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Recreational Weed Shops Open Doors Today In Washington State; German Intelligence Worker Arrested For Allegedly Selling Secrets To U.S. Intelligence Community; Why Won't Washington Work?; Senator Suggests Cubans Behind Sex Scandal

Aired July 8, 2014 - 16:30   ET




In other national news, it's not really all that difficult for us to imagine that this morning's stoners in the Pacific Northwest cleaned out their bongs, put Papa John's on speed dial, and, believe it or not, left their couches to score legally. Because today, recreational marijuana shops opened their doors in Washington state. Washington State becoming the second state in the union following Colorado to allow the legal sale of marijuana to anyone over the age of 21.

Now south of the Evergreen State, Californians have been able to sell marijuana for medical purposes since 1996. But of course, many who smoke up there have no medical reason for doing so. And many still turn to the black market to get their fix, leading to vast swaths of public land in Cali hosting unwelcomed tenants. Cartels specifically, camping out and marijuana farming on public lands and contributing to conditions like this. The ground seared with sun, entire bodies of water dried up.

Our Sara Sidner joined the hunt to stop the marijuana barrens deep in the forest of California.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A climb to the summit before a steep and dangerous descent into the world of the illegal drug trade. They're hunting for marijuana, which has been legalized for medical use in the state since 1996.

So you might wonder why California's Department of Fish and Wildlife recently created a marijuana enforcement team, aggressively trying to eradicate it and jail the growers. As we try to keep up with the tactical team, the reason appears. In the middle of California's most pristine public land, during one of the state's worst droughts, pipes snake through the steams, siphoning large amounts of the public water to grow weed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Nine times out of 10, they're cartel or drug trafficking organizations out of Mexico. SIDNER: He says the cartels have carved up the public's land for

themselves. Some small plots, others where wardens find monster marijuana plants, grower's guns, pesticides, poisoned wildlife, and clearings that destabilize hillsides.

Environmental scientists say one plant alone can use six to eight gallons per day. And it's not just the cartels, but some irresponsible medical marijuana growers making drought conditions even worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These growth sites are doing more damage than some of the other fishing and poaching we've seen in over a hundred years of being a department.

SIDNER: Law enforcement has some unlikely supporters. A group of farmers whose families showed up in these parched hills in the 1970s trying to live off the land, which eventually included growing marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm proud of who and what I am and what I do for my community. And t makes me sad that I am afraid to show my face and my medicine can get me in trouble.

SIDNER: Growing marijuana is still a federal crime, but he says he follows state law and grows medicinal marijuana among his vegetables. He wouldn't take us to his farm, but showed us pictures where rainwater is harvested using drip technology that doesn't waste a drop. His solution to the environmental crisis?

You are saying regulate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. To give us as producers, give us access to a legitimate marketplace. Give us regulations. Give us the ability to stand on our own two feet and work just like every other industry. Producers who are afraid of legalization should step their game up.

SIDNER: Everyone here agrees in the past decade, pot has become an economic juggernaut in the area of northern California known as the Emerald Triangle.

STORMER FEILER, STATE ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST: Marijuana growers are the newest economy in our, in these counties around here. They are coming out of the logging industry, collapsing, basically.

SIDNER: And it's booming.

FEILER: Yes. The marijuana industry is booming.

SIDNER: After decades of environmental damage by the loggers before them, these pictures show the scars left on the land by some marijuana growers. If something isn't done, scientists say this state is at an even greater danger of drying up.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Mendicino County, California.


TAPPER; In world news, let's put it this way. It's doubtful anyone in Berlin is raising a beer stein to the National Security Agency right now. Espionage has been eating away at the relationship between the United States and Germany since last summer when leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had monitored the electronic data of millions of Germans, as well as the cell phone of chancellor Angela Merkel. And now new allegations are flying after reports the German intelligence worker was just arrested for allegedly selling more secrets to the United States intelligence community in a spy saga that may have spanned years.

Merkel says if the reports are true, it's a clear contradiction of the concept of trust. Enter former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who just told a German news magazine white it was absolutely wrong, she says, to spy on Merkel's phone, quote, "The United States could never enter into a no-spy agreement with any country. Not you," meaning Germany, "not Britain, not Canada."

Let's bring in CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer. Bob, thanks for joining us. After World War II there was, I believe, a pact called the Five Eyes between the U.S., Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand. And they promised not to spy on each other. Clinton's comment makes even that pact sounds like a joke. Is there anyone we don't reserve the option of spying on?

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jake, we obey that agreement. The CIA, the National Security Agency doesn't spy on Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada ever. That was a red line we never crossed. There may be an exception here and there, but I doubt it. But as for Germany, it's up to the CIA and National Security Agency. If they feel there is an interest, they can collect secrets in that country. That is just a fact, and Clinton is wrong.

TAPPER: What is your reaction to these reports about this 31-year-old German intelligence worker just arrested. Do you think he was indeed working with the U.S.?

BAER: Oh, I think so. By now the Central Intelligence Agency would deny it if it weren't true. The White House would deny it. This comes at an especially bad time. And I think it's probably true, but we don't know the circumstances. The gentleman in question may have just handed a document to a CIA officer. He might have said thanks, and there was some sort of entrapment. I just don't know at this point.

TAPPER: Why would the NSA risk spying on an ally like Merkel in the first place when they tapped her phone, when that came out last summer?

BAER: Well you know, Jake, it's because they can. Like ISIS, there's not much they can do about it. They're communicating in channels National Security Agency can't get into. So they take the big ears and turn it on Germany. It's titillating to listen to Merkel's phone. But frankly, there is no worthwhile intelligence listening to the German chancellor. I think it's unfortunate. We just don't need to do it. But on the

other hand, the National Security Agency isn't prohibited from spying on Germany.

TAPPER: But you are saying the NSA does this just because they have the power to, so why not?

BAER: Well, they do it with private American communications as we've seen with "The Washington Post." They can get into e-mail, they can get into Skype. And they start looking at stuff, looking around and they keep this stuff. And I think it's wrong, and I think we need Congress to step up to the plate and monitor this. So far, they've failed to since 9/11.

TAPPER: CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer. Thank you so much as always.

Coming up, 120 mile per hour winds, waves as big as a four-story building. Next, why hundreds of thousands in the path of a massive typhoon might not want to be waiting for Washington to help them, even if they need that help as soon as possible.

Plus, who said the CIA is all business? How the spy agency is quickly becoming the funniest government agency on Twitter.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time now for the Buried Lead. Here is the view from space of the massive typhoon that is barreling down on Japan right now. This is courtesy of a German astronaut aboard the International Space Station and writes that the typhoon, quote, "did not even fit in our fish eye lens view. I have never seen anything like this."

More than half million people have been told to evacuate, but if Japan is hoping for help from Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of this massive storm, let's just say that this town's track record for expediting some aid has in the past been hampered by many of the problems that have become features, not bugs of Washington, D.C. bureaucratic and political nonsense.

Voters and lawmakers often express frustration about the gridlock in this town. Some of it is ideological, sincere differences on issues. Often there are other reasons why things here just don't function. A new series we are launching right now is an attempt to shine the light on the reasons the root causes behind some of the hurdles to solving problems, increasing efficiencies or achieving compromise. We are calling it "Why won't Washington work?"


TAPPER (voice-over): Typhoons. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. If you had about $1.5 billion every year to send food to these scenes of desperation, how would you do it? That is the job of Dr. Rajiv Shah of the U.S. agency for International Development or USAID. His goal, to have the flexibility to buy food as close to disaster sites as possible to get it to those in need as if their lives depended upon it, which of course, they do.

(on camera): It's quicker and it's right there, but that's not how it worked?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It actually takes us about three months to buy food here and ship it and get it to, say, the Philippines after a disaster.

TAPPER: Three months?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes two to three months to get that done.

TAPPER (voice-over): That's right. The way the U.S. feeds the world is an antiquated and bureaucratic tangle. Food has to be largely purchased here in the U.S. and shipped by U.S. cargo carriers to the trouble spots. The Government Accountability Office says that 65 percent of the money for this aid program is spent on shipping and business costs, not on food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the last ten years, our capacity to reach people has been cut in half because of higher food costs, higher shipping costs and the cost structure of this program.

TAPPER: If you had 100 percent flexibility with this $1.4 billion, how many more people could you feed and how more quickly could you get it to them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 8 million to 10 million more people and the difference in timeline is days versus months in terms of being able to do that.

TAPPER: So why is it still done this incredibly time-consuming way? Well, because of clout wielded by those who make money from the current system. Last year, more than 65 agriculture and maritime organizations sent a letter and pushed Congress and President Obama to keep the current system. After all, this system helped shipping companies and unions win billions in government contracts, companies for instance like Maersk.

Maersk gained fame from the big sea turned big screen saga of Captain Richard Phillips who was kidnapped by pirates from the Maersk Alabama in 2009. At the time, nearly 5,000 metric tons of food was on board that ship en route to African refugees. Maersk would not comment for this story.

There was the Transport Workers Union. The president of the Transportation Trades Department at the AFL/CIO told Congress last year that any change to the current system, quote, "would undermine our nation's maritime and agriculture industries and their work forces."

U.S. jobs. Money for U.S. companies, both important priorities, but that is not what this money is for. Money is to help victims of disasters abroad and these interests wield serious clout. The Center for Public Integrity says the two leading maritime unions, for instance, gave more than $750,000 to members of the current House of Representatives in the 2012 election cycle.

And the center says, those members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, receiving that money, voted against Dr. Shah's efforts to reform the program 83-29.

(on camera): I have to admit, I just don't understand. I get the idea of bureaucracy, but when you are talking about people starving, a program that takes three months to get food, ship food and deliver it to them, I mean, they're going to die.

DR. RAJIV SHAH, ADMINISTRATOR, USAID: We want to reach as many as we can as efficiently as possible. This is an extraordinarily difficult problem.

TAPPER: After five years of pushing, Dr. Shah now has the flexibility to spend about 20 percent of the funds the way that he sees fit. That, in his view, is not nearly enough and leaves too many people in need for far too long.

Coming up next, it started as an anonymous tip alleging a Democratic senator traveled abroad for sex with underage prostitutes, but now that senator suggesting the leak actually a smear straight from Cuba.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other politics news, sex, poolside parties, prostitutes, a foreign country, all manners of impropriety laid at the feet of one of the most powerful men in Washington right before an election. I think I have a plot for the next season. Senator Robert Menendez found himself under investigation for all these things after a conservative web site published the story of two Dominican women claiming he slept with underage prostitutes while vacationing at the home of a close political ally in the Dominican Republic.

Now Menendez' lawyers claimed their client was set up by Cuban spies. Here with details, CNN justice correspondent, Pamela Brown -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's all shadowy. Here's what we know, Senator Menendez and his team are choosing their words carefully saying they've been aware of the possible Cuban leak more than a year and they are asking the Justice Department to investigate the leak pointing out that Menendez has been targeted by Cuban spies in the past. They believe the allegations that he slept with underage prostitutes may have been the result of another smear campaign by the Cuban government. This of course adds another legal and political twist to a long-running drama involving Menendez.


BROWN (voice-over): Was the Cuban government behind the plot to take down Senator Menendez in an elaborate smear campaign? That's what his lawyer is demanding the Justice Department investigate saying the CIA discovered Cuban intelligence agents using the alias Peter Williams spreading rumors a New Jersey Democrat traveled to the Caribbean to have sex with underage prostitutes.

The allegations were widely reported, but the FBI eventually found no merit in the matter. The alleged Cuba connection was first reported by the "Washington Post" and the senator now tells senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, this information deserves the Obama administration's attention.

SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: It should be pretty appalling that a foreign government would be engaged in trying to affect an election and/or position of a United States senator. If that can happen, I think there is real consequences for our democracies.

BROWN: But the lawmaker is still under separate federal scrutiny over allegations he had improper ties to political donors. Some ethics watch dog groups question the timing of this newest disclosure.

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Senator Menendez and his legal team that are trying to muddy the waters and put them altogether and I think that might be a successful strategy for him. Putting this out now at a time when the investigation is escalating is a way to try and stop an indictment.

BROWN: Menendez is a Cuban descent and a long time opponent of the communist regime pushing for continued U.S. sanctions against Raul Castro's government. David Buckner who was the lead U.S. prosecutor in a Cuban espionage case says Menendez' name was brought up in a trial in early 2000 as someone who was targeted by Cuban spice.

DAVID BUCKNER, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Senator Menendez was discussed in the communications between the Cuban intelligence service in Havana and agents here in Miami. If this turned out to be an active measure by the Cuban Intelligence Service, I wouldn't be surprised. I don't know if it is, but it certainly would fit the dome.

BROWN: For his part, Menendez would not say whether his legal team made the new allegations public or whether he is in possession of secret government documents on the alleged Cuban link.

MENENDEZ: The government is in the one in possession. As far as I'm concerned, it's the government that should produce the information that they supposedly have within their own agencies.


BROWN: There are still some unanswered questions here like what evidence the CIA reportedly uncovered according to the "Post" that link the allegations against Menendez. We did reach out to the CIA and the Department of Justice, but both agencies have no comment -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Curiouser and curiouser. In national news, the Central Intelligence Agency has been on Twitter for all of a month now leading not only to the disconcerting Twitter alert, the CIA is now following you, but some odd moments. It seems whoever is doing the official tweeting for the CIA regard him or herself as a bit of a cut-up out to show that the CIA is hands down regardless of whatever evil the agency has been responsible for.

Notwithstanding the assassinations or government coups, it is simply a hilarious agency. Take a look at some of the CIA's tweets for its one-month Twitter-versary regarding one of the greatest mysteries of our time. The CIA says we don't know where Tupac is. CIA, you are definitely the funniest spy ring ever to run enhanced interrogations.

Ellen Degeneres hoped the CIA could follow her on Twitter. The CIA said sorry for not following you back, Ellen, if you visit us, maybe we can take a selfie, CIA. Seriously, CIA, if I had to name a funnier agency that conducted mind control experiments with LSD, I would be at a total loss.

The CIA tweeted out, no, we don't know your password so we can't send it to you, hash tag sorry/not sorry. We would have to talk to the NSA for that. The CIA Twitter account proving that just because you spend all day gathering intelligence on individuals you suspect to be terrorists bent on killing us, you don't have to be so serious about it.

Follow @cia right now before the jokester crosses that line and gets fired or reassigned or just disappears. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. Check out our show page at lead for videos and blogs and extras. You can also subscribe to our magazine on Flipboard.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer who is right next door as we speak in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.