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Homeland Security: ISIS May Strike At Any Moment; U.S. Denies Snub As King Skips Obama Summit; Interview with Adel al-Jubeir; Homeland Security: ISIS May Strike at Any Moment; Tom Brady Suspended for Four Games Without Pay; North Korea Test Fires Submarine Missile. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 11, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:24] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, ISIS terrorists in the United States -- the U.S. Homeland Security secretary is sounding the alarm. He says we've entered a new phase in the global terror threat and an attacker could strike at any moment.

Wounded -- George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, flags down police and a witness hears another man say, "I just shot George Zimmerman."

Stand by for the latest.

And failure to launch -- North Korea releases pictures to back up its claim of an underwater ballistic missile test.

But is it really an elaborate trick?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We begin with a disturbing new alarm about possible terror attacks inside the United States. The Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, warning ISIS is using the Internet and social media to reach inside the U.S. homeland, inspiring would-be terrorists to strike in his words, at any moment. Homeland security is alerting police and across the United Nations that such attacks could come with little or no warning.

Members of the public are being asked to be vigilant as they go about their normal business.

In a CNN exclusive, Saudi Arabia's new foreign minister is right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him about the terror threat, as well as the deepening chaos in the Middle East. Our correspondents and experts, they've been working their sources. They're standing by with new information on the terror threat.

Let's get the very latest from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.


The question now is, has the Internet become virtually a weapon system in ISIS' war?

There are a lot of administration officials increasingly concerned about this. They believe ISIS now viral on the Internet, inspiring and directing attacks that way, that lone wolves could strike with very little warning.

The secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, talking about this all weekend.

If you want to have a little listen to what he had to say.


JEH JOHNSON, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We are very definitely in a new phase of the global terrorist threat, where a so- called lone wolf could strike at any moment.


STARR: Now, this concern about the lone wolf attack is growing across the country. In the latest development, the New York City police commissioner, Bill Bratton, just a short time ago, talking about he wants to hire 400 additional New York City police officers to deal with his counterterrorism operations because of the growing threats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thanks very much.

The White House now going out of its way to deny President Obama just suffered a serious setback in the war on terror.

Saudi Arabia abruptly announced its king is skipping a summit of Gulf State leaders here in the United States this week. The president insists this isn't a snub.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

He has more -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, aides to the president are bending over backwards to push back on this notion that this is any kind of snub. But the White House also says it only found out this weekend that the king of Saudi Arabia was pulling out of this summit.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Saudi Arabia's King Salman was supposed to be the crown jewel of guests invited to this week's White House summit with Gulf state leaders, a rare lineup of Middle East monarchs touted by the president in the Rose Garden last month.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm inviting leaders of the six countries who make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait Amman, Qatar and Bahrain.

ACOSTA: But after confirming with the White House he was coming, the Saudis suddenly informed the administration over the weekend the king will instead be represented by the crown prince, adding his absence is due to the timing of the summit, the scheduled humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen, where the Saudis have been conducted airstrikes, and opening of the King Salman Center for Humanitarian Aid.

With Bahrain's king also announcing he won't be attending, that leaves only two of six Gulf State monarchs slated to come, not the summit the president envisioned, just as he's trying to ease concerns in the region about the Iran nuclear deal.

Still, the White House says this was no snub.

JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know that there had been some speculation that this change in travel plans was an attempt to send a message to the United States. If so, that message was not received, because all the feedback that we have received from the Saudis has been positive.

ACOSTA: But analysts who study the region say not so fast.

FREDERIC WEHREY, CARNEGIE INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: There is an optics problem. I mean this is a -- a rocky marriage. And the Gulf feels like they were not included in the discussions about the Iran deal, that they were kept in the dark.


So it's not so much what the U.S. is doing toward Iran, but how it's going about it.

ACOSTA: Add to that the president caused further tension when he told the "New York Times" the Gulf States face a greater danger from their own extremists.

OBAMA: But I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It's going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own country.

ACOSTA: The White House had been wooing the monarchs with talk of building a missile defense system as a counterweight to Iran and just days ago, sending Secretary of State John Kerry to Saudi Arabia, where the king is said to be ailing.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": This guy is 79 years old. He's had a stroke.


ACOSTA: Administration officials say privately they do believe the king's health is a factor in his decision to pull out of the summit. The White House says the president is not disappointed in his guest list for this week's summit, adding, quote, "The right people are attending" -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Joining us now exclusively right here in THE SITUATION ROOM is Saudi Arabia's newly appointed foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.

This is his first TV interview here in the United States since becoming foreign minister. He was Saudi Arabia's long time ambassador here to the United States.

Foreign Minister, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: All right, so why isn't the king coming?

AL-JUBEIR: We explained the situation. The -- we announced a humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen that will take effect tomorrow at 11:00 p.m.. We also -- his -- the (INAUDIBLE) is very keen on making sure that the cease-fire holds and that humanitarian supplies can be sent into Yemen efficiently and quickly.

He will also be launching the King Salman International Center for Humanitarian Relief to Yemen in Riyadh. That will be a temp -- that will be a focal point for coordinating all these relief efforts in Yemen.

And so the decision was that it was not a good time for him to be leaving, when we have so many things going. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be represented by his royal highness, the crown prince, who's also the minister of interior. Also participating will be his royal highness, the deputy crown prince, who is the minister of defense.

BLITZER: But it would have been a much better summit at Camp David and at the White House if the king would have come. And as recently as Friday, U.S. officials thought he was coming.

AL-JUBEIR: The decision on the cease-fire and the timing of the cease-fire was not made until Friday evening. And it was after that that the decision was made that the custodian (INAUDIBLE) would deputize his crown prince to come to the US.

Wolf, I want to lay to rest this notion of this being a snub or a problem in the relationship. (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: You really think there's a cease-fire?

AL-JUBEIR: We hope it will hold. We will find out tomorrow night at 11:00 p.m. and we will -- we hope that it will continue so that we can send relief supplies into Yemen to help the Yemeni people.

But the decision of whether or not the cease-fire holds rests with the Houthis and their allies.

BLITZER: What about the fact he's 79 years old, has had some ailments? Was it a health factor, as well?

AL-JUBEIR: Not at all. No. No, Wolf. Not at all. And as I was saying earlier, this idea that this is in way a snub or reflects a problem in the relationship is absolutely -- it has no basis in fact.

The Saudi crown prince has always represented the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 20073, then Crown Prince Abdullah represented the kingdom at the G- 8 Summit in Europe and nobody thought anything different about it.

The current king, who was -- when he was crown prince, represented the kingdom at the G-20 Summit in Australia last year.

BLITZER: So but with all due respect, Foreign Minister, why did he accept to begin with then, if he could have deputized the crown prince, the minister of intelligence, others, to come instead?

Why did he lead the U.S. to believe he would be here this week?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, the circumstances in Yemen were such that it was changing. Our cities were attacked in Najran and in Jizan. The cease-fire was announced. The timing of the cease-fire was announced. And so the circumstances have changed.

BLITZER: You know that six leaders were supposed to be here. The president got RSVPs from all six. Four regrets, two acceptances.

That sounds like a snub to me, that these leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Sunni Arab states in the Gulf, who are obviously very fearful of Iran, they've decided not to come to this meeting.

AL-JUBEIR: I don't think so at all, Wolf. I think in the case of Saudi Arabia, this is unprecedented that we have the crown prince and the deputy crown prince attending a function out the kingdom at the same time. Now, this is the number two person and the number three person in our hierarchy. They -- one deals with security and the Interior Ministry. The other manages the Defense Ministry. So all of the issues that we will be discussing at Camp David, whether it's counterterrorism, whether it's enhancing security and military cooperation between the GCC and the U.S., and whether it's countering the activities of Iran in the region, those two individuals are the key personalities in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

BLITZER: And you've heard all the speculation, this is really about Iran, the nuclear deal that seems to be in the works. You don't like it. The UAE doesn't like it. Kuwait doesn't like it. Bahrain, none of these Gulf States -- Sunni Gulf States like it. You were seeking military assurances, defense security assurances, from the United States in the weeks leading up to this summit. And there's a lot of thought out there you weren't getting what you wanted, and, as a result, the king said I'm not coming.

AL-JUBEIR: There's a lot of speculation, Wolf. But let me assure you of one thing.


First of all, everybody wants a nuclear deal with Iran that's airtight, that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability, that has intrusive inspections long-term. Everybody wants this. And the first countries that want this are the GCC countries. And so we would welcome a deal that provides this and that provides assurances that Iran will not be able to acquire a nuclear capability.

The framework agreement that has been signed is a framework agreement. The details are still to be discussed over the coming six weeks or so. We have been assured by the United States that the U.S. and the P5- plus-1 countries will be do everything they can in order to make sure that any deal that is reached will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. And that's something that we would welcome.

With regards to the security issuances from the U.S., we have no doubt -- no doubt whatsoever about America's commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia. The relationship was established in terms of the security area when the late king, Abdulaziz, met with President Roosevelt in 1945. Over the past seven decades, we have never for a moment questioned America's commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia. And we've seen it play out in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s. We saw it when the U.S. sent 500,000 troops to defend Saudi Arabia and then subsequently liberate Kuwait from Iraq's occupation. And we see it today in the ongoing operations that we have in Yemen.

BLITZER: Did you -- are you seeking major non-NATO ally status from the United States, as a resurance -- a reassurance in the face of what's going on with the Iran nuclear deal?

AL-JUBEIR: Like I said, we are working with the United States in order to take the relationship between the U.S. and the GCC to a higher level. The relationship, in fact, is at the higher level. Now we have to make sure that the policy (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Is the Obama administration ready to give Saudi Arabia major non-NATO ally status?

AL-JUBEIR: I can't talk about the specifics or the -- or the details of what will or what will not happen. But what I can assure you is that the relationship, especially in the security and military areas, is rock solid and that both sides are doing and will do everything they can to further strengthen and enhance those ties.

BLITZER: All right.

I want you to stand by, Foreign Minister.

We have more to discuss. A lot of sense sensitive issues out there, including ISIS, the threat here in the United States, the threat to Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Much more with the new foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking now. The White House strongly denying any snub is involved, even though Saudi Arabia's king will not be attending President Obama's summit at Camp David with other members of the gulf state this week.

[17:16:56] We're back with Saudi Arabia's newly-appointed foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir once again, his first TV interview as foreign minister. We're just getting word now from the White House that President Obama calmed King Salman just a little while ago. They had a phone conversation. I understand you were in on that call?

AL-JUBEIR: Yes. His majesty wanted to speak with the president, and were able to arrange the call quickly, that happened at 4 p.m.

BLITZER: Who initiated the call?

AL-JUBEIR: Both sides. I mean, it's the two leaders have a very close personal relationship. They first met when -- when King Salman was crown prince and was minister of defense and visited Washington in 2010, and then the president came to offer -- was the first official guest that King Salman received after becoming king. And he also used (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to offer condolences on the passing of King Abdullah. They speak on the telephone frequently, and they communicate various ways with messages back and forth. And I think that the relationship they have is a very warm relationship and a lot of mutual respect, and they're very frank and candid with each other.

BLITZER: Did President Obama express his regret, his disappointment that the king could not be here this week?

AL-JUBEIR: Of course not. Absolutely not. The president expresses understanding for the step that King Salman took, and he expressed his welcome for the crown prince and the deputy crown prince. The custodian (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) expressed his regret at not being able to come, given the circumstances of the cease-fire and the opening up at the Center for International Relief.

BLITZER: All right. So the ceasefire is supposed to begin tomorrow in Yemen. Do you believe the Houthi rebels backed by Iran -- you say they're backed also by Hezbollah, that they will honor a ceasefire?

AL-JUBEIR: I hope so. It's really entirely up to them. I can't say whether they will or not, but we will see. Time will tell.

BLITZER: Is Iran and Hezbollah directly involved in the civil war in Yemen?

AL-JUBEIR: Absolutely no doubt about it. There are Iranian operatives in Yemen. There are Hezbollah operatives in Yemen. The Houthis have received weapons from the Iranians. They have advisers from Hezbollah. In fact, when the Houthis first captured Sanaa, one of the first things they did was release Iranian Hezbollah operatives from the jails.

BLITZER: What if they don't honor the ceasefire? What's Saudi Arabia going to do?

AL-JUBEIR: We'll try whatever we can in order to minimize any kind of operations. But if push comes to shush and they do not honor the ceasefire, then there will be no humanitarian pause.

BLITZER: There will be no what?

AL-JUBEIR: No humanitarian pause.

BLITZER: No pause at all. How worried are you right now about the ISIS threat to Saudi Arabia? Obviously, U.S. officials are very concerned about an ISIS threat to the U.S. homeland. How strong is ISIS?

AL-JUBEIR: Very strong. We see them in Syria. We see them in Iraq. We've arrested hundreds of people inside Libya, which we have made public. They are determined to cause mischief and to murder people. And we have to all be very, very vigilant in going after them, after those who support them and after those who finance them.

BLITZER: You saw Tom Friedman's interview with President Obama in early April, in which the president was very blunt, suggesting the real threat to Saudi Arabia is not Iran or other outside parties. The real threat to Saudi Arabia is internally. Let me play the clip. This is the president speaking to Tom Friedman.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It's going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.

Now, that -- disentangling that from real terrorist activity inside their country, how we sort that out, how we engage in the counterterrorism cooperation that's been so important to our own security without automatically legitimatizing or validating whatever repressive tactics they may employ, I think that's a tough conversation to have, but it's one that we have to have.


BLITZER: A lot of people were very concerned in Saudi Arabia and some of the other gulf states when they heard the president speaking like that. Your reaction?

AL-JUBEIR: I didn't take it as addressing it to Saudi Arabia in particular. We have had a country that's been developing over the past 70, 80 years. We have been able to double life expectancy rates in one generation. We have been able to reduce infant fatalities from the levels of sub-Saharan to the levels of Europe. We have universal education. When my father was born, his life expectancy was 37. When he passed away at 85, my youngest daughter -- my youngest sister's life expectancy was over 70. So it doubled in one generation.

When my father went to school nine of ten of his -- of his colleagues were illiterate, could not go to school. And now we have universal education. We look at women's education. Fifty-five percent of college students in Saudi Arabia, over 60 percent of women, graduate students in Saudi Arabia are women.

So any way you look at it, it's a country that's progressing, that's been moving forward, that has been taking care of its people. And I think the proof that the gulf monarchies are doing the right thing is the fact that after 2011, all of the convulsions that we saw all around us did not impact us.

BLITZER: Women can't even drive cars in Saudi Arabia.

AL-JUBEIR: This is an issue that has to do with the nature of the society, and in time this issue will resolve itself.

BLITZER: How much time?

AL-JUBEIR: I can't predict time. I'm not a prophet.

BLITZER: But are you making progress on that front? Women right now without an escort -- an uncle, a father, a brother -- they can't even go out on their own.

AL-JUBEIR: That's not correct. They can. And women in Saudi Arabian have made great strides when it comes to education. I pointed that out. More than 50 percent of students in colleges are women. When it comes to job opportunities, when it comes to the ability to have a business, to obtain credits, to have loans, I think women are -- in Saudi Arabia are way ahead of women in other developing countries.

BLITZER: When you were here a few weeks ago, when you were still the Saudi ambassador to the United States, we spoke about Iran. You were obviously worried, like so many others in the region, about an Iran nuclear program that's underway.

You said, in your words, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security. When I asked you if you were ruling out Saudi Arabia itself, developing a nuclear military capability in the face of a threat from Iran. What's your position now?

AL-JUBEIR: Still the same. We have -- we will do whatever it takes to protect our people and our country. We will have to see what is needed in order to do so and make decisions at the right time.

BLITZER: You want a good deal with the Iran nuclear program. But what if it isn't a good deal? What if it doesn't meet your appreciation, your satisfaction?

AL-JUBEIR: I don't. We have had extensive briefings by Secretary Kerry and by Secretary Muniz and by officials in the Treasury Department about the deal that is in the process of being negotiated.

Understand, Wolf, that the deal is not in place yet, and it may not be concluded, but the objectives that they are trying to achieve our objectives that would deny Iran the ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, that would have intrusive and continuous inspections on Iran, unprecedented inspections.

So in principle, this is something that everybody wants, but the details and whether Iran will accept the conditions that will be placed upon it are still -- are still up in the air. The Iranians, it's up to the Iranians to make the decisions or whether or not they want those, to accept the details that are being offered. So far they haven't.

BLITZER: One final question. Tens of billions of dollars that Iran is going to get, a bonanza. Once this deal goes through with the sanctions ease, are lifted. You have a problem with that?

AL-JUBEIR: Everybody does. We hope that the Iranians will use any sanctions relief in order to improve the lot of their people and improve their infrastructure, and we fear that they may use it for nefarious activities and will watch closely. One of the items discussed as Camp David, how we can blunt Iran's interference in the affairs of the countries in the region and look forward to that conversation very much.

BLITZER: Adel al Jubeir is the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia. Congratulations on your new job. How are you liking it so far?

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you. It's been very busy.

BLITZER: Two weeks, right?

AL-JUBEIR: One week. Last Monday was my swearing in.

BLITZER: Well, congratulations once again.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck to you. Adel al-Jubeir is the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia.

[17:25:04] Coming up, North Korea releases new pictures to back up its claim of testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile. But in this case, is seeing believing?

Also, George Zimmerman wounded. We're learning new details about today's very bizarre incident involving the man who killed Trayvon Martin.


BLITZER: Breaking now, new concerns about possible ISIS terror attacks on the U.S. homeland. The homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, says such attacks could happen, in his words, at any moment.

Let's bring in the former counterterrorism official, CNN's counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd; our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank; and our CNN national security commentator, the former congressman, Mike Rogers. He was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. [17:30:10] Phil Mudd, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland

Security, Representative Mike McCall, says terror threats are being seen, in his words, on an almost daily basis, and that terrorism has gone viral. Are U.S. officials right now prepared for this fight against terror and how it has changed?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think so. This is the first time in about a decade that I personally have been concerned about the fight. And there are a couple of characteristics that get me on that place.

No. 1 is speed. You can transmit this information over the Internet and some kid -- and we saw this in Colorado -- can be radicalized in as little as days or weeks by a friend who gets information over the Internet. The U.S. Intelligence committee -- community does not have the capability to respond that quickly.

The second problem is volume. You're not talking about a few cells radicalizing dozens of people in the United States. You're talking about cases in 50 states.

I think this is going to take a radical rethink in Washington. The Washington agencies don't own the data. Agencies are, companies on the west coast like Twitter and Facebook do. Somebody's has to bring them in, for example, the White House, and say, "How do we have a public/private partnership to stop this?" Because I don't think the government can.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Paul Cruickshank, talk about that big game changer, how ISIS has been directly grooming people for attacks here in the United States via social media.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this has been a very big game changer indeed. Both in the United States and also on this side of the Atlantic, in Europe.

ISIS have now been directly grooming extremists to launch attacks. They're reaching out to them over social media. They're then direct messaging them, or finding private, secure way to message them to encourage them to launch attacks.

We saw that with the Texas attack where the gunman, Elton Simpson, had been encouraged by a British ISIS hacker in Syria to launch the attack in the days and hours. A real concern, because there's now this umbilical cord between these lone wolves in the United States and the ISIS terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. 0020

BLITZER: Who needs to be spearheading, Congressman, spearheading this attack against ISIS right now? You heard former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge telling CNN yesterday the U.S. is, in his words, in much more serious circumstances now than after 9/11.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, there's a reason for that, Wolf. The sheer number, they call it the threat matrix, is so widespread, from so many different sources that we didn't have prior to 9/11. Which means the limited resources we have to apply to it get diffused over all of those threats. That's what's they're talking about.

Secondly, now you have a new communications system that didn't exist during the 9/11 attacks that allows ISIS not to just talk directly and recruit somebody to do an act of violence, but now, including the threats you saw recently, where we think we can just inspire someone to do it.

So you'll see more inspirational-type messaging to American youth to try to get them to do something that they may not have had even thought through the whole act of that particular violence.

BLITZER: Who needs to spearhead, be in charge of his, fighting this new threat here in the United States?

ROGERS: Two things. If you're talking domestically, I think it has to be the FBI; can really only be the FBI in conjunction with local law enforcement.

BLITZER: Do they have enough personnel to maintain surveillance on all these thousands of people?

ROGERS: No. But here's the problem. All of our intelligence service partners including the British. By the way, the British tell you the water's coming over the bow of boat. They don't have enough people to handle the number and volume of cases, No. 1. Which tells you you have to get them where they're doing this.

The British hacker that was in Syria that inspired the Texas attack. You don't have to have too many more of these cases showing that this radicalization, this inspiration, this planning and operational triggering is happening in Syria and Iraq. You're going to have to do something about it.

We can't talk about it anymore. We can't admire the problem. We can't say, well, this is getting really bad. 90,000 Twitter accounts related to is, thousands of people who are getting at least connected to that message here in the United States.

Now is the time to -- for Congress and the president to stand up and say we're going to do something where the nest of this problem is.

BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to stand by, because we're going to have more on this new ISIS terror threat coming up.

Also, an important note to viewers out there. For an in-depth look at ISIS, be sure to watch Fareed Zakaria's hour-long special tonight, "Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World." That's at 9 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, the man most famous for killing Trayvon Martin has yet another run-in with the law. George Zimmerman involved in a new shooting. We have details.

And North Korea claims to have test fired a powerful underwater ballistic missile. But what will the pictures really tell us?


[17:39:48] BLITZER: The breaking news, the NFL, we are now told, has suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games without pay for the so-called Deflategate episode.

The New England Patriots also, we're told, fined $1 million and will forfeit the club's first-round selection in the 2016 NFL draft and the fourth round selection in the 2017 NFL draft. Major news. Major news from the NFL.

Christine Brennan is joining us on the phone right now. Christine, give viewers some perspective on this decision by the NFL.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS WRITER (via phone): Wolf, this is incredibly significant, and they've really, use an old term, thrown the book at him. We were thinking that would be the case. The NFL was not pleased on two fronts.

One, the original, of course, cheating from the Welsh report that there had been this cheating and obviously, as everyone knows. But also the fact that the Patriots and especially Tom Brady had not cooperated completely with the investigation. And that also rankled the National Football League, and it is not a surprise at all it is four games. Incredibly significant. Highest profile star in national football history to receive this kind of suspension but it sends a message loud and clear from the National Football League they're not going to tolerate this type of behavior, the cheating and also the lack of cooperation not only from Brady but also from the Patriots.

BLITZER: Because the conclusion of that report, you know, by the attorney who was retained by the NFL sort of said, probably -- it wasn't 100 percent definitive. And some people are probably going to say, four-game suspension is too severe. Others will say they wanted him suspended for the whole season. You think four games is enough?

BRENNAN: I do, Wolf. I think it's a significant penalty. I totally understand that conversation. And people will have it for sure, just like they talk about all sporting events and obviously anything related to sports, as this is. So I understand the conversation.

The preponderance of the evidence, more probable than not, that Tom Brady knew, that this was more like a civil suit as opposed to a criminal suit. That will always bother some fans. Probably Patriot fans, as a matter of fact, some of them.

But there are a lot of people in New England that were not pleased when they read the report, as well. So -- and I think Patriots fans should be given credit. There were quite a few, it sounded like, on polls and Internet polling that shows that they were not pleased with Tom Brady's behavior.

But the reality is that the big takeaway for me is that the National Football League has spoken in a huge way and said, "This is unacceptable. You are not going to be able to do this, cannot do this and you also have to participate in any investigations." And, again, the Patriots and Tom Brady were not entirely forthcoming.

For example, Brady keeping his phone records and his text messages to himself. Not sharing those with his investigators.

BLITZER: The statement the NFL released, among other things, said quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended without pay for the first four games, of the 2015 regular season for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL. Brady may participate in all off-season training camp and preseason activities including preseason games. I don't know if you know the math. How much he's making. Four games. The could be several million dollars he's going to have to forfeit. Right?

BRENNAN: Absolutely. And of course, I'm not looking right now at what he's making, unfortunately. That's a lot of money.

And I know that that's the issue here. It's that when you think of money and you think of multi-millionaires, Wolf -- and so many of these players are. We kind of roll our eyes and we say, "Yes, right. OK. What's that worth?"

Because playing time for a 37-year-old is incredibly valuable, and the idea that you're taking away games at this point in Tom Brady's career, that's worth more than the price of gold.

And, again, I think that's why this is so significant. That the NFL is taking away the thing that is most precious to Tom Brady. That is, playing time, towards the end of his career.

And, again, Patriots Super Bowl champ, as you well know, and they are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the home opener in their home opener, and that is a big deal. That's the NFL's big bash. Season opener. Brady will not be there, and then he'll miss three more games. That's a big hit for him and for the team.

BLITZER: Hold on a moment, Christine, because Rachel Nichols is also joining us.

Rachel, your reaction to this decision -- and I assume the commissioner, Roger Goodell, personally authorized it -- that -- that Brady will not play for the first four games of the season, this upcoming season 2015, will be suspended without pay. That the Patriots will have a $1 million fine. They'll give up their first- round draft pick. Your reaction?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, well, this is, the NFL putting full-face in their investigation. Christine mentioned making statements not just about breaking the rules but impeding an NFL investigation, and I don't think there's any mistake that that is part of this punishment.

They want to send a message twofold. First of all, to other teams and players around the league. Even if it is not in a sense that is going to have a huge on the game. And of course, as many Patriots fans have yelled and screamed over the past few months, the inflation rate of a football at that degree of measure is not going to have a huge impact on the game.

[17:45:01] RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR (via phone): But they want to make sure every player around the league understands. You cannot break the rules. The rules of the competition committee said these are the rules. You cannot bend them. You cannot break them. And the second message they are sending with the harsh level of punishment is, once we sit you down to talk to us you need to answer.

And there were several points throughout this investigation that the investigators Ted Welsh felt that he was not getting the answers that he wanted. Tom Brady not turning over his phone records was part of it but there are other steps along the way where they didn't feel like they got full cooperation and the NFL wants to send the message here, once we go down this path with you, you better answer all of our questions, otherwise, the penalty you fear from maybe what answers you give us, you're getting it anyway.

BLITZER: Rachel, the commissioner authorized the NFL executive president Troy Vincent to impose these penalties and then in a separate letter from Troy Vincent to Tom Brady, Vincent writes this. Let me read a couple of sentences for you and our viewers.

And, Christine, pay attention as well.

"With respect to your particular involvement, the report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge.

"Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence, e-mails, texts, et cetera, despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence."

Those are pretty strong words, Rachel, right there. They basically are saying, you're going to be suspended without pay for four games because you didn't cooperate with the investigation.

NICHOLS: Absolutely. And when he talks about extraordinary measures, this is the conversation between investigators and Tom Brady's representatives and they tried to negotiate over this. They wanted phone records from Tom Brady. Tom Brady's people came back and said, excuse me, he's Tom Brady. He's a huge American celebrity. He's married to a supermodel. We don't want to just turn over every phone conversation, every text message he's ever had. If this does leaks out, it's salacious to the American public. That's not fair.

And the investigators said, you know what, you are right. That isn't fair. We understand the reservations there. So they actually offered Tom Brady's counsel the opportunity to voluntarily -- to hand over any text messages or e-mail communications that they thought was relevant. So you're basically saying to Tom Brady's people, you want to hide something from us? Hide it from us. Just give us anything that might be relevant and they were looking for, hey, the day after this report came out, did he text his dad?

Did he text his friend? Did he text his agent and say, can you believe this? This is ridiculous. I would never do this? They just wanted anything. They wanted anything that would help paint a picture for them. Maybe even stuff that was only favorable to Tom Brady's side. That's the level of opportunity that they offered him, and Tom Brady's agents and lawyers decided that that wasn't smart.

Now we had Don Yee, Tom Brady's agent, on CNN the other day and he was asked that question. Why not even those limited number of text messages -- why not turn over the things that are favorable in Tom Brady's favor? And he said, we didn't want to set a precedent for other NFL players that handing over private information voluntarily was a good idea.

Now there is a lot of information in these investigations that are handed over voluntarily. And that is part of the message the NFL is trying to send here. Guess what? You do have to hand over that stuff, because you are an employee. And there's a difference between a criminal investigation and what the court system and the police do and do not have rights to, and what an employer has rights to when they ask their employee to do something.

That's a huge difference. And in this case, it is an employer investigating an employee, and when that employee does not cooperate, that employer is taking action within its state of business.

BLITZER: They're going to lose their first-round draft pick in 2016. NFL draft, the fourth-round selection 2017 NFL draft.

And, Christine, in the letter that Troy Vincent, the NFL executive president, wrote to Tom Brady, he said these words, and they're stinging, "Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity and public -- the integrity and public confidence in the game of professional football."

Christine, this is going to be -- this is going to be a serious cloud over Tom Brady's head going down the road?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think so, Wolf. I think this will be in the first or second paragraph of any bio that's ever written about Tom Brady going forward. There will be many. He will have I'm sure a long and varied career outside of football once he's finished. And this is exactly what you don't want to have happened if you're Tom Brady. Obviously it's self-induced.

But, you know, at the end of your career, this is a punctuation mark. Who knows how many more seasons you'll play, if you'll be at more Super Bowls or not, although obviously next year is going to be fascinating when he misses four games. The Patriots will be dealing with this certainly for quite a while.

[17:50:12] But this is absolutely a huge hit for Brady's reputation as Mr. Clean, as the boy next door, the smiling, laughing guy that everyone seemed to like, especially people in New England. What was the man doing just a few days ago, kind of laughing it all off. Well, I'm guessing he's not laughing right now. And I think this also shows, as Rachel was saying, the National Football League is -- this is serious business to the NFL.

The NFL has gone through a lot since last September, as we know. Obviously the Ray Rice domestic violence elevator video. It's different story entirely than this. But nonetheless, the National Football League is really saying we are sick and tired of the nonsense. Whatever it may be, we do not want this behavior.

BLITZER: All right.

BRENNAN: We're in this for our fans and for kids who are watching us. I think you can take that seriously now. They seem to be taking this very seriously moving forward. They're positioned in our society as our top sports league and they're certainly saying that today.

BLITZER: All right. Christine Brennan and Rachel Nichols, I want both of you to stand by. We'll have much more in our next hour. But I want to move to another major story we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

A chilling new report from North Korea which claims to have test fired a powerful ballistic missile from a submarine. The claim as neighboring South Korea warning we may be nearing a point of no return with the North's nuclear program.

CNN's Brian Todd has been monitoring this late-breaking developments.

So, Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, officials from the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, they are calling on North Korea to refrain from provocations. They tell us they are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula. It comes after Kim Jong-Un personally supervised what the regime calls a test firing of a ballistic missile from a submarine.

We have new images of that even tonight, which U.S. officials have clearly been examining carefully.


TODD (voice-over): He is seen pointing at a missile launch, which North Korean officials say he ordered, beaming with pride with the submarine in the background. Tonight, Kim Jong-Un's regime claims it successfully test launched a ballistic missile fired from a sub. Once U.S. official says this was not a real ballistic missile test but a simulated firing. Another says the U.S. is looking at whether the image of water ejection behind Kim might have been Photoshopped.

(On camera): One U.S. official says this was a test of a missile ejection system at best. Still worrisome?

RICHARD FISHER, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: Yes. First, we see the white that indicates the missile did penetrate the water and later we see that the missile fired its engine. So this to me indicates that there was a successful missile test. It was not just a test of the ejection system.

TODD (voice-over): A South Korean Defense official says North Korea could have a fully operational submarine with a ballistic missile within four or five years. Weapons expert Rick Fisher says even if this test wasn't all it claimed to be, North Korea could still eventually put nuclear warheads on these missiles, could hide the missiles on merchant ships and fire them from those vessels close to American coastlines and bases.

North Korea's number of warheads is reportedly growing. U.S. officials have already said they believe North Korea has an ICBM that could reach the U.S. West Coast.

This latest test came on the same weekend Kim had been expected in Moscow for Vladimir Putin's grandiose celebration of the end of World War II. But Russian officials say Kim backed out for internal reasons.

MICHAEL MADDEN, NORTH KOREA LEADERSHIP WATCH: The internal political situation in North Korea is not settled and internal security for Kim Jong-Un is absolutely necessary before he ventures off into a -- before he ventures off to a foreign trip abroad.

TODD: Analyst Michael Madden says Kim is still dealing with the fallout with the enemies he made inside North Korea when he executed his powerful uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, at the end of 2013.

MADDEN: I strongly suspect that he has not attained complete loyalty, not from maybe senior level -- senior elites, but at the mid level. I mean, Jang Song-Thaek had a very, very powerful political patronage network in North Korean politics and Kim Jong-Un is still dealing with that.


BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with Christian Whiton, former State Department adviser in North Korea under President George W. Bush, and Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World."

Christian, what about South Korea? They say North Korea could have a fully operational submarine armed with ballistic missiles in the next four or five years? What would that mean?

CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, it's a really big deal because if you step back 10 years ago they didn't have a nuclear capability, they weren't very good at long-range ballistic missiles and there's no really good talk about submarine launched nukes. And now they have two of those three things, on their way to a third.

What it really means is not just a threat from North Korea but also potentially a growing threat from Iran, from Syria, from Pakistan, because North Korea has a habit of proliferating almost every major weapon system it produces. And we're going to see that with this new threat.

[17:55:14] BLITZER: Gordon, do you think that photo was Photoshopped?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": No, I don't think that it was and I don't think anyone has actually said that it was. When you look at it, it looks authentic. And essentially what we're talking about here is that they were able to do the really difficult things, and all they had to do now are simple things, which they can buy from China or Russia. And I think the Chinese and Russians have been helping them.

BLITZER: How many nuclear warheads do you think they have already, Gordon?

CHANG: Well, they probably have about 20. That's what the Chinese said about three weeks ago in that meeting with Stanford University professor, Siegfried Hecker, and other American specialists. That's about right. Because the uranium program is actually churning out warheads probably at the rate of two or three a year, if not more.

BLITZER: Gordon Chang, Christian Whiton, we'll stay on top of this story.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, new alarms about an ISIS terrorist strike on the U.S. homeland. The Homeland Security secretary says it could happen at any moment.