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THE SITUATION ROOM
Chinese Military Confronts U.S. Spy Plane; ISIS Commander's Widow Talking to U.S. Interrogators; More Cities Falling to ISIS Forces; North Korea Claims Nukes Capable of Hitting U.S. Aired 5-6:00p ET
Aired May 20, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, spy plane confrontation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Chinese navy. This is the Chinese navy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's there exclusively as China's military confronts an American spy plane. Our crew on board for the tense encounter. Why is China building a secret military base in disputed waters?
Terror gains. Another city falls to ISIS as thousands flee advancing terrorist forces. Is the wife of an ISIS commander now giving vital new information to U.S. interrogators?
Nuclear reaction. North Korea now says it has the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons able to fit onto missiles that could hit U.S. troops and allies.
But Washington remains skeptical. We'll get the latest from the State Department's deputy spokeswoman.
Kim's defectors. Kim Jong-un parades once-starving citizens who tried to flee, showing them off exclusively before CNN's cameras in an effort to soften the image of his ruthless regime. Is this the latest propaganda tied to Kim flexing his country's nuclear muscle?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The tense confrontation between Chinese's military and an American spy plane monitoring disturbing developments in disputed waters hundreds of miles off the Chinese coast. That's where Beijing is building manmade islands that could serve as launching points for sea battles against the United States and its allies.
We're also following the latest ISIS onslaught, with more cities falling to terrorist forces in a bloody offensive that has tens of thousands of people fleeing for their lives right now.
And we're also learning the U.S. may be getting some vital new information from the wife of an ISIS commander. We're covering those stories much more this hour with our correspondents around the world and our guests, including -- there you see her -- the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
But let's begin with our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's in Manila right now in the Philippines. He has an exclusive report on that confrontation between the Chinese military and a U.S. spy plane.
Jim, tell our viewers what happened.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it comes down to a fundamental potentially dangerous disagreement. Though these islands are brand-new, manufactured, in fact, China views them as sovereign territory. The U.S. views them as international waters, international air space, and it demonstrates that, it did today by flying over them, sailing nearby them. Chinese protests getting louder, U.S. moves getting bolder, the tension there escalating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign military aircraft, this is Chinese navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): High above the South China Sea, the radio crackles with a stern warning. The source of dispute appears on the horizon seemingly out of nowhere, islands manmade by China hundreds of miles from its coastline.
(on camera): When was the last time you went up?
(voice-over): CNN got exclusive access to classified U.S. surveillance flights over the islands. The first time journalists have been allowed on an operational mission by the state-of-the-art P- 88 Poseidon, America's most advanced surveillance and sub-hunting aircraft.
(on camera): So we've just arrived on station now above the three islands that are the targets of today's mission. It's these three islands that have been the focus of China's building in the South China Sea over recent years.
(voice-over): China's alarming creation of entirely new territory in the South China Sea is one part of a broader military push that some fear is to challenge U.S. dominance in the region, sailing its first aircraft carrier, equipping its nuclear missiles with multiple warheads, developing missiles to destroy U.S. aircraft, and now building military bases far from its shores.
For the U.S., the islands are a step too far. This flight is part of a new and bold American military response that may soon including sailing U.S. warships close by, as well.
In just two years, China has expanded these islands by 2,000 acres, the equivalent of 1,500 football fields and counting, an engineering marvel in waters as deep as 300 feet.
(on camera): You're a military man. You look at this. Is there any doubt that that is a future military installation?
CAPT. MIKE PARKER, COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: It appears to be a build-up of military infrastructure, not to mention we were just challenged probably 30 minutes ago. And the challenge came from the Chinese navy. And I'm highly confident it came from a shore on this facility here.
[17:05:07] SCIUTTO (voice-over): What used to be the Fiery Cross Reef now has early warning radar, an airport tower, and a runway long enough to handle every aircraft in the Chinese military. Some are calling it China's unsinkable aircraft carrier.
These videos of the islands, taken from the P-8's advanced surveillance cameras, never before declassified.
In a sign of just how valuable China views them, the new islands are already well-protected.
LT. CMDR. MATT NEWMAN, MISSION COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: There's obviously a lot of surface traffic down there. Chinese warships and Chinese coast guard ships.
SCIUTTO: We heard the proof, the Chinese navy ordering the P-8 out of the airspace not once, not twice, but eight times on this mission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Chinese navy. This is the Chinese navy. Please go away quickly.
SCIUTTO: And like the surveillance videos, the audio of these warnings never before shared with the public.
(on camera): You heard over the intercom, "Chinese navy. This is the Chinese navy." What was interesting is that there are also civilian aircraft. There was a Delta flight on that same frequency that, when it heard that challenge, it piped into the frequency to say, "What's going on?"
The Chinese navy then reassuring them, but as the flight crew tells me, that could be a very nerve-wracking experience for civilian aircraft in the area.
(voice-over): And the more China builds, we're told, the more frequently and aggressively it warns away U.S. aircraft.
PARKER: This is a dredger actually pumping sand from under the water on top of an area they're trying to build up land. And we see this every day. So I think they work weekends when they're doing this. SCIUTTO (on camera): Twenty-four/7?
PARKER: It happens. We see it all the time.
SCIUTTO: Looking at these islands, you see the landing strips. You see military barracks. You see roads being built, trucks driving on those roads, and squadrons of dredgers and cargo ships adding to them every day. I have to say, Wolf, as you see them, they look like very permanent installations. It's difficult to see out, even with increased U.S. military traffic in the area, how China backs down.
BLITZER: Jim, why the increased concern about all of this right now? Because I know there is intense concern at the highest levels of the United States government.
SCIUTTO: It's two things, Wolf. One, it is pace. Over the span of just two years, China has expanded the area of these islands from five acres to 2,000 acres 400 times, and it's rising every day. We saw that today.
But it is also this. It is the militarization of them, putting in landing craft that can carry the largest military aircraft in the Chinese arsenal, the early warning radar systems, deep-water harbors that can accommodate U.S. -- rather, Chinese navy ships. It is that militarization that has the U.S. now considering a bolder military response.
BLITZER: And when the Chinese military says to the American Poseidon, the crew up there, "Please go away quickly," what's the reaction from the crew inside that Poseidon surveillance plane?
SCIUTTO: Well, they recite very calmly a script. They say that "We see these as international waters, international airspace and that the U.S. will continue peacefully. And I'll tell you, there was one instance there that, when that American pilot delivered that message, I heard the frustration from the Chinese radio operator on the ground, coming back simply saying, "Go, go, go away!" You can hear the anger there. It's hard to see how this tension doesn't escalate going forward.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto with an exclusive report for us. Thanks very much. We're going to get reaction to that. That's coming up.
But also, there's breaking news about ISIS that we're following, vital new information U.S. interrogators may be getting out of the widow of an ISIS commander. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us for the latest. Barbara, what are you picking up?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that raid over the weekend killed Abu Sayyaf, a top ISIS commander. U.S. officials took his wife, Umm Sayyaf, into custody. They've been interrogating her in Iraq. And now, a short time ago, a U.S. official tells me now she is
talking. She is cooperating. She is engaging with the U.S. interrogation team. She is offering information.
Now, of course, how valuable is the information? Is she offering things just to perhaps try and save herself? They're going to be vetting all of it, trying to see what they can corroborate.
They're talking to her about her husband's ISIS operations, money, financing and a very sensitive matter, Wolf. Did these two people at any point have any American hostages in their custody? What do they know about the American hostages? Do they know anything about the network that held them, how they were held, where they were held? This is one of the top pieces of information the U.S. would like to get from her -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Barbara, we also know ISIS is taking over the ancient Syrian city of Palmira right now. And potentially, they're going to not only slaughter a lot of people, as they often do, but destroy 1,000 -- 1,000-year-old artifacts, archaeological treasures. How bad is the situation, based on what you're hearing?
[17:10:13] STARR: Wolf, a potential historical and cultural disaster in the works. Already the United Nations weighing in. This is a world heritage site of UNESCO, as you say, centuries old. ISIS is in the modern part of the city, a short distance away. Syrian forces have had to back off.
And obviously, ISIS has done this before, gone into these areas of priceless antiquities and destroyed them as part of their rage. A lot of concern about this area and what may happen in the coming hours and days. Now, of course, this comes just as the U.S. is absorbing what has happened in Ramadi and trying to figure out what may happen next -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll have more on this story coming up, as well. Barbara, thank you.
Now to North Korea's frightening nuclear claim. Kim Jong-un's regime says it now has the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons and place them on missiles capable of striking U.S. troops, even the U.S. homeland. Brian Todd is here. He's working this part of the story for us.
Brian, what are you hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight Kim Jong-un is being blatantly aggressive, forcing the White House and State Department to reassure Americans that he doesn't have the capacity to hit the U.S. with nuclear warheads.
But what worries experts and officials we speak to is that Kim's regime is working hard toward that goal and may later threaten the American homeland.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Brazen about his ambition, Kim Jong-un pounds
his chest over his nuclear arsenal. North Korea's state news agency says, quote, "We have had the capability of miniaturizing nuclear warheads for some time." The regime says it can also guarantee the accuracy of short- to mid-range and long-range rockets. The ominous implication: that Kim has the capability to hit the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.
The White House says it doesn't believe North Korea has that capacity but admits they are working on it and could later threaten the U.S. homeland.
Former U.N. weapons expert David Albright says the reality is in between.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS EXPERT: It's a credible claim that they could miniaturize. Where their claims are less credible is when they say they can -- they can launch missiles with nuclear weapons that are accurate.
TODD: Albright says North Korea has flight-tested missiles that can hit South Korea and Japan and has miniaturized warheads to fit those.
They've also miniaturized warheads to fit missiles that can reach the U.S., he says, but those missiles would have to travel through space, then reenter the atmosphere. Albright says North Korea hasn't flight tested those missiles yet, and they could break up.
ALBRIGHT: You may be down to 10, 20 percent chance of success, and are you willing to commit suicide for a 10 percent chance of success? I mean, most nations would say absolutely not.
TODD: But Kim and his regime are not most nations. He recently boasted a test firing of a missile from a submarine, a claim U.S. officials believe was a fraud.
ADMIRAL JAMES WINNEFELD, VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Fortunately they've not gotten as close as their clever video editors and spinmeisters would have us believe. They're many years away from developing this capability.
TODD: Kim just nixed a planned visit from the U.N. Secretary- general, and he reportedly executed his own defense minister with an anti-aircraft gun just for falling asleep in meetings, a report CNN cannot independently confirm.
One analyst says Kim is the most isolated North Korean leader ever.
MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INFORMATIONAL STUDIES: We know when new units are formed or new recruits brought into the Korean People's Army now, they regularly are lined up to witness an execution. And so intimidation is very much, and has always been part of North Korea's playbook. He's really using it.
TODD: Mike Green says it has become very worrisome in terms of how decisions are made inside Kim's inner circle. Who, for instance, he says, will come up to Kim and say, "Don't do that, boss"? Green says Chinese President Xi Jinping, who would normally be North Korea's staunchest ally, can't stand Kim -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of these developments. Joining us, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
Marie, thanks very much for coming in.
I want to get right to Jim Sciutto's exclusive report. He was in that Poseidon surveillance plane. What are the Chinese up to from the U.S. perspective? Why has this become such a major source of concern, these manmade islands they're building hundreds of miles off the Chinese coast?
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Wolf, it really is, I think, the pace and the scope of how they've really upped their efforts to reclaim some of this land. And you saw it firsthand here.
You know, I was just in China with my boss, Secretary Kerry, who in every single meeting he has, starting with the president of China all the way down, raised this issue, because we are concerned that it could raise tension with China's neighbors. That's our biggest concern about this, that it could raise tensions and also possibly lead to miscommunications. So we've raised it. We think there's a way to resolve this diplomatically. But it is very concerning.
[17:15:06] BLITZER: How do you resolve this? Because they're using this for military purposes, if you believe what these Poseidon surveillance planes see, the bases that in effect they're building there.
HARF: Well, we think they need to stop this kind of land reclamation. And we've raised that at the highest levels of the Chinese government directly in the meeting Secretary Kerry just had.
But we want them to know that we're watching what they're doing. And we know what they're doing and that it's not acceptable. And that they can come back from the brink here. They need to take diplomatic steps to discuss some of this with their neighbors, really try to reduce tensions here in this part of the world.
BLITZER: Have they given you any indication they're going to do that?
HARF: I think they were good discussions, but the proof will really be in what happened on the ground, and that's what we're watching.
BLITZER: Marie, I want you to stand by, because we have much more to talk about, including what's going on in North Korea, this miniaturization of their nuclear warheads, potentially, ISIS, lots coming up.
Marie Harf is here. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.
[17:20:29] BLITZER: We're following news out of North Korea, the Kim Jong-un regime now claiming it has the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons, which could be placed on missiles capable of potentially even striking the United States.
We're back with the State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf. Marie, does North Korea have this capability, based on everything you're hearing?
HARF: We don't think they do. We don't.
BLITZER: You think they're making this kind of stuff up?
HARF: I think they say a lot of things publicly to try and make people think they have more capabilities than they do. But we haven't seen anything to indicate they do.
BLITZER: Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, was supposed to be in North Korea in the coming days, but that trip has been canceled. Do you know why?
HARF: We've seen Kim Jong-un do this with a number of senior leaders recently. He rejected, I think, a visit from the Chinese, from President Putin, I think, was going to -- to meet with them, from the South Koreans, and now from Ban Ki-Moon. So he's really isolating himself even further. This is just really the latest step in that, I think.
BLITZER: Yes. At the same time, some 30 women, including American women, Gloria Steinem among them, Nobel Prize winners, they are now in Pyongyang and getting ready in the coming days to do this peace march from North Korea to South Korea along the demilitarized zone. They say they have permission from both the North Korean government and the South Korean government.
Didn't you give them your encouragement to go on this mission when the American women on this trip left?
HARF: We certainly didn't. We are very clear that we do not believe Americans, and that's who we give advice to, should travel to North Korea. We've seen, as we've talked about Americans who are arrested there, who are detained there, we just don't think it's a place Americans should be visiting.
BLITZER: Are you worried about their -- their security? Is that what you're concerned about?
HARF: Well, there's always reasons we have these travel warnings in place. And we have seen Americans detained. We've worked very hard to get them home. But there's a reason we don't think Americans should be there.
BLITZER: Because their hope is that maybe this kind of human-to- human contact could advance the peace process, if you will, and convince the North Koreans to be more reasonable.
HARF: Well, I think what could advance the peace process is North Korea coming back in line with its international obligation, taking steps to get back to the negotiating table, and taking steps to denuclearize, like they've committed to do.
You know, we've had discussions on this last trip I was on with Secretary Kerry, with the Chinese, for example, about how we can additionally pressure the North Koreans to come back in line and really stop taking these escalatory moves.
What's your assessment of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader?
HARF: Well, look, I think he's trying to publicly make very clear that they have an arsenal that should scare people. I think he's trying to use those kind of scare tactics with this supposed submarine missile launch, this notion that they can miniaturize nuclear weapons. I think he's trying to use a lot of bravado here instead of doing what he should do, which is taking care of his own people.
He's trying to show off on the international stage and yet ignoring North Koreans who are starving, have a horrible human rights record. That's really what he should be focused on.
BLITZER: Let's talk about ISIS. They're making gains right now. It's a year now they've been in control of the second largest city of Iraq, Mosul.
Now Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, they're in control of that. In Syria, they've moving on this ancient city of Palmira, which has a lot of archaeological treasures and, of course, a lot of people right now. Potentially, they could start destroying in Palmira what they've done in other places.
Why is ISIS so capable, so strong right now and the Iraqi military, for that matter, so weak?
HARF: Well, I think we always knew that this conflict would ebb and flow. And we knew there were going to be ups and downs, and we would see scenes like Ramadi.
But when we talk about Ramadi, I think there's a few key points to make here. It's not like what we saw in Mosul. In the 96 hours since ISIS took Ramadi. The Iraqi forces have held their lines on the outside of the city. We've helped advise them and helped really consolidate those lines and planned for a counterattack.
And Iraq's political leaders at the same time came together from all different parts of the country, all different sectarian backgrounds, and came up with a plan that we're going to help them implement.
So this is a long fight here. ISIL's lost about 25 percent of the populated areas it had controlled at the start of this conflict. So there has been progress. But this is going to be a long fight. We will see things like Ramadi, but we're going to push back, help the Iraqis push back.
BLITZER: As you know, the president had an emergency meeting of his national security team, including your boss, the secretary of state, John Kerry, was there. About 25 from the intelligence community, from the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, the U.S. military commanders, they were all part of this meeting.
Is he coming up with a new strategy now, because the old strategy seems to have failed?
[17:25:03] HARF: Well, I wouldn't say the strategy failed. First of all, look, no one is sugarcoating what's happening in Ramadi here. This is very serious. But overall, ISIL has clearly been pushed back in large parts of Iraq. They've lost about 25 percent of the territory they've had.
BLITZER: But they haven't been pushed back in Mosul.
HARF: We're going to keep pushing them back.
BLITZER: They still control Mosul, a city of 2 million people.
HARF: This is going to be a long fight, Wolf, and we've always said that. And the national security team regularly gets together to talk about where the strategy is and where it's headed. There's no strategy review, per se. But we're taking stock of the situation and how we can help the Iraqis retake Ramadi and keep pushing back on ISIL.
BLITZER: Are you ready to provide weapons, arms, directly to the friendly Iraqi Sunni militias around Ramadi and the Anbar province and to the friendly Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, without going through the central government in Baghdad?
HARF: Well, all of our assistance when it comes to that sort of assistance to the Iraqis has to be coordinated and go through the central government. That's in our law...
BLITZER: Talk to the Sunnis and the Kurds. They complain they're not getting what the U.S. promises them.
HARF: We're getting it to them as quickly as we can.
BLITZER: You're getting it to the Iraqi government, but the Iraqi government isn't delivering it.
HARF: They are. They are. And they've delivered a lot.
BLITZER: Speak to the Kurds or the Sunnis, they say they're not getting it. HARF: Well, I know our folks have talked to them quite a bit.
They're getting additional weapons. We're trying to expedite this as quickly as we can. We're working with the Iraqi government as we have to. And we think it's the right thing to do.
But we are getting more weapons to them. And right now on these -- these positions outside of Ramadi, we have advisers helping them plan a counterattack, helping them consolidate their lines. And I think you'll see that going forward. We're going to help them to retake the city.
BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to "The Wall Street Journal" report that, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, some of her political aides interfered in the release of documents through the Freedom of Information Act, documents that should be made public, for political reasons. Your reaction?
HARF: Well, I saw a lot of unnamed sources in that report. And I really can't confirm. I have nothing to confirm those allegations. What I can say, though, is the State Department, there are very specific rules that govern what you release under FOIA and what's released and what's not. And that's what governs what the State Department puts out, period.
So no matter who may have been involved in conversation or may have been kept up to speed on what kind of FOIA requests we had, the rules govern what we release, period. And I have every expectation that was the case.
BLITZER: You saw the story in "The Wall Street Journal" that her top aide, Cheryl Mills, would routinely get involved and say, "Don't release this, don't release that."
HARF: Look, there are rules that govern what's released under FOIA. I have nothing to confirm those anonymous allegations made in that "Wall Street Journal" story.
Look, the secretary senior staff is kept apprised of what FOIA requests come in, as are a number of officers around this department. But there's a specific set of rules that govern what's released, and that's what was followed.
BLITZER: Marie Harf, I know you just spent three weeks on the road with the secretary of state. Thanks very much for coming in.
HARF: Happy to be here.
BLITZER: Coming up, Osama bin Laden's secret library. newly declassified documents reveal the terrorist leader read Bob Woodward as well as several popular magazines, including "Washingtonian" MAGAZINE. But he never gave up on his obsession with new attacks on the United States.
And later, North Korea's Kim Jong-un parades some forgiven defectors in front of TV cameras. What's the real story? We have an exclusive report. Stand by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Now newly declassified documents showing what Osama bin Laden was thinking, reading and doing at his hideout in Pakistan.
[17:32:50] Hundreds of documents seized during the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden were made public by the U.S. intelligence community today. It includes correspondence in which bin Laden urges his followers to concentrate on attacking and killing U.S. targets and Americans rather than trying to form an Islamic state.
The documents also show the al Qaeda leader very deeply doting on his family, giving advice and reading, actually. Bin Laden's digital library included books by Bob Woodward, Noam Chomsky and articles from "The Washingtonian" magazine and other popular magazines.
Our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, interviewed bin Laden in the 1990s, has written extensively about the hunt that killed him. He's joining us, along with our CNN counterterrorism analyst, the former CIA official, Phil Mudd, and CNN national security analyst, Fran Townsend. She was President George W. Bush's homeland security advisor.
These documents are pretty impressive when you take a look at the fact that he was reading "Washingtonian," "Business Week," "TIME," "Popular Science," especially the issue "Best Innovations of the Year." What was going on here?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Bin Laden went to the best high school in Saudi Arabia. He also went to the best university. He also read English pretty well and speaks it to some degree. And he's an educated guy. He had wide interests.
The way this worked, Wolf, is that he would ask for something. His -- somebody from his team would go and get it. They would turn it into PDFs, and they'd put it on a thumb drive and bring it into the compound. Obviously, he didn't have Internet for security reasons.
BLITZER: You know, Fran, there are sort of two sides you see of bin Laden in these documents released today by the intelligence community.
One side, you know, the stuff he's reading, the popular magazines, doting on his family, love letters that they released to one of his five wives, to his son.
On the other hand, there's other letters there where he said the focus should be on killing and fighting the American people, brutal correspondence, as well, go after the Americans, don't worry about an Islamic state, just go out and kill. What do you make of this?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, we shouldn't be surprised that there are multiple sides and none of them particularly honest, right?
[17:35:01] So we've seen -- we know Gadhafi was a lothario and liked pornography. We know that Saddam Hussein, same thing. And bin Laden is reported to have had -- found pornography in his hideout after the raid.
So, look, these guys have multiple sides. It doesn't really surprise me. And they're all very narcissistic. The continuing theme is, you know, it's all about me. And so whether you're talking about his thoughts about operational plans and running al Qaeda as an organization or talking to his wife or watching pornography, it's all about him.
BLITZER: You went through the documents, Peter. None of the documents released today include the pornography, right?
BERGEN: Correct. And you know, if you know, it is indeed true that there was pornography found on the compound, there were other adult males who might have been looking at it. Bin Laden himself was a religious zealot. I just find it hard to believe that he was watching it. I can't prove that he wasn't.
BLITZER: What do you think?
MUDD: Look, there's two pieces to this. When I was at the agency, at the bureau, we found this stuff on hard drives...
BLITZER: You mean the CIA?
MUDD: At the CIA. We found this stuff on hard drive after hard drive. I think you would be surprised how often we found it.
I would agree with Peter. If I were on the inside, one of the things I'd be really cautious about is chain of acquisition. If he was given a piece of electronic material -- a thumb drive, a laptop -- from a subordinate, that stuff might have had pornography on it already. Before you go out and say bin Laden had pornography, I'd be cautious.
BLITZER: And if he did have pornography there, why wouldn't the intelligence community release that?
MUDD: I wouldn't if I were there. You don't want to humiliate your adversary and pretend like you're laughing at him. You don't want to make him ten feet tall...
BLITZER: Even bin Laden?
MUDD: I wouldn't, if I were on the inside. I want to say, we have a serious adversary. We will take him down. We're not going to make him too big, and we're not going to pretend to his subordinates like we're laughing at him. Either way.
BLITZER: Fran, you agree with that?
TOWNSEND: Yes. I do agree with that. I wouldn't release it either. And it is true to say that there are others there.
But what Phil said is very important. We found this often in raids in Afghanistan and around the world. The fact that one was a religious zealot didn't seem to influence these guys when it came to this kind of material.
We don't know for sure it was bin Laden. There were other males there. We don't know where precisely -- and the government has not confirmed it -- about the pornography. But it shouldn't surprise anybody that these guys, what they say publicly about who and what they are doesn't always comport with what we know from our -- from the intelligence agencies and our intelligence allies.
BLITZER: What does -- do these documents tell us, Peter, about bin Laden and the al Qaeda that he created, as opposed to ISIS right now?
BERGEN: Well, yes. It's one of those great examples where you have a very sharp distinction. He's saying, "Hey, we're not ready to build an Islamic state." He was saying that to people in Yemen, and people in Algeria and other parts of al Qaeda. He said, you know, "Let's attack the United States."
ISIS is the other one around. Sure, they might want to incite an attack inside the United States, but they're really prioritizing recruiting thousands of people from around the Muslim world to come to this supposedly ideal Islamic state they're building.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, Phil Mudd, Fran Townsend, guys, thanks very much. More on this story coming up later.
Meanwhile, a CNN exclusive from North Korea: Kim Jong-un parading some once starving detainees in front of cameras even as he flexes his own nuclear muscles.
[17:42:58] BLITZER: A group of prominent women from around the world, they're in North Korea right now preparing to make a daring, potentially risky demonstration for peace. The women, including the legendary feminist Gloria Steinem, they plan to hold a peace symposium, then march across the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Joining us now on the phone from Pyongyang, North Korea, is the filmmaker Gay Dillingham.
Gay, thanks very much for joining us.
I think we may have lost Gay Dillingham. Gay, are you there?
Unfortunately, I think we have lost Gay Dillingham in Pyongyang, North Korea. We're going to try to reconnect. We're going to try to reconnect with Gay in a moment. She also is with Gloria Steinem. We want to get an eyewitness account of what's going on in North Korea right now with this peace march. So stand by. We'll try to reconnect with them.
In the meantime, we have a CNN exclusive. North Korean defectors who fled the country as starving teenagers now paraded before CNN cameras by Kim Jong-un's regime.
CNN's Will Ripley spoke to them, met with some of them. Will, you're joining us now live. You were just there yourself in North Korea. Tell us what you saw and what you heard.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you one thing. It seems as if there are two sides of North Korea. There's the North Korea that announced the expansion of their nuclear program, the miniaturization of nuclear warheads.
And then there's the North Korea that we saw on the ground which appears very concerned about what the world thinks about them, particularly on this issue of human rights and how defectors are treated if they return to the country. Here's what they showed us.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Our government minders keep the interview subject a secret until we enter the room. We find eight North Korean students, waiting to tell us how great their lives are in a country they tried to escape.
The students' bizarre journey began several years ago. Each ran away from North Korea, finding refuge with a missionary in China. He says the teens were desperately trying to escape chronic hunger.
M.J., MISSIONARY: They looked for fish bones and rice to mix together to make porridge. They'd eat toothpaste to help them digest it.
WILL RIPLEY CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): How many of you were hungry?
(Voice-over): Under the watchful eye of three government officials, the students are reluctant to admit ever being hungry. Their country suffered famine. The United Nations World Food program says millions of North Koreans today don't have enough to eat. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un accused of spending massive amounts on the military and nuclear weapons at the expense of feeding his own people.
(On camera): So four of you, four of you were hungry?
(Voice-over): The missionary who housed and fed the students in China promised a life of freedom in South Korea. But when he tried smuggling them in, border guards sent them back North to the country they fled. The students admit they were scared.
JANG GUK HWA, RETURNED DEFECTOR (Through Translator): The missionary made us think if we went back, we'd be killed.
RIPLEY: It's a fate others have reportedly faced.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) is yet another human scum.
RIPLEY: This North Korean propaganda videos call defectors scum of the earth. The videos are in English, handed out to news outlets, including CNN, part of a new Pyongyang PR blitz, trying to paint defectors as criminals.
There were dire predictions. Students would face prison, hard labor, even execution when they return to North Korea. Today, their government is parading them in front of our cameras as poster children of Pyongyang's compassion and forgiveness.
RYU CHOI RYONG, RETURNED DEFECTOR (Through Translator): Being back home, I'm happy. I love my life.
RIPLEY: CNN did not see their actual living conditions. But each insists life is better now than before they defected.
(On camera): What would you say to people listening to this who say it sounds like your government is forcing you to say this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): We were never forced to say this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): We are tensed.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Pets are what Pyongyang considers defectors who do make it out, claiming they're coerced to testify about widespread human rights abuses and suffering at the hands of a brutal, repressive regime.
North Korea wants you to believe this is what life is really like. They question why anyone would want to leave.
RIPLEY: So clearly you have an attempt to try to discredit the testimony of hundreds of defectors. That testimony of widespread human rights abuses and repression, of course, has been tremendously damaging for the regime, Wolf. But then you have actions like today canceling Ban Ki-Moon's visit to the area near the demilitarized zone, the Kaesong industrial complex, and then the military rhetoric umpping up. So it's really hard to decipher what exactly North Korea's motive is right now. Unpredictable regime is probably the best way to sum it up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You were just there. All right, Will Ripley reporting for us, thank you very much.
We're going to have more on the North Korea situation coming up. A group of women including Americans, they're planning a potentially risky peace march across the demilitarized zone from North to South Korea. We're standing by. We'll talk with one of them.
Plus, more on the breaking news we're following, the widow of an ISIS commander killed in a U.S. special operations forces raid now providing information to U.S. interrogators. We're going live to the Pentagon.
[17:52:43] BLITZER: Breaking news. A group of prominent women from around the world, they're now in North Korea preparing to make a daring, potentially risky demonstration for peace.
Joining us on the phone from Pyongyang right now, the filmmaker Gay Dillingham and Gloria Steinem from the United States.
Gay, quickly to you, tell us what's going on? How have you been received so far? I know you and your fellow women over there, they're trying to make this trip, this march, from North into South Korea along the DMZ.
GAY DILLINGHAM, WITH WOMEN PEACE ACTIVISTS IN NORTH KOREA: Hi, Wolf. Yes, we do like to call it a march -- I mean, excuse me, a walk, instead of a march, if we may. Militaries march and women like to walk. So we were -- after the press conference in Beijing, which I think you all covered, we flew into Pyongyang day before yesterday. A very warm reception with our hosts which are a number of different women's groups here on the ground in North Korea.
And I will say compared to when you and I came December 2010, there's a new airport being built. Takes a while. Things are looking different because we're in May versus December. There was quite a bit more traffic. Things are green. We had very warm reception yesterday. What we did was we -- they toured us -- you know, we had our orientation in terms of touring to see a hospital, we saw a school.
And today we are having a peace symposium with the North Korean women. And we spent a little bit of time -- excuse me.
BLITZER: Yes, Gay, let me ask Gloria Steinem a quick question.
Gloria, tell our viewers --
DILLINGHAM: OK. Well, here she is.
BLITZER: All right. Good.
All right. Gloria, are you there?
GLORIA STEINEM, PEACE ACTIVIST: Yes, I am.
BLITZER: All right. Gloria, tell us what the mission is all about. What do you hope to achieve?
STEINEM: We hope to achieve what the North and South Korean women cannot, which is to cross the DMZ peacefully and show that it is a temporary and was always intended to be a temporary division. They cannot walk, we can.
This is an enormously impressive and representative delegation of outstanding women who have won the Nobel Prize for bringing peace before, huge variety of people who have taken it upon themselves to do this symbolically, to call attention to the fact that it's been -- it was supposed to be a few months, it's been 70 years, and to cross where the North and South Korean women cannot.
[17:55:18] BLITZER: And Gloria, you have permission from both North and South Korea to make this walk across the DMZ?
STEINEM: Yes, we do. Yes, we do.
BLITZER: And do you think you'll have a chance to meet with Kim Jong-Un?
STEINEM: We are not asking to meet with any officials. We don't want to meet with officials. This is a walk of women on behalf of women.
BLITZER: And tell us when that walk will take place, Gloria.
STEINEM: We're leaving -- what time? Sorry. May 24th.
BLITZER: Well, we want to stay in close touch, Gloria, with you, with Gay, with the other women. We want to cover this important walk across the DMZ. Good luck to you. Be careful over there. I was there for six days in Pyongyang back in 2010 when I covered Bill Richardson's visit there so I'm a little familiar with what's going on. But good luck.
STEINEM: Thank you.
BLITZER: There's other breaking news we're following. We're getting new details of the ISIS widow now said to be cooperating providing new information to U.S. interrogators about her husband, a terror commander killed in a U.S. raid.