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Gunned Down in Oklahoma; World War II Veteran Beaten to Death; Oklahoma Killing Gang Related; NSA Safeguards Are Working; Wildfires Scorch Yosemite; Filner Expected to Step Down Today; Group Reveals Illicit Activity of Homeland Security Officer

Aired August 23, 2013 - 13:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Teen suspects are in custody after a young man is gunned down in Oklahoma. Could this be a gang initiation? One man says yes.

And, yet another deadly attack. Years ago he survived being wounded in World War II. Now two teens are accused of beating him to death.

And the president sits down with CNN answering questions about Washington and Congress and that controversial NSA spying program. That just ahead.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

As a small Oklahoma town comes to grips with this senseless tragedy, one man is offering a possibly motive. It is hard to believe. This is in the shooting death of the Australian baseball player who was visiting. Christopher Lane, he was gunned down as he was jogging in the town of Duncan. This happened last Friday. Well, three teens have been charged and police say one of them, one of the suspects, told them that they were simply bored. Well, now, an Oklahoma man says that the killing was part of a gang initiation. The 911 caller says, his own son was on the list of targets.

Alina Machado is with us. And what is he saying?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, that man is James Johnson. He told Australian-based Fairfax media that he did not think Christopher Lane's killing was random or simply just for fun. He believes it was part of a gang initiation. According to court documents, it was Johnson's call to police that ended with the arrest of 15-year-old James Edwards Jr., 16-year-old Chancey Luna, and 17- year-old Michael Jones.

Now, Johnson told Australian media the three teens had threatened his own son, because he refused to join a gang. Police in Duncan, Oklahoma have not confirmed that Lane's killing was gang related and CNN has tried to reach Johnson repeatedly without success.

Now, we're also hearing today from man who says he tried to help Lane moments after he was gunned down. Here is what Richard Rhodes told the "Sydney Morning Herald." Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD RHODES: Chris was laying face down right there. He was face down. He had his head -- his face in his hand. And -- so, that's when I started putting two and two together. You know, I -- you know, that's when I looked at his shirt and realized he was shot. (INAUDIBLE) I said, hey, he's been shot. And -- so, I already got the description of that car in my head, so that's when -- you know, now, all we need is the police here.


MACHADO: Rhodes says that he stayed with Lane there. He also says that a woman stopped on the road and helped him give Lane CPR but, Suzanne, it was too late.

MALVEAUX: And I understand that there are memorial services for Lane this weekend.

MACHADO: Yes. We know that his friends and his family are being invited to a memorial game in Chris's Lane -- in Chris Lane's honor on Sunday. There is also a donation page that has been set up to raise money for a memorial fund in Chris Lane's name.

MALVEAUX: All right. Alina, thank you, appreciate it.

Another story of apparently random violence. This is an 89-year-old World War II veteran beaten to death in his car. This is Spokane, Washington. A witness saw two teens running away. Michaela Periera has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a war vet and he fought for this country. In fact, he was shot when he was 18 years old on the beaches of Okinawa.

MICHAELA PERIERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He survived enemy attack in World War II only to be savagely beaten to death at home. Outrage and grief in Spokane, Washington as friends and family remember the war hero they called Shorty, 89-year-old Delbert Belton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like my dad is what he was to me. One hell of a nice guy, you know? He'd -- he'll do anything in the world for anybody.

PERIERA: Police say Belton was attacked in his car Wednesday night. He was waiting for a friend outside this pool hall where he often played. Officers say Belton's friend found him badly beaten inside his vehicle and saw two teenagers running away. Belton suffered severe head injuries. He died Thursday morning.

MARK GRIFFITHS, LIEUTENANT, SPOKANE POLICE MAJOR CRIMES UNIT: It does appear random. He was in the parking lot. It appears that he was assaulted in the parking lot and there was no indication of any sort of -- that he would have known these people prior to the assault.

PERIERA: Investigators have released these surveillance photos revealing two teenage suspects both between 16 and 19 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to be caught period because that's senseless. Man, beating an old man. What kind of person does that? But a, excuse the expression, a wimp.

PERIERA: Friends of Shorty have put up a memorial outside the pool hall.



PERIERA: As they hold out hope that the kind old man who gave so much for his country will get justice in the end.


MALVEAUX: And Spokane police say that have arrested one suspect in the beating death. They are still looking for that second individual.

And President Obama, he's trying to reassure folks that the government is not intentionally, at least, reading their e-mails or listening to their phone calls.

Well, in an exclusive interview with our own Chris Cuomo, the president responded to reports that the NSA surveillance program is making mistakes and violating Americans' privacy. He says the revelations actually prove that the safeguards are working. The administration has been on the defensive ever since NSA leaker Edward Snowden, spilled secrets about the surveillance program. I want you to listen to the president and what he told Chris about the latest revelations.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's been a lot of discussion about what the NSA does --


CUOMO: -- in the surveillance programs. You have said it's not the business of the U.S. Government --


CUOMO: -- to spy on its own people. But the more of that seems to come out, the more questions seem to be raised. Are you confident that you know everything that's going on within that agency and that you can say to the American people, it's all done the right way?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. But what I've also said is that it can only work if the American people trust what's going on. And what's been clear since the disclosures that were made by Mr. Snowden is that people don't have enough information and aren't confident enough that between all the safeguards and checks that we put in place within the executive branch and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program and Congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their e-mails are being read or their phone calls are being listened to.

CUOMO: Especially when they hear that they are and mistakes are made, --


CUOMO: -- it shakes your confidence.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- what was learned was NSA had inadvertently accidentally pulled the e-mails of some Americans in violation of their own rules because of technical problems that they didn't realize. They presented those problems to the court. The court said, this isn't going to cut it. You're going to have to improve the safeguards given these technical problems. That's exactly what happened. All these safeguards checks, audits, oversight worked.

Now, I think there are legitimate concerns the people have that technology is moving so quick that at some point does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place and do some of these systems end up being like a loaded gun out there that somebody at some future point could abuse? Because there are no allegations and I am very confident knowing the NSA and how they operate that purposely somebody is out there trying to abuse this program or listen in on people's e-mail or --

CUOMO: You're confident?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am confident in that. But what I recognize is that we're going to have to continue to improve the safeguards and as technology moves forward, that means that we may be able to build technologies to give people more assurance and we do have to do a better job of giving people confidence in how these programs work.

So, I am open to working with Congress to figure out, can we get more transparency in how the oversight court works? Do we need a public advocate in there who people have confidence in? Are there addition reforms that can be taken that preserve the core mission of the NSA which is making sure that we have enough intelligence to protect ourselves from terrorism or weapons of mass destruction or cyber security. But do it in way that Americans know their basic privacies are being protected. I think that could be achieved. But we've also got to do it in a way that recognized that we've got some hostile folks out there that potentially are trying to do us harm.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in my friend, Candy Crowley, Anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION." Good to see you as always, Candy.


MALVEAUX: I want to talk about a couple things that the president said. You know, essentially, can he have it both ways? Recognize that we're making mistakes but trust us anyway?

CROWLEY: Not for a -- look, there is certainly every time another one of these revelations comes out and heaven only knows where Edward Snowden's stash of NSA material ends but it keeps coming. But more and more people are going, whoa, wait a second. I mean, the last time we heard about the mistakes, a minuscule number compared to what they gather, we from Nancy Pelosi saying, this is troubling.

So, it is -- it feels like a snowball but a very slow moving snowball, at this point. Because the other thing that the president mentioned which is this is about the security of the nation and nobody wants to be the person that stops the program that could've caught the next guy.

So, they're kind of stuck in that balance of security versus surveillance. But what's interesting here is when the president talks about, well, maybe we can have an advocate in the FISA courts that give the NSA permission to surveil (ph), maybe we can do this or that, it doesn't get to the core of what some of biggest critics --


CROWLEY: -- of the NSA are saying which is that program where they collect all phone calls made in the U.S. and put them someplace in case they need them later is too broad. It's all the phone calls in the country. We're now learning maybe 75 percent of the e-mail --


CROWLEY: -- they are also capable. So, every time another story appears, it gets more and more people up on Capitol Hill thinking we need to do something. But not about cancelling the programs, --


CROWLEY: -- about looking at them.

MALVEAUX: So, you know, polls are pretty consistent, Candy, that the American people, they've got these strong suspicions that the government is going beyond the pale. That they're -- to spy on them or get information through the Internet or whatever. Is there anything more that you think the president can do beyond reassuring us? Is there any appetite even for Congress to put in stronger safeguards in place?

CROWLEY: It's interesting -- I'm sort of surprised at that poll because we had some earlier polls that people just were kind of, yes, well, whatever they need to do to make us secure kind of thing and particularly young folks who are -- you know, put personal information on the Internet all the time don't seem to think it's a huge deal.


CROWLEY: But the president certainly is, again, stuck because remember when all this stuff first came out and Edward Snowden and here's this and this and this and this. MALVEAUX: Yes.

CROWLEY: They talked about how damaging this was to the U.S. Intelligence services and lives were going to be lost and now the terrorist know what we're doing. And here's the president, on the other hand, saying, we have to make this a more open process. You know, that is a very -- a very difficult thing to walk particularly, again, when you have revelations coming out every day.

MALVEAUX: It's a difficult balances act. Real quick here, Candy. Who do you got this weekend?

CROWLEY: Ted Cruz is one of my guests along with a friend of yours and a friend of mine, John Louis, to talk about the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King march.

MALVEAUX: All right, looking forward to it, Candy. Thanks, again, appreciate it.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Some Republicans threatening to defund president Obama's health care reform law on the ongoing budget battle. Chris Cuomo talks with the president about the gridlock, the partisan paralysis in Washington. And part of the interview coming up at the bottom of the hour.

And here is more of what we're working for and working on this hour. CNN has confirmed that wildfire in southern California, we've been telling you about this, well, it is now burning parts of Yosemite National Park.

And a new proposal says we should set up government subsidies, your tax money, for those needing help to pay for medical marijuana.

And is this the face of the new batman? There he is, the surprising and striking backlash. To Ben Affleck putting on the dark night's cape.


MALVEAUX: In California there's been a troubling new development now. This is in the fight against that raging wildfire, the so-called Rim fire has crossed now into Yosemite National Park just a week before Labor Day weekend kicks off.

Chad Myers is keeping a close eye on the situation there.

And tell us what kind of danger are people facing inside the park now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Suzanne, you have got 63 new acres, square miles burned last night alone, 63 square miles. Now we're up to 130 square miles of burnt. It's not creeping into the valley. This is kind of blowing to the north, on up toward Kitty Ridge (ph) and up in where it's a little bit more rocky. So i don't think we're going to get a lot more burn today and tomorrow. But you really have to watch out. The Strawberry Music Festival has already been cancelled. That's a big bluegrass festival that they were going to do there in Yosemite National Park for the Labor Day weekend. And so if you have plans, you may want to keep abreast. You may want to watch these websites, because they are very good at keeping you up to date on what's going on.

There's the Rim fire. There's San Francisco. There's Yosemite National Park, right there, Lake Mono (ph). I try to take lake pictures of Mono (ph) like Ansel Adams did. I never got really good pictures there, just didn't work out.

Here is the Rim fire right through here. The valley down through here, here is 120. There's some fire along 120. So this road is closed into the park at this point in time. Here is what I'm calling this ridge. This is all granite up here. So although we're burning a lot of trees through here, as soon as this gets by Lake Cherry (ph) and Lake Eleanor (ph), we're going to get into a lot less vegetation here. And I believe the fire will slow down.

Let me show you how much this has exploded in just five days. Back you up to the boundary of the fire Monday, right here. Now we go to Tuesday here, Wednesday here and, last night, 63 square miles of forest burned right there on the west of Yosemite, this green line right there, that's Yosemite National Park, this part right through, that's now the part of the park that is burning.

All visitors, everybody you talk about, everybody that goes somewhere goes down to Half Dome. Half Dome is down here. Let me show you how the smoke is going because this will tell you how the wind is blowing and which way the fire is going to.

The fire is going that way. smoke going that way. When you have the wind blowing across the fire this way, this is the advancing fire line here, not down toward the park treatment, at least the park that we know of. You know, 94 percent of Yosemite is wild land. Only 6 percent do people actually visit.

Now I know people go hiking and all that wild man stuff, but what we think of as Yosemite is a very small part of the park.

MALVEAUX: It's a beautiful place. I've been there a couple of times. Chad, do we think that there is any chance that by Labor Day weekend that they could close sections of this because of the fire?

MYERS: Well, let me tell you what could happen -- in a really bad way. We're only 2 percent contained and the fire line miles around, maybe 100 miles around. If only 2 percent of that is contained, if we begin to get a wind out of the west or from the northwest blowing into that area here where people to visit, then, yes, there could be a lot more going on here with cancellations into Yosemite. That would be a shame for Labor Day weekend.

MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to be watching, keep a close eye on that fire to make sure that if people have got plans there, obviously got to take a look at that. Thank you, Chad. Appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Well, the San Diego mayor caught up in a sexual harassment scandal, he's expected to step down today. Our affiliate, KFMB, got these pictures of Bob Filner leaving his office by a rear gate -- you see there.

Filner's resignation -- it depends really on whether or not the city council approves a mediation agreement. The council is going to meet in just a couple of hours.

Casey Wian is watching the developments from San Diego.

Casey, tell us first of all what's been going on today? Is he meeting behind closed doors with folks? And when do we expect that he's actually going to step down?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the meeting is going to take place behind closed doors sometimes after 1 o'clock local time, 4 o'clock Eastern time. Before they go behind closed doors there is going to be some period of public comment. Then the city council will go and consider this mediated negotiated settlement that was reached on Wednesday night that would provide for the mayor to step down, resign from his office. The big question that the city council is going to have to concern itself with what is the impact going to be on San Diego taxpayers. There's been some concern that the city council will be asked to approve some sort of a financing of any legal settlement against Bob Filner. There's been a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by his former spokeswoman. She's represented by attorney Gloria Allred, Gloria Allred saying yesterday that she wants no taxpayer money going toward that settlement.

But one of the city council who was involved in those negotiations, Kevin Faulkner (ph), saying just yesterday that throughout this mediation process he's been trying to reach the best deal for San Diego taxpayers while at the same time trying to end this horrible period of dysfunction, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Casey, do we have any idea what's inside the settlement, this agreement here on both sides? What are they offering the mayor to step down?

WIAN: We can't say at this point because the federal judge who mediated those discussions asked all parties to keep details of the settlement private until the city council has a chance to consider it behind closed doors. So far they are adhering to that request.

We do have some more details we can provide you as to what's been going on the last couple of days behind closed doors here at city hall. A high ranking city hall employee saying that Mayor Filner had what he termed an awkward staff meeting on Wednesday, where he did not apologize for letting the city hall employees down but said he would see them today.

So we're now anticipating that Mayor Filner will, in fact, be here today and may even speak, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Do we have any idea -- it might be a little too soon to know -- whether or not the settlement would cover women who perhaps would come forward with allegations of sexual harassment outside the group of 18, if there were any others who would present the same complaint?

WIAN: Again, we don't know that. We know that 18 women have come forward publicly. Only one has actually filed a lawsuit. There could be other lawsuits going forward. We just don't flow. We do know the sheriff's department has a hot line for alleged victims to report what has happened to them and their experiences. That continues to be open.

Also we should point out that the recall effort against Mayor Filner, the effort to try to get him out of office, they're continuing to gather signatures. They say they will continue to do so until Mayor Filner actually steps down and a new election is called, Suzanne.

All right. Casey, thanks. We'll be watching closely this afternoon.

There are reports that a Department of Homeland Security employee is doing a little side work. One group claims that he's actually running a hate website which offers preparations for a coming race war. That's up next.



MALVEAUX: An anti-hate group is releasing disturbing details now about an employee at the Department of Homeland Security and it claims that this worker spends his off time preparing for a race war and promoting anti-gay causes.

So what is the government doing about this? Our Joe Johns has been following the story from Washington.

Joe, tell us about who this guy is and how they're dealing with this.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, his name is Io Kimathi (ph). He's about 39 years old, as far as we can tell, a senior contract specialist with DHS, Department of Homeland Security, apparently works in immigration and customs enforcement. His job apparently is to encourage small businesses to bid for contracts with the federal government.

But it's the moonlighting that's attracting attention. We reached out to him by phone, haven't heard back.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has done some reporting on him. They say he's the individual known on the Internet as the Irritated Genie, a fiery black nationalist who's seen on video saying race war is imminent, bashing gays, even suggesting he supports the idea of ethnic cleansing of whites in South Africa. ICE put out a statement, they said, "ICE does not condone any hateful rhetoric or advocacy of violence of any kind against anyone. Every ICE employee is held to the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct. Accusations of misconduct are investigated thoroughly and if substituted, appropriate action taken."

So that's what the government is saying, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Is there anything that he's doing illegal? Or is there -- how do we understand whether or not any of this -- can he still be an employee with the government he's while doing this kind of activity?

JOHNS: ell, first, it's pretty clear the government is looking into this, government employees in this type of situation have to get clearance for outside activities but DHS is not commenting on whether Mr. Kamathi (ph) fully disclosed the nature of his outside activities to the government.

We tried to reach him at his office, his phone today there. And we're led to believe he might be off. However, we've been given no indication that he's been suspended or put on administrative leave. We do believe the government is looking into this. And a source told us it will take a few days for them to figure this one out.

MALVEAUX: All right, interesting. Very interesting.

Thank you, Joe. Appreciate it.

President Obama is sitting down with CNN, getting real about Congress as well. You'll want to hear this, up next.