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Pro-ISIS Group Posts Hit List of U.S. Troops; U.S., Britain Pull Last Troops Out of Yemen; Amid Nuke Talks, Ayatollah Says 'Death to America'; UVA Student to Plead Not Guilty; Should TSA Officers Carry Weapons? Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 23, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, targeting troops. A group claiming ties to ISIS posts names and addresses of U.S. service members and calls for attacks. Why officials are taking the threat very seriously.

Ally in flames. As a key anti-terror partner slides into chaos, the U.S. and Britain pull out their last troops. Will terrorists now take over the entire country?

Bloody arrest. A bar owner says the University of Virginia student was cordial and respectful and did not appear intoxicated when his I.D. was rejected. Why did the encounter with alcohol agents turn violent?

And first in. Ted Cruz throws his hat into the ring. Can he cruise to a 2016 victory or has he already hurt the GOP?

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

There are major new concerns tonight about a possible threat to the U.S. homeland. In a chilling online message, a group claiming links to ISIS post the names and addresses of dozens of U.S. military service members and calls for attacks on them in their homes. Service members are now being warned to scrub personal information from their social media accounts.

And a nation that had been a key U.S. ally in fighting terror is now sliding into chaos. The United States and Britain have evacuated the last of their troops from Yemen. ISIS is gaining a strong foothold, and the local al Qaeda affiliate, which has already plotted attacks on the U.S. homeland, may soon be free to launch those attacks.

New State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, she's with us, along with our correspondents, our analysts and our guests. They're all standing by with full coverage of tonight's stories.

Let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight, sources say this latest attempt to target U.S. military members is an escalation of the threat that we haven't seen before. Tonight we're learning some of the service members in the list may

have been cherry-picked because of their involvement with the U.S. air campaign in Syria and Iraq.


BROWN (voice-over): Among the personal information posted on the hit list, pictures, home addresses and phone numbers of commanders, captains and major generals. In total, about 100 members of the U.S. military. Many of those singled out are pilots, including this man, seen holding his baby.

The list was posted by a group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division, and tonight, that group is calling on ISIS sympathizers to, quote, kill the service members in their own land, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking they are safe.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: It could very easily become something that really matters from a personal security standpoint and could deeply affect the security of all of these personnel.

BROWN: Law-enforcement officials say a few of the individuals in the group are ISIS affiliates and have been on the FBI's radar for a while. But it's still unclear if ISIS leadership ordered this list. Law enforcement sources tell CNN there is real concern a lone wolf sympathetic to ISIS will target the service members.

LEIGHTON: There is no way that all of these people could receive a personal security detail. They have to do things like ensure the security of their own homes. Perhaps in some extreme cases they may consider moving out of the home that is listed as their address.

BROWN: The Pentagon tells CNN all the service members on the list are being notified, though there's no evidence of an imminent threat of an attack.


BROWN: And the Pentagon is asking all service members to continue to clear their social media profiles of any personal or identifiable information. In this case, officials say the group behind the threat compiled this list of addresses and names through publicly-available information online, social media and the white pages, Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela, we're also following a very disturbing report that 11 medical students, including one American, is suspected of traveling to Syria to work in ISIS-controlled hospitals. What are you learning?

BROWN: Well, that's right, Wolf. In fact, authorities here in the U.S. are still investigating whether an American is in this group of medical students, really, from all around the world, who may have traveled to Syria to work in ISIS-controlled hospitals, according to a Turkish lawmaker who spoke to CNN. In a joint statement, the students' and doctors' families said that

their children are humanitarians who went to Turkey to offer medical help to refugees but have since disappeared.

Officials say eight of the group are medical students who have just graduated, and three others are in their final year of medical school. They have been studying in Khartoum, Sudan, and the lawmaker from Turkey says the group includes people from Great Britain, Canada, Sudan and Turkey.

And as I said, Wolf, we're still trying to figure out if an American is part of that group. A law enforcement official I spoke with today says there has been this pattern for years of healthcare professionals being lured to fight with terrorist groups overseas and that at least two Americans are believed to have gone to Syria to fight have been doctors.

And we know ISIS has been making a concerted effort to recruit people of all different skill sets to run their caliphate, including doctors to work in the hospitals there, Wolf.

[17:05:13] BLITZER: Very disturbing development. Pamela, thank you.

Just days after twin massacres in Yemen's capital, ISIS is now posting pictures of the attackers. The last American and British troops have now pulled out. And as the country descends into utter chaos, there are now growing concerns that terror groups will have a free rein to plot and execute attacks aimed at the outside world, including right here in the United States.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Yemen is unraveling very, very quickly. The U.S. is now less capable than ever to deal with that. What are you hearing? What's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.N. envoy that's dealing with this entire situation today said that Yemen is on the brink of civil war. If you look at that video, the latest pictures out of southern Yemen, it sure appears to be it is already there as all of these factions begin to fight against each other.

Now, in the latest, the Pentagon secretly over the weekend ordered 100 U.S. commandos out of Yemen. They were the last U.S. boots on the ground. They were conducting counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in Yemen. That was their target. That is the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate. They have the master bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri.

They have vowed to attack the United States, but now U.S. and the last of the British troops, gone from Yemen, so the U.S. flying blind, if you will. No boots on the ground, no ability to collect intelligence on the ground. They have to rely on either drone attacks or eavesdropping on cell-phone conversations, really limited intelligence now about what is going on, on the ground.

Al Qaeda in Yemen still a top target, but as you see this violence literally unravel the country, as you say, they are also looking very closely at the Houthi rebels, at ISIS being involved in Yemen as all of these groups vie for power. The big worry is al Qaeda will take advantage, recruiting more, getting more financing, plotting against the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It's becoming a real failed state with these Iranian- backed Shiite Houthis in charge, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP. And now ISIS all of a sudden is in the mix. What do we know about the ISIS part of this?

STARR: Well, you'll recall, Wolf, that ISIS in Yemen has now taken responsibility, if you will, or a claim of responsibility, for those terrible attacks last week at two mosques in the capital that killed and injured hundreds of Yemenis at prayer. The people there are the ones literally caught in the cross-hairs of all of this.

So the question is who is ISIS in Yemen? There is a sense among some that we talked to that these are al-Qaeda-type people that were already in Yemen that have essentially rebranded themselves. We've seen it in a lot of countries in Libya, in Egypt, in Tunisia.

Some of the militant groups already existing, now calling themselves ISIS, they get more money, more recruits, more world attention. They know that. It doesn't lessen their deadliness at all, and it does not lessen the concern about the network there that is now evolving inside Yemen of these ISIS operatives, whoever they may really be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What really seems to be missing is any remnant of the former Yemeni government, which was a key U.S. ally in this war against al Qaeda.

All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

BLITZER: A deadline is looming for an agreement aimed at keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but even as the talks continue, Iran's supreme leader is declaring death to America. That's raising fresh doubts about whether a deal can be reached or can be relied upon.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, for the very latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, almost one week away from the deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration is indicating an agreement is still possible, despite big concerns from all sides and some tough talk coming out of Tehran.


ACOSTA (voice-over): There are doubts all around a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, starting with that country's supreme leader, who must sign off on any agreement.

At a speech over the weekend, in front of a crowd chanting "death to America" Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei agreed, condemning economic sanctions on his people. "Yes, death to America," Khamenei told the audience, because America is the original source of this pressure. All the more reason, the White House says, to strike a deal. (on camera): Do those comments give this White House any pause about

moving forward with a nuclear deal with that country?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jim, I can tell you that I think those kinds of comments only underscore why it is so critically important that the United States and the international community succeed in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is sitting down at the negotiating table.

[17:10:14] ACOSTA (voice-over): There are also skeptics if both parties on Capitol Hill, where 367 law makers signed a letter to the president saying Congress must be convinced that the deal's terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: How many of you believe the Iranians in the past have been trying to build a nuclear bomb, not a peaceful power program? OK. So we start with the proposition they're liars.

ACOSTA: CIA director John Brennan argued the pressure is on Iran, saying he's confident the U.S. intelligence community will have a good understanding of their nuclear activity.

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: So if they decide to go down that route, they know they will do so at their peril.

ACOSTA: The White House chief of staff promised a Jewish American group the administration won't accept a bad deal.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Any deal would last for more than a decade, setting back Iran's program for far longer than would military strikes.

ACOSTA: That is, the president cautioned, if a breakthrough can be reached.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, they have not yet made the kind of concessions that I think will be needed for a final deal to get done. But they have moved, and so there's a possibility.


ACOSTA: As for the ayatollah's "death to America" comments, administration officials are suggesting those kinds of remarks are aimed at an Iranian domestic political audience. What matters, officials caution, is what they agree to at the bargaining table.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

Dig a little bit deeper. Joining us now to talk about all of this and more, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf. Thanks very much for getting in. I want to get to all these issues. Let's get back to that supposed ISIS threat to these 100 members of the U.S. military, that they're now on a hit list. They're encouraging their supporters, lone wolves or whatever here in the United States or if they're based overseas, to go out there and attack them, not only attack them but kill them and behead them. The family members are terrified, obviously.

Is the U.S. providing these 100 family members with some extra security right now?

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: I know the Department of Defense obviously is taking the lead on this. They 've reached out to all of these service members that are named, and they're working with them if they need anything. I know that they're very focused on this right now.

But I think there is still a lot of questions about this. This is clearly a propaganda effort by someone, whether they're actually affiliated with ISIL or not, but clearly what they want is attention. They want to draw potential lone wolf attention to this. And it's certainly something we take very seriously.

BLITZER: They not only published their names, their addresses, their pictures, what they do, and they said, "You know what? The best thing" -- to their supporters in the United States -- "is if you could come over here to Iraq and Syria and fight with ISIS, but if you can't, go out, grow up, find these 100 individuals, and kill them." That's pretty terrifying.

HARF: Absolutely. And it's something I know the Defense Department and the whole government takes very, very seriously. Obviously, we're focused on this, getting to the bottom of this and providing any safety and security that these folks might need.

BLITZER: But as of this point you don't know for sure whether this is really ISIS. They said it was an ISIS hacking department, whatever they called it, or just some other person pretending to be ISIS. You're still investigating that. Is that right?

HARF: We are. And I think the Defense Department has said there's not -- there's not evidence there was a data breach, even though they call themselves a hacking group.

We think they found information online and pieced it together. But there are a lot of these groups that have popped up, even in places like Yemen, as Barbara Starr just reported. We don't know if they're operationally linked to ISIL. They claimed this name probably to get more attention and more followers, but we just don't know yet if there's an operational link.

BLITZER: Is there an American citizen part of these 11 medical students, who apparently have left their university, whether Khartoum, Sudan, gone to Turkey, crossed into Syria, and are now trying to help ISIS at their medical facilities? Is there a U.S. citizen part of that group? HARF: We're still trying to determine whether those reports are true.

We've seen them, but we can't verify them yet at this point. I know there's a number of names floating around out there. And we're trying to verify that right now. But we can't yet.

BLITZER: As far as the American, what about 11 medical students? Have you verified what this Turkish lawmaker has said, that there are now 11 medical students, some of them just finished medical school, and they're now working for ISIS inside Syria?

HARF: Well, we've seen the reports. And I don't think we have any reason to doubt them. We've seen other westerners, certainly, go fight with is. That's been something we've seen. We don't have a reason to believe this isn't true, but we can't at this point confirm there's an American.

BLITZER: Marie, I want you to stand by. We've got a lot to talk about, including what's going on in Yemen right now. The U.S. not only abandoned the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, a few weeks ago, but now all U.S. military personnel have been evacuated.

Much more on what's going on in this key country that's fighting al Qaeda, supposedly, when we come back.


BLITZER: A nation that's been a U.S. ally in fighting terror and held up as an example of how that fight can work is now descending into chaos. United States and Britain today pulled out their troops from Yemen. Al Qaeda and ISIS and even Iran stand to gain by what's going on in Yemen.

We're back with the State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf. So now that all U.S. forces presumably, have been pulled out, the U.S. embassy has been shut down, U.S. diplomats, consular officials, Americans are out of there. Is the U.S. capable of getting anything done in Yemen in this fight, for example, against AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?

HARF: Absolutely. And I think there are two separate issues here. When it comes to the counterterrorism fight against AQAP, we still have resources in the region that are able to take the fight to AQAP.

So we have not suspended our counterterrorism operation just because of the political instability or because we've had to pull people out. Obviously, our preference is always to have people on the ground, but we are still able to conduct counterterrorism operations.

But you don't have a local government which was friendly to the United States, Yemeni government which was helping provide information so that you could send in drones with predator hellfire missiles or whatever and kill people.

HARF: Well, there are a variety of ways to get information when you're looking for terrorists, certainly. Some of them are obviously technical things that you can do, even if you don't have people on the ground.

So we're very focused on the threat. Obviously, it's a huge threat. And I would note that the Houthis, who are the ones that are fighting the government, don't really like AQAP either. So there are a lot of complicated dynamics on the ground here.

Is Iran emerging as a big winner over there in Yemen? They're backing these Shiite Houthi rebels.

HARF: Well, we certainly know that they have supplied the Houthis with money or weapons. They have been very supportive of them. I don't think we've seen a lot of examples of operational command and control, certainly, of Iran to the Houthis, but obviously, we're worried about it. One of the reasons we are working to get a nuclear deal is because Iran is so destabilizing in the region, whether it's Yemen, whether it's Lebanon, whether it's Syria. That's something that they -- we've been concerned about for a long time.

BLITZER: If you get a nuclear deal are you suggesting they will stop their efforts to destabilize Iraq or Syria or Yemen or Libya? They'll just go back to Iran? Is that what you're saying?

HARF: No, no, not at all. But if you can imagine how destabilizing they are in the region now, if they were able to get a nuclear weapon, they would be able to project even more power in the region, and obviously, that's why -- one of the reasons why we're working so hard to see if we can prevent that.

BLITZER: The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei all of a sudden, once again today, is declaring death to America. This is the guy who's in charge. He has to approve a deal. But now he's telling a crowd over there "death to America." A lot of people are suggesting, members of Congress and others, how can we even negotiate with an ayatollah who declares, as much as he wants to, death to America?

HARF: Well, we've heard this kind of rhetoric for a long time. This certainly isn't new. What we're focused on is what's happening in the negotiating room. And we are closer today than we were a week ago or a month ago to getting an agreement with Iran that would be based on verifiable, concrete steps they have to take to show the world they cannot get a nuclear weapon.

None of this is based on words or based on trust. It's based on action. And that's what we're focused on.

BLITZER: So the words have no meaning when he says "death to America," you don't take that seriously?

HARF: Not that they have no meaning. Obviously, it's incredibly offensive to all of us here. We've seen this kind of rhetoric before.

But when it comes to what's happening in the negotiating room, we are focused on seeing if we can get an agreement that cuts off their four pathways to a weapon, that gets them to a year of breakout, precisely because they've been so threatening to their neighbors; they've been so destabilizing in the region. BLITZER: The -- in the House of Representatives, Democrats and

Republicans, 367 of them, have now written a letter released today to the president of the United States, warning specifically, "You guys better be really, really sure that this is a good deal," because they want involvement. They want to be part of it, and they're pretty skeptical, if you read this letter, that you can really make a deal with these Iranians.

HARF: Well, if we can get to an agreement, I want to be very clear about this. It will be one that we can publicly defend, that scientists and experts and that technical people that have worked so hard on it at the Department of Energy and elsewhere can stand up to the world and say, "This meets our bottom line. This meets our red lines." We will not accept a deal that doesn't. And we will make that case. And Congress will have a role to play as part of this. That's what we've always said. But we need to get to an agreement first, and we need the space to do that.

BLITZER: Are you ready to commit to Congress before you go to the U.N. Security Council that it will -- you'll give an up or down vote to Congress to approve it?

HARF: Well, there's a couple different things there. We don't believe that Congress should take an up or down vote, just a blank up or down vote on the deal. But Congress will have a key implementation role to play and that in order to eventually lift all the sanctions, the relief Iran really wants, Congress will have to vote on that.

And obviously, what we've always said is that won't come right away. And I think this is something Congress would agree with. We want to make sure that Iran is upholding its end of the bargain, is living by its commitments before they vote to take sanctions off.

BLITZER: So you'll go to the United Nations before you go to Congress?

HARF: We have no idea what the timing will be, but in terms of the United Nations here, this is a P5+1 negotiation, so obviously, at some point, I think it's just sort of common sense that the P5, that the Security Council would have to sort of bless the deal, for lack of a more technical term.

But Congress will have an absolutely key role to play here. They are the ones who can lift sanctions in the end, and we will have to go to them. And they will judge whether Iran has implemented it or not.

BLITZER: A lot of members -- I want to move on. A lot of members of Congress are concerned, if you let the U.N. Security Council pass it first before you go to Congress, then the U.S. is bound by treaty obligations to the U.N. to implement it, even if Congress later were to reject it. You'd be violating a treaty commitment to the United Nations...

HARF: Not at all.

BLITZER: ... if you voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution, approving it together with the other permanent members, but then later Congress said, "No, it's too late. That's why they want you to go to Congress before you go to the U.N. Security Council." You understand their concern?

HARF: But it's just not an accurate one. The U.N. Security Council cannot vote to lift U.S. sanctions. The U.N. Security Council can address U.N. sanctions.

BLITZER: But they can approve the deal.

HARF: Well, no, this isn't a treaty, as we talked about. They can vote in general to say that this is a deal that is important, to say they believe in what it represents. This is a P5+1 negotiating process.

But the U.N. Security Council cannot take the vital step of lifting U.S. sanctions. Only the U.S. Congress can do that. They will have that vote if we can get to a deal.

BLITZER: All right. One final question. The Hillary Clinton e- mails, the State Department has them. She submitted them. She's asking you go ahead and release them. When do you think they'll be released?

HARF: Well, we're working right now on the first 300 that have been related to Benghazi that already got sent to the select committee. We're going through those to release those first. The 55,000 pages will probably take several months.

BLITZER: When do you think those 300 will be released?

HARF: I don't have anything to predict on that. Hopefully soon, but obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into releasing these publicly. But we're committed to doing that.

BLITZER: All right. Marie Harf, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

HARF: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, a bar owner says a university student did not appear intoxicated when his I.D. was rejected. He seemed cordial, in fact, and respectful. So what led to a bloody arrest?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Yemen has been a success story in fighting terrorism, but now Yemen has collapsed into chaos. The last U.S. troops have now been forced to pull out now. Will it now become a new safe haven for al Qaeda, for ISIS?

Let's discuss what's going on. Joining us, our CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer. He's a former CIA operative. Also, our CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank; our counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA counterterrorism official. And former Democratic congressman Jane Harman. She served on the intelligence committee for a long time. She's president and CEO of the Wilson Center.

How big of a blow is it to the U.S. now in fighting al Qaeda, these other terror groups, that U.S. Special Operations forces have been forced to evacuate from Yemen?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is pretty significant. You've got to think of operations in two terms.

First, we can collect intelligence, the United States remotely, run drones, take out the leadership of these organizations. What you want to do, Wolf, is when you're running these stand-off operations, you want to keep the group out of a comfort zone. The only way you can do that is ground operations, running with Special Forces, providing intelligence to Yemeni services.

So now we have half that picture or less, standoff drones. We don't have the other half to keep the group sort of out of a comfort zone. That's a real blow.

BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, the AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, they're based there in Yemen. They've got a master bomb maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. They're going to have a lot greater opportunities now to plot attacks against the United States, aren't they?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, TERRORISM ANALYST: That's absolutely right, Wolf. And not only al-Asiri, but a whole team of bomb makers. And they're trying to make increasingly sophisticated devices, a new generation of underwear devices, a new generation of shoe-bomb devices.

And the group now has more resources than perhaps any time before, because they're getting a recruitment windfall from the Sunni tribals, and the Houthi takeover. They're expanding into new parts of Yemen.

And with this competition with ISIS, the onus really is on AQAP now to carry out an act of international terrorism against U.S. aviation to shore up their support base. So I think they're going to put even more resources than before into trying to blow an American airliner out of the sky.

BLITZER: As you know, Jane, last September -- not that long ago, last September -- President Obama was touting Yemen, Somalia as success stories in the war against terror, saying what the U.S. is doing is pushing in the right direction.

Now the U.S. has been forced to shut down the embassies in both Somalia and Yemen, and pull out. Was he getting bad intelligence? Was this an intelligence blunder by the U.S. intelligence community, by his national security advisors? Were they just feeding him wishful thinking? What was going on?

JANE HARMAN (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think we really believed that if we could broker, and we did, the transition of power in Yemen from the leader who was widely despised to his deputy, who was then elected, we would accomplish something significant. And Yemen did have substantial political capacity.

I remember being there as a member of the House Intelligence Committee meeting with a number of political parties that were well-organized. Our groups that build political capacity were in the country, and we really thought this would hold.

Lesson to everybody: this is a very fragile situation all over the Middle East. And if Yemen can fall apart and now be in a proxy war with, as you were just saying, with these very dangerous folks on the ground who are trying to make bombs that could well get on airplanes, this could happen anywhere.

BLITZER: It looks like Yemen is becoming another Syria, where the U.S. was four years ago and was forced to get out. Somalia is, for all practical purposes, a failed state. Libya is now a failed state. The U.S. embassy has been shut down there. American diplomats have been forced to evacuate.

Bob Baer, you worked at the CIA. You remember a little bit more than a year ago the president was also claiming ISIS was the jayvee squad, saying something in the "New Yorker Magazine," like, "You know what? You could give the jayvee squad a Lakers jersey. They're not going to be Kobe Bryant when all was said and done."

Was he getting bad intelligence then, as well, about ISIS? Was this a total surprise, or was this once again a blunder by his national security team?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, let's be fair. It was a blunder by all of us. I don't recall anybody two years ago predicting that there would be...

BLITZER: This was a year -- this was January of last year. So it's a little bit more than a year ago.

BAER: Yes, but even before that, before June, before they moved into Mosul, nobody predicted this. Nobody saw it. The Iraqis didn't see it on the ground.

We, the west are out of touch with this discontent in the Middle East, you know, this chaos, this disease that's moving through faster than anybody's predicted.

So yes, we can blame the intelligence community, but we also have to blame everybody else, all the other experts, including myself. I certainly didn't predict it.

So let's -- you know, we just cannot tell where this is all going to go. Yemen, by the way, is an absolute disaster because it's in the Arab Peninsula; it's south of Saudi Arabia. And if that chaos moves into Saudi Arabia, we're going to be in a lot of trouble economically. A quarter of the world's oil reserves are there. I'm not saying it's going to. But again, who can predict it?

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, very quickly, it sort of reminds me, on a different scale, the intelligence blunders when the Bush administration told the United Nations and the world Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. went in, invaded. No stockpiles.

MUDD: Here's the story. Analysts are struggling with one word: speed. When -- when I watched terrorists in the 1990s and 2000, slow evolution like al Qaeda, like al-Shabaab in Somalia, today that game has changed. And that's one of the reasons we all miss it. We've never seen anything like this.

BLITZER: Jane, very quickly, some have suggested the president needs a new national security team. This current one is not -- is not good enough.

HARMAN: Well, the problems are hard for anybody. Iran has made the Houthis as effective as they are. Saudi Arabia could well move in on the other side, and we'll have a full-blown proxy war. And I don't think that was predictable a year or two ago.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll leave it there. Much more coming up. Don't go too far away.

Coming up, a very different story we're following. The breaking news in the case of a University of Virginia student whose bloody arrest brought accusations of excessive force. We're learning now how he intends to plead and what the witnesses are now saying.


BLITZER: Breaking news in the case of a University of Virginia student whose bloody arrest by alcohol control agents created outrage and accusations of excessive force.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's working his sources for us. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have breaking news tonight on how Martese Johnson is going to plead and what witnesses are saying.

Johnson's attorney tells us he plans to plead not guilty at a hearing this Thursday. He is charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice. And we have a new account from one of the bar owners who spoke to Johnson just moments before that confrontation with ABC agents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, he's bleeding! Yo, his head is bleeding!



TODD (voice-over): New accounts raising new questions about the moments just before this video was taken. Owners of the Trinity Irish Pub in Charlottesville say Martese Johnson, quote, "did not appear to be intoxicated in the least" when he was turned away at the door. The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had charged

Johnson with public intoxication. The bar's co-owner also says their conversation was, quote, "cordial and respectful." But a charging document says Johnson was agitated and belligerent when dealing with ABC agents.

Tonight, an update on Johnson's physical condition.

JOY OMENYI, PRESIDENT, UVA BLACK STUDENT ALLIANCE: He's doing OK. Physically, emotionally. Of course, it's an overwhelming situation but he's staying strong. He's doing fine.

TODD: On Friday, a source close to Johnson's family told CNN he'd been taken to the student health center due to concerns about possible swelling from his head injuries. His attorney's office says he is now, quote, "home and recovering."

Tonight, after a freedom of information request, CNN has learned the racial breakdown of ABC's agents in Charlottesville. The four special agents there all white males, but the special agent in charge in Charlottesville is an African-American man. The ABC would not tell us if the agent in charge was there at the time of Johnson's arrest.

Virginia's top lawmakers are bringing intense pressure for the ABC to have its powers cut back.

DAVID TOSCANO (D), VIRGINIA STATE DELEGATE: One, they shouldn't be having weapons on them when they're enforcing underaged alcohol issues. Two is they should be focused on the establishments who serve underaged people rather than the students themselves. Three is, they should have better oversight.

TODD: ABC officials wouldn't comment on that. The university also receiving harsh criticism tonight from the leader of the black student alliance.

OMENYI: I would definitely be very hesitant to send my friends there, to send my children there, to send my kids, it remains what it currently is.


TODD: Joy Omenyi says that is based on what she has seen on an app called Yik Yak, where people who are local can post comments anonymously. Some of those comments have been pretty nasty.

Contacted by CNN to respond, A university official reiterated that the school is committed to equal treatment of its students and equal justice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Those ABC, Alcohol Beverage Control agents, were they wearing body cameras?

TODD: ABC tells us they were not wearing body cameras. Wolf, and the agency says it's because they're still evaluating whether to use them, still looking at the right policies and procedures. And we have to point out the previous governor's administration said

in November 2013 that these agents should be wearing body cameras. This was after that other embarrassing incident with the other University of Virginia student where they swarmed that girl who was only buying sparkling water. The governor then called for them to wear body cameras. They still have not been using them.

BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd. We'll get more on this story later. Thanks very much.

Coming up, a man with a machete rushes in the checkpoint of a major U.S. airport. It's now leading to new questions about whether TSA officers should carry weapons.

[17:45:03] Also coming up, we have new details on the threat to members of the United States military. A group claiming allegiance to ISIS has now put their names and faces and addresses on a hit list, telling their supporters here in the United States, find these U.S. military personnel and kill them by beheading.


BLITZER: Tonight we're hearing new calls for TSA officers to carry weapons at airport checkpoints. This comes after a man with a machete rushed the checkpoint at the New Orleans airport. The TSA officers weren't armed. But a nearby sheriff's deputy shot the man who later died.

[17:50:03] Let's go to our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh to tell us what happened -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just into THE SITUATION ROOM, those frantic calls for help the moment a man with a machete attacks inside a New Orleans airport. And you can hear the fear in the travelers' voices.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm on Concourse B. There is shooting. Please send someone to the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were, like, three away in the line. And something sprayed. And everybody started running.

MARSH (voice-over): A TSA officer on a stretcher. And the machete wielding attacker face down and handcuffed. The weapon nearby. This about 40 seconds after 63-year-old Richard White stormed a security checkpoint inside New Orleans Lewis Armstrong International Airport Friday.

CARROLL RICHEL, TSA OFFICER: This man was swinging very hard, very hard with that machete. And if he would have made contact with anybody, it would have been terrible.

MARSH: The machete came within inches of TSA Officer Carroll Richel. Seconds later, a sheriff's deputy patrolling the area opened fire. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outside I just hear gunshots. I hear pow, I was

like oh.

MARSH: The man who sprayed officers and bystanders with wasp spray and then charged the checkpoint was struck three times. He later died. Police say the attacker was also armed with Molotov cocktails, smoke bombs and gas cylinders were found in his car. His family says he suffered mental illness.

J. DAVID COX, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: My fear is that, yes, we continue to get copycats.

MARSH: The union representing TSA officers says the attack exposes vulnerabilities at airports and it's time some TSA officers are armed.

COX: The employees that do the screening at airports now twice have become the victims and become the target of people that want to do harm.

MARSH: After the deadly November 2013 shooting at Los Angeles LAX airport where TSA officer was shot, the agency recommended airports beef up police presence at checkpoints and ticket counters but rejected arming its officers.

In Friday's incident, a TSA Officer Richel was struck by friendly fire. The bullet from the deputy's gun hit her. A former TSA assistant administrator says putting more guns in airports is not the answer.

CHAD WOLF, FORMER TSA ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR: Hundreds of people on a peak time, busy travel day, and if something should go wrong there, I think the occurrence or the -- you know, the ability to have that magnified I think is real because of the condensation of individuals at that checkpoint.


MARSH: The union points out last year TSA seized more than 2,000 guns at checkpoints. So people are showing up to airports with weapons. TSA's role, as you know, is to screen passengers and look for items that could bring down a plane like explosives. Opponents say adding law enforcement duties would be a distraction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rene, thanks very much.

Let's get some analysis from our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI.

What do you think? Would it be smart to at least arm some of those TSA agents at these security checkpoints?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I don't think so, Wolf. I think the answer here is more police and have them closer by. I heard earlier today the police chief at LAX airport in Los Angeles saying that they want to have an officer within 300 feet of a checkpoint. That's 100 yards away. That's too much. They need to have qualified police officers closer.

Having been a police firearm instructor and an FBI firearm instructor, you can't just take somebody to the range, have them shoot a couple of hundred rounds and turn them loose with a gun. It wouldn't be feasible to train the 50,000 TSA checkpoint officers and give them guns, and even a small cadre of them give them guns.

I would like a police officer that's been through thousands of hours of training, have to re-qualify every year. And in this case, you have a lieutenant from the sheriff's office that fired the shots and still she wounded a TSA officer, friendly fire. So -- with all of her training. So if you had a TSA officer open fire in a crowded airport, there's no telling how many casualties and if they would even hit the bad guy in the first place.

BLITZER: So at least have one police officer or two police officers at every checkpoint, is that what you're saying?

FUENTES: Yes, that's what I'm saying. Have them closer, not 100 yards away but at the checkpoint so that if somebody coming in there with one of the 2,000 guns that were presented last year at checkpoints, if somebody is that close with a weapon to the TSA officers, you have a police officer at least close by to be able to take that on.

BLITZER: And they would be under whose jurisdiction at these airports?

FUENTES: Well, some airports have their own police. And they're qualified police officers. And some don't. The smaller or medium- sized airports have, like in this case, the county sheriff had police at the airport. So whichever jurisdiction, whether it's a local police agency or the airport police, but they're qualified police officers.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, thanks very much. Good advice.

[17:55:01] Coming up, a key anti-terror ally slides into chaos. And the U.S. and Britain pull their last troops out. Will Yemen now be a new safe haven for al Qaeda and ISIS?

And a pro-ISIS group posts names, addresses, photos of 100 U.S. service members and calls on their supporters here in the United States to go ahead, find these 100 U.S. military personnel and kill them.


BLITZER: Happening now, evacuation chaos. Terror fears are on the rise after U.S. and British special forces flee an ally country that's under attack right now and simply falling apart.

[18:00:02] Terrorist hit list. What are the feds going to do to protect military families threatened in the name of ISIS? Dozens of Americans may be in danger right now. Day in court. An African-American honor student is ready to make a

plea after his bloody arrest outside a bar. We have new details about what happened that night.