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Russians Suspected in Two Massive Cyberattacks; Growing Myanmar Resistance Movement Training for Civil War; Scientists, Doctors Slam UK's Plans to End Most Measures; Japan Declares State of Emergency in Tokyo. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 8, 2021 - 04:30   ET




JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is meeting with his National Security team, members of them, this morning to get an update on cyber, on ransomware. And we'll see where we go from there. But he reserves the right to take action.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Biden convening his top intelligence and national security officials Wednesday morning in the situation room. The focus, ransomware attacks like those launched from Russian based criminal syndicates over the last several months, including the largest on record just this past weekend. A critical issue Biden sought to set clear red lines against in his one-on-one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin last month.

PSAKI: Even if it is a criminal actor, even if it's someone that's not the federal government, even if it's a bad guy or a bad gal in Russia, you have a responsibility there and you have a responsibility to take action. And if you don't take action, we reserve the right to.

MATTINGLY: But the attack potentially providing an early and ominous answer to Biden's own open question after the summit.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are they going to act? We'll find out.

MATTINGLY: Coming as top experts in both governments recently met on the issue according to White House officials and agreed upon dialogue from the Geneva summit and set to meet again next week.

Just a few months ago the massive SolarWinds hack by a Russian intelligence unit led Biden to slap sanctions on the country as a result, but the latest attacks even in the wake of those sanctions and the Geneva summit laying bare the stakes for Biden's next move, as his red lines from just last month continue to echo.

BIDEN: I put it out to him we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn't know exactly what it is, but it's significant. And if in fact they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber. He knows.

MATTINGLY (on-camera): And several White House officials I've spoken to made clear they didn't expect President Putin, the Russian criminal syndicates to just go cold turkey and stop any malign activities altogether. There was some expectation that there would be more cyberattacks both on the ransomware side and potentially on the state sponsored side as well.

The real question now, particularly as there is an ongoing dialog between U.S. experts and Russian government experts about cybersecurity issues, is what is the president going to do, what does he feel like has been crossed from a red line perspective if anything at all. and if it has been crossed, will he respond with some type of cyber response?

Those are the opening questions that are outstanding right now. But one thing to keep in mind, at this point the U.S. still hasn't attributed either of those attacks to Russia.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Fighting in Afghanistan continues to intensify as the Taliban push for territorial gains in the north. On Wednesday, Taliban forces invaded the capital of the northwestern province of Badghis. The governor posted a video online claiming the city was safe despite gunfire in the background and reports of a prison break. Further east, Afghan Special Forces attempted to secure the provincial capital of Kunduz as Taliban fighters reached the gates of the city. Most districts in Kunduz are already under Taliban control.

A fire that broke out after a massive explosion at the port in Dubai is now under control. Officials say the blast happened Wednesday inside a container ship on a ship docked at the port. There were no reports of casualties. Witnesses say the explosion jolted buildings as far as 15 kilometers or nine miles away. Social media posts showed a huge fireball that can be seen over the port in the distance. A senior government official says the ship owned by a company in the Comoros Islands was carrying cleaning products.

A United Nations Human Rights official is calling for tougher economic sanctions on Myanmar to try to force the junta from power. The U.N. Special Rapporteur wants the international community to target Myanmar's oil and gas sector to halt revenue to the military. Meanwhile resistance groups are making their own plans to oust the junta. They're training for a civil war.

Sam Kiley traveled deep into the jungle to get a firsthand exclusive look at the training camp, and he joins us now.

Sam, tell us more about what you learned.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, I think the first thing to take away is what we kind of knew going in, which is that in Myanmar, once called Burma, the nation is enduring a very severe bloodletting, particularly at the hands of the military. You'll recall they took power in February this year. There was peaceful demonstrations against their seizure of power and the ending of the infant democracy in Myanmar. And that has led, though, to many, many young people particularly students I discovered at this training camp moving from being peaceful protesters to wanting to take up arms against the central development army.

This is what we found, Kim.



KILEY (voice-over): A grueling journey through jungle eventually revealing this. A rebel base in Myanmar. Camp Victoria, a major headquarters in a nationwide uprising against the country's military junta. Some 200 volunteers from around the country have come seeking the military skills that they want to fight a regime that seized power in February and has brutally dashed hopes of democracy here.

They're villagers, young workers, and many of whom are students who protested the coup and now believe that they must take up arms against it.

NAING HWTOO LWIN, VOLUNTEER, CHIN NATIONAL FRONT: Sad. It's very sad. They killed many people of our country. This camp can give me the power to fight the military junta.

KILEY: The instructors are members of the Chin National Front, a longstanding separatist army that is now in alliance with many others under Myanmar's National Unity government in exile.

(On-camera): These rural recruits are on day three of their training. They're only going to get 45 days training. That includes drill, assault courses and above all weapons training before they are going to be thrown back into the fight.

DR. SUI KHAR, VICE CHAIRMAN, CHIN NATIONAL FRONT: They're equipped with local guns.

KILEY (voice-over): Rebel leaders know more blood will flow.

KHAR: There are more than 15,000 already and still coming. And still organizing, I mean, mobilizing losing the armed fighters. And that is what that's -- the NUG is trying to equip arms for them.

KILEY (on-camera): So it really is a civil war, isn't it?

KHAR: Leading to the civil war. Now it's in kind of an urban guerilla attack, but within months it will transform into like a conventional civil war.

KILEY (voice-over): Recent fighting with the junta forces has meant that reinforcements have been rushed to defensive lines. But the rushed training has dangerous consequences. (On-camera): This young man his comrades had told me was blown up by

an improvised explosive device that he was trying to plant as part of the defensive perimeter around this camp and around some of the villages that are threatened by the government army.

(Voice-over): Already refugees are on the move leaving these villages for hillside camps.

Tial Song told me that the women, children and elders fled their village when they heard the sounds of fighting. Many men stayed behind, but everyone fears the military for its brutality.

The Chin National Front says it's trained 3,000 people at Camp Victoria. Those who have graduated have been immediately deployed. Most of their weapons are bird-hunting, homemade shotguns stored with an open fire to keep the damp off. They believe that this is a just fight, but they're short of weapons and rushed through training, and it will take more than righteousness and shotguns to topple a military regime.

And as the conflict continues, the numbers of dead will rise to a level when eventually people may start to lose count.


KILEY: Now, Kim, of course the death toll is rising. That may be a grim prognosis for Myanmar, but there are really serious concerns that as the military regime continues to act brutally in response to the civilian population, so these armed groups will grow, some of them -- and there was no evidence of this among the Chin, but others that certainly do have a record for raising funds through nefarious means such as drug smuggling. And ultimately this means that there is a severe threat that the already fragile idea of Myanmar may mutate into an absolutely failed state -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Outstanding reporting there, Sam, raising some really troubling questions. Sam Kiley, thanks so much for your exclusive report there.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma is now in custody. Police say he handed himself over late Wednesday just before a midnight deadline when authorities would have arrested him. Zuma was sentenced last week to 15 months in prison for contempt of court for failing to appeal in an inquiry into alleged corruption during his years in power. He denies these allegations and his lawyers plan to challenge his sentence.


Dangerous, premature and unethical, just some of the words thousands of scientists and doctors are using now that the U.K. is carrying on with re-openings. We'll explain coming up. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: More than 4,000 scientists, doctors, nurses and others are slamming the British government's plans to drop most COVID restrictions. Most measures are set to end on July 19th. And all of these professionals are calling it dangerous and premature in a letter published in the "Lancet."

Let's bring in Cyril Vanier who is in London for us.

Cyril, condemnation for the government's reopening plans seems to be growing louder and louder here.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And Kim, look, what are we talking about here? What are the restrictions that are going to be lifted more than likely less than two weeks from now? We're talking about lifting any caps on the number of people who can meet both outdoors and indoors. We're talking about the fact that face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement, they will be a matter of public choice, including apparently on public transport and in enclosed spaces.

We're talking about the fact that the limits on social distancing will also be lifted and become a matter of personal choice. So more than 100 doctors and scientists have signed a letter saying that this is -- this risks causing millions of infections, that this is an unethical experiment that is being conducted by the British government, that it risks causing a generation beset by chronic health problems due to long COVID, which is a condition we still don't understand well, and that it will create fertile ground for the emergence of a vaccine resistant variant, Kim.

So they say the government shouldn't lift all remaining COVID restrictions until everybody -- well, all adults and adolescents in this country have been offered a vaccine.


We're very, very far from that and from herd immunity even though two- thirds of adults are now fully vaccinated, Kim. The political opposition also dead against the lifting of restrictions. Here is Labour leader Keir Starmer.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Let's be clear why infection rates are so clear -- so high because the prime minister let the Delta or we can call it the Johnson variant into the country. And let's be clear, let's be clear why the number of cases will surge so quickly because he is taking all protections off in one go. That is reckless.


VANIER: The country reported 30,000 new infections yesterday. That could be 50,000 by the time restrictions are lifted. And according to the government's own projections, could be 100,000 by the end of the month, certainly during the summer. Hospitalizations and deaths are up 40 percent. The one big unknown, Kim, is that even though restrictions are lifted,

remember the government's philosophy is that it now becomes a matter of public choice what you do and how you live with this variant. So it doesn't mean that everybody will necessarily take off their face coverings or stop social distancing. And I think that is a variable, that is a big unknown, how much people continue to follow the health rules that we know work and we know protects against infection could determine where the story goes -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, and if the U.S. is any guide, we know people will be very quick to abandon those.

Cyril Vanier, in London, thank you so much.

All right. Breaking news coming into CNN. Japan's prime minister moments ago announced that the government has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo for the spread of COVID-19. And he says it will last until August 22nd. That means it will be in effect throughout the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and it could mean spectators will be barred from many Olympic events.

All right, still ahead, pandemonium in Piccadilly Circus. England celebrates a Euro 2020 win that puts them on track for their first major championship in more than 50 years. We'll have that coming up. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Back to our breaking news from Tokyo. Japan's prime minister moments ago announced that the government has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo over the spread of COVID-19. And he says it will last until August 22nd.

CNN's Will Ripley is standing live for us in Tokyo right now.

Will, so was this expected? And tell us what this means for the Olympic games.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was. You know, it was certainly dreaded by Olympics organizers, Kim, because this state of emergency which will officially going to effect on Monday essentially kills the idea that there can be local spectators attending events at Olympic venues here in Tokyo.

This is something that seemed to be kind of unavoidable given the recent surge in cases that they have been seeing here in Japan and particularly in Tokyo over the last 18 days or so. You've had numbers that are some of the highest that they've seen in quite some time at a time that thousands of athletes and trainers and also journalists and delegations are going to be arriving here in the Japanese capital ahead of the Olympic opening ceremonies on July 23rd.

Adding spectators to the mix as Japan is now, you know, grappling with yet another outbreak inside its capital just is deemed by the Japanese to be too risky of a proposition at a time that they have pledged to hold a safe and secure Olympic games. So as a result, because of this state of emergency, only special guests are expected to be allowed to attend the events live here.

Everybody else is going to have to watch them either online, live or on television, which means that the scores of people who sometimes paid over $1,000 U.S. for tickets are going to have to find out when they're going to get a refund, and the Japanese people who have paid billions in their tax dollars promised a tourism boom, promised that these games will be just this, you know, complete resurgence for the Japanese economy are now finding themselves the unwilling hosts of a game that are going to be unlike any other that is held before.

More expensive, more complicated, and without crowds, without people actually watching the events live with the exception of a handful of VIPs.

So, Kim, certainly not the kind of development that Olympic organizers were hoping for on the day that Thomas Bach, the IOC president, has landed in Tokyo. He's currently isolating in his hotel for the next few days. But this is the reality of life during a pandemic and trying to hold a global sporting event at a time that you have new more contagious variants emerging, and in fact variants including the Delta variants spreading very quickly and creating a surge in cases in countries like Japan.

BRUNHUBER: Really appreciate you giving us this update on the breaking news, Will Ripley in Tokyo.

Well, this was London's Piccadilly Circus as football fans turned out to celebrate England's Euro 2020 victory. The Three Lions are heading to the tournament final against Italy after a 2-1 win over Denmark. Close to 65,000 fans packed Wembley Stadium to watch the match.

Patrick Snell has the highlights in our "Minute in Sports."

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS: Well, thanks, Kim. A victory celebration 55 years in the making, England's men's national football team finally through to their first major competition final since 1966. The Three Lions beating Denmark in Wednesday's Euro 2020 semifinal in London with a score at 1-all. Harry Cain seeing his penalty save but the English forward on hand to tuck away the rebound. Gareth Southgate's team will face Italy in Sunday's final at Wembley.

Meantime, in the Wimbledon Tennis Championship, also in England, two women semifinals on the slate for today as Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer now coming to terms with a very painful defeat. The eight-time champ beaten in straight sets in the quarter final by the young Polish player Hubert Hurkacz.


Meantime Canadian star Denis Shapovalov rallied superbly from two sets to one down against the Russian player Karen Khachanov to win the next two and set up a semifinal clash with top rank Novak Djokovic. And here in the United States, the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrating

back-to-back Stanley Cup titles after beating the Montreal Canadians again to seal the series 4-1. They're now the first team to repeat as champions since the 2016, 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins.

And with that, Kim, it's back to you.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thousands of health care and essential workers honored in the streets of New York on Wednesday.

The city threw a ticker tape parade for the hometown heroes who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. It was led by the nurse who became the first person in the U.S. to receive a COVID vaccine. While New York City was one of the first COVID epicenters in the U.S., it now reports its lowest rate of infections since tracking began.

Great to see them honored there.

And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "EARLY START" is next.