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Interview With Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn; President Obama Heads to Texas; Violence in Israel; Snowden Leak: Muslim-American Lawyers Targeted

Aired July 9, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama will touch down in Texas any minute to discuss the thousands of children penned up at the border, though he's not going to see them with his own eyes.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. He has asked for billions to deal with them. He will meet with Texas Governor Rick Perry to lock horns over them, but what he won't do is visit the camps. Tens of thousands of children causing this crisis at the border are locked up right now.

The world lead, Israel exchanging fire with Palestinians, unleashing its biggest air assault on Gaza in at least two years. With Israeli troops lining the border, the big question, is a ground invasion next?

And the money lead, Oklahoma threatening to unseat California as the earthquake capital of the U.S., but the reason according to a new study is closely linked to an industry, one that signs a whole lot of paychecks in that state.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin with the national lead.

A short time from now, President Obama will touch down in the Lone Star State, where he will step off Air Force One and immediately into the middle of what his administration has called a "urgent humanitarian situation," tens of thousands of children, many from Central America, flooding the border.

On one hand, they're just kids, 52,000 of them since October, looking for a better life, perhaps escaping who knows what. On the other hand, they're breaking the law by coming here, overwhelming facilities and resources and setting a dangerous precedent and they just keep coming.

The main reason the president is on this trip in the first place is fund-raising and he will do the Texas two-step around calls for him actually to go to the border to size up the urgent humanitarian situation with his own eyes.

However, he has requested nearly $4 billion in emergency funding to try to deal with it. The president today called out House Republicans after Speaker John Boehner indicated that he can forget about a speedy vote on that request.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And if you look at the president's request, it's all more about continuing to deal with the problem. We have got to do something about sealing the border and ending this problem, so that we can begin to move on with the bigger question of immigration reform.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses, despite the fact that everybody from law enforcement to corporations to evangelicals -- there is a coalition around immigration reform that's unprecedented. These guys still can't get their act together.


TAPPER: Within minutes of arriving in Dallas this evening, the president will meet with Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry to discuss and likely argue over this crisis at the border. Perry who aimed to knock President Barack Obama out of the Oval Office in 2012 has ravaged the president's stance on immigration.

The meeting almost didn't come together after some very public sparring with each side barely containing its contempt for the other.

Our Ed Lavandera is at Love Field in Dallas, where the president will arrive shortly. And our Alina Machado is standing by at the U.S.- Mexico border in Texas.

Alina, I want to get to you in a moment.

But, first, Ed, is there any hope of the president and Governor Perry finding any common ground here?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's not exactly clear just how much one-on-one time the president will have with Governor Rick Perry.

This is actually part of another meeting that -- President Obama is meeting with local officials here and government officials. Dallas County is considering a proposal of offering temporary shelter in a number of schools that would be able to house some of the influx of unaccompanied minors, so that meeting is taking place.

We have reached out to Rick Perry's people throughout the day. They have been very tight-lipped about what to expect from this meeting. So we will be anxious to see just what kind of progress, if any, is made and exactly what kind of one-on-one communication Governor Perry and President Obama have while they meet here as well as other people will be a part of this process as well.

We will be monitoring that and we're not even exactly clear whether or not Governor Perry will be make any statements following the meeting. We anticipate he will, but he's not exactly clear when though -- Jake. TAPPER: A lot of mystery in the air. Thank you, Ed.

Turning to Alina Machado at the border.

Alina, what are you seeing down there? What are the conditions where these children are detained?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I want to give you a sense of where we are right now.

We are right on the border, right on the Rio Grande on one side. On that side over there, you have the Mexican side. On this side, where I'm standing, you have the American side, the U.S. border. There is a very strong Border Patrol presence in this area.

I don't know if you can see over there, but I want to show you, there is a helicopter, a Border Patrol helicopter hovering, and we have been seeing helicopters and boats from the Border Patrol all over this area all day.

We also wanted to venture into town and see how things are. We stopped by the bus station where many of the immigrants go before leaving town and we did see a few families from Central America, including a woman and her 4-year-old son who spent 15 days traveling to the U.S. from El Salvador.

They were getting ready to board a bus and go to Houston to meet up with family. We also stopped by a Catholic Charities shelter that's been helping some of these immigrants, some of these children as they're making their way through the process. That shelter has a mobile clinic and so far what they tell us they have been seeing are primarily cold-like symptoms and also dehydration.

Take a listen to what the owner of the clinic had to say to us.


RAYMOND SANCHEZ, MOBIL HEALTH CLINIC: We have no knowledge of where they're coming from, what detention center area, but we have seen sometimes where, let's say 30 come in a bus, which are the shuttle buses from the city, and we will see, let's say, 80 percent.

And then there are times where the same number come by and we will see 25 percent.

MACHADO: Of people who are sick?

SANCHEZ: So, it just varies. It varies a lot.


MACHADO: Now, they have been treating at that clinic children and adults, and I asked them, how long are you prepared to sustain this? They say as long as needed. This person told me they are relying on volunteer doctors and nurses to help get the medical treatment these people need -- Jake. TAPPER: Alina Machado and Ed Lavandera in Texas, thank you so much

for those reports.

While the president is out of town, the Senate held a hearing on the crisis at the border today with six different agencies. Those witnesses could fit in a "Brady Bunch" box or be all the panelists on the "Hollywood Squares." Sure, there are a lot of agencies, but I'm sure it's very easy to understand each agency's role, right, guys?


GIL KERLIKOWSKE, COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: We're working with ICE and Health and Human Services and FEMA and others and the federal partner to ease these current conditions.

MARK GREENBERG, HHS ACTING ASSISTANCE SECRETARY: When an unaccompanied child is in CBP custody, they refer the child to us.

THOMAS S. WINKOWSKI, ICE: CBP notifies ICE and the Department of Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR.


TAPPER: Makes sense to you, right? That only emphasizes just how complicated U.S. policy on border security and immigration really is and how the answers don't come easy with so many fiefdoms.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was at that hearing. He joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Senator Coburn, good to see you as always.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: I want to play an exchange that you had with Mark Greenberg, who heads up the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.

You asked Greenberg if they're checking on the legal status of the families with whom these children are being placed.


COBURN: I'm asking you why you do not ask that question.

GREENBERG: Sir, the...

COBURN: Is it the policy of HHS not to ask the status of those people with whom you are placing the child?

GREENBERG: We do not specifically...


COBURN: Is that the policy?


GREENBERG: ... immigration status.

COBURN: Is that the policy of HHS of this country?

GREENBERG: Yes, it is that is the case. Yes.


TAPPER: So, Senator, I guess the follow-up is if it became the policy that you find out the legal status and if they were not legal, what do you think the children -- should be done with those children?

COBURN: Well, that's not where I was going, Jake.

Where I was going is they're never going to show up for their hearing on whether or not they're eligible to stay here and that's our problem. We have two sets of laws for the same groups of people that try to come into America. If you're Mexican or Canadian, we have one set of laws, which means you get repatriated almost immediately, whether a child or an adult. You automatically go back.

If you're other than Mexican, then we have a different law that was changed in 2008, with good intentions, but never recognizing that this would be the consequence of it.

TAPPER: No, I take your point. You're saying that if the kids are placed, these kids who come into the country illegally, with people who are also not in this country illegally, then they're never going to show up for these hearings, according to the...

COBURN: That's right.

TAPPER: But the solution, I suppose, would be to check on the legal status. And what do you do then if it turns out that they would be turned over to people who were also in the country illegally?

COBURN: No, the real solution is to treat other than Mexicans the same way we treat Mexican citizens when they come across the border.

TAPPER: Just repatriate them immediately?

COBURN: You repatriate them immediately.

First of all, we have a tragedy occurring because people think they can come here without any risk. This jaunt from Honduras or Guatemala is not without risk. We have had tremendous amounts of tragedy, rape, death of children.

We have had a lot of mothers with children that are not unaccompanied children. But the fact is, is, if you want to solve this problem, you have to fix the real problem and the real problem is, is we have a law that says Border Patrol can't hold them more than 72 hours and they can't be repatriated automatically. We need to change that because...


TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that.


COBURN: Let me make one point on it first.


COBURN: We're putting a lot of kids at risk.

Remember, this is organized crime that is selling this in these three countries, that you can get them here and they will be here. And they're extracting large amounts of money, then abusing children as they carry them up here.

TAPPER: No, it's horrific, absolutely.

COBURN: It's terrible.

So, the best way to stop that is to have airplanes landing every day bringing these children back to their country of origin. And it will stop.

TAPPER: Well, I want to ask you about that, because you and Senator Ron Johnson seem to be making that point, fly these children back to the countries they came from to send that message.

But the reality is, these parents are sending their children away from poverty and violence. The United Nations has named Honduras, one of these countries, the murder capital of the world. El Salvador and Guatemala are no slouches either. They're number four and five on the list.

Do you not fear that you might be sending them back to an uncertain future?

COBURN: No, I don't, because it's not significantly changed in the last three or four years, so what's caused this change?

It's been the signal that said you can come here and you won't get sent back. And that's what we have done is created an expectation that is wrong and that's putting hundreds and thousands of children at risk. Here is the other side of it the American people ought to know.

The president just asked for $3.7 billion. For less than $20 million, we can fly them all back first class. So think about how stupid our policy is. We have a law in the books which we need to change and then we need to solve the problem by repatriating within 72 hours to their country of origin.

TAPPER: Senator, just to touch on the issue that President Obama makes, which is there is a larger immigration issue in this country, I recognize that an immigration reform bill did pass the Senate. House Republicans refuse to vote on anything. I realize that that does not specifically address this immediate

crisis, but isn't there a larger issue here, and Republicans, for whatever reason, especially in the House, are refusing to even compromise on it?

COBURN: No, I don't think so.

I think you need to take a look at DACA, which was the executive order and the regulations put out that actually said if you come in here, you're not going to get sent back. So we have sent the signal through the administration. Congress didn't send that signal. This administration sent that signal. And now we have this crisis on our hands because we have sent that signal.

I disagree. I want to solve the immigration problem, but the way you solve the immigration problem is secure the border, and you will have Americans come around and say, yes, we want to solve the problem.

TAPPER: Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, as always, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

COBURN: You're welcome, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD, they say they have done nothing wrong, so why was the U.S. government reportedly reading their e-mails? We will ask two targets of the covert NSA surveillance program coming up next.

Plus, give years ago, there were just two significant earthquakes in the state, so why are residents there suddenly buying earthquake insurance like it's going out of style?



He shook the intelligence community of the United States to its core with a thumb drive and now, another one of the highly classified documents stolen by secret leaker Edward Snowden is hitting the headlines. It's a spreadsheet showing over 7,000, mail addresses that were the targets of government spies. On it are more than 200 American citizens, including five prominent Muslim-Americans who say they did nothing wrong.

Our Pamela Brown has the details.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a new report, the federal government spied on Muslim-Americans for six years, according to the latest documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, an attorney, two professors, the executive director of the Muslim organization CARE, even a political candidate running for office, all of whom deny any ties to terrorism.

Many Muslim-American advocates say the new report is alarming. HARIS TARIN, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: All Americans should be

concerned because there may be one group of Americans today, but tomorrow it could be another group of Americans.

BROWN: The article published overnight by Glenn Greenwald of "The Intercept" identifies the five Americans based off an NSA spread sheet titled FISA recap showing, mail address the government monitored. The Foreign Intelligence Act allows the government to monitor U.S. citizens with the judge's approval from the FISA court. The spreadsheet designates 202 email addresses belonging to U.S. persons and nearly 2,000 belonging to foreigners. Many of the email addresses on the list reportedly belonged to foreigners the government believed were linked to Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda.

TARIN: We're concerned about the security. At the same time, we're concerned about the fundamental rights that we have as Americans.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens --

BROWN: The government under President George W. Bush allegedly began monitoring the American Muslims soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In some instances, targets included members of the president's own party. Faisal Gill was a GOP operative and served on the Department of Homeland Security under Bush. The spying allegedly continued through 2008 and in a joint statement, the Department of Justice and the director of national intelligence say the government values privacy just as much as national security and that it's entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct an electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Pamela Brown.

I want to bring in Glenn Greenwald who broke the story with a colleague for First Look Media's "The Intercept," he joins us live from Rio de Janeiro, along with two of the men targeted by this government spying, Asim Ghafoor, an attorney who has represented clients in terrorism related cases, and Faisal Gill, also an attorney and former senior policy director of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.

Thank you one and all for being here.

I want to get to your story, Glenn, for a second, but first, Glenn, you suggested there -- a "Wired Magazine" interview there might be a seconds NSA leaker in addition to Snowden. I'm wondering, has Snowden confirmed that?

GLENN GREENWALD, THE INTERCEPT: It's not that it's confirmed. It's just that there have been stories published by other media outlets about NSA, using NSA documents that didn't indicate that Edward Snowden was their source for the documents, leading, I think, to the reasonable suspicion that there is another source or sources providing documents to media outlets.

TAPPER: All right. Back to your story. Now, the government says that they don't spy without reason. You haven't actually seen the FISA documents or other legal documents justifying the surveillance, right? So, we don't know what the justification was.

GREENWALD: Right. When I've seen is all the evidence about how these American citizens have lived their lives and the fact that they've never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of a crime and they're all public figures who have led exemplary lives and have no connection of any kind to terrorism and cannot remotely said to be acting as an agent of a foreign power. And so, I do think you're right, that leads to the question, why then were they targeted?

TAPPER: All right. Faisal and Asim, let's get to you.

You both are -- have had associations in the past that were written about in Glenn's story that people might wonder about. You have done legal representations for groups that have been charged by the U.S. government of being associated with terrorism and you worked briefly for the American Muslim Council and the leader of the group was later sentenced to jail for the Libyan plot for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

So, is it not possible that those were the reasons why there was surveillance? I'll start with you.

ASIM GHAFOOR, ATTORNEY ALLEGEDLY TARGTED BY NSA SURVEILLANCE: Yes, I'm a civil rights lawyer. I had a lot of clients, if it's my clients that's calling it, that's a reason for pause to find out what benefit does the government have listening in on the lawyer's communications with his or her client, in my case his client, what information can they get from that they can then use in court?

In these cases, I was against the government and I was winning against the government. Imagine a government lawyer telling a supervisor, or an agent telling his or her supervisors, you know, we should listen to his emails, maybe we can go to court and beat him with this information. This just doesn't make sense.

So, while it sounds plausible that that's why the government would tap me, as a lawyer, to me, that's not the way to go about doing it.

TAPPER: And you, it's an even more interesting story for you because you worked for the bush administration for the Department of Homeland Security at the time.

FAISAL GILL, FORMER SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR, U.S. DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY: That's right. That's why, I guess, my number one reaction was of shock and surprise because there's nothing in my background that would lead any law enforcement agency to suspect me of any acts of terror.

Now, yes, I did work for the American Muslim Council for a brief period of time, but during the time I was working with them, Director Muller of the FBI called the American-Muslim Council the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States, and al-Amoudi who was the leader and who was subsequently caught in a plot, I hardly had contact with him and not know him well and he was not with AMC at the time I was working with him. Plus, all of that was on public. All that was out in the open.

I mean, I was doing, I was their spokesman, so I was doing it outwardly and what are other groups are there? There's American Muslim Council, there's CARE whose director is also on this list. So, if you're a Muslim and you want to work groups, there are only a few choices.

TAPPER: Glenn, I don't --the list has 7,400 individuals, this monitoring supposedly took place between 2002 and 2008. You seem to be suggesting very strongly that these individuals were spied on because they were Muslims, at least in the case of these five as opposed to -- I mean, I don't know the ethnicity or the religion of the 7,400. I am no expert on statistic, but five out of 7,400 isn't necessarily representative, right?

GREENWALD: Well, let me just clear up a couple of things in your report and one of your questions. The list does talk about spying between 2002 and 2008, but the spying and question on these individuals who are in front of you and also the three that we named took place 2006, 2007, and 2008.

So, in the case of Faisal, for example, it was many years after he was at that council. It was actually during the time that he was the Republican nominee for the House of Delegate seat in Virginia.

And so, you know, the question that you asked him what about these clients that you represented, there are all sorts of people who represent highly questionable foreign governments, Bob Livingston represented Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, Joe Trippi represents the government of Bahrain, Lanny Davis represents every tyrant on the planet. None of those people who are similarly situated and who have greater contacts and who aren't Muslim seem to be on this list.

And that's the reason that I think it raises the suspicion along with documents like the one we published were the FBI on the FISA form for a sample is writing things like "Mohammed raghead" and using ethic slurs against Arabs and Muslims, documents we've seen before from the FBI and NSA, raising further questions about what the motive is.

TAPPER: Well, that's clear, obviously, ethnic slurs are horrific part of this story, but let's get back to your case. I understand you're an attorney.


TAPPER: And there's attorney-client privilege.

GHAFOOR: Absolutely.

TAPPER: But being a lawyer does not shield you from a FISA warrant. And in these cases, either a FISA court or before the Bush administration was called out on this, the attorney general himself, somebody thought that there was something worth looking at and they looked into it, it might have been ultimately to clear you.

GHAFOOR: Well, I'm not saying I'm immune just because I'm a lawyer, and lawyers have been prosecuted for passing on messages from their client.

TAPPER: Glenn Stewart, sure.


So, whether you agree with that level of surveillance on a jailhouse interview is one thing, but to listen -- to have somebody's private email, it wasn't even my law firm mail. It was my Yahoo account to surveil that, and to every 90 days or whatever they have to do to keep going before a very serious judge who may not have had the benefit of a clerk because FISA is very secret and going before the judge, saying we need another 90 days, we need another 90 days, to extend that for three and a half years, first of all, I feel sorry for the agents who had to read all of that. I mean, there's not a whole lot you will get from my Yahoo account.

TAPPER: Faisal, I want to ask you and we're almost running out of time, so as briefly as you could. You work for the Department of Homeland Security. You know that this nation is under constant threat. You of all people must understand sometimes investigators look in places and they don't find anything, but it's important for them to look.

GILL: Absolutely. I have no problem with surveillance. Surveillance needs to happen, but there has to be a reason for it. There has to be something in my background that would lead someone to believe that OK, this person should be suspected of questionable activities.

I worked for the American Muslim Council, and after that, I obtained my security clearance. So, clearly, all that was disclosed and it was proven that it was disclosed. There was just nothing there in my background, and the other thing I would say lastly is the FISA court has a very high success rate, 99.6 percent or something ridiculous like that. If you were to go to any county in the United States and look at the success rate for obtaining a search warrant for any crime, breaking and entering, robbery, it would not be that high.

So, clearly, there is something wrong with the problem.

TAPPER: And just very briefly, you think it was because you're a Muslim?

GILL: I can't think of any other reason.

TAPPER: You think --

GHAFOOR: Absolutely. No other reason.

TAPPER: All right. Glenn Greenwald, Asim and Faisal, thank you so much. I really appreciate your taking the time to come down here. Appreciate it. When we come back, a threat to national security in the Senate

chamber? John Kerry says his former colleagues in the Senate are harming U.S. interests abroad. Just what are they doing that has the secretary of state so angry?

Plus, rockets and missiles flying in Israel and Gaza. The body count rising. Is it only a matter of time before Israeli forces begin marching on Gaza?