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TSA Launches 10-Point Plan to Cut Down Wait Times; White House Issues Guidance on Transgender Bathrooms; Pentagon: ISIS Repositioning Fighters In Raqqa; Puerto Rico Confirms First Birth Defect From Zika; Belgian Men Sent To Fight With ISIS. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 13, 2016 - 16:30   ET



[16:32:39] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Arrive early and be ready to wait and be annoyed.

This is the security line today at Atlanta's airport. There's similar scenes across the country right now. In fact, many of you are watching this no doubt at a gate after waiting in line.

Hey, safe travels. Enjoy your flight. Irritated flyers, though, taking a stand, uploading photos with the #ihatethewait. And now a flurry of suggestion to cut down the lines as we head into the busy summer travel season.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security basically said, we hear you.

CNN's Tom Foreman joins us now from Reagan National Airport, right outside D.C.

You know, Tom, the government says there is a plan.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They do say that, John. They have a plan. And while they won't agree with people who say that there is a crisis because of these long lines, they do say it is imperative that this plan be put into place right away.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Long lines in Chicago, long lines in Atlanta, thousands of bags piled up and delayed in Phoenix. Under withering criticism, the TSA administrators stood shoulder to shoulder with the secretary of homeland security to say they are taking action.

JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We want to keep passengers moving, but we want to keep passengers safe.

REP. JOHN MICA (R), FLORIDA: It's just a huge fail in government program and it will fail.

FOREMAN: In the wake of a scolding on Capitol Hill and heading into the busy summer travel season, TSA is launching a 10-point plan to reduce the delays, including new limits on the size and number of the carry-on bags, more officers, more bomb-sniffing dogs, more advanced technology, and a greater emphasis on the TSA pre-check program.

In short, more of everything that they have pushed before.

(on camera): Why should anyone believe that this one will work?

JOHNSON: Because we are, in fact, bringing on more TSOs. We are, in fact, bringing on more TSO overtime, and we are, in fact, investing in more canines, more technology.

FOREMAN: Watching it all, Republican Congressman John Mica, head of the House Transportation Committee, who was unimpressed.

MICA: What they said was well intended, but they're late at the gate.


[16:35:00] FOREMAN: There is no question that they believe this can work if they can get it all into place, but the timeline is very short and when asked directly whether or not people should expect to wait more than three hours in line, sometimes this summer they may be missing their flights, the head of homeland security said only, "I hope not" -- John.

BERMAN: Three hours, I hope not?

All right. Tom Foreman, thanks so much. Sobering with two weeks to Memorial Day. Thanks, Tom.

The White House diving deeper into the controversy over transgender bathrooms. Their directive that could affect every school district in the country. That's next.


BERMAN: Welcome back.

In our national lead, the Obama administration sending a clear message to all public schools across the nation: let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice or else.

[16:40:08] The guidance issued today not only requires schools to actively enforce the anti-discrimination policy but also hints that schools which do not comply could put their federal funding at risk.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent Martin Savidge.

Martin, this guidance doesn't carry the force of law exactly. The question is, will the schools implement these guidelines?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Well, that probably depends on the state at which the schools are located. What I mean by that, is that -- you know, these guidelines were only issued this morning. But here in the South especially, the reaction has been fast and furious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SAVIDGE (voice-over): The joint letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice went to 13,500 public school districts across the country, directing them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, the letter says, including transgender students. Though the guidance has no legal weight, it contains an implicit threat -- districts could lose federal funds or face lawsuits if they don't comply.

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS: This goes against the values of so many people. It has nothing to do with anyone being against a transgender child.


SAVIDGE: In a number of states, the order is triggering outrage. The lieutenant governor of Texas accusing the Obama administration of social engineering and telling Texas superintendents not to implement the guidelines.

PATRICK: He can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States.

SAVIDGE: The administration is already involved in a legal standoff with North Carolina over its so-called bathroom law, requiring transgender individuals to use the bathroom according to their sex listed on their birth certificate.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We believe a court rather than a federal agency should tell our state, our nation and employers across the country what the law requires.

SAVIDGE: Refusing to back down, North Carolina's government is suing the federal government, which turned around and sued right back, calling the state's law discriminatory.

LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference.

SAVIDGE: For many school districts, the transgender guidelines come just as the school year is ending, but they appear to be triggering a battle that is just beginning.


SAVIDGE: Getting back to Texas, John, the lieutenant governor said if they have to, they will forego all federal funding. They are serious about this and they point out, by the way, that most of the money they get from the federal government for their school program goes to lunches and meals for disadvantaged children. Meaning that those who will suffer the most are those who can afford it the least -- John.

BERMAN: You get the sense this is just the beginning of the back and forth and legal battles here.

Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

A frightening first as the Zika epidemic spreads. What doctors in Puerto Rico found.

Plus, fresh meat and McDonald's is changing up the menu to keep up with the burger biz.


[16:46:03] BERMAN: Welcome back. Time now for our World Lead. ISIS in a state of emergency? The Pentagon has uncovered new evidence that the terror group is preparing possibly for a siege in its self- proclaimed capital of Raqqah in Syria.

ISIS militants have seen moving around in numbers and putting up shields to protect from airstrikes and ground operations.

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, what are your sources telling you about this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Fascinating stuff here, John. The Pentagon has been watching social media and other reports as ISIS has declared this so-called state of emergency in Raqqa. Raqqa is the place in Syria, their capital. They are supposed to have a firm lock on it.

But maybe, just maybe, ISIS is getting a little nervous. What the U.S. has seen, they are telling us, is indications of ISIS fighters moving around, of putting up cover shields so aircraft overhead patrolling can't see them and launch airstrikes.

Maybe one of the real first indications ISIS thinks there could be a siege in Raqqa from militia fighters. ISIS maybe, just maybe, getting a little worried about it all -- John.

BERMAN: All right, at this point, what is known about the whereabouts of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?

STARR: That is going on. You know, the working assumption has always been that Baghdadi has been hiding in Raqqa among civilian populations. I mean, it's gone so far as the sources will tell you they think there's a building downtown Raqqah where he's hiding in knowing that U.S. airstrikes can't get to him because civilians are around.

So the question now is will he get nervous and move around because the issue, of course, is if these guys start moving around, it makes it so much easier for U.S. airstrikes to locate them, pinpoint them, and target them -- John.

BERMAN: You know, Barbara, if you think back a few years, the entire U.S. involvement in the battle against ISIS was predicated on the Iraqi government getting its act together, right? Over the last week, there have been horrific attacks inside Baghdad, bombings not to mention all sort of chaos there. Does the U.S. believe that the Iraqi government is handling the situation in the right way now?

[16:50:02]STARR: You know, what we have learned today is that is that the U.S. assessment is that the Iraqis are still devoting half of all their military forces to the defense of Baghdad amidst all of these horrific attacks. But look, this is a massive city, you can't really zip it up. Nobody is saying that the attacks won't continue. Very sad business -- John.

BERMAN: It is tragic. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

All right. This just in, in the Health Lead, an alarming headline with the Zika virus. Puerto Rico says it just confirmed its first case of Zika-related microcephaly. The condition causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.

This new case is now the first transmitted on U.S. land. The family affected has requested privacy. Health officials say they expected a confirmed case. It was just a matter of time. They are encouraging all health care providers to screen pregnant women for symptoms of Zika. To date, Puerto Rico has reported 925 cases of the virus.

Separately today, House Republicans say they are preparing to introduce a bill to fight the Zika virus. A vote could happen now as early as next Wednesday. This is a change in the House.

All right. In other news, forget frozen, McDonald's is getting fresh. The fastfood menu changes that could be heading to the golden arches.



BERMAN: Welcome back. Our Money Lead now. For months in a handful of locations, McDonald's has been trying out a revolutionary new idea, fresh beef. That's right. The golden arch has been testing this noble concept in 14 restaurants in Dallas since November.

This is according to a company spokesperson. Typically, McDonald's uses burgers that have been flashed frozen. The fresh beef has only been used in the Quarter Pounder and a regional burger only sold in that area. Restaurants have not been advertising the change, but they have been asking customers if they are loving it.

Turning now to a CNN exclusive in our World Lead, a disturbing inside look at ISIS recruitment across Belgium. U.S. sources say hundreds of young men have been brainwashed into believing they must wage jihad as part of their Muslim faith.

Some of those want to be terrorist have fought and died on the Syrian battlefield, but the frightening twist, the recruiters who sent them there have been set free. CNN's Erin McLaughlin has the story.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Photos from Sabri Refla's 18th birthday, a family trip to celebrate, one of his mother's happiest memories before he went to Syria.

SALIHA BEN ALI, MOTHER OF SABRI REFLA: We don't know what's happened in Syria, but we are sure with what's happened with us and Sabri when he was here.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eight months after that trip, Saliha Ben Ali says her son became radicalized. He sent her a Facebook message to let her know he was in Syria. Then came a chilling phone call.

The Syrian guy said, congratulations, your son just died as a martyr and then he hung up. It was horrible. When I heard about his death, I felt like I died myself.

Ben Ali says her son was the happiest of her four children. She didn't know the most dangerous jihadist recruitment network in Belgium had approached her son.

It's known as the Zarcani (ph) Network, made up of veteran jihadists and recruiters. Some would go on to carry out the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. Authorities have prosecuted more than 60 recruiters and foreign fighters.

One of them was Sabri Refla. Because there's no proof of death, Refla was still convicted. His recruiters were also declared guilty. As you see here, the judge allowed them to walk free pending their appeal.

CNN tracked down one of the recruiters to his home address.

(on camera): This is the neighborhood of one of the recruiters convicted alongside Refla. Refla's mother says her son called him from Syria pleading. Refla wanted to come home. The recruiter said no. We're here to ask him why.

(voice-over): We ring the doorbell. His mother answers. She screams at us to leave her alone. As we walk away, the recruiter appears and confronts us. His words are not welcoming. He refuses to talk to us on camera.

Belgian authorities tell CNN they have not notified residents that a convicted jihadist recruiter is living in their midst. We saw a teenaged boy entering the same apartment building.

The president of the Brussels Tribunal says in Belgium it's not unusual for a criminal to go free while they are waiting for appeal if they are not considered a flight risk.

(on camera): How is it that a convicted member of a terrorist organization sentenced to seven years in prison is allowed to walk free after his trial?

LUC HENNART, PRESIDENT OF BRUSSELS TRIBUNAL (through translator): The judge has said that this man's behavior was good throughout the trial and this decision of the judge needs to be respected.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): For Refla's mother, the fact that her son's recruiters are free while he's dead is too much. She says it's as if he has died twice.

BEN ALI: I don't really believe in human justice, but in a God justice, and he will pay. Not here but by God. And I just want to tell him that my son didn't have a second chance like him.

MCLAUGLIN: Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.


BERMAN: All right, thanks to Erin for that report. That is all for THE LEAD today. I'm John Berman in for Jake Tapper. Have a great weekend. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."