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Fears of Bloodbath in Iraqi City Captured by ISIS; U.S. Studying Intelligence Gathered in ISIS Raid; Hacker Tampered with Flying Airliner. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired May 18, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN anchor: Happening now, defeat. Fearing a slaughter, tens of thousands flee a major Iraqi city now seized by ISIS. The capture of Ramadi leaves the terror group 70 miles from Baghdad. Can militias backed by Iran make a difference?

Leader killed. A bearing, very dangerous Special Ops raid takes out a top ISIS commander. So how valuable is the intelligence that U.S. commandos gathered, and how much did he know about U.S. hostages?

And plane hack. A cyber security consultant tells the FBI he broke into the computer systems aboard airlines, and took control of an engine during a flight.

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

Just hours after the United States scored a victory over ISIS, a major setback. The black flag of ISIS now flying over the Iraqi city of Ramadi just 70 miles from Baghdad. As the terror group tightens its group, thousands of civilians are fleeing the city, fearing a bloodbath.

Iraqi troops fled first in the face of a stunning ISIS military offensive. Now as the U.S.-led coalition targets ISIS from the air, the Iraqi government is calling on Iranian-backed Shiite militias for a push to try to retake Ramadi, capital of the Sunni heartland.

Meantime, we're learning new details about the Special Ops raid deep into an ISIS corner of Syria. U.S. troops fought hand to hand with ISIS terrorists, killed a senior commander, made off with what officials say is valuable intelligence linking him to American hostages. I'll talk live this hour with the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of the Armed Services Committee and our correspondents, analysts and guests are all standing by for full coverage.

But let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, first of all, what's the latest? What are you hearing about Ramadi?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon and the Obama administration calling it a setback for the Iraqis, but the State Department already saying it believes that the Iraqis will be able to retake Ramadi.

I think it is fair to say there are a good number of questions about whether that is possible at this point, whether they can retake it anytime soon. Right now, ISIS digging in. They took Ramadi with waves and waves of attacks, car bombs, fighters moving in. It was a pitched battle.

Ramadi had been under siege for months by ISIS, but this time over the weekend, they were able to mass a significant offensive ISIS military force. That's what the U.S. had been saying ISIS could not do. They were down to moving just in small groups, but not in Ramadi. They were able to mass fire power.

So now the question is going to be, can Iraqis, even with the help of Shia militias, move back into this Sunni area if ISIS is digging in minute by minute? Can the Iraqis actually dislodge them anytime soon?

BLITZER: Ramadi, let's not forget, it's a big city. Half a million people at least used to live there. In the last few weeks and months, 120,000 people have fled Ramadi.

Barbara, let's move on to another major development. You were the first. You broke the story early Saturday morning of an ISIS raid. Explain what you learned, what happened? Because this is potentially, a very significant development, as well.

STARR: Indeed. The man, the Pentagon says is named Abu Sayyaf, what is his real name? Still many questions about that. The Obama administration not yet releasing his full, true, real name.

What do we know about him? Who is he? U.S. officials saying over the weekend he is the ISIS money man. He ran the oil and gas operations, but indeed, he also had a lot of information, a lot of military intelligence, information potentially about hostages.

Delta Force, Army Delta Force commandos moved in overnight on Friday. They went to this site via helicopter with fresh intelligence, knowing he would be there. They had him under surveillance since March, but they had very fresh intelligence knowing he would be at that site. It raises an awful lot of questions about what Delta Force knew, what surveillance they had, what information was coming in.

They got to the site. A big firefight broke out. In the end, Abu Sayyaf was killed in that firefight, Delta coming into hand-to-hand combat with the ISIS forces there.

Now, they are going through the laptops, the cell phones, all electronic media. They seized to see what they can learn, what information he had. Perhaps most sensitive at this point, what information, if any, did he have about the fate and handling of American hostages that were held by ISIS before they were killed?

[17:05:07] Our own Jim Acosta learning that the White House called some of the American hostage families after the raid to tell them that they were looking for this information -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, excellent reporting. Thank very much.

So is the killing of that senior ISIS commander a crucial blow to the terror group, and who's really running ISIS right now? Brian Todd has been digging into this part of the story.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we're learning that -- we're told that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is, quote, "still a player," still running day-to-day operations for ISIS, but we also have new information on how ISIS has spread its leadership structure around and tried to inoculate itself from so-called decapitation strikes.

We're told operations like the one that took out ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf over the weekend are effective against the group, but they're not fatal.


TODD (voice-over): A prize kill for the U.S.-led coalition. Abu Sayyaf, who U.S. officials say had a key role in ISIS's black market oil and gas operations and its military exploits, is taken off the battlefield. But he's not even on the top ten list of ISIS leaders.

So who's in charge? By most indications, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the same black-robed, mysterious and secrecy-obsessed Iraqi jihadist, whose only public appearance was at this mosque in Mosul last summer.

Last week he released an audiotape calling for new recruits. The Pentagon dismisses reports that Baghdadi was severely injured recently in a coalition airstrike. U.S. officials tell CNN he remains, quote, "a player still taking part in the day-to-day running of ISIS."

MICHAEL WEISS, AUTHOR: Look, he is the lodestone, a religious figure to which all the so-called Mujahidin are drawn. I'm sure he's playing a central role in military strategic planning.

TODD: But if Baghdadi were to be taken out, who would replace him? Abu Alaa al-Afri, a shadowy operative who would be expected to take control of day-to-day operations.

Al-Afri is said to have been Osama bin Laden's favorite candidate for the top job in ISIS when Baghdadi's predecessor was killed in 2010. The U.S. has a $7 million reward for information on al-Afri. U.S. officials say they cannot corroborate reports from the Iraqi military that al-Afri was killed in a coalition strike last week.

Another potential leader, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a spokesman for ISIS who specifically called for supporters to launch lone-wolf attacks in the west. America's bounty for him, $5 million. But analysts say ISIS has positioned itself to not be dependent on a few people at the top.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: It's become very clear that even killing the leader of ISIS and its predecessor organization, al Qaeda in Iraq, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has not been able to significantly impact the organization.

TODD: Analysts liken ISIS to a well-organized Mafia family, so well diversified that even losing Abu Sayyaf's ability to run its oil operations doesn't hurt that much. They're lining their pockets from several sources.

JESSICA LEWIS, INSTITUTE TO THE STUDY OF WAR: From kidnapping to extortion to brothels, to selling precious artifacts from ancient sites that are inside the territory that they control.

TODD: And analysts say ISIS isn't just in Syria and in Iraq anymore. It's taken its black-market operations and diversified leadership structure to places like Africa and South Asia. Another reason that experts say decapitation strikes won't finish this group off, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Brian, learning about some palace intrigue among the leadership of ISIS for who's going to really be in control of that terror group?

TODD: It's fascinating, Wolf. A key reason that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the top leader of ISIS is because he is from a family that claims some direct lineage to the Prophet Mohammed.

Well, analysts say the No. 2 leader, the man who we profiled in our piece, Abu Alaa al-Afri, has been maneuvering to claim the top job. No. 1, by preaching, giving a sermon in the same mosque that al- Baghdadi gave last summer when he gave that famous sermon in a mosque in Mosul. That al-Afri gave a sermon there recently also.

And also al-Afri is trying to repaint his own family history to claim that he is also a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, but analysts say he doesn't have much credibility there and he's also not Arab. He's Turkmen. So that might work against him. It's fascinating to hear about the palace intrigue, even though al-Baghdadi is the top dog. There are still people under him maneuvering to maybe try to claim that role.

BLITZER: And we heard that audiotape from al-Baghdadi last week.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now. Joining us from the Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is expected to officially announce campaign for president of the United States on June 1. Senator, we'll talk about that a little bit later.

But based on the information you have, how important was this guy, Abu Sayyaf?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I think it's -- congratulations to those who did the operation. Well done, Mr. President, but at the end of the day, you're going to have to do this every day and every night for a long time to neuter this organization.

[17:10:05] That's what we did in 2007, '08 and '09 in Iraq. Went after the leadership every night. So this is a step in the right direction. That's certainly by no mean a strategy by itself. BLITZER: Do you know if Abu Sayyaf ever actually killed Americans?

GRAHAM: No, I don't. I just know that he was, you know, a key leader in ISIS's organization. We know what works. The surge in Iraq in 2007-08 worked. We put extra troops in. We partnered with Iraqis, who went after terrorists by the day, and by night we hit them hard. And we killed a lot of them, and eventually, we got al Qaeda in Iraq on their knees. And if we left some troops behind in Iraq, I think we wouldn't have this problem today.

BLITZER: There's a lot of speculation that this Abu Sayyaf may not necessarily have been all that important. Only the other day the Justice Department put out a most wanted list of the ISIS terrorists out there, he was not included. And a lot of ISIS experts don't even know who this guy was?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, we killed bin Laden, and al Qaeda didn't go away. So the only thing I can tell the American people, that to get Iraq in a better place and to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria, we have to change our strategy. There's just no other way to do it.

I mean, President Bush faced this problem in 2006. This strategy was not working. He came up with a new strategy orchestrated by General Petraeus and General Kaine (ph) called the surge. If this president doesn't adjust a strategy, we're going to get hit here at home by the problems over there.

BLITZER: Do you know if Abu Sayyaf actually provided any specific information to his wife, Umm Sayyaf, who was also captured? Because she's now -- presumably, she's going to be interrogated by U.S. and Iraqi officials?

GRAHAM: No, I do not. But I know this is a good capture. It's a good kill. But we have to do it a lot more all over Iraq and Syria. And we need more American forces in Iraq to help rebuild the Iraqi security forces. And if the Shia militia are relied upon to liberate Anbar that gives Iran a very strong hand in Iraq, and I worry about a bloodbath in the process of liberating Ramadi to have the Shia militia do it. It just shows you how failed the strategy is.

BLITZER: Senator, I'd like you to stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, including a disaster unfolding in the Anbar province where Ramadi is right now. Much more with Senator Lindsey Graham, right after this.


[17:16:58] BLITZER: We're back with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. He's also officially expected to announce his campaign for president of the United States on June 1.

Senator, the secretary of state, John Kerry, says he's absolutely confident that the takeover of Ramadi, a major Iraqi city in the Anbar province, by these ISIS terrorists, he says it will be reversed in the days ahead. Do you agree with the secretary? GRAHAM: I think it can be. At the end of the day, Shia militia, if

they're called in to save Ramadi, that says all you need to know about the state of the Iraqi security forces.

The reason Ramadi is important is because it's the capital of the Sunni-Arab part of Iraq. And here's what it really matters. The Sunnis in Anbar province cannot trust the Baghdad government to take care of them. This is a big blow to political reconciliation.

So if ISIL is able to defeat the Iraqi Army and Anbar province, the Sunnis no longer can feel that they're part of Iraq, and that's the big blow here.

BLITZER: The U.S. spent a decade training and arming the Iraqi Army. They used to have a big force, 200,000, 300,000 troops. The U.S. spent billions and billions of dollars providing them with the best weapons and the most sophisticated training. Yet this Army has turned out to be a disaster. Why?

GRAHAM: Well, at the end of the day, Iraq was moving in the right direction in 2011. The military leadership of this country advised President Obama to leave 10,000 troops behind to continue training and partnering.

When we pulled the plug, the security vacuum created by our absence allowed al Qaeda in Iraq to come back and most of the Army is made up of Shias, and they're aren't going to die in Anbar province and they're not going to die in Mosul.

We had the country on track to political reconciliation. Security was in a good place, and when we withdrew it all went to hell, as I predicted, in 2011.

So if we retake Ramadi, and we retake Mosul; and we don't leave American forces behind to help keep this country together, it will all happen again. And you'll never fix Iraq without dealing with Syria and we have absolutely no strategy in Syria.

BLITZER: But the prime minister at that time, Nuri al-Maliki, he turned out to be a disaster, too. Right?

GRAHAM: Yes, he was, but the problem was that the American government, the White House, was offering less than 3,000 troops as a follow-on force, not enough to make a difference, but when we pulled out he went back to his sectarian ways. Iraq split apart. The security environment deteriorated, and everything we fought for, everything that was sacrificed on behalf of the American taxpayer and the American soldier, was just squandered by President Obama.

President Bush made plenty of mistakes. He's smart enough to adjust in 2006, but President Obama's decision to withdraw all forces in the face of sound military advice has come back to haunt us in Iraq and Syria, and if he doesn't adjust his policy, this problem's going to get worse over there and eventually come here.

[17:20:10] BLITZER: So you don't accept the notion Nuri al-Maliki, who was the prime minister of Iraq at the time, rejected U.S. requests...


BLITZER: ... that any U.S. troops who remained there would have immunity from Iraqi prosecution? Once he rejected that, the U.S. got out?

GRAHAM: That was a complete, absolute lie. I was on the ground talking to Maliki, and every political leader in Iraq, they were willing to have a follow-on force; but the administration got the answer they wanted. The president wanted to keep a political promise to get us out of Iraq, and he did. And it made it possible for us to stay. When he says otherwise, he is rewriting history.

This has come back to haunt him. It's come back to haunt our country. It's destroying Iraq. Syria's hell on earth because of his decision to withdraw all forces. He got the answer he wanted, Wolf. He's not going to be able to rewrite history here. What do we do going forward is the question.

BLITZER: Well, we'd like to get to that in a moment. But let's look back a moment. More than 1,000 American troops died in that battle for the Anbar province. Did they die in vain?

GRAHAM: No. They died trying to give Iraq a chance, making our lives better here at home. By taking the fight to radical Islamists who have a goal not only to occupy Iraq but to hit us here at home.

The soldier did their job. Iraq was in a good place in 2011. Political progress was being had. The security environment had been fundamentally changed. The surge worked. The soldiers are not the problem. It's the political leadership of President Obama that's created this mess.

And if you want to turn it around, you're going to have to send more American soldiers to train the Iraqi Army in a more effective manner, and you're going to have to do something about Syria.

BLITZER: You want to be president of the United States. You're running for the Republican presidential nomination. Was the Iraq war a mistake?

GRAHAM: No. I don't think so. I think at the end of the day, if I know now -- then what I know now, a land invasion may not have been the right answer, but Saddam Hussein was firing at American planes patrolling Iraqi skies under international law. He was denying U.N. weapons inspectors access to sites where we thought there would be weapons of mass destruction. He was killing his own people.

The biggest mistake we made was leaving Iraq without a follow-on force against sound military advice.

There's two things going on in the Mideast that people need to understand. A fight for the heart and soul of the Islamic faith. Radical Islamists are a small minority. We need to decide with the 90 percent, 95 percent who would live in peace with us to destroy this radical ideology. And people in the Mideast are no longer going to live in dictatorships for our convenience.

So to those who think that this is a temporary problem or that we brought this upon ourselves, you don't know what you're talking about. We got hit in 2001, two years before we invaded Iraq. We didn't have one soldier, we didn't have an embassy, we didn't have one dime of aid going into Afghanistan, and they hit us anyway, because this is a religious war. Not caused by Iraq or Libya.

BLITZER: But Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

GRAHAM: Well, he had a lot to do in terms of destabilizing the region. He had invaded his neighbor. He was violating U.N. mandates about inspecting sites as part of the -- ending the first Gulf War. He was shooting at American aircraft patrolling the skies over Iraq as part of the no-fly zone. He was gassings the Kurds. I am glad he is gone. At the end of the day, I blame President Obama for the mess in Iraq and Syria, not President Bush.

BLITZER: You don't say President Bush made a major blunder in going to war against Saddam Hussein. If you had to do it all over again, you would have done the same thing? Is that what you're saying?

GRAHAM: I'm saying I don't know if I would have done a ground invasion to get rid of Saddam Hussein, knowing that the intelligence about his weapons program was faulty. But I'd kept the pressure to get rid of Saddam.

The world is better off without Saddam Hussein. At the end of the day, the Iraqi people were making progress on the security front, on the economic front, and on the political front. That is an undeniable fact. Leaving Iraq too soon, not leaving a residual force has resulted in what you see today. And it is in our national security interests to get Iraq in a better position and to do something about Syria.

Syria is the most likely launching pad for an attack on the United States. ISIL has a stronghold in Syria. There's no strategy to deal with that stronghold. And the longer ISIL is allowed to survive in Iraq and Syria, the more likely they are to attack us here at home.

I am sorry it's going to take reengagement by the American people through their -- for their military; economic support to Iraq and Syria. I wish it were not this way. But I'm thinking about running for president, and here's what I would tell the American people if I do run.

The outcome in Iraq matters to us. You can't allow ISIL to run wild throughout Syria and Iraq, thinking it won't matter to us. We're going to have to send some of our troops back over there to partner with Iraqis and Arab armies making sure that these radical Islamists don't hit us here at home.

[17:25:10] There is no easy way forward. There is no way to win this war without some of us being over there doing the fighting so they don't hit us here at home. BLITZER: Well, there still are 3,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq

right now. But what you want is a lot more. How many troops do you want there?

GRAHAM: I want to have enough to partner at the battalion level.

BLITZER: How many -- how many thousands?

GRAHAM: About 10,000. I think about 10,000.

BLITZER: You think 10,000 troops would make a real difference?

GRAHAM: Yes. I think 10,000 troops would allow us to train the Iraqi Army at a faster pace, give them capability that they don't have. And this raid in Syria was a good step.

But if I were president of the United States, there would be raids every night in Iraq and Syria against the leadership of ISIL. They would never know a minute's peace. If they picked up the phone, if they got in the car, they'd be subject to being killed.

This is the only way you can do it, is you've got to hit them hard and the hit them in a sustained manner.

BLITZER: So you would support boots on the ground and presumably, unfortunately, more American troops coming home in body bags?

GRAHAM: More American troops will be subject to dying, because at the end of the day, the American forces in Iraq and those that need to go to help deal with Syria are protecting us here at home.

Let me tell you, Wolf, I've seen the war up close and personal. Four thousand American soldiers have died, plus dealing in Iraq and now over 2,000 in Afghanistan. You need to talk to the soldier. How do you think they feel seeing all they fought for just go to waste?

If I thought we could protect America without sending one soldier back to Iraq I would do it, but we cannot. We don't have enough forces in Iraq to help the Iraqis. We have no strategy in Syria.

And let me just tell you as bluntly as I know how. If we don't turn around the tide of battle, if we don't put ISIL on the run and disrupt their operations, they're going to hit us here at home. So it will take thousands of American soldiers over there to protect millions of us back here at home. And the only way I know to engage the public, if I decide to run for president, is to be honest. I don't know how to defend this nation without some of us fighting over there.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, we'll leave it on that note, but we'll continue this conversation. We'll look forward to your announcement in South Carolina on June 1. Thank you very much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

Coming up, a cyber-security consultant tells the FBI he broke into airline computer systems and took control of an engine during a flight.

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


[17:32:12] BLITZER: Our top story, ISIS captures the major Iraqi city of Ramadi even as it loses a key commander in a daring U.S. Special Ops raid.

Let's dig deeper now with our CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA official. Our CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. And our CNN global affairs analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese, a former Delta Force commander.

Colonel Reese, take us inside the Delta Force operation. How important is it that this guy, Abu Sayyaf, is now dead? What information might the U.S. learn from his wife, Umm Sayyaf? And how long would U.S. forces, Delta Forces have trained for a daring operation like this one?

LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, let me start from back to first there. So Delta Force has been doing this over 35 years now. As you know, it was stood up with the Iran incident for our hostages in Iran.

Since 9/11, these type of operations have been going on throughout the Middle East, both at the Joint Special Operations Command has been running. What Delta has done and Joint Special Operations Command, especially in Iraq.

And the senator said it right. When we were there, we had home field advantage. We would run these operations and conduct 12, 15 operations a night, and start coming back on the helicopters just at dawn.

Now that we've lost that home field advantage, now we have to do these long-range hits.

For his wife, I believe that we're going to glean some information from her, at least -- who are the people he's been around? Maybe his moving patterns. Who are other people, what other operations were going on in that aspect right there? At the end of the day, this type of operation is like mowing the grass for the Joint Special Operations Command.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, General Hertling, because you used to be involved with consolidating intelligence from a daring raid like this one. What are the next steps?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, not just consolidating the intelligence, Wolf, but also driving the raids. I suggest that General Lloyd Austin, who's the CentCom commander and the Joint Special Operations commander, put this raid together.

It's based on a target package. It's based on the intelligence they have. They have a big room where they're looking at a totality of networks. They're bringing a lot of information together. Once they get a target like this, that's when the fun begin. Because you start drawing the information away from what you found on the scene and what you might get through interrogation.

It will unravel continuous threads and perhaps allow them to connect the dots much like a great, big crossword puzzle, where you begin to see things that help you solve other things.

So something like this will give you a great deal, a treasure-trove, potentially, of intelligence that will allow you to go after a lot of other things, especially in the financial agreement.

BLITZER: That's a fair point.

Phil Mudd, though, some critics are already saying all that is true. Why did the U.S. have to publicize all this information? Why not keep it secret? Why do we all have to know that Abu Sayyaf was killed, his wife was taken, a Yezidi woman that was a sex slave over there, she's now been freed? Why IS all this information being made public by the U.S. military right now?

[17:35:12] PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, first, the adversary knows what happened here. So I'm not sure we're giving the adversary an advantage. That's what I always thought about we're giving out information at the FBI or the CIA to the public. Are we giving the adversary an advantage? They don't get one here.

Second, let's be clear: this is Washington, D.C. This is a success. The White House likes to talk about success, not so much about failure.

Third and final, there is a public policy issue. The president has said we've got an advisory role in Iraq. Now we have Special Forces are going into a lethal situation. I think it's fair for the White House to tell the American people, they're American citizens. That is soldiers at risk in a combat zone. That's a pretty significant change from just having people out in advisory roles.

BLITZER: On Ramadi, General Hertling, as you know, this is a city of about a half a million people. About 120,000 of them in the last several weeks have fled Ramadi.

The ISIS guys, they go in there and they start; and they defeat the regular Iraqi military, was supposedly in control. And now they run away like they did in Mosul last year, and they leave behind tons of military equipment, mostly U.S.-made and the Iraqi -- the ISIS military. These are former Saddam loyalists. They know how to use them. How much of a setback is this?

HERTLING: Well, I think you're going to see continued clashing, violent clashes, and exchange of ground in Ramadi and throughout Anbar province.

Wolf, make no mistake about it: Anbar is very different than the northern part of Iraq where I commanded. It is a Sunni province with interesting political approaches to things. Very interesting tribal dynamics and very interesting military approaches.

The Baghdad government does have to give them some leeway in terms of building their forces up. And there's going to be some interesting dynamics over the next week, because I'm going to make a prediction.

We are going to see a lot of clashes in Ramadi over the next week plus. There's going to be a continued fight in this ground. There's going to be retaking and taking of places. And it's the difference between a long, strategic war versus a short, tactical fight. We're in a tactical fight right now but in a long strategic war. The government of Iraq has to stand up, and get forces built and use other forces in that area.

BLITZER: Why couldn't, Colonel Reese, why couldn't the Iraqi military, and I've pointed this out many times, trained by the United States, armed by the United States, financed by the United States, over a decade, protect its own people? Forget about Mosul last year but in Ramadi in recent days?

REESE: Well, Wolf, we know -- it's been very well spelled out for us -- that the soldiers out in the Ramadi area and in al Anbar did not have the manning and equipment over the past year.

And one of the problems we've watched with the Iraqis, the soldiers want to fight. Both Sunni and Shia. They have a common enemy. But one of the things the Iraqi government and the senior military has to do is work on their logistics and their supply trains, what we called it, to make sure that the equipment is getting out to the right folks. If that gets cut off or is delayed, that stops the fighting forces from doing those things.

So what I believe is going to happen here, a lot of these pictures seen today from northwest and west Ramadi. Everything's cleaved out. The Iraqis pull back. A tactical play. You pull back. You're going to see a lot of air power going in over the next couple days. Once we've been able to suppress the ISIS aspects, the Iraqis go back in in this tactical fight and retake that terrain.

BLITZER: Well, it hasn't happened in Mosul yet. Has it?

MUDD: No, it hasn't. And you're not going to see it in Mosul. Right now Mosul -- Mosul's isolated. They pretty much have it cleared off in the north. Pressed from the south. It's isolated. There's no reason to go into a fight there.

BLITZER: All right. James Reese, Phil Mudd, Mark Hertling, guys, thanks very much.

Important note to our viewers, 9 p.m., a CNN special report, "Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World." We're going to take you deep inside ISIS. Who are these people? What do they want? That's "Blindsided." Fareed Zakaria reports, 9 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Coming up, a disturbing new report indicates the nation's airlines are extremely vulnerable to hackers. One man tells the FBI he actually sent commands to a plane's engine during a flight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:58] BLITZER: We're learning new details about the investigation into the deadly Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. This is the first day since the accident that passenger trains are running again. One of the most important and heavily traveled areas of the northeast.

Let's go to CNN's Rene Marsh. She's at Philadelphia's main train station for us.

What's the latest, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's only one way that a train could speed up, and that's by the person driving it.

Data from the train's recorders show that this engineer manually pushed the throttles forward to increase the speed, but the question remains, why? Why did this happen?

We've been here all day talking to law enforcement and government sources, and they are all indicating that there is a sharp focus on the engineer and his handling of the train. They are looking at all possibilities. From, perhaps, he miscalculated his speed as he was navigating that turn, to even looking at the possibility that perhaps this was intentional. So everything is on the table as far as investigators go.

They're also looking at his experience. We know that he had only been on this route for a matter of weeks. Also today, Wolf, a law enforcement source is essentially throwing water on this theory that something, a projectile, was thrown at Amtrak 188, and that may have caused the crash. This source is saying that police, they listened to all of the dispatch recordings, and have heard nothing about 188 being struck. They also spoke to passengers and none of them said that the train was struck -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Rene, we'll check back with you. Thank you.

Up next, the FBI says a computer hacker claims he plugged into an airliner's computer system, sent a command that changed how the plane was flying.


[17:50:08] BLITZER: We're learning disturbing new details about airliners' potential vulnerability to hackers. An FBI warrant says one hacker plugged his computer into a -- he plugged his computer into a jet's computer system and tampered with one of the engines while the plane was in the air.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is working the story for us.

What are you learning, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you the FBI is taking Roberts' alarming allegations here, what he's claiming he did seriously enough that it issued an affidavit saying that it thought Roberts had the ability to possibly access several of commercial plane systems through the in-flight entertainment systems. In fact Roberts claims he has accessed plane systems 15 to 20 times since 2011 in an effort to improve aviation security.


BROWN (voice-over): It's an aviation nightmare, a passenger plane in mid flight makes a surprise move sideways, controlled not by the pilots in the cockpit but by a passenger seated in the cabin. This man, Chris Roberts, a cyber security consultant, tells the FBI he did just that, to expose aircraft cyber vulnerabilities.

In this affidavit, Roberts says he issued a command that, quote, "caused one of the airplane engines to climb, resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane."

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Absolutely a flight crew would notice extraneous input to their airplane, albeit engine controls or flight controls.

BROWN: Roberts claims on multiple occasions he has reached on one of the passenger seats to what's called a seat electronics box, plugged his laptop in through an Ethernet jack and hacked into the in-flight entertainment system, connecting him to the flight and navigation systems.

BRIAN CUNNINGHAM, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT: The very idea that they're making airplanes with these boxes under the seats that you can hard wire a cable to is mind-boggling to me.

BROWN: The FBI seized Roberts' electronics in April after he tweeted about the possibility of activating the oxygen masks on a United flight from Denver to Chicago. Airplane manufacturers are pushing back. Boeing says its aircrafts, inflight entertainment systems on commercial airplanes are isolated from flight and navigation systems, but would not explain how the systems are separated.

CUNNINGHAM: If it's only separated by a firewall or a piece of software but they're inside the same hardware, then I think that's a much more serious risk.

BROWN: A government report in April warned of potential cybersecurity risks for airlines saying technologies including passenger Wi-Fi systems create, quote, "The possibility that unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionic systems.


BROWN: A senior law enforcement official says there is no credible information to suggest an airplane's flight control system can be accessed or manipulated from its flight entertainment system. And United says it is confident these claims are unfounded but would not be specific about which claims it's talking about. Wolf, we did reach out to Roberts. We have not heard back but in a

tweet he says he has been advised against speaking given his current situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Pamela, thanks very much.

Let's get some insight now from former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz, our aviation analyst.

Do you buy this notion that this guy Chris Roberts could actually get inside the computer system and deal with the engine, move the plane around in flight?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I have to tell you I'm skeptical. I agree with Les Abend. I mean, if there was any unauthorized or uncommanded activity on the part of the engines or on the directional control of the plane, the pilots would notice it and they would report it. They would report it immediately.

And the other thing that makes me skeptical is, you know, this event supposedly happened 30 days ago. It can't be verified now on the flight data recorder because by now the recorder would have, you know, taped over that event. If he claimed it and released it a week afterward, we could have checked his allegations.

BLITZER: But forget about this specific allegation. In general, how vulnerable are planes to being hacked?

GOELZ: I think the GAO report was right, that there is a potential vulnerability. It needs to be looked at. But the vulnerability is not there right now.

BLITZER: But it's something that passengers have to worry about down the road?

GOELZ: It's something that the airlines have to deal with and the manufacturers have to deal with, and they have to deal it with quickly.

BLITZER: All right. Good advice, Peter. Thanks very much.

Coming up, a daring and dangerous U.S. raid to take on a top ISIS commander. We're going inside that Delta Force mission with a former Delta Force commander.

And do police really need bayonets and grenade launchers? President Obama doesn't think so. Why he's now banning the transfer of some U.S. military equipment to local and state police forces.



BLITZER: Happening now, ISIS victory. The terrorists claimed a new prize. Seizing a strategically important Iraqi city. Is the U.S. trying to downplay a stinging loss in the region where Americans have spilled lots of blood.

Raid secrets revealed. We're learning more about a U.S. special ops attack that killed an ISIS commander. Was there a link to American hostages?

Officers disarmed. President Obama orders new moves to demilitarize police after deadly protests and riots from Ferguson to Baltimore. Will it make a difference?

And 2015 minefield. Jeb Bush isn't the only Republican struggling with questions about the Iraq war and whether it was a mistake. How will this issue play out in the race for the White House?

[18:00:09] We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.