Return to Transcripts main page


Hamas and Israel Continue Firing Rockets; Bergdahl Back to Active Duty; Costa Concordia Afloat Again; Germany Wins World Cup; SpaceX's Falcon 9 Launch from Florida; Flight Makes Emergency Stop Due to Smell

Aired July 14, 2014 - 11:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: @THISHOUR, fear in the Middle East, Hamas and Israel exchanging fire with no end in sight, civilians caught in the middle.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Just six weeks after being freed from five years in captivity, Bowe Bergdahl returns to active duty as soon as today.

Is he ready for this, and is he ready to face questions about how he disappeared from his base in Afghanistan back in 2009?

PEREIRA: Attorney General Eric Holder lashing out. His target? Sarah Palin. Plus, he also talks about racial animosity toward him and the president.

Hello. Happy Monday. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's 11 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West, those stories and more, right now, @THISHOUR.

And right now the death toll and the tension rising in Gaza as people brace for more Israeli air strikes, they could come any minute. Palestinian authorities say more than 170 people have been killed after almost a week of attacks. There's no end in sight.

PEREIRA: Thousands of people are leaving their homes in Gaza after Israel dropped leaflets warning of more attacks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Hamas, which controls Gaza, urged people to stay in harm's way as it launched more than 130 rockets at Israel Sunday.

Our Wolf Blitzer is at the border between Israel and Gaza. In fact, Wolf had to duck for cover as a rocket exploded near him and his crew.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": No, no, no pictures. Don't shoot. Just shoot me. We don't know what's going on. But there's some -- did we get the all-clear? I know. I know. I'm sorry.

OK. We're here on the border between Israel and Gaza. You can see there was a rocket that just landed. It came in from Gaza. We heard it not that long ago.

It was a real moment because all of a sudden we were at this area that had been sealed off and the Israeli military was not letting us go any further. They said it was sealed off.

We were waiting for permission to go through this checkpoint. We hadn't received the permission yet. We heard all of a sudden the rocket explode and then we saw something really unusual. We saw some Israeli soldiers ducking for cover. We ducked for cover as well.

A young Israeli woman soldier clearly was traumatized. She fell to the ground and started to cry. You don't often see that. So later she told me it's been really hard especially on these young 18-, 19-year-old soldiers who come here on the border and hear these rockets going off.


PEREIRA: Frightening indeed.

Our military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, is here. Colonel, we're hearing that there's an air strike every four, four and a half minutes. Is this just the beginning?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is the Israelis keeping the pressure on. They are trying to convince Hamas to blink, to stop firing rockets.

This could be over if one of the sides would stop. The Israelis aren't going to stop until the Hamas stops. Hamas is going to keep firing as long as they're being bombarded. This is spiraling out of control.

What we have to watch for is a ground incursion. Is that going to happen next?

BERMAN: We talk about this cycle here. We said there's no end in sight to the Israeli bombing. There's no end in sight to Hamas shooting rockets into Israel either.

You get the sense this time that Israel and the Israeli government or Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't want to settle for the status quo here. You hear these ripplings that's them saying they want to degrade the Hamas capability even more than they have the last few times.

What would that entail?

FRANCONA: They have to do that, John, because Hamas has a much greater capability, much more lethal than they've been in the past, so the Israelis feel that they have to go in there and do much more damage.

That's why you are seeing these really concentrated air strikes, and the Israelis are not holding back like they may have in the past. There was a mosque being used for storage of rockets. They took out the mosque. That's almost unheard of.

PEREIRA: But the problem is, you look at the death toll in Gaza, 170 I think it was at count, a good portion of those are civilians. You are not necessarily hitting the targets where it inflicts the pain to the people that are firing the rockets at you.

FRANCONA: That's the problem and that's why Hamas does not want these people to move out of these areas because they need this public opinion. They need this high death toll.

Unfortunately, they're willing to sacrifice these people to do that, and the Israelis feel they have no choice but to take out these targets. It's just like they're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

If they don't take out the targets, the rockets come. If they do, public opinion.

BERMAN: There are people calling for the U.S. to take a greater role right now in trying to forge some kind of peace agreement here.

The problem, though, is that you get the sense the White House doesn't want to get involved unless there's any chance of success. You don't want to send somewhere there to broker peace if they're not going to make a deal.

FRANCONA: That's true. And who do you talk to? We can't talk to Hamas. It's just something that doesn't -- we're not legally permitted to do.

So do we rely on our allies? Could we rely on the Jordanians, the Turks, the Egyptians? Thus far, no one seems to want to get involved in this, because as you say, John, what's the chance of success?

BERMAN: Also, so many of these countries have their own problems right now and their own turmoil. They don't want to get dragged into even more in the Middle East.

All right, Colonel Rick Francona, great to have you here with us. Stick around because we have more we want to discuss with you in just a little bit.

Coming up at 1:00 p.m., Eastern, of course, Wolf will have the very latest from the Middle East conflict. He will be reporting live from Israel.

PEREIRA: In other news @THISHOUR, we're seeing some global backlash to what's happening in the Middle East. I want to see you some pictures from a protest over the weekend in Paris.

Several thousand people marched in support of the people of Gaza. Police say a few protesters tried to force their way into a couple of the synagogues there.

France's prime minister condemned the action, saying his country would not tolerate the Middle East conflict spreading to French soil.

BERMAN: A strong odor forced people to evacuate their homes near Philadelphia. The fire department says a volatile gas coming from basement sump pumps sent people out of about 150 homes. It's not clear what the gas is yet or when the people there will be able to return.

PEREIRA: The Costa Concordia, afloat once again today, more than two years after it ran aground and capsized off an Italian island, killing 32.

Crews hoisted the massive cruise ship and are towing to its home port where it will then be scrapped.

Last year, salvage teams rolled the ship off of rocks, pulled it onto massive, underwater steel platforms. They're saying this is one of the biggest mariner-type salvage efforts ever.

BERMAN: Amazing pictures to see.

Speaking of amazing, it was a brilliant ending to a magnificent World Cup. I'm talking about Argentina and Germany facing off.

PEREIRA: Both teams had chances. Look at this miss by great Lionel Messi. Just wide, he's incredulous.

BERMAN: Yeah, then in extra time, still scoreless, until Mario Gotze, just 22-years-old. He's about three-and-a-half feet tall, yet he managed to score deep into extra time, giving Germany its first World Cup in 24 years.

He only got in the game after about 88 minutes, a sub, a "super sub," as we now call him now. And now Germany, I've got to say, on top of the world.

PEREIRA: Three-and-a-half-feet tall?

BERMAN: He is a tiny man, but so is Lionel Messi. Take a good look at him. He is listed at 5' 9". He's 5'9" when he's standing on my shoulders, all right? That guy hasn't seen 5' 9" since he was like on a stepladder. But he's very, very good.

PEREIRA: You're pretty pleased. You were rooting for Germany.

BERMAN: No, I was rooting for both -- I have identical twin boys, and one was rooting for Argentina; one was rooting for Germany.

PEREIRA: Of course they were.

BERMAN: I've never had a game like this. I couldn't cheer. I couldn't speak or someone would get mad at me.

And at the end of the game, I didn't know what to do. I was just sort of speechless.

PEREIRA: You were like, glad that's over.

BMERNA: OK, time to go have dinner now. Very stressful.

But, ahead for us @THISHOUR, is he ready, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl could return to active duty any time now, as in today, but the formal investigation surrounding his capture is just beginning. PEREIRA: We told you about a strange odor in Philadelphia. A strange

odor forces an airplane to land on a remote island.

But why did the United Airlines flight head out over the Pacific to begin with if there was an issue?


PEREIRA: For the first time in more than five years, Army investigators will get a chance to formally question Bowe Bergdahl. It's because doctors who were treating him at an Army hospital in San Antonio say he has now finished his reintegration and could return to active duty as early as today.

BERMAN: Yeah. Today.

Sergeant Bergdahl had been held captive by militants in Afghanistan since 2009. He's been going through therapy and counseling since his release back in May.

I want to talk about this. Let's bring in our military analyst Rick Francona and also Terry Lyles, who's a psychologist and combat-stress coach.

Rick, I want to start with you here. Return to active duty as soon as today, I suppose there's active duty and then there's active duty. What do you imagine he'll be doing and why this change?

FRANCONA: Well, I think it's an administrative procedure to get him back into a unit where he has a commanding officer and he's back into the Army structure, because nothing can go forward until he's in that status.

BERMAN: Nothing as in?

FRANCONA: Like a court martial or a pending investigation or whatever. So his troubles are not over and his stress level is not over. He's just beginning now.

He's out of the hospital. He will be in an Army unit, and he will be questioned, and treated like any other soldier.

PEREIRA: Terry was talking about the stress level and the next phase, so what does this say about his mental state? And what do you suppose this next phase is going to be like for him?

TERRY LYLES, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think as the colonel just mentioned, I think it's going to be very challenging.

He's been quarantined and handled very carefully throughout this six- week process, and now, so to speak, the gloves are coming off.

And when he learns more and more of the media coverage that's been going on, the barrage of information out there about him, it's really going to weigh probably harder on him than even coming back home to begin with. So he's got a whole new live that's going to unfold very quickly and he's going to need help to do that.

BERMAN: And, Rick, not to harp on this, but we say "active duty." Is this going to be a clerk-type role? Will he be involved with training with full units?

And there are two military personnel who will be living with him in barracks. What's behind that, do you think?

FRANCONA: I suspect that's to help him with any difficulties he might have. And the doctor's probably better to talk about this, but could be suicide watch, that sort of thing.

But he will be in an Army unit. I would imagine he would be in some sort of administrative duties, nothing very challenging. Of course he won't have access to weapons or anything like that and just be in an office setting.

But they have got to get him back, integrated into the Army, so they can proceed with whatever they are going to do with him. They have to decide what is his future in the army? Does he want to remain in the Army? Does he want to separate? What does he want to do?

PEREIRA: So, Terry, speak to that. These two soldiers that will be living with him, give us an idea of that interaction.

LYLES: Well, I think to put it plainly, they are pretty much body guards. They are going to stay with him, I'm sure, to make sure that he stays in a position that they debriefed him at this level and got him acclimated back into his new society. I'm sure they are going to watching everything, probably day and night to make sure, as was mentioned, he doesn't harm himself, escape, that if he gets overwhelmed, they can alert someone to get extra help. He really needs wing men at this time to really help him continue this acclimation process, because it is still a dangerous and volatile situation.

BERMAN: Hey RicK, you were in the military for a long, long time. Is there any middle ground they can take? Is there any way they can make this go away without doing something, making some kind of controversial declaration that says, yes he deserted, or, no he deserted? I imagine they dread that type of action.

FRANCONA: Well he has to answer for what he did. There's no way they are going to incarcerate him or sentence him to any jail time. He's already paid a tremendous price for what he's accused of, and we don't -- these are all allegations yet. He's still innocent until proven guilty. All of the evidence that's been collected has been preserved. The investigation was done when he disappeared. Now we've got to hear his side of the story.

PEREIRA: Terry, in terms of the time frame, I think -- We've all been waiting to know when he would, sort of, reintegrate fully into society. Are you surprised at how quickly this happened? Six weeks, I think we're talking about. LYLES: Not really. Because it's all specific to the individual, you

know, and obviously his reintegration team, I'm sure, would not release him at this level if they didn't think he was ready, because I know they are well trained in this and they know what they are doing. And everyone grieves a little differently, and I think they also want to expedite this process and get it along as quickly as possible to find out what are the next steps.

The psychological warfare that he is now going to have is going to be different then when he was held captive. He's going to be held captive in his own mind based upon what really happened, what he believes and feels about that now, and then facing family, friends, public. And the fallout form that is going to be tough.

PEREIRA: Terry Lyles, Colonel, thank you so much for taking a look at this with us. We'll be watching and seeing how this - Because it is, it is not happening over night. This is still going to take a fair amount of time.

BERMAN: There is a long way to go from here. Ahead for us, it was a harrowing flight over the pacific for passengers on board a United Airlines Plane. Fanning themselves offered no escape from this awful stench. There was only one thing to do. That's next.


PEREIRA: Got to show you some cool pictures. This is a launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. We're seeing Falcon 9.The launch from SpaceX that had been scrubbed a couple of times already because of weather and some other technical issues. But I guess the fourth times the charm in this case. It will be carrying six next generation satellites for cellular service and other global positioning, etc. And it's off now into outer space.

BERMAN: Of course, SpaceX is key for the commercialization of space flight so they need successful launches like this to keep all these projects moving forward.

PEREIRA: Rumor has it that SpaceX is expected to announce that they are moving their launches to a new facility in Texas. So we'll be watching. Thought you had to see this, though.

Speaking of flight, maybe a little bit closer to earth, however. A little smellier too, a lot smellier. United Airlines flight from Honolulu to Guam had to make an emergency stop. And while it did land safely, many are asking, why was it even allow to take off in the first place? The plane was forced to divert because of a horrible odor that cause at least one passenger to gag.

BERMAN: The pungent smell was there before the plane took off. Pungent and plane does not go well together. Some passengers even elected not to take the flight because of the stench. The Triple 7 landed safely on Midway Island, which is in the middle of nowhere. Passengers were stranded there for seven hours before being flown back to Hawaii. Got to find out more about this. So joining us is, the man, safety analyst and former FAA safety

inspector David Soucie. You know David, this thing was delayed for three hours. It stank. Should it have taken off in the first place?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, you know, it's a difficult scenario to try to go back and second guess the mechanic that released it to service. Understand his position would be to try to recreate the smell, to try to recreate what had happened during the time that smell was evoked. He's trying to work that, and probably -- the fact that he spent three hours trying to do that, he was confident at that point that it wouldn't reoccur. Even at that point what he says is, OK, I wasn't able to re-do it. Now the dispatch is the one who makes the decision and says, yes, we're going to go ahead and fly that flight as opposed to waiting and investigating it further. Clearly, this one should have been investigated further before it was allowed to go ahead and fly.

PEREIRA: I think, that's interesting you mentioned that it's the mechanic and then it's the dispatch. The normal protocol, it seem, would be that. But why would they just not say, just for the comfort of our passengers we'll swap out a plane. That's what I think most people would feel much more comfortable with knowing that they do.

SOUCIE: Again, it's a matter of economics to be honest with you. It comes down to the airline having to make a decisions as to whether they fly another aircraft out there, whether they delay the airplane and in this point, they made the wrong decision. That airplane should certainly have stayed there and been investigated further. If it was just a minor thing, then I can see why they couldn't duplicate and moved on.

But it was clear that it did happen. There was a smell and it was more than a smell it was ozone, which can be damaging to your lungs, your mouth, it burns when you smell it, if you are exposed to it for a long period of time at all. So this was something extremely hazardous and it warranted further investigation. The reason that it was returned to service after three hours, having not been able to replicate it, that's something concerning to me. I think that they should have continued to look into it until they found something.

BERMAN: David, you know there were several passengers who actually got off the flight. What are your rights as a passenger here? If your plane stinks, if you think there's something wrong here and they are still going to take off, can you demand to be let out and have your flight refunded?

SOUCIE: Well, it depends on what phase of flight you are in. At this point they had delayed the aircraft for three hours, it was still sitting at the gate. So they gave that option to the passengers. But if the passengers are in the aircraft and the aircraft door is closed, you are at the control of the captain. The captain makes the decision as to who gets on and who gets off. So at this point it was back in the gate, the mechanic was coming on and off board. The door was open again. At that point you can elect to make your request known that you would like to depart. But again, it still relies on the captain and when that dorr closes as to what your rights are. PEREIRA: Tough stuff, hard to be a passenger in a situation like that.

Thanks so much David Soucie, as always. A programming note for you here, CNN presents Witnessed: The Crash of TWA 800, was it really an accident as the government concluded? Hear from those closest to the case, tomorrow 9 eastern on CNN.

BERMAN: And ahead for us @THISHOUR, the president wants almost $4 billion to deal with the border crisis, this as children from Central America keep coming in by the thousands. Will Congress act?

PEREIRA: then , they are the entrepreneurs that nobody talks about, sex workers. With money flowing from the tech industry the sex trade is booming. We'll explain ahead @THISHOUR.


PEREIRA: @THISHOUR, some of the thousands undocumented immigrants in the United States, many of them children, who made a dangerous journey from Central America could get the word that they are being sent back home.

BERMAN: The Homeland Security Secretary Jegh Johnson says deportations will begin this week, and as the crisis at the southern border comes to a boil, politicians in Washington are supposed to be finding a solution. But right now they are not on the same page.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: There has to be a halt to this. That's what we want. And the best way to do is for plane loads of these young people to be returning to the country of origin.