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Polio Vaccine Exploding In Pakistan; The Most Famous Riff In Rock; Battle Of The Bands; First Lady's Fit Fight

Aired May 20, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, I went back to Jay Carney and ask him about that, to ask whether or not people inside the White House have known about this for some time given this memo has been out there for some time and Jay Carney said in response that basically at this point what the White House wants to do, what the president wants to do is wait for these investigations to wrap up that are under way right now.

Here's what Jay Carney had to say.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We, the president and the rest of us, await the results of those two inquiries and he is not at all pleased with some of the allegations and will be extremely unhappy if some of them prove to be true. But he will wait for the facts and the investigations as we all should and then insist that action be taken and people be held accountable.

ACOSTA: How long has the president known about the concealing of these wait times?

CARNEY: You know what, Jim, I would urge you to wait for the investigation.


ACOSTA: And he gave same response, Jake, when I asked when did the secretary become aware of the concealing of these wait times and this practice of concealing wait times, he said wait until after this investigation is wrapped up and referred us to the department of veterans affairs.

But Jake, we should point out the inspector general's office for the veterans affairs told our CNN investigations unit that this is a problem they have been examining time and again since way back in 2005. So, this has been going on for ten years, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Jim, very quickly. What is the next step for the White House?

ACOSTA: The next step, and Jay Carney volunteered basically this information at the briefing earlier today that Rod Neighbors, the deputy chief of staff of the president, very trusted adviser of the president, as you know, is headed to Phoenix tomorrow to go and inspect that VA facility that has at issue and has been an issue in these reports. He spent the day today meeting with various veteran groups. It's a sign that the White House is trying to get ahead of a scandal that is really blowing up in their face right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Jim Acosta as the White House. Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

TAPPER: When we come back, could the resurgence of polio in Pakistan have anything to do with the CIA? Why the spy agency is acknowledging a new policy after a backlash.

Plus, it's a ten-minute song but you'd recognize it in a few seconds. And it is that little part that says -- the one band says was stolen from them. So, why are they making a claim now, nearly five decades later?


TAPPER: Welcome back to the LEAD.

In other world news, it was part of the plan to capture the world's most wanted man. Sources tell CNN that in order to find Osama bin Laden, the CIA enlisted the help of a Pakistani doctor (INAUDIBLE) to vaccinate locals for hepatitis with the goal of secretly collecting DNA from individuals in the suspected bin Laden compound.

Sources say the program did not end up helping the CIA. They never were able to get access to anyone in the compound. But health care workers say that the people of Pakistan and the aid workers there to help them are now paying the price.

The Taliban had been attacking health care workers before bin Laden's death in 2011. But since the revelation about doctor (INAUDIBLE), the Taliban have given a new propaganda talking point that immunizations could be part of another CIA plot. And now polio is blowing up in the region. Of the 77 new cases of polio in the world this year, 61 are in Pakistan according to the world health organization.

We learned this week that the White House has promised that the CIA will never again use immunizations as a rouse, but is that enough to undo the damage?

Let's bring in Olivier Knox, White House correspondent for Yahoo! News who broke the story of the White House pledge and Phil Mudd, former CIA and FBI official and senior research fellow at the new America foundation.

Oliver, thanks for being here. A great story. The CIA and the White House are making this policy change after being encouraged to do so by the letter of Deans of 12 top public health school deans warning of the endemic and the risk to help workers. How quickly did this happen?

OLIVIER KNOX, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: The Deans of these schools of public health wrote to President Obama directly in January 2013.

TAPPER: A while ago.

KNOX: A while ago. And according to the CIA, CIA director John Brennan made the decision to end this policy or to implement this ban in August of 2013 and, of course, the letter from the White House came out on Friday.

TAPPER: Phil, obviously you can't discuss operational details, but in a situation like this when the CIA is trying to get DNA and they decide we're going to use this doctor and hopefully he can get swabs of DNA from people inside the bin Laden compound, there must be some thought that this could backfire at some point, no?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER FBI AND CIA OFFICIAL: I don't think so. Look, there are prohibitions or there have been in the past on other kinds of operations, for example, using what we call clerical cover. You can't go into a situation and pretend that you're a priest or a member of the media. I don't think now, years after the raid, we could have looked back three years ago and say, hey, we can predict if we go undercover as a doctor. This will cause a backlash that might lead to a spike in polio in Pakistan. I think that is bit too much to ask. That said, in retrospect, I doubt whether my friends at the CIA had any objection to saying we won't do this anymore.

TAPPER: So there isn't any sort of cold calculation, that look, 100 new cases of polio in Pakistan are worth it, theoretically, if we can get bin Laden and he doesn't kill 5,000 more people, no one thinks that way?

MUDD: No. What I'm saying is you've got to sit down and gauge game every aspect of the operation. But you're dealing in a unique environment here. That is in tribal heirs of Pakistan. A unique operation utilizing a doctor to think in hindsight that somebody could have sat there and said, hey, if these dominos line up in a row, we might get incidents of polio that is higher as a result of that operation. I think that would have been pretty difficult to game out.

ACOSTA: And Oliver, you say that almost 60 people have been killed by the Taliban because of this. How do you mean?

KNOX: Well, even before the revelation of this, this Pakistani doctor was working for the CIA, the Taliban had began fueled and exploited rumors, local rumors that western back vaccination campaigns were actually cover for sterilization campaigns or they were actually ironically enough western spy operations.

What the disclosure of (INAUDIBLE) behavior led to, though, was it painted an even bigger, brighter, bulls eye on the backs of western aid workers. So you saw actually an explosion of violence against doctors and nurses and the police and military who guard them.

TAPPER: Phil, Pakistan was reportedly the only country with endemic polio that saw a rise in new cases since the bin Laden operations. Did the CIA have to peg to vaccinations? Was there really no other way to do it to try to confirm that there were, through DNA, that there people in the compound who were bin Laden family members without going through public health workers as a rouse?

MUDD: Well, you look at this operation in retrospect and say, maybe, maybe somebody should have said that there was a problem with the Pakistani Taliban and health workers in the aftermath of this. But if you look at it, when the operation was being organized, you have a compound that you can't get access with the plumber, you can't get access with the mail man, you can't get access with the policeman.

Further, you have a cultural situation and that is an Arab family, bin Laden's family, that is not going to allow men in very easily. So you come up with a situation where you say, what is the most benign individual I can have approach the door who may have access to the family? So regardless of what you think in retrospect, somebody had a Hollywood thinking cap on beforehand because this operation was very well conceived. In retrospect he might say ill conceived but in the run-up to this situation, brilliant.

TAPPER: Phil Mudd, Olivier Knox, thank you so much for joining us.

In other world news, when Thai men and women went to bed last night in Bangkok, the country was on the verge of fracturing over a political crisis when they woke up. They saw soldiers standing guard with machine gun on a suddenly quiet streets overnight. And without the government knowledge, the military declared martial law, dispatching troops to help quell political protests that began to turn violent last week. Some have been protesting for more than six months after the country's prime minister who has been ousted from office by a constitutional pork called for new elections. The army's chief says the move is not a coup and he declared martial law to try and dialed down the tensions.

Coming up in pop culture, is Led Zeplin the latest rock and roll cover band of all time which other rocker is now claiming page and plan stole? One of the most famous risks in music history.

Plus, Michelle Obama, madder than a kid on tuna casserole day, the first lady fights back against critics who wants to put her healthy school lunch program on hold.


TAPPER: The Pop Culture lead. Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's been piped into high school proms for more than four decades. It's also perhaps the most iconic rift of one of the most revered names in rock and roll, the "Stairway to Heaven" intro by Led Zeppelin's one and only Jimmy Page.

They are the same notes that anyone who is taking guitar lessons will try to pluck out as soon as they walk into a music store. Unless, of course, that's expressly forbidden. Denied. But now the lawyers for the little known band spirit say they wrote the legendary lick first in their 1968 instrumental "Taurus." Take a listen.

The lead guitarist for Taurus who went by the name Randy California has passed away, but his family is reportedly suing according to "Bloomberg News." They say they have waited all these years because they didn't have the money for a legal fight. Of course, this is hardly the first time a rock and roll God has been accused of taking, shall we say, inspiration from someone else's thunder.

Let's bring in Joe Levy, he is editor for "Billboard" magazine. Joe good to see you as always. According to "Bloomberg News," Zeppelin has covered spirit tunes as early as '68 the two groups even played together in '69. Is there any chance this is just a coincidence?

JOE LEVY, EDITOR, "BILLBOARD" MAGAZINE: Sure. There is a chance it's a coincidence given the variety of refreshments available and indulged in by Led Zeppelin on the road. Who knows if Jimmy Page consciously remembered this? Who knows if he was conscious? It may have been a subconscious thing and yet it is true that Led Zeppelin toured with Spirit in 1969. They played this very songs. Spirit played it live, Zeppelin played it live. It does seemed a little too close for comfort.

TAPPER: "Stairway to Heaven," of course, coming out in 1971, a couple of years later. Zeppelin and other groups have made names for themselves by borrowing from a lot of blues musician. So the truth is, people from that era of rock and roll, they borrowed all the time. How would this be different?

LEVY: It's an interesting question and of course, we're talking about 7 seconds of similar music. It's a finger-picked chord progression. I don't think Spirit is the only people in the world to think of finger picking these chords in this way. It certainly does seem like a clear transmission point, but to your point, there were all sorts of transmission points in these days.

This was when rock and roll was still coming into being. The folk musicians and the folks -- passed songs around, Bob Dylan would take those songs and combine with other songs, throw in his own genius and write new songs and that's how a lot of work got done early on in the rock and roll era.

TAPPER: Accusations like this fly around all the time. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" sounds like Marvin Gay's "Got To Give It Up." Let's take a second listen to that side by side. That case, it was a legal case, was actually settled in January. What are some other classic examples of borrowing songs? I remember fleetingly that Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr.

LEVY: That's an interesting case. Of course, Huey Lewis was originally contacted to write the theme from "Ghostbusters" and he did not. Ray Parker Jr. did and it bore, let us say a striking resemblance to, "I want a new drug" by Huey Lewis in the news. Hardly the first time a court found that George Harrison had subconsciously plagiarized the Chiffon's "He's So Fine" for his song, "My Sweet Lord." Before that "The Beach Boys" were sued by Chuck Barry. "Surfing Safari" bears a striking similarity to "Sweet Little 16" by Chuck Barry and Chuck Barry in fact won that case.

And yet to your earlier point, those Chuck Barry songs, they bear a striking resemblance to the "Jump Blues" musician, Louie Jordan, and Louie Jordan never sued Chuck Barry. TAPPER: What usually happens when the lawyers get involved? Is it usually an out-of-court settlement?

LEVY: Yes. It's interesting that this Zeppelin case comes at this time. There's a Greenwich Village folk musician, Jake Owen who wrote a song called "Dazed and Confused" so did Led Zeppelin. It's the same song and Jake Owen reached a settlement in 2010. Zeppelin had borrowed lyrics, melodies from famous blues musicians in the past and those cases have been settled long ago.

But this Jake Owen case is a more recent vintage and you have to wonder if that settlement did not perhaps inspire Spirit or the family of Randy California to bring this suit. Randy California was talking about this in 1996, '97. This is hardly the first time someone has noticed this similarity.

TAPPER: Joe Levy, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM" and a new look at what's often called the forgotten bombing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Long before Benghazi in 1983, terrorists blew up the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killing more than 60 people and about 17 or 18 Americans including the CIA station chief, a visiting high ranking CIA official. We've got the author of a brand-new book, "The Good Spy, the Life and Death of Robert Ames" by Kai Bird. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. He is coming into "THE SITUATION ROOM." He's got some explosive new allegations. I think you're going to be interested. If you watch "Homeland," do you watch "Homeland?"

TAPPER: Of course.

BLITZER: Then you'll love this.

TAPPER: All right, tuning in, in seven minutes. Got it. Mr. Blitzer, good to see you.

Coming up, it's Michelle Obama as you've never heard her before, the first lady angry at those who want to skip her school lunches. That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other political news, now this is the kind of first lady appearance we've become accustomed to. Here she is on Jimmy Fallon recently promoting healthy eating.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Instead of potato chips, a healthy alternative is kale chips.


TAPPER: First Lady Michelle Obama likes to use humor and high energy to push her initiatives, like let's move and her lunch program that set calorie limits on foods served in school cafeterias, but House Republicans are looking to give schools a permission slip to waive that program and the first lady is fighting back. Athena Jones has details.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First Lady, Michelle Obama hosting a talent show with children from across the country. It's the kind of kid-centered event that the mom-in-chief is known for. But it's childhood nutrition that has been Mrs. Obama's biggest and most public campaign, and behind the scenes, her battle to bring vegetables to the school cafeteria is getting heated.

Some schools say kids don't want the healthy lunches and as a result they are losing money. Now House Republicans want to give those schools an extra year to comply with nutrition standards for things like fat, sodium, and sugar in school meals, a move the White House opposes.

Mrs. Obama took her fight to the telephone lines in an off the record conference call with nutrition advocates.

MARGO WOOTAN, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It was terrific to have the first lady rally the troops, bring people together and motivate them to oppose these really misguided efforts.

JONES: It seems like she's gone from making muscles with Sesame Street puppets to flexing her own political mite. They say that they are struggling to find cheap, healthy items and need more time.

JEAN BONNEI, SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION: We would invite the first lady to see what is our programs and how we're managing our programs and taking a look at it from the perspective of that operator that is there every day.

JONES: The first lady didn't mention the House bill by name, but call participants said she spoke passionately urging them to keeping fighting efforts to roll back progress on making school food healthier.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our priority should be, which is on our kids' health and not on politics.

JONES: The White House tried to keep her above the fray, but this is one fight the first lady wants to win.


JONES: So she really does care about this issue. One call participant told me that the first lady spoke from the heart as a mother and that it was inspiring. Another woman told me that the first lady was determined and very, very concerned about what is happening in Congress. And on that House bill, that this call was focused on, it's set to go to the full committee next week and to the full House next month -- Jake. TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jake, thanks very much.