar year, to mainstream media outlets.

We don't want to make it available to the general public because we are concerned that it will be weaponized against us. Because if you make these detection tools available to everybody, well then our adversary can simply keep pumping their fakes through our tools until they pass. So the current thinking is we make it available to journalists who will then be, in many ways, the gatekeeper which, of course, is their job.

CABRERA: Absolutely. Hany Fareed, it's fascinating. Thanks for explaining it to us and for sharing your work and doing what you do. We appreciate it.

FAREED: Thank you. Good to be with you.

CABRERA: President Trump says he received a briefing on UFOs.

Plus, why Russian president, Vladimir Putin gave China's president ice cream.


[20:55:04] CABRERA: Perhaps it's a symbolic sign of their country's budding alliance. Today, Russian president, Vladimir Putin wished Chinese president, Xi Jinping, a happy 66th birthday and gave him Russian ice cream as a present.

The Kremlin says Putin also noted the success of Xi's recent state visit to Russia. The two leaders are currently in Tajikistan for an Asian relations summit.

Well, President Trump now wants NASA to focus on Mars instead of the moon. One thing is certain, his planned Space Force will need to keep an eye out, once it begins reaching for the stars. You never know what's up there. A point we're reminded of in a newly released part of the president's interview with ABC News, where he was asked about something out of this world.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC NEWS: I was just struck in the last couple weeks, we're reading more and more reports of navy pilots seeing lots and lots of UFOs. Have you been briefed on that? What do you make of it?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have. I have. I think it's probably -- I want them to think whatever they think. They do say -- I mean, I've seen and I've read and I've heard, and I did have one very brief meeting on it, but people are saying they're seeing UFOs. Do I believe it? Not particularly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think you'd know if there were evidence of extraterrestrials?

TRUMP: Well, I think by great -- our great pilots would know, and some of them really see things that are a little bit different than in the past. So we're going to see. But we'll watch it. You'll be the first to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: The navy did recently update the process for its pilots to report UFOs. But The Pentagon's last official UFO research program ended seven years ago.

I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. See you back here tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in the CNN NEWSROOM. Until then, have a great night.