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Snowden Releases Document About NSA Spying on World Leaders; CTE Attacks NFL Players

Aired October 25, 2013 - 20:00   ET



Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, a sports legend makes a troubling admission. He is losing his memory. He's scared and says God only knows the toll that hit after NFL hit took on his brain. Tonight, football great Brett Favre and the terrifying disease that's already taken so many big name lives.

Also, a secret field in the disappearance of JonBenet Ramsey. New documents showing just how close her parents came to facing charges in connection with the case.

And later tonight, what's little spying between friends. Damage control after allegations the NSA just didn't just have capacity to spy on you and me, but also some of America's most powerful allies.

We begin with chilling revelation by one of the NFL's most admired and talented players, former quarterback Brett Favre.

He spent 20 years on the field playing 321 straight games before retiring. He's the league's all-time leading passer. He was known for toughness.

Now in an interview with ESPN Radio, Favre who is 44 revealed he's suffering memory problems. Here is what he said.


BRETT FAVRE, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: I don't remember my daughter playing soccer, youth soccer one summer. I don't remember that. I got a pretty good memory and I have a tendency like probably we all do, where is my glasses and they're on your head. I have that. This was a little shocking to me that I couldn't remember my daughter playing youth soccer. It was just one summer, I think. And, I remember her playing basketball, I remember her playing volleyball, so I kind of think maybe I just maybe she only played a game or two. Well, I think she played like eight. So that's a little bit scary so the first time in 44 years, that put a little fear in me.


COOPER: I can understand why he scared anyone would be. But for a pro football player like Favre, there is also this. Memory lapses can be a sign of a devastating disease. It has been found in the brains of many athletes that suffer repeated hits to the head. There is no cure and not just professional athletes at risk.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon, has done extensive reporting on what researchers are learning from the brains of athletes who died. Take a look.


DOCTOR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): (INAUDIBLE) runs the world's largest brain bank. It is a project between the Veterans administration and Boston University.

I first met her several years ago when she began finding evidence in the brains of deceased NFL players of unnatural protein tout deposits, those are the same kinds of proteins found in Alzheimer's patients. It's called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is a progressive degenerative disease which leads to Dementia and Alzheimer's-like symptoms. But the difference is these symptoms are usually found in people in their 80s, not their 40s.

(on camera): What we're seeing here, is this definitely caused by blows to the head?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's never been seen in any reported case, except in a case of repeated blows to the head.

GUPTA (voice-over): Under the microscope.

(on camera): That's very obvious, doctor.

GUPTA (voice-over): We saw tale-tale signs of tout protein. Did this surprise you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it definitely did. It can start very early.

GUPTA (on camera): That's amazing, 17 years old.



COOPER: 17-year-old. It is the scientific evidence piles up, public awareness is growing and so as outrage. And in August, thousands of former football players and families reached a $765 million settlement with the NFL after alleging the league didn't do enough to warn players about the risk of brain damage. That's the back draft and, of course, stunning revelation. He joins a growing number of pro-athletes that have gone public with memory problems.

A lot to talk about it. Sanjay joins me and so does CNN's Rachel Nichols who -- excuse me, whose new program "Unguarded" debuts tonight at 10:30 eastern. COOPER: So Sanjay, Brett Favre's symptoms like memory loss, are they the beginning of a more serious condition? I mean, can you say that definitively?

GUPTA: No, we can't say that definitively. I mean, you know, the concern is something known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. People are becoming more familiar with that term.

But you know, football players are higher risk in developing CTE along with other brain related diseases like Parkinson's disease, ALS. But the concern is that if it's memory loss that's related to CTE, it could develop into more full blown CTE which includes things like mood problems, anger problems and that's what some players have developed. So, I'm sure that's what they are thinking but that's by no means definitive.

COOPER: Do the symptoms improve or they just continue to deteriorate?

GUPTA: Well, if it is CTE and again, we don't know for sure, they would continue. I mean, as far as we know and this is still pretty early science, its players tend to have progressive symptoms. I've seen some of the brains of players that have CTE and it looks almost like an Alzheimer's-like disease. So, the memory loss is just one of the classic symptom of that.

COOPER: It is incredible, Rachel, he played 321 straight games in the NFL. What kind of a player is he?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: I mean, look. I was on the sideline for more of the games than most. And the most remarkable thing about Brett Favre was that iron man streak, that attitude (INAUDIBLE), whatever is wrong, put a Band-Aid on it, go back on the field and play. Team mates loved that attitude about him. He was braised for that over and over and the fact that that could be one of the things that leads to him having problems later in life is one of the big paradoxes of the NFL these days.


And Sanjay, I mean, he was obviously quarterback. Are there specific player positions that are more susceptible to brain injuries?

GUPTA: Yes, there seems to be. And this is interesting. These so-called speed players like quarterbacks, like running backs, they tend to be more susceptible to this and if you look at the data across the board, they are about three times more susceptible. So, it could be both the number of hits they take, blows, as well as the force of those blows that puts them at higher risk. But, yes, definitely.

COOPER: The NFL just settled out of court with players for like $765 million for medical issues. Some players feel that's not enough.

NICHOLS: Yes, I mean, there are definitely people who say great, you shut everybody up for a little bit. But what about now, the players now, still playing the game. What about the guys who are going to be suffering? It sounds like a lot of money but when you talk about a $9 billion business and split that up among all these different player, was this really the kind of thing that the NFL just wanted to quiet everybody down, keep going around about their business. Or is this the kind of problem that no matter what the settlement would have been, goes way beyond the court system, goes to the fabric of the game. Are we going to be able to solve this when Americans love watching guys hit each other really hard?

COOPER: And I mean, what is the solution, really? I mean, short of not playing the game, it doesn't seem like any amount of padding or whatever is going to -- I mean, certainly players are more aware now than they were before.

NICHOLS: The attempt right now is to change the way guys hit each other. You can't lead with your head anymore when you go after another player. They are changing the target zone, which is what they call it. But other players say hey, that makes us more susceptible to knee injuries.

And the other issue here too is players reporting damage. Brett Favre who said many times, hey, I can't tell you how many concussions I had. He didn't want to tell anybody if he was feeling woozy because he didn't want to come out of the game. Last year, we saw in San Francisco, the quarterback Alex Smith said he had a concussion because we have all these new concussion protocols now. You are suppose to say when you have a concussion. Well, he sat out because he had a concussion and he lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick. You're basically telling these guys they have an economic disincentive to say when they are hurt.

COOPER: And you know, they clear to some soar anyway. I mean, it's a brutal business to be in this game, they don't want to sit out. They don't want to end careers early.

NICHOLS: This is the only window to make money. An average NFL player's career is three to six years.

COOPER: That's incredible.

Sanjay, are football players in college and high school also susceptible to these injuries?

GUPTA: Yes, they are. I mean, you know, there is no doubt that the force of the blows are pretty significant even at the high school level these players are getting so big even in high school. But also, you know, the younger person's brain maybe more vulnerable because it's still developing in many ways, really into your mid 20s. So, they could be at higher risk for both those reasons and then if they continue to play on, it's just the life span, their career span, I should say, of taking these hits is prolonged, as well.

COOPER: It is tough thing to figure out how to solve it.

Sanjay, thanks very much. Rachel, thanks.

NICHOLS: Thank you. GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

COOPER: As I said, Rachel Nichols will be back in just a bit with the newest edition to CNN's live now. As we said, her new program "UNGUARDED" debuts at 10:30 eastern. Tonight she'll show us a side of basketball superstar Lebron James that few have ever seen. She traveled with him to China to watch him in action off the court conducting the business that comes with being a global phenomenon. It's the first time he's allowed cameras on this kind of a trip. That's coming up at 10:30 eastern tonight.

Follow me on twitter @andersoncopper. Let's tweet using #AC360.

Up next, newly released documents, just fascinating stuff, in the still unsolved 1996 murder of Jonbenet Ramsey. We'll take a look back at the case and look at what the documents reveal.

Also ahead tonight, diplomatic shock waves from the memo leaked by Edward Snowden about the United States spying on foreign leaders including at some allies.


COOPER: It is about 20 minutes at 8:30 eastern, tune in to CNN for the fascinating film "blackfish" about the whale that killed trainer SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau and the relationship that trainers developed in the animals they worked with. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is something absolutely amazing about working with an animal. You are a team, and you build a relationship together, and you both understand the goal, and you help each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been with this whale since I was 18 years old. I've seen her have all four babies. We've grown up together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the joy I got out of it is just is a relationship like I've never had.



COOPER: It's a startling new piece of information in a 17--year- old case that captured the headlines for months, even years, the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey. Documents were just unseal showing that a Colorado grand jury voted to indict Jonbenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, on charges related to their daughter's death. But that was back in 1999.

The same year the DA decided there was not enough evidence to file charges after all. To this day, Jonbenet's murder is an unsolved case, a case that shocked the country when the father found the 6- year-old dead in the basement of their house in Colorado in 1996. Now, here is what John Ramsey said on "LARRY KING LIVE" back in 200.


JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER OF JONBENET: I took the tape off her mouth. I tried to untie her arms. They were tightly bound. I couldn't get the know undone. And then I picked her up and screamed, the kind of screamed, the scream you scream in a dream when you try to speak but you can't. It's just a scream.


COOPER: In a moment, I'll speak with Jeff Toobin and Tom Foremen about what exactly the newly released documents really mean. But first, Randi Kaye has a look back.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first clue Jonbenet Ramsey may be in danger, this ransom note Patsy Ramsey says she found on the back staircase of their Boulder, Colorado home. It is the day after Christmas, 1996. The chilling note is addressed to John Ramsey from someone claiming to represent a small foreign faction. The note demands $118,000 and threatens the immediate execution of their daughter.

PATSY RAMSEY, JONBENET RAMSEY'S MOTHER: I immediately ran back upstairs and pushed open her door, and she was not in her bed, and I screamed for John.

KAYE: The couple waits hours, but the call to arrange the ransom exchange never comes. A Boulder police detective tells John Ramsey to search the house, including the basement.

J. RAMSEY: Four concrete wall room. I knew instantly when I opened the door that I had found her.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Did you know she was dead?

J. RAMSEY: No, I didn't. I had this rush of just thank God I found her. Her hands were tied. She had tape over her mouth. I removed the tape immediately.

KAYE: The 6-year-old beauty queen has a cord wrapped around her throat held by a paint brush from Patsy Ramsey's hobby kit. An autopsy later shows that her skull is fractured and evidence of a sexual assault is inconclusive. Days later, the Ramseys issue this warning.

P. RAMSEY: I will tell my friends to keep --


P. RAMSEY: Keep your babies close to you. There is someone out there.

KAYE: But who? There are no signs of forced entry at the family's home leading detectives to wonder about John and Patsy Ramsey, even about their 9-year-old son, Burke. All of them give hair and blood samples to police. But a year later, December 1997, they are still not cleared.

MARK BECKNER, FORMER COMMANDER, BOULDER POLICE DEPARTMENT: They do remain under an umbrella of suspicion but we're not ready to name suspects.

KAYE: We're learning two years later a grand jury indicts John and Patsy Ramsey for child abuse resulting from death, an accessory to the murder. But then district attorney Alex Hunter chooses not to charge the couple.

ALEX HUNTER, FORMER BOULDER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time.

KAYE: DNA evidence from the scene is entered into the FBI data base in December 2003. Then three years later, an arrest, 41-year-old John Mark Car, an elementary schoolteacher with three sons is arrested in Bangkok, Thailand after claiming he was present when Jonbenet died.

He said he loved her and her death was an accident. Car was isn't charged after DNA tests confirm he isn't a match. Two years later in 2008, new DNA analysis clears the Ramsey family for good. The Boulder County district attorney formally apologizes in a letter to John Ramsey for the cloud of suspicion his family has lived under for 12 years.

The apology comes too late for Patsy Ramsey who died of ovarian cancer in 2006. She's buried in a cemetery near Atlanta next to her daughter.

Randi Kaye, CNN New York.


COOPER: Such a bizarre case.

Joining me now live, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and in Washington, Tom Foreman.

So, what does this actually mean? Because, I mean, clearly, this will renew some sort cloud of suspicion over these parents, should it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so for one reason. That DNA test that exonerated the Ramseys came after '99 and before 2008. So the grand jury, when they made this decision to indict didn't have that information in front of them, so I think it's unfair for people to conclude that based on all the evidence, the grand jury thought there was at least probable case they were guilty of something. The grand jury did not have all the evidence that exists now. COOPER: And Tom, you covered this case extensively. You were based in Colorado. The charges recommended by the grand jury, accessory to murder and child abuse resulting in death, that does mean, though, a majority of the jurors thought the Ramseys were somehow involved in her murder.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is where I differ a little bit with Jeffrey on all of this.

Yes, the grand jurors saw something here. They felt something was going on and that's why they reached this conclusion and this DNA, this touch DNA that cleared the Ramseys according to the district attorney later in 2000, this was virtually unknown at the time that this crime took place and since then, a lot of forensic scholars have talked an awful lot how you collect these very fine samples of cells and how do you keep them from being contaminated and how you process them. The Boulder police department was highly criticized for the general police work they did, let alone specific work like that.

COOPER: It is extraordinary, Jeff, that this has not been solved, that there has not been real progress on this case. Do you -- are there more documents to come out?

TOOBIN: I don't think there is anything more to come out. I mean, the thing -- yes, there is more to come out. The full record of the grand jury, the evidence of what people testified to the grand jury has never been released. What was released only today was the last page of the draft indictments. So we don't even know what other charges might have been in those indictments.

So potentially, if the grand jury material would come out, we would know more, but, you know, what makes this case so compelling is so much evidence is out there.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And it's so -- it does seem incriminating. There were no signs of false entry. The paint brush that was Patsy's, that bizarre, bizarre note that was included information --

COOPER: Right. The amount of money asked for in the thing was the same as a bonus that John Ramsey had gotten.

TOOBIN: Right. And it was written on a pad already in the house, so if it was an outsider, the outsider would have had to write the ransom note inside the house which seems extremely unlikely.

COOPER: Tom, do you think this case will ever be solved?

FOREMAN: No, I don't think it will. I think it's just too far gone at this point.

And you know, Anderson, there is a paradox here that really is quite terrible. Either some people lost their daughter and they had nothing to do with it, or they had something to do with it and they got away with it. Either one of which is terrible, terrible to contemplate when you think about a 6-year-old girl being killed in her own house on Christmas night and the impact on everybody.

COOPER: If it was somebody outside the house though, somebody else must know. There must be, you know.

TOOBIN: That's right --

COOPER: Cold cases do get solved.

TOOBIN: Cold cases do get solved and there could be a -- some sort of cold hit on the DNA that was collected, but I mean, I do agree with Tom that at this point the chances are overwhelming, the odds are overwhelming that it will never be solved it. You know, it is worth remembering today Jonbenet Ramsey would be 23-years-old.

COOPER: Yes. That's incredible. Startling case.

Jeff, thanks very much. Tom Foreman as well.

Tonight, a serious twist in the spy game, how the White House is handling claims the NSA spied not just on adversaries but allies, as well. What leaders of some traditionally close friends of this country now are saying about the revolution, which happens to be the latest bombshell from Edward Snowden.


COOPER: The Obama administration tonight is doing damage control after claims U.S. spied on some of its closest allies. Just as a refresher, listen to what then candidate Obama said in Berlin back when he was first running for president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy of peace and progress. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other, and most of all, trust each other.



COOPER: Well today, the trust between him and Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, is being tested by the publication of another document from NSA leaker Edward Snowden. It shows the NSA encouraged the White House state department and Pentagon to share phone numbers of world leaders so the agency could listen in on them.

Today, without confirming if in fact the NSA actually did do an spying on Merkel or 34 other world leaders, the White House promised to review the program. Merkel and the French president, Francois Hollande, said the surveillance could jeopardize their corporation with the U.S. on intelligence gathering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRANCE PRESIDENT (through translator): We have an ongoing dialogue with the Americans regarding both the past what's been done, but it should also and most importantly deal with the present and the future.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Words will not be sufficient through change if necessary.


COOPER: They went on a offer a way out proposing talks to reset ground rules when it comes to surveillance. The Germans today offering to send a delegation of experts to work things out.

Details tonight from national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who joins us.

So, Angela Merkel extended of something from all the branch.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: She did. She said that they are going to be sending a delegation to the U.S. to talk to the U.S. about this. In effect, try to put it behind these two countries that are close allies. But the fact she's making this trip or sending this delegation over means that she believes they need to discuss it and set rules going forward for what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.

You know, both sides they know they spy sometimes but clearly the extent and scale of this has gone too far for many of the close's allies.

COOPER: And the White House visually kind of the damage control mode.

SCIUTTO: They are now a very public op-ed now in USA today by the president's homeland security advisor. In effect, the White House acknowledging that there has been over reach in NSA surveillance and her words, Lisa Monico's (ph) words that we will ensure to collect information because we need it and not just because we can.

So clearly, the president is saying I want you to limit this in some way.

COOPER: "The Washington Post" though were saying there are more revelations to come.

SCIUTTO: They are. They are saying that there are documents out there that Edward Snowden was able to collect and that these may reveal -- what is crucial here, cooperation on intelligence with some of our friends who are not publicly allied with the U.S. So it's not the Europeans but countries where it's arguably going to be more dangerous to be revealed they are cooperating with the U.S. and in particular, on countries that are some of our biggest targets of intelligence operations. This is China, Russia and Iran.

COOPER: We will see what comes out. Jim Sciutto, thanks. All right, let's get caught up in other stories. Susan Hendricks is at "360" bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, new details on the case of the murdered teacher in north of Boston. The manager of movie theater says 14-year-old Phillip Chism (ph) sat right in with everyone else when he saw the movie Blue Jasmine just after allegedly killing his algebra teacher at Denver's high school. Colleen Ritzer (ph) will be laid to rest on Monday.

A 360 follow, DNA tests prove that a Roma couple in Bulgaria are the biological parents of a girl known as Maria who was seized from another Roma couple in Greece. The biological mother told the Bulgarian TV station they gifted her without money years ago. It's unclear what will happen to Maria. She's in the care of a Greek children's charity right now.

United airlines is facing a record 1.1 million dollar fine for long tarmac delays. Thirteen united flights were stuck at Chicago's O'Hare during one day in July of 2012 for up to 4.5 hours due to severe thunderstorms.

How about this one? Metallica will rock Antarctica on December 8th as part of the promotional stunts for Coca-Cola. Just ten contest winners will get a cruise to the South Pole for this truly cool concert. Neat.

COOPER: Intimate concert.

All right, Susan, thanks very much.

That does it for this edition of "360." Thanks very much for watching.

Now an encore, the acclaimed CNN film "Blackfish" starts right now.