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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  May 17, 2013 1:00am-2:01am PDT

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to be answered as well about how exactly far up this went. but so far my judgment from what we've seen so far is that this was a product of the bureaucracy, not a top-down order to go after conservatives. that's all in for this evening. "the rachel maddow show" starts now on the button. >> well done! we should start doing like the bbc where you hit chime at the top of the hour. set your watch. look, now i plu it. thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. today our nation got a new secretary of energy. it was a unanimous vote in the senate. 97-0 for dr. ernest moniz. extra bonus with him is that he will also be available to the nation if we ever find ourselves in need after secretary of amazing hair. amazing hairdo. that looks just like the frevg nochlist george sand. two more cabinet secretaries -- two nor cabinet nominees, secretary of labor, epea administrator also made it to
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the full senate today. they haven't been voted on in the full senate and there is a possibility republicans will filibuster those on the senate floor but those at least made it to the senate floor. today in ud authorities arrested a man from uzbekistan on terrorism charges. he'll be in federal court tomorrow so we'll learn more then but the indictment alleges he possessed an unregistered explosive device that he was distributing information about explosives, bombs an weapons of mass destruction. again we will have more on that when we know more but the arrest happened in idaho today and the court hearing is due in -- well, federal court in idaho tomorrow. a major attack on american forces in kabul, afghanistan today. two u.s. military vehicles were ploen up by a roadside bomb. 16 people were killed, including six americans. on capitol hill today there were heerns on whether the authorization to use military force that we enacted as a nation right after 9/11 and is still in force now, there were hearings today about whether that should stay in force
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forever. essentially given whoever the american president is the ability to wage war on his own without congress indefinitely into the future. what could possibly go wrong? in maryland today, 2016 presidential hopeful and current democratic govern maryland governor martin o'malley signed an assault weapons ban and ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. antireform side in his state says they'll try to sue to block that new law but he signed it today. there is a lot more that happened. this is kind after very granular nitty-gritty day of news today. there was also some new and provocative details on the west texas fertilizer plant explosion. also new details on the russian spy arrest. we'll have all of that stuff coming up this hour. nbc's richard engel is here live as well. that's all to come. we start tonight in sichuan province in china. this is a map of china. sichuan province is here.
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in 2008 you might remember there was an absolutely massive catastrophic earthquake in sichuan province. whole villages just flattened. the order of 70,000 people were killed in a single quake. five years ago this week. it happened not far outside the capital city of sichuan province. earthquake was 50 miles northwest of the capital city. that quake was 2008. but then last month it happened again. same faultline. at least we think it was the same faultline. right there in the same region. in this case the quake was within 100 miles of chengdu. this was not as big as the mega one, it was still big. it killed something like 170 people. this is not only an active earthquake region in sichuan province but it is a place where even very recent quakes have not just been large but deadly. and if you live there, if you
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live in chengdu, having just lived through those big quakes where lots of people died, having seen what quakes in that region could do, how would you feel about the news that the state run petro china company was planning to build on that same faultline a massive mega petro connection cal plant producing 10 million tons of oil and more than 800,000 tons of ethylene per year. people who survived the sichuan province earthquakes over the past five years are understand pli a little bit unnerved by this prospect. they're going to build on faultline. we know at least some people in sichuan province are disturbed by this prospect because at least some of them have tried to protest this planned petrochemical plant. they tried online to organize a protest for last saturday in chengdu but the security services kept censoring everything that people had posted about it online. when the protest date rolled around, may 4th, the police called a surprise earthquake drill for chengdu. according to a report from the associated press, police flooded
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the streets of the cap it will. thousands of police for the earthquake drill. exactly where an when that protest was supposed to take place. then three days after that last tuesday, somebody -- we do not know who but we know that it is a woman, we know she lives in chengdu and is in her late 20s. an annoy muss person with the initials b.y. we did find that she found a place to safely post online her protest. her worries. her complaint about this chemical plant and her request that, please, given the environmental risk of this plant, please, couldn't this decision be subject to some sort of environmental monitoring or evaluation? and you can see her protest here, her complaint, her worry is posted here in english but it is kind of broken english. like at the end it says thank -- instead of saying thank you. but the one safe place this one young woman found to post this plea for help, the one place she found online she felt safe to post it was the website of the
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white house. it's on the petitions part of the white house site, the we, the people, part of the site. anybody can post on any number of subject and if it gets enough signatures the white house will respond. it is kind of moving that someone even in another country looks to our government as a place where they can be safe airing grievances, where they can safely protest even if they can't protest safely at home. what ends up being scary about this is that the young woman who posted this petition at the white house last tuesday she never posted her name. she never posted any identifying information on herself. she just did it under her initials, anonymously. but by the end of the week in china, the internal security police were knocking on her door. imagine how scary that must be. how did they find me. right? when the police knock on her door she posted on the chinese version of twitter, "i will be out to have some tea. if i should not return in two
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hours please report me as missing." associated press article about her noting today that -- saying i'm going to have some tea is a widely understood euphemism in china for i am going to be talking to the police. obviously by saying if i'm not home in two hours report me missing, she was afraid that she was never going to come home. well, she did come home. she is safe and she's brave enough to have done an interview with the ap by instant message about what just happened to her. what happened to her after she posted that thing on the white house website. that's brave if you think about it. right? because she knows that the police know who she is. they already found her in person and questioned her. and she is still willing to talk to the press about what happened. the white house didn't turn her in to the chinese police. maybe you believe there is some great conspiracy here but the white house says we don't collect any information on who posts things on the white house website. they said they certainly did not hanover that information to anybody most especially the chinese government but the chinese police were able to follow the trail from her to the white house petition and figure
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it out. when the ap reporter called the chinese police to get a comment about what they did, hey, wouldn't you know it? turns out that part of the police has an unlisted phone number. that part of the police they do not talk to the press. this is not the first grievance from china that's ended up getting posted at our white house website. there's a petition that has a ton of signatures on it about an unsolved crime in which a chinese student was murdered about 18 years ago. there's another petition now about another petrochemical plant being built in another city under similar circumstances in another province. there was actually a street demonstration about that today in china. but whatever you think about the individual grievances that chinese people are airing through our government, through our white house website, through what we take as almost an online gimmick, it is kind of a bracing reminder that this is a really important part of what we have to offer the world as a nation. i mean, yes, we are a big and rich an powerful country but we are not the only big country or
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rich country or powerful country. i mean china's way bigger than us. we may have the biggest economy in the world but china has the fastest growing big economy in the world. if our brut strength is the kind of thang we think is always going to set us apart, hey, it is not always going to set us apart. and for the way we like to think of ourselves, the real and best things we have to offer the world, it's the stupid name for that online gimmick at the white house website. it's not brute strength. it's we, the people. it is our open government. it is about having a government, having a whole structure in this big powerful country of ours where we get to air our grievances and seek redress of our grievances. that really is the best thing that we have to offer. that is the best thing about us, is the defining thing of us. the reason that no other big enduring country has that in exactly the same way we do is because it is really lard to keep, especially over time. there is every incentive and every pressure in the world for whoever hold power to try to stop other people who have less power from bugging about them,
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from complaining about them and exposing what they are doing wrong and demonstrating them against and making fun of them. people in power exexorbly want to use the power they have to stop other people from bugging them. universal across time, across personality, across geography, across culture. that's why it is so important that our protections against that, our constitutional protections that keep our government open, that keep our system free, that keep our press free, our constitutional protections that protect those things are so plunt and so obvious and so inarguable. it is the clearest thing about us, right? representative democracy and free speech. that's pretty much what it boils down to. president obama said today that that is the whole reason he got involved in politics in the first place. >> we also live in a democracy where a free press, free expression, and the open flow of information helps hold me
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accountable, helps hold our government accountable and helps our democracy function. and the whole reason i got involved in politics is because i believe so deeply in that democracy and that process. >> president obama speaking today. is he right about his own articulated history. he has been making the case about the importance of our open government from the very beginning. it was certainly a big part of why he ran for president. >> i'll make our government open and transparent so that anyone can ensure that our business is the people's business. a justice once said sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. >> so that's part of why we've had so much trouble is we haven't invited the american people to participate in the process. that's why i always focus on accountability and transparency in our government.
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>> that is how he ran for president. president obama hearkens back to that today when he got asked at this press conference today about the fact that his justice department on its own volition without ever going to a court monitored all the phone records for two months from the associated press d.c. bureau, new york city bureau, hartford bureau, congressional bureau and work phones and cell phones of individual reporters. if any reporter called you as a source from any of those places over that two-month period the government has your number and knows you've been talking to the press anonymously. the ap may have told you that they could protect your anonymity, get your story out without you ever being known to the government. turns out they could not make that promise because the government secretly stepped in of its own volition without ever even asking a judge and they took a knife to the ability of the associated press to do its work. now and in the future. indefinitely.
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they took a knife to the ap's ability to do journalism. any ap reporters who work in those bureaus can now write down any official story of what if he official tells them is the approved truth to know about what the government is doing but if anybody wants to speak anonymously about what the government is unofficially doing because they think that's important that that be known in our free society, that in a really important way now is gone for that part of our press. and the president today in talking about how much he loves open government and trarn parncy and how important that is to him an always has been he said it in the context of calling for a new media healed law to protect reporters from this kind of reach from the government. a, some of the harm's already done. b, who knows if we're going to get a shield law. i think it is good he's calling for it. it is important to note though that president obama is not apologizing for what the justice department did to the ap. for reasons that he feels very comfortable with this president has been very aggressive in dealing with leaks, people inside the government talking to the media and in going after
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those leakers he has been willing to ride roughshod over what the media does. we'll talk about richard engel about the president's concerns and the leak in question later on in the show tonight. maybe this shield law if we get one will offer real protections against this kind of thing that's just happened to the associated press but the other way to protect this important thing about ourselves as a country and who we consider ourselves to be as a country. other way to protect our gold standard free press is to not just depend on the government to do it. to do it ourselves, to take care of it ourselves, to protect the freedom of the press ourselves. that's now happening in a way that's edgy and diy and live as of yesterday. basic idea here is what if there was a way for sources to talk to the press without there being any possibility of their being found out for doing that. from the government's perspective the dangerous side of that is that it makes leakers really hard to catch. the beneficial side of that is
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that, while investigating leakers, the government will not be able to trample all over press freedom. it protects leakers but it also protects the power of the press to do its work. this new way for sources to talk to the press was created, in part, by this guy, aaron schwartz. sort after prolific computer programmer and online activist. he developed some of the most basic ways we use the internet today. he helped develop a website called rid it. it was to give the public as much information for free. his pursuit eventually ended in tragedy. in 2011 he was arrested for m.i.t. mass downloading academic journals off the school's server. the federal government decided to throw the book at him. he was facing the possibility 35 years in prison but before he could be brought to trial he kill himself. he was found dead inside his palestinian apartment. but years before that he started coding a system for sources to
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send information to the press with anonymity. not even the reporters on the other side can know where information came from. that means if the government leans on those reporters, reporters can't tell how their sources are because they don't know. he work on it at the request of an editor from "wired" who had grown frustrated by other failed attempts to set up that kind of information system. system mr. swartz came up with allows anyone in apparent complete secret to upload data like files or photos or documents to somebody on the other end. you get a secret account so the receiver on the other side can try to write you back under your top-secret name. if you choose to log back in with your top-secret name you can get that return message. you reveal more that way about what you have sent or if you don't feel safe to do that, you just go away, don't ever open the return message. nobody will ever know your identity. that's the idea at least. anybody can get the system themselves. it is open source, do it yourself. as of yesterday this kind of amazing thing built by aaron swartz in the last years of his life, it is now live and
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operating at the website of "the new yorker" magazine. joining us now the editor of the new york he magazine's website, nick thompson. >> pleasure to be here. >> i am a user of the online machine but not an expert. i bet that i didn't explain that exactly right. how does the strongbox idea work exactly andy screw any of that? >> you have it absolutely right. way it works is that it begins with a system called tour. tour is a way of keeping your computer address safe. like if you hand you a pack ang in between i also break up the package and give it to 100 people in between. once you log in to tour no one can identify the computer it initially comes in to. then the file they want to upload is encrypted. the encrypted file is passed through tour, through our servers to us. it is still encrypted. we that take it off the machine on to a little flash drive. we take it to another computer that's not on the hard drive and encrypt it. there is no way to trace it, it
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is encrypted the entire time. by the time somebody looks at the file at "the new yorker," there is a break between you and the machine. >> in posting what's online right now it is marketed as as as-is market. you can't be absolutely sure anonymity can't be protected. others have tried to build things like this in the past but they've been hackable. there's been ways to get around the aen themty protections? >> in a way they have. we start with tour which gives you a lot of extra protection. it makes it harder to use. you but we think that the people who are going to give us stuff will make for great investigative new yorker stories are people who will be able to do it. maybe somebody will end up cracking it. i sure hope now. aaron swartz was a fantastic coder. we built in lots of protections. we tested it. we had various more people try to break it. we feel very confident in it. we'll see.
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>> what i think in a slightly bigger picture about leaks and i thought about this around wikileaks. when you get anonymously leaked information, it is important to know where it came from, in part because if somebody has an ax to grind, if they're capable by circumstance of faking that information. with no ability to trace back even confidentially are you worried that new yorker journalists using this material are themselves a little bit compromised? >> absolutely. it makes the process of creating a long story more complicated if you get information you have no idea where it came from and you have no possibility of figuring out where it came from. we can put a mess animal on a bulletin board and a person with a super secret pass name will maybe go to the bulletin board and maybe write back but we may just have it. then it is a hard editorial choice. we will do our best to verify
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it. if we can't we have a whole bunch of other choices to make. people mail us stuff. people have sent us information anonymously before. it creates different journalistist problems but we'll figure those out. >> do you expect this will be used by lots of different journalists? >> anybody can use it. when we first conceived of it i thought it would be people sending us documents. one of our editors said it would be a great way to get information to my writers back and forth. code is open source. that's aaron swartz's idealism. if the white house wants to build a version so people in china can upload information to them in a more secure way, then great. we'll see exactly twhr goes but i hope we'll get a lot of great stories out of this in the next few years. >> nicholas thompson, thank you. on that china story as the chinese press and also some of the american press followed up
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on that petition from that chinese activist being posted a white house's response was, yes. the white house, we, the people, petition is not only here, is not only something that we will not help the chinese police find anybody through but it is open source and available to anybody and we are happy to provide this code, this means of communicating online to anybody who wants it. it is an open source world even if it makes a lot of us oogy. we'll be right back. [ female announcer ] are you sensitive to dairy? then you'll love lactose-free lactaid® it's 100% real milk that's easy to digest so you can fully enjoy the dairy you love. lactaid®. for 25 years, easy to digest. easy to love.
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the tea party movement has been falsely aligned from its inception because it was feared. it was feared because it was an organic, spontaneous uprising against big government. >> makes me feel like i'm 38 again. congresswoman michele bachmann still exists. it turns out and was back front and center leading a tea party rally again on the steps of the capitol. ooh, old times. after dissolving into the things like the michele bachmann for president campaign and other things that didn't turn out to much, the tea party movement now wants to be back on the wings of the irs scandal that they an other conservative groups got singled out for extra scrutiny in their applications to the irs for tax exempt status. that's a thing that they naturally think is terrible an not at all the kind of thing that the irs should be doing. awkwardness of the politics here is that everybody agrees with them on this, including their nemesis, president obama himself.
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president obama last night demanded and received the red nation of the acting commissioner of the irs today, a second top irs official was shoved into an early retirement. the second head to roll was the commissioner of the agency's tax exemption division. president obama has now appointed a new interim irs commissioner around it is likely that the new commissioner's job will at least for a while be taken up with responding to the gazillion new investigations that the irs has now being subjected to. department of justice is investigating along with the fbi. the senate is investigating. the house is investigating. and that all follows the initial inspector general investigation. all looking into the improper scrutiny that the irs allegedly gave and seems to are given to conservative groups who were applying for tax exempt status. here is something to watch though. that's not about that issue of extra scrutiny and therefore extra delays for the conservative group singled out on the basis of their apparent ideology. here is the thing to watch other than that. late last year the same irs office in cincinnati handling applications from these types of
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groups, the same office that did the tea party key word targeting, last year that same office also released tax documents about a bunch of political groups to a news gathering operation called pro publica, an independent non-profit newsroom that specializes in investigative reporting. last year they were working on a series of articles on the relationship between tax exempt status and these supposed social welfare non-profits that are just political groups. in the court of that investigator work pro publica went to the source, they went to the irs' office in cincinnati which was responsible for reviewing applications from those kind of groups, and they asked that irs office for the applications from a whole bunch of these group. they asked for the applications from 67 different non-profit groups. for what it is worth, this was all after the presidential election. thee requests came in november 15th. but a couple of weeks after they put in the request the irs responded and the irs did not
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give pro publica the documentation for all of those 67 groups they asked for but they did hand over files from 31 of the groups. nine of those 31 applications had not yet been approve by the irs. and if the application has not been approved, it's supposed to be secret. the irs is not supposed to release that information to anyone until the application has gone through the whole process and been approved. if it is still pending it is supposed to be private but the irs sent it out anyway which is bad. maybe it is an oops, but even if it is an oops, it is bad. even getting those nine unapproved applications, pro publica was like, hey, we're not supposed to have these! they got in touch with the irs and said, essentially, hey, why did you send these to us? aren't you not supposed to do that? these are unapproved applications. the irs responded oh, you're right, we shouldn't have done that. pro publica posted a detailed article about it tonight if you want to collection it out.
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the irs told pro publica not only should they not have sent those applications but there is actually a law against releasing unauthorized returns. there is a law against exactly what the irs had itself just done. they went on to sort of threateningly tell pro publica this was a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprison of up to five years as if it was their fault. they know they got the documents from the irs they weren't supposed to have but the irs is the one who screwed up. they sent those documents illegally to reporters. is the bungled handling of those documents connected to the bigger scandal, the irs screwed up. but don't let that distract you from the fact there really was an actual screw-up here. when michele bachmann says it, it is easy to believe it is definitely categorically not
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true, but in this case unauthorized disclosures of tax information that was supposed to be private, that seems to be a real thing and that is the next part of this to watch.
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nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel is here with us live tonight in just a moment. that means two things. two good things. one, he's not somewhere terribly dangerous worrying everyone. and two, he's got a heck after story for us. that's next.
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when u.s. forces found the head of al qaeda in iraq in 2006 they reportedly found him by following the man they knew to be his spiritual advisor when his spiritual advisor paid him a visit. when u.s. forces found osama bin laden they reportedly found himpy figuring out who was working as a currier for bin laden, then following the currier to bin laden's house. when u.s. forces found anwar al awlaki in yemen we reportedly first tried to find him by putting a tracking device on the luggage of his new wife. story's kind of amazing. it is detailed in jeremy scahill's new book, "dirty wars." unfortunately, the luggage didn't find out and they found him by some other means. the means by which they've found their most wanted al qaeda targets are varied. they all differ case by case.
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as far as we have been allowed to know the process of fining these senior al qaeda guys and tracking them down has almost never been by use of double agents. after all these years, after all these famous cases you don't really hear very much about the west sneaking somebody inside al qaeda so that al qaeda thinks the guy is a fellow terrorist but really he's a spy. that has not been the way that war on al qaeda has worked in terms of the top level killings. mostly that's not the way it's worked -- except it did work that way apparently with this guy. he's from the al qaeda group in yemen. this time last year he was killed by a drone trike in yemen after stepping out of his vehicle. that drone reportedly knew where to find him because of a double agent, because there had been somebody on the inside of al qaeda in the iranian peninsula in yemen who al qaeda thought was one of them but was actual lay spy working for the west. not apparently for the cia but for noern western intelligence
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service. the reason that we know that is why the records from 20 phone lines and associated press bureaus in d.c. and new york and hartford and congress and all these reporters' personal phones and everything all ended up in the hands of the justice department even though we supposedly have a free press in this country. when it was reported a year ago that a plot to blow up a u.s.-bound plane had been thwarted in yemen with be one of the details that the ap reported at the time was that the actual bomb from that plot not only hadn't been detonated on that plane, but the actual bomb had ended up in american hand. it was at the fbi bomb lab at quantico. being analyzed. juicy detail. right? hey, wait a minute, how did we get the bomb? it was that detail that led to the ultimate story that this bomb plot had not just been caught at the gate by an extra good pat-down or something. the bomb plot had been foiled by
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a double agent, somebody on the inside of that al qaeda group who al qaeda thought was one of them but who was a western spy who got a hold of the bomb and turned it over in such a way that it ultimately ended up at the fbi's lab and whose intel reportedly led to the drone strike that killed this al qaeda heaven just a couple of days later. the obama administration taking the phone records of all those phone lines at the ap is not to get at the ap. the wrecking ball that the seizure of those records takes to the ap as a news agency in this case is collateral damage. what the justice department is actually trying to find is not anything interesting about the reporters themselves. what the justice department is trying to find is who in government told the press that that bomb was sitting at the fbi bomb lab in quantico. that's what this whole thing is about. joining us to tell me if i have's got that right and what this means is richard engel, nbc chief foreign correspondent. >> it is good to be here. it is a very complicated story but did you get it right and it goes back to have investigation.
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if i'll peel it back a little bit. you talked about the foreign government getting an informant inside of al qaeda. that is very rare. al qaeda generally doesn't trust outsiders. it doesn't -- it is not the kind of organization you can just show up and join. they know each other. a lot of al qaeda members are related. the uk in this case, british intelligence, gets an informant inside an al qaeda cell in yemen. that's a great accomplishment for them. and an accomplishment, by the way, which should remain secret. we'll get to that in a second. they get the informant inside. informant gets in contact with a bomb and is told that this bomb is going to be used on a flight
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from the uk to the united states. the informant, like a good informant, informs his handlers. the handlers, since the u.s. involved, inform the united states. that's all being carried out in secret, as you would expect it. the united states, learning that there is this threat of a bomb going to be put on a plane from the uk to the united states, alerts security officials. air marshals, tsa, people who would be concerned about transportation in the air. >> we try to harden ourselves as a target. >> we do that, and that you can't hide. and when increased security measures are taken and orders are given out publicly, not classified orders, to increase surveillance of air marshals and things like that, that's when reporters start digging. what's going on, why are there suddenly all these extra alerts. the ap started digging. we started digging. lots of people started digging. people got different parts of this story. was there a bomb plot? did it go back to yemen? yes, it did. the ap got this piece that not
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only was there a bomb plot but the bomb was already in u.s. hand. it was at the lab in quantico. an ap ran with that story and when it did people started freaking out in the administration. how did they get this, what did they know. there was a briefing given by brennan. >> john brennan, now head of the cia. >> he was. someone who knows about yemen, counterterrorism. he went out to try to also calm some public opinion. he said, look, yes, there was this plot but the bomb has always been in our possession. it was always under our control was the specific word, which means that there was never a threat that this bomb that was being made in yemen was going to blow up an aircraft. that the u.s. or u.s. friends -- because what was under our control, it wasn't under our control. it was under the uk's control but since we're all friend in this, the u.s. and uk, it was under friendly control. >> so him saying -- i think
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inside control. inside control, our control, putting that together with the detail we've got the bomb in our possession. there's not a big leap to think there's got to be a mole. >> the bomb was made. it didn't get on to any plane. it ended up in a kwanco lab and a senior official saying it was always under our control. lots of people reporting, well, the cia has someone inside al qaeda in the iranian peninsula and that was yet another blow and i think why this became such a big deal. >> talk about exposing something like this and why that is so dangerous. >> i don't think the ap reporting, it reported something that's kind of two steps removed. it reported that this was this bomb that was found and it is at a lab in quantico.
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that's not exposing the name of the informant or that there is an informant. it led to a sequence of events that did reveal that information. but revealing the name of an informant in al qaeda is a death sentence for him, for his family. it has dangers for americans because -- for anyone really. let's say al qaeda learns that it has an informant among them. the group could harden its security. you can lose information. it could decide to change the timing of an attack. speed up an attack. if you think someone is watching you and someone is on to you, you've got a bomb, do it now before the authorities have a chance to catch up. so there is real consequences -- >> and the ap didn't disclose that but they disclosed something that led to that. >> something that led to that. >> there can't be that many people in government who knew that bomb was sitting in quantico, but whoever knew that who talked about it to to the press is what they're trying to find. >> it is not the ap. they want to know who told.
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investigators started looking at quantico, did someone there pass this information on? and as far as i know, it wasn't somebody there. they started looking at airport tsa and air marshal officials. did they have information since that was in the -- part of the chronology. and as far as i understand, the investigation is still going on and they want to know who told ap that initial piece of information that ultimately exposed a very valuable -- the fact that a very valuable source was planted in al qaeda. >> and the investigation ultimately. because it ends up tapping all those -- getting the records from all those ap and phone lines. ends up doing huge damage to the ap as an organization as just one of the many consequences of this. very dramatic story. richard engel, nbc's chief foreign correspondent. thank you for being both physically here. >> won't be for long. i'm on my way out of the country soon. >> of course. i'm going to put a tracker on you myself. we'll be right back. ♪
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it's been kind of a busy week, right? last friday, amidst a lot of other news, we reported an update about the west, texas fertilizer plant explosion. that was such an enormous disaster. it killed 15 people, injured hundreds of people last month. that more than 90-foot crater
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after that giant explosion in texas. texas law enforcement officials, we reported, as of friday, had launched a criminal investigation into what caused that explosion. and then, dramatically, within a couple of hours of them launching that criminal investigation, we also learned that there had been an arrest. volunteer paramedic, one of the first responders on-scene at the explosion, had been arrested. he was ultimately charged with possession of a destructive device. specifically, materials that could be used to construct a pipe bomb. obviously, the confluence of these two stories happening within a couple hours of each other is a very provocative thing. law enforcement raising the possibility of a criminal act being responsible for setting off that explosion, and law enforcement argue somebody who had responded to that explosion, arresting them on charges related to a device. that confluence is a very provocative diad. obviously, we do not know if there is more of a relationship, other than the fact they both have to do with with west, texas.
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law enforcement officials told nbc news, the atf has not found any evidence that it was a bomb that set off last month's deadly explosion in texas. today state and federal investigators said that they would not even speculate about whether the paramedic charged with possession of a pipe bomb, whether that has any connection with the plant explosion. they would not answer any questions about the paramedics' case. but officials did make some really specific announcement. they did say they have completed their investigation at the site of the explosion, even as the broader investigation continues. and the texas fire marshal, chris can neely announced that the cause of the explosion is considered undetermined. and here is the interesting specific details, part of it. state fire marshals office and the atf say they have eliminated these following causes of what might have set off the explosion. they say it was not a rekindling
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of an earlier fire. they say it was not spontaneous ignition, not anything related to the plant's 480-volt electrical system, which is one of the two electrical systems in the plant. they say the explosion was not set off by anhydrous ammonia or amoan yum nitrate or not by someone smoking or weather. but officials have not ruled out the following potential causes. they say it is possible, as yet, that something went wrong with the other electrical system in the plant, which is 120 volt system. they say also it is possible they have not ruled out that part of the problem was a golf cart that was stored in the seed room at the plant. officials say golf cart batteries have a history of causing explosions. but they have not recovered enough pieces of the golf cart in question to eliminate it or to damn it in this case as a potential cause. they also say they have not ruled out the possibility that the fire was set on purpose. so the investigation is still ongoing.
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and ongoing. and ongoing. and open. the paramedic has pled not guilty, says he has nothing to do with it. we'll keep you posted as we learn more. watch it space.
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chart imitates life. all right. there was a time in the 2012 presidential election season when republicans tried to make the major issue of the presidential campaign the defining issue of the campaign, the fact that president obama had not been able to cut the deficit in half in his first term. remember the big debt clock running at the rnc, right? the president had said that it was the goal of his first term to cut the deficit in half, and he did shrink the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, but he did not cut it in half, which he had said he would try to do. and that issue, arguably, is the major reason that republicans
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picked paul ryan to be their vice presidential nominee in 2012. they wanted to keep the heat on, on this deficit issue, right? paul ryan was their deficit guy, and that deficit argument, that the deficit was too big, one of their main arguments against re-elected president obama. we have just received the new estimate of what the deficit is going to be by the end of this year. this is what the deficit had been up through last year, so 2009. that's president obama's first year, 2010, 2011, 2012. now show the next year. this is what they had projected the deficit would be by the end of this year. but now that estimate has been revised. they have revised the projected deficit for this year, and as of now, this is what the new deficit -- we have that slide whistle. we have never used it before. are you kidding me? the opportunity cost. anyway. as of now, this is what the new estimate of what the deficit will be by the end of this year. as you can see, this means that the deficit has shrunk by about $800 billion.
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since president obama has been in office. this is the fastest deficit reduction we have had as a country since world war ii. and honestly, that's kind of terrible. it's kind of terrible to the extent that we are working on this stupid deficit issue, spending less instead of more to put people back to work. this is the thing that the "new york times" crunched the numbers on last week in the big, devastating front page article. they found if we were not doing what we have been doing to reduce the deficit, we would have 1.5 million more jobs. 6.5%, had we not been doing the stuff to reduce the deficit. economically, this is not at all what we need as a country. but it is what the republicans said would be their highest priority. if they got control of the white house. it was the thing they said they must most wanted president obama to do. the thing they most lambasted him for not doing. think they'll give him any credit now for doing it?
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that does it for us tonight. we will see you again tomorrow night, where we are going to bring you a very important whig-related story about a russian spy. it's really good. good morning. it's friday, right now, on "first look" how is this for a twist in the person in charge of obama care is the same official that oversaw the irs's targeting of tea party groups. president obama gets serious about putting an end to sexual assault in the military. shocking testimony in the penalty phase stuns jurors in the jodi arias case. and advice from pat robertson on adultery. and a murder conviction in the blink of an eye. and becks goes out on top. good morning. the forecast today for washington is partly cloudy. when it comes to the political climate, when it rains, it pourhe


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