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ISIS Activity Prompts Increased Security at U.S. Bases; Interview with John Garamendi; Baltimore Police Attorneys Want Prosecutor Off Case; Four Killed in Interstate Plane Crash; Large Tornado on the Ground in Texas. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired May 8, 2015 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- heightened alert. The Pentagon ordering increased security at all U.S. military bases amid concerns of ISIS terror threats against U.S. troops. The FBI now investigating hundreds of suspected ISIS sympathizers here in the United States.

What threats are they looking at?

Three-way plane crash -- a massive fireball as a plane slams into a major U.S. interstate, killing multiple people.

Did a last minute maneuver by the pilot avert an even larger disaster?

Federal probe -- the Justice Department announcing an investigation of Baltimore police. But the police union says it's the mayor that the Feds should be investigating.

Will Baltimore police be forced to make court-ordered changes?

And North Korea nuclear threat -- we're learning disturbing new details of a dramatic weapons buildup under Kim Jong-un.

CNN is reporting exclusively this hour from inside North Korea.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.

The Pentagon raising the security level at all U.S. military bases to the highest level in four years, level bravo, in response to ISIS activity. The move follows the terror attack by two gunmen in Texas this week and comes amid growing concerns about ISIS supporters hiding out here in the United States.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our guests, including Congressman John Garamendi, a member of the Armed Services Committee, as well as correspondents in key locations. Our Pentagon


Barbara Starr, begins our coverage -- Barbara, very disturbing information.

What are you picking up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight already, some public events have been cancelled at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio because of these security concerns.


STARR (voice-over): With growing concern about violent homegrown extremists tied to ISIS, the U.S. military raised security protection levels at all bases in the continental US. Law enforcement warning may have hundreds of followers in the country.

LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We've seen social media be used as a recruitment tool.

STARR: The immediate worry -- more ISIS-inspired attacks in the U.S., like the one in Garland, Texas at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest.

Pentagon officials say there are threats, though unconfirmed, against the military.

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The Islamic State has come out and said uniformed military personnel are a target.

STARR: The new security level, Force Protection Bravo, indicates an increased and predictable threat of terrorism. It could mean more armed troops and more vehicle and personnel checks at military bases.

The new security measures will be random, and for good reason. "We will produce a discernible element of unpredictability in our security posture and procedures," the new order says.

Concerns grew after ISIS members Tweeted the addresses of some 100 U.S. military personnel. And then just last week, a British born ISIS hacker published the name and home address of a top U.S. general.

It was the very same jihadist believed to have urged Elton Simpson to launch an attack on that cartoon exhibit in Texas.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCIONE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Not only do you have to secure the access to those bases, you have to ramp up security on the post itself. So this is going to be a big operation.


STARR: Now the big worry here is what if they get a threat that is both specific and credible? That's what the big military concern is. Right now, they don't

have that. But what they do have, as one official said to me, is a rise in the temperature -- too much chatter, too much on the Internet, too much concern out there. The military is not happy about all of this uncertainty. That is what has led them to do this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting for us.

Thank you.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

He's also working this story for us, also learning new information.

How often do these kinds of alerts actually go into place -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not often, Wolf. Only a handful of times. let's look here. Force Protection Bravo right in the middle of the

scale, yellow, increased and predictable threat of terrorism. That word key.

But it's below Charlie and Delta. Charlie with an imminent. Delta usually in place when there's actual events or a terror event underway.

But let's look at the time line here for when we've seen these threats on U.S. bases in the past.

One, February, 2003. But to be clear, at that time, it was not just U.S. military bases under threat. There was a broader Department of Homeland Security threat, because this was generalized, tied to al Qaeda.

Again in the holidays, December 2003, bases, but also general areas around the country that were under threat. So not specific to U.S. military bases.

We saw Force Protection Bravo come up again just after the bin Laden raid in May of 2011.


That was after the DHS have -- you remember that color-coded scale. But at this time, they also added rail travel into this. So again, not specific just to bases.

And, finally, again, the last time we saw Force Protection Bravo at U.S. military bases on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Again, a situation when it was a more generalized threat, a general raising of the terror threat level, not specific.

So what's unique about this is it's specific to military bases. There's no specific credible threat. But this force protection raising of the threat level is specific to U.S. military installations.

BLITZER: How difficult, Jim, is it for authorities to keep track of these ISIS-inspired Americans?

And there may be hundreds, if not a few thousand, who might be recruited through online propaganda?

Because we know ISIS is very good at that social media.

SCIUTTO: It's extremely difficult, and for a number of reasons. Here -- here's what the U.S. law enforcement says. They right now have hundreds of investigations underway. That's for people who have made contact via social media. And thousands that may have followed jihadi Web sites or made connections or followed Twitter accounts, etc.

That's a big number of people. And if you're going to put every one of those people under surveillance, you talk about, in general, about 10 guys per person, you're talking hundreds, thousands of law enforcement personnel to keep them under surveillance.

So this become as judgment call. We saw that in the case of the Texas shooter. He was under monitoring, but not surveillance. And this is why you have the FBI and others re-looking at how they make these judgments to see if they make that trigger a bit lighter before they start to put some of these suspects under -- well, suspects is too strong a word, but some of these people who have made contact or followed these jihadi Web sites before they put them under monitoring.

BLITZER: Or simply said positive things about some of these jihadi Web sites, as well.


BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Let's talk about all of this with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California.

He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Do you know if this increased alert at these U.S. military bases in California and all are over the country, for that matter, that the new alert was issued as a result of that terror attack outside of Dallas this part weekend?

GARAMENDI: Well, I do have two major air force bases in my district. And they did, indeed, ramp up their protection and their carefulness.

Yes, certainly, the situation in Dallas, Texas. But then also the increased traffic over the social media, particularly beginning with Twitter, which obviously ISIL will monitor that, as well as the FBI. And then from there, they move in more closely, probably getting a court order to monitor these folks very, very directly.

But I'm very pleased that the military has done what it does, take care, be cautious, protect your base.

BLITZER: So what does it mean for the two air bases in your district specifically, on a day to day basis?

What's going to be the difference?

GARAMENDI: Well, what they're going to be doing is it's going to be harder to get on the base -- 100 percent ID checks, random checking of cars, not every car, but randomly checking the cars, and quite possibly some of the more secure and more sensitive places on those bases will have ramped up security around them and probably people not being able to get even close to some of those very specific places that are on the base.

One base is the big air mobility base at Travis. The other is intelligence surveillance reconnaissance at Veal (ph).

So, yes, there's a concern. But fortunately, the military is on top of it doing what they're doing, which is protecting their base and protecting their people.

BLITZER: The FBI director, James Comey, who's a very serious guy, he says the attack in Garland, Texas highlights the danger of these kinds of attacks throughout the United States. He said -- and I'm quoting him now. Let me put it up on the screen. He said, "I know there are other Elton Simpsons -- Elton Simpson one of the gunmen out there. "It's almost as if there is a devil sitting on their shoulder saying kill, kill, kill, kill all day long. They are recruiting and tasking at the same time."

Comey also says there might be thousands of ISIS supporters or followers or sympathizers already in the United States.

There's no way the U.S. can monitor all of these people, is there?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think, actually, there is a good way to get a handle on it, and that is for the police agencies, the FBI and the local agencies to work very, very closely with those communities from which these would-be terrorists are coming from.

We have a fairly good idea where they might be coming from, work closely with those communities. We have a couple examples in California over the last several years where the Muslim community actually reported an FBI agent who was trying to find out -- he was pretending to be radicalized. And the mosque threw him out and reported to the FBI.

So work closely with the communities.

[15:10:00] And, also, the FBI and others have ways of, as I said, monitoring

the Twitter accounts before they go private and then getting an appropriate court order to monitor the private communications on Twitter or any other social media. That's how they get started on this. And frankly, it seems that's how the ISIL begins its work. They watch the Twitter. They're familiar. It's -- anybody in the world can pick up a public Twitter account. And then they begin working with that individual, trying to radicalize that individual. So we've got countermeasures. We need to pay attention.

BLITZER: Are you getting cooperation from the Muslims in your community that you clearly are seeking?

GARAMENDI: I believe so. The communities in California and throughout this state are very much American. They just -- they have a Muslim faith. And they are as good American as anybody else is. And they're concerned about the community. They love this country as much as anybody else does. And so they are very -- they have been very cooperative. And I suspect they will continue to be so.

But the police and the agencies need to reach out and work closely with those communities.

Now, let's keep in mind that Timothy McVeigh was not a Muslim at all. And so we have other kinds of terrorist activities in the United States beyond anybody connected with ISIS.

BLITZER: And you've also got to remember that there could be a problem on the base already, not somebody trying to sneak on the base, but there may be a military personnel or there may be a soldier or there may be an airman, there may be someone already on the base who is recruited and becomes a sympathizer. Those individuals, like the -- the case of Major Nidal Hassan as Fort Hood, Texas -- he wound up killing a lot of fellow soldiers, that could be a huge problem, right?

GARAMENDI: Well, it certainly has been. And it could be in the future. But that's one of the things that the military has taken, I think, a much higher degree of attention to, paying attention to those signs that someone may have some psychological problem or may be radicalized in one way or another. And as, I say, it doesn't have to be radical jihadism. It could be other kinds of radical activities that do happen and are part of the American fabric.

So we all need to be aware. And it's our responsibility as individuals to reach out when we see something that isn't the way it should be, to reach out to the appropriate authorities and report it. And I know that that is taking place on the military bases. It's part of the new way of dealing with what happened at Fort Hood, that great tragedy there.

BLITZER: We have some more questions for you, Congressman, if you can stick around here.


BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. Much more with Congressman Garamendi right after that.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. All U.S. military bases now in a heightened state of alert as ISIS actively prompts the Pentagon to order increased security around the country.

[17:17:34] We're back with Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, as you know, ISIS has a very strong, powerful online recruiting message out there, very different, their strategy than al Qaeda used to be. Al Qaeda wanted to just organize plots like 9/11, get people involved. It looks like ISIS wants to inspire people to go out there and kill Americans. Why has this ISIS strategy and recruitment worked so well?

GARAMENDI: I think it's appealing to a certain part of the population in this country and around the world that is disaffected for one reason or another, and to see something exciting. I guess most young people look for something exciting, and I guess a war in the Middle East, or an order to do some sort of violence in your own community, they would find to be exciting. Frankly, it makes no sense to me.

ISIS in the Syria and Iraq is a very dangerous and inhumane bunch of folks that are carrying out terrorism on their own people and their own community. We've seen the beheadings, but that's just part of the picture of ISIS, but there are people that somehow find this to be attractive and want to listen and participate in it.

They ought to be taking a look at what's positive in our own nation. Sure, we have troubles here, but this is -- you know, all the positive opportunities that exist in America, compared to the kind of terrorism that these folks are launching on their own community in the Middle East is -- not -- just doesn't make sense to me. But apparently, there are some folks, one or two of them, that did this attack in Texas.

We're probably going to see more, but we need to be aware. We need to counter with our own hope and opportunity in our own country, and we also need to take to ISIS the battle in the Middle East.

To go out there, launch strikes against them, when the U.S. is doing by air both in Syria and Iraq. The FBI director, James Comey, says that tracking these terror suspects here in the United States, he says it's like looking for a needle in a haystack, but in his words, increasingly the needles are invisible.

How difficult is it to identify and stop these so-called lone wolf terrorists who are inspired, if you will, by ISIS?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think there's a couple of methods that you could go after. If you're going to look for a needle in a haystack, get a magnet. That's probably the best way to find it. [17:20:07] In this case, how do they become radicalized?

Probably starting with Twitter or some other social media. Probably on the public sites. Some sort of communication. We can monitor that. It's not an NSA issue. We can monitor those kind of public interactions, and then from there hone in on those people that seem to be more engaged in that kind of social interaction.

And from there, reach out into the -- the police operations around the country. Notifying the police that this is something they should be aware of in the local communities as well as the local and regional FBI.

And then as I said earlier, you've got to work with the communities that seem to be the most affected by this propaganda. Probably the Muslim community more than others, but not only that community, because there are clearly others that are not Muslim that somehow find this to be attractive.

And so work with those communities. Those communities are good law-abiding Americans as much as anybody else, and they don't want harm to their community, and they certainly don't want to be drugged -- dragged down by someone that is in their community acting out in a terrorist way.

So we can do a lot to identify, and I think we are, and the FBI and the local agencies are, and each and every one of us also has a responsibility to keep our eyes open to watch and to be good citizens ourselves.

Today marks the tenth month, the start of the tenth month of U.S. military engagement against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Some calling it a war, and there's no congressional authorization for the use of military force against these ISIS terrorists. You're leading for calls for congressional action. Do you expect formal authorization anytime soon?

GARAMENDI: I'm forever hopeful. But in recent days, I think I have to be realistic. The House of Representatives, the leadership of the House and various committees, do not seem to be interested in moving a specific authorization.

On the other hand, the Senate has more activity and seems to be more willing to move a more precise -- right now the U.S. government is operating under the authorization to use military force that originated with 9/11, and that was specifically for Afghanistan and related terrorist activities in that area.

It's now been applied in Syria and Iraq. They're also using the 2003 Iraqi AUMF to justify the current activity. I think neither are appropriate. I think we ought to do away with the 2001 Afghanistan authorization to use force and be very -- very, very specific.

And we ought to put a time frame on it so the next president and probably ought to be debated in the presidential elections, as to how and which way the United States should deal with these kinds of problems. But an unending authorization to use military force is really an abdication of the constitutional authority only given to Congress to wage war.

BLITZER: Congressman Garamendi, thanks very much for joining us.

GARAMENDI: My pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for the issues.

Blitzer: Thank you. Coming up, a fiery and deadly plane crash on a major U.S. interstate. We're learning new details about the accident and the victims.

Plus, disturbing new information about North Korea's expanding nuclear arsenal. CNN is reporting exclusively from inside North Korea.


[17:28:18] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. ISIS activity prompting the Pentagon to increase the threat level and order heightened security, all U.S. military bases.

Let's get some more now from CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Also joining us, the former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA operative Robert Bair, our CNN intelligence and security analyst.

General Hertling, put this into some sort of context for us. What does it mean that they're raising the threat level of every single U.S. military base and installation in the United States? What does that mean? What happens now?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, what happens at each phase, Wolf, is there's additional security measures put into place. You're going to have 100 percent I.D. card checks. You're going to have random checks of automobiles. You're going to have some dog patrols, reinforcing of civilian guards with military policemen and potentially infantrymen.

They're going to have increased patrolling around the base and specially in the family housing units, and there are going to be things that most people aren't going to see. The garrison commanders, the people that control the bases, are going to do additional exercises, like active shooter events, forced protection exercising, all behind the scenes.

So all of these things are to increase security and increase awareness among the base itself.

Now, this is interesting in the United States to do this. When I was commanding the U.S. Army in Europe, we were constantly at force protection level bravo and sometimes up to bravo plus a charlie, giving terrorism alerts. But truthfully, this is more of an awareness for a most specific threat. But just increased awareness.

BLITZER: There are some who believe that they may have decided to do it at this time, because they know that one of those two gunmen obeyed that attack at that event outside of Dallas is in touch with a jihadist, a British jihadist who was actually tweeting the name and address of a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) U.S. military officer. They seem to fear that maybe some U.S. military personnel are now being targeted.

MUDD: Look, there's more at stake. It's a bigger context here. That tweet, I think, is important if you're sitting at a table, trying to determine whether to raise the alert. But the backdrop is pretty straightforward.

Nine-eleven, iconic targets. Pentagon, attempted shot, attempted airplane going into the Congress. That was the Shanksville plane.

We transitioned to a decade ago soft targets. The subway in Madrid. The subway in London. Now, what you have in 2015 is ISIS saying it's more defensive, Wolf, to dissuade people, especially young Americans, not to go against civilians, women and children. But to go on against the people who are sending troops to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. That's military, and they also put police in this contest.

So the backdrop is go after military. In the midst of that, you drop in a tweet that talks about a military target.

BLITZER: And there were some other tweets out there, Bob Baer, in recent weeks, they listed, what, the names and addresses of about 100 U.S. military personnel who had served in Syria or Iraq. I'm sure that raised a lot of alarm bells?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Wolf, and I agree totally with Phil. They're after the military, anybody in a uniform, because they want to characterize this war in Iraq and Syria as a war against the United States government, not a war against the American people.

So a war against combatants in their term is very important for them. And I think they did a lot more propaganda value if they struck at a military target.

Of course, they went after the cartoons in Texas. That was something else entirely. But this is a threat I think we should take very seriously, because, you know, things are getting worst in the Middle East, and it's bound to blow back to this country.

BLITZER: When you hear, General Hertling, some say, you know, by raising the threat level, it gives a propaganda victory to ISIS already. Your reaction to that?

HERTLING: I don't see it that way, Wolf, but I'll also add on to what Bob and Phil just said. Yes, it's relatively easy to increase threat levels at military bases, but there are no front lines in this. It's not ISIS against the military. It's ISIS against America.

So I see it as somewhat ludicrous that they would attack a military base. In fact, what I'm more concerned with is the softer targets, like government institutions and police as some of those things that Phil and Bob were both just talking about.

BLITZER: You agree with that, Phil?

MUDD: They will portray this as a success. Believe me, they're reading the media. They're watching the media, sitting in Iraq may be watching us, but what they need is bang for the buck. They need events to happen for them to be able to say, "We've succeeded." This is not an event; it's an alert. They're waiting to let somebody launch.

BLITZER: All right. I'm going to have all of you stand by, because we're not going to go away from the breaking news. There's other stories we're following right now including a fiery disaster. We now know who was onboard this plane that crashed onto a major U.S. highway.

Plus, an exclusive report from inside North Korea. We have new details of Kim Jong-un's disturbing nuclear building.


[17:37:38] BLITZER: There's breaking news in Baltimore right now. Attorneys for the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, they want the prosecutor to remove herself from the case.

Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is here in the SITUATION ROOM with lots of late-breaking developments. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these attorneys for the six officers say that Marilyn Mosby needs to recuse herself from the case, that the prosecution of these officers needs to be handled by another state attorney, perhaps in another county.

And they're asking for this, because they say that there are a number of conflicts of interest present, including Mosby's relationship with the Gray family attorney, Billy Murphy, who you've had on the program many time. Billy Murphy represented her in a previous proceeding. They also cite something that we talked about many times.

The issue of the knife. The knife for which the officers first pursued and arrested Freddie Gray. They said that they found that on him and, according to lawyers, they say that, you know, the conflict between the city code, which says that the knife is illegal, and the state code which said that it is not, poses a problem for Mosby's case, as you and I have discussed previously.

In this motion today, they say if, in fact, the knife was unlawful or it's reasonable to believe that it was, the foundation of the state's argument collapses, and they accuse her of doing the same thing. Of unlawful imprisonment of he's officers, that they accused -- she accused the officers of.

BLITZER: Billy Murphy, by the way, is going to join us in our next hour. We'll discuss this. Amidst all of this, the new attorney general of the United States, Loretta Lynch, she says -- she announces today that she is going to launch a formal investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. Tell us about that.

PEREZ: Well, Wolf, this is something that the city had asked for and that Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony Batts, welcomes. The new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, says that these reflect a frayed relationship, a broken relationship between the community and the police there. This is going to be a very invasive look at whether or not the police department violated the Constitution in the way it carries out its work in Baltimore; whether it's engaging in a pattern and practice of discrimination in the way it does its work there, Wolf.

BLITZER: You spoke to the Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony Batts. What did he tell you?

PEREZ: Well, you know, Wolf, he said they've made a lot of progress in the last few years. They've reduced the number of complaints that they've had from -- you know, for discourtesy, from complaints for excessive use of force. Officer-involved shootings are down by a third. He said that he's ousted 50 officers in the past two years.

[17:40:22] Again, he says that he's doing his work to try to fix the department. Obviously, it's not gone far enough.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what this federal investigation, going to take a few years? Right?

PEREZ: It will take at least a few months. Yes.

BLITZER: Usually these federal investigations take, they go on and on.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: See how quickly they can get this resolved. Thank you for that.

A horrifying sight on a major U.S. interstate. A plane slamming onto the highway, bursting into flames right in the middle of rush hour. It happened on I-285 just north of Atlanta.

CNN's Martin Savidge is there at the crash site with more for us. What are you hearing? How could this have happened? What did happen, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can see by the traffic behind us here a short while ago, they reopened I-285. The only evidence of what happened is the black soot mark you can see against the median there.

But this morning, it was shortly after 10 when the Piper 32 aircraft apparently took off from Peachtree DeKalb Airport. That would have been about a mile away. And very quickly, witnesses say it looked like it was in trouble, flying low and it was acting erratically; and then it impacted. It had recently had been fueled. You had a huge fireball. Then

you had that pall of black smoke. Drivers say they had to swerve and brake to stay out of the way.

Four people onboard were killed, but amazingly, miraculously, say officials, nobody on the ground was either killed or injured. Two vehicles were damaged, but as you can see, traffic is flowing once again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know who was in the plane?

SAVIDGE: At this time, it's been identified now that the pilot was 53-year-old Greg Byrd. Also onboard, his two sons: 27-year-old Christopher' 25-year-old Phillip; and also Christopher's fiancee Jackie Kulzer. The tragedy. They were all headed to the University of Mississippi, where Phillip was graduating this weekend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A tragedy indeed.

All right, Martin. Thank you.

Coming up, we have alarming new information about a nuclear weapons buildup under way right now in North Korea. We're also getting an exclusive look inside North Korean schools where the top priorities are discipline and loyalty to Kim Jong-un.


[17:46:59] BLITZER: We're following some breaking news. A new outbreak of tornadoes. Let's go to our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She's over at the storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma. What do we know, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Wolf, right now, we do have a tornado warning with confirmation of a very large tornado on the ground in -- near the Vernon area in Texas right along the Red River. In fact, Wilbarger County expires in about 30 minutes. This has been a healthy storm.

So there's a possibility that the National Weather Service could extend it beyond the next 30 minutes. We have some nasty storms as well that are, that we're tracking that are just west of Oklahoma City and the Norman area where we are.

You know we've been on your show the past couple of days talking about the severe weather threat. It is a multiday event, and we have seen some nasty storms, tornadoes and the possibility of that remains for today, as well as tomorrow.

And so we're going to be watching them very closely. In fact, we are here at the storm prediction center. The folks behind me are working very hard. They're monitoring the weather, and they are keeping us updated as well as you at home of the latest on the weather here in Oklahoma and around the rest of the country. So the plains, that's the area to watch today going into the weekend, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jennifer, we'll stay in very close touch with you. Keep us informed on what's going on.

Other breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. New and alarming information about North Korea expanding its nuclear weapons. An arsenal. They apparently now can launch ballistic missiles from land and sea. Brian Todd has more on this ominous weapons buildup. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have this just in from the French news agency AFP. They're quoting the North Korean news agency and saying the North Koreans have just test fired what they call an underwater ballistic missile fired from a submarine. Doesn't go underwater; it comes out of the water. According to the North Korean news agency, cited by AFP, the North Koreans have just test fired a ballistic missile that can be launched from a submarine.

Also tonight learning more about how North Korea expanded a key facility that makes fuel for nuclear weapons. We have information on how many nuclear weapons they have. And tonight we've got word on how Kim Jong-un is threatening his neighbors with other conventional forces.


TODD (voice-over): A new, blatant and aggressive threat from Kim Jong-un. His forces will open fire on any South Korean ships moving into what he sees as North Korean waters. Tonight, South Korea, a U.S. ally, is angrily vowing retaliation.

Threats like this from Pyongyang have kept America from being able to negotiate over Kim's nuclear weapons program, like it's trying to do with Iran. CNN has learned during the two years of America's obsessive attempts to prevent Iran from building even one nuclear bomb...

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: North Korea is greatly expanding its ability to make the nuclear explosive materials it needs to make nuclear weapons.

TODD: Former U.S. weapons inspector David Albright says in those two years, Kim Jong-un's regime has doubled the size of the enrichment plant at Yongbyon which you can see in these satellite photos. Yongbyon is where experts say North Korea enriches uranium for nuclear bombs, and Albright says that's not all they've done.

ALBRIGHT: North Korea has been spending its own money to build up its nuclear weapons program, but it's also been shopping overseas to get the equipment that they need in order to build up their nuclear arsenal.

[17:50:19] TODD: Why hasn't the Obama administration pursued talks with Kim Jong-un's government as fervently as it has with Iran? White House and State Department officials tell CNN they're committed to drawing down Kim's nuclear weapons and are open to dialogue with Kim's government. But North Korea has to show a commitment, which it hasn't done yet.

Analysts say there are other reasons.

JOEL WIT, U.S.-KOREA INSTITUTE, JOHNS HOPKINS: I think we have rapidly approached the point of no return over the past five years. This program has gained a lot of momentum over the past few years. And not much has been done to stop it.

TODD: The result is ominous. Analysts say Kim's regime may well be able to fit nuclear warheads on missiles that can hit South Korea or Japan. And they're thought to be adding to their arsenal.

ALBRIGHT: North Korea could have 10-15 nuclear weapons now, and it can -- and it can grow that amount by several weapons per year.

TODD: Possibly to more than 50 by the end of 2020. Analysts worry Kim won't just threaten his neighbors with nuclear bombs.

WIT: They certainly will explore providing technology and maybe assistance to other countries and groups overseas if the price is right.


TODD: So who would buy them? Analysts say Syria could be a customer. There's even a possibility that North Korea could sell nuclear technology to Iran, although U.S. negotiators will likely try to prevent that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, can the North Koreans fit the warheads onto those missiles that potentially could reach the United States.

TODD: Analysts are telling us, Wolf, they can't do that yet. They have not perfected the reentry capability of long-range missiles that can reach the U.S. But we're told the North Koreans are working on that, and it's not clear how long that's going to take.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you.

We're also getting a rare and extremely disturbing look inside North Korea's education system, where children are taught a twisted version of history, and loyalty to their leader is certainly above all else.

CNN's Will Ripley reporting exclusively from inside the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the North Korean education system is designed to turn out disciplined, devoted citizens with a heavy focus on the group for the individual, and above all else, devotion to their supreme leader.

(voice-over): If they didn't look so young, you might not believe they're first graders. By the time they reach elementary school, Pyongyang students have typically learned their country's most sacred lesson: shedding the individualism of youth for the collectivism of North Korean society. And most importantly -- loyalty to the leader.

(on camera): What do you want to be when you grow up?

(voice-over): "I'd like to be a journalist," she says, "so I can spread the greatness of the Marshal Kim Jong-un throughout the world."

You'll find the same photos of the late leaders in every classroom and every home. And the same level of discipline. Even outdoor exercise is critiqued. Classes are praised for moving in unison. These Pyongyang orphans will practice for hours until their routine is perfect.

Demands are even more rigorous at the international football school. North Korean athletes are expected to be the best in the world. All students get free uniforms provided by the state, even at the prestigious Kim Il-sung University.

(on camera): How much is the tuition to come to the university?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no tuition fee.

RIPLEY: It's free?


RIPLEY: There's a lot of students that would really like that, I think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of them actually study for free. We don't even know the meaning of tuition fees. We just know it by books.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The main focus at the university level is science and technology, North Korea strives to be strong and modern. But only a rare few can access the Internet.

(on camera): Have you ever been on Facebook?


RIPLEY: Never heard of Facebook?


RIPLEY (voice-over): For all the discipline, there are brief moments when kids can act like kids. At least until it's time to go back to class.

(on camera): North Korean students are now required to finish the 12th grade and all are eligible to apply for university, though entrance exams are highly competitive. North Korea teaches its own version of history and current affairs, one of the reasons why access to the outside world is so tightly controlled -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Thanks to Will Ripley for that exclusive rare access inside North Korea.

Coming up, military bases across the United States increase security. All over the country we have more on the terror threat to the U.S. homeland, especially from ISIS.

[17:55:05] Also, kicked in the head. You're going to see the shocking video that's fueling new allegations of police misconduct.


BLITZER: Happening now, rising threat level. U.S. military bases are tightening security amid growing fears that ISIS terrorists are targeting men and women in uniform. Is there a specific credible attack plot underway right now?

Police versus the prosecutor. Lawyers for the six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray take new action to force the Baltimore state's attorney off the case. Will they get their way?

And police under fire. Disturbing video of a suspect kicked in the face, and racist texts revealed, threatening thousands of cases.