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NTSB: Pilot Mistakenly Identified Wrong Airport; Drama Behind Obama's NSA Speech; President Unveils Intelligence Reforms; Interview with Ben Rhodes; Interview with Anthony Romero; Barbara Bush's Advice to Son Jeb Bush; Sochi Security Concerns

Aired January 17, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, spy changes -- President Obama unveils reforms to some controversial NSA surveillance programs.

How will they change the way the government gets information about your phone calls, your e-mail?

Also, privacy uproar -- the NSA reforms fall far short of what many of the critics were calling for. I'll talk to the head of the ACLU.

What did he think of the president's speech?

And does mother know best?

Barbara Bush publicly advises her son Jeb not to run for president.

Will he follow her advice?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Seven months ago, most Americans didn't know they existed. Then Edward Snowden changed almost everything. And today, a new chapter in the drama he launched. President Obama announcing changes to government surveillance programs in a closely watched speech over at the Justice Department.

The president staked out a middle ground, with some reforms to the most controversial programs, but other contentious procedures are being left in place and the president's speech leaves a lot of questions still unanswered.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here to begin our coverage this hour.

A lot of those questions are unanswered, but I assume we'll start getting some more answers.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No you know. I think you could say that the president said, in effect, I hear your concerns about these programs, both here in the U.S. and overseas. He acknowledged the U.S. needs to make some changes to intelligence collection to build trust damaged in the wake of Snowden's revelations. But he argued that many of these programs are necessary to keep us safe. And so he's going to keep them in place, with new safeguards, but in place.



SCIUTTO (voice-over): Responding to months of spirited debate sparked by the explosive revelations of Edward Snowden, today the president told Americans what he would do and not do to rein in mass surveillance.

OBAMA: The power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

SCIUTTO: The most significant changes affect the most controversial surveillance program -- the bulk collection of Americans' phone records. Effectively immediately, the NSA will need judicial approval before searching the data.

The president asked Congress to create a panel of public advocates to counter government search requests. And he asked the attorney general and intelligence community to explore moving the data out of NSA control.

He also ordered an end to spying on the leaders of dozens of close U.S. allies.

But he left several questions unanswered, including who will hold the phone meta data, phone companies or a new third party, and which cases the public advocate would take part in.

Crucially, the president did not eliminate bulk collecting, arguing, it's just too important.

OBAMA: Not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law.

SCIUTTO: For the NSA's most ardent critics, leaving bulk collection alone is a glaring omission.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I think we've got to go further. To my mind, when every single phone call made in the United States of America is kept on file by the government or some other entity, I think you're talking about a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

SCIUTTO: So do any of the changes make us less safe?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: If these programs were stopping huge terrorist attacks, you know, maybe they would -- should be more, you know, there should be more concern. But the problem -- the fact is that these programs are not. (END VIDEO TAPE)

SCIUTTO: You have had critics on both sides, of course. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a strong supporter of NSA collection, called the president's speech strong. But echoing the concerns of other supporters, he raised questions about judicial review of NSA searches. He released a statement saying, "If instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past, when it took up to nine days to gain court approval for a single search. We encourage the White House to send legislation with the president's proposed changes to Congress so they can be fully debated."

You know, we were saying this earlier in the day, Wolf, that this is really not the end of the conversation. You still have the debates to come, for instance, on how these -- how this judicial review will proceed, the public advocates, etc. Congress is going to be involved, the intelligence community. We're going to be talking about this a lot in the coming weeks and months.

BLITZER: Yes. They want to come up with a new plan by the end of March, when the current authorization of some of these programs expire. So they've got a clock ticking right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, 60 days.


All right, Jim, thanks very much.

Jim Sciutto reporting.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now and get the White House thoughts on what's going on.

The deputy national security adviser to the president, Ben Rhodes, is joining us.

Ben, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: All right, you just heard Senator Sanders, he's the Independent senator from Vermont, caucuses with the Democrats, saying it's a good start, but the NSA is still violating the Fourth Amendment to "The Constitution."

What do you say?

RHODES: Well, Wolf, as the president said, we did not find any instances of abuse in terms of the NSA going beyond what is approved by Congress and the courts. What we did find, though, is that there's the potential for abuse when they hold this bulk meta data.

So on the Section 215 program that collects meta data -- telephone numbers and the times of phone calls -- what we've said is immediately, we're going to move to a situation where we have to seek judicial review before we access a database.

But the president has also decided that the government should not hold this data. And over the course of the next 60, we're going to review the options for how we can maintain the capability of mapping terrorists' communications without the government holding possession of this database of bulk telephone meta data.

BLITZER: Well, one option the president apparently doesn't like is letting the telecommunications firms, the companies themselves, hold all of this bulk data.

I won -- I mean what -- who else could do it?

Is there a third party?

Is there an outsourcing that you're thinking about?

Because a lot of us are a little confused.

Who might be able to hold -- store all this bulk data and at the same time protect it?

RHODES: Well, Wolf, there are really three options here.

One is that the telephone providers hold the data and that we then go to a court and try to access that data.

Two is that we create a third party that could hold this data. That doesn't currently exist. We'd have to review the options for that.

Wolf, I'd note a third option the president referenced, though, which is he's directed his intelligence community to see if they can maintain this capability of mapping terrorist communications without accessing bulk meta data. So a third approach may be replicating the capability we need with other intelligence community programs that don't allow the government and don't enable the government to possess the bulk meta data database.

BLITZER: Well, now you're just confusing me a little bit, and I suspect some of our viewers are confused, as well. Walk me through that third option, as well.

There wouldn't be any one institution necessarily holding all these phone numbers, the duration of the phone calls and all of that?

RHODES: Well, Wolf, let me point out, first of all, that the providers would hold these business records anyway. But the third option basically says instead of drawing on a database and bulk meta data, can the intelligence community, through its other authorities and its other programs, find ways to map terrorist communications in a way that makes it not necessary for us to access this bulk meta data?

So it may be that there are fixes with other intelligence community programs, technological advances, where we can say, we can maintain this capability, which is taking a phone number that is associated with a terrorist and mapping the network associated with that number that doesn't enable -- or it doesn't involve the government holding a bulk meta database.

BLITZER: Do you think you can do that within 60 days?

Or is it going to take a lot longer to come up with that new strategy?

RHODES: We do, Wolf. What you have is a natural reauthorization point at the end of March. We've already been looking at this issue.

And over the course of the next 60 days, we're going to say, what is the best way to preserve the ability to map terrorist communications without the government holding the meta data?

And we'll look at the options of the telephone providers holding it, a third party or, like I said, the intelligence community finding fixes that allow them to replicate this capability without holding the database. We believe we can get that done.

In the meantime, though, to signal that we're changing the way we do business, we're immediately moving to a situation where the government cannot query that database. It first has to go to the court and get judicial review before it can then access that information.

BLITZER: Let's talk about spying on close allies, good friends of the United States. As you well know, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, she was upset about these reports as they were revealed by Snowden.

The president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, she canceled a visit to the United States because of these reports that you're listening into her phone conversations.

I know the prime minister of Israel, President Benjamin Netanyahu, was upset about all of these reports.

So I assume these three folks, they're -- you're not going to be listening to their phone conversations any longer, is that right?

RHODES: Well, Wolf, what we've said is the new normal that we've established is that we will not conduct surveillance on the personal communications of the leaders of close friends and allies of the United States. So the normal situation going forward is going to be that we don't conduct that surveillance, unless it is recommended to the president there's a specific national security need to do so.

So I think the presumption should be if it's a close friend and ally of the United States, we're not conducting this type of surveillance against the leader of that country, unless, again, it is recommended to him by his senior national security team, that there's a specific national security interest that would be advanced through that surveillance.

But the point is, we're shifting the paradigm from collecting everything that we can, including, perhaps, the communications of these leaders, to a situation where we say, we're going to try to build trust, build confidence in our programs, and, as the president said, if he needs to find out what one of these leaders is thinking, he's going to pick up the phone and call him.

So the situation, I think, does lead to a significant amount of change in terms of leaders having an assurance that the U.S. government is not conducting surveillance on their personal communications.

BLITZER: Ben Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser to the president.

Ben, thanks very much for coming in.

RHODES: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, privacy advocates deeply disappointed in these NSA reforms unveiled by the president. The head of the ACLU is standing by to join us live. We'll get his reaction to what we just heard.

And will Jeb Bush run for president in 2016?

Not if his mom has anything to do with it. We have details of what Barbara Bush is saying about her second son.


BLITZER: Not enough -- that's the reaction right now from a lot of folks to the changes to a controversial government surveillance program announced today by President Obama. He says the NSA will continue to collect so-called meta data on phone calls by virtually every American, but access to that data will be tightened and will be stored outside of the NSA.

Let's get some reaction now from Anthony Romero.

He's the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Anthony, thanks very much for joining us.


It's good to see you.

BLITZER: All right, so what -- you just heard the deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, to the president, make the case why this is a good start, why these reforms are significant.

What do you say?

ROMERO: I think it is a good start. I mean, let's be clear. The president laid out a number of reforms today. There were reforms that we've been advocating for a number of years. Greater transparency in the foreign intelligence surveillance court. Terrific. We need to know more about what that court is doing, its opinions, its legislative history, great. Checks and balances in the court to make sure that there's this panel of advocates, to make sure that there's a more vigorous -- in fact, that there is an adversarial process.

Right now, only the government presents its opinions and his arguments before the court. The president's proposal would say there's a panel of advocates to give you an opposing point of view. That, we give the president a lot of credit for. Even the chief judge of the FISA court, Judge Bates, had said recently to the president, please don't do that. We don't need to hear the opposing viewpoint.

Kind of startling when you think about the fact that a judge would say we don't need to hear both sides of the case. We will just hear the one side and make up our minds. But, that was great for the president. The place also where they said that we would access, due the query of this databases only with just so review (ph). Terrific. That's what we've been saying all along.

The place where I still fall a little short and I have to say I've read the speech half a dozen times, I listened also to the White House staff who were briefing us and then also your prior guests, I still don't fully understand what they mean and when they talk about not allowing the government to have the custodial capacity of the bulk metadata, but yet, still want to have the ability to search it and that if it won't sit with third parties, it could sit someplace else. What are they talking about?

BLITZER: You heard Ben Rhodes. I didn't fully understand this devotion, this third option that he was describing somewhere that it wouldn't go to a third party, an outside source, if you will. It wouldn't remain in the NSA and the telephone -- the telecommunication companies don't want to maintain it, but he said maybe the way I understood it, maybe there's some new technology or some new formula that will protect the privacy of Americans while at the same time in case of a terrorist threat, they will have that option to go there and search it.

ROMERO: Well, can't they lay it out for us a little bit more clearly? I mean, the president talks about the need for vigorous public debate. He gives a tip of the hat to the fact that we've not had this public debate. In the early part of the speech, he says I'm not going to talk about Edward Snowden and then he proceeds to talk about Edward Snowden. And the fact of the matter is, we would not have this public debate but for the revelations of Edward Snowden.

So, OK, we're having public debate. We're going to have more transparency. Well, the government is not going to have the custody of this data, of this bulk data, then who is. The president says he doesn't like the third-party option because that might be difficult to effectuate and it's not clear that the government would have as ready access to it as it would need. It doesn't talk about what other ways they might go about doing.

So, I was thinking as I was hearing ben speak, is it a cloud type of situation where the data sits up in a cloud instead of in kind of a warehouse in Utah or in Maryland, and then the government still gets to access it the way it was. Well, let's have the debate about where that data sits. How much of that data is there? And let's go back to the basic civic lessons? The Fourth Amendment of the constitution says the government will not conduct unreasonable searches or seizures. And so, searches, OK, we're going to have judicial review or maybe they'll address it that way if Congress goes along with it, that's a big if. But seizures, if the government is still seizing this data, that is still contrary to the Fourth Amendment. They don't have to search through your private papers for it to be unconstitutional and unlawful.

BLITZER: And you did hear Ben Rhodes say this third option, the one that maybe you're describing a little bit better than me, they think they might be able to come up with that by the end of March when the Congress has to be authorized all of this.

ROMERO: Well, tell us about it. It feels like a little bit like pig in a pope.

BLITZER: We will hear more. I want to just play for you what the president said. He mentioned Snowden twice indirectly, but here's one of those references.

ROMERO: Right.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation's defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe or conduct foreign policy.


BLITZER: Don't you agree the president has a strong point there?

ROMERO: He does have a strong point, sure. But he should also point out the fact that how can we keep our government and our people safe and free when we have government officials who lie to Congress, when we have General Alexander who has the temerity to stand in front of Congress and lie bold-facedly (ph) about whether or not he is conducting surveillance on Americans.

I mean, the fact is that Edward Snowden stepped forward only because our government had this extensive dragnet (ph) program entirely in secret and that our government officials who were brought in front of Congress and took an oath on the bible, bold-facedly lied about the existence of the program.

BLITZER: Are you talking about General Alexander or Clapper?

ROMERO: Both. I mean, Alexander and Clapper in different points. I mean, clapper on the media interviews, alexander also on the Hill. And so, you have these moments where the president has got to understand -- I mean, he does understand, of course, that we need to be able to keep our information private and secret for national security purposes.

But there are whistleblowers who need to step forward when the government is undertaking activity that is illegal and the fact is that we still allege in our lawsuit against this government data collection program that even as currently configured, this program is unconstitutional and unlawful, that the seizure of data on law-abiding Americans who've done nothing wrong is contrast to the Fourth Amendment.

BLITZER: But I got to wrap it up, but very quickly, aren't there legal ways for whistleblowers to raise concerns as opposed to illegal ways?

ROMERO: None. None. The whistleblower protection laws do not give any protections to people working on national security. They carve out entirely and working (ph) national security at which Snowden had no recourse. He had no recourse other than to be a whistleblower and to raise it (ph). He couldn't -- he couldn't invoke the protections of the Whistleblower Protect Act. They completely carved out individuals working on the national security apparatus.

BLITZER: Anthony Romero of the ACLU, thanks very much for coming in.

ROMERO: You bet. My pleasure. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

All right. There's new information just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM about that Southwest Airlines plane that landed at the wrong airport in Missouri earlier in the week. CNN's Rene Marsh is working the story for us. What are you learning, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been talking about this for days and we've been taking educated guesses as to how could two veteran pilots land at the wrong airport with a dangerously short runway? Well, we now have the answer from the NTSB just minutes ago. The pilots told investigators that when they were doing this approach, they were relying on visual.

So, they were looking out of their window. They landed at the first airport that they saw. It turns out that the first airport that they saw was the wrong airport. They were not relying on their technology. Again, they were looking out of their window. They told investigators that they noticed bright lights on the runway. They also said that the runway looked very similar to what it looks like at the intended airport.

So, because of those two factors, they thought that they were going to the right place and we know how this story ended up. It was absolutely not the right place. We also are just learning that the first officer -- this was the second time that the first officer was flying into this intended airport in Missouri, Branson airport in Missouri, and for the captain, this was the first time that he was flying into this airport.

So, it wasn't a trip that they had taken many times before, but now, we get the reason as to why that plane ended up at the wrong airport -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Obviously, a mistake. Fortunately, everybody was fine and everything turned out OK. It could have been a disaster because of that short runway, but it wasn't. All right. Rene, thanks very much.

Coming up, the behind the scenes drama over at the White House and beyond. We're learning new details of the painstaking deliberations that led up to the president's speech today.

And Barbara Bush doubles down for a second time. She's publicly advising against a White House run by her son, the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. But is he listening to his mom?


BLITZER: We're learning new details about the painstaking process that led up to President Obama's much anticipated speech today about changes to government's surveillance. Despite weeks and months of consultations and deliberations, at least one major decision came to the 11th hour. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's got details. So, Brianna, what went on behind the scenes?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this really went down to the wire. A White House official telling me that even as of yesterday evening, key policy decisions hadn't been finalized.


KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama worked with his advisers well into the night Thursday on his speech revealing changes to NSA spying programs. The final decision on his biggest announcement, by all appearances, came very late.

OBAMA: I'm, therefore, ordering a transition that will end the section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists.

KEILAR: But the deliberating isn't done. The president saying his administration will consult further with experts and ultimately leave Congress to decide which third party will store details like phone numbers and length of calls.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Who are we going to hire? Eric Snowden's contractor to hold all the information? I don't want them collecting the information. It's not about who holds it. I don't want them collecting every American's information.

KEILAR: Thursday night, Obama called British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to detail his proposal. Shortly before his speech Friday morning, White House officials alerted key members of Congress, the final steps in a month's long process.

While vacationing in Hawaii for 2-1/2 weeks over the holidays, President Obama poured over recommendation from his NSA advisory panel between rounds of golf and family outings. Throughout December and January, he met with tech CEOs from companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, privacy and civil liberties experts and lawmakers on House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, a drawn-out decision making process that is a hallmark of Obamas.

According to several aides who told CNN it's not unusual for the president to hold his decisions close to his vest. We've seen it before.

OBAMA: We cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force.

KEILAR: Most recently on Syria and most notably on his call to send Navy SEALs into Pakistan to raid Osama Bin Laden's compound, finalized just one day in advance. In the last several months, Obama's views on the spying program changed from his description of the man whose leaks to the media started the controversy, this was last June --

OBAMA: No, I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.

KEILAR: And today --

OBAMA: Mr. Snowden's actions.

KEILAR: To the need for changes to how the U.S. spies.

OBAMA: I think we've struck the right balance.

KEILAR: Has now become --

OBAMA: This is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust.


KEILAR: Now, also, Wolf, it's pretty interesting, FBI officials, we have learned, found out sort of late in the game on the table when it came to national security letters. These requests for surveillance, that the president was considering having them operate with judicial oversight, so they would be more like warrants whereas right now they operate more like administrative subpoenas.

Our justice report Evan Perez learned that FBI director James Comey, actually got involved and made the case along with the president's counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco that this would be unworkable, that they do need to operate more like subpoenas and won him over.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thanks you very much.

Brianna reporting for us the latest on the president.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our CNN political commentator and the "New Yorker" Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and security technology expert, Bruce Schneier, the author of the book "Carry On."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Reacting to what we just heard from Brianna, Gloria, what does all this tell us about the president's style in making critically important decision?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He threads the needle. I mean, that's what he was trying to do here. If you go back in the history of President Obama, you know that when he ran as a senator he was anti-surveillance, and as a senator, he was anti-surveillance, as a candidate he was, as president, he's been very much pro- surveillance.

What the Snowden affair points out is that there have been problems and we see a president who's been sifting through all these concerns. I mean, Brianna was just talking about Jim Comey's concerns from the FBI and you see a president who said, OK, we're not going to end the program, we're going to overhaul the program because what I need to do as president is get your trust that I'm managing it properly.

I'm not quite sure he's done that today but that's exactly what he set out to do, is to tell the American people we thought about it, we're trying to protect you, the world is changing but it's also a dangerous place.

BLITZER: Very dangerous place.

Ryan, you wrote this in the "New Yorker," you wrote, "Obama's speech was undoubtedly a victory for the reform side of this debate. Obama not only adopted the critique of those who are most troubled by the metadata program but he adopted their central policy recommendation as well. The NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata is dead or will be soon."

Are you sure about that?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, all right, look, his speech was filled with caveats and the fine print is really, really important. But two things that the critics have been pointed out -- pointing out he adopted. And this is a 180. Remember, when this started, when Snowden revealed this stuff, the administration's only argument was these programs are legal. They have been authorized by the courts, they've been re-authorized by Congress. What's the problem?

Today Obama said, OK, wait a second. The critics had a point. I don't want the NSA any longer collecting the metadata. He wants to put it into the hands of third party. I think more importantly he said, every time that an analyst at the NSA wants to search our phone records, they have to go to the plaza court and get permission and argue that they have probable cause. That's the way it should work. And I don't think anyone should have any trouble with --

BORGER: How do you end then the program?

LIZZA: But he has said that the NSA, this government entity, shouldn't be trusted with the phone records.

BLITZER: They won't be collecting it --


BLITZER: Let me bring Bruce in because --

LIZZA: And we should definitely --

BLITZER: Because Ben Rhodes in the interview from the White House that he did with him, he was hinting that there may be some third option there. The NSA doesn't keep all this metadata, the third party doesn't keep it. But maybe there's some new technology or whatever that might be able to deal with this in a safe and secure way that protects the privacy of the American public.

BRUCE SCHNEIER, AUTHOR, "CARRY ON": It's hard to know what he meant there and this is a hard question. Where should this data be? How much should be collected? How long it should be saved. And I think he was saying that maybe we don't need to collect it all, save it all, and access it all, that maybe we can get rid of some of it. Some of it might stored at the phone company, some of them might not be stored at all, and that there are other ways we can track terrorist networks that don't involve --


BLITZER: Give me an example. Theoretically, with these 60 days, how do they come up with that?

SCHNEIER: Yes. I don't know. And I really think he was saying, let's give this a shot. Let's think about this. And I think this is important. There's been a mentality of collect it all regardless of whether it's useful or not, and it's not just phone metadata. It's Internet metadata. We're talking about text messages last week. It's everything we do.

BLITZER: How important is this metadata, this bulk collection of all of the conversations that are -- that are done on a daily basis, billions and billions of them and the duration, not necessarily the content because they said they don't check the content unless they get a court order, they need it for security reasons. But how important is keeping all this metadata?

SCHNEIER: You know, think of metadata as surveillance. That's what this is. And you can think about it as a private detective. You ask a private detective to eavesdrop on somebody. They'll plant a room bug and you get conversations. You ask the detective to follow somebody, to surveil him, what you get is where he went, who he spoke to, how long he talked, what he read, what he purchased.

That's all metadata. So these bulk metadata programs are involving putting everybody under surveillance. They are extraordinarily powerful. That's why they are so dangerous.

BORGER: So how can you decide, though, what to throw away if you don't keep it all? Because sometimes you don't know what you need until you need it at a particular moment. Right?

SCHNEIER: Well, this is why we have law. Law says that if you're an innocent person, you're not allowed to surveil them.

BORGER: Right.

SCHNEIER: I mean, the police can make the case. We're going to surveil everybody because maybe they'll commit a crime.

BORGER: It's all right.

SCHNEIER: That's fundamentally the case here.

BORGER: Right.

SCHNEIER: But we're not allowed to do that.

BLITZER: All right. Very quickly, I've got to wrap it up.

LIZZA: Remember, this is not the last word on this. This is going to be kicked to Congress. And I think the question here is, did this help the reformers in Congress who are the ones who want the status quo, and I think the speech today gives a nudge or even more the boost.


LIZZA: To the ones who want more reform.

BORGER: But I tell you what, Congress, today the chairman of the committee that have to deal with this said we encourage the White House to send legislation with the president's proposed changes to Congress so we can consider them. So everybody is passing the buck to everybody else.


SCHNEIER: It's a hard issue and no one's to have a -- you know.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Let the consultations begin.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

Up next, we're following a school shooting. Two students injured. We're getting new information about their condition as well as details about the gunman. Stand by for that.

Also, mother has spoken. Barbara Bush publicly advises her son Jeb not to run for president. So how much influence will she have on his decision? I'll speak to someone close to Jeb Bush. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Philadelphia police say a suspect is now in custody after shots were fired at a high school. At least two students were injured, have been transported to a hospital with unknown injuries. Just a big story out of Philadelphia.

So will mother's advice influence the next race for the White House? It could be that mother -- if that mother, I should say, is Barbara Bush, the wife of one former president, the mother of another. Former president speaking publicly now about a potential presidential bid by another son, the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush.

Brian Todd is here. He's looking at this story.

So, Brian, what is Barbara Bush specifically saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in typically Barbara Bush fashion, she is not mincing words. She has said for the second time publicly that she does not want Jeb Bush to run. The remarks are posted at a time when the political climate might actually be the most welcoming it's ever been for a Jeb Bush run.


TODD (voice-over): With Chris Christie's problems in New Jersey, political observers say the door may be opening wider for Jeb Bush to seek the Republican nod for president in 2016. But Governor Bush's mom is trying to push that door closed.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I would hope that someone else would run, although there's no question in my mind that Jeb is the best qualified person to run for president. But I hope he won't.

TODD: In an interview with C-SPAN, former first lady Barbara Bush took a jab at America's modern political dynasties, including her own.

B. BUSH: I think that the Kennedys, these Clintons, these Bushes, there are just more families than that.

TODD: Jeb Bush responded by tweeting, "What day is Mother's Day this year, asking for a friend." His office also pointed us to remarks he made in November. Responding to almost identical comments his mother had made last year when he said we've had enough Bushes.

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I love my mom, and I listen to my mom, but I don't always disagree with her.

TODD: Why would Mrs. Bush discourage a run from Jeb so publicly twice? She gave a hint to C-SPAN.

B. BUSH: I think he'll get all of my enemies, all his brothers'.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's been a lot of Bush bashing, particularly George W. Bush's presidency was difficult at the end. There's a lot of people that consider themselves enemies of anything related to Bush. I think she would like to avoid that. I think it's a maternal concern.

TODD: CNN commentator Ana Navarro, who knows the Bush family well, says if Jeb Bush decides not to run, his wife Columbus' influence might be greater than his mother's.

NAVARRO: He's not what we may perceive as a typical political spouse. I don't think she'd love the politics of it. I don't think she is somebody that would enjoy giving speeches.

TODD: I asked reporter Lesley Clark, who covered Jeb Bush when he was Florida's governor, about the mother/son dynamic.

(On camera): Personality wise, he's a kind of a kindred spirit with his mother, right?

LESLEY CLARK, COVERED JEB BUSH: Yes. I think absolutely. He's the type of person who likes to get things done don't think he has a ton of patience for people if they are not getting his idea and sort of standing in his way. He does not suffer fools greatly.


TODD: There may actually be a split in the extended Bush family over a Jeb Bush run. Former president George W. Bush said recently he thinks his brother should run and Jeb Bush hinted last year that their father thinks he should run. Now a Bush family spokesman just tweeted, though, saying Mrs. Bush made those comments months ago and believes Jeb is the most qualified GOP here, but in that C-SPAN interview she also said that in the same breath that she said she hopes he won't run -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Brian, thanks very much. Let's get a little bit more now on Jeb Bush and the 2016 presidential race.

Joining me us, our CNN political commentators Republican strategist, both of them, Kevin Madden, he's here in Washington, and Ana Navarro, you just saw her in Brian's piece, is joining us from Miami.

Ana, I know you're close to Jeb Bush. Have you communicated with him at all since his mom's words emerged?

NAVARRO: I did. I -- we e-mailed back and forth today. You know, I said, Jeb, your mother, I have to talk about this on TV again. This is killing me. And you know he laughed it off. This is very typical Barbara Bush and he said, look, I still love my mother and he did point out that these remarks were made months ago. He doesn't think that she's going to continue making them.

So something tells me, Wolf, something tell me she might have gotten the message that, look, mom, I'm actually thinking about this and these comments are not the most helpful so, you know, maybe pipe down. Let's -- you know. And I -- and also look, there's no doubt that if he does decide to run, and I think he's looking at it a lot more closely than meets the naked eye, frankly, and if he does it, I'm sure he's going to have the unconditional support of his mother and every other member of his family. He wouldn't do it unless he had that support particularly from his wife, Columba Bush.

BLITZER: I think you're almost certainly right.

And, Kevin, you agree? I assume you agree. He would be a very formidable candidate, although some people say the negative that he has -- the only negative he may have is his last name.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, I think he would be a formidable candidate and I think in recent weeks we've seen a -- maybe a little bit more of a space opened up that he could occupy. So many people are looking for somebody outside of Washington. They're looking at somebody with a record of executive experience. They're looking at many people like that. But he would in particular fit that profile.

But I think again, this is quintessential Barbara Bush. I think on his right, I think this is maternal instinct kicking in. If you -- you have to remember, too, that Barbara Bush has now witnessed, between her husband and her son, five presidential campaigns and she knows the level of scrutiny that goes into those and just how hard they are.

So I think that's a lot of it, but I think a lot of -- a lot of supporters out there are looking at the second part of her answer which is that she's very qualified and that they would look to her and they would look to somebody like Jeb Bush at a critical time in this country where we need greater leadership in Washington. So I think that's what they're going to focus on.

They're going to move right past what she said about they don't need another Bush and they're going to look at, is he qualified, could he do the job?

BLITZER: Yes. He was obviously pretty popular in Florida. He speaks Spanish. His wife is Mexican-American. Presumably -- and Ana, let me ask you -- would he get a lot of Hispanic votes?

NAVARRO: I think he would be a game-changer when it comes to the Hispanic vote. He's got a very strong record of making Hispanic appointments when he was governor of Florida. He understands the culture. Jeb isn't bilingual. He is bicultural. I think we claimed him as one of us. He can tell jokes in Spanish. He gets the people. And he also has a very strong record being pro-immigration reform his entire life.

So I think it's something that would be, frankly, a game changer for the Republican Party. We would see numbers that we haven't seen in many, many years.

BLITZER: Ana Navarro --

NAVARRO: Even better than his brother's perhaps.

BLITZER: Ana -- MADDEN: Just a point real quick.

BLITZER: Very quickly.

MADDEN: He's got a really good policy profile. I think that the bigger challenge that he'd had is that he hasn't ran a campaign in a long time, and campaigns have changed a great deal since he last ran.

BLITZER: That's why there are smart guys like you.


BLITZER: Who might be able to help him.

MADDEN: And Ana. And Ana.

BLITZER: And Ana, too.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

When we come back, a new violence erupts in Russia just three weeks ahead of the Winter Olympic Games. What the Russian president Vladimir Putin is now saying about the escalating security concerns.

And why tens of millions in taxpayer dollars could be going to a bankrupt nuclear company thanks to the massive spending bill that just passed through Congress.


BLITZER: Escalating security concerns only three weeks ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, after explosions rocked the Russian Republic of Dagestan today, injuring at least five people.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin was in Sochi for a firsthand look at the preparations under way. And our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is there -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, security really has been stepped up here in Sochi. No cars are allowed to be parked close to the airport now. This airport specially expanded for the Olympics. A car park especially built outside the airport. That can no longer be used. It causes traffic, confusion now because of the routes that people have to take, but every step being taken here to make sure these Olympics are safe.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Two security blimps now fly in the skies over Sochi. On board long-range cameras to keep watch over any potential threats below.

On the ground, there is a massive police presence. Sochi feels more like a city readying for battle with anti-aircraft guns and troops patrolling the streets. The beefed-up security follows two suicide attacks last month that killed 34 people in the city of Volgograd 420 miles away.

Rumors were swirling Friday that the Chechen leader Doku Umarov known as Russia's Osama bin Laden had been killed. Umarov urged his followers to do their utmost to derail the Sochi Olympics.

With just three weeks to go before the winter games, Russian President Vladimir Putin was in town to see the last-minute preparations up close. In his meeting with Olympic volunteers, it was the issue of gay rights that dominated attention.

Putin said, "Gays have nothing to fear in Russia."

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (Through Translator): You can feel free, relaxed, but leave children in peace, please.

ROBERTSON: Russia passed a law last year prohibiting the propaganda of nontraditional sexual practices among minors. The law has been widely criticized, but when a volunteer asked, do Russia's Olympic uniforms contain the colors of the rainbow, the rainbow being a symbol of gay rights, Putin said, I didn't design the uniform.


ROBERTSON: A lot riding on these Olympics for President Putin. It was his speech in 2007 that brought the Olympics to Sochi. Since then he's been leading the organization, the direction of every step in the process. Now three weeks out here to get a firsthand look, make sure nothing is slipping -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Sochi for us. Thanks for that report.

When we come back, are tens and millions of your taxpayer dollars is being wasted on a bankrupt nuclear company thanks to the massive spending bill that just passed through Congress? Stay with us.

And also coming up in our next hour, do police need a warrant to search cell phone data of a person under arrest? The U.S. Supreme Court plans a major examination of privacy in the digital age.


BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. President Obama has just signed the bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill into law. It funds the government through September.

Meantime, we're learning more about a key provision in it that could cost tens of millions of dollars in your taxpayer money.

Here is our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The motion is adopted.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tucked into that massive government spending bill passed by Congress this week are tens of millions of dollars for a single company called USEC. The nation's last domestic supplier of enriched uranium, fuel for nuclear power plants.

The problem? USEC closed its only enrichment plant last year and announced plans to file for bankruptcy last month.

Ryan Alexander with the Taxpayers for Common Sense sees a new kind of nuclear waste -- of your money.

RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: If you just look at the facts it seems absurd that we continue to throw money after a company that's failing, that announces, we're about to declare bankruptcy.

ACOSTA: If USEC meets Energy Department requirements, the company would receive $118 million in new federal funds this year after raking in more than a quarter billion dollars in the last two years.

As it turns out, USEC is trying to build a new enrichment plant in Ohio making it a pet favorite of Democrats and Republicans in that state's congressional delegation, including House Speaker John Boehner whose district is near the project.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This USEC issue in Ohio is a uranium enrichment facility with new technology. There's been a bipartisan effort to proceed with this research that they're doing.

ACOSTA: Nearly three years ago Boehner appealed to President Obama for $2 billion in loan guarantees for USEC saying it would be a better investment than the administration's failed Solyndra solar energy project, but Boehner denies he's just trying to bring home the bacon.

(On camera): Isn't this kind of an earmark, though?

BOEHNER: No. This is an Energy Department research project that's been going on for a long time.

ACOSTA (voice-over): USEC officials blamed their financial troubles on plummeting demand for nuclear fuel triggered by the Fukushima power plant disaster in Japan nearly three years ago. In a statement to CNN the company said the new funding reflects the continued commitment of Congress and the administration to the key goal that the United States maintain a domestic uranium enrichment capability with U.S. technology.

The company argues with Iran and North Korea enriching uranium USEC's existence is critical to national security.

ALEXANDER: This is a question we've asked a lot. What happens if we let USEC fail? And we've never gotten really a straight answer.

ACOSTA (on camera): The company has other big supporters. And President Obama who once promised to support the Ohio enrichment project and his new energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, who once sat on a USEC advisory board. More potential complications for ending a program that may keep on burning through taxpayer money.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


BLITZER: Happening now, state of emergency.