Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Amusement Park Security Crack Downs; San Bernardino Shooters Used Encrypted Apps; Trump Wants to "Shut Down Parts of Internet"; "Affluenza" Teen, His Mother Missing; Air Traffic Between U.S., Cuba Coming Soon. Aired 11:30-12a ET
Aired December 17, 2015 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:33:20] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, security is getting beefed up at the happiest place on earth. Disney installing metal detectors at its Florida and California parks.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also cracking down on the sale of toy guns and who can wear costumes inside the park. It's not just Disney that's adding these new security measures.
CNN's Alina Machado following all of this for us -- Alina.
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, they haven't exactly said what is behind the added security measures but they come in the wake of the terror attacks in San Bernardino and Paris. A Disney spokesperson did release a statement, which I want to read to you. It says in part, "We continually review our comprehensive approach to security and are implementing additional security measures as appropriate."
Most notably, as mentioned, Disney parks not only here in Florida but in California will add metal detectors. We learned some guests will be randomly selected for a secondary screening process using these metal detectors. They added visible and non-visible security measures at the park and discontinuing the sale of toy guns on the grounds and not allowing any guests to bring toy guns into the parks with them.
It's interesting to note that just last week a man was arrested for carrying a gun. He was found with the gun at the entrance to the park and he didn't have the proper permits to carry it. We have no indication, though, that that arrest had anything to do with these added security measures that have now been implemented -- Kate and John?
BOLDUAN: It's effective immediately, Alina? I just remember the entrances, big entrances to these parks. It's already now in place?
MACHADO: Yeah. Disney hasn't been specific in terms of the time frame, but I think it's safe to assume these changes are going to be seen pretty quickly.
And it's worth noting that it's not just Disney. We know that Universal Studios has started to test the use of metal detectors at their theme parks. And SeaWorld is enhancing security measures for the busy holiday season. These measures include increasing security presence both inside and outside the parks, as well as using these metal detectors.
[11:35:25] BERMAN: Alina, thank you.
The white-hot debate. What is on your cell phone could be helping terrorists. This is coming up in the presidential campaign, the debate over encryption and popular apps and their role in terrorism.
BERMAN: Plus, the historic move that is putting the Cold War deeper and deeper into the pages of history. The United States and Cuba agreeing to restore commercial flights for the first time in decades.
BOLDUAN: First on CNN, investigators say there is evidence now that the Paris attackers used encrypted apps to hide their communications while plotting the operation in Paris. Two of those apps used were Whatsapp and Telegram. According to officials briefed on the investigation, because of the encryption, to protect user identity, what was said in those messages may never be known.
BERMAN: This, as President Obama is getting ready to speak at the counterterrorism center. That happens next hour.
We want to bring in Martha McSally, on the House Armed Services Committee and House Homeland Security Team.
Thank you for being with us.
REP. MARTHA MCSALLY, (R), ARIZONA: Absolutely.
BERMAN: Yesterday, the House passed a measure that will require the president essentially to come up with a plan to deal with social media in battling terrorism. What are you after here?
[11:39:54] MCSALLY: This was a unanimous recommendation. It was part of bipartisan task force that I served on well before Paris in March of this year, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee created a task force. For six months we took a deep dive into ISIS, the threat of foreign fighter flow and homegrown extremism. ISIS is using social media in a very sophisticated way. They have an estimated 200,000 pro-ISIS social media posts a day. They are trying to inspire individuals to take terrorist attacks into their own hands where they are or recruiting them to come over and join the fight. We know of 30,000 individuals from 100 countries traveled into Libya and Syria and other places. This is a very sophisticated threat.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, you lay out right there -- not only everyone agrees it's an absolute problem but you lay out right there the huge challenge of how to respond to it.
BOLDUAN: I'm interested to know what you would like to see in that strategy, because I had -- we had on last week, Alberto Fernandez, the former head of the office that was set up in the State Department to do just that, to counter the propaganda on social media and on the Internet is and other groups are putting out. He says that office has always been underfunded, under-resourced. They don't have enough personnel. So, what are you willing to put into it?
MCSALLY: Well, what's frustrating is the administration identified this as a threat in 2011 and said that they really needed to come up with a strategy and we really haven't seen one yet. We've been pushing on them for that strategy. Again, we delivered our 52 recommendations from our task force to the administration in September. They're just continuing to be behind the ball. There's a couple of different elements. One is countering the message, as you mentioned. That's overseas. Also here at home. We have investigations in all 50 states, about 900 individuals. Those are the ones we know of. What we've seen with terrorists like in San Bernardino is a number of individuals are staying below law enforcement's radar and those that we don't know of. This is a challenge. What also happens is ISIS is in a very sophisticated way in a cell in Raqqa, Syria, sending out these messages, seeing who takes the bait, seeing who retweets. Then they start doing private messaging. If they think they have someone serious who might want to plot something sophisticated, they then go dark. It goes into one of these encrypted apps. This is unprecedented. This the first time in history even with a warrant, law enforcement cannot get access to the content of that communication. But it's a complicated issue because some of these companies are not American and they're overseas. It's the yin-yang of technology. We also have increasing cyber attacks and people want to keep their information secure. So, we've got to figure out how to solve this problem because we've got to keep ourselves safe from the cyber attacks and from the terrorists.
BERMAN: Quickly, the front runner in the Republican Party right now, your party, Donald Trump, has suggested he's willing to shut down parts of the Internet to battle the terrorists. Frankly, do you understand what he means?
MCSALLY: I don't. But let me tell you that I have been very critical of this administration that the caliphate had been set up by ISIS 18 months ago. The president just now is going to the national counterterrorism center. I worked very closely with that center when I was running counterterrorism operations at Africa command when I was in the military. We have been calling on him to shut down ISIS in Iraq and Syria using air strikes in a way that actually shuts down their capabilities to communicate, to lead, and to metastasize. He's late to the game, anemic at best and he needs to start showing global and national leadership because Americans are rightfully concerned about their security and his response has been not appropriate.
BOLDUAN: Right. The response from Donald Trump, when you say you don't know what it means, he talked about it in the debate. Rand Paul said what Donald Trump is proposing is exactly what the terrorists would want.
BOLDUAN: Do you think -- do you think shutting down even a part of the Internet is part of a plan? MCSALLY: We cannot sacrifice our way of life in order to keep us
locked down and secure. The terrorists get their way. So, we have to balance these things. But I've been asking, why is the Internet still working in Raqqa where these cells are actually growing and leading the ISIS terrorist capability? They're expanding --
BOLDUAN: Can we take out the Internet in Raqqa?
MCSALLY: Absolutely. Why -- why is the electricity still on? Why is the oil still flowing? We have been using air power in such a pathetic way. We have got to step up our game, study their centers of gravity, use air power for all it brings to the fight in order to put them on their heels. The fact we've been plinking them with reactive air strikes, over five months, 15 strikes a day compared to desert storm was like 1,000. It looks like they're taking on America's air power and winning. That adds to their inspiration, recruitment. The lack of leadership, the lack of taking this militarily and seriously is allowing ISIS to metastasize. Our current commander-in-chief is failing.
BERMAN: Representative Martha McSally, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.
[11:45:13] BERMAN: We have news just into CNN. The ringleader of the Paris attacks -- no, one of the terrorists involved with the attacks in Paris may have evaded capture in the days after the massacre because of a law in Belgium preventing House searches at night. Salah Abdeslam is still on the run. Belgian lawmakers say the law in that country was a big obstacle for authorities searching for him because they could only start searching at 10:00 in the morning.
Interesting admission right there.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Interesting law to have in place.
BOLDUAN: That's for sure.
BERMAN: Coming up, booking a trip to Cuba, it could be a lot easier. The U.S. making an historic agreement to restore commercial flights with its former Cold War enemy.
BOLDUAN: Also ahead for us, he killed four people in a drunk-driving crash. He also walked away with probation. His defense was that he was too spoiled. Now the so-called "affluenza" defense, the teenager there, he is missing after a video surfaces of him at a party with alcohol.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:50:00] BERMAN: A Texas teenager who grabbed national headlines may now be on the run. Ethan Couch, he was drunk when the car that he was driving crashed and killed four people. He avoided jail time, getting only probation. His successful defense -- you will remember this -- his wealthy parents spoiled him so much he never learned right from wrong, coining the now infamous term "affluenza." Now an arrest warrant is out for Ethan Couch. His mother is also missing. And some law enforcement fear the two have fled the country. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEE ANDERSON, SHERIFF, TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. We all know the family has plenty of money. I think this was planned. I believe they planned to get away. I believe they're going to run far and try to hide. I just don't think -- I'll be happy to be wrong, if he's hiding somewhere locally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So this disappearance coming days after a video was posted showing couch at a party, allegedly shows him, laughing and clapping next to a beer pong table right there. He is prohibited from drinking during his ten-year probation.
I think he's still under age, too.
Want to talk more about this with civil trial attorney, Eric Guster; and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.
Paul, you wrote a scathing op-ed during this case, when this man, this young boy, was sentenced to only ten years probation. You said he was getting treatment, you know, unfair compared to how other kids are treated. That it was a ridiculous defense, this affluenza thing. Now you see him potentially missing.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's exactly what I fear. I said in the column the cure for affluenza is prison. This is a kid who came from wealth and privilege. The crime was so absolutely brutal --
BERMAN: Four people dead.
CALLAN: Sure. There was a young woman and she was 24 years old, Brianna Mitchell, run over and killed by him. There were three good Samaritans who had come by the side of the road who tried to help her, they were killed. And one of his friends thrown out of the back of his pickup truck, brain damaged for the rest of his life. And they give this kid 10 years of probation. What kind of a message does that send to a kid in maybe a ghetto area who commits a crime and goes to prison while some rich kid gets a slap on wrist because his parents have money? I think it was an injustice and I think his fleeing the scene proves it.
BOLDUAN: Now let's talk about what we're looking at right now. So his probation officer, not able to get in touch with him. His mother, no one's been able to find his mother. If he is on the run, he was only facing -- really relative, he was only facing ten years probation if he could stay out of trouble. What could he be facing now?
ERIC GUSTER, CIVIL & CRIMINAL TRIAL ATTORNEY: Multitudes of charges, including his mother, if she's aiding and abetting a fugitive. Because he fled probation, he may be sentenced to prison, because he's supposed to check in with his probation officer, stay away from drinking and driving and drugs.
BOLDUAN: Would he be facing jail time now?
GUSTER: Absolutely. Any time you're given probation, you have time that's hanging over your head. If you violate the terms of your probation, they can send you to jail or prison.
CALLAN: Bear in mind, you know, it's up to the judge. The original judge who did this didn't run for re-election.
GUSTER: It's left up to the judge.
BERMAN: Let's talk about the mother. Let's talk about what authority we can use in the United States to get them back. What if they have gone to another country?
CALLAN: Well, that becomes problematic. Then does the country have an extradition treaty? They've got enough money that they're going to pick a country that doesn't have an extradition treaty. It becomes a major project to get them back to the U.S.
BOLDUAN: In the video that released, that is kind of what happened, that may, may, may have been what led to him and his mother being missing now, do you see a violation of probation, if he's at a party where there's drinking?
GUSTER: Yes. Probation orders are very broad, stay away from vicious habits. He's at a party where they're drinking. They have to prove the time of this video to make sure it's after he was sentenced to probation. But social media and videos like this, that's what gets a lot of people in probation trouble. They'll post videos of them smoking weed, having guns, they do stupid things and post it on Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter.
CALLAN: And you could interview the kids who were jumping on the table and say, did you see him take a drink? I could prove that case in about 10 minutes if you give it to me.
BERMAN: Eric Guster and Paul Callan, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.
[11:54:30] BERMAN: Any moment from now, President Obama will deliver remarks from the Counterterrorism Center. This, on a day that we learned that charges are expected against the friend of one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Did they have help? We'll take the president's remarks live.
BOLDUAN: New this morning, for the first time in more than half a century, there will soon be commercial air travel once again between the United States and Cuba. The U.S. official says the two countries reached the deal last night. The official announcement came from the State Department just a short time ago.
BERMAN: U.S. airlines have not had regularly scheduled flights to Cuba since the 1960s. But this doesn't mean you should be packing your bags to Havana just yet.
CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, joins us.
Rene, how is this going to work?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: A U.S. official tells me we are still months away before people can book a trip and hop on a commercial flight from the United States to Cuba. But the breakthrough here is that we are only months away from this, not years away. So this will be a reality pretty soon.
I spoke with several airline executives today who say they're ready to launch. But before that even happens, airlines like JetBlue, American Airlines, they have to apply to the department the transportation for rights for specific routes. So it's the DOT that decides which airlines can operate routes. Many airlines say once they do open up Cuba to commercial flights, essentially, it will mean a boost in competition and will lower the price for consumers to fly there.
Just a short time ago, we heard from President Obama, reminding the American public that just a year ago today, he announced changes between the United States and Cuba as far as the relationship goes. And they've been taking several steps to hold that up. And this is just one example of that -- John and Kate?
[12:00:07] BOLDUAN: Rene, thank you so much. Great to hear from you.
And thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.
BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.