Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
Continuing coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Plus, the latest on Mideast tensions.
National Security Agency Director Gen. Army Gen. Keith Alexander told Congress on Wednesday dozens of potential terror attacks were prevented because of secret surveillance of phone records and other similar programs.
Current and former government officials are coming forward to defend the NSA's tactics, which a former agency contractor, Edward Snowden, said he leaked to the media.
The revelations have revived heated debate in Washington over balancing national security concerns with privacy rights.
President Barack Obama said tradeoffs were necessary to protect Americans from terror, and some Republicans, including several high-ranking lawmakers and officials, have defended them.
Then-Sen. Obama did not champion similar policies under former President George W. Bush's administration.
Former NSA director under Bush told CNN there is no need to rub it in.
"We should just take a sense of satisfaction that what we were doing, once candidate Obama became President Obama, he saw that these were of great value and frankly, were being very carefully done," said Hayden.
"National security looks a little different from the Oval Office than it does from a hotel room in Iowa," said Hayden.
Most members of generation X would not remember seeing cigarette commercials on television, because they were banned in 1971. But smoking ads are creeping back onto the airwaves, with the brave new world of electronic cigarettes.
Actor Stephen Dorff started promoting the products last year.
"Blu lets me enjoy smoking without affecting the people around me because it's vapor - not tobacco smoke," Dorff says in one ad.
And there's the rub. Because "e-cigs" are tobacco-less, they are not subject to the same restrictions on television as tobacco products, even though the vapor contains habit-forming nicotine.
In 2008, President Barack Obama campaigned on the promise of change. But five years and a massive security leak later, even left-leaning media outlets are comparing Obama to his predecessor when it comes to data mining. The Huffington Post even posted a mash-up photo titled "George W. Obama."
"President Obama is keeping us safe and doing it the right way," said CNN political contributor and former press secretary to the Bush administration Ari Fleischer. "The house that he inherited from George Bush, the foundation upon which our national security and homeland security is built - with changes to a couple curtains, they put in a few more audits - is the Bush structure."
Bostonians are more than well-acquainted with James "Whitey" Bulger, and his alleged criminal reign from the 1970s through the 1990s.
Bulger, accused of killing 19 people, once shared the FBI's most wanted list with Osama bin Laden and he feared once the al Qaeda leader was gone, his time on the run was short. He was right. Bulger was caught in 2011 after 16 years as a fugitive.
On Wednesday, his long-awaited trial began in Boston. The prosecution described him in opening statements as a "hands-on killer"
But the defense says the picture the prosecution has painted is all wrong. It contends the witnesses, many of whom are described as former henchman for Bulger, are unreliable and that he was never an FBI informant.
But longtime Boston newspaper reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy paint their own picture in their book, "Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.”
Cullen and Murphy explain how Bulger viewed himself, writing, “Nothing he had learned contradicted what he had long thought of himself: That he was smarter than most hoods, more cunning and careful and completely at ease in the use of violence as a tool in his chosen trade."
One of the loudest voices in Congress crying foul over leaked details about the National Security Agency's super-secret surveillance programs is Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and he is doing it largely without the backing of fellow Republicans.
Some of Paul's GOP congressional colleagues are calling former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's admitted leak to two newspapers an "act of treason," but Paul doesn’t see things that way.
His problem is with the sweeping nature of the program itself that he expects to be spotlighted in a new court challenge – not necessarily how the initiative came to light.
"Committing civil disobedience is a big step forward, and history has treated people in various fashions," Paul told CNN. "Some people who commit civil disobedience have been treated heroes, some have not."