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THE SITUATION ROOM
NSA Surveillance Program Ruled Unconstitutional; Missing American A CIA Spy?; Edward Snowden May Have Stolen As Many As 1.7 Million Documents; Budget Axe Looms Over Veterans' Benefits; What's The Real Value Of The Multivitamin?; First MLB Player Diagnosed with CTE; Heisman Winner Shrouded in Controversy; Cowboys' Worst Loss Ever?; Jamming in Christmas Jammies
Aired December 16, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thank you. Happening now, a stunning ruling, an NSA surveillance program deemed unconstitutional. The fallout potentially huge so what happens next?
Veterans' outrage, cuts to their benefits inside the bipartisan spending bill. Is Congress trying to balance the budget on the military's back?
And research coming out this hour, questions whether multi vitamins are really good for you and it actually raises the possibility they may be bad for you. Should you stop taking multivitamins? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just within the last few hours, a federal judge delivered a potentially crippling blow to a secret government program revealed by NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, declaring it unconstitutional.
CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is standing by.
So is Brianna Keilar over at the White House.
But first, let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for the details.
What are you hearing over there -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if you think the intelligence community, the NSA, is too much in your business about what phone calls you make, this federal judge agrees with you.
In a massive ruling today, a federal judge said that the NSA program to collect phone call information -- who you call, what numbers you call when you call, how long that call is -- unconstitutional, that it violates your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
I very quickly want to read to you part of what the judge had to say. Quote, he says, "I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen. I have little doubt that the author of our constitution, James Madison, would be aghast." The man who revealed all of this, Edward Snowden, now in Moscow, also issuing a statement saying, quote, "I acted on my belief that the NSA's mass surveillance program would not withstand a constitutional challenge and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts. Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."
What happens next, Wolf, the government will have a chance to appeal. This ruling limited to some customers of some phone companies. But if it is upheld, it could have massive implications across the board. And the court also said that so far, it did not believe that NSA had demonstrated that this surveillance program has stopped any terrorist attack, which is the NSA's major point of defense for keeping up the surveillance -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you very much.
The ruling certainly comes at a terrible time for President Obama. He's actually set to meet tomorrow with high tech executives who have already expressed their own deep concern about a lot of these NSA surveillance programs.
Our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us with more on this part of the story.
What do we know about this meeting tomorrow at the White House?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, sources say that President Obama actually called this meeting. And White House officials say these executives will be here to discuss the NSA disclosures and their economic impact, because many of these 15 companies feel vulnerable because they have been used, really, as the means for the federal government to collect some of its data.
We're also told by White House -- by a White House official -- they'll be discussing HealthCare.gov, the rather rocky rollout of the federal health care Web site, but also the bigger problem that that revealed, that the federal government -- and we've heard President Obama say this -- is not tech savvy at this point, not really good at shepherding big tech projects like this.
So President Obama will be talking about ways that the government and the tech sector can partner on things like this.
You've got some big names who will be showing up -- Tim Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Eric Schmidt of Google and Marisa Myer of Yahoo! ! along with other executives from, for instance, Etsy, LinkedIn, Twitter. And many of, Wolf, these executives actually signed an open letter last week to President Obama and lawmakers asking for them to reform these NSA practices.
BLITZER: And no reaction yet, I take it, no statement from the White House on this court decision today?
KEILAR: No, not at this point. They're referring us to the Department of Justice.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar over at the White House.
Thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin -- all right, Jeffrey, give us some perspective.
What does this ruling today mean for the Obama administration?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is just an absolutely scathing rejection of the NSA program that the government has defended so strongly. And it is worth noting that the judge was a George W. Bush appointee, someone who had worked for Republicans in Congress, hardly a screaming liberal. In fact, quite the opposite.
So he has a lot of credibility, I would think, on this issue.
Now, it is important to point out that as a practical matter, it only applies to the two individuals who brought the case. And the judge, on his own, stayed his own ruling until the Court of Appeals can hear it. So today, the surveillance program is still in effect, but it is on legally much, much less firm ground than it was yesterday.
BLITZER: So it now goes to the DC Court of Appeals, obviously, one of the highest federal courts in the nation, just short of the U.S. Supreme Court.
How -- but the programs, as you point out, will continue in the meantime.
How long is this process likely to play out at this next legal step?
TOOBIN: Oh, probably quite a while. These cases move at a very slow pace. And it's worth noting that the Senate, after, you know, Senator Byrd unveiled the nuclear option, confirmed two new Obama appointees to that court Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard, who may well wind up ruling on this.
But it is also -- this is a political issue, as well. Tomorrow's meeting at the White House suggests that there may be changes in this program. So this legal case, as important as it is, may wind up being moot if, in fact, the administration does make substantial changes to the program, so that legally, it's not as in -- it's not in as much jeopardy.
But today, it's off to the DC Circuit.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
All right, Jeffrey, thanks very much.
Up next, an American man missing in Iran for almost seven years, was he really a CIA spy?
One lawmaker suspects the agency lied to members of Congress about this man.
And military groups accuse Washington of trying to balance the budget on the backs of veterans. They're angry. They're trying to do something about that.
BLITZER: The CIA apparently lying to Congress, in the eyes of, at least, Senator John McCain. He's reacting to reports that an American man, this man, who disappeared in Iran almost seven years ago, was, in fact, working for the CIA.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has been working this story for us.
What's the latest?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not just John McCain. I've spoken to members of the House Intelligence Committee. They're demanding immediate updates from the administration on Levinson's case, as well.
And as we're speaking to sources here, including the Levinson family lawyer, we're learning that Levinson's relationship with the CIA was far more extensive than originally told. His lawyers saying that he was an operative, not just an analyst, and that his work for the CIA extended beyond Iran to other countries, as well, working in Turkey, Panama, Venezuela, far more than a casual relationship.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): His family has already said the CIA lied to them about Robert Levinson's links to the agency.
Now Senator John McCain told CNN the CIA lied to Congress, as well.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The CIA did not tell the truth to the American Congress about Mr. Levinson. If that's true, then you put this on top of things that our Intelligence Committees didn't know about, other activities, which have been revealed by Snowden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also for the United States government.
SCIUTTO: The Levinson family makes an emotional case that those denials led the CIA and FBI to drag their feet on securing his release.
CNN's Susan Candiotti spoke with family lawyer, David McGee.
DAVID MCGEE, LEVINSON FAMILY LAWYER: What they were doing was contrary to policy and rules within the CIA. It was a -- clearly, a firing offense. They chose to stonewall, leave him in Iran and hopefully save their jobs.
SCIUTTO: That's an accusation Secretary of State John Kerry vehemently denies. JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: To suggest that we've abandoned him or anybody has abandoned him is simply incorrect and not helpful.
SCIUTTO: Still, security analysts say he should never have been in Iran, a so-called denied area, since the U.S. government has no presence there in the first place.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN SECURITY A LOT: Given Levinson's background, the notion you thought you could infiltrate him into a denied area was particularly risky. This is a retired FBI agent.
SCIUTTO: Now, the publication of his CIA links may further endanger other Americans held in Iran and accused of spying, a favorite charge there. Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati has been held for two years.
Representative Dan Kildee has been fighting for his release.
REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: They can say what they want, they can do what they want, but if they actually want to be taken seriously as they negotiate this nuclear agreement, there's a lot of skepticism.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: Now, Representative Dan Kildee and the Hekmati family say for their part that they are satisfied with U.S. government response so far on this. In fact, Representative Dan Kildee said he's spoken personally, Wolf, with President Obama and Secretary Kerry about this case. Not so for the Levinson family. They are now demanding a face- to-face meeting with the new FBI director, James Comey, to talk about their case directly.
BLITZER: And in the meantime, we don't even know if he's still alive. We don't know where he is.
Ryan Lizza is joining us, as well.
We're talking about Robert Levinson.
We have no idea what his status is right now --
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes.
BLITZER: And whether or not -- the assumption is the Iranians have him.
LIZZA: Yes, that's what we -- that's what we know. And, look, I think if there is a deal for -- to get him back, we're not going to learn a whole lot about it. So we're just going to be in the dark for a while while this plays out in Iran.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit -- you've got a major article in the "New Yorker," Ryan, talking about the NSA and what's going on. And you obviously wrote it before this court ruling today --
LIZZA: Yes. BLITZER: -- which is obviously very significant, as we heard Jeffrey Toobin say, potentially a game-changer, as far as the way the NSA would operate in the United States.
But how much tension is there right now, based on all the reporting you've done, between the NSA, let's say, and the CIA?
LIZZA: Well, I don't know that there's necessarily a whole lot of tension between those two organizations. That's -- the traditional tension in the intelligence community has often been between the FBI and the CIA.
The NSA has been running these programs on their own. They do signals intelligence. They do all the electronic eavesdropping. The CIA does more, obviously, human intelligence, covert programs. They've run the drone program.
So I don't think that's been a major issue.
I think what's so interesting about the court case today is that for the first time, a federal judge said that this idea that you can collect information before you have suspicion of a crime is a major problem. And if that's upheld by the next level -- and I think these -- a lot of people think this is headed to the Supreme Court -- that's a big change. And that's going to lead to forcing the NSA to shut down this program that Edward Snowden revealed.
BLITZER: Let me bring Mark Mazzetti into this conversation as well. Mark is a writer for "New York Times." He is the author of the book, "the way of the night. the CIA, a secret army, end of war at the ends of the earth."
What's your reaction to this court decision today, Mark?
MARK MAZZETTI, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, like others, I think it's extraordinary. I think to have a federal judge say what he did about the program, a program that the administration has vehemently defended and for the judge to call it Orwellian is extraordinary.
Now, obviously this isn't the last step, but it's a major victory for those challenging the program. And we'll see what comes of it. But this will all sort of feed into what happens next year, where you know, President Obama is going to have to address the overall surveillance issue and sort of how much he wants this to be part of his overall legacy.
BLITZER: Let me play a clip from the "60 Minutes" report last night. They had a chance to interview the NSA official in charge of what's called the Snowden task force to talk about the damage they believe was done. I want to play this clip, Mark. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK LEDGETT, HEAD, NSA'S TASK FORCE ON SNOWDEN: It would give them a road map of what we know, what we don't know, and give them implicitly a way to protect their information from the U.S. intelligence community's view.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: For an adversary in the intelligence game, that's a gold mine.
LEDGETT: It is the keys to the kingdom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The point they're trying to make is what Snowden may have stolen, 1.7 million documents but only a few thousand, a handful or so, a few thousand have been released. It's a treasure trove out there. Is that what you're hearing as well?
MAZETTI: Well, I mean, the numbers that are coming out there about what he stole and how much he stole are really varying. The numbers they gave to "60 minutes" of 1.6, 1.7 million, is a lot higher than the number that the NSA director, Keith Alexander, gave just a month or so ago of about 200,000.
The story we wrote this weekend says that they still don't know the extent of what Snowden took. For various reasons, one of them being that the facility where he was working in Hawaii didn't have up-to- date monitoring software to figure out what employees were doing in the system.
So there's a lot of numbers coming out about what he took. And I think all that does is just point out that six months after this investigation began, they are still somewhat in the dark about the extent of what Snowden took.
LIZZA: To confuse this a little more, Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, told me he took millions of pages. That was her language. So the numbers are all over the place.
BLITZER: One document could have a lot of pages.
SCIUTTO: There are other things to talk about, what's lost here. I was in China when this broke. This was at the time when president Obama was going to finally confront the Chinese on cyber-spying in the U.S., that their famous shirt sleeves meeting in California, and what it did to undermine the U.S. position, of course, because if the U.S. is spying, granted, not stealing Chinese business secrets but still spying and on its own citizens, greatly undermine the American position on that.
You talk about who is rejoicing at this. You have the meeting of the tech chiefs tomorrow at the White House. There are estimates this has led to losses of $35 billion for U.S. tech companies abroad in terms of building business. You have users in Europe who are concerned about cloud computing, right, because they're worried about NSA spying. So, that's another facet of what's been lost by the revelation of this.
BLITZER: Mark, do you think it's realistic to think as this individual who runs this Snowden task force at the NSA, thinks that maybe if he comes back to the United States, Snowden, he could get amnesty in exchange for handing over all the documents?
MAZETTI: Well, to me, that was the most extraordinary part of this "60 Minutes" interview was that he even hinted this was a possibility. And of course, it was seen to be quickly shut down by the NSA director and by Jay Carney, the White House spokesman today.
The idea that they would consider or even that it's being discussed is quite significant. I think probably everyone on this panel would probably agree, it is unlikely to happen, but I mean, I think this again is a window into, you know, how concerned the NSA is about all this.
BLITZER: Mark Mazetti, thanks very much.
Ryan, don't go away. We have more to talk about with you. Ryan has a big article on this very subject in "the New Yorker." Jim Sciutto is not going away either.
Coming up, the budget axe looming over veterans' benefits and a lot of folks are furious. We'll show you what they're doing about it.
Plus new research just coming in about multi vitamins. Are Americans wasting literally billions of dollars a year on them?
On a very, very different note, later, here in the SITUATION ROOM, I sit down with a man behind the anchorman comedian Will Ferrell. His new movie takes fans behind the scenes at a fictional cable news network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN: We work for GNN.
BLITZER: No relation to CNN.
FERRELL: No relation. No relation.
FERRELL: To CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on the bipartisan budget plan approved overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives last week. But lawmakers are getting an earful from military groups outraged at some proposed cuts to veteran benefits.
CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now with more.
What's the latest on this sensitive issue, Tom? TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest seems to be that this little part of this proposal seems to have been gaining steam all day long as these veterans have grown angrier and angrier about it. Is it big enough to knock this thing off course? We don't know at this point. What we do know, that many in the military community feel like they have been subjected to a fiscal sneak attack.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The military community is up at arms over the new budget deal, specifically over a reduction in veterans benefits. On Capitol Hill, opponents of the measure are going door to door, trying to turn senators against the plan unless vets get a break.
VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN, RETIRED MILITARY OFFICER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: We're basically taxing those folks in this budget control act. We're not against a compromise and budget control act but we're against doing it on the backs of the military.
FOREMAN: The Paul Ryan /Patty Murray budget would impose a small cut on cost of living adjustments or cola for enlisted troops who leave the military while young. Those who retire in their 40s, for example, meaning annual adjustments for inflation would be reduced one percent a year until age 62. Supporters of the measure argue those younger vets will likely have civilian jobs anyway and the current plan quote, provides an exceptionally generous benefit often providing 40 years of pension payments in return for 20 years of service. But opponents like Lisa Villacis who is married to a military man, argue those little cuts add up to big losses.
LISA VILLACIS, MILITARY SPOUSE: It's just, it's not right.
LIZZA: They say an average enlisted person who leaves the service at the age of 40 could find his or her lifetime purchasing power reduced by more than $80,000. Money for homes, kids, college and more.
VILLACIS: He went to war with the promise that he would return and have that money paid to him. It was a promise made to him, and you know, this kind of took us by surprise.
FOREMAN: These cuts would save about $6 billion for the government and make no mistake, they would have no impact on current retirees. So, that group shouldn't be afraid. But as I said at the beginning, Wolf, this thing seems to have been gaining steam all day. It's hard to measure the full impact of it, but there is no question a lot of conversation up on Capitol Hill tonight about how much muscle this has.
BLITZER: Yes. Similar cuts, by the way, in pension benefits for civilian government employees, too, not just the military. So there would be a cut across the board to a certain degree.
Tom Foreman, thanks very much. Let's dig a little deeper with our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza, who is still here as the Washington correspondent for "the New Yorker."
Dana, first of all, what's the latest on the vote count we expect tomorrow? They will need 60 to break an expected filibuster.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's take a look at where things stand right now. As you said, 60 is what's needed for the first key procedural vote tomorrow morning. Just to look at the Senate breakdown by party, 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans.
Assuming just for argument's sake here that all Democrats vote yes, and by the way I was just told that Mark Prior, one person on the fence, is voting yes, you need five Republicans to get to 60. We have actually seven now, but let me just put the first six that we have on the screen.
John McCain, Susan Collins, Jeff Blake, Richard Burr, Orrin Hatch and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. And I said there is an extra one, just before coming on air, John Isakson of Virginia -- Georgia, forgive me.
So what does this mean? It means that it looks like they are going to get this procedural vote. It might be a squeaker but the way I'm told this might go down from Republican and Democratic sources is that the flood gates might open once you see the votes coming down.
BLITZER: So why is the dynamic apparently a bit different in the Senate? Because usually the Senate is more moderate than the House of Representatives, which is Republican majority, Democratic majority in the Senate.
BASH: It's like congressional bizarre world. It really is. Because for years, since 2010, it's always been -- the narrative has been the Senate votes in a bipartisan way and it gets stopped in its tracks in the house. The opposite now --
LIZZA: Explaining that to viewers all year.
BASH: Exactly. It's the opposite now for several reasons. But one of the main reasons is what Tom Foreman just reported on and that is that this military pension issue really sort of snuck up on some Republicans and the lobbying effort by the groups that support them were caught flat-footed. So now, they're getting their Mojo on.
But another issue is you have a lot of Republicans in the leader and the number two who have primaries and they are afraid to buck the conservative grassroots who are very much against this.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And so, some of them are quite honestly looking for reasons to vote against this.
BLITZER: Some of the Republicans.
BORGER: Some of the Republicans. So, this is a very legitimate issue, don't get me wrong. But they don't want to vote for this because they know that somebody who is running to the right of them in a primary, somebody like Lindsay Graham, for example, you know, they are nervous. Mike Enzi, for example. You know, a lot of conservatives.
BLITZER: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, he has a primary, potentially.
BORGER: He does. And he hasn't exactly said how he's going to vote on this.
BLITZER: Think he will vote no?
BORGER: We do assume, no. So you have Senate Republicans out who are running scared of members of their own party.
LIZZA: Yes. I think that's right. The politics have changed but it's about who has ownership over the deal. I mean, a year ago when McConnell and Biden had a handshake and a deal the Senate was this August institution where the Republicans and Democrats got together and joined hands. Now this isn't McConnell's deal. It's Patty Murray's deal, right? That's Patty Murray who negotiated with the House Republicans and consummated this, and add to that when you just talked about --
BORGER: But Mitch McConnell didn't want this to be his deal, by the way. He stayed as far away as he could.
LIZZA: Because he's dealing with a primary challenge.
BASH: Exactly. And then the other dynamic among Democrats is that I mentioned Mark Pryor, who is probably one of the most endangered Democrats.
BLITZER: He is a Democratic senator from Arkansas.
BASH: From Arkansas, very tough race, he's a yes, I'm told by Democratic sources that you're probably going to see the most affections, not among conservative Democrats but on the left because they're very upset, just like House Democrats were, that unemployment benefits have not been extended in this.
So, probably, we will see some of them hang back a little bit, make sure that there's sort of a comfortable approval tomorrow and maybe some of those will be able to vote no in order to vote their conscience.
BLITZER: 1.3 million people who get unemployment benefits who have had unemployment benefits for longer than 26 weeks. They are going to lose their unemployment benefits unless some separate piece of legislation goes through.
Gloria, that doesn't look very likely. BORGER: No. And Harry Reid, you know, the leader in the Senate, says we're going to take this up as soon as we get back in January. But, that's not good enough for a lot of Democrats who say wait a minute, you know, we still have some of these automatic spending cuts in place, we don't like those. We want to -- we should have at least got at the extension of unemployment benefit side of the deal and they say we didn't get it.
BLITZER: Hold on for a minute, guys. I want to bring Joe Johns into this conversation. Joe, we're watching all of the political fallout here in Washington, but as a lot of our viewers know, there's a presidential contest coming up in the not too distant future, only three years. But Hillary Clinton, she is throwing her weight around a little bit , isn't she?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Wolf. She's keeping very public, accepting awards and giving speeches, but former secretary of state and senator Hillary Clinton has not said she's going to run in 2016. Just the same, there is a super political action committee moving the train without her, holding events and getting people engaged.
JOHNS (voice-over): Hopes are running high for Hillary to run for the highest office in 2016. The latest "Des Moines Register" poll shows 89 percent of Iowa Democrats have a positive opinion of her compared to 71 percent who feel the same way about vice president Joe Biden. And the super PAC Ready For Hillary is trying to encourage her. It's kicked off events across the country, even though the would-be candidate hasn't said she's ready to run.
KATHERINE SWANSON, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: It was just funny that they would do all of this for someone who may not even be running for the presidency.
JOHNS: It's among many low-dollar fundraisers at swanky lounges like this one in Washington, D.C. with a price tag of $20.16. It's meant to draw out the grassroots base and not just the big-money donors. And even without an official campaign, Mrs. Clinton has gotten congressional supporters from key swing states rallying troops on her behalf.
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: These are the ground troops, these are the soldiers that will be out in Ohio, in Colorado, in Florida. They're excited about doing the grassroots effort. They don't have $10,000 to give to a campaign. They got 20 bucks, and they will give you all the shoe leather in the world.
JOHNS: And the goal isn't just to get folks to sign checks, but to sign up and volunteer as well. So far, they say they have over a million supporters and make the claim that every nine seconds, they sign up someone new. Earlier this year, the group said it had raised $1.25 million, but that was before they started picking up the pace.
Waves of events have taken place already and with more fundraisers to come, it's sure to raise criticism that the super PAC is becoming a campaign in waiting.
PETER ROSENSTEIN, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON DELEGATE: I think it's a never-ending campaign. But whether this is a phenomenon for Hillary or whether this will be the way to campaign in the future, where three-and-a-half years out, you're going to have to start building your lists, getting out there, getting your name out there, literally with hundreds of people.
JOHNS: The presidential election is still pretty far off, but this organization is trying to establish some relevance now by encouraging supporters to get behind White House agenda items and helping Democrats running for Congress, all the while claiming to be Mrs. Clinton's echo chamber. Wolf?
BLITZER: The presidential election may be what, almost three years away, but the Iowa caucuses, remember, less than two years -- maybe only two years away depending when those Iowa caucuses are. New Hampshire, South Carolina to follow. So Joe, thank you.
Let's get back to Dana, Gloria and Ryan. Let me go to Gloria first. It looks like everything is falling into place, at least at this early stage for Hillary Clinton.
BORGER: Look, Hillary Clinton is off on her own, by the way, giving lots of speeches, not out there campaigning, but she certainly isn't in hiding. Then she's got this other organization, which is completely separate from her, starting to raise money, do what they want to do.
So if you look at it, you have to say Hillary Clinton is running even though they're running on two separate tracks. She is not running this fundraising organization, but she is running her own schedule.
BLITZER: If Hillary Clinton does run, Ryan, do you think Joe Biden will challenge her?
RYAN LIZZA: I don't think so. There's no case for Biden getting in the race --
BLITZER: He is the sitting vice president.
LIZZA: He is, but there's not a policy case. It's not clear what he would run on against her. In 2008, Barack Obama had the Iraq war. It was something very, very specific that Democrats really cared about, it was a huge difference between those two candidates. Right now, it's not clear what that issue is for anyone who would challenge Hillary Clinton.
But I would also caution that I bet we can find video or writings of each one of us, this point in the cycle in 2008, saying oh, this is --
BASH: Took the words out of my mouth. LIZZA: Anything could happen. You wonder who that candidate and what the issue is yet.
BASH: You took the words out of my mouth. Because the new "Des Moines Register" poll, I believe out today, has her approval rating sky high. Absolutely sky high -
BORGER: Biden is also at 71 percent.
BASH: He is, he is. It's approval, it's not a horse race. But I asked our polling director, Keating Holland, where she was this time, I guess, eight years ago, leading into 2008, and 82 percent. Nationally, not in Iowa. Nationally.
Well, the point is that she was sky high, nobody could even dream that Barack Obama -
BASH: Right. No one would have dreamed that Barack Obama would come up and get her. And knowing the people around her and just sort of understanding of how she operates, she's well aware of that. She's seen this movie before, and she wants to make sure she doesn't get too comfortable this early, even though her approval is so high.
BORGER: But also, this makes her a target. Not that she wouldn't be a target anyway because Hillary Clinton is always going to be a target. But when she's that high in the polls, the Republican candidates are going to be shooting at her and trying to knock her down and say -- they'll be talking about Benghazi. So she is already this person they're aiming for out there because they believe she's also the presumptive nominee. As you say, we have been there before.
LIZZA: There's a set of issues on the Democratic left that are sort of bubbling up that will be interesting to see how she responds to. There's the populist economic argument out there by people like De Blasio in New York and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton hasn't really embraced one side of that debate. There are these surveillance issues, this sort of libertarian side of the Democratic Party that's becoming more vocal. And there are even some of these social issues like marijuana legalization in some states.
There's a whole set of issues a lot of young people are kind of into right now on the Democratic side. And I think that's the wing of the party that could challenge her. Although so far, none of those issues looks to me like the Iraq war and Obama.
BASH: One little teaser. She's got a book coming out. It will come out in the spring.
BLITZER: Spring of 2014?
BASH: Spring of next year.
BLITZER: 2014. BASH: Correct. 2014. And it's going to be primarily about her time as secretary of state. So she's going to be able to try to craft her own message about her time on the world stage, about that legacy, maybe prepare people for a female commander-in-chief if she so chooses. But you know, it's going to be a publicity tour and might look like a campaign tour.
BORGER: And honestly, I think it all depends on how well the economy is doing and how tied she is to President Obama and his success, whether it's success in foreign policy, whether John Kerry has some success in the Middle East, for example. So there are events that we don't even know are coming at us yet --
BIDEN: It may be three years away from the election, maybe two years from the Iowa caucus but it's only one year away when these candidates really have to - after the midterm, they have to say they're running, they should start campaigning, they've got to raise money, they got to get a staff. It's going to come upon us a lot more quickly than a lot folks think.
BORGER: She has a staff in waiting, though. She may be a little different. And Biden may be like that as well.
LIZZA: Poor Biden. He doesn't get the respect.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Up next, there's new evidence just in that something many folks take every single day to improve their health might actually be hurting their health. Why a respected medical journal is now saying enough is enough when it comes to multivitamins. This is information you may need to know.
And you also may know Google as a search engine. But it's also quickly becoming a major player in the world of, you got it, robots.
BLITZER: All right, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. New questions about multi vitamins. An editorial in a respected medical journal is now slamming the use of daily multi vitamins, citing recent studies that suggest they're not only ineffective, they actually may be harmful.
And Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now. Elizabeth, what did these studies find?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what these studies did is took groups of patients and split them in half, so some people got a placebo and some got a multi vitamin. And then they looked to see if you took the multi vitamin, were you less likely to get dementia? The other study said were you less likely to have a heart attack? And in both studies they said no, you weren't. The multi vitamin did not help protect you against dementia and did not help to protect you against having a heart attack.
Now, Wolf, like every study, these studies are not perfect, but many experts are saying they really indicate that perhaps multi vitamins aren't good for these two things.
BLITZER: Are multi vitamins good for anything?
COHEN: You know, it's a very tricky question. There are some experts out there who will say look, if you have a bad diet, wouldn't hurt you to take a multi vitamin, it might work sort of as a safety net. But a lot of people will say there really isn't evidence that these multi vitamins do anything for you. As a matter of fact, the editorial in this study said, "most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified and they should be avoided." So, pretty strong language there.
BLITZER: What about individual, separate vitamins? Vitamin D or Vitamin C, should people take those kinds of supplements as opposed to a multi vitamins?
COHEN: There are individual supplements that might be useful. For example, folic acid for a pregnant woman. There's lots of evidence that women really ought to be taking that if they are planning a pregnancy or even if they're just of child-bearing age. So, there is some individual vitamins that might be good for individual people, for individual purposes, but it's the multi vitamin I think that a lot of people have a lot of doubt about.
BLITZER: So the bottom line, Elizabeth, people will say is it a waste of money to by those kind of vitamins?
COHEN: The folks who wrote this editorial certainly think it's a waste of money. I would never want to say that definitively, but there certainly is evidence that multi vitamins don't really do much for you.
BLITZER: Can they do any harm?
COHEN: If you take a multi vitamin and you are taking other vitamins in addition, then you might end up in a situation where you are getting too much of one certain vitamin, and that can be a problem.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Let's get some other stories we're following in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Sources telling CNN a bomb threat at Harvard University appears to have been a hoax. Four buildings were evacuated after the threat was called in, although no explosions were reported. Cambridge police and the FBI are investigating. The school newspaper reports that some final exams were canceled, raising suspicion the threat was called in to avoid exams.
Google is investing in more robots. The tech company has purchased Boston Dynamics, the company behind the Cheetah robot, which it says is the fastest-legged robot in the world, reaching a speed of 29 miles an hour. Boston Dynamics has been developing robots for the U.S. military for more than a decade. This is the eighth robotics company Google has purchased.
The Mega Millions jackpot could reach $1 billion by Christmas. It stands at $586 million right now. The odds of winning, one in 259 million, meaning you're much more likely to get hit by an asteroid.
Just ahead, a startling new investigation into the Boston marathon bombers. Did they turn to violence because of personal problems, not extremist views?
Plus, it was one of the biggest collapses of this NFL season. But was the Cowboys' loss also the worst one in team history? Rachel Nichols standing by. I'll speak with her in just a minute.
And coming up later, mustache versus beard. Will Ferrell and I talk TV news, comedy and the importance of hair spray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL FERRELL, "RON BURGUNDY": Wolf, Wolf, Wolf Blitzer? Wolf, it is -- it is a pleasure to be in your presence. I just have to ask you, do you use Vitalis hair spray?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The former Major League Baseball player, Ryan Freel, has become the first pro-baseball player to be diagnosed with a severe brain disease known as CTE. It's a disease that tends to be associated with bruising sports like football and hockey, but Freel's case suggests baseball may have a growing concussion problem as well.
Freel committed suicide last year at the age of 36 after playing a relentless and fierce style of baseball for eight seasons.
Rachel Nichols is joining us now. She's the host of CNN's "UNGUARDED" which airs Friday nights, 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
So how do you think this is going to impact Major League Baseball, this latest development, Rachel?
RACHEL NICHOLS, HOST, CNN'S "UNGUARDED": Now we've already seen just recently at the winter meetings baseball takes steps to ban home plate collisions. Those pyrotechnic collisions we see when a runner is sliding in trying to dislodge a ball from the catcher at home plate. Those are going to be illegal soon. But I don't see that many other changes. You're still going to see runners sliding in, head first, into bases. You're still going to see hitters hit by pitches from time to time.
An interesting side note to all of this, Wolf, is that a couple of years ago at Boston University they did a study on Lou Gehrig. They went back through newspaper clippings, medical records. Of course Lou Gehrig, as we know, suffered from ALS, the disease later named for him, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and they found three or four major concussions with Gehrig that landed him in the hospital and several other more minor concussions detailed in the newspapers. And they may -- that there is perhaps a link between his concussions and the ALS. They've seen a link between concussions and ALS in football players.
So this is not the time with Freel that we are being introduced to the discussion about concussions and baseball and the damages to the brain but it's coming back around with a player who's much more recent and whose brain that they can study. The results not very good.
BLITZER: Yes. Only 36 years old, what a tragedy that is.
Let's move from baseball to college football. Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner, there he is right now winning over the weekend. Prosecutors in Florida they've declined to file charges. He's the Florida State University quarterback, but his accuser's lawyer continuing to speak out against him.
So are these accusations going to now linger, hover over him, as he makes the move potentially from college football to NFL football?
NICHOLS: Now one of the big questions is, is the family going to file a civil suit now against Jameis Winston? The attorney asked for the state to do a review of the case. We're not expecting them to grant that request. The same state officials that decided not to press charges here would be involved in that decision. So if they don't get that state review would they move then to a civil suit? Civil misconduct also by the officials in this case?
They could sue the state government, the police force, so we'll see if there's more legal proceedings. If that happens, Jameis Winston might be called on to testify or give a deposition in that case. That could keep this going. If none of that happens, you would expect this to fade a little bit into the background because he wasn't charged. That's the way it works in sports.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Rachel, that unbelievable finish, the Dallas Cowboys/Green Bay Packers game yesterday. What was Tony Romo thinking when he did this?
NICHOLS: Well, there are two definite camps, Dallas Cowboys fans, right? There's the people who defend Tony Romo to the death and the people who want to see Tony Romo burned at the stake, and I'm not going to get in the middle of them. But I'm just going to give you a simple statistic.
Seven times Tony Romo has thrown an interception when his team is leading by one touchdown or more in the fourth quarter or overtime of a game. Other quarterbacks around the league, nobody else has done it more than four times. So that basically tells you, that's a lot of numbers telling you that nobody can give up a lead like Tony Romo.
BLITZER: Yes. I've been watching football for a long time, I don't remember anything like that but I'm sure there was.
Rachel, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Coming up, NSA leaker Edward Snowden takes some credit for this afternoon's ruling against the controversial spying program.
Plus playing straight man to the great Will Ferrell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now we did some research, our crack unit, research on you.
FERRELL: You have a unit that smokes crack?
BLITZER: No. We have a crack research unit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's not your usual Christmas card, Jeanne Moos has a closer look.
PENN HOLDERNESS, STAR OF CHRISTMAS JAMMIES: Oh yes.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you send out one of those old-fashioned year-in-review Christmas newsletters, now you've got to compete with this.
P. HOLDERNESS: Dancing in the front yard night and day, and the neighbors walk by and this is what they say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are these Christmas jammies?
P. HOLDERNESS: They are Christmas jammies.
MOOS: The family's year summed up to the beat of Will Smith's song "Miami" while dressed --
LOLA HOLDERNESS, STAR OF CHRISTMAS JAMMIES: In my Christmas jammies.
MOOS: And the dad doing most of the jammy is none other Raleigh, North Carolina, anchorman Penn Holderness, rapping his daughter's achievements.
P. HOLDERNESS: She can count to 100 in Chinese and she can now read books about as thick as these.
MOOS: Not to be outdone, Penn's almost 4-year-old son.
P. HOLDERNESS: And in case you didn't see it, well, you should, it's pretty viral that he dressed up like a sheep and shook his hips in a recital.
MOOS: And there's mom Kim who got a bit part as a reporter this year in the "Iron Man 3."
KIM DEAN HOLDERNESS, STAR OF CHRISTMAS JAMMIES: That's me.
MOOS: Towards the end of the video we find out that the WNCN anchorman will soon be weighing anchor --
K. HOLDERNESS: Next month he's stepping off the anchor desk. It's the biggest decision of his life. He's going to quit his job and come work with his wife.
MOOS: Doing what? Making videos of course at their own video production and marketing company.
You know news people, they're always broadcasting secrets.
P. HOLDERNESS: There's room for child number three but I can't I just had a vasectomy.
K. HOLDERNESS: And it's hard to find things that rhyme with vasectomy, really.
MOOS (on camera): Penn even did the vasectomy with flare. He and three friends went together to do the deed. They call themselves the Vas Pack.
(Voice-over): Those are soothing packs of frozen peas on their laps.
Dad wasn't doing press about his Christmas jammies since he's still an anchorman for the CNN affiliate and even his son tried to shut down our interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mommy, close it.
K. HOLDERNESS: You can close it now.
MOOS: But before signing off, mom expressed regret about their jammies.
K. HOLDERNESS: I'm really wishing at this point I had chosen something without horizontal stripes across my back side.
MOOS: There are always vertical stripes for next year.
(On camera): The thing is they bought the jammies last year online and since then most of the family has expanded.
L. HOLDERNESS: My jammies fit me just right, but my daddy's are a little tight.
MOOS (voice-over): Tight? We think your dad's pretty loose.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
BLITZER: Happening now, a huge setback for government snooping. A federal judge declares a massive surveillance program unconstitutional. Now the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, is weighing in.
Plus, inside the mind of an accused Boston bomber. Disturbing new information suggests that one of the Tsarnaev brothers heard voices.
And dueling anchormen. Will Ferrell plays a TV newsman in the movies but could he do the job in real life? Stand by to see what happens when we go one-on-one.