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Florida Expected To Approve New College Entrance Exam Favored By Conservatives & Christian Groups; FBI Chief: Number Of Russian Spies "Still Way Too Big"; German Intel Employee Charged In Russian Spy Case; FAA: SpaceX Can't Launch Rocket Again Until Fixes Made. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 08, 2023 - 13:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: In the next hour, the Board of Governors for Florida's public universities is expected to approve a new college entrance exam. It's called the Classic Learning Test, or CLT. And it's going to serve as an alternative to the SAT And ACT tests.

The new entrance exam is popular among Christian schools and conservative political groups. But it's been criticized by educators as being narrowly focused on religion to predict academic success in college.

If approved, Florida would become the first state university system to accept the test. It is the latest move by Governor Ron DeSantis to shake up Florida's education system.

CNN's Carlos Suarez joins us live from Miami.

Carlos, what more can you tell us about this test? And then what happens next?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the governing body for public -- for Florida's public universities will meet, as you noted, come the top of the hour and they are expected to approve the entrance exam, which is used mostly by religious-affiliated colleges.

It is important to note that the decision to allow the Classic Learning Test, or the CLT, for use in admissions does not replace the SAT and ACT.

The CLT test is rooted in what the organization says is a classical education model that focuses on Western tradition and texts.

For example, an example test found on CLT's Web site, students are asked to read and answer questions on John Paul II's on "The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering." The CLT tests grammar, English and math.

Now according to the organization, the CLT is currently accepted by more than 250 colleges and universities in the country, including 13 right here in Florida. If approved. Florida will become the first state university system to

accept the exam.

Now, the SAT and the ACT, of course, are more commonly widely accepted with over 3,000 schools that allow both of these tests when it comes to the admissions process.

The CLT, Boris, is also the latest chapter in this ongoing fight between Ron DeSantis and the college board, the organization that administers the SAT and the advanced placement classes, earlier this year.

Before the Department of Education blocked a new A.P. course for high school students on African-American studies, saying it violated state law and lacked educational value.

Of course, the college board made changes to the course amid the criticism -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Carlos Suarez, thank you for the reporting.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: The FBI Director Christopher Wray has issued a warning about the number of Russian spies here in the U.S. He says the numbers are still way too big. You will hear more from Director Wray. That's coming up.


SCIUTTO: With tensions between the U.S. and Russia at a crisis point, particularly over the war in Ukraine, the head of the FBI is issuing a stark warning about the home front. Christopher Wray says there are too many Russian spies today operating here on U.S. soil.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The Russian intelligence footprint, and by that, I mean intelligence officers, is still way too big in the United States. And something that we're constantly bumping up against and trying to block and prevent and disrupt in every way we can.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is here with us, as is CNN global affairs analyst, Kim Dozier. She's a senior manager editor at the "Military Times.

First, Katie Bo, I remember some officer told me years ago that there are more Russian and Chinese spies operating in Washington than ever before. I was thinking, how about the Cold War?


But how many is Wray talking about? Does he have a sort of general number? And what are they up to?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Jim, it's a little hard to say from what we understand publicly exactly how many Russian spies there are operating in the United States.

But obviously, this is one of the core responsibilities for the FBI to try to identify and disrupt and kick these guys out.

To a certain degree, the reaction I got from some former intelligence officials that I spoke to about this was that old line from "Casablanca," "I'm shocked, shocked to find there's gambling going on here."

But we have seen in recent years a number of pretty high-profile espionage cases involving Russian agents in the United States.

In 2018, the Trump administration kicked out 60 Russian diplomats they identified as intelligence officers, shut down the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department, under the Biden administration, announced charges against another Russian national, who had been allegedly collected information from U.S. citizens in the run up to and about the war, the pending Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Important -- one other important element that I think Wray touched on is it's not always just traditional intelligence officers they Russia uses. They also use cutouts, like this Mexican citizen that Wray mentioned that was arrested by the United States in 2020 for allegedly assisting Russian intelligence.

SCIUTTO: Kimberly, in an age of cyber warfare and cyber spying, a whole host of ways that foreign intelligence services can gather information, computer hacking, you name it.

What role do human sources play? And is it still as important a role as it was years ago?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It boils down to verification and relationship building.

You can steal, say, a lawmaker's emails and see that it looks like he's backing a certain policy, perhaps that he is against more aid to Ukraine.

But to really confirm that that's the way he's going, you need to meet that person at a cocktail party and see if they will bring it up in conversation or bring it up yourself.

That's the kind of thing that, just like a reporter would do, you verify the information with multiple different sources. So you verify. If you have tactical information, you want to have human intelligence to back it up.


I wonder, Katie Bo, on the flip side, the U.S. Is certainly doing its best to recruit Russian spies.

And the CIA director said recently that dissatisfaction with Putin, the war in Ukraine has, in his words, created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at the CIA at our core human intelligence service. We're not going to let it go to waste.

Burns saying that, hey, we're doing our own work recruiting Russian spies and we are not doing so badly.

Do we have a sense of whether we're balancing this out?

LILLIS: Exactly. Certainly, Wray, last night, said we're doing a much better job -- we're doing a good job at making progress at kicking Russian spies out of the United States.

But this is the world's second-oldest profession, as intelligence officials love to tell you. So both the United States and Russian are actively trying to recruit people to provide them information about their adversary.

And the CIA, literally, yesterday, put out another recruitment video in which they were sort of encouraging Russian government officials to contact the CIA and providing them information on how to do that securely.

So, Jim, as always, the games continue here.

SCIUTTO: It's funny, it's interesting with those videos, that's not the first one they put out how public the efforts can be.

Kim, going overseas for a moment, Germany's top prosecutor accused a German citizen, working for its own foreign intelligence service, of passing secret documents to Russia. The issue is you're only as safe as your weakest link.

Is there concern from U.S. intelligence agencies about partner agencies in Europe -- not to accuse them of any particular weakness, but they are closer to Russia? Are they worried about those being vulnerabilities?

DOZIER: Absolutely. If Christopher Wray is worried about high Russian operatives in this country, you can imagine, in Europe, where they have a porous border with Russia, how many more operatives there would be working on this over time.

That's one of the reasons that you have the Five Eyes organization of the U.S., Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia that share the really sensitive intelligence. Because they're worried that some of these European intelligence agencies are more porous.

At the same time, there's always the assumption that if you've told more than one person, something is going to get out.

That's the whole reason between high levels of classification and need-to-know information that is siloed off for certain groups of people. Because humans are going to talk, that's what we do. And if you want

to keep a secret "secret," you don't tell anyone.

SCIUTTO: We shouldn't forget, the biggest leak we know of in recent months was an American, right, a low-level airman who was sharing a whole host of secrets on Discord.

There are a number of ways for this information to get out there and that was one. He didn't appear to have been recruited. He just seems to have been voluntarily putting this stuff out there.


DOZIER: Yes. I mean, look, Jim, that's one of the things you will hear from intelligence officials now. They will say, it used to be when we would deal with leaks. We were talking about one guy who shared a document --


SCIUTTO: Dropping it in a park in northern Virginia.

DOZIER: Exactly. Now these leaks are huge. We are talking terabytes of data. In the post-Snowden era, that is the sort of threat, the

counterintelligence threat that intelligence agencies are thinking about when they think about the insider threat.

SCIUTTO: Not just stuff you can copy on the copy machine.

Kim Dozier, Katie Bo Lillis, thank you so much.


SANCHEZ: The most powerful rocket ever built is ready for its second test flight, but the federal government still hasn't given the green light for SpaceX's Starship. We will explain why when we come back. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: The most powerful rocket ever built is ready for its second test flight, but the federal government is saying, not so fast.

You might remember the SpaceX Starship made it off the launch pad in April, but then the rocket failed to separate from the craft, forcing engineers to deploy what they called a "rapid disintegration."

Now the FAA says the private space company is not able to launch again until it has implemented, quote, "corrective actions."

CNN space and defense correspondent, Kristin Fisher, is here with us.

Kristin, I'm not sure if "disintegration" was the right word.



SANCHEZ: So what is the FAA saying?

FISHER: So the FAA has been conducting this relatively routine mishap investigation ever since Starship spectacularly exploded back in April.

The FAA announced this morning that it has closed the investigation, but before SpaceX can fly again, it has to implement 63 corrective actions.

A lot of these actions are things that SpaceX likely recommended to the FAA itself. But these are corrective actions they're pretty big.

Things like redesigning the vehicle hardware, redesigning the launch pad, an additional test of the autonomous flight safety system. That's that self-destruct feature.

We don't know exactly how many of these things SpaceX has been able to correct or fix already. But the company says it's been working hard all summer long to make these changes, including that self-destruct feature, which is pretty important.

SANCHEZ: It's a spectacular show, expensive and, obviously, potentially problematic, too.

When you read this list, did anything in it strike you as the FAA hinting that SpaceX may have been negligent?

FISHER: Not really from best we can tell. Again, the full report is not made public because of proprietary and national security issues.

From what we can tell, this is SpaceX being SpaceX. They like to make things explode. They like to test things to the point of failure because that's how they learn.

The one squishy area is some of the environmental concerns. A lot of environmental groups are saying, you guys likely killed dozens and dozens of birds.

That happens all the time at the Kennedy Space Center. Any time there's a huge launch, there's a huge debris field and dead birds. It's an issue of, can SpaceX continue launching from that site, things like that?

But at the moment, it appears SpaceX was not negligent, at least best we can tell.

SANCHEZ: Look forward to the next launch. Potentially, another fireworks show.

Kristin Fisher, thanks so much for your reporting.


SCIUTTO: Now to some of the other headlines we are watching this hour.

Country music singer, Zach Bryant, is apologizing to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol after he was arrested last night. Bryant says he was taken into custody after he refused an order to return to his car after seeing his security guard had been pulled over in a separate vehicle.

He posted an apology saying, quote, "Emotions got the best of me and I was out of line in the things I said. I support law enforcement as much as anyone can. I was just frustrated in the moment. It was unlike me. I'm just trying the best I can. I love you guys and I'm truly sorry to the officers."

Also Spain's national prosecutor has filed a sexual assault and coercion complaint against the soccer federation chief.

Luis Rubiales is accused of kissing star player, Jennifer Hermoso, on the mouth without her permission after the team won the women's World Cup. Hermoso has also filed an official complaint.

This all paves the way for a formal investigation now. Rubiales, you may remember, is suspended from his job. He refuses to resign.

And a major upset for the reigning Superbowl champions. The Kansas City Chiefs lost their regular season home opener to the Detroit Lions, 21 to 20.

Lions' rooky safety, Brian Branch, picked off Patrick Mahomes for a touchdown early in the third quarter, which tied the game.

The Chiefs regained the lead with two field goals until Detroit running back, David Montgomery, found the end zone for the game- winning score.

Tough one, Boris, but I have to say, it was a nice pass from Mahomes, a tip off from the Chiefs wide receiver.

SANCHEZ: Love that football season is back. A big win for Dan Campbell, the guy that munched his kneecaps.

Pivoting now to the news that's coming up in the next hour on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, a report from the special grand jury that investigated Donald Trump's actions after the 2020 election.

We are now reading through the details and we're learning about the people the panel thought should be charged that weren't, including a sitting U.S. Senator. We have details on that.


And we're hurdling towards a potential auto strike that could cost the economy billions of dollars. The latest on the talks to avoid it when CNN NEWS CENTRAL returns in just a moment. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SCIUTTO: There could have been many more. A special grand jury report released hours ago reveals the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could have indicted a lot more people in the Georgia election case, including current and former U.S. Senators.

Ultimately, she decided not to. Those details just ahead.