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Crowds Gather in Jordan After Pilot Killed; NSC Works to Authenticate Video & Obama Reacts; ISIS Brutality Weakens it Politically; Hearings on TSA's Security Gap with Airline Employees; Pentagon Daily Briefing on Jordanian Pilot.

Aired February 3, 2015 - 14:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

More on our breaking news here as ISIS video appears to show a Jordanian pilot being burned alive inside of a cage. Now you hear these shouts and you're looking at this video from Amman, Jordan, where these crowds are coming together in the wake of this video. They're calling, they're shouting, they want revenge -- assuming, against ISIS.

The Jordanian government says this fighter pilot, Moaz al Kasasbeh, was killed January 3rd. Just a short time ago, President Obama reacted to news about the video's release, saying ISIS is only interested in death and destruction.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Should, in fact, this video be authentic, it's just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization. And I think it will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated. And it also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they're operating off of, it's bankrupt.


BALDWIN: The National Security Council says it is working to authenticate the video and that the u. s is calling for the release of all ISIS prisoners.

Let's go to the White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, what are you hearing?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. We heard the National Security Council also strongly condemn ISIS' violent acts, as we expected them to.

When we heard the president speak just then, he said he felt this would redouble the vigilance and determination of the coalition against ISIS, including, of course, Jordan, which has been a key party and partner in dealing with the humanitarian crisis as a result of ISIS in Syria. So what does that mean, redouble the efforts of the coalition? We asked the White House today, does that mean we're going to see something different come out of the coalition? Is the U.S. going to act differently?

We didn't have the chance to ask the president himself what he meant by that, but what the press secretary said in response was this, that, you know, we're likely to see some increased effort from Jordan, from what they've been saying, they're likely to retaliate. But the press secretary said he felt the president was referring mainly to the commitment and determination on the part of the coalition.

We also asked about the timing of this video. I mean, coming out on the day that the Jordanian king is in Washington meeting with the vice president and Secretary of State Kerry, do they feel that this was timed because of that? We've heard analysts say they think that's likely.

Also, the Jordanians have been keeping this visit of King Abdullah to Washington pretty much low profile. But the White House itself wouldn't weigh in on that timing.

The press secretary said he couldn't imagine the thinking of this organization, but he did say that if the goal of this video was to try to weaken the resolve of coalition partners, that he felt it would have the opposite effect, only steeling the resolve of the coalition against ISIS -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: You talk about King Abdullah being in Washington. We know he recorded a message for the people of Jordan. He could still be speaking. We're going to watch and wait to see if he speaks.

Michelle Kosinski, thank you very much.

Let's get more insight with CNN political commentator, Peter Beinart. He's a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a contributing editor at "The Atlantic" and "The National Journal."

Wonderful to have you on.

We were just talking a moment ago, you were saying the more horrendous and barbaric ISIS becomes, the weaker they potentially are politically.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & SENIOR FELLOW, THE NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I think that's right. This is, after all, a war for hearts and minds. There are some people out there attracted to these horrific videos. But a much, much larger group of people in the Muslim and Arab world are absolutely repulsed. You see these in the scenes we're seeing in Jordan. This was not popular in Jordan. People in Jordan are not interested in fighting for America in the Middle East. America is not popular in Jordan.

But when you see a handsome Jordanian pilot from a powerful Jordanian tribe humiliated and burned to death, I think it makes the politics for the king of Jordan much, much easier for him to be involved in this coalition. I think it's similar to what we saw in Pakistan, where the Taliban, after this barbaric killing of these school children in December, really rally and mobilized even fairly conservative anti-American elements in Pakistani society against them.

BALDWIN: How does this change the equation for Jordan, a, in terms of the involvement -- you mentioned this is a population that's not interested in this war. As we wait to hear from King Abdullah, how do -- what do you think his message to his people will be?

BEINART: I think it changes it. ISIS was always a threat to the king of Jordan, to the political control of the ruling class. Now I think it will be seen by certainly at least by Jordan's Bettowin population as a war against them, as a war against them, as a war against the people of Jordan. I think that's going to mean a government that's much more able to mobilize its society against ISIS because, now, really, this -- they have been attacked. It's not like it was just some Americans who were being killed in a war that Jordan was dragged into.

BALDWIN: So when we hear the president of the United States talking about redoubling the efforts of the coalition, this could potentially be Jordan, for example -- you know, I was talking to the general a moment ago, saying this could be taking members of these tribes in Jordan and trying to infiltrate ISIS and taking this more on, on their own.

What about this woman, this Iraqi woman whose husband's bomb successfully went off in 2005. She had the bomb strapped around her. She's on death row in Jordan. What happens with her, if anything?

BEINART: Well, you can imagine political pressure to kill her. I think that would be a very popular decision in Jordan right now.


BEINART: But I think they will probably -- my guess would be that the king probably doesn't go in that direction. What he focuses on is fighting this threat of ISIS, which he says is a threat to Jordan and to the values of the people of Jordan and the Middle East.

Remember, these are basically largely tribal societies. If you go back to the war in Iraq in 2006 when the United States started to have some success, it was because tribes, Sunni tribes, broke against al Qaeda and against the insurgency. This is what -- this will be the most important development, I think, in fighting against ISIS, powerful Sunni tribes across these different countries turning against ISIS and willing to take up arms against them. This may be a step in that direction.

BALDWIN: Peter Beinart, thank you so much.

BEINART: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Next, stay with CNN's special coverage of the breaking news.

Also ahead, an alarming CNN report going behind the scenes, exposing a potential gap in airport security. Wait until you see what we found going behind the scenes.


BALDWIN: A potential major hole in airport security is the focus of this hearing right now on Capitol Hill. Unlike passengers who have to go through TSA screening just to get on a plane, a lot of airport workers move about with relative freedom. That includes easy access to aircraft, to all those concourses, and other secure areas inside an airport. That security gap came to light last year when federal agents broke up that gun-smuggling operation in Atlanta, allegedly run by that baggage handler and an accomplice.

I want you to look at what senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, found out.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Miami International Airport, this is the security you don't see standing in line. CNN got exclusive access to the screening that takes place for what they call the back of the airport employees. These are the baggage handlers, the mechanics, the cleaners, anyone you don't see going through screening with passengers. It's the same screening no matter what kind of security badge or security clearance the employee holds.

LAUREN STOVER, AIRPORT SECURITY DIRECTOR, MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: I.D.s are not enough to stop malicious intent. You can look at someone's background, but it's not going to necessarily prevent them from carrying out some kind of malicious activity against an airport.

GRIFFIN: What may surprise you is what's happening at Miami's International Airport. The full screening of every airport employee, is the exception, not the rule.

CNN contacted 20 of the major airports across the country and found screening of employees is random and partial at best, and no national standard exists. The only other major airport that does full screening is Orlando. Many airports like Seattle's Sea-Tac, telling us an extensive background check and security badge is all that's needed for employees to get on the tarmac and gain access to airplanes. It's a similar story we heard from Dallas, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, even JFK in New York, pass a background check, get a badge, and you have access to the inner workings of America's airports without going through the same screening passengers face up top.

Airport officials have told CNN the cost of screening all employees is simply too much for their budgets.

Security expert, Wayne Black, says relying on badges for security is stupid.

WAYNE BLACK, SECURITY EXPERT: You don't have to be a security expert. A fifth grader can tell you that if you're checking security at the top end, at the front end at the airport, you ought to be checking at the back end at the airport. We have a saying in our business. That is budget-driven security will always fail.

GRIFFIN: The TSA, which sets standards for airport security, says that the wake of the gun-smuggling case in Atlanta, it is implementing or considering a range of measures, including additional requirements for airport and airline employee screening, but so far, no national changes. Restaurant employees and flight crews that go through terminals do pass through a check point. Those that work below do not.

STOVER: In the terminal, we got to be careful with the bags.

GRIFFIN: In Miami, airport security director, Lauren Stover, says checking some but not all employees isn't enough. The threats at her airport are the same across the country, smuggling drugs and weapons and the potential of terror.

STOVER: The greatest vulnerabilities for this airport and probably any other airport like MIA is the insider threat. Basically, people that are going to obtain their credentials and use their access to exploit the system.

GRIFFIN: Miami International has been screening like this ever since a drug-smuggling scandal in the late '90s. Every employee with access to airplanes goes through metal detectors and screening, going to work, coming back from break, every time, everyone.

BLACK: In today's day and age, we have to deal with terrorism.

GRIFFIN: If Miami is an example for how security should be done, the airport also has proof of why. Last year alone, 209 employee I.D. badges were confiscated due to security violations caught by screening.

STOVER: We have intercepted guns, drugs, large sums of money, weapons, knives.

GRIFFIN: Employee screening is under new scrutiny after the arrest of a Delta baggage handler in Atlanta. The employee worked with a passenger to smuggle guns to New York. The baggage handler, unscreened, was able to take backpacks of guns into the airport, where he passed them on to a passenger already cleared through security. Atlanta is now evaluating the cost of full employee screening.

STOVER: Put it this way. This is, you know, a costly program. It's really not that costly when you compare the cost versus the consequences of not having a program like this.


GRIFFIN: Brooke, you can imagine the news of this airport security gap landed pretty hard up here in Congress, especially among members of the committee that oversees airport security. They're asking the TSA why. Why do we all, the passengers, the airline pilots, the restaurant workers, have to go through screening but thousands and thousands of these workers underneath the airport, or the back door, do not? That's going to be a big question for this hearing that just got under way -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: I can't wait to hear the answer for all of White House have to go through all of it.

Drew Griffin, we'll be looking for that. Thank you so much.

Let's stay in Washington and head over to the Pentagon. Daily briefing happening. I want to listen in to see if any news is being made in the comments about this apparent video of this fighter pilot. Take a listen.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: On behalf of the men and women of the United States Department of Defense, Secretary Hagel extends his deepest condolences to the family of Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot, First Lieutenant Moaz al Kasasbeh, who was brutally murdered after being taken captive by ISIL terrorists. This is another example of ISIL's contempt for life itself.

The United States and its military stands steadfast along side our Jordanian friends and partners. Jordan remains a pillar of our global coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. And this act of despicable barbarity only strengthens our shared resolve.

We send our thoughts and prayers to Lieutenant Kasasbeh's family and loved ones, and all Jordanians, as we join them in mourning his tragedy loss.

Now, I do want to make you aware that on Saturday, this past Saturday, the 31st of January, a little bit after 9:00 a.m. eastern time, U.S. Special Operations forces conducted a strike south of Mogadishu, using unmanned aircraft and several hellfire missiles. This was a direct strike against the al Shabaab network. We're still assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information when and if appropriate. At this time, however, we don't assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties as a result of the strike. This operation was, as others have been, an example of the commitment made by the United States government, our allies and partners to the people and government of Somalia. And it goes to show, again, how long our reach can be when it comes to counterterrorism.


QUESTION: Admiral, was the U.S. aware that the Jordanian pilot had been killed one month ago on January 3rd? Also a question on the Somalia announcement there. This was the, did you say, the intelligence and --


KIRBY: Intelligence and security chief and director of external planning. So directly involved in the planning and collection of information to plan and conduct strikes outside Somalia.

QUESTION: Can you give us an assessment of the impact of that, killing him as well as the previous senior al Shabaab, what, three weeks ago?

KIRBY: Well, if -- again, I'm not in a position to confirm the results of the strike. But if successful, if he no longer breathes, and this is a significant, another significant blow to al Shabaab and their ability to conduct plan, prepare for, and strike against targets outside -- inside and outside Somalia. We would deem this to be, if successful, a very significant blow against their capabilities.

On your first question, Bob, I haven't seen anything that indicated that we had before today any direct knowledge of the murder happening on the 3rd of January. I've seen these reports today, but I -- I'm not aware we had any indications prior to today that it happened so long ago.

QUESTION: Admiral, as a result of the killing of the Jordanian pilot, President Obama said today that the U.S. was going to double down on the efforts to defeat and degrade ISIS, ISIL. What does that mean? Are there plans by the U.S. military to double the efforts in their fight against ISIL?

KIRBY: Well, you know, we don't talk about future operations, Jim. But I think, as I said in my opening statement, reflecting the secretary's views, that it's just another example of how barbarous this group is and how seriously we need to take them, and we will.

You also know that there's been a long-concerted effort here over the last several months to destroy and degrade their capabilities capabilities. Nothing is going to slow down about that. We're going to continue to put as much pressure on them as possible with our partners in Iraq and Syria.

QUESTION: I guess my question is, was that just sort of a reaction to what happened, or are there actual plans in the works to double down the U.S. Military efforts against ISIL?

KIRBY: We don't talk about future plans and operations, Mik. What I can tell you is that we're going to remain committed to this as we have been, and there's not going to be any loss of focus. In fact, an event like this only sharpens that focus and makes it that more important for us to succeed.


QUESTION: Admiral, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart was on Capitol Hill for his confirmation -- sorry, at a hearing today. He said given the percentage of recidivism among released Gitmo detainees that one of the five Taliban Five, who were released for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, would be expected to return to the fight and DIA would not be able to do anything to trace them once the one year is up in terms of Qatar watching them for one year. That seems to stand in contrast to what you said in terms of the ability to mitigate the risk that these released prisoners pose after the one-year mark in may ends in Qatar, if they decide to leave for Afghanistan, return to the fight. How do you reconcile that?

KIRBY: Well, I didn't see the general's comments, but let's take that at face value. I still stand by what I said up here before. So let's look at this factually. It's very difficult to predict the future. All five remain in Qatar. All five are being monitored. There are security assurances that we have from the government of Qatar, and the secretary's comfortable those assurances are being met and followed. It was the fact that they existed at all and there was a monitoring program in place that allowed us to know about this individual's reengagement.

As you know, I can't get into the details of the character of that reengagement, but we knew about it and were able to have a dialogue with the government in Qatar because it worked. So again, I would repeat what I said last week. We're comfortable that going forward, through these measures, we're going to be able to more closely monitor them and that we will continue to work with partners, not just in Qatar, but in the region, to try to mitigate the threat that any returned detainee could potentially pose, not just to American interests but to the interest of our partners in the region.

QUESTION: Do you think that can continue after May? You have --


KIRBY: The other thing I'd say is -- the other thing I'd say is -- because I think where you're going is, well, what happens if they go back to Afghanistan? I think Secretary Hagel said this very, very well and very eloquently in the House Armed Services Committee testimony when we discussed the Bergdahl transfer. He said, they return to the battlefield at their own peril and they will. If they choose to do that, we obviously have the ability to protect our troops, and we will. And the Afghan national security forces are far more competent today than they were even a year ago, and they are certainly capable and increasing in their capability of defending their citizens.

QUESTION: DIA was not consulted before the decision to swap the prisoners was made. Why wasn't DIA consulted?

KIRBY: I'd have to get back to you on that, Jan. I didn't see that particular comment. I can't validate it. I'm sure the general was speaking honestly and truthfully. You're going to have to let me get back to you.


QUESTION: After the killing of the Jordanian pilot, how do you think the Pentagon, the United States, and the coalition would respond to that killing and to the killing of other hostages?

KIRBY: We haven't made -- I can only speak for the United States military. We haven't made it a point to respond directly to these killings, even when these were American citizens. What we have done and will continue to do is degrade and destroy their capabilities and continue to put them on the defensive, in which they still remain today.

So I wouldn't -- at least from an American military perspective, it's not a tit for tat. We're at war with ISIL in the same way we're at war with al Qaeda. We're at war, with allies and partners, indigenous partners in Iraq and hopefully a growing Syrian moderate opposition in Syria. Nothing is going to change about that, Joe. Nothing -- nobody is letting off the gas. We're going to continue to put pressure on ISIL regardless of these barbaric acts.

What these acts do, however, they bring into stark relief just how despicable these people are. And how little -- the contempt they have for life and how little they care. I don't need to remind you that this pilot was himself a Muslim. So it does bring into stark relief the seriousness of the threat. But, you know, these brutal murders -- I can't -- there's no way I could possibly figure out how to justify it in your brain because it's so twisted. But it certainly isn't, these aren't the acts of a winner. They're not winning.


QUESTION: You mentioned in the strike in Somalia, that it demonstrated the long reach of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Is that in any way a veiled warning to ISIL?

KIRBY: There's no veil put upon the warning to ISIL. We have been nothing but clear and transparent about the degree to which we take this threat seriously.