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Bodies of Israeli Teens Found; New Terror Threat; The Terrorists' Newest Tools; Court Rules Against Obama

Aired June 30, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A horrifying discovery that could spark bloody retribution in the Middle East.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, Israel vowing to hit back with fury after three kidnapped Israeli teen -- teenagers, one with dual American citizenship, are found dead, Israeli fighter jets already in the air and an emergency meeting going on right now. Is this the tipping point for another war?

Also in world news, a new generation bombs. Hard-core terrorists may have finally figured out how to sneak explosives through airport security and they might have the people with the passports to get them on board.

And the national lead, extreme weather, tornadoes, floods and a possible tropical storm targeting the beaches just in time for the Fourth of July.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD on a jampacked news day. I'm Jake Tapper.

The world lead now, the Middle East descending into utter chaos, and today another flash point that could thrust the region's oldest conflict into a renewed war. Three Israeli teens, including one who had dual citizenship here in the U.S., who varnished more than two weeks ago from a settlement in the contested West Bank, according to the Israeli military, they were found and confirmed dead today by Israeli officials, their bodies discovered in a field north of the town of Hebron.

Almost immediately after reports of the bodies being found trickled out, CNN journalists spotted Israeli fighter jets buzzing over the rooftops in Gaza. Weeks of night raids and security sweeps turned up nothing. Israeli forces scoured some Palestinian towns for the first time in a decade and arrested more than 400 Palestinians.

Five died in the clashes between IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, and members of Hamas, Hamas, the current partner of the Palestinian coalition government, Hamas considered a terrorist group by both Israel and the United States. Hamas applauded, but did not take credit for the kidnapping. While Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian unity government, condemned the kidnappings, that was not enough for Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting with his

Cabinet. So, is it now just a matter of when, and not if, Israel goes to war with its neighbor?

Joining me now, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for being here.

This is obviously a tragedy, one that already has Israeli officials calling for retribution. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon posting on his Facebook under a picture of the three boys: "The tragic end of the boys must be the end of Hamas."

Could we see a full-scale war here against Hamas?

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, we have to understand what Hamas is. Hamas is a terror organization.

It's committed to Israel's destruction. They have fired thousands of rockets at our cities. They have dispatched dozens, scores of suicide bombers at our civilians, and they are responsible for the murder of these three boys.

TAPPER: How do you know? I have not heard that they have taken credit for it.

DERMER: Members of Hamas, it doesn't matter whether they took credit or they didn't credit. In fact, the head of Hamas celebrated the kidnapping today and called for more kidnappings.

We know that members of Hamas in the Hebron, they are the ones who are responsible. And my prime minister was very clear Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay a very heavy price. That's the decisions that they're making right now in Jerusalem, because, as we speak here, they're having a Cabinet meeting right now in Jerusalem.

TAPPER: How do you make sure that it's only Hamas that pays the price, and not innocent Palestinians who happen to live in the same area?

DERMER: Well, we do everything we can in order to not harm Palestinian civilians.

The problem we face with Hamas is, Hamas both fires rockets at our civilians and hides behind civilians. They use civilians as human shields. So, it makes it very difficult for Israel to conduct these anti-terror activities. But we do it, and I think we do it in a way that maybe no other country in the world does.

We go out of our way to not harm Palestinian civilians. That's the difference between us and the terrorists. They deliberately kill our civilians. We do everything to keep their civilians out of harm's way.

And one other thing that I want to say. It's not just Hamas that's a problem. You said in the opening of your segment that it's not enough for Israel that President Abbas, the Palestinian leader, has condemned this act. We appreciate very much that he's condemned this kidnapping.

But, at the same time, he has -- actually has a government with the kidnappers. It's one thing for him to condemn terrorism. It's another thing for him to sit in a government with a bunch of terrorists. And that's why we call on the international community to put pressure on President Abbas and to tell him he has to choose, peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas. He can't have both.

TAPPER: I want to read a comment from Hamas in response to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said.

They -- obviously, Prime Minister Netanyahu fingered Hamas and said they were responsible for the kidnappings, vowed action. Hamas had put the statement saying: "His threats do not scare Hamas. If he's willing to start a war in Gaza, then the gates of hell will be opened to him."

What is the Israeli government going to do next? Should we expect jets to the bomb areas where you believe Hamas fighters to be?

DERMER: Well, we're just going to have to wait and see. But I can tell you one thing, Jake, for sure.

We have a very responsible and serious leadership in Jerusalem. And they will make the decisions they have to make in order to send a very strong message to Hamas that this action is unacceptable and to take the action that they deem necessary in order to protect and to defend our population.

Your government would do the same thing. Any government would do the same thing.

TAPPER: I want to go right now to a guest. We have an aunt of one of the victims, and then I want to come back to you, Mr. Ambassador, if that's all right.

Joining me on the phone right now is Leehy Shaer. I believe I have -- I hope I have the name right. She's the aunt of one of the victims. That's the Israeli American teen Naftali Fraenkel.


TAPPER: Gilad Shaer.

I'm so sorry for your loss. What can you tell us, what do you know about what happened to your nephew?

SHAER: They just found them both -- bodies in the hole, and I guess they killed them, they murdered them in the beginning. I don't know exactly all the details. I just know that...



SHAER: ... five sisters lost their own brother.

TAPPER: How old? How old was your nephew?

SHAER: Sixteen, 16.6.

TAPPER: Sixteen years old.

SHAER: Yes, and just high school.

TAPPER: When did you find out? Just about an hour or so ago?

SHAER: No, before -- and because it was so slow, like very close -- I had like -- I felt like I want to throw all night. I didn't have -- have a good feeling, the same feeling that I -- when they were kidnapped.

I didn't feel good. And now, unfortunately, I had the same bad feeling. And then in the morning, I called my brother, because -- and he said, I can't talk now. I can't talk now.

And I start to really worry, and then I hear the bad news, the worst news, that Gilad was murdered.

TAPPER: I can't even imagine the pain that you and your family must be experiencing right now. I would like to know how you think the Israeli government should respond, if that's something you can even contemplate.

SHAER: Listen, I'm just a person. It's a person for me. I'm not politician, but I know that Hamas are terrorists. And they don't want peace. I wish they were, you know?

They just want to kill. They didn't even try to negotiate. They just want to kill innocent boy. You tell me. What do they want, what these people want?

TAPPER: I certainly don't know.

Let me ask just you before I -- before I let you go, have you heard anyone -- have you or any of your relatives heard from anybody with the United States government, given that one of the victims, although I understand not your nephew, was a dual American citizen?

SHAER: I'm sorry. I didn't understand that question.

TAPPER: It's OK. We will move on. I just want to offer my deepest condolences. And...

SHAER: Thank you. I'm still, like, shocked. I don't believe -- I'm holding his picture, and I see his smile, and I don't believe that he's so young and innocent, and he has all his life in front of him, and he won't be able to be -- his sister, but meet -- the son, and, you know, it's -- it just -- it's just too sad to even imagine. TAPPER: I -- I'm sorry to even be talking to you right now. Please

go mourn with your family.

SHAER: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: I offer our -- my deepest condolences.

SHAER: Thank you so much. I hope it never occur to anybody, nor any child in any place in the world, that the terrorism will be disappeared from this world.

TAPPER: Amen to that. Thank you so much for talking to me.

SHAER: Thank you. Bye.

TAPPER: Mr. Ambassador, has the United States government been helpful at all? We haven't heard anything -- we heard some comments from the State Department today. But there hasn't really been a very public expression. I don't know if that's because...

DERMER: No, they have been helpful.


DERMER: They have been supportive in any way they can. We very much appreciate their sympathies.

It's -- one of them is an American citizen, one of the children.

TAPPER: Right.

DERMER: Naftali. These are teenagers essentially who were on their way back from school.

One of them is an American citizen. So, they have been fully cooperative with us and obviously have expressed their sympathies. And what you heard just now on a telephone conversation, that's the feeling you have in an entire country right now, which for 18 days was hoping and praying that these boys would come home safe and sound.

And now it's a very, very heavy heart throughout all the people of Israel right now. It's a deep day of mourning in our country. And through this all, the prime minister right now is sitting with the members of his security cabinet to decide what decisions is Israel has to take to send a clear message so that this does not happen again, and so that those people who are responsible for this are brought to justice.

TAPPER: All right. I wish I knew what the right thing to say at a moment like this is, but my deepest condolences for the losses.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for being here.

DERMER: Thank you. TAPPER: Coming up you, a win for conservatives. One Supreme Court

decision -- is calling it a radical decision, on the other hand. Will employers now be able to opt out of any law that violates their religious beliefs?

Plus, I know I have said this before, but hear me out, General Motors today announcing yet another recall. More than eight million vehicles this time. Why the massive pullback this time?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In other world news, the reason why you're probably going to see some more airport security just in time for the summer and the July 4 holiday, sources now tell CNN that al Qaeda is working on a new generation of bombs, ones that may be undetectable to high-tech security measures in place.

The White House reportedly so worried that an urgent high-level meeting was held about this last week. This is part of the same threat we told you about in February, right before the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, when airlines were warned to look out for explosive- packed toothpaste tubes. And now the threat has been expanded and seems more urgent.

Federal authorities say bomb makers from al Qaeda in Yemen have joined up with foreign fighters dug into Syria who might have the most valuable currency for al Qaeda right now and America and haters like them, valid Western passports.

CNN's Barbara Starr has more from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. may step it up airport security measures due to increased concern al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen have found a new way to get around current airport screening.

In the U.S. crosshairs, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, headquartered in Yemen, the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate, a group with long experience in advanced bomb making. U.S. officials tell CNN an additional vulnerability has been identified in airport security because of AQAP advances.

Officials don't see an imminent threat. However, one official telling CNN: "We are steadily tracking significant threats from AQAP. They are credible."

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Department of Homeland Security is regularly reviewing our security procedures to adapt to the threat that we -- that is faced by our transportation system.

STARR: The big concern is this man, Ibrahim al-Asiri, AQAP's master bomb maker, expert in designing bombs with no metal and undetectable explosives, such is the device worn by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the failed 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomb attack.

The top U.S. military commander in Europe noting terrorists have been eyeballing Western airports for months.

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, COMMANDER, U.S. AIR FORCES IN EUROPE: We remain concerned about the capability of some of these elements to develop weapons that could be thwarted by our current security systems.

STARR: Now with violence spreading across the Middle East, for both the U.S. and Europe, detecting foreign fighters on the move more than ever is a top priority for the intelligence community.

BREEDLOVE: The flow from western Iraq and eastern Syria into Europe is a very distinct problem, and we are working to address that flow.


STARR: And if those terrorists have western passports, European or U.S., it just makes it all the much easier for them to leave the Middle East, cross into Europe, come back to the United States, and potentially launch a new round of attacks -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former FBI and CIA official.

Phil, thanks so much for being here.

What kind of a threat is ISIS? An intelligence source tells me it's arguably the most dangerous terrorist group out there.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I think that's correct at the moment. These things have changed quickly over time since 9/11. We've had big threats in Asia when we had embassies attacked and night clubs. We've had threats out of Somalia, threats to students out of northern Nigeria.

The problem, though, we have in Syria and Iraq is that slowly over time, as the battle lines settle between the militaries and ISIS, ISIS gets comfortable and starts thinking more about targets in Europe and the United States than they have to think about Baghdad. The problem we have is a march against time as ISIS gets comfortable in the territory they're the starting to take.

TAPPER: One intelligence source walked through three reasons why he says ISIS is the most dangerous threat right now. Let's walk through each one. One, ISIS, it is said, has the most operatives and sympathizers who have direct access to the United States and western Europe.

So, these are individual who have either American or Western passports? MUDD: That's correct. It's what we called back when I was at the

agency, what we call clean skins -- people who can pass through transit points because they have documents that aren't stamped by things that you would find remarkable if you're a security officer at a border, people who have access to western European countries where you have visa agreements with the United States.

I would argue, Jake, that is not if I were in the business the thing I would worry about most. I know people talk about that a lot. You can find access to kids who want to blow themselves up. Remember we saw a kid from Florida blow himself up in Syria recently.

What you've got to the focus on what Barbara was talking about. It's very rare to find bombmakers with the capability and experience to design a device that's technically advanced enough and creative enough to get around 13 years of developments in airline security. The bombmakers are the ones to focus on, not the clean skins, the kids with good passports. You can find those kids.

TAPPER: But the bombmakers, it's not -- correct me if I'm wrong here. I thought that it's not that ISIS has these brilliant bombmakers. It's that the ISIS may now be working with al Qaeda groups in Yemen that have this brilliant bombmakers. Isn't that right?

MUDD: That's correct. I think you would be surprised to find how difficult it is for a bombmaker to transition from building a roadside explosive device to building an underwear bomb like we saw in December of 2009 over Detroit that's undetectable by metal detectors.

Remember, that is December of 2009 remember. Four years later, if you have someone with technical capability and drive, and creativity, think -- I was at Reagan National Airport yesterday -- think of everything you can put in your bag, think of everything you can put in that the cargo hold, everything that potentially you can insert with an explosive device. That's a remarkable array of stuff that you can alter to build a bomb. That guy's had four years to figure it out.

So, I look and say that's a recipe potentially for disaster.

TAPPER: And, Phil, lastly, one of the other key points about ISIS that my intelligence source tells me they have a safe haven unlike al Qaeda in Yemen, al Qaeda in Pakistan and Somalia, Mali, they have this big swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq. What advantage does that give them?

MUDD: I would say they're halfway to safe haven, more so in Syria where we've seen fighting for years and in Iraq. Safe haven for me is the space for people to plot attacks against Europe or the United States without worrying as much about fighting government forces.

The advantage that gives you is pretty straight forward. If you want to plan an attack against New York, for example, you need the time to put together the attack to recruit the attackers to train them especially if they're not familiar in operating in the West. You need obviously to put together the device so you're talking about months or even a year or two to put together a successful strike. You can't do that if you're sitting there in a trench running away

from government forces. That's why we've seen the threat diminish in Yemen and Somalia. Those terrorist groups are running from security services, less so and potentially in Syria and Iraq where we have the safe haven of the future.

TAPPER: Fascinating and terrifying. Phil Mudd, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MUDD: Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up next, there's now an even greater chance you'll need a tent for the Fourth of July cookout. New details on the storms swirling off the coast of the U.S. that could make a direct hit just in time for the fireworks.

Plus, he's a big time former CEO with deep pockets for Republicans. So, why has President Obama chosen him to clean up one of the biggest messes of his administration?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The national lead now -- a huge victory for conservatives, a kick in the teeth for the president's health care law and potentially a ruling that could have direct, tangible consequences for thousands of women across the workforce.

Here's the bottom line from the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case. So-called closely held or smaller companies now cannot be required under Obamacare to provide insurance coverage for some contraceptives such as the morning-after pill if the company's owners feel it violates their religious principles.

CNN's Pamela Brown is live at the Supreme Court.

Pamela, there's a lot of nuance here and huge ramifications for the public. Take us through this decision.


This was the most anticipated ruling of the term because of the social and political implications. The ruling today could impact thousands of women who work for these closely held family-owned corporations like Hobby Lobby. This was a ruing that was divided along ideological lines with the conservative justices ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and religious freedom and also ruling against the Obama administration and President Obama's signature health care law.


BROWN (voice-over): Fiery protests on a ruling that converged three contentious issues into one, religious freedom, abortion and Obamacare. Today, the high court striking down a key provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires for profit companies to provide comprehensive birth control coverage. The main plaintiff, the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby craft stores challenged the law, saying it violated their religious beliefs.

LORI WINDHAM, ATTORNEY FOR HOBBY LOBBY: The court reaffirmed American families don't give up their constitutional right to religious freedom just because they open a family business.

BROWN: Obamacare covers 20 kinds of birth control. This Supreme Court case focused on four of those -- Plan B, the morning-after pill, and the week after pill known as Ella, also two types of IUDs.

Hobby Lobby equated those four forms of contraceptives with abortion because they say they prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.

Supporters of the contraception mandate say this ruling unfairly brings a woman's boss into her private medical affairs and will dump a huge burden on female employees.

ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: I think, immediately, tens of thousands of women who are employees of these companies will either be out of their birth control or will absolutely have to double pay because we are already paying. And that adds up at the end of the month.

BROWN: The five conservative justices on the court used a 20-year-old federal law to make the case that closely held for-profit companies have religious liberty rights, just like individuals do. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said, "The plain terms of the federal law make it perfectly clear that Congress did not discriminate in this way against men and women who wished to run their businesses as for-profit corporations and the men are required by their religious beliefs."

But in a strongly worded dissent, Justice Ruth Ginsburg says now company owners can force their own religious beliefs on their employees, says, "It would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure. While the court settled this specific fight, the ruling could open the door to even more legal challenges to Obamacare."


BROWN: And, Jake, if you look to the dissent from Justice Ginsburg, the heart of it talks about how this could open up a can of worms for other companies to say that they should be exempt for coverage of same-sex couples, medical marijuana, vaccinations because of their religious beliefs.

And as we speak, there are other cases rights now in the pipeline contesting other provisions in the affordable care act and the contraception mandate other companies saying they don't want to be forced to cover any contraception at all. So, this very well could just be the beginning of the fight -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our panel to talk about this: Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Carrie, let's talk about the point that Pamela was just making about where this all ends up. This was a decision about two types of morning-after pills and two types of IUDs. But what about the individual who has religious objections to just regular birth control pills?

CARRIE SEVERINO, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: Well, this case deals with a closely held corporation, a family business that has been built for 40 years and now they don't want to have to choose between following the law and following their conscience. This can apply to other situations. But I think in each case, the court is going to have to balance the interests of the state and the interests of religious freedom.

And in this case, the government has already developed ways where they could cover account cost of contraceptives so women would still be getting free contraceptive coverage whether that's four or all 20 of the types of contraception that's covered. TAPPER: Neera, you obviously want -- you disagree.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You know, first of all, 90 percent of companies in America are closely held. This isn't like a small decision. Hobby Lobby has 10,000 work persons that's just one. So, this is going to apply to millions of women potentially.

The truth is the court I think was here demonstrating incredible judicial activism, new definitions what it means to be a company, personhood redefined. And I think the challenge here is it is going to open up a lot of court -- a lot of people coming into the courts, a lot of litigation, and for decades, we've been listening to conservatives argue we shouldn't be using the courts for this kind of thing, that that's judicial activism. And here you have five male justices deciding that what matters is the religious views of employers but employees workers' religious views don't matter at all.