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THE SITUATION ROOM
Details Of NBA Charges Against Sterling Revealed; Search for Flight 370
Aired May 20, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, breaking news. The NBA versus Donald Sterling -- we have new details of how and why the league plans to force the Clippers' owner and his wife to give up their team.
Al Qaeda triple threat -- new intelligence showing the terror network is stepping up plans to attack American targets from three directions, overseas and at home.
And protecting a terrorist -- the shocking claim that the CIA is harboring one of the planners of the deadly bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Stunning new details of the NBA charges against Donald Sterling and of the league's intent to force him and his wife to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.
CNN has now obtained documents showing the NBA accuses Donald Sterling not only of discrimination against African-Americans, but also of lying, destroying evidence and refusing to pay a $2.5 million fine.
The NBA board of governors is scheduled to take up the charges June 3rd. And if they're sustained, the league says it will terminate Donald and Shelly Sterling's ownership of the Clippers.
Let's get some more now.
Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is joining us.
Rachel Nichols, the host of "Unguarded with Rachel Nichols," she'll be joining us in a moment, as well.
CNN anchor Don Lemon is with us -- Jeff, you've now gone through these new documents made available to us, showing the strategy of what the NBA plans on doing, not just against Donald Sterling, but against Shelly Sterling herself. Among other things, termination of the Los Angeles Clippers' entire membership, including Mrs. Sterling's interest in the team, is called for, they say, by the NBA constitution.
So they're making it clear, they're not just going after him, they're going after her, as well.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And there's actually quite an interesting almost bombshell piece of information in there, which was certainly news.
We know, of course, that the entire basis for the charge, at least initially, was his statements recorded with D. Stiviano. Then they added some of the things that he said to Anderson Cooper.
What's included in this current bill of particulars is an allegation of a cover-up, a construction of false information that was submitted to the NBA by Sterling in -- in the effort to save his ownership. It's not spelled out how he did that, but that's yet another offense that the NBA alleges Sterling committed, and another grounds for taking his franchise away from him.
BLITZER: Yes, they do write in this -- in this document that we've obtained that, "Mr. Sterling's conduct, it was discovered that relevant evidence was destroyed, false and misleading evidence was provided to the NBA's investigator and the Los Angeles Clippers issued a false and misleading press statement."
So, clearly, they're going way beyond what we heard in that press statement that they released yesterday in delineating the formal charges.
And let me -- and let me get Don Lemon into this conversation -- going way beyond what was detailed yesterday.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. And this is way more serious than we talked about, you know, this morality clause. This is far deeper than a morality clause.
And the thing that gets me -- listen, I'm not an attorney, but, Jeffrey, when it says termination of the Los Angeles Clippers' entire membership, including Sterling's interest in the team, is called for by the constitution, what does that mean for the team?
Does that mean if the -- if he continues with this, that the team is no longer part of the NBA?
I'm not sure of that.
But this -- I mean this is definitely a bombshell.
TOOBIN: I don't think it means that...
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST, "UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS": I...
TOOBIN: -- it means that initially. I think it means that they are going to take -- they are going to to try to take the whole thing away and put it up for auction.
I'm sorry, Rachel, go ahead.
NICHOLS: Yes, I just want to jump in here, guys.
It's a term in the NBA constitution. There's two different ways to dislodge an owner from his team. They can either terminate membership. That means that the entire ownership group is no longer involved in the team. When a membership of a team is terminated, it reverts to the control of the NBA commissioner.
Or, separately, there is a separate path in the constitution to just remove one owner. So if they did that separate path to Donald Sterling, then Shelly Sterling, his wife, could remain an owner.
But we all know they do not want Shelly Sterling to remain an owner.
BLITZER: Right. And let me read a couple...
NICHOLS: So that's why they are going the more bombshell termination of membership path. That does not mean the Clippers are no longer going to get to play basketball or that Chris Paul is now on the open market. It just means that it now reverts to the NBA office and the NBA commissioner.
BLITZER: Yes. And on Mrs. Sterling, Shelly Sterling, it specifically states, "IF the NBA board of governors sustains the charge, the ownership interests of Mr. and Mrs. Sterling in the Clippers will be terminated."
And then it goes on to say, "termination of the LA Clippers' entire membership, including Mrs. Sterling's interest in the team, is called for by the constitution and related agreements and is the only viable means of bringing Mr. Sterling's interest in the Clippers to an end.
So there's -- there's obviously -- Jeffrey, there's -- there's no more vagueness about the future of Shelly Sterling.
TOOBIN: No, none at all. I mean they -- they are looking to have a whole new clean slate for the Clippers. And, you know, the clock is really ticking here.
Today, Donald Sterling's lawyer asked for a three month delay in this process. And the NBA said no. Delay is the classic strategy for defendants in any sort of procedure, criminal, civil or this sort of private procedure.
The NBA said no. June 3rd is the day that the NBA will begin this hearing. And it may end if there is no defense put up by Sterling yet.
BLITZER: And, Don, I want...
BLITZER: -- I want you to just respond to this and then I'll bring Rachel back into this.
BLITZER: One of the points they're making in this document is that NBA membership may be terminated upon the failure of a member or owner to pay any indebtedness owing to the league.
And then they say -- how do they back that up?
They say this. "This provision has been violated because the Los Angeles Clippers, through the acts of Mr. Sterling, has not paid and has stated a refusal to pay the $2.5 million fine that was imposed on Mr. Sterling back on April 29, 2014."
So they say they can get rid of him simply because he hasn't paid that $2.5 million fine.
LEMON: Just because of that, Wolf, you -- you read my mind. That's exactly what I wanted to bring up to you is that it appears in him trying to, you know, keep his team, and him trying to do damage control, that from this, that he actually has done himself more harm by the damage control that he's trying to do. He did not pay that fine and then sent a letter to the NBA saying why he didn't pay it, because he thought, you know, he shouldn't -- his attorney at least did.
But now, according to this, as you read, they can get rid of him just because he did not pay that fine. It seems it would have helped him to pay the fine and then fight it, because it wouldn't have given them one more reason -- one more solid reason to get rid of him.
BLITZER: And what do you make, Rachel, of this notion they think that they have another justification for getting rid of both Sterlings because various provisions of the NBA constitution were violated, they say, when he provided -- when he destroyed evidence, provided false and misleading evidence and issued a false and misleading public statement that caused, they say, grave harm to the NBA.
NICHOLS: Yes. The statement was released right after the recordings were released. We all saw it. It basically said that he didn't really say the things on that recording, or he certainly didn't mean them, and that perhaps the recording was manipulated, when, in fact, we found out since then the recording was not manipulated at all.
I'm curious about the destruction of evidence. You might make the leap and assume that, hey, there are some alternate recordings that perhaps were destroyed. We'll have to find out what that is. That's going to be certainly a good nugget to the story as we go forward.
And I've got to tell you, Don, I'm not sure it's about damage control gone awry. I think this is about stubbornness. This is a guy who is used to getting what he wants when he wants, how he wants it.
When he -- when these recordings came out, as far as he was concerned, in his world, he said and did nothing wrong. And in his world, what he says goes. So as far as he was concerned, he didn't have to pay the fine, he didn't have to listen to anyone.
And guess what?
The NBA is saying you live in our world, Donald. And in our world, you will no longer be a team member. That's going to come up very soon.
BLITZER: And very quickly...
BLITZER: -- very quickly, Jeffrey, before I let you go, you're the legal expert. When they accuse him of destroying evidence, we knew when the FBI makes a charge like that, that's clearly a crime.
So if the league says he was destroying evidence, that allegation, what does that say to you?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't think it's a crime because this was not a governmental investigation. But it is certainly another ground for taking the franchise away. And I think just as the bottom line here, he has one option at this point. Sterling has the option of going to court and getting a judge to stop this sale. That's really his only hope at this point.
And, you know, that -- that's a question of whether there's any legal basis...
LEMON: Or bow out gracefully.
TOOBIN: -- to get a judge do that.
BLITZER: All right, guys...
LEMON: Bow out gracefully.
TOOBIN: I mean, yes.
BLITZER: All right, don't...
TOOBIN: That is a possibility.
BLITZER: -- don't go too far away.
We'll have more coming up at the top of our next hour, as well, on this story.
And also, an important note to our viewers, please be sure to join Don later tonight. "CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON." That airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
We'll talk to you guys shortly.
LEMON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, a very different story we're covering. Al Qaeda terrorists targeting the U.S. from three directions. There's new intelligence on a growing threat.
And dozens of Americans have gone off to train and fight with jihadists in Syria. Now some of those Americans are coming back to the United States.
So how dangerous is that?
BLITZER: There's other breaking news we're following right now.
New details emerging as the United States faces what's now being described as a triple threat from al Qaeda.
The danger comes from different directions, with terrorists stepping up efforts to attack American targets overseas and at home.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us with the latest -- let's start with what you've learned, Barbara, about this very dangerous American in Pakistan.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a senior U.S. official tells me that over the last six months or so, what they have been monitoring is a series of threats from al Qaeda in various locations, threats aimed at U.S. targets overseas, and, indeed, U.S. targets here at home.
One of the big concerns is a man named Abdullah al-Shami. He is part of al Qaeda Core, the old al Qaeda, based in Pakistan. This was supposed to be the al Qaeda on the run.
Oshami, believe it or not, Wolf, they believe he was actually born in America, American-born, went to the Middle East as a very small child with his family and now is essentially the head of al Qaeda's external planning operations in Pakistan. He is a guy they believe is planning, trying to put operatives in place, which is part of this overall effort. They do not think yet he has been successful. They see no operational cells in the United States, but this is not al Qaeda on the run.
This is someone they're watching very closely. "The New York Times" actually quietly mentioned him several months ago. U.S. officials are loathe to talk about him. But Oshami, that is his code name, is the one to watch.
BLITZER: Second stream apparently coming from Syria. What are you learning about that?
STARR: Wolf, another man, a guy al-Jani (ph), also coming, it is believed, from Pakistan into Syria. Last week he was very quietly sanctioned by the Treasury Department. They believe he is a key al Qaeda senior operative now in Syria, also at the core of a Syrian- based effort planning external attacks again, attacks against U.S. and western targets.
Syria now a hot bed. Basically, open territory for al Qaeda to operate. There are training camps. They are bringing fighters in, and as we are going to discuss in a short while, they are sending fighters out of Syria, trying to get them into Europe, trying to get them into the United States to attack wherever they can.
BLITZER: The third stream coming from Yemen. What are you learning about that?
STARR: Yemen, Wolf, always a top concern. It is, of course, the headquarters for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Remember, we reported several days ago the U.S. embassy in Sana'a had closed to any outside services. It is still closed. It is going to remain closed for weeks.
This is one of the biggest indications of the growing threat from al Qaeda in Yemen. The concern that they are very capable of trying to attack the U.S. embassy in Yemen, capable of trying to attack inside the United States.
Let's circle back and tie this all up, Wolf. The concern here is in each of these locations, al Qaeda operatives are threatening and making efforts to try and put operatives into place to attack U.S. targets in Europe, U.S. targets at home.
A U.S. official tells me there are -- there is no evidence of operational cells yet, but they are watching and tracking every one of these as they emerge, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want you to stay with us, Barbara. I want to expand this conversation. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is joining us along with Eli Lake, a senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast.
You've got a major article, Eli, suggesting that, what, 100 American have already trained with jihadists in Syria and as many as a dozen may have already returned to the United States?
ELI LAKE, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Those are the latest intelligence assessments that I'm getting from my sources at this point. And that has been confirmed.
The key thing here is that it's very difficult to track westerners with western passports as they return home. So the concern is that some of them may have slipped through the crack, and that's why it is sort of a soft number between 6 and 12 at this point.
We know of some cases where there have been Facebook posts of Americans who have gone to fight in Syria. Some have been prosecuted. But as Barbara Starr is reporting, it is becoming a major threat. Part of it is because al Qaeda has been sending a lot of senior operatives into Syria that are planning these kinds of external operations.
BLITZER: What kind of training are they giving them?
LAKE: Well, at this point, I don't want to speculate precisely the nature of the training at this point. And I don't have that kind of information. But the point is that even if it's just fighting and making the contacts, it's almost the Rolodex is more important than the training that they would offer. The fact that they would know the right people to contact and then to find the kind of documentation in order to slip into the United States or European countries.
BLITZER: Mohammed, you're learning of a new recruitment effort in Yemen on the part of al Qaeda?
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And we must remember, this is happening at a time when the largest counterterror efforts against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, has ever been launched, and it's still going. It started just about a month ago. It's still going on. Yemen's military, with the help of the Americans and the Saudis, are on parts of Yemen soil that they don't usually go into trying to hunt down the terrorists.
And yet we're seeing more and more propaganda videos, very glossily produced propaganda videos produced by AQAP, in which they're showing not only foreign fighters, fighters that appear to be European, some which they claim to be are American and from other parts of the Middle East.
But also we're seeing al Qaeda trying to show a different side of themselves, trying to show themselves as a protector of Yemen and trying to claim the Yemen military are the ones that are wreaking destruction upon various populations in different parts of Yemen.
BLITZER: A few weeks ago we had Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on our show. He was deeply concerned about this al Qaeda threat emerging from inside Syria.
You're also learning, Eli, that al Qaeda veterans from outside of Syria are flocking into Syria for recruitment purposes. What are you learning, specifically?
LAKE: Well, this was first noted by Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center in testimony back in March, and one of the things that he said, I think is really important, is that he talked about these kind of senior commanders who have gone there to sort of set up shop. And it's a pattern that we've seen all over the Muslim world, from Libya to North Africa.
You're finding kind of key figures who have some association with other senior al Qaeda folks, who were then trying to give not so much a franchise or leadership but almost a kind of guide and sort of role. And then they find new people and you have the problem metastasizes.
BLITZER: Eli Lake, thanks very much. Mohammed Jamjoom, thanks to you. Barbara Starr, of course, thanks to you, as well.
Coming up, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author joins to talk about a stunning claim that the CIA is supposedly protecting an Iranian terrorist accused of planting bombings that killed hundreds of Americans. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Three decades before the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, there was a horrific attack of the United States embassy in Beirut. Americans were among the dozens of people who died.
Months later, hundreds of Americans died when another truck bomb hit by the nearby U.S. Marine barracks just outside Beirut. A Pulitzer-Prize-winning author is making a stunning new claim that the CIA has actually been harboring an Iranian tied to the planning of both of those attacks.
Our Brian Todd has been looking into all of this. He's joining us now with more. We're going to speak with the author of this new book in a few moments, Brian, but tell our viewers the background. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this seems like a plot taken from the TV drama "Homeland." An Iranian terrorist recruited by the CIA, given cover and protection by the U.S. government in exchange for valuable intelligence.
But according to this book, that's not fiction. It says a mastermind of terror attacks on Americans is now living on U.S. soil with the backing of the CIA.
TODD (voice-over): A scene of carnage in Beirut, April 1983. The bombing of the U.S. embassy kills more than 60 people, including 17 Americans. The CIA is reported to have lost several key officers.
Former U.S. and Israeli intelligence agents say this man, Ali- Reza Asgari, then a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, helped plan that bombing, as well as the bombing at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut later that year which killed 241 American servicemen.
DANNY YATOM, FORMER ISRAELI MOSSAD CHIEF: Whatever happened during those years and had a signature of either the Hezbollah or Iran, probably was orchestrated by this man.
TODD: Now a new book says the CIA helped Asgari defect. It is still protecting him inside the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was blown -- I was stunned. I was surprised. I couldn't believe it.
TODD: Ann Dammarell suffered 19 broken bones in the embassy bombing. Dammarell and other victims sued the Iranian government for its involvement. The book, "The Good Spy" by Pulitzer-Prize-winner Ty Burke (ph) says the CIA helped Asgari defect in 2007 in exchange for crucial information about Iran's nuclear program.
REUEL MARC GEBRECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER: His value could be quite large because our knowledge was quite small. He could have had a treasure trove of information about Revolutionary Guard core activities, overseas, domestically. He could have provided perhaps a good deal of information about the nuclear program.
TODD: According to the book, Asgari gave intelligence about Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz, and it says he could have given information about Imad Rahim (ph), a Hezbollah operative believed responsible for several terrorist attacks against Americans. Rahim (ph) was assassinated in 2008.
BLITZER: The intelligence from Asgari doesn't satisfy William Baron, who helped continued to the wounded after the bombing.
WILLIAM BARRON: My immediate reaction was sick to my stomach and I can't see anything being gleaned from him that we cannot glean from other sources.
TODD: Ann Dammarell says punishment.
DAMMARELL: Deals are made, deals are cut, countries do it. And that's how they operate and get information that they need.
TODD: But we have gotten a flat-out denial of the books assertion from the U.S. intelligence community.
A CIA spokesman says, quote, "We can say categorically that the CIA did not resettle or arrange the defection of Ali Reza Asgari to the United States or any other location."
And this from a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, quote: "No agency in the intelligence community was involved in resettling Ali Reza Asgari in the United States or is aware of his whereabouts" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The Iranians are also weighing in on this latest allegation.
TODD: They are. They are weighing in on this. They're saying, as they have for years, the Iranian foreign ministry, that they believe that Asgari was abducted by the U.S. and by the Israelis in Turkey. They say they are still looking for him.
BLITZER: That's what the Iranians are saying. Brian, thanks for that background.
Let's explore these explosive charges now. Kai Bird, the author of this brand-new book, "The Good Spy," is joining us. The book is entitled "The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames." Also joining us, Stewart Newberger. He's an attorney here in Washington for the Beirut bombing victims, their family members. And CNN national security analyst, the former CIA officer, Bob Baer.
All right, Kai. You've written an amazing book, I must tell you. It reads like a thriller, but it's obviously nonfiction. What do you say to these denials from the director of national intelligence and the CIA? KAI BIRD, AUTHOR, "THE GOOD SPY": Well, I'm not surprised. You know, just before coming on air with you, I got an e-mail from one of my sources, a retired CIA officer who had known Robert Ames very well, and I asked him, you know, "What did you think of the end story of the book?" He's just finished it.
And he said, "You know, in my heart I have murder for this man. But in my head, I understand they make these tradeoffs. If this man came with valuable information, I can see -- if I had been in that position, I might have made the same choice."
And then I asked him, "Well, what about the denial from the CIA spokesman?"
He says, "Well, the man is doing his job. That's exactly what he's paid to do."
BLITZER: But in the book, you say this guy, Asgari, is probably living in the United States someplace right now. You don't know where, right?
BIRD: I don't know where, but you know, in 2007, in the spring of 2007, there were a flurry of news stories in "The Washington Post," in "The New York Times," in "The Guardian," in European papers about this defection. And I also was able to track down through the Internet and sources in Berlin exactly how he came about.
And now if you parse the CIA denial about this, they're using very specific language. They say, you know, that they didn't arrange this defection. Well, Ali Reza Asgari actually arranged his defection on his own with some dissident sources in -- in Berlin and Turkey. He got himself out of Iran, into Syria and crossed into the Turkish -- into Turkey.
And -- but he was -- by all accounts, he was brought to Washington, brought to a CIA safe house and debriefed. Because, as one of your sources said in the setup, he brought with him information. Specifically, he brought a laptop with information about the Iran nuclear program.
You know, this is a man who had been involved in these terrible bombings as a young intelligence officer, but he rose to be a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and he had knowledge about Iran's nuclear program.
BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, Kai, because I want to bring Bob Baer into this conversation.
Bob, you worked for the CIA. You understand what's going on. And in the book, Kai writes about apparently there were some disagreements in 20007 between the National Security Council, the CIA. Do you help this guy? Do you bring him to the United States? Or do you just go ahead and kill him? He did have sensitive information, supposedly, about Iran's nuclear program, information the U.S. wanted.
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the problem -- the political problem is Asgari was a key player. He's -- undoubtedly could give witness against the Iranian regime. And now is the question, do we -- do we want to prosecute Iran for this or go to war? Whatever you want. It's clear that the Iranians were involved in two embassy explosions: the Marines, Khobar Barracks. I could go on and on. And hijacking airplanes, and this man was in the middle of it.
Do you take him, put him on the witness stand, indict the Ayatollah Khomeini? That's a political problem. So I can see why they're so sensitive about this at this point and, you know, it's a real problem.
BLITZER: And the book is about Robert Ames, who was a top official of the CIA who was visiting Beirut at the time. This was back in 1983 during the Reagan administration, when all of a sudden that embassy was blown up and so many people, including Robert Ames, were killed.
I want everyone to stand by. We have much more to discuss. We'll get reaction from family members. Stuart Newberger is here with us, as well. We're going to continue this conversation right after this.
BLITZER: Truly shocking claim that the CIA has been protecting an Iranian terrorist tied to the deaths of hundreds of Americans. We're back with Kai Bird. He's the author of the brand-new book, "The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames"; Stuart Newberger, he's an attorney for the Beirut U.S. embassy bombing victims; along with CNN national security analyst, the former CIA officer Bob Baer.
Stuart, let me bring you into this conversation. You represent these family members. When they hear this allegation, which has now been denied by the CIA, the DNI, but when they hear this kind of stuff, that this terrorist who was the mastermind of the blowing up of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, the Marine barracks bombing six months later, what have they been saying to you?
STUART NEWBERGER, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY MEMBERS OF BEIRUT EMBASSY BOMBING: You know, it's a mixed reaction and, I think, mixed emotions. A lot of the people I represent were career diplomats, agency employees at the station in Beirut, USAID workers, as Ms. Dammarell was, who you had in your earlier clip.
And obviously, they're very upset and concerned that someone who could commit mass murder against not just them but the United States government -- this was an embassy, after all, that was attacked -- could in any way possibly have been sheltered and assisted by their own government.
But at the same time, as Anne Dammarell even mentioned in her interview, these are people who also work in the diplomatic and intelligence world. And as painful as it is, sometimes they understand that the president or their boss has to make tough decisions. Whether this was right or wrong is, I guess, the toughest challenge of all.
BLITZER: Kai, you spent a lot of time interviewing friends and family members of Robert Ames, the CIA officer who was there, who was blown up at the U.S. embassy bombing back in 1983. What have they been saying to you?
BIRD: Well, like Stu says, they understand that these kinds of calculations go on all the time. In the sort of shadowy world of intelligence, you have to get information from, quote, "bad guys."
But I would argue that in this instance, you know, this is a great miscalculation, a misjudgment. This is a man who was responsible for killing eight CIA officers and many more Americans in the Beirut embassy bombing and 241 Marines in Beirut six months later and, you know, the intelligence he came with, I would argue, was transitory. It was old almost by the time he arrived here, and so I think it was a bad deal.
But, you know, I can't know that, and -- and the bottom line is that there are a lot of victims and, you know, the family of Bob Ames is represented by Stu. And there was a civil court judgment. They were compensated, but they haven't received a dime.
And we are now -- what's interesting about this situation is that we're involved in delicate negotiations with Iran to try to avoid a war. And I'm all in favor of that. But I don't think that these civil suit damages should be forgotten. You know, they should be part of the negotiations.
BLITZER: A lot of people totally agree with you, Kai.
As we're speaking, Marie Harf, she's a spokesperson at the State Department, she's been tweeting. Obviously, they're watching this interview. She tweets this. She said, "DNI and CNI [SIC] spokesmen categorically deny Kai Bird's assertions re: Asgari. Blind accusations without facts = very irresponsible." Then she says, "Yes, CIA and DNI both categorically deny arranging asylum, resettling him, knowing where he is."
So let me give you another chance, Kai, to respond to Mare Harf over at the State Department.
BIRD: Well, ultimately, people are just going to have to read "The Good Spy" and judge it for themselves. But the book comes with a thousand footnotes.
And again, I would argue, if the CIA's position today is that they don't know where Asgari is, well, they ought to know. This is a man who is responsible for killing eight CIA officers.
And the press -- they didn't deny that he had defected in 2007. In the spring of 2007 their position was, "No comment. We're not going to comment about this high-level general that had defected."
Now that we've pieced together with good detective work that this Iranian general was responsible and in a position to have done these things in Lebanon during the 1983 bombings, suddenly they don't know where he is or who is he. This isn't believable.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Bob Baer, a final thought, what do you believe?
BAER: He's somewhere. He's either here or he's in Israel. One of the two. I mean, he was a key player. No one's going to let him go. And I would find it difficult to believe the CIA doesn't have a clue where he is. I just don't believe that.
BLITZER: I find that hard to believe myself. If he's in Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Israel, wherever he might be, if he's not in the United States, assume that people here in the United States government know where he is, given that record, given what he has done over these many, many years.
The book, once again, is entitled "The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames." The author is Kai Bird. Kai, thanks very much for joining us.
Bob Baer, Stuart Newberger, thanks to you, as well.
In less than half an hour, the first polls will be closing as half a dozen states hold primaries today. It's the biggest round of voting until the November midterm elections. There are several showdowns between mainstream Republicans, Tea Party candidates.
In Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, is expected to fend off a challenge from a Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin. In Georgia, five major GOP candidates are likely headed to a runoff for the race to face Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn. She's the daughter of the former senator, Sam Nunn.
Another family connection in Pennsylvania. Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, the former congresswoman, Marjorie Margolies, is trying to make a comeback in the Democratic primary.
We'll going to have full coverage with our political team right at the top of the hour. The polls start closing in Kentucky then. Stay with us.
BLITZER: It may be the last best hope for finding Malaysia Flight 370. The raw data from satellites and the communication with the missing plane in its final hours. Now after weeks of intense pressure from passengers' families, that data is about to be released.
Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has more.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under pressure from families, the Malaysian government now says it will soon release raw satellite data from the night Flight 370 vanished. That data led the search here to the south Indian Ocean. SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PASSENGER PHILIP WOOD: Our push is for independent review. Out of the hands of the people that hold liability in this case and will have to trust that that independence will bring some light.
MARSH: Experts outside the investigation are eager to review the data the moment it's released.
MICHAEL EXNER, CO-FOUNDER, AMERICAN MOBILE SATELLITE CORP.: It's important for other people to look at it just because they haven't found the airplane where they thought it was and other people might just come to a different conclusion.
MARSH: The satellite company Inmarsat and Malaysia are discussing when to release the data and what material to include. CNN is told to expect not only the numbers, but an analysis, as well.
EXNER: What do the numbers actually mean is crucial. We don't necessarily have to see every detail of their analysis, but we certainly need to understand the definitions of the terms that they've used.
MARSH: The release is a win for families who've been demanding the data for weeks, but they realize it's not an instantaneous game changer.
BAJC: I don't think that we'll have any big discovery right off the bat. I mean, it will take a long time for outside experts to take this information and to try to create models.
MARSH: In an open letter, family group expressed fears the search could end before the plane is found, saying that would be, quote, "tantamount to murdering us."
They also called for the full recordings of these wings thought to be the black boxes and Australian newspaper reports investigators there will not make them public. Skeptics believe it's another indication of waning confidence in the signals.
MARSH: But investigators are confident enough in those signals to send both Ocean Shield and Bluefin back to the search area. Remember, the search has been delayed for days because of broken parts, but we just found out that the underwater search could resume as soon as tomorrow.
BLITZER: Rene, stand by for a moment. I want to also bring in our aviation analysis Peter Goelz and our CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest. Richard is joining us from London right now.
Richard, what do you make of the fact that Inmarsat not only going to release the data, but also a separate analysis?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I think it's going to be more than just that. I think you're going to get an element of raw data, but you're also going to get quite a bit of understanding behind it because as the report -- as Rene's report made clear, it's not just enough to know 1.65321, or whatever the numbers might be. You have to understand what were the assumptions that were being made, not by speed or by altitude, but more technically about the satellite, about the aircraft, about the modem.
All these sorts of issues play into it. Ultimately, from my understanding, from both Malaysia and Inmarsat, what they are now engaged in is a process of working out which bits of information will be useful, which bits of information are vital, and which bits of information would just clutter up the understanding and should be left out.
BLITZER: What do you want to see, Peter? You're on investigator. For example, the pings, they said they are not going to release the audio of the pings. What's -- why can't we hear those?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, what this underscores, Wolf, is the fundamental importance of having independent accident investigations. The NTSB, trusted by the public, trusted by families. This investigation has neither. What we're looking for is, as Richard pointed out, not just the raw data, but the thought process, the understandings that they reached to get to this spot off of Perth.
If we don't have that, what we're going to have is a thousand theories develop and simply complete clutter over the next few weeks.
BLITZER: That's a -- Rene, you're speaking to your sources, that's a potential fear out there, they release all this information, it's just going to just clutter up everybody and they are going to be way, way behind.
MARSH: Right. You know, I spoke with one expert today, one of the experts who's hoping to get his hands on this raw data, because he wants to get a crack at analyzing it himself, and he said, look, the responsible thing for all of these experts who want to analyze it for themselves to do is don't rush to put out your theory. Take a long, hard look at it and try to help Inmarsat. This isn't about saying I told you so, I knew you were wrong, and throwing out additional theories that would just create one big distraction. It really is about helping the process. So he's calling on these experts to be responsible when they do go ahead and do this --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Richard.
QUEST: Yes, Rene makes such a good point. I've got to say, from everything I've looked at with this, this idea that somehow Inmarsat came up with some numbers and everybody else bought on to it is just simply not the case. You're talking about Inmarsat, Rolls-Royce, Boeing, the AAIB, the NTSB, numerous professors at various universities. You're talking about other satellite companies.
Now I'm not saying there aren't other experts that have something to contribute, but we need to understand that this information has been very widely reviewed. The only difference is, it hasn't been put into the public domain. I can tell you that everything your people have called for today is most likely going to be released.
BLITZER: Richard Quest will be joining us tomorrow, Peter Goelz, Rene Marsh, guys thank you very much.
Coming up, the biggest voting day before November, the first polls are about to close. We'll have the first results coming in.
Plus, the NBA accusing Donald Sterling of lying, destroying evidence, and a whole lot more.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. The first polls closing just seconds from now in a critical round of primary voting before the midterm election. We're awaiting the results of some high-profile showdown involving top Republicans that could help shift the balance of power here in Washington.
Plus, new details on the NBA's legal charges against Donald Sterling. Standing by also to hear from the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, he may answer reporters' questions about the scandal this hour.