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CNN This Morning

Possible War Between U.S. and China; Facial Recognition used to Ban Enemies at NYC Venue; Racial Bias in Nichols' Death. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 08:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And opportunity are all aligned for 2025.

Asked about this memo, a Pentagon spokesman told CNN, these are not - these comments are not representative of the department's view on China.

Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said he thinks that he's right, actually.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I hope he's wrong, as well. I think he's right, though.

We have to be prepared for this. And it could happen, I think, as long as Biden is in office, projecting weakness, as he did with Afghanistan, that led to Putin invading Ukraine, that the odds are very high we could see a conflict with China and Taiwan and the Indo- Pacific.


COLLINS: Joining us now to talk about this is CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Army general, Dana Pittard.

Thank you so much, General, for being here.

I think just, first, the obvious question is, what did you make of that memo when you saw it?

MAJ. GEN. DANA PITTARD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, good morning, Kaitlan.

What I thought of that memo from General Minihan, and his candor throughout the military is well known, is that it was really designed for his subordinate commanders and the men and women in his command. As any good commander, he's got to prepare for war. He's got to make sure that his command is prepared. I think the last thing he wanted was for a memo like that to get out and go viral. But I think it was really about preparation. COLLINS: Preparation, sure, but putting this blunt warning in a memo

that, of course, as you noted, is now out there. It was something certainly that could be. He was also, you know, pretty blunt, telling them to get their personal affairs no order, making these comments about this.

We've seen some Democrats disagree with this. Adam Smith, who's on the Armed Services Committee, said, not only is war with China not inevitable, he said he doesn't think it's likely.

PITTARD: Well, again, his comments were in somewhat bombastic to motivate probably his command.

But America's military strategy is centered around the Asia Pacific region now. And all potential adversaries are certainly on the table, especially China. And so we must be prepared.

Is war imminent for 2025? Well, I think the senior leadership of the Department of Defense would probably disagree. Because if war was imminent, there would be things that we would be doing to specifically prepare for that if it was 2025. So, I think in some ways he's gotten ahead of his skis a little bit on that, but he's trying to motivate and preparing his supporting command.

Again, he is not a combatant commander. What his command does, air mobility command, is fly in troops, equipment, ammunition, and things like that. He's a supporting commander.

COLLINS: Yes. And so much of that is also, you know, being prepared and talking about if Taiwan has the defenses that it needs. All of this is a broader conversation that's coming, of course, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

You saw recently how the United States said they will be sending tanks to Ukraine. The big question is about how long it's going to take those to actually get there. Now the Ukrainians are asking for fighter jets. But the German chancellor says this morning they're not going to get them, at least not from Germany.

Do you think that's something the U.S. should take into consideration?

PITTARD: I do, Kaitlan. I think that we should have sent jets a long time ago, at least Mig 29s, Mig 27s that the Ukrainians at least knew how to fly. But they -- if they're going to take back their territory, they're going to need modern equipment, which includes aircraft, fighter jets, and bombers.

COLLINS: All right, Retired General Dana Pittard, thank you so much for joining us this morning on these really important subjects.

PITTARD: Thank you, Kaitlan.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Controversy at The Garden. How the owner at Madison Square Garden is using facial recognition to ban the owners' enemies. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, you know the music. He's the man

behind some of your favorite Motown songs. Ahead, we remember the life and the legacy of Barrett Strong.



LEMON: One of Motown's original mainstays and its first hitmaker, Barrett Strong, has died at the age of 81. You may remember this classic.


BARRETT STRONG, MUSICIAN (Singing): The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees, I need money.

CHORUS: That's what I want.

STRONG: That's what I want.


LEMON: I think that is a classic. And also this one. He's also known for writing Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." And these other massive soul hits for some of Motown's biggest stars.



MARVIN GAYE, MUSICIAN (singing): I heard it through the grapevine. No much longer would you be mine. Oh, I heard -

THE TEMPTATIONS (ph): War! Hunh! Good God, y'all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again. War!


LEMON: Motown founder Berry Gordy said this in a statement. I am saddened to hear of the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists and the man who sang my first big hit, "Money, That's What I Want" in 1959. Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work, primarily with The Temptation. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely.

Also this morning, the company that owns Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and other famous New York venues, says that all lawyers who work at firms representing a client suing them are banned. MSG Entertainment is denying entry to anyone on its exclusion list from attending concerts or sporting events. Here's what's a key part of this. They are using facial recognition technology to do it.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is covering this story.

This is remarkable, "a," because of the facial recognition aspect, but "b," it's not just the attorneys who are involved in the suing.


It's any attorneys that work at firms that are representing those who are suing these venues.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I think that was the surprise for a lot of people. It's like, I'm not even involved in the litigation of this, and all of a sudden I am banned, at least temporarily, as well.

And it's part of what New York Attorney General Letitia James is concerned about here. Not just potentially dissuading those from holding Madison Square Garden Entertainment potentially accountable, but also the technology involved with it. MSG maintains that they are fully within their rights.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've come up on (INAUDIBLE) matching somebody on our facial recognition list.

JIMENEZ (voice over): He was recognized on facial recognition cameras, then confronted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Benjamin Noren?


JIMENEZ: This is how lawyer Benjamin Noren, from one New York City law firm, was greeted by Madison Square Garden staff while trying to attend an event in the fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ticket has been revoked and you are not permitted in the building.

JIMENEZ: It's because Noren works for a law firm representing ticket brokers in a lawsuit against Madison Square Garden Entertainment. All of the roughly 60 lawyers at his firm are also banned until the litigation is resolved.

JOE POLITO, COMMERCIAL LITIGATOR, DAVIDOFF HUTCHER & CITRON: We received a letter from MSG stating that because of this litigation all attorneys in our firm, even those attorneys who have nothing to do whatsoever with the litigation, would be barred for the duration of the litigation.

JIMENEZ: The firm's co-founding partner has been a season ticket holder for 47 years. He believes here he's being retaliated against.

LARRY HUTCHER, CO-FOUNDER, DAVIDOFF HUTCHER & CITRON: The focus of their ban is to dissuade people from suing Madison Square Garden. If you have to think about, do I have a choice of being banned and representing somebody, somebody is going to say, I don't need that aggravation. I'm not going to take that case.

JIMENEZ: Their firm is among dozens temporarily banned from MSG properties, including Radio City Music Hall, while they represent clients suing The Garden. New York Attorney General Letitia James believes they may be violating state and city laws, writing to them in part, forbidding entry to lawyers representing clients who have engaged in litigation against a company may dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases. Days later, Madison Square Garden emphasized it's a private business and in compliance with all laws, writing in part, the attorneys we are prohibiting from attending includes ambulance chasers and money grabbers whose business is motivated by self-promotion and who capitalize on the misfortune of others. This includes attorneys representing ticket scalpers, personal injury claims, and class action litigations, but does not include claims related to sexual harassment or employment discrimination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get to say who you serve. And if it's somebody who is suing you and trying to put you out of business or take your money from you, right, et cetera, you have a right to be, yes, a little unhappy about it.

JIMENEZ (on camera): You know, it doesn't seem like they're letting up. If anything, they've been doubling down.

POLITO: No. No, no, they're tripling down, even.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Some experts believe it's a slippery slope, and not just the discretionary power of who else could be flagged in the future, but one method being used to enforce it, even if it is legal.

DAVE MAASS, DIRECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS, ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION: I have read their privacy policy. They explicitly say that the biometrics they capture from you can be used for any purpose that would - that would benefit their economic interest. There's all sorts of things they could be doing with face recognition, and there's so minimal transparency around it because they're a private company.

JIMENEZ: Some don't believe it should be used at all.

ALBERT FOX CAHN, FOUNDER, SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY OVERSIGHT PROJECT: It's so primed to be misused. It's so prone to discrimination. And I am terrified of the day where we allow companies to use so many forms of tracking and surveillance that, you know, we end up in the middle of one of the largest cities on the planet without any place we can actually go, while keeping our privacy.


JIMENEZ: Now, Madison Square Garden says they've been using facial recognition to help create a safe environment since 2018. But there are a lot of factors here that people are concerned about. They've got until February 13th to respond to Attorney General James' inquiries. Obviously, though, still an ongoing battle here.

COLLINS: Yes, and not just for this specifically, but facial recognition technology writ large. Omar, that was a great report. Thank you so much.


JIMENEZ: Of course.

HARLOW: Totally fascinated by it. Thank you very much.

Well, there is a growing debate over the role of race in the police beating and death of Tyre Nichols. While all five ex-officers are black, could their actions have been racially motivated? Van Jones has a fascinating new piece on this. He's here to explain.




ROWVAUGHN WELLS, MOTHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: People don't know what those five police officers did to our family. And they really don't know what they did to their own families. They have put their own families in harm's way. They have brought shame to their own families. They have brought shame to the black community.


LEMON: Wow, there's a lot to talk about. That was RowVaughn Wells, by the way, talking about the former Memphis police officers who were involved in the violent arrest and death of her son, Tyre Nichols. The five officers, or ex-officers, who have so far been charged with Nichols' death are all black, but Wells points out that the race of the officer isn't as important as the race of the victim.

It's a point our next agrees with, and he wrote about it in a opinion piece. And that is none other than Mr. Van Jones, CNN political commentator.

Van, hello to you. Thank you for joining.

Look, a very nuanced conversation. I'm so glad you're doing this. So let me just give our viewers a glimpse of what you're saying and then we'll go into the discussion.

You write in this piece that, it's always been too simplistic to look at police abuse or misconduct as white cop kills unarmed black man. And you add, when it comes to police violence, race does not matter, but possibly not the way you think.


At the end of the day, it is the race of the victim who is brutalized, not the race of the violent cop. That is more relevant in determining whether racial bias is a factor in police violence. And then you go on to talk about, you know explain more.

So, explain what you're talking about here to our viewers.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I do think that this is an opportunity for us to have a deeper conversation. You might ask, if you have a black police chief, as you do, a majority black police force, as you do, and five black officers, as you do, certainly racism has nothing to do with this case. And I think that that is not right.

What you have to begin to look at is, if the overwhelming number of victims of police abuse are black in Memphis, as they are, and disproportionate, as they are, then racial bias is a factor. And how could that possibly be? It's because the culture of policing. There are certain neighborhoods where there -- they are - it's a warrior mentality. This is a war (ph) zone. You've got to do what you've got to do. You've got to jump out.

And in other neighborhoods, the same police department treats with a servant mentality, with a protector mentality. And if those two mind- sets line up with, this is a poor black community, we're in a war zone, we're going to be warriors, we're going to do whatever we've got to do, and the affluent white communities, we're going to protect people, then you wind up with racial profiling, racial violence, even when the cops are black.

HARLOW: Reading your piece, Van, I thought about what James Forman, professor at Yale Law School, who wrote that great recent book, "Locking Up Our Own" says, and then he was quoted in "The Times" this weekend and he said, blackness doesn't shield you from all of the forces that make police violence possible.

It's interesting because it seems like the first time at least recently that our country is having to face having a much more nuanced conversation about race and policing, and that's your point.

JONES: Well - well, look, first of all, I love James Forman.

HARLOW: Me, too.

JONES: We were in law school together.


JONES: We were in law school together. His mother is my godmother. So, you know, we did talk about this. But we're kind of looking at it the same way.

Listen, this is only a discussion at a high level. At the community level, people know. Cops, a lot of times they're not black, they're blue. They're often trying to show and prove to other white officers that they can be just as tuff and just as brutal, or even more brutal than the white cops.

Ice Cube talked about that in a very famous hip hop song, which I can't quote the name of it, but he says, don't let it be a white and a black cop because they'll slam you down to the street top, black police showing out for the white cop. James Baldwin talked about this phenomenon of black police officers

actually being more brutal than the white cops. So, the idea that some people had, well, if you integrate the police force, if you have a bunch of black police, everybody's going to be safe. Black faces in high places don't make you safe if there are not checks and balances and systems of accountability.

Any system without checks and balances will tend toward corruption and abuse. That's why you have meat inspectors, not because we hate butchers. That's why you have building inspectors, not because you hate construction workers, but because if you don't have adequate oversight and everybody in the department knows in that neighborhood you can do whatever you want, people will begin to act terribly. And all too often, even with majority black departments, it's the black communities where unlawful police violence takes place. There is no accountability, there is no punishment and it gets worse and worse and worse.

Thankfully, in Memphis, this police chief has stepped up. But don't act like just because you have black police officers they could not be targeting black communities for misconduct because clearly here they are.

COLLINS: And, Van, you're well-connected in Washington. You know this. And I have a question because this has really renewed the focus on police reform and what that could potentially look like coming from Capitol Hill. Every lawmaker is being asked about this. But Jim Jordan, yesterday, said, this is a quote, the Democrats always think it's a new law that is going to fix something that terrible. He said, we kind of think that no law is going to fix that.

What do you think of that? Is there any -- what could they do actually here?

JONES: Well, first of all, well, if you had that attitude toward law breakers, then why have any laws, because you will always have law breakers, but that doesn't mean you don't have laws and you don't try to enforce them.

There are some things that we aren't even talking about that we should be. Federal money goes to local law enforcement every day and yet there is no standard for local law enforcement to screen for sociopaths, for psychopaths at all. People don't know that. You literally have, you know, thousands of police departments, they are hiring every day, there is no federal standard to make sure we don't have sociopaths and psychopaths. Start with that. If you don't want to deal with the racial aspect, if you don't want to deal with other aspects, start with that. Why can't we have a federal standard that says, if you are a sociopath or a psychopath you can't be on the police force. There is so much room for improvement in terms of how the federal government both empowers and holds accountable local law enforcement that we haven't even begun to talk about.


LEMON: Van, we had the mayor on this morning. I interviewed the police chief, and she said it takes race off the table. The mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, was on this morning saying, I don't necessarily agree with that. I understand what she was trying to say. But he didn't agree with it. And you don't agree with that as well.

And I know there are critics online and just in general, and I know you aren't going to go on Twitter or whatever and respond to critics. So, here's your opportunity. What do you say to that because you have the mayor agreeing with you and others as well.

Go on.

JONES: Well, I think there's some people that they don't understand the way that racism functions. And if it's not a cartoon example of a white cop and an unarmed black person, then they say race cannot happen.

But we know, you know, Don, self-hatred is real. People -- these messages that black people are violent, black people are unworthy, black people are suspect, they hit everybody. It's not just, you know, a few white guys listening to this, it's pervasive.

And so all too often -- all too often even a black store owner might see a black kid come in and be suspicious, see a white kid come in and be solicitous, and not even realize that he or she is playing out these same racial stereotypes that they otherwise would oppose. It's not as simple. It's the race of the victim you have to track. If you have an overwhelming number of black victims, you have a problem with racism, even if there are black cops doing it.

In most countries, the human rights abusers look just like the people they are abusing. And that's what happens all around the world.

LEMON: It's -- Van, you hit the nail on the head with this topic. This is exactly what was being discussed around dinner tables and people gathering this weekend. And that's all I talked about, but all the cops were black, it can't be racist, and would they have treated a white suspect like - I mean it went - so, good on you for doing this piece.

Thank you, Van.

JONES: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Thank you.

HARLOW: It's a great piece.

LEMON: Oh, Yes.

HARLOW: Everyone should read it. Yes, everyone should read it on

We'll see you here tomorrow. Thanks so much for being with us.