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Facebook Whistleblower Testifies before Senate on Possibly Dangerous Company Platform Policies; Former U.N. Ambassador Under President Trump Nikki Haley Draws Controversy for Speech Critical of American Left. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago on NEW DAY, the senator in charge of that hearing essentially told the Facebook boss to put up or shut up.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): He ought to spend more time looking at the platform as many of his own staff well know. And I'm hoping there are other whistleblowers out there and more documents. We can't count on Mark Zuckerberg to tell the truth. He has lost all trust if he ever had any.

We will be asking him to come testify before our subcommittee. If he has disagreements with Frances Haugen, or the whistleblower, if he wants to explain these documents, thousands of them, his own research, his own reports that show how they are putting profits ahead of people and endangering children, he should come tell it to our committee and to the American people himself.


BERMAN: Strong words from Senator Blumenthal there. As he said, he wants Zuckerberg to testify before his committee in the coming weeks.

One of the things that was surprising, if you were watching this hearing, is there was bipartisan agreement when it came to Facebook. John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In a Senate that often seems proudly dysfunctional, yesterday's hearing on Facebook seemed like a throwback to a more bipartisan era. Now, unfortunately for Facebook, the senators' common ground was a resounding dislike of their business practices.

But covering governing can strain people's attention, even when the target for reform is declared one of the most powerful corporate giants in the history of the world, according to one lawmaker, whose products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.

Now, let's cut through the noise and look at three social media reforms that seem to be gathering traction across partisan lines. Now, the first big point of consensus seems to be the reform of Section 230. That's the law that shields platforms like Facebook from lawsuits on the basis of content posted by users.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it will be this Congress and this subcommittee that is going to lead the way to online privacy, data security, Section 230 reforms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold big tech accountable by reforming Section 230.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm also a firm supporter of reforming Section 230.


AVLON: Now, the fact that Republicans and Democrats seem to oppose Section 230 for vastly different reasons is an irony to talk about another day. But the star witness, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, had a usefully nuanced and targeted take on the right approach to reform.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PROJECT MANAGER: Reforming Section 230 to exempt decisions about algorithms, right, so modifying 230 around content I think has - it's very complicated because user generated content is something that companies have less control over. They have 100 percent control over their algorithms. And Facebook should not get a free pass on choices it makes to prioritize growth and virality and reactiveness over public safety. They shouldn't get a free pass on that because they're paying for their profits now with our safety. So I strongly encourage reform of 230.


AVLON: Now, the stated focus of the hearing was protecting kids online, spurred by internal Facebook research showing that it knew Instagram could be toxic for young girls with body image issues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you agree that Congress has to enact the special protections for children and teens to stop social media companies from manipulating young users and threatening their well- being. Tell me if this should pass -- one, create an online eraser button so that young users can tell websites to delete the data they have collected about them, two, give young teens under the age of 16 and their parents control of their information, and, three, ban targeted ads to children?


(END VIDEO CLIP) AVLON: OK, that's a big deal. To talk of raising the age requirements for social media accounts to 16 could take the damaging psychological effects of social media out of elementary and middle school, provided that the age limits is actually enforced. It would create protections for the sale of minors' data and even open the door to federal privacy regulations. And despite the Republican Party's traditional opposition to new regulations, there even seemed to be openness to the need for more transparency via government oversight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What changes would you immediately institute?

FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PROJECT MANAGER: I would immediately establish a policy of how to share information and research from inside the company with appropriate oversight bodies like Congress. I would give proposed legislation to Congress saying here's what an effective oversight agency would look like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A regulatory agency within the federal government?




AVLON: Yesterday's hearing was mercifully free of the usual hyper- partisan grandstanding. Instead, it was actually substantive and, dare I say, even serious. Even some senators seemed to get nostalgic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conversation so far reminds me that you and I ought to resolve our differences and introduce legislation, so as Senator Thune said, let's go to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our differences are very minor, or they seem very minor in the face of the revelations that we have now seen, so I'm hoping we can move forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I share that view, Mr. Chairman, thank you.


AVLON: Now, if Congress could only bottle that brief glimpse of bipartisan resolve, and apply it to, say, avoiding a disastrous default on our debt, or passing infrastructure reform, and election reform, or having a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack. Nah, that's too much to ask. But reforming social media's damaging effects on our democracy would be a welcome step forward.

And that's your Reality Check.

BERMAN: I'm taking the under on all those other things there. I think that's where the safe money is on that. AVLON: Wise bet.

BERMAN: John Avlon, thank you very much.

AVLON: Take care.

BERMAN: So new this morning, former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley attacked Democrats during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Listen to this.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The greater danger is that anger toward America is now the bedrock belief of the American left. As my great predecessor, U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick famously said, in Reagan's time, the left was happy to, quote, blame America first. Today's Democrats don't even believe in America. They see America's flaws as more profound than its strengths.


BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political commentator and conservative blogger Mary Katharine Ham and former House GOP investigative councilmember and author of "The Woman Code," Sofia Nelson. To an extent, what Nikki Haley just did there is as old as politics itself, saying that the other party is un-American, less American than our party here. What is ironic to some is that what Nikki Haley was doing there was saying, what this other party is saying is less American than, say, an insurrection, or acquiescing to what happened on January 6th. Is that a fair comparison?

SOPHIA NELSON, AUTHOR, "THE WOMAN CODE": Look, I think here's the deal with Nikki Haley. There is a great scripture, I was saying this before we went to break, a doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways. Nikki Haley's doubleminded. One minute she is against those folks, the insurrectionists, the Trump and we shouldn't have followed that. The next moment, the Democrats don't believe in America, they're the bad guys. I get her mailers at home, they're awful. They're about socialism. There is not one idea.

So, yes, I think this is very different, John. She's running for president in 2024. And she's trying to establish herself as the conservative, pro-America candidate, and get the Trump base to give her kind of the green light there.

KEILAR: What is her lane here to do that, Mary Katharine? It seems like she's swerving all over the road on any given day.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To be fair to anyone who is in this field, the lanes are coming into D.C. with, like, construction going on. They're going to change constantly based on Trump, right? So she's trying to do this dance. I think she's done it better than others, particularly when she was in the administration. I think she got out pretty clean.

What you can't get past is January 6th pretty clean, right? If you call him on it, you make an enemy of him and potentially those who would back you because you were in the Trump administration. So marrying those two is really tough. I think marrying the people you lost during the Trump administration, white educated, college educated women particularly, and exurbs, for instance, with Trump supporters, requires being in this strange middle ground, which she maybe could occupy, but it is easier for, say, a DeSantis. Do you know why? Because he's governing a state right now.

She has to weigh in on all these bickering -- all the fighting, right? So she has to talk about this over and over again. She's going to be continuing to ask about January 6th, right? But I think it makes it a little tougher for her.

The audience for this I think is, like, donors and establishment types who would like to turn from the Trump years, and she looks like somebody who could maybe do that. But I'm a little skeptical that the Trump side is running to her.

BERMAN: Can I quote Brianna Keilar for a moment here, which is always a safe thing to do.

KEILAR: Like, what did I say?


BERMAN: We were talking about, I said Nikki Haley was engaging in political gymnastics, a floor routine, and you said, you extended the metaphor and made it even better, it's doing political gymnastics while trying to carry water at the same time. You can't carry that water without spilling it.

NELSON: But, John, I think the disappointing thing for me as a long time moderate Republican woman my entire adult life, Nikki Haley was a firebrand, she was a rising star. Remember, the Confederate flag comes down when she's governor of South Carolina after the horrific shooting of the Charleston nine.


She was seen as somebody who in 2015, Trump is crazy, I'm not supporting him. Then she goes and becomes his U.N. ambassador. So she's been doing this kabuki dance now since 2016, 2017. So I'm not surprised. But I think the challenge is that someone who was once seen as a unifier and a leader has now acquiesced to the cult, the Trump crazy.

KEILAR: And that's the thing is one of the things she said in this speech essentially is that there is no systemic racism, America is not a racist country, she said. And yet you have these images, because she is so closely tied to that moment in 2015 where she got rid of the confederate flag from state house grounds, but where we have seen the flag most recently?

NELSON: In the capitol.

KEILAR: In the capitol. So there's really no getting past that. HAM: I think her argument is slightly different, which is this is not

a fundamentally racist country that cannot overcome problems, right. What she's saying --

KEILAR: That's not really what she said.

HAM: She said Democrats do not, often do not -- do not recognize progress we have made, some of that progress being what she did in South Carolina, right? So I think that is a fair point to make. There are people who pretend that everything is 1853, when in fact many, many, many, many, many strides we should concede have been made.

NELSON: We're not a racist country --

HAM: That is what she said in the speech. I agree with you that trying to reconcile this with January 6th stuff is tough, but that's why she's condemned that in the past. It's just this tight rope is nearly impossible to walk, which is why I didn't think Trump should be the nominee two times. And it makes it really tough.

I will say that Biden's -- I think some of the Biden administration failures including Afghanistan, which she put front and center, gives Republican candidates an opportunity to pivot away from that because it is front and center. And it is an issue.

NELSON: But people don't vote on foreign policy as we know, particularly not down the road.

HAM: Donors and establishment people pay attention.

NELSON: True, that's true. But I'm talking about if you look at the polling, she's down pretty far. Donald Trump, Trump Jr., DeSantis, Pence is also doing the same dance, I don't know if we're talking about him today, but he's just as bad as her. They wanted to hang him and he's like, oh, don't talk mean about the insurrectionists. OK.

BERMAN: I don't know what voters choose on exactly every time, but they seem to care about strength and weakness relatively speaking. And when they see Mike Pence all of a sudden excusing the people who wanted to hang him, when they say Nikki Haley, see Nikki Haley, and you said, one of her strengths was being strong, being so forward, she's now saying, you know what, if I'm going to run for president, I'm going to call Donald Trump first, basically, and ask permission there. That doesn't impress me as strength.

HAM: It is not my favorite look. And this is the thing, I think there is a difference of degree with her and Pence and others who I think do, as I have noted before, a more humiliating dance with him. I think she makes it look better. But the fact is that the GOP has gotten itself into this situation, and you -- it is very hard to go after Trump without creating the ire of Trump voters, who you ultimately need.

NELSON: And our Virginia governor's race is going to be interesting, Glenn Youngkin is now talking about election integrity again to pivot. And that's a nonstarter in the commonwealth of Virginia. We have fair elections, and we're a very diverse state, and he's just -- he's got to do this dance. And it is going to be interesting to see how it comes out.

HAM: Very.

KEILAR: It is going to be incredibly interesting. Mary Katharine, Sophia, it is great to see you both.

NELSON: Good to be back with human beings.


KEILAR: Right? Here we are.

BERMAN: Speak for yourself.


KEILAR: Just ahead, dueling interviews as tension boil between the families of Gabby Petito and her fugitive former fiance Brian Laundrie.

BERMAN: Plus, the secret CIA memo about disappearing U.S. spies. And how rock legend Dave Grohl conquered his fear to tell the story of a painful part of his past. Dave Grohl, now Mary Katharine Ham and Sophia are our favorite guests, but Dave grohl in the hall of fame of NEW DAY guests.



BERMAN: Remarkable new developments in the Gabby Petito case this morning with Brian Laundrie still missing. His sister has revealed something of a rift within her family, claiming she is not on speaking terms now with her own parents.


CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: No, I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in. I don't know if my parents are involved. I am losing my parents and my brother and my children's aunt and my future sister-in-law on top of this, and you're helping.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why your parents? Why your parents? You're talking about Chris and -


LAUNDRIE: Because they're not talking to us either.


BERMAN: The Petito family is also speaking out. They were with Dr. Phil voicing their own frustrations with the manhunt for Brian.


DR. PHILLIP C. MCGRAW, DR. PHIL HOST: Do you believe he's hiding somewhere? You believe he's hiding somewhere? Do you believe he's hiding somewhere?


DR. PHIL: Why do you believe that?

J. PETITO: Because he's a coward. Flat out. Like I'd use some other words, but I can't use them on your show. He's a coward.

DR. PHIL: He's too coward to kill himself, too coward to come forward?


DR. PHIL: Too - he's just on the run?

J. PETITO: Anyone that lived in that house is a coward, and they don't know how to stand up for their actions.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Forensic Psychologist Kris Mohandie. I have to say I was struck over the last 24 hours about how much these families are talking, how publically, particularly members of the Laundrie family, the sister there. What do you make of this burst of public speaking?

KRIS MOHANDIE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well I think there's obviously a lot of media interest in this, which isn't going to go away, but more than that you've got two families that want answers, that want this to get to the next level of resolution. And this becomes their way of communicating with him. You know, it's a forum for getting the message out to him.

He's probably monitoring this, these kinds of communications, and it's a public way of reaching him that can hopefully, you know, get him to do the right thing, which is turn himself in. So I think that both families in their own way are turning up the heat and the pressure to convince him to step forward and to face what he needs to face.


BERMAN: Did it sound to you that the sister was speaking as if she thought it didn't seem to me that she was talking in a way that she really thought he might be dead. She was speaking in a way if she was sending messages because she thinks he may still be alive. Is that a fair reading of that?

MOHANDIE: I think the fair reading from everybody, and especially the sister, is the Brian Laundrie is alive, and that is their assumption, which is a powerful thing coming from the family - you know, from his own family.

BERMAN: It's a very notable thing. If his own sister thinks he is still alive, that says something. It also says something that she very publically - and I know that she maybe estranged from her parents in some way or not speaking to them at least right now - but she wouldn't rule out the possibility that the parents somehow helped Brian Laundrie. That's pretty remarkable, yes?

MOHANDIE: Yes. There's a - there's a lot of tension in this family, and you know, divided positions perhaps on how, you know, they think they should be dealing with it, and they've - sounds like they've shut her out. They've shut the sister out. You know, this creates a lot of dissention. And you know, Brian Laundrie is responsible, you know, to come forward and, you know, help resolve all of these issues to answer these questions.

BERMAN: And again, we heard the pain in the voices of Gabby Petito's family there. How is their public now discussions about this? How could this be somehow therapeutic for them?

MOHANDIE: Well I think that they want it known how they feel about it. They want it known that they expect he should do the right thing, that he should do the right thing, come forward, answer the questions that need to be answered, face reality that he has to answer these questions, and there's only one way to do that. He needs to - he needs to resolve within himself, you know, that he has to - that he has to step out and talk.

And that means that he's got to surrender himself so that he can answer the questions that the family's entitled to get answered, that Brian Laundrie and anybody who might be helping him, you know, has an obligation to do the right thing to make sure that he is going to step forward.

It's a difficult process that somebody's that's a fugitive and anybody that cares about that person has to go through, you know, to make peace with the reality that their life is different, it's going to be different, but that they have a responsibility to facilitate the truth coming out.

And I think the - I think the Petito family is doing the right thing by expressing themselves. They're frustrated. They want answers. They're feeling helpless and powerless, and this is a way for them to get a sense of control in this situation that they don't feel like they have.

You know, they've lost their daughter and they deserve answers, and fortunately they have a place that they can go in addition to law enforcement where they can express themselves and hopefully get the pressure out there so that the right thing happens.

BERMAN: They do deserve answers. Kris Mohandie, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

MOHANDIE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, just ahead very unusual secret memo raising alarm about U.S. spies overseas.

KEILAR: And the Lieutenant Governor going rouge while her boss is away on a trip.



This really alarming report out of "The New York Times" saying dozens of CIA informants have been captured, killed, or compromised according to a top secret CIA memo that was sent to stations and bases worldwide.

Let's talk about this now with CNN National Security Analyst and former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I wonder if you can just tell us, you know, why is this happening?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SEUCRITY ANALYST: Well Brianna, first I have to issue the standard caveat that I can't confirm or deny the reporting, but let's assume it's accurate. It probably is. What struck me about it is that this is apparently a systemic failure among many places.

Typically when assets, that is those people that are recruited to work on our behalf to provide us information to us, is - they're rolled up in one country at a time, and this appears to be several countries over a period of years. So what it reflects, indicates to me at least is some sort of a systemic failure, which may be because of some of the factors alluded to in the article.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, technology is a problem. There's facial recognition technology. There are all kinds of things that are really challenging. Some trade craft here. I do wonder if you were working for the CIA, especially covertly, or if you're an informant, you know, what are you thinking when you find out about this memo?

CLAPPER: Well I'm thinking I'm going to be awfully careful. And I think, frankly, the era of operating in a way that where you are tethered to a U.S. embassy are probably over because of the technology that you indicate. And everybody these days leaves an electronic footprint starting at a very young age, to include people that work for intelligence.

So I think the technology is such that people are going to - we're going to reach a point where people are going to have to live their true identities and mask their affiliation.