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Jordan Begins Massive Retaliation Against ISIS; ISIS Goes Online to Find U.S. Recruits, Targets; Why Did ISIS Burn Pilot Alive?; Kerry: U.S. Tracking Russian Weapons in Ukraine

Aired February 5, 2015 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, stones of fire with U.S.- made war planes and bombs bearing quotes from the Koran, Jordan carries out its vow of earth-shattering retaliation for the murder of its captured pilot.

ISIS in America, a CNN exclusive, we are taking you inside the FBI's counterterrorism center to learn how the terrorists are using social media to find recruits and targets right here in the United States.

And grave escalation as bloody fighting rages in Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies call on Russia's President Putin to remove his troops and tanks. But what happens if he doesn't?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Breaking now, a key U.S. ally follows through on its vow of retribution for the gruesome murder of a captured pilot burned alive in a cage by ISIS. With support from American war planes, Jordan today flew waves of U.S.-made F-16 jets against ISIS targets in Syria, and it's warning that the strikes are only quote, just the beginning.

The State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, she's standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts. Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has the very latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight King Abdullah of Jordan leading his military in his new war, stepped-up war against ISIS. Nearly two dozen Jordanian F-16s taking off today against some 20 ISIS targets in those strongholds in eastern Syria.

The Jordanians targeting ISIS weapons sites, personnel, anything that could be found to, in the words of experts, inflict significant damage on ISIS. Very interesting the Jordanians living up to a long-time military tradition, writing messages on those bombs before the planes took off.

Some of the messages included this one, saying Islam has nothing to do with your actions and a couple of verses from the Koran. One of them saying, and I quote here, "Drop upon them stones of fire; and they will turn their back and run."

Jordanian military personnel you see there, writing these messages on the bombs before they took off. All of this coming as King Abdullah paid a condolence call on the family of the Jordanian pilot who lost his life to ISIS in such a brutal way, making sure that he paid his respects to the family and telling them that these missions, these airstrikes are under way. All indications, as you said, Wolf, the Jordanians and King Abdullah are not done. There will be more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, Jordan was launching these bombs against these ISIS targets in Syria with U.S. warplanes providing protective cover. Is that right?

STARR: That is correct, Wolf. U.S. warplanes, as happens in every mission over Iraq and Syria, it's a package of warplanes. The U.S. providing key support with its own F-16s to jam ISIS communications. F-22 advanced air force fighters flying cover, other warplanes in the air providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Because the key issue right now, ISIS is dispersing. They're trying to disappear into the woodwork, not show themselves, not present any profile to attack so these intelligence and surveillance planes are helping every other plane in the air locate the critical ISIS targets -- Wolf.

STARR: Barbara's at the Pentagon. We will get back to her. Let's get to a CNN exclusive now.

We broke the story about the FBI is investigating Americans who are communicating directly with ISIS, and they want to launch an attack inside, yes, inside the United States.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here. You're learning more about this threat. You're also getting new information coming in about a case in Minneapolis that all of us have been following.

What are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We are just learning, Wolf, that the FBI arrested a 19-year-old Minnesota man as part of a terrorism investigation. He allegedly lied to investigators about his travel overseas to Turkey, a known gateway to Syria.

This comes amid grave concern in the FBI that young people here in the U.S. are being influenced by terrorists overseas. And we sat down with a man who is leading the FBI's counterterrorism efforts, and he shared disturbing insight into how terrorists like ISIS are reaching into American homes.


BROWN (voice-over): Of all the weapons used by terrorists, one of the most dangerous is social media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are using it successfully to spot, assess, identify, target folks outside of war zones. They're using it in Europe and using it in the United States.

BROWN: When you say target folks, how young are we talking? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen across the globe kids as young as 13

recruited by ISIL.

BROWN: Thirteen?


BROWN: Are they actually in direct contact in some of these cases with ISIS militants who are overseas in Syria that are reaching out to them directly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we've seen is individuals in Syria reaching directly into the United States, starting in public chats on different social media platforms, and then moving to private chats where they continue to recruit, inspire and then coerce individuals either to travel overseas or, even worse, to conduct an attack here in the United States.


BROWN: Michael Steinbach, the head of the FBI's counterterrorism division, says ISIS is also using Facebook and Twitter to identify potential American victims.

I'm wondering, is it an assumption or is there actually intelligence to back it up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There certainly is intelligence indicating that foreign terrorist organizations are using social media not only to spot and assess but select targets, targeting the military, targeting law enforcement, targeting government officials.

BROWN: That threat led the FBI to issue a string of warnings, urging U.S. government employees to scrub their social media profiles of any information terrorists could use to find them. Everyone is on social media these days, though. How do you get through the noise of someone who's just mouthing off versus someone who's a legitimate threat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the trick of law enforcement, and the trick of the U.S. intelligence community, to work through that using data, using strong analytical skills, but it's a full-time job and it's a challenge.


BROWN: And something else he said that really struck me. He said there has been a deliberate focus by ISIS leadership to use social media to recruit people with sophisticated and specific skills like engineers and accountants, people to run the business end of their caliphate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, good reporting. Thank you very, very much.

It was a display of savagery that was beyond shocking even for ISIS. A captured pilot burned alive while locked in a cage. But why would ISIS commit and publicize such a horrific act? Brian Todd is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's been

looking into this. What are you discovering, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we're learning more about the ISIS mindset, the reasons why they chose to make this pilot's death so gruesome. Experts say there could be symbolism, messaging and even strategic thinking behind the idea of killing this man in such a horrible fashion.


TODD (voice-over): It's not like they needed to prove how brutal and depraved they are. The beheadings of at least 20 hostages were convincing enough. But this distinct change in execution tactic, the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh seems to take ISIS to a new level.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Analysts who study ISIS closely say it's impossible to understand the minds of its leaders. But they offer some possible reasons for the horrific nature of this killing. There could be symbolism in burning the captured pilot. Before that moment in the video, images of destruction, possibly from coalition bombings were shown.

OLLIVANT: It appears that they're trying to create this perversion. Moral symmetry between this pilot and the coalition dropping bombs from the sky, dropping fire from the sky, I'm sure they would say, and then his being burned alive in turn.

TODD: Experts say ISIS may have wanted to show a different kind of cruelty here, because this was a combatant against them as opposed to the aid workers and journalists they beheaded. They may have felt there was value in showing other potential enemies this is what happens when you take to the battlefield against us.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is a tactic that's worked before for ISIS in Iraq. They put out a series of brutal videos last year, and that did have an impact on Iraqi soldiers, who turned and fled from Mosul when ISIS advanced on the town, despite the fact the Iraqi army vastly outnumbered ISIS at the time.

TODD: Unlike previous videos, this one doesn't feature the British ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John, possibly because it's geared toward a different audience.

But there could be a much more blunt, unvarnished explanation for the brutality of this murder: that this particular group of terrorists just enjoys the cruelty.

TARA METTER (ph), FORMER CIA OFFICER: There is some element when you watch this that it's just sickening and makes you think there is also just a cruelty for cruelty's sake.

TODD: Was this part of the cruelty? People gathered in Raqqah, the ISIS stronghold outside Syria, watching the pilot's death on a big screen outside. It's not clear if they did this on their own or were forced to watch.


TODD: Did ISIS think all of this through? Many analysts say this latest killing could well backfire on the group. Instead of scaring potential combatants away from fighting them, it seems to have steeled the Jordanians' will to fight them harder.

As for recruitment, that remains to be seen. Some analysts say the burning alive of the pilot will turn off some potential recruits. In the meantime, the teenagers who want to kill just in the name of jihad may actually be energized by this.

BLITZER: Indeed, Brian, even some groups who were opposed -- opposed to Jordan, and they are enemies of the United States have come out against this brutal murder of this pilot, like Iran Hezbollah, right?

TODD: It's extraordinary, really, the unity behind the idea of condemning this murder. The Iranians were not allied with Jordan in the region, they called the pilot's killing, quote, "inhumane and un- Islamic." Hezbollah, that terror group backed by Iran, they have a TV station called al-Minar (ph). That station called this, quote, "the most gruesome of many atrocities committed by ISIS."

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting for us.

Let's go in depth right now. Joining us, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.

Marie, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: What were the targets today of these Jordanian and U.S. air strikes in Syria?

HARF: Well, Wolf, I think what you saw today was Jordanian resolve really strengthened even more after this horrific murder of their pilot, and you saw them take the fight, as they have been, directly to ISIL. Obviously, we're fighting alongside with them. We've been targeting ISIL leadership, ISIL training, ISIL weapons caches, and that is certainly going to continue.

BLITZER: Is it going to -- continue is one thing. What about intensify?

HARF: Absolutely. I think the Jordanians themselves have spoken to this. If ISIS was trying to shake our resolve, to shake the Jordanians' resolve, I think they have done the opposite. I think the Jordanians have been incredibly forceful in their response and have said that this will intensify. You've heard King Abdullah speak about it directly.

BLITZER: So far Jordan and some of the other coalition partners, they've been willing to use their fighter jets to bomb ISIS targets in Syria but not ISIS targets in Iraq. Has that changed? HARF: Well, we've had a constant ongoing conversation about who will

target where and who will take the fight to ISIL, whether it's in Iraq, whether it's in Syria. We are confident that we have enough fire power from the air in both places to really inflict serious damage on ISIL. We already have, and we helped push them back out of areas particularly in Iraq, but that will certainly continue.

BLITZER: That's largely U.S. air power. Why are these other coalition partners like Jordan reluctant to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq?

HARF: Well, I think you saw Jordan today not showing any reluctance about going directly after ISIL with its own fighters...

BLITZER: In Syria. In Syria.

HARF: That's true. That's right. But there are other roles these countries are playing inside Iraq. There's a variety of roles we're asking them to play. And certainly, again, we have enough fire power to help push ISIL back.

BLITZER: All right. So they're going to intensify airstrikes. What about ground troops? Any indication that Jordan, some of the other Middle Eastern allies of the United States may be willing to introduce combat ground forces to try not only to degrade ISIS but to destroy ISIS?

HARF: Well, we've been focused on with ground troops, the Iraqi forces on the ground, the Kurdish forces and also the Syrian opposition. Having other countries help train them, those are the ground forces we really think will be the most effective, given that they're from the area, they're fighting on the ground alongside their neighbors. That's what we're focused on in terms of...

BLITZER: Would you agree, as all the military analysts seem to agree, that the U.S. and its coalition partners are not going to be able to destroy, not simply degrade, destroy ISIS unless there is some ground combat forces that go into places like Mosul and other places where ISIS is strong and destroy them?

HARF: Absolutely. But we've always said those ground forces have to be native ground forces, whether the Iraqi forces, the Kurdish forces or the Syrian opposition. That's why we're so grateful to countries who helped -- said they would help train the Syrian opposition and why we're working with the Iraqis to get them back on their feet up to speed and up to strength with weapons and training so they can push back on the ground.

BLITZER: Training the Syrian opposition, 5,000 or whatever, that's going to take a long time, right?

HARF: It is. This is a long-term effort, certainly. And we're focused in Iraq on pushing them out of key areas. We already have helped the Iraqis do that in many areas, as we've talked about over the last few months.

Syria is a longer term challenge, certainly. We're starting to vet. We'll soon begin training the first batch of the Syrian opposition under our train-and-equip program. And that will continue to grow.

BLITZER: You have confidence in the Iraqi military? Because as we know, they simply abandoned their positions, their weapons and ran away when ISIS came into Iraq.

HARF: I think a lot has changed since then. And I think they know the threat they're facing. I think they are willing to stand up and fight for their country. We have seen that in places like Mosul and places like Baghdad, in places all over the country really pushing back on this horrible, very serious threat, and we're going to work with them so they can.

BLITZER: Are you supplying weapons, the United States, directly to the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters, or do those weapons first have to go to the Iraqi government in Baghdad and then go to the north?

HARF: Well, it all has to be coordinated with the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but we have provided assistance to both the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish security forces.

BLITZER: Directly to the Kurdish forces?

HARF: All coordinated, though. All coordinated, but we want to get it there as quickly as we can, and that's been our goal, obviously, given the threat.

BLITZER: Because as you know, Senator McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he says. And I'm quoting him now: "There's a huge bureaucratic bottleneck in the State Department preventing this coalition from getting the weapons they need."

HARF: Well, I think nothing could be further from the truth. We are expediting every request we get for assistance, whether it's from the Iraqis, whether it's from the Jordanians. I think that might have been what Senator McCain was talking about.

BLITZER: Because the king was complaining when he was here the other day -- he cut short his visit to get back, King Abdullah -- that the U.S is not providing Jordan the weapons, the supplies it really needs to get the job done.

HARF: We are expediting every single request, trying to do this as quickly as possible. We have one of the largest security assistance relationships with Jordan of any country in the world. Just this week, my boss, Secretary Kerry, signed a new memorandum -- excuse me -- of understanding with the Jordanian foreign minister who I think will be on your show later...

BLITZER: So it's changed.

HARF: ... to increase this -- to increase this relationship.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise. Because you expedited it since the murder of this Jordanian pilot?

HARF: We've been expediting it since the fight against ISIL, and the coalition really has gotten up and running. We've been expediting it for months, quite frankly. This is a process that takes some time, but we are getting them what they need as quickly as we can.

BLITZER: Because in my conversations with some Jordanian officials, they've been frustrated, but let's see if that situation improves.

One final question on this: The status of that American female aid worker who's being held by ISIS. What can you tell us about that?

HARF: Well, we know that we will do everything we can, as the United States government, to get Americans who are being held overseas back. That is our obligation. We use every tool possible. We don't talk about a lot of those details for the privacy of the family, obviously, and the sensitivity of the situation, but we are working every single hour, every single day to get Americans home.

BLITZER: All right. Marie Harf, I want you to stand by. And we have a lot more to talk about. The situation in Ukraine, it is now getting much, much worse. Grave in the words of a senior U.S. official. Much more on Ukraine. Also a lot more on what's going on in this war against ISIS when we come back.


BLITZER: As bloody fighting rages in Ukraine, the United States and its allies are stepping up the pressure on Russia. In Kiev today, the secretary of state, John Kerry, said the U.S. is able to track Russian heavy weapons and soldiers sent across the border and the U.S. wants them all, all of them, pulled back. The State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, she's standing by. We'll discuss what's going on.

But first, let's go live to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's in Kiev for us. He's been traveling with the secretary of state.

What's the latest there, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you, Wolf, I have been covering this Ukraine story for a number of months, and I have never heard such dire assessments of the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine by U.S. officials, by Ukrainian officials.

They describe a grave escalation, particularly in the last several days, and there is no doubt as to who they place the blame for. They don't talk about pro-Russian separatists backed by Russia. They talk about Russia, Russian forces, Russian weapons and an uptick in those weapons going in, which is really turning the tide against Ukrainian forces there.

So when we reached out to Russia with that assessment and got yet another denial from Moscow, have a listen to how Secretary Kerry and the Ukrainian prime minister pushed back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov took particular issue with you, saying that there are Russian forces inside Ukraine escalating the situation. He said there are no Russian tanks or army in Ukraine. These accusations are not true. I wonder if you could react to that.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Prime minister, is it true that, as the Kremlin just said today, there are no Russians on the ground?

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: It seems to me that the only country who strongly deny clear military Russian boots on the ground is Russian federation and personally President Putin. If they need, I can give them my glasses.


SCIUTTO: I'll tell you, he was using humor, but it was bitter humor, Wolf. I was just a couple of feet from the Ukrainian prime minister Yatsenyuk as he said that, and I could practically feel his blood pressure jumping as he described it.

And later he made another joke but a difficult one, saying that he almost laughs when he gets peace proposals from President Putin. He says he doesn't even want to touch them. That gives you a sense of what the groundwork is here for a possible negotiated settlement. I'll tell you, there's a lot of skepticism from the Ukrainian side.

BLITZER: We know that when the Ukrainian President Poroshenko was in Washington last September, he was asking the Obama administration for military assistance, aid, lethal weaponry. They still want it. Do they expect to get it any time soon?

SCIUTTO: Well, I'll tell you, they certainly didn't get it on this trip. I also asked Prime Minister Yatsenyuk that very question. I said was he disappointed that you can have Secretary Kerry here, the French president, the German chancellor, and yet no new punitive sanctions against Russia and none of that military aid?

He did not say he was disappointed, at least not in public, but he did say that, "Listen, we don't want these weapons for offensive reasons. We want them simply to defend our country." Another plea. As of yet, Wolf, that plea has not been answered.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, we're going to get back to you. Thanks very much.

Let's go back to the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf. What about the U.S. doing what Ukraine really needs, weapons? Is the United States going to start providing weapons to the Ukrainian military?

HARF: Well, Wolf, we're continuing inside the administration to have a discussion about what else we can do to help the Ukrainians. Obviously Secretary Kerry was just there, heard from them directly about what more they might need, and that conversation is ongoing.

And certainly, we've been incredibly concerned by the escalation of violence, particularly over the last few days and weeks, and that's all part of the calculation.

BLITZER: Why not provide them weapons? Many members of Congress are sending you letters. Congressman Adam Schiff, for example, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is circulating a letter. They all want the administration to start providing weapons to Ukraine in the face of what they call Russian aggression. Why not?

HARF: Well, this is certainly Russian aggression. And we're very clear that we want to help Ukraine push back on this. I think as we have talk about our position (ph), we have to look at what makes the most sense strategically. Our goal here has always been de- escalation, but as I said, we have been increasingly concerned. We're talking inside the administration about what more we can do, and we'll keep having that conversation.

BLITZER: So far, the U.S.-led sanctions on Russia have not had much of an effect on Putin, have they?

HARF: Well, they've had a pretty big effect on the Russian economy.

BLITZER: Putin willingness to commit what you call aggression in Ukraine, he's continuing to do so, right?

HARF: That's right. And we're going to keep putting the pressure on with the ultimate goal of changing the calculation. He has a choice to make here.

You know, on the one hand, the Russians signed up to the Minsk agreement and they talk about ways to de-escalate. And on the other hand, they pour armored vehicles, tanks, really heavy weapons into Ukraine. I mean, the spokesperson saying there's no new weapons there just defies logic. You can see them. They're not stealth weapons. So we'll keep putting the pressure on.

BLITZER: You anticipate the administration, the president of the United States imposing additional economic, diplomatic, military sanctions, if you will, on Russia?

HARF: Well, we've always said there will be additional costs if they continue the escalation. I don't have anything to preview, obviously, but the conversation continues. And we will keep putting pressure on President Putin to get him to make different decisions.

BLITZER: Are the European allies, like Germany, France, Italy, are they on board?

HARF: They are.

BLITZER: On increasing sanctions? Because you know, a lot of people in Europe don't even like the current sanctions on Russia, because it's hurt their own respective economies.

HARF: Well, they obviously have an economy very closely tied to Russia's, but we have talked to the E.U. and our partners about increasing sanctions. They have increased them along with us over time. And they may do so again, as well. So we will continue talking about this. I know our European partners

are meeting with the Ukrainians and the Russians today and tomorrow to see if they can make progress on the diplomatic side.

BLITZER: Here's one down side of providing weapons to Ukraine. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, he warned that -- that giving Ukraine lethal military equipment in his words could cause an even stronger reaction from Russia.

HARF: There's a variety of factors that we take into account when deciding what kind of assistance we can give. Obviously, the general speaks to one factor here. But we're considering all of them. And the secretary had that conversation today. I can imagine we will have many more conversations inside the administration about what else to do.

BLITZER: And the meeting Monday with the visiting German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the president, that will be critically important; and Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda.

HARF: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Marie Harf, thanks very much for coming in.

HARF: Happy to be here.

BLITZER: Coming up, amazing stories from survivors of that Taiwan plane crash. One man says he lived because he unbuckled, yes, he unbuckled his seat belt at the last second.

And later, a new ISIS video may show the most wanted woman in France. Is it the widow, the widow of that Paris kosher supermarket gunman?


BLITZER: We're learning dramatic new details about that deadly airliner crash that was all caught on camera. Passengers who survived are telling us now how they got out alive and in some cases helped save others as well.

CNN's Anna Coren is joining us now live from Taiwan.

So, Anna, what is the very latest?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning extraordinary tales of these passengers who virtually walked away unscathed from TransAsia Flight 235 that clipped that bridge and then crashed into the Keelung River.

Now we're at the hospital where many of those survivors are recovering. The dean of the hospital is expected to give a press conference here shortly and will be joined by some of those patients, but for the search and rescue teams, they will be back in that river, those divers heading back there to scour the waters in search for the 12 people still missing.


COREN (voice-over): The search goes on. Divers scouring the water for bodies. Missing passengers who plunged to their deaths in a harrowing plane crash that's now being seen around the world.

Another victim found in the mangled cabin of the TransAsia plane. Rescuers fear other bodies may have been swept down river away from the crash site where suitcases lay among the wreckage.

Some of the bags may belong to these Chinese tourists. This newly released hotel security video shows the haunting hours before they boarded Flight 235.

Crash survivors now are revealing more about the flight's final moments. Amazingly, 15 people came out of the crash alive, including this toddler. And a 72-year-old man who spoke with CNN affiliate EETV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Something was wrong with the engine because I always take this flight. I told the girl beside me to quickly release her seatbelt, hold on to the chair in front and cover her head with clothes. Not long after, the plane went down.

COREN: Unbuckling their seatbelts may have saved their lives. A first responder who rushed into the aircraft shortly after the crash told a local newspaper, quote, "Many passengers were tangled up in their seatbelts and hung upside down. Some even passed away in that position."

In addition to those on board, two people were injured on the ground. The driver and the passenger of a taxi that was clipped by the plane as it went down. The driver phoned his company moments later and a recording of the call shows the dispatcher had a hard time grasping what had happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): As I was getting on the expressway a plane flew by and hit me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): A remote controlled model plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): My car is completely wrecked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): A remote controlled model plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Not a remote control plane. A small manned plane.


COREN: So, Wolf, Maintenance crews, they gave the OK for that plane to take off just minutes before it crashed. It really is quite tragic. So authorities here focusing their investigation very much on engine failure as the cause of the crash -- Wolf. BLITZER: And, Anna, I assume the people there in Taipei and Taiwan

where you are, they must be stunned. They've all seen this dramatic video. It must be stunning to them, they are so close to this bridge and to that little river.

COREN: Yes, it really is quite extraordinary. We were down at the banks of that Keelung River where that overpass bridge was literally above us, and to think that this enormous plane had clipped it with its wing, had hit that taxi, I mean, for those people, that driver and that 26-year-old passenger to get out alive is just extraordinary.

And then for it to crash into the river and to see it break up, the debris that was pulled from the river and then carted on to trucks and taken away for the investigation, to think that anyone survived is just amazing. But almost a quarter of the plane did that. So people here, very grateful that there were survivors. Obviously there's a lot of pain, a lot of loss as the families of the dead now gather here to recover those bodies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anna Coren in Taiwan for us.

All right, Anna, stand by. With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM the former National Transportation Safety Board managing director Peter Goelz, our aviation analyst Miles O'Brien and the former commercial airline pilot and aviation consultant Alastair Rosenschein.

Guys, I want all of you also to stand by for a moment. We're getting more information. I want to take a quick break. Much more on what happened in Taiwan with that plane crash right after this.


BLITZER: We're following the investigation into the TransAsia Airways crash that killed at least 32 of the 58 people on board. They are analyzing data from the plane's so-called black boxes and some of the 15 passengers who survived the crash are describing how they managed to get out alive and they helped others as well.

Our aviation and safety experts are here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Peter Goelz, let's talk to you first. Taiwanese officials say they should be -- this is similar to this kind of flight recorder, data flight recorder.


BLITZER: They're going to be making it available to French investigators as early as tomorrow. What are we to learn from that?

GOELZ: Well, I think we're going to see exactly what happened. Did the engine quit, when did it quit, and what were the pilots' response to that? You know, by certification standards, they should have been able to fly the plane out with the failed engine.

BLITZER: It's no doubt that that one engine failed because the propeller wasn't even moving. GOELZ: Apparently so. Right.

BLITZER: So what could cause that?

GOELZ: Well, it could be any number of mechanical things. Turboprops need to be maintained. They are delicate engines. They are not quite as robust as jet engines. So you need to -- you need to watch it. This company has a terrible safety record.

BLITZER: Which company?

GOELZ: TransAsia.

BLITZER: Really. So you blame the company and its record as opposed to the aircraft itself?

GOELZ: It is an appalling safety record over the life of the company.

BLITZER: Really.


BLITZER: All pilots, they are supposed to know how to deal with one, if it's a two engine plane, two props, if one of them goes out they're supposed to know how to deal with that, right?

GOELZ: It's something you train for, it's something you do in the simulator and it's something that has to be done exactly right almost to the second when it happens. And if you have a situation where, for example, that propeller is windmilling on the dead engine, might as well be the lid of a trash can out there. It causes a lot of adverse yaw, as they call it, meaning it's going to send it in one direction. It

can be impossible to recover from that if you don't put the propeller's edge on. It's called feathering. Did the auto feather system work and if it didn't, did the crew do manual feathering to allow this plane to be recovered from -- you can recover from this if you do it right.

BLITZER: Alastair, what's your analysis? The plane takes off, it's in the air for a few minutes, maybe three or four minutes and then all of a sudden they lose one of the engines. What does the pilot do next?

ALASTAIR ROSENSCHEIN, FORMER COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT: Well, when you lose an engine, you have to keep the aircraft going straight so you apply the opposite rudder, that would be the rudder on the live engine, and, you know, pilots know that the dead foot, that is the foot that's not applying the rudder pedal, indicates which engine has failed which in this case would have been the left-hand one.

Can I say that as they were pulling the engine out of the water I noticed that the propeller was feathered? It was in the feathered position. So that was either done automatically or manually. Aircraft, as your previous spokesman has just said, should fly

perfectly well with one engine out. It does require you to do certain actions in short order very quickly, and according to your training. It's possible this aircraft seems to be carrying a third pilot, this was a training flight, and that's not unusual either. But again, you have the experienced captain in the left-hand seat or the experienced first officer, one or the other, would take control if one pilot isn't managing it well.

But, you know, this flight was quite erratic from the moment -- from the 1250 foot point in its climb and it appeared to have stalled which caused that rapid roll to the left as it hit the bridge.

BLITZER: And we heard on that audio, Miles, that pilot calling out, mayday, mayday, engine flameout. Right?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: A flameout indicating clearly something wrong with that left engine. We don't know what, and that's why we need to look at the maintenance records of this airline. There are some reports that it had just come out of maintenance which is always a time when a pilot double and triple-checks his aircraft before he flies it.

BLITZER: Peter, what do you make of this one surviving passenger who said the reason he survived is because he took his seatbelt off and he crouched down. If he would have been in his seatbelt he would have been hanging there like so many of the other passengers who died. The recommendation from him, he saw what was going on and he took his seatbelt off.

GOELZ: Well, unfortunately, that's a dangerous anecdote. The reality is today's seats in aircrafts are very protective. They are designed to withstand 16 G's. It's -- they save lives. People should keep their seatbelts on but they ought to be prepared to do what's necessary once the plane comes to a stop.

BLITZER: Alastair, what do you make of that passenger saying he survived because he removed his seatbelt?

ROSENSCHEIN: Well, I don't buy into that at all. You know, this is anecdotal evidence. It's not scientific. You know, we know that safety belts save lives. If you remember, when seatbelts became mandatory in cars, especially sports cars, owners of cars were saying that was dangerous because if an aircraft rolls and catches fire you're not thrown clear. So, you know, I don't -- I don't buy into that at all. Passengers should most definitely keep their safety belts done up tightly.

BLITZER: Alastair Rosenschein, thanks very much. Peter Goelz, Miles O'Brien, guys, thanks to you as well. We'll stay on top of this story. More coming up later.

Coming up now, a new ISIS video may show one of the world's most wanted female terrorists. Is she the widow of that Paris supermarket gunman? And right at the top of the hour, a new peace plan to end what the

U.S. is calling a grave and dire situation. But will it stop the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.



BLITZER: You have seen her in a bikini, you've seen her fully veiled carrying a weapon. Now a new ISIS videos shows a woman in camouflage. And a source says French authorities believe it may, repeat, may be the same woman, the widow of that Paris kosher supermarket gunman.

Joining us now our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director.

Compare these photos and let's take a -- take a look and see how experts are trying to assess whether this is a photo of Hayat Boumeddiene. On the left, that's what she looked like. And this is the image that has now been released in this new video entitled "Blow Up France 2." Could this be the same woman?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's possible. I think what they'll be doing is obviously they only have her eyes to work with, comparing the second photo. So they will be looking at the shape, size, color, eyebrows, formation of the eye and just working on that. And the other part they'll be working on is who is associated with that.

If she's in a group of men and they are speaking French, are the -- are the authorities in France already aware of who that group is and whether she had ties to him before. And it would be circumstantial to them that she's not with them.

BLITZER: Paul, it's believed that she, Boumeddiene, fled to Syria days before that attack in that kosher supermarket. What do you think? Is there a chance this could be her?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, French Intelligence Services have been looking into that possibility. But so far, tonight they have received no indication yet that it is her in this video. No evidence. Of course, it's difficult to make any kind of match because she's got a scarf, this woman in this video, Wolf.

And obviously about 100 French women have traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq to join ISIS there and other groups. And so it could be just somebody else over there. I'm pretty skeptical because I think they'd be making a much bigger song and dance about it if it was actually her who had joined the group and actually identifying her -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because presumably it would be good publicity, good PR, good social media buzz if in fact this was Hayat Boumeddiene?

CRUICKSHANK: It would be a very big deal for ISIS indeed. Likely to roll out the red carpet for her, put her in a video, get her to talk about the Paris attacks and ISIS could take some ownership over the attacks, that and also probably get her to call on French women and men to come and join their ranks in Syria and Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This new video, this ISIS video, as you know, Tom, it's calling for more attacks against French police officers, French soldiers. Is there an intensified effort now to go after Westerners in general by ISIS?

FUENTES: I think it's the same old message from them. They've been calling for that for months, if not years. But definitely in the last few months. And every time they have called for it, whether it'd be in France or other countries, it's happened. It's been followed up by people actually carrying it out.

And I agree with what Paul said a minute ago that if that was really her, you would think they'd want to exploit her, let her show her face, prove that it's her, talk about the French attack. I did it, we did it, we're great. And you don't have that.

BLITZER: They still might do that in the coming days, though.

FUENTES: Well, you would think. But why not already?

BLITZER: Yes. Well, we'll see if they do.

All right, Tom, thanks very much. Tom Fuentes. Paul Cruickshank.

Coming up, with U.S.-built warplanes and bombs bearing quotes from the Quran, Jordan is beginning its retribution for the gruesome of its captured pilot.

And bloody escalation in Ukraine. U.S. said they're tracking the movement of Russian heavy weapons and Russian troops across the border into Ukraine. Will Russia's President Vladimir Putin back off?


BLITZER: Happening now, punishing ISIS. A key U.S. ally launching new airstrikes and promises more to come. How far will Jordan go to retaliate for the fiery murder of its pilot? I'll ask the country's foreign minister in an exclusive interview.

Russia blamed. As the battle for Ukraine escalates and renew suggestions that Vladimir Putin is lying, lying about his role in the conflict. CNN is on the ground for a visit by the Secretary of State John Kerry.

And life and death choices. New information about the survivors of a harrowing plane crash. Did their seat assignments help keep them alive?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.