tv Weekends With Alex Witt MSNBC June 15, 2013 4:00am-5:01am PDT
whatever. weekends with alex whitt starts now. >> sending arms to syria. new word today on what made the white house decide to give more help to the rebels, and what's at stake for the united states. also, the jury selection saga at the george zimmerman trial. are jurors telling all they know about the case? one airline company plans to pack more people on to every plane, but how? that's in the morning's business headlines. and spilling more secrets? edward snowden may be sharing information with china. what does that mean for him? what does that mean for the united states? welcome to weekend with alex
whitt. alex is off this morning. here's what's happening right now. new reports on the u.s. decision to arm syrian rebels as that conflict escalates. kristin walker joins us from the white house. kristin, are we getting any clearer picture at this point as to why now? >> well, craig, we know that president obama has been considering can arming the rebels for several months. we also know that back in april he first started sending military aid to the opposition forces. nonlethal aid. things that would help them in the field, for example. but in terms of why now, the pressure has been mounting on all fronts. on the one hand, you have members of congress, senator john mccain, other members of congress, calling for increased military action in syria. on the other hand, you also have stepped up efforts by hezbollah to help the syrian government
and also iran. so that was a great concern to president obama. and then add to that the revelation that assad had used chemical weapons. as you remember, back in april, president obama said he believed they used chemical weapons. he wanted more corroboration. they finally got that corroboration. that certainly added to the president's calculation. and what is really the overarching fact, craig, is that 93,000 people at least, according to the latest u.n. report, have been killed. so all of those factors played a role in president obama's decisions. this is something that has been under consideration for quite some time. and those latest developments really pushed him to act. >> let's talk about the other story making some news at the white house, the president's first to subsaharan africa at the end of this month. there are reports, "washington post" one of the papers reporting, that it will cost
somewhere between $60 million and $100 million. that sounds like a hole lot of money. is that customer for a trip like this? >> one, all of the president's travel are coming under increased execute any because of the sequester be, the deep across the board spending cuts. this trip really raising eyebrows because it could be the most expensive trip that president obama has taken in addition to what you mentioned. we are told that according to the "washington post" security detail will include 66 support vehicles, 14 limos, several sheets of bulletproof glass, as well as a floating hospital. in terms of whether or not this is expected, u.s. officials say, look, africa is a developing nation, and it just doesn't have is the infrastructure that is needed to protect the president. the secret service will not comment on those figures, craig, except to say that they, on this trip, as they do on every trip,
need to provide a certain amount of security detail to make sure that the president is safe. >> kristin walker from 1600 pennsylvania on a saturday morning. >> thanks. >> joining my live to talk more about the latest move on syria from the white house, staff writer for the hill and "washington post" correspondent ed o'keefe. ed and elise, good morning to you. your newspaper reporting this morning that the decision with regards to syria had been made weeks ago. why the announcement now? >> well, remember the president heads to northern ireland for the g-8 meeting. even if he was facing domestic political pressure, he was facing international political pressure from the french, others to decide what the united states would do about the situation. by making the announcement before he gets to that meeting with world leaders, he can lay out his plan for colleagues on the world stage. perhaps collectively they can
make more announcements about what more they will do. >> elise, the "new york times" suggests that the president had to be dragged into this. there was a faction in the white house that wanted to do even more here. do we know who some of these voices in the white house may have been, who might have been advocating for an even greater role? >> we know the divisions in the obama administration are clear. it's pretty clear. certainly pressure from the hill as well. conservative senators saying obama is merely operating on an ad hoc basis here. we don't understand his strategy. they say he's leading from behind again. so certainly it's a very complicated game of chess for the president. i think that the strongest criticism from the right is that it seems like he just doesn't want to play. >> ed, elise just alluded
toeult, lawmakers on the hill the last few days, peter king, john mccain, what is the likely looked they will unify on steps of syria going forward. >> we did see republicans pushing the president to do something. as soon as possible the white house announced it they said, we have been calling for you to do this. but you better consult with us before you take any significant steps. they don't want the u.s. being dragged into a big military operation without consulting with lawmakers. he has been hearing with lawmakers for quite some time. john mccain and lindsey graham in the senate, the most vocal pushing for some kind of action. there is concern the the white house will go off and do this. likely we will see a little more consultation in the coming
weeks, maybe before the july 4th recess. there may be a hearing to get a sense of what the white house is planning. remember, john mccain has been to syria, met some of he's leaders who are likely to be obtaining the weapons through turkey and jordan, that the u.s. will be providing. certainly lawmakers will keep a close eye on it. >> the other concern has to be the fact that the rebels have been asking for large arms. armor piercing bullets. they have asked for tanks as well. we are seplly providing ammunition and small arms. how realistic is it to expect these arms are even going to have some practical effect on the ground? >> well, i think a lot of people share your skepticism. it's hard to see how this could tip the balance towards the rebels. i think what obama wants to see is the conflict not necessarily prolonged but for the rebels to become more equal with the syrian regime in order to force a diplomatic solution.
secretary of state john kerry produced talks that don't seem like they will happen until fall. >> elise viebeck. stick around, we'll talk about 2016. meanwhile in colorado, firefighters are making progress battling the state's most destructive wildfire ever. what's being called the black tpoefrt fire started tuesday in colorado springs. so far it's killed two people and destroyed 473 houses. a surprise rain shower helped firefighters contain 0% of it yesterday. that's prompted authorities to lift some evacuation orders in the surrounding area. meanwhile, in louisiana, a second deadly plant explosion in as many days. it happened in the same parrish thursday. nitrogen was being offloaded,
injuring one. the plant is 40 miles south of baton rouge. it did not pose a threat to an area surrounding the plant. in upstate new york, heavy rain caused flooding to at least one county. several roads and a bridge had been shut down. an additional inch or two could fall this afternoon as well. dylan dreyer is here. >> the rain in the northeast is finally moving out. thunderstorms back across parts of the midwest. that's where the rain is going to be today, along with some additional thunderstorms through central florida. the heaviest of the rain is approaching st. louis. it will fall across parts of missouri and into southern illinois. that's where we will see some of our stronger storms today.
temperatures nice and pleasant. 60 in the northeast. a little chilly through montana. temperatures 49 degrees. billings should make it to 76 degrees. it is hot down south with highs well into the 90s. 86 in atlanta with sunshine. we will keep an eye out for some stronger storms from dallas, kansas city, chicago too. it will spread eastward into father's day. we will see most of the storms on sunday not really affect the mid atlantic until late in the day. most does it nice and quiet. 89 in washington, d.c. we should be nice and comfortable in the 70s to 80 degrees. in the northeast it stays hot down south. new orleans, 91. 96 in dallas. the heat is still on across parts of the desert southwest with temperatures well into the 100s. showers will move eastward into monday. in iran, early voting
returns. more than 12 million iranians flocked to polling sites to choose mahmoud ahmadinejad's successor. the bureau chief joins me live now from iran. ali, what can you tell us? >> good morning. well, he's a centerist cleric. he is backed by the leading reformist. which is probably why he did so well in yesterday's election. he has talked about a more moderate term with the united states, loosening people's rights in iran, giving them a little more room to breathe. and he wants better relations and to get rid of these sanctions. a couple weeks ago he looked like a dark horse can't date in this race. people came to the polls in
droves and they looked like they voted for him in very large numbers. if you look at the numbers today, five conservative candidates. if you add up all the votes they have together, they don't come close to the votes we have so far. the state tv is saying that out of all the votes they have counted until now, he has gotten over 50% of them. and the tehran man only has 15%. back to you. >> so if he's got over 50%, that means no run-off. what would his election mean for relations with the united states? >> well, i'm not entire sure we will see a complete shift in policy, but we will certainly see a shift in tone. he's going to have a much less bombastic tone that ahmadinejad or any others that would come into power. i'm not sure we will see a shift in policy but a softening in tone.
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it's a political case of back to the future. some of the biggest names from the last two presidential elections found the spotlight. it's a major event in the last 48 hours. here's nbc's casey hunt. >> good morning, craig. >> the one thing i'll tell you is there are no partisan lines on this one when it happens. >> as former secretary of state hillary clinton turns her focus from foreign policy. >> so after visiting 112 nations
for four years, i'm still jet lagged. >> back to american families, launching an early childhood education initiative. >> every parent has looked into their newborn baby's eyes and seen unlimited potential. and now we know how to help them achieve that. >> so, are they running for president? for now at least they won't say. >> participatings as a private citizen. >> more than three years away from the 2016 election, there are already speeches. >> and when women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society. >> and late night jokes. >> it's about doing the the right thing. >> you ain't lying, c.c. now look at you, sounding all presidential like. >> and even the tweets. hillary teased her futures tbd. christie and clinton aren't the
only one. paul ryan, marco rubio. >> left likes to think we are the fringe. you, us, we are the mainstream. >> but christie, despite being invited, said no to the conservatives and yes to the clintons. >> didn't get elected in new jersey. but everybody else will say, oh, my god, he's consorting with a leper. >> a leper. >> and, you know, craig, chris christie would have to win reelection in jersey before he focuses on clinton or any other possible candidate three years from now. >> casey, thank you. >> thanks, craig. and elise viebeck from the hill and ed o'keefe. ed, here we go again, chris christie. this is what president clinton said about his political calculus to our own alex wagner.
take a listen and let's talk about it on the other side. >> okay. >> if you're republican and want to get re-elected bipartisan ship is imperative. >> ed, is the president right there? >> yep, he is. absolutely. there's another thing at play. he's from new jersey. new jersey is one of those states that lacks a media market of its own. for him to penetrate into new jersey television households he has to go out and do things big so he can get on the local news in new york city and in philadelphia and remind people he's running for reelection and stay above the fray, as he avoids having to confront his democratic opponent. showing up on jimmy fallon in new york, going to chicago to talk to bill clinton, it automatically ensures you airtime on the local news. he will worry about running for president after that. >> that's a point i hadn't thought about. that's a good point.
bill clinton, political asset for hillary clinton. but he also from time to time has a way of drowning out other big names when he makes news like this week on syria. is there also a down side here? >> oh, for chris christie in terms of 2016? i don't think so. i think it was a smart move for christie to appear in chicago this week. midwest of the republican base, even if they don't like him, they think he could win. we have been writing articles about oh, my gosh, hillary clinton and chris christie on the stage at the same time. it makes it seem like her inevitable opponent. he wants to stay out of the scrum in washington that was throwing red meat to the republican base. here we are talking about chris christie. >> faith and freedom conference. ryan, rubio, both key players there, both pushing for bipartisan immigration reform. rubio doing so under a spot.
ryan moore behind the scenes. >> a lot is going to determine whether or not the house moves on as well. paul ryan very eager to do so. we have had aids talk about how he was one of the people bring together the group of eight over in the house. it's now a group of seven who are work withing on a bipartisan immigration compromise. he understand mostly for economic reasons why it was had this had to be done. he has been worried about immigration since he worked with jack kemp. rubio, the public face of it over in the senate. if they get a bill passed and add a few for votes to the final tally, rubio and his colleagues will look good for that. and rand paul understands this has to happen. all of them trying to look as if they're in the mix and can
somehow claim a little victory if this goes through. >> ed o'keefe, elise viebeck, thank you. >> thanks, craig. think it's hard enough to find legroom on a plane. it's about to get harder. how and why next. so i have this front porch. but it's really empty. so, my dad is making me these. i said i'd help. ah, so you're going to need some tools of your own. this battery will power over 50 tools. don't worry, i'll show you. in case i forget to say thank you. let's get together. grab some tools. and bring it in on budget. we did good. great job. now what? more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. this ryobi one+drill and impact driver combo kit, now just 99 bucks. ♪ ♪ ♪
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time for our three big money headlines. joining me now to break it down, accounting analyst. always good to see you. >> good to see you too. >> let's start with the united states stepping up with its crude oil production. >> they are producing about 1 million barrels. it's the biggest it's been since 1965. this has dropped imports 35%. and one of the reasons why it's happening is because of fracking. what that basically means, they go in, break up rock beneath the
earth's surface. environmentalists think this is very controversial. but people are saying this is what's increasing the production. >> crude oil production, is that in in any, shape or form affected prices? >> not yet. >> here's a story that's going to get a lot of folks angry on a saturday morning. an airline decided you know what, folks have too much legroom. >> exactly. according to the intuit spending index, legroom, airlines are starting to -- what they want to do is have more seats in there and increase profits. but it's making everyone uncomfortable while traveling. people like me that fly coach, you have an airline. they have between 23 and 26 rows.
they're going to add more seats to that. what's also going to happen is they're adding flight attendants as well. the fact that they are making money will be canceled out by the fact that they have to including more to staff that. >> finally, good news on the education front. >> right. americans now, 35% of americans have advanced degrees, the highest it's been in two decades. most of the part reason is because digital jobs are coming about. people feel they need to start advancing and get higher degrees in order to fill those slots. this has really been something the president has been focused on and trying to promote. and we're seeing this increase in the united states. >> when you have that many people with a college degree, does that not then devalue the college degree? >> well, i think especially because technology is advancing so much. and you have seen -- now especially that we're out of the recession, we are seeing these companies using cash reserves to
add jobs. people are using those degrees towards those jobs? >> always a pleasure. thank you. >> have a good weekend. in today's one minute playback, the mets fan who became a viral sensation. here's a minute from late night with jimmy fallon. >> the mets play the cardinals this week here in new york. check out what happens to the mets fan in the stands. he's behind the pitcher to the right. >> major league baseball. in fairness, nothing says you're a mets fan like collapsing in june. but there are some things i've never seen before. this ge jet engine can understand 5,000 data samples per second. which is good for business. because planes use less fuel, spend less time on the ground and more time in the air. suddenly, faraway places don't seem so...far away.
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information. in the second half of 2012, facebook reports somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 requests from local and federal government agencies. the requests covered 18,000 to 19,000 different users, a tiny fraction of the total facebook users. during that same period, microsoft received somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 requests for information on 31,000 to 32,000. again, a tiny fraction. and as u.s. officials investigate edward snowden, growing support in the city where he reportedly sought refuge. this is hong kong where protesters gathered in support of snowden. ian williams is in hong kong. ian, first of all, what can you tell us in germ terms about the reaction that he is getting there in hong kong. >> well, it's a bit of a mixed
reaction, craig. i think if i was to put my finger on it, the overall feeling is one of bemusement although there is some support. snowden is hiding out in a very windy and rain-swept city. several hundred protesters today marching on government headquarters and also on the american consulate demanding the government give them protection. some of them blowing whistles, whistle-blowers and wearing masks. there's been very little reaction from hong kong authorities. official line, if there is one, is that he has broken no local laws here. there's yet to be any charge of course in the u.s. there has to be a charge before there can be an extradition request.
now, there have been demands, though, from lawmakers that the hong kong government demand more information about the alleged hacking of hong kong computers. interestingly as well, craig, is beijing. it is sovereign china, but it has its own system. legacy of british rule. they have been careful as to what they've said. at the same time, reveling in the embarrassment of washington, pointing out of course that washington having accused them of cyber spying now appears to have been accused itself of a massive snooping operation, craig. >> joining me now with more, intelligence reporter for the "washington post". greg, good morning to you. you write that, "intelligence officials are now concerned that edward snowden obtained dozens
of other classified documents. do we know specifically what kind of information snowden has specifically? >> well, i mean, he's indicated himself that he has some other files that go into the u.s. hacking operations against other countries overseas. no, it's unclear. i think that this has been a huge priority for the intelligence community since this leak occurred a little less than two weeks ago. they have been trying to catalog all the materials he may have been able to access as a systems administrator for the national security agency. >> did he turn a corner when he leaked the information about the united states spying on china? at that point did he become less of a whistle-blower and more of a double agent? >> well, there have been some members of congress who have started to raise suspicion about his ties to china and whether
there may be some relationship with the government there. it all seems pretty speculative at this point. i talked to senior officials who say there is no evidence of that whatsoever so far. just the outcome for him remains in such doubt that it seems unlikely his decision to flee to hong kong was because of some spying relationship with the government there. >> how real is the possibility? we've got this 29-year-old guy who managed to get this information off a a thumb drive reportedly. how real is the possibility that there are other edward snowdens out there? >> well, i think it's a significant possibility. and this is what has alarmed u.s. counterintelligence officials. we have had two massive leaks of sensitive information over the past three years with edward manning, a private in the army,
and now edward snowden, a consultant and systems administrator. these are people at the lowest levels of the intelligence community who don't have any reasons in their jobs for highly sensitive documents but yet were able to smuggle out considerable amount of material. so there's a lot of alarm within the u.s. intelligence community and spy agencies over whether there are others or when similar low level positions who might be overlooked by security people but could manage to get away with some massive secrets. >> i want to get your take on something really quickly here. keith alexander said the programs thwarted dozens of attacks. they could have prevented 9/11. do you take these claims at face value, or do you see it perhaps as posture to go defend the programs? >> well, i think it's a bit of
both. you know, we expect to get more details on monday. the nsa is working to declassify more information about somewhere of the plots that were apparently stopped because of these programs. but you have also seen senior members of congress say, you know, he doesn't see it. he's looked through the material. he does not see the significant breakthroughs that keith alexander is alluding to. so there's already a good deal of skepticism surrounding some of these claims. and the pressure is on alexander to defend them. >> greg, thank you. >> thank you. >> in this week's office politics, george packer, "the unwinding," take a look at the widening economic divide in this country and how we got there. george also shares the one book on his bookshelf that he returns
to again and again for inspiration. first, though, alex started by asking george about his approach to writing "the unwinding." >> i wanted to convey this feeling of being an american today and over this past generation in that deep intimate way a novel gives you. getting out of the way. there's no first person. there's no commentary. it's all told through the point of view of my characters. and you move back and forth between their stories over the course of these three decades as the book moves along. some of them i met by chance. dean price, serial entrepreneur aoe vsrapv evangelist. and from ohio, tammy thomas, a factory worker who made herself a community organizer.
there are several other characters. they're all americans who have been acted on by these forces of the collapse of the institutions i'm writing about who have had to invent a new way forward for themselves. >> but there's a level of optimism held by some. how do you explain that? >> it's partly an american refusal to quit. it's their nature. dean price, for example, the north carolina guy has this really almost religious faith that if he pursues his vision of reviving the sort of fallen countryside of his home area by alternative energy, that he will make it. that's an american belief in itself. but what's missing are those structures that used to support people like dean price. he's doing it on his own now. and it's true there are -- their stories give me hope when i'm
with them. but when i'm stepping back and looking at washington and wall street and the centers of power and the leaders of those institutions, i don't feel quite so optimistic. there are 10 portraits of social leaders from different walks of life that are scattered through the narratives of the main characters. everyone from newt gingrich, jay-z, sam walton, robert rubin, oprah winfrey. >> it's the envy for so many. is it cool? >> it's like a permeable membrane than an inner sanctum. it's hard to keep up with the kids at home, with the phone ringing, and my chronic e-mail checking. i'm an addict. >> when do you get your writing done? >> normally, it's a day job,
9:00 to 5:30, usually when the kids are at school. before kids, it was much later at night. >> is there is a a favorite or one you go back to? >> homage to catalonia, i found in a bookstore in barcelona, appropriately, in 1984, appropriately on my way back from africa. and i didn't really know orwell at that point. i had to read one in high school. they're not the best place to get to know orwell. i think they're great books. but this is the real orwell. it was a great education and a great model. so i feel very, you know, close to it personally. because it helped me see how to write. >> more of the office politics conversation today at noon when
alex and george talk about the differences between the haves and the have nots. plus, what he enjoys doing most in his down time away from the writing. every day we're working to be an even better company - and to keep our commitments. and we've made a big commitment to america. bp supports nearly 250,000 jobs here. through all of our energy operations, we invest more in the u.s. than any other place in the world. in fact, we've invested over $55 billion here in the last five years - making bp america's largest energy investor. our commitment has never been stronger. [ male announcer ] moving object detection. ♪ blind spot warning. ♪
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man: the charcoal went out already? ... forget it. vo: there's more barbeque time in every bag of kingsford original charcoal. kingsford. slow down and grill. to sanford, florida now where there is no one seated on the jury of the second-degree murder trial of george zimmerman. but some prospective jurors will be returning next week. kerry sanders joins me live from sanford, florida. good to see you you. where are they now in the jury selection phase? 1234r well, it's a process. what they are doing is they have selected 28 potential jurors. they're trying to get a pool of 40 potential jurors so they can whittle that group down to six actual jurors and then some alternates. >> let's talk about the
screening process. so far how tough has it been to avoid bringing in potential jurors with already formed opinions? >> that really is the problem because of the high profile nature of this case with george zimmerman who admits he shot and killed trayvon martin was claims it was self-defense. he has been charged with second-degree murder here. there were 500 jury summons sent out. 200 told to report to the courthouse. they stag erred that. they had to fill out a multipage questionnaire. when they answered the question, some of them, after they went through them, automatically disqualified them based on their answers. there were those not automatically disqualified brought into the courtroom here one at a time and asked questions. now, those questions primarily focused on what do you know and what opinion have you formed. and could you set aside that
opinion based on earning the facts in the courtroom versus what you think are the facts you may have heard on television, saw on the internet, et cetera. and so that's where we get to the number of 28. the goal here is to get that group of 40. if you do a little bit of math here, each side has what they call 10 challenges. they can say when they get to the group of jurors they're looking at. let's say they say, judge, this is fine for me. the defense can say, no, don't want them. strike number one gone. so that leaves them nine. and they go back and forth. with 20 on either side, plus, there will still be the ability to say just based on cause. because when they bring them back in as a group and ask longer and more questions, it's likely somebody may reveal something and say based on the cause, we would like to have them. and the judge will say. so six jurors plus the alternates, which is not a large
group. it's taking some time. it may appear like it's taking some time, but to mark o'meara it's right on schedule. >> kerry, thank you. and wii should note here that george zimmerman has sued nbc universal for defamation, the parent company of this channel. the company strongly denied allegations. arming syria's rebels. what the united states won't be giving them next. flying is old hat for business travelers.
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ambassador, let me start with you. the "new york times" saying president obama was dragged into this. you have been critical of the white house's policy all along. what do you think is behind the motivation to do this now? >> when you do foreign policy as if you're basically going through a root canal, you don't make good decisions. that's what's happening here. the administration had to face the consequences of its own rhetoric. it said if a red line had been crossed by the use of chemical weapons, that it would be a game changer. so, now there is absolute irrefutable proof that the they deployed sirin gas and for some reason that was the red line and what the administration's problem right now. it doesn't want to be involved and it doesn't want to commit
and doing this almost as a public relations decision rather than a proact aive decision based on what's best for the united states and national interest for the middle east. >> here's the thing the united states is pledging at this point. only small arms. the rebels for months now have been asking for tanks and asking for armor piercing bullets. how much of a difference will that make? >> none, zero. won't make any difference whatsoever. a huge battle going on and the major inflection point and the results that will determine what will happen in syria and who is going to win. it is not going to be the rebels. no matter what we give them. i'm not convinced if we acted earlier and given them bigger weapons, more weapons months ago it would have changed the outcome. >> investigator, i want to talk about your most recent column on
this. you write in part, this move is partly just to silence critics of the administration syrian policy. it doesn't look like that is going to work. do they then step it up until they're fully involved? >> the bottom line is, as jack just said, the tide has already turned and the empire has struck back. iran and russia have seessentiay made this war of remains of the good guys in syria at this point in time. we're arriving at the ninth inning and we're arriving when the game has already been changed. the final analysis, while this has been a civil war, tip toeing into a war which it is destined to lose and be held accountable for a national security defeat coming late into this game.
>> colonel, any hope at this juncture of a diplomatic solution? >> there is no motivation on the part of assad and hezbollah to come to the table when the rebel's on the run. i don't think anything good will come of our policy and i agree a foreign policy disaster from the very beginning and nothing that we are going to do to change it, including calling for talks. nobody will come to the table. >> you two have painted quite the bleak picture for our saturday. >> it's tough. >> good it see you, thank you for your insight, as always. thanks to you, as well. this wraps up "weekends with alex witt." she will be here at noon eastern. next, uppers stand by, your fearless leader is here, steve kornacki getting ready to go. i'll see you at 2:00 eastern right here on msnbc. we're here at the famous tapia brothers produce stand
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leaking top secret documents that reveal the nsa domestic surveillance activities make edward snowden a patriot, unless it makes him a traitor. a week after disclosing exclosive details about top secret data mining programs involving phone records and internet communications, the self-identified leaker edward snowden is still believed to be hiding out in hong kong. hundreds of protisters rallied there to hurnlg the city's government to protect snowden and not extradite him to the u.s. on thursday robert mueller said authorities will track him down. >> he is a subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. these disclosures have caused significant harm to our nation and to our safety. we are taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for e