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Learning More About Elliot Rodger; Pope Francis Gathers Palestinian And Israeli Leaders At Vatican; Thousands Gather To Commemorate Memorial Day; Obama Underscores America's Commitment To Troops And Veterans; Name Of Top CIA Officer In Afghanistan Leaked Via White House Pool Reporter

Aired May 26, 2014 - 13:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're learning more about the 22-year-old who went on a murder spree Friday night in California. Elliot Rodger left behind YouTube videos, a manifesto and a long history of contact with mental health professionals.

Also right now, Pope Francis is about to leave Israel after getting Palestinian and Israeli leaders to agree to come to the Vatican to pray for peace. Can this pope also play the role of peace maker?

And right now, thousands of people are gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington to mark Memorial Day. Earlier, President Obama laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, and for the second time in two days, underscored his commitment to America's troops and to its veterans.

Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington. Wolf Blitzer is off today.

And we are learning more now about the victims of that deadly rampage in Southern California. Authorities say Elliot Rodger's killing spree started in his own apartment, that he stabbed his two roommates and a third person to death. The two women Rodgers shot and killed next were members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. Veronica Weiss is being remembered for her vibrant personality and enthusiasm. And Katherine Cooper was described as having a generous spirit and a warm heart.

The sixth victim, Christopher Martinez, was shot and killed at a deli. He was known for his selflessness. All six were students at the University of California at Santa Barbara. And Alison Kosik is joining us now from Santa Barbara. Give us a sense of the scene there today, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this is a community, understandably, that is still stunned, still in shock about this massacre that unfolded in a matter of minutes.

Now, on Tuesday, tomorrow, it's been declared a day of mourning. And that means that there's going to be a memorial service. Also, classes at University of California at Santa Barbara are going to be closed. Also, the university saying that it is going to have, and continues to have, grief counselors available on campus for anybody who needs those services.

Later today, in about an hour or so, there's also going to be a march. It's going to start at the sorority house where those two female victims were among the first who were killed. And it's going to go ahead and march along the path where each victim was killed. The idea with this march is to place flowers and remembrances at each of these spots and honor each of these victims. Brianna?

KEILAR: And Alison, we've also heard a gut-wrenching interview with the father of one of these victims, Christopher Martinez. So much grief and frustration. Can you tell us more about this?

KOSIK: I mean, really, it is only one word to describe this interview, is heartbreaking. Chris Martinez was his only child. He was killed at 20 years old. And Richard Martinez, the father of Chris, he's blaming these killings on politicians who haven't tightened gun laws. He gives the example of the Sandy Hook killings that happened in Connecticut where 26 people were killed, most of them little kids. And Richard Martinez is saying that these kinds of rampages, they're going to continue, if lawmakers don't take any action. Listen to this.


RICHARD MARTINEZ, SON KILLED IN RAMPAGE: I can't tell you how angry I am! It's just awful. And no parent should have to go through this. No parent! To have a kid die because in this kind of a situation, what -- what has changed? Have we learned nothing? These things are going to continue until somebody does something. So where the hell is the leadership?


KOSIK: And in this interview, Richard also says, quote, "He is our only child, and he died Friday. I'm 61 years old now. I'll never have another child. He's gone." Heartbreaking. Brianna.

KEILAR: And giving us all a sense of his pain. Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

We're also learning more about the person responsible for the carnage. Elliot Rodger apparently killed himself after the wave of terror he unleashed on the community. And he left behind a 137-page manifesto describing his anger over being rejected by women. He also posted a YouTube video the day before the killing spree.


ELIOT RODGER, SUSPECTED GUNMAN: Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity.


KEILAR: And justice correspondent Pamela Brown joining us now from Los Angeles. Give us the latest on this, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I've been speaking to a family friend of the Rodger family. And, of course, the parents of Elliot Rodger are still very shaken. Indescribable grief. Coping with the fact they've lost their son and trying to come to grips with what he did.

We've learned that Eliot Rodger has a history of mental health issues. In fact, he had been seeing a therapist on and off since he was eight years old. In high school, he apparently saw a therapist just about everyday. At the time of the rampage, he was seeing two therapists. This was a deeply disturbed individual.

But from talking to his family friends, Elliot didn't really show any outward signs of violence, aggression. The friend said he was reserved to a daunting degree, but that he never seemed violent or didn't show any fascination with guns. That really wasn't part of the dialogue.

But his parents were acutely aware to the fact that he did have some mental health issues and he was being treated for them. Back in April, Brianna, the mother couldn't reach Elliot, and she instinctively looked at his YouTube page and saw these videos on there where he talked about being lonely and his frustrations with being rejected by girls. So she called his therapist. His therapist apparently called the mental health hotline in Santa Barbara, and that's when police were called to check on him.

But Brianna, police say there was nothing alarming, that obviously Elliot was able to mask the reality that he was plotting to go on this rampage. The parents look at this as a missed opportunity, a pivotal moment. You have to remember, he's 22 years old. He's an adult. You have to meet a certain criteria to bring an adult in for an involuntary mental health exam.

And also, the family we know is asking themselves, what more could they have done. They thought he was in good hands, and they, of course, never expected anything like this.

KEILAR: He writes, Pamela, doesn't he, in his manifesto about that incident, of police coming to his house and how he managed to kind of -- certainly from his point view, defuse the situation. He talks about, right, what they would have found if they'd gone looking, right?

BROWN: Yes. He did. I mean, he talked about it was a close call, that he was worried police were on to his plan and that they were going to fail his plans. Because inside his bedroom was the guns, the ammunition, the manifesto. Sort of a layout of the plans for this rampage. According to police, he had been plotting this for a year.

But you have to remember, police are called on these -- to do these welfare checks quite often. And in order to go into someone's house and check their home, you have to have probable cause for a search warrant or, of course, you can ask permission to go in and search the home. Of course, given what was inside Elliot Rodger's home, it's doubtful he would have given police permission. Brianna?

KEILAR: Generally, the welfare checks yield nothing or they're not a big deal. Not in this case, though. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

People around the country and here in the nation's capital are pausing today to honor America's fallen service members. A ceremony, and this is live pictures coming to you from Washington. This is getting underway at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Each year, thousands gather at the wall to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces. And President Obama marked this Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery. He took part in a wreathing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

And during this speech, the president talked about the need to honor the sacred obligations to service members and to their families. He alluded to that ongoing VA scandal.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we've been reminded in recent days, we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and their families and ensure they get the care and benefits and opportunities they've earned and that they deserve.

These Americans have done their duty. They ask nothing more than that our country does ours, now and for decades to come.



KEILAR: The man at the center of the VA scandal, Secretary Eric Shinseki, attended today's ceremonies. And with reports of excessive, long waits for medical care for veterans, many are calling for Shinseki to resign over the agency's apparent mismanagement. Later in the hour, we'll talk to our political commentators, Maria Cardona as well as Kevin Madden, about what President Obama should be doing about this scandal. We'll have that in about 20 minutes.

And the identity of the top CIA official in Afghanistan. Well, it's not so secret anymore. You won't believe who's responsible for this leak.

And could Pope Francis have a hand in Middle East peace? What he's doing that could get both sides together at the same table.


KEILAR: A big surprise for U.S. troops in Afghanistan over the Memorial Day weekend. The commander in chief showed up on an unannounced trip. President Obama speaking to troops at Bagram Air Base yesterday. He thanked them for their service as the U.S. hands over responsibility to Afghan forces. And country music star Brad Paisley also made the trip. He performed for some of the 32,000 Americans serving there.

And a big oops from the White House. The top CIA officer in Afghanistan has his cover blown after his name was accidentally included in an e-mail that listed the officials who were attending a briefing with President Obama at Bagram Air Field. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta is at the White House. Jim this is - I mean, this is so unusual. How did this happen?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Really. It was a really big screw-up, Brianna, just to be very honest about this. And we should point out that the White House and the CIA are not commenting at this point about the release of the identity of what they call the station chief's name or the top intelligence operative in Afghanistan. And we should also note that CNN and other news outlets are not reporting the individual's name, either.

But the way this happened is basically White House press officials provided the name of this station chief to the pool reporter who was traveling with the president on that trip to Afghanistan yesterday. The print pool reporter serves as sort of a go-between between the White House and other journalists around the country. This print pool reporter included the station chief's name in his pool report. Sent it back to the White House before the White House then distributed that pool report out to some 6,000 journalists.

And Brianna, as you know from working here at the White House, the reason why that person's name was inadvertently included is because typically with presidential events, a list of participants is provided to a print pool reporter or a TV pool reporter who will then share with that their colleagues through the pool system. They just didn't mean to put the station's chief name in it. That is not typically ever the case. You never put intelligence operatives' names who were perhaps at a presidential event when the president is abroad.

And it basically was just an OMG sort of moment for the White House, for the press pool. The reporter for the "Washington Post" who was acting as the print pool reporter noticed the mistake, then alerted the White House, and the White House went back and put out a new list of participants that did not include that station chief's name. So really big screw-up all around.

KEILAR: Yes, without -- without even commenting even on what had happened. So these kinds of names are not normally given to the press at all, let alone given to the press and then distributed.

So it makes you wonder. I mean, this is the top intelligence official, U.S. intelligence official there. What does it mean for U.S. intelligence efforts in Afghanistan? And what does it mean for this CIA officer's career? Is it essentially over?

ACOSTA: I think that's a very good question to ask, Brianna. And I think we can say that privately officials at the White House, and I think in the intelligence community, are very concerned about this. I mean, it sounds like, you know, one of those government mix-ups that occasionally occur, but this is actually a very dangerous situation and you don't want the name of a station chief released publicly for obvious reasons -- and perhaps more than anybody out in the field for the CIA, the station chief in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are still operating, where al Qaeda operatives may be operating across the border in Pakistan. And if that name were to ever be out there, it would obviously be a very big problem for the CIA; it would compromise the safety of that operative and perhaps his family and other colleagues in the field.

So there's really no way to underscore how serious a massive screw-up this was for the White House and everybody involved. It really is just an unfortunate situation, Brianna.

KEILAR: Unbelievable. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you so much.

Pope Francis is wrapping up his trip to the Middle East. Up next, we'll be talking about the dramatic gesture he made toward renewing the peace process.


KEILAR: Pope Francis has wrapped up his three-day whirlwind tour of the Holy Land and this was a historic trip filled with dramatic moments and images, maybe none more than this.

Earlier today, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the Pope met with a Holocaust survivor, bending down to kiss the woman's hand. Or this, Pope Francis pressing his palm against a graffiti covered separation wall, a controversial wall built to keep Palestinians out of Israeli territory. He has left Israel and is expected back in Rome at any time now.

But in a trip that wasn't supposed to be politically, the biggest takeaway might be the Pope's call for a renewed commitment to the peace process. After meeting with political leaders from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Pope Francis even offered to hold a peace summit for both sides at the Vatican.

Eric Marrapodi joining me now on this. He's the coeditor of's Belief Blog. So, this wasn't supposed to be a political trip, but when you look at what happened here, is there really any other way to view it?

ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG CO-EDITOR: The Vatican had said right away this was going to be a trip that was one of pilgrimage, of prayer, of penance. But everyone knew where the Pope was going, when he was going, how it was going to happen, the movements of the trip. We knew there were going to be big political actions with whatever he did.

Touching that separation wall, that picture lit up the world. Both sides -- some were happy, some were upset about it. And you can see it led to, right after that, at that mass, at Manger Square in Bethlehem, the Pope then extends this invitation to leaders from Israel and Palestine to come to the Vatican. He said, "Come to my home for a prayer of peace."

So we'll see what happens. The Vatican spokesman may have been caught a little bit flatfooted by this as well. When asked when this meeting was going to take place, he said we're not sure but we're going to need a little bit of time. As w know, this is a Pope who loves to go off the script. This was not on the agenda. This was not something we were expecting would happen. And it certainly came at a big time and makes a big political statement in addition to these moments of prayer he's had along the way.

KEILAR: So do we know if this will definitely happen?

MARRAPODI: Both sides have said they want to make it happen. The Palestinians and the Israelis have both said they want to come.

KEILAR: There's a lot of logistics to figure out for a meeting like that.

MARRAPODI: Yes, the Vatican has heads of state coming all the time. We saw the president's visit not too long ago, and Abbas had been to the Vatican not too long ago as well. So it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for them to come individually. Coming together, whole different story.

KEILAR: Completely different. So the main reason for this trip was really to meet the head of the Orthodox Christian Church. Why is that such a big deal?

MARRAPODI: Keep in mind, Brianna, we're talking about 1,000-year schism in the Christian church between the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox -- and the Orthodox church, excuse me. So by coming together, having this prayer service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you have a meeting of equals, a prayer service of equals, that send signals that say we want to get back together, we want to work things out, work out our differences, and find our points of commonalties.

The space where they're meeting is one that's hotly debated. It's run by different branches of the Christian churches. And it gets to the point where it comes to blows when things happen. Monks are seen -- you can find these on YouTube where these monks are duking it out over things as simple as moving of a ladder from one side of a balcony to another.

So for the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch to be together, to sign this pact, this points of commonalty, and to have this prayer service together, it sent big signals to both of their communities that they want to start working together even more closely. And it celebrates, commemorates the 50th anniversary of when Pope Paul VI made that first historic trip of the Pope to the Holy Land.

KEILAR: That is some -- it's almost like short of a public service trip to mend a fence. I don't really know what else the Pope could have done to really send the message he did, right?

MARRAPODI: Yes, absolutely. It's been a great trip to watch. And of course the Pope has said there will be a press conference on the plane on the way back to the Vatican. So more to come from this trip, indeed.

KEILAR: OK, we'll be waiting for that. Eric Marrapodi, thanks so much.

And still ahead, even as the president spent the morning honoring the nation's heroes, a scandal surrounding American's veterans continues to follow him. Our political commentators weigh in on what the president should be doing.

And after weeks of pleading from families of the missing, the satellite data for Flight 370 is finally about to be released.


KEILAR: Welcome back. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington. Wolf Blitzer is off today.

Counselors are on hand at the University of California, Santa Barbara, today in the aftermath of a killing spree. And we are learning more about the killer and his victims. Authorities say Elliot Rodger's killing spree started in his own apartment, that he stabbed his two roommates and a third person to death. He shot and killed two young women in front of a sorority house. The third victim was shot and killed at a deli. All six students at the university.

And authorities say Rodger left behind a 137-page manifesto. In it, he talked about his trouble with women and his resentment of the wealthy. He also posted a YouTube video about his, quote, "day of retribution," as he called it. CNN will continue to follow this story throughout the day.

And as we honor the nation's fallen this Memorial Day, the nation's veterans are also in the spotlight. The man responsible for veterans' well-being remains embroiled in controversy. With more and more calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign or be fired, the Defense Secretary is making it clear it's not time for that kind of action yet.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD": Are you appalled when you see these stories?

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It makes me sick to my stomach. Because it is clear responsibility we have as a country, as a people, to take care of these men and women and their families who sacrificed so much.

I know systems are imperfect. I get that. But when you've got what we do know -- and you're right, we need to get the facts, let's see exactly what happened, why it happened, how it happened -- then we've got to fix it, then we have to fix it.


KEILAR: You can watch more of Jake's interview with Defense Secretary Hagel today on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

And let's talk more about the scandal at the Veterans Administration. I'm joined now by CNN political commentator and Democrat strategist Maria Cadona and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden. So I want to talk to you a little bit about the fix here. You heard Secretary Hagel saying we need to figure out what's going on and then we have to fix it. There's not a lot of time to figure this out, right? This needs to be done soon.