Return to Transcripts main page


New Guidelines Highlight Smartphones; Obama Blamed For Immigration Reflux; Obama A Step Behind On Crisis; U.S. Teen Beaten In Israel; Escalation of Conflict between Israel and Palestinians; Aaron David Miller Thinks U.S. Can't Negotiate Peace between Israel and Palestine Now; John Boehner's Op-Ed for CNN on Suing President Obama

Aired July 7, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, a new security threat at overseas airports. U.S. bound passengers may soon have to power up electronic devices or leave them behind.

Also right now, the U.S. State Department pressing Israel for answers after an American teenager is beaten while in police custody.

And right now, the pope begs forgiveness for the church's sexual abuse scandal. We'll have a live report that's coming up from Rome.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We start with a new security guideline put in place because of possible terror attacks on airplanes. Air travelers may be asked to turn on their Smartphones before boarding flights to prove they aren't bombs.

Our Justice Reporter Evan Perez is joining us here. He's got the very latest. So, what triggered this latest TSA move?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, security officials say that it's not a -- it's not a threat, per se, or a plot that they've uncovered. But they say there's intelligence, growing intelligence, that indicates the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is intent on improving its bomb making. And this bomb -- these bombs could perhaps -- could perhaps defeat our security procedures. Now, the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, was asked about this on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday. Here is what he had to say.


JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: We know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States and aviation security is a large part of that. So, this past week I directed that we step up our aviation security at last point -- at some last point of departure airports coming into the United States. This is not something to overreact to or over-speculate about but it's something we felt was necessary. We do this from time to time.


PEREZ: Wolf, as you know, the Aqab has been growing in strength. And it's been -- now is seen cooperating with militants in Syria. So, obviously, the growing threat at the Aqab is what's important.

BLITZER: So, I guess the fear is that this bomb maker in Yemen, this Ellis Syri (ph), --

PEREZ: Bomb maker.

BLITZER: -- yes, that he may have come up with some new way, taking a Smartphone or a laptop --

PEREZ: Right.

BLITZER: -- or an iPad or something like that and disguising it, in effect, as a bomb that can go through some sort of metal detector. Is that the theory that we fear?

PEREZ: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, it's about the devices that he could use to try to mask a bomb. And, again, these are explosives that don't have metal in them. And so, this is something that would, under normal circumstances, perhaps bypass some of our security.

BLITZER: So, you go to an airport overseas.

PEREZ: Right.

BLITZER: And they're not telling us which airport.

PEREZ: They're not telling us which airport.

BLITZER: So, you go to an airport let's say some place in Europe or Asia or someplace like that and they say, you got a smartphone? You got a laptop? Turn it on. If it doesn't turn on, you either don't go on the flight or you leave the equipment there, right?

PEREZ: Right. Well, what they're saying is that you may have problems bringing that device with you on aboard the plane. Now, what they're going to do is they're going to look at your device and they're going to check to see whether there's any explosive residue on it. There's ways -- they've -- they're deploying additional devices at these airports. And right now, the concern is about airports in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. That's where this concern is and I think what you'll have to do is make sure your devices are powered up before you get to the airport.

BLITZER: It's going to take a lot more time, too, if everybody's going to have to --

PEREZ: That's right.

BLITZER: -- power up their -- everybody's got one of these devices now a days.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: So, just be -- get there a little bit earlier, I guess. That's the only -- PEREZ: That's right.

BLITZER: -- solution. Even, thanks very much.

Now to Iraq where video surfaced reportedly showing the secretive leader of the insurgent ISIS forces. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appears to be leading a sermon in a mosque in the city of Mosul. Musul fell to ISIS forces earlier last month. If this is, in fact, Al Baghdadi, it would be one of the first known appearances he's done on video.

Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon for us. What are they saying over there, Barbara, about this video?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.S. government, as well as the Iraqi government, has been scrutinizing video since it emerged after Friday prayers in Mosul when this person appeared at the mosque.

Now, two U.S. officials tell me, at this point, the U.S. has no reason to believe it's not Baghdadi. In fact, they believe they're working on the assumption, in fact, it is him. Can't be 100 percent sure. You are never 100 percent sure unless you have a DNA sample. But everything they see, at this point, they are working on the assumption it is him. What does that mean? Well, it means that this secretive leader, as you say, made one of his first extended public appearances in front of T.V. cameras. Obviously, felt comfortable and secure enough in Mosul to come out for some period of time in public there.

According to eyewitnesses, a very large security convoy rolled up to this mosque on Friday. Said this man got out, conducted the service. And there are even reports that cell phone service was interrupted while he was in the area. No word on where that may have come from. But this is now something that the U.S. is looking very closely at and sharing -- you know, they're sharing intelligence that they can with the Iraqis about ISIS and about what ISIS is up to. But make no mistake, the U.S. not engaging in combat operations, not targeting this man as far as we know. That is going to be up to the Iraqis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's very brazen, if, in fact, it is him. It appears to be on the video. It surfaced, as you know, Barbara, on these ISIS associated Web sites. They've been pretty effective in using social media to generate propaganda, enlist supporters. Does this fit into their strategy we've been seeing?

STARR: Well, I think it does. You're absolutely right. Very savvy masters of social media and Internet communications. Right now, though, what will that mean other than propaganda? How do they really stand on the ground in Iraq? What U.S. officials are saying is that ISIS is stretched very thin right now on the ground from the Syria Iraq border all the way to the northern edges of Baghdad. That's a very long line, a very large piece of territory for them to try to control. But that may not be what they want. You know, maybe the propaganda war may be just stirring things up even further and holding on to what they have in places like Musul in northern Iraq. It may ultimately be their strategy at the moment because they know, right now, Iraqi security forces are, perhaps, not able to rapidly get into northern Iraq and chase them down. So, they can stay put for a while.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, Mosul is the second larger city in Iraq, nearly 2 million people, although hundreds of thousands of people fled when the Iraqi military simply collapsed. They fled as well. And, clearly, ISIS in control of that major northern city in Iraq.

Barbara, thanks very much for that report.

President Obama, meanwhile, he's under growing pressure to respond to surge of immigrant children crossing the border illegally. Republicans, even some Democrats, they are now blaming the Obama administration for the current problem. The president, by the way, travels to Texas on Wednesday. Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar says the challenge is for him to get ahead of the situation.


REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: Again, it would be nice for him to come down to the border. But, again, with all due respect, I think he's still one step behind. They knew this was happening a year ago, last year. And, again, they are just over -- they are not reacting fast enough, at this time.


BLITZER: Our White House Correspondent Michelle Kosinski has got the latest over there. The president's going to be there in Texas, what, on Wednesday. Any plans for him to go to the border and see for himself what's going on?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This has been a question, I mean, multiple times a day in the afternoon briefing it comes up. Well, why doesn't the president go down there? He is going to be in Texas. Why isn't he going to be at the border? The administration keeps calling this an urgent humanitarian crisis. Doesn't he want to see it with his own eyes? And the answer has been consistent that the president knows well what's going on down there, that he's briefed on the situation often, that top members of the administration have been down there to see it. Basically, that the administration is on the problem and that there is no need for the president to go there. Now, that's, in some ways, inconsistent with what the administration has been saying and the response they've been taking. But that seems to be the way that they are going to play this.

Now, however, I will say that last week when these questions were coming up, the press secretary said, well, plans could change. We could have an update to his schedule. But, at this point, we know there are no plans for the president to visit the border -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know anything more about what the administration plans on doing with these 10s of thousands of unaccompanied young children, in effect, who crossed into Texas from Mexico, most of these kids coming from Central America? KOSINSKI: Right. You just look at the pictures and you look at the

numbers, especially. More than 60,000, it could possibly be up to 90,000 unaccompanied minors alone this year. And you see that it's a crisis. What the administration has said they are focused on is speeding up the process. There is this law that was passed in 2008 that catered to these kids from noncontiguous countries to give them a chance to stay, to have a hearing. Well, that hearing is so backlogged, at this point, that it takes years, in some cases, for those individual children to go through the process.

So, the president is asking Congress for more money, at least $2 billion to handle all the staffing on that. Lawyers, judges, facilities to house and get these kids through the system quickly. The administration also wants to expand the powers of the Department of Homeland Security to use their discretion to get them through this process much more quickly. They say that they've had some success with that. Because, in the end, they say, ultimately, most of these children will be deported.

The question then is, OK, you have this law in place. If most of them are not going to meet the requirement for humanitarian needs to stay on in this country, why have that law? Why isn't the administration advocating to change that law? Well, they say it's an anti- trafficking law. There is a humanitarian value to that law. So, they are focused on remedying the situation, basically speed to get these kids processed and out of the country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The U.S. customs and border patrol, they are out with a new campaign, as you know, Michelle, designed to try to discourage these illegal crossings. What's the message behind the ads?

KOSINSKI: Yes, obviously, they want to send a strong message. I mean, that's something they've said they've been working on. So, now, we see this ad. It's in Spanish, obviously targeting those countries. Shows a young man writing to his parents. He made -- you know, he took the chance to try to cross the border. And, in the end, it doesn't end well. It shows him appearing to be dead lying on the desert floor. And that's an image that some of these Department of Homeland Security officials have said that they have seen. And some of the people -- there was a hearing last week. Some of the people working one on one with these children. They said that they have seen children die trying to make that crossing. So, the administration is really trying to emphasize to the countries how dangerous this process is and the administration wants to see more, obviously, coming from those countries to try to stem this tide, you know, more than what the U.S. is trying to do on its own -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House. A very important story we're following. Thank you.

Coming up later, suing the president. The House speaker, John Boehner, lays out his reasons, his timetable. This is a CNN exclusive.

And the beating of an American teen. Now, the latest of the series of events that has Israeli, the Palestinians, on the brink right now. We have details of a (INAUDIBLE.) That's coming up.


BLITZER: In Israel today, a powerful statement from the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the murder of a Palestinian teenager, his words, abhorrent. Netanyahu has spoken with the boy's father today. He promised justice for the apparent revenge killing.

This as Israeli war planes conducted air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza overnight. The cousin of the murdered boy, a Palestinian American teen, says he was beaten by Israeli security forces. That beating was caught on video. You are seeing it right now. It sparked outrage around the world. All of this began with the murder of three Israeli teenagers last month. Ben Wedeman is following all of this for us. He is joining us from Jerusalem. First of all, Ben, what's the status of the American teen right now who was beaten pretty severely by the Israeli border police, or whoever did that?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is currently under house arrest in East Jerusalem in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina. His family residence is in the adjacent neighborhood of Shuafat. But under the conditions of his release from jail, he was ordered to stay away from Shuafat. His family had to pay a 3,000 shekel bail. That's about $900. He is expected to return to the United States in the middle of the month. But we do have some breaking news for you, Wolf. Just moments ago, we heard another salvo of rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel. The Iron Dome alert system was used to knock some of those missiles out. According to the Israeli military, before this latest salvo, 50 rockets and mortars had been fired out of Gaza into Israel. So, there is definitely an air of escalation. The Israeli security cabinet met for three hours today to discuss its options. We heard from one army spokesman saying that they have already mobilized several hundred reservists and may mobilize as many as a 1,500 in preparation for trouble in the south. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, some of those rockets I'm told, they actually reached about 25 miles into Israel actually, reaching Beersheba. Is that right, Ben?

WEDEMAN: That's correct. Beersheba is 40 kilometers, about 25 miles from Gaza. It was the second missile that was fired in the direction of Beersheba. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome. The other landed in the desert. But what this indicates, Wolf, is that before it was believed that many of the rockets that were being fired out of Gaza, they are short-range, locally made, fairly crude, no guidance systems. But when you get these rockets which have that kind of range that means that Hamas is pulling out its weaponry.

BLITZER: Does it look like this could be a powder keg that's about to explode over there? We have seen it happen, unfortunately, way too many times over these many years.

WEDEMAN: It certainly -- it's pointing in that direction. Now, one Israeli military official we spoke to said that at the end of last week they were talking about deescalating. The expectation that if there is quiet out of Gaza, that Israel would respond in kind. Now they are talking about an escalation. Perhaps not on the scale of November 2012 or the war at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009, but definitely there's a feeling that the clouds are getting dark over Gaza and things could get much worse. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, it looks like that from this vantage point as well, unfortunately. Ben, we will stay in close touch with you. Aaron David Miller is here with us in the studio. He's with the Woodrow Wilson International Center. He spent many years as a negotiator working this Israeli Palestinian problem. Unfortunately, not much success. What do you think of John McCain's suggestion that the U.S. right -- that John Kerry, the Secretary of State should get back to that region, start talking to the Israelis and the Palestinians because they are literally on a powder keg right now.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Yeah, I like John McCain. I just think that now is not the time for the secretary of state to re-engage in this process.

BLITZER: What - what can the U.S. -- the U.S. has a lot of influence with the Israelis and the Palestinians. They've got to come at now.

MILLER: They do. But the blood is up right now. And if Egyptians can't figure out a way to negotiate the ceasefire - and they are profession in this, between Hamas and Israel and Gaza, there's very little the United States is going to do.

BLITZER: Well, the Egyptians - they've got - well, Sisi, the new president, they've got a lot of problems in Egypt. Isn't this a moment right now for the U.S., which has a history of dealing with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, dealing with Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel. Shouldn't the U.S. do something? Can't the U.S. do something?

MILLER: Well, you know, we have been faced with this issue of what the United States should actually do. The secretary of state just finished a ten-month intensive effort, much to dismay of some of his critics who argue that he was negotiating literally over nothing. That's clearly not the case. At the end of ten months, you have a situation in which there is insufficient basis to reach an agreement. And I'm not sure, frankly, that secretary of state wants or should put himself in a situation right now of trying to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. I mean the fact is, Hamas made a decision to unify that - with Hamas - that clearly increased Hamas's influence on the West Bank. Who knows who actually kidnapped the three Israeli teens? Probably a cell. Whether it had the direct imprimatur of Hamas's overseas leadership or Gaza, who knows. But the fact is Hamas perceives weakness right now. They know that the Israelis do not want to go in on the ground to eliminate the Hams presence and other groups, Islamic Jihad.

BLITZER: What do you think of these reports that the Israelis are now mobilizing reserve units to get ready?

MILLER: I think they are getting ready. The question is, getting ready for what? A massive incursion that we saw in November, December of '08-'09? Or massive shelling and retaliation in November 2012? I'm not sure. They are hoping, I suspect, that over time Hamas will understand that they don't want an escalation. But right now, it's not just Israel-Gaza. You have got politics. The blood is up. You have got retaliation.

BLITZER: You've got teenagers killed on both sides. And there's a lot of fury right now. And that could really, really get out of control.

MILLER: There is. And it's nationalist. And it's - it's occurring in a terribly partisan environment with distances that are literally meters apart. So, no. The question that really needs to be asked is, are we on the tipping point of a third Intifada? A major sustained escalation?

BLITZER: What do you think?

MILLER: I still think no. I still think that there are differences with Arafat. Abbas has not committed the violence, for sure.

BLITZER: The Palestinian Authority president --

MILLER: Right. Palestinian public is far more interested in social economic issues. They know the pain and suffering caused by the second Intifada that achieved very little. And even Hamas, I suspect, weakened by the fact that they don't have much support from Egypt or Turkey, bad governance, economic mismanagement in Gaza, I'm not sure they are prepared for sustained battle either.

BLITZER: Well, I agree with your assessment, but I do feel that the United States could do something right now. Maybe send a special envoy. The former president Bill Clinton, for example, talked to the Palestinians, talked to the Israelis, things done. Maybe John Kerry is not the guy to do it. But I suspect something could be done and should be done, because they are at the boiling point.

MILLER: If we are prepared to mediate between Hamas and Israel - it is Hamas. It is not Abbas that ...

BLITZER: I think there's a moment for the U.S. to get involved and you know what? It might not help, but probably can't hurt.

MILLER: Maybe not.

BLITZER: But maybe it will work. All right. All right. Thanks very much.

MILLER: Take care, Wolf.

BLITZER: On the way - at first -- First at the Vatican. Pope Francis meeting with victims of the church's sex abuse scandal. What he told them and what he asked for? Also coming up, an exclusive from the House Speaker John Boehner who set his timetable for suing the president. We will take a closer look at what he says is behind the lawsuit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To politics now. The House Speaker John Boehner is laying out his reason for planning to sue the president of the United States. And his timetable for filing that lawsuit. It's all coming in an exclusive editorial he wrote for CNN. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is with me right now. So, when does he plan on actually filing the lawsuit?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know. In fact, there's a lot still we don't know about this. What we do know is that the House of Representatives is going to take up legislation authorizing the lawsuit at some point this month. But the main purpose is pretty clear for the speaker's op-ed on, was to hit back on the president who this last week said, so sue me. That was his response to the threat of his lawsuit, and I will read part of John Boehner's op-ed. He said "The president's response: so sue me. What's disappointing is the president's flipping dismissal of the Constitution we are both sworn to defend. It is utterly beneath the dignity of the office. I know the president is frustrated. I'm frustrated, the American people are frustrated, too."

So he in this op-ed, explains the general parameters of why they want to sue the president, which is I think that he's just flagrantly gone against the Constitution and against the balance of powers with a lot of the issues that he has had executive orders on. He put four general themes in there, the environment, foreign policy, education and health care. But we still don't know exactly what the lawsuit will be on within at the balance of those topics.

BLITZER: And I assume Boehner and those who support this lawsuit were encouraged by several of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions ...

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: ... which totally went against the president. They said the president was acting unconstitutionally, including some 9-0 decisions by the Supreme Court, including Supreme Court justices, not only Democratic appointed Supreme Court justices, but two of the women who were appointed by the president of the United States.

BASH: That's right. And then this op-ed, the speaker talks about the fact that the Supreme Court ruled against him on his recess appointments, for example. But, you know, what's very interesting about this is how vague still the House speaker and Republicans who are putting this lawsuit out there still are. And the reason is because they are not entirely sure yet what their best grounds for a lawsuit is. Like, for example, on foreign policy I'm told that they think their best grounds are the fact that the president and the administrative -- the executive branch released five detainees from Guantanamo without giving Congress a heads up. They feel that on healthcare, for example, the fact that he - the president has waived or extended some of the deadlines that were put in the statute by the Congress gives them grounds. But they are not entirely sure exactly how they are going to do that. They are going to wait first to do this legislatively and then they are going to file suit closer to the election. I know that's not a big shocker. BLITZER: Now, as you know, there are some Republicans, some

conservatives, Tea Party activists, others who think that this is a waste, the lawsuit. They just want Boehner to go ahead and try to impeach the president of the United States. They are critical of Boehner, saying this is really a stunt, the lawsuit. They want impeachment procedures against the president. How realistic is that?

BASH: Not realistic at all. Because the speaker would likely say that that would be a stunt, because to impeach, as you well, know, you covered a president who was impeached, President Clinton, both Congress -- both bodies of Congress actually has to do that. The Senate is run by Democrats. Not only that, even Republicans who are the majority in the House, they don't think that that's a good idea. The speaker has laid out reasons, given precedent, giving history that they believe that the president has overstepped his bounds as president in using his executive authority and that this is not the first time. There has been a battle between the two branches and they are going to try to battle it out in court.

BLITZER: You know what's so frustrating about all of this? I will step back for a second. Boehner and the president, they used to have a good relationship. I think there was a working relationship. At one point they went out and played golf a little bit, they spoke a little bit. There was some mutual outrage, but that has gone away virtually completely.

BASH: You know, if you talk to John Boehner, he insists that they still have a fine personal relationship.