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THE SITUATION ROOM
Isis Releases New Video of British Hostage; On the Front Lines in Northern Iraq; Obama: No Decision Yet On Arming Ukraine; Source: ISIS Plotting to Seize More Hostages; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff Of California; 40 Million Being Hit by New Winter Storm; Parents of U.S. Hostage Still Have Hope
Aired February 9, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, new ISIS threats -- as the U.S. and its allies step up their air campaign, the terror group releases a new video of hostage John Cantlie, saying ominously that it's the last in a series.
On the front lines -- while coalition war planes pound targets in Iraq, our correspondent is on the ground where Kurdish forces are battling ISIS. It's the first step toward recapturing a major city.
Too much snow -- Boston has five feet on the ground and another foot on the way. With no place to put it all, we're going to show you how they're trying to melt it.
And North Korean missiles -- days after warning the U.S. of, quote, "final doom," Kim Jong-un's regime fires off new weapons that could sink U.S. ships, as the dictator looks on.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following major stories breaking right now. As the United States and its allies step up their air campaign against ISIS targets, the terror group issues a new hostage video. It shows the British hostage, John Cantlie, acting as though he's reporting from the war- torn Syrian city of Aleppo. Ominously, he calls this the last -- the last of a series.
President Obama is grappling with another bloody crisis, as Ukraine tries to hold back Russian aggression on the border.
But is a major ally standing in the way of a U.S. move to arm Ukraine?
The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, he's standing by live, along with our correspondents and our analysts.
We'll go to the front lines of the war against ISIS in just a moment. But let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
She's got new information for us -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a British journalist held by ISIS for more than two years, right here, John Cantlie, is resurfacing in yet another ISIS propaganda video. This time, he is sending an ominous message after appearing in multiple ISIS video. He is seen in the video in the city of Aleppo and he looks like a journalist just doing his job. But analysts say he is doing this under duress.
And in the beginning of the video, he says something very disturbing.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CANTLIE, BRITISH JOURNALIST: Hello. I'm John Cantlie. In the last film in this series, we're in a city that has been at the heart of the fighting since summer 2012.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So he says there "the last film in a series."
Meantime, U.S. officials are working around the clock to determine the fate of that 26-year-old American aid worker, Kayla Mueller.
ISIS claimed that she died in a Jordanian airstrike last week. But U.S. officials tell CNN there still hasn't been proof of death evidence that has surfaced. Mueller's family is holding out hope, even sending a direct message to ISIS, saying -- telling ISIS that it has sent that private message and is awaiting a response.
And meanwhile, in the wake of the gruesome murder of a Jordanian pilot, galvanized coalition forces are stepping up strikes against ISIS targets. And the United Arab Emirates is re-entering the fight after pulling out, sending in a squadron of F-16s to fly alongside Jordanian fighter jets -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So Jordan is clearly trying to establish a major new Arab- led, Sunni Arab-led coalition, the UAE coming in, other Arab states presumably are going to join in and intensify their attacks against ISIS, as well.
BROWN: As I said, it's clear that they are galvanized in the wake of the killing of the Jordanian pilot, Wolf. And now you see the UAE, which had initially pulled out when that pilot was kidnapped now rejoining the fight and helping out Jordan.
BLITZER: It's going to be an impressive coalition.
BLITZER: Let's see how they get -- get this thing done.
Thanks very much. In Iraq right now, coalition war planes, they've been pounding ISIS targets around the city of Mosul. And Kurdish forces are battling ISIS on the ground ahead of an expected offensive aimed at retaking the city from the terror group.
CNN's Phil Black reports on the front lines in Northern Iraq.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kurdish Peshmerga fighters alert, watching. Their enemy is close. The commander points out a factory complex only a short distance away. He says ISIS there.
We hear small rounds fly overhead and Kurdish fighters respond. The exchange is no threat to this fortified position.
What the fighters do fear is the darkness of night, fog, mortar rounds and armored vehicles converted into massive suicide bombs. They say ISIS makes use of them all.
We travel north with Peshmerga, past the ruins of abandoned villages ISIS once controlled, and climb to the top of Mount Zartak. ISIS also held this position and its commanding view across a wide plain.
The fighters point out the towns and villages, factories and roads, all still occupied by ISIS. And in the hazy distance, its greatest prize so far, the city of Mosul. Overhead, that circling aircraft is a constant presence. We hear regular thundering explosions from the direction of Mosul.
(on camera): That's an airstrike in the distance. They seem to be hitting every few minutes, is that normal?
(voice-over): He says aircraft have been hitting the area around Mosul very hard for several days. Trenches and defenses stretch across the countryside. Kurdish officials call it phase one of the campaign, containing ISIS, stopping its fighters advancing again. Phase two will be very difficult -- retaking Mosul.
(on camera): These Peshmerga fighters said they are willing to join any effort to free Mosul from ISIS. But the time frame for that sort of operation really isn't up to them. It comes down to the Iraqi government in Baghdad and its efforts to rebuild, retrain the Iraqi Army, the same military force that ran away and abandoned Mosul when ISIS first came charging through this region.
(voice-over): The Peshmerga don't want to take Mosul alone because it's an Arab city and because the Iraqi Army has better weapons. As proof, they show us this historic artillery piece.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: England. England.
(on camera): It's from England?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BLACK: How old?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1941.
BLACK: It was made in 1941?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BLACK: That's very old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Made in 1941 in England.
BLACK (voice-over): Not surprisingly, ammunition for this relic is hard to source. They have just 20 precious rounds left. From this vantage point, it's easy to see the progress these fighters have made in the battle against ISIS, but also the great challenges still looming on the horizon.
(on camera): Those containment lines are clearly holding, but it's only part of the job. They may have stopped ISIS, cut back its ability to actually surge forward and claim new ground, but they still have to retake Mosul. There is a question over when such an operation can begin. U.S. officials have suggested within just a couple of months. On the front lines, Kurdish fighters believe that is optimistic, but they still believe it will happen this year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's pretty shocking, Phil, that those Peshmerga, those Kurdish fighters are using artillery pieces from 1941, with 20 rounds left. I know they've complained often in the past that the U.S. is still providing them weapons, but only through the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. And most of those weaponry, they rarely get to the Peshmerga.
How bitter are they that the United States isn't directly sending weapons, artillery, armor, directly to the Kurdish fighters, who are taking such a major assault right now, leading the fighting, if you will?
BLACK: Yes, they're frustrated. Wolf. There is no doubt about that. That old artillery piece, it is an extreme example. But it really does back up what we've been hearing at every level, at every front line we have visited. They have limited weaponry. They have old guns. They have no heavy weapons. They're frustrated because ISIS has advanced weaponry. It does have heavy weapons that it stole from the Iraqi Army when it fled this region.
As a result, they believe the Kurdish fighters are taking much higher casualties than they should. They're frustrated because they want to be treated as equal partners. They believe they are effectively the ground force in the international coalition. And in order to keep doing it, they want the weapons that will enable them to do the job -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And those -- those ISIS forces have U.S. weapons that they took from the Iraqi military, who simply abandoned those weapons and ran away.
So in other words, American weaponry is killing those Kurdish fighters trying to retake Mosul.
Phil Black, good reporting for us.
Thanks very, very much.
President Obama, meanwhile, is wrestling, with another major crisis, the bloody fighting in Eastern Ukraine, which is fueled by Russian military might. The Obama administration is weighing lethal aid, military aid, to Ukraine. But when the president met with a key ally today at the White House, it was clear they're not -- repeat, not on the same page.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
He has the very latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, they tried to show a united front when it comes to dealing with Russian aggression in Ukraine. But the two leaders sounded very far apart on that key question of sending arms to the Ukrainian military.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Obama made it clear he may well take his confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to the next level and ship arms to Ukraine to fight pro-Moscow separatists.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I have asked my team to do is look at all options, what other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin's calculus. And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that's being examined. But I have not made a decision about that yet.
ACOSTA: The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, wants the White House to wait, at least until Wednesday, when she is expected to sit down with Putin to hammer out a peace deal.
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, GERMANY (through translator) I've always said I don't see a military solution to this conflict, but we have to put all our efforts in bringing about a diplomatic solution.
ACOSTA: With Russia already accused of violating past agreements and sanctions having little effect on Putin, the Obama administration is dropping plenty of hints.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many times, President Putin has promised peace and delivered tanks, troops and weapons. So we will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself.
ACOSTA: Even the president's nominee for Defense secretary is open to more weapons.
ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I very much incline in that direction, Mr. Chairman, because I think we need to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves.
ACOSTA: A move to arm Ukraine could further strain relations with Germany after those disclosures the U.S. spied on Merkel's phone calls. But in a sign of the internal debate within his own administration, the president downplayed the impact of helping Ukraine defend themselves.
OBAMA: I think both Angela and I have emphasized that the prospect for a military solution to this problem has always been low.
ACOSTA: Still, if Putin balks at another deal, Merkel conceded the world may be running out of diplomatic options.
MERKEL: If we give up this principle of territorial integrity of our countries, then we will not be able to maintain the peaceful order of Europe that we've been able to achieve.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: It's worth noting the president was asked whether he had a red line for Vladimir Putin. He offered no red line for when Russia might go too far. But Ukraine was not the only subject today here at the White House. The president and Merkel also grappled with the war on ISIS, the looming deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran. So this is hardly a good time for the U.S. and Germany to be moving in opposite directions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they've got lots and lots of international issues out there they're trying to deal with.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Let's talk about some of them.
Joining us, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
I want to get back to Ukraine in a moment.
But let's go first -- let's get through the latest ISIS threat, specifically, this chilling new video that ISIS released today of the British hostage, John Cantlie, who says in this video -- this is in his words, we assume he's forced to say so -- "the last video in this series, the last video in this series."
What does that mean, Congressman?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I'm not sure what it means. Hopefully, that doesn't mean that it's the last appearance that we're going to see of him, because I think as long as he has utility for these terrorists, they'll keep him alive. And plainly, he's doing whatever is necessary to stay alive.
We're doing everything we can to try to identify where he is, as well as any other hostages and what might be done to help them. But obviously, this is very difficult. Our intelligence resources are limited Syria. And it's a very grave situation.
BLITZER: And certainly, the fear is that they're about to kill John Cantlie, right?
SCHIFF: Well, that is certainly a fear, I think, with all of their hostages. And we really can't tell what to read into that phrase that he uttered, whether this is the last of this series and he's going to make an additional series, or whether they contemplate this is the last time we're going to see him.
Obviously, we hope that he stays alive. But the record of ISIS hostages is a very discouraging one.
BLITZER: What about Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old American aid worker that ISIS said was killed in a Jordanian airstrike the other day?
There's no evidence to back up that ISIS assertion.
What is the current assessment?
Do officials believe she's still alive?
SCHIFF: I think the reality is we don't know, Wolf. Obviously, we're trying to find out and hope and pray that she is. But I don't think anyone gives credibility to the ISIS claims that she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike. That's all too convenient a propaganda message. So that's, I think, very plainly not the case.
The question, though, is, is she still alive or was she killed earlier by ISIS and this is just the way they want to roll out that gruesome fact?
We're trying to find out. We don't know the answer. And we're going to make every effort to find the answer, and if she is alive, obviously, do everything we can to help in rescue.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman, I want you to stand by.
We have more to discuss, including a development that -- a very disturbing development that ISIS may be moving beyond what they're -- what is called the aspirational desire to go after targets right here in the United States to a more specific plan. Much more with Congressman Adam Schiff right after this.
BLITZER: Back with the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, I spoke with Senator Jim Risch. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said flatly -- he said he has reason to believe, reason to believe that ISIS is moving beyond what he calls the aspirational level into specific more planning and maybe even plots. That was the impression I got, here in the United States, that there may have been an aspirational desire at one point, but now it's becoming more worrisome. What, if anything, can you tell us about that?
SCHIFF: Well, I think that's a very legitimate concern. In the beginning, I think ISIS was so preoccupied with trying to establish its caliphate, it had little time to focus on directing attacks outward at the west.
But those days are probably behind us, and we have seen, in Paris with Coulibaly, how very little inspiration and very little material assistance, if any, was necessary for that terrorist to carry out an attack, a lethal attack in the name of ISIS.
We've had many thousands of foreign fighters enter the fight from Europe. We have had many, many hundreds return. Some of those undoubtedly who were discouraged by what they saw and just wanted to get away from the fight, others who are returning with the idea of attacking the west in Europe or the United States.
So I think that is a very real concern and something that we're doing everything possible to guard against.
BLITZER: That represents a major new threat. Another threat -- Paul Cruickshank, our terrorism analyst, told us about this one -- is that ISIS is now seeking to capture more American and European hostages, even if they are in neighboring countries like Jordan or Lebanon, for example, and then bring them back to Syria or Iraq to hold them hostage. What if anything could you tell us about this?
SCHIFF: I think that's also a very realistic concern and Americans need to be very careful anywhere in the region, anywhere in the proximity of Syria or Iraq.
Some of the hostages were close to the border in Turkey. They may have been within the border area when they were abducted. So I think that journalism has now become very dangerous in many places in the globe but especially in this region.
But all American citizens are a great value to these terrorist organizations for their propaganda purposes, for purposes of ransom, and we have to do everything possible not to give them that opportunity.
BLITZER: We're told the president will now ask Congress for new authority to use military force against ISIS on Wednesday. You've worked on this, I think, since last September. It's taken a long time, but I assume you welcome this move by the president.
SCHIFF: Absolutely. We've seen some real deep engagement now by the White House with Congress. I think something is forthcoming in the next 24 to 48 hours, and that's very positive. It will definitely gel the debate in Congress about what a new authorization will look like, and that authorization will move forward.
It's been frustrating, frankly, to gain traction on this. We're half a year into this war. There are going to be some key issues about whether we preclude ground forces and what the sunset date is. Most significantly, I think we need to sunset not only the new authorization but the old ones, as well. And that may be an area of contention.
BLITZER: I assume you're also frustrated the president hasn't made up his mind yet about whether to arm the Ukrainian military.
SCHIFF: Well, this is a tough decision but yes, I strongly favor arming the Ukrainian military, helping Ukraine defend itself. We're trying to reach another agreement in Minsk, but we already had a Minsk agreement with the Russians. The problem is getting them to uphold the agreements they reach.
And I think the only way of doing that is to raise the cost of their further aggression. Listen, I wish this wasn't necessary, and I wish the economic sanctions had worked; but they haven't worked. They haven't deterred Russia. We have an obligation not only to Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear weapons at our request and insistence. And we represented, along with others, that we would help protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. So this is not only about Ukraine. It's about nonproliferation. It's also about Ukraine's neighbors and curbing Russian aggression against them.
BLITZER: One quick, quick final question that came up in the president's news conference. He seemed to be irritated that the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is coming to Washington on March 3 to speak before Congress two weeks before the Israeli election. Is this a bad idea? Should the prime minister reschedule that visit to the United States?
SCHIFF: It was a bad idea for the speaker to extend the invitation right before the Israeli elections, but look, he did extend it. It has been accepted. I'm planning to be there to welcome the prime minister, but I think it was a serious mistake by our speaker, and I lay the responsibility on our own shoulders.
BLITZER: Was it a serious mistake for the prime minister to accept that invitation?
SCHIFF: You know, that's a decision the prime minister is going to have to make. And I'm sure that they're having deliberations in Israel about that. But that's a call that he's going to have to make.
BLITZER: But you would be happy if he postponed it?
SCHIFF: You know, again, Wolf, I'm going to be there to welcome him. I wish this hadn't happened to begin with, because it's a terrible distraction from the weighty issues of Iran's nuclear program. And I think this -- kind of this kerfuffle over this has got to be greatly well received in Iran, because to the degree that it shows any division between us and our Israeli allies or within the two parties in Congress is simply not good for the relationship. And I look forward to this coming to an end.
BLITZER: Adam Schiff is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more ahead on the threat of the new -- potentially new atrocities committed by ISIS. We're also following a very dangerous storm hitting millions of people right here in the United States. There's a snow emergency in Boston, where they're buried under five feet of snow already. We're going there live.
Also coming up, the latest threat from North Korea's Kim Jong-un. New missiles capable of hitting ships more than 100 miles out at sea.
BLITZER: Major winter storm is dumping snow on top of already record- breaking totals. Forty million people in the United States are covered by the advisories and the warnings for this new storm.
The snow will be followed by a new blast of dangerously cold air and once again, Boston is right in the bull's eye. About ten inches of snow already fell today, bringing the city's total since mid-January to just over 62 inches. That's more than five feet of snow, and it's already broken a 37-year-old record.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us from Quincy, Massachusetts, near Boston. You're driving around. What's it like over there, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think they would refer to it as wicked miserable there, Wolf. This is Quincy, Massachusetts. Look outside here. This is the worst conditions we have seen all day long. It is snowing, the wind is blowing. The snow is whiteout conditions at point here in Quincy. They've received more than 24 inches, more than two feet of snow here in Quincy in just this one storm alone.
And Boston Transportation Authority telling us that they are going to suspend service from 7 p.m. until at least midnight tonight, because in some cases, the wheels are falling off of trains.
If we just pull over to one of the neighborhoods here, Wolf, I want to show you what the side streets look like down here. It is absolute misery on these side streets. The snow piled six, seven feet high on some of them, and the wind is whipping so hard here that it is sometimes very hard to see without goggles, which is why I have these goggles on and I'm going to don them before we jump out.
This is a typical neighborhood here in Quincy, Massachusetts. You can see they've been trying to keep the snow out of here as much as possible, but it is nearly impossible to keep it completely out. And this right over here is the bay. You come around this way. This is all the snow blowing from the bay. They're trying to dump as much snow as they can onto this side, but it keeps blowing all the way into the neighborhood. It is an absolute massive amount and incredibly painful to be in, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It looks awful out there. All right. Be careful, Miguel Marquez, on the scene for us in Quincy, Massachusetts. Today the governor of Massachusetts complained that the record
snowfall is shattering cleanup budgets. The governor says in just the past two weeks, crews have removed enough snow to fill the football stadium used by the New England Patriots 90 times.
As for where the snow really goes, CNN reporter Chris Welch is joining us now from a facility right there. What are they doing? They're trying to melt all this snow? Is that what's going on, Chris?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Wolf. They've had so much of it here, this is what it's come to. They're trying to figure out exactly how, what would help get rid of some of this.
Take a look behind me. There is a lot of activity here right now. We're essentially in an empty parking lot, which are now being called snow farms. Now, these front-end loaders have been going back and forth from these piles of snow and taking it over to this machine on the left here. That is the snow melter. That little baby right there can melt about 350 ton of snow per hour. And if you take a look, they put it in the top, you see the massive amounts of steam coming off, and then out the bottom, turns it into water.
So we've got big puddles, essentially little mini wading pools. I don't think this is a wading pool anyone wants to get into right now. Wading pools, pools on the street, pools in the parking lot.
But take a look to our far right over here. Take a look at just the sheer size of some of these snow mountains, if you can see them. This snow farm was filled with 10,000 truckloads of snow. Now, these front-end loaders have dwindled that down to about 5,000 truckloads left, but you know what's going to happen, Wolf? Today they've been plowing the streets. Tomorrow, the streets that they've been plowing from today's snow, that snow will be brought here again so the removal process off the street continues, and the melting process will continue, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They've got a lot -- a lot of snow to melt, if they can. All right, Chris, thank you.
Let's bring in our meteorologist Tom Sater. He' s monitoring the storm from the CNN severe weather center. So what's the latest forecast? What's going on, Tom?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, we've got a few more inches still to fall until morning, and believe it or not, in the 140 years of recordkeeping in Boston, this now ranks as the tenth snowiest year.
By the end of the week we're going to be in the top five as another round is coming that could drop a foot. Nineteen point seven in Boston. Those numbers, as mentioned, maybe 21, 22 by morning.
The numbers are in the 20s as far as temperatures. A little mix moving toward Philadelphia, kind of a spotty mix of sleet. More snow for Hartford, to Providence, to Boston overnight.
And then the coldest air of the season is going to be moving in, too, followed by another round of what we can say will be the coldest air of the season. But right now, I-95, patchy snowfall, a few breaks now and then.
Here's the concern. Once this storm system leaves, the conveyor belt of snowfall continues. No one knows where the off switch is. Out of Canada, another area of low pressure, a clipper, will transfer its energy to a developing storm on the coast, a nor'easter, the kind we just do not like to see. This is where accumulating snows could easily top a foot.
Models still in disagreement, but even for Boston, the lighter model, six to eight inches. The heavier models, over a foot. We're at the tenth. Again, we're going to be in the top five. We just have to get to 85 inches to be in the top five, and we're about 74. It's amazing.
Look at the cold air Saturday morning, four in Boston, Sunday, zero. And after the coldest air of the season, a secondary round will follow, and dare I say even a weekend storm after that. We've got to find the off switch.
I know you love stats, Wolf. In the 140 years of recordkeeping for Boston, if you find the snowiest 40-day period, we have surpassed that in only 17 days.
BLITZER: Wow. All right. Tom Sater, thanks very much. Good luck to all the folks in Boston and New England.
Tonight, there are also new questions about the fate of an American woman ISIS claims is dead, along with new video of a British hostage and hints ISIS may be planning yet another atrocity.
Also coming up, Kim Jong-un, he's showing off what the North Koreans claim is a cutting edge new weapon.
BLITZER: The family of the young American woman hostage by ISIS, taken hostage by ISIS, is still holding out hope she's alive. A year and a half after seizing Kayla Mueller, ISIS on Friday claimed -- claimed -- she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, but the family wants proof, and ISIS has released no proof at all.
Let's go live to our national correspondent, Kyung Lah. She's in Prescott, Arizona, where the family lives. What's the latest there, Kyung?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you touched on something that this family is desperate for and that is proof. That is something they do not have. They only have that picture of that building and, given ISIS's track record, this family has no reason to believe it.
Over the weekend, they said that they urged ISIS in a statement to please reach out to them, that they had kept their end of the deal. They kept her name out of the news. They now want ISIS to reach them. So how? We have heard through the family spokesman that what they want is to
be reached through, quote, "the original channels." What those channels are, we don't know, but the family trying to seek some direct contact with ISIS, private contact with ISIS. What they want, Wolf, is simply an answer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I hope they get an answer, and they get an answer soon. All right, Kyung, thank you.
Let's dig deeper with our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director; and our justice reporter Evan Perez.
Evan, you've been following this story very closely. What's the latest information you're hearing?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement is still looking for any proof that, indeed, what ISIS says that they've done, which is kill this hostage, whether that is indeed true.
They have some normal intelligence sources that they usually see turn up things. For example, if they killed a hostage, they filmed it, they produced videos. They haven't been able to identify anything yet that proves that she is, indeed, dead.
BLITZER: We do know, Tom, that there was a Special Operations unit that tried to rescue James Foley, the American hostage who was later beheaded, tried to -- and they found some hair in this area where they went in, that the DNA from the hair showed it was the hair of this young woman. Could that at all be helpful in the search for her, maybe assuming, hopefully, she is still alive?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's helpful to show that she was with the other group of hostages; they were all together. The rescue attempt came close, but the hostages were moved before the rescuers got there.
Really, that's the last time they have evidence of her presence. That goes back to last summer. So there's been no recent proof of life, even during the time when the Japanese hostages were being negotiated for by ISIS. During that time the Jordanian prisoner was not shown publicly. She's not been shown publicly at all during any of this.
BLITZER: I assume what they're trying to do is listen in, either surveillance, intercepting communications, to get some chatter, if you will, to try and determine if she's alive or dead.
FUENTES: Well, that's what they're trying to do. And frankly, if they, in fact, had any lead on where she's at and that they could do a rescue, we would be the last to know. They would go ahead and try to do what they could do to get her; but absent that, there's been no public information about her condition.
BLITZER: And there's been absolutely, since that original statement that ISIS, you know, released showing the still photo of a bombed-out building in Raqqah in Syria, which is one of the bases of ISIS, just claiming that a Jordanian airstrike killed this young woman. There's been nothing from ISIS, right? No statements, no video, no nothing.
PEREZ: There's been nothing. And the expectation is that we are going to hear something, Wolf. And sometimes what we know from previous cases, from law enforcement and the intelligence agencies know that these guys take sometimes weeks before they finally produce any evidence of what they've done. And they believe that that's likely the case here. The working theory is that she was likely already killed, Wolf.
BLITZER: The new video that ISIS did release had nothing to do with her, but John Cantley, the British hostage, who pointed out in this video in ominous words, this is the last of a series of videos that they're releasing. When you saw that, Tom, what did that say to you?
FUENTES: Frankly, that was useful. They got this guy out there under threat of death. He's producing these videos. They're making these commentaries. Doesn't tell us where he's at or why he's doing it or whether --
BLITZER: Apparently he said he was in Aleppo.
FUENTES: Well, we don't know. I mean, he says that but we don't know for sure where these are being produced. When he says it's the last one, we don't know whether they're going to stop producing them with him, whether that means that he's going to be killed. We just don't know.
BLITZER: It's weird that they used this one British hostage almost like, you know, supposedly a reporter, you know, doing a video for ISIS. This is the last in a series of videos he points out. It's very weird.
FUENTES: It's very weird because they do these gruesome beheadings and burned the Jordanian pilot alive, and then here they have him talking in a reasonable, almost newsman demeanor -- as if they're trying to get credibility, as if they want respectability in terms of putting out his video.
BLITZER: But, Evan, U.S. law enforcement intelligence, they will look at this video, they'll see -- they'll be able to determine if it was done in Aleppo, for example, based on what's around it.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And they can usually tell pretty quickly whether these are just -- these are videos that were produced with some kind of backdrop that's superimposed. These videos are very highly produced, Wolf, and that's one of the things that's been a marker of the ISIS operation.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Stand by.
Coming up, another important story we're following involving North Korea, who tested a new missile it claims is cutting edge technology. But what's really behind Kim Jong-Un's latest show of military force?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just days after threatening the United States with, quote, "final doom," North Korea has test fired what it's calling a cutting edge new anti-ship missile under the gaze of the dictator Kim Jong-Un.
Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM taking a closer look at this test.
What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, weapons experts are telling us this is a more advanced anti-ship cruise missile that North Korea has ever shown us before. And it represents a new threat. The test firing of this missile comes at a time of high tension between Kim Jong-Un's regime and his most bitter enemies.
TODD (voice-over): The dramatic pictures of a launch at sea set the tone of confrontation.
Kim Jong-Un is seen in a command posture as the missiles strikes its target in the East Sea. Tonight, new concerns about North Korea's ability to strike U.S. and allied warships off the Korean Coast.
This is a new anti-ship cruise missile test fired by North Korea. Experts say it appears to be a more advanced weapon of its kind than North Korea has revealed before.
THOMAS KARAKO, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: This is a big step forward in terms of what North Korea has tested. And if North Korea wants to hold a risk, either U.S. ships, Japanese or perhaps South Korean, this is a good way to do it.
TODD: Kim Jong-Un boasts this missiles was developed in North Korea. But analysts say look at how it compares to the Russian Kh-35E missile.
KARAKO: It's looks very similar I'd say from here to here. It's a cruise missile. Right? It's going to be operated on aerodynamic principles. It has some capabilities presumably. The North Korean version has this different model. Right? This appears to be a solid fuel booster that gets it off the ship and moving quickly.
TODD: Did the North Koreans buy their new missile from Russia, take the design and repurpose it? No response from Russian or North Korean officials. At the same time, the North was testing five other short- range missiles.
It comes just ahead of joint U.S./South Korean military exercises. Analysts say Kim Jong-Un often flexes his military might in an effort to get the U.S. to cancel those drills. But that won't happen. And this comes just a few days after Kim's regime said it sees no reason to negotiate with a, quote, "gangster-like United States." And could fight America with cyber warfare or nuclear weapons.
JONATHAN POLLACK, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's born of a great deal of North Korean frustration because they understand that the United States has capabilities that they do not possess. But they feel that for their own political purposes they have to make these dire threats. In effect, their language is suicidal. That doesn't mean their actions will be suicidal.
TODD: Now as worrisome as those missiles just tested by Kim Jong-Un are, experts say the North Koreans are developing a much longer range missile that could be a lot more dangerous. It is called the Taepodong-2 Experts say it could strike as far away as Alaska. But there is some doubt as to whether it could actually carry a heavy payload that far -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What is all this saying, the experts you've been speaking to, Brian, all they're saying about Kim Jong-Un personally? Because there have been some suggestions maybe he is under some sort of internal threat right now.
TODD: That's right. You know, it's kind of hard to determine that right now. One analyst says he's got such heavy layers of protection around him that he may not be under an immediate threat right now. But there are consistent doubts on the outside, doubts about Kim's ability to lead, about the impulsive nature of his decisions. The more of those doubts linger. On the outside, one analyst says, the more it might undermine Kim among those closest to him.
Because, as you know, Wolf, they watch the international news, they watch CNN, constantly they hear these reports.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very, very much. We're going to stay on top of what's going on in North Korea. But there's other news we're following as well.
U.S. officials work to determine the fate of an American woman hostage. The terror group releases a video of a British hostage John Cantlie saying ominously that it's the last in a series.
And as Ukraine struggles against Russian military might, is a major American ally standing in the way of the U.S. move to arm Ukraine?
BLITZER: Happening now, ISIS threats. One of the terror group's last Western hostages utters chilling words in a new propaganda video as America's Arab allies wrap-up their attacks, vowing to wipe ISIS off the map.
Plus this. Deadly choice. As fighting explodes in Ukraine. President Obama refuses to pull the trigger for now on a controversial option against Russian aggression.
And piling on. Millions of Americans, they're on the crosshairs of the third big snowstorm in just two weeks. We're tracking this historic weather emergency.