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How Vulnerable is the U.S. Power Grid?; Outrage Over Teens' Death Growing; Violence in Ukraine; Balance of Senate Power Up for Grabs

Aired May 22, 2014 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Were able to demonstrate how a hacker could instruct an electrical generator's turbine engine to basically self-destruct. You see if the smoke is coming out everywhere. Just poured out.

This is an example of what hackers can do. This is the turbine engine of an electrical generator and this is what has got cybersecurity experts, homeland security experts really worried about our infrastructure these days, Wolf, and what hackers are able to do. And apparently, very recently, now we know from the Department of Homeland Security. They tried it. Didn't work this time. It could work soon.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So how vulnerable is the nation's electrical grid?

TODD: The electrical grid is considered kind of the glass jar of the American industry system here. Last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security they responded to 256 what they call cyber- incident reports. More than half of them were from the energy sector alone. So it's an example of hackers always trying to probe into that system and see what they can do.

Again, with those incidents, there were no major disruptions. So there are some good safeguards in place. But it's frightening to think of that many incidents, that many attempts on the electrical sector just last year, 256.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, I know you're working this story, you'll have more coming up later in the SITUATION ROOM as well.

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: Thanks. Very disturbing information.

Other news we're following, two Palestinian teens are gunned down in the West Bank. There's an intensifying debate over who killed them. There are calls now for an investigation. They're getting louder. We'll have a live report from Jerusalem, that's coming up.

And later, Ukraine preparing for critical elections on Sunday and asking the United Nations for help. We'll go live to Kiev.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're about to show you a story that some viewers may find very disturbing to watch. It's about the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teens during rock throwing protest on the West Bank last week.

Now CNN's Ivan Watson shows us it comes down to two very different accounts of what happened. The Israelis say their military was firing only rubber coated bullets, essentially ball bearings with a thin coating of rubber designed to hurt but not to penetrate people.

The video in this report shows two teens hit with real bullets sometimes called live fire. The doctors say that live fire passed through the bodies of these teens and killed them.

Here's Ivan Watson's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It had been a day of skirmishing, Palestinian youth hurling stones, Israeli soldiers and police firing tear gas and rubber coated bullets. Then caught on camera the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teenagers both gunned down on the same patch of asphalt. The second, an hour and 13 minutes after the first.

The Israel Defense Force tells CNN that, quote, "A preliminary inquiry indicates that no live fire was shot at all on Thursday during the riots in Beitunya, and we have to determine what caused this result."

CNN producer Kareem Khadder was at the village of Beitunya, in the occupied West Bank much of that day, filming the back-and-forth clashes. Among those seen on CNN's video was 17-year-old Nadeem Nouwarah, throwing a rock. He had gone to the protest after attending school in the morning. At 1:45 p.m., a security camera catches the moment when Nouwarah was fatally shot as he walks towards the Israel positions. Another camera shows him rushed to an ambulance. A medical report says the bullet entered his chest and exited his back.

At the precise moment when Nouwarah was shot CNN's camera was rolling filming an Israeli soldier shooting his rifle at the Palestinians and then demonstrators carrying the mortally wounded teenager to the ambulance. He later died in hospital.

(On camera): The shootings were filmed by this little private security camera mounted to this building right here which the owner tells us operates 24 hours a day for the protection of his home, his family and his business. As for the boys, the first one was shot and mortally wounded right here.

(Voice-over): At 2:58 p.m. the security camera captured the second shooting when 16-year-old Mohammad Odeh Salameh was shot as he walked away from Israeli positions. Doctors pronounced him dead on arrival at the hospital with a single bullet wound that entered his back and passed out in his chest.

We met the grieving father of the first shooting victim Nadeem Nouwarah at St. George's School in Ramallah, where relatives and classmates are in mourning. Siam Nouwarah shows me the bullet hole left in the bloody backpack his son was wearing.

(On camera): You think this is the bullet hole?

SIAM NOUWARAH, FATHER OF NADEEM: Yes.

WATSON (voice-over): Inside the backpack, a bloodstained textbook and a bullet, not a rubber coated projectile.

(On camera): You think this is the bullet that killed your son?

NOUWARAH: Yes, of course. Of course. Inside the bag, I found this, inside the bag.

WATSON: And who do you think killed your son?

NOUWARAH: Soldier.

WATSON: Israeli soldier?

NOUWARAH: Yes. Israeli soldier.

WATSON (voice-over): The Israeli Defense Force insists only rubber coated bullets were fired that day. A United Nations spokesman expressed what he called great alarm at the shooting of the two teenagers whom he says were unarmed and appeared to pose no direct threat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Ivan Watson is joining us now live from Jerusalem.

Ivan, A little while ago you spoke with an IDF, an Israel Defense Force's spokesman. What did he say?

WATSON: Well, he responded to our report. The Israeli military standing by its preliminary investigation conclusions which are that no live fire, no metal bullets were fired during this altercation. The video, the exclusive video that our camera filmed on the afternoon of May 15th, that shows Israeli police and soldiers firing their rifles at Palestinian demonstrators at the exact moment when the first victim Nadeem Nouwarah was fatally wounded.

The Israeli military spokesman argues that those rifles that the Israeli troops had had tubes on them that are made for firing those rubber coated metal projectiles. When I asked the officer, is it possible that there could have been a malfunction or an accident that could have lead to firing a metal projectile and the Israeli lieutenant colonel said he was not aware of any malfunction.

As for that slug that the grieving father said he found in his dead son's backpack, the Israeli military spokesman, Wolf, says that the Israeli military is reaching out to the Palestinian Authority to get to do some kind of ballistic forensic report using that slug. The father of the dead boy says that he will only give it over to investigators in the presence of cameras, to people he trusts. He says he wants justice for the death of his eldest child.

BLITZER: Ivan, I want you to stand by because Michael Oren is here. He's the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, former spokesman earlier in his career for the Israel Defense Forces as well.

Ambassador, thanks very much. So what's your reaction? This is a very disturbing report.

MICHAEL OREN, CNN MIDEAST ANALYST: Good to be with you, Wolf, always. Israel has had a lot of experience with pictures like this going back to 2000. Remember the Mohamed al Doura case which helped trigger the second Intefada, great questions whether Mohamed al Doura could have been shot by Israeli forces, whether he was shot at all.

In 2006 a report from Gaza about a family of eight Palestinians killed supposedly by Israeli tank fire. It turned out upon further investigation that they were killed by a Hamas mine, and even in 2012, during the latest fighting in Gaza, a picture of a Palestinian man holding the body of his son purportedly killed by Israeli planes, it was on the front page of the "Washington Post." It turns out that that picture was staged as well. So Israel -- it doesn't apologize. It investigates very carefully.

BLITZER: They are two boys. Two teenage boys are dead.

OREN: Indeed. We don't know that for certain. The pictures are very disturbing. But the --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You don't know these two boys are dead?

OREN: We don't know anything right now. These pictures were taken four days ago. They were released only in the last 24 hours. There were two hours of film that were taken, only two minutes were released of these films. The many, many inconsistencies, you see two young people who were supposedly shot, one to the chest, one through the back but they both fall in the same way. They fall forward which is inconsistent with what we know about combat deaths.

We see a picture of Israel forces shooting. But if you zero in on that picture, you will see that those rifles indeed have the sleeve on the barrel, which is used for rubber bullets, not for live ammunition.

BLITZER: Let me ask -- let me ask Ivan about that.

On that -- we're showing the viewers, Ivan, that shot. Do you see a sleeve on that rifle? Right there.

WATSON: Well, this -- yes. There's supposed to be some kind of tube attachment that I'm told can be used for firing these rubber coated projectiles. That is the argument that the Israeli military spokesman has put forward, yes.

OREN: You can see the sleeve very carefully. BLITZER: Ivan, I take it that there's a full-scale investigation, the IDF has an investigation, but there's also been some international outrage as well. What's been the reaction?

WATSON: Well, the U.S. State Department has called for a prompt and transparent investigation to look into the possible disproportionate use of force in this incident. The United Nations' agency that's active in the occupied West Bank has responded to this saying that the initial report suggests that the two boys did not pose any real threat to the Israeli troops in the area and that they were unarmed.

Furthermore, the United Nations has indicated that it has observed a, quote, "sharp increase" in the number of Palestinians killed and wounded in the West Bank during Israeli security operations over the course of the last year and a half. For example, no fatalities in 2012. The United Nations saying that there were at least 17 Palestinians killed during these operations in 2013.

So far this year, at least seven, including this 16-year-old and 17- year-old killed in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the U.N. says that there were at least 51 Palestinians wounded by live fire in the West Bank in 2013 and so far at least 43 wounded again by live fire in 2014. That's the United Nations' statistics in this matter -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's bring back the former Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren.

So you hear those reports, very disturbing information. But what I hear you suggesting, it's possible you think that this whole thing was staged? Is that what you're suggesting?

OREN: We don't know. We don't know. And the Israeli military has a way of investigating this thing. If they can get the bullet they can determine whether that bullet came from an Israeli weapon. It can actually determine what weapon it came from. And it can track -- even they know what weapons are fired, live ammunition --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But there's the capability of having a joint Palestinian security forces Israeli army investigation to make -- to take a look at that specific bullet that the father showed us.

OREN: That's forensics 101. Every police force --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And they don't trust the Israelis to do it alone if you can cooperate with the Palestinians and make sure that -- and determine whether or not this was an Israeli bullet.

OREN: And the Israelis forces have very specific rules for engagement using live fire. The soldier's lives have to be in imminent and present danger. If clearly if they were not imminent and present danger, and it turns out that live fire was used then soldiers will be held accountable for that put on trial. But again looking at those pictures and Israeli investigators will look at them very closely, again, the way the bodies fall, the fact that there's no blood, someone who was hit in the back and a bullet has an exit wound, there is a tremendous amount of bleeding. There's no bleeding in the picture. There are many, many inconsistencies.

You see a Palestinian young man who's supposedly throwing a rock at Israeli forces. You're told that that's the same Palestinian young men. And later he's wearing different clothes, Wolf. You've got to ask some very serious questions.

BLITZER: All right.

OREN: I've had a lot of experience with this.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to follow up and I'm sure the Israeli military and Palestinians will be following up as well.

Ambassador Oren, thanks for coming in.

Ivan, thanks. See you in Jerusalem as well. We'll stay on top of this story. If you get more information, you let us know. We'll update our viewers.

Up next, deadly attacks targeting the Ukrainian military as the government blames Russia for trying to derail upcoming elections. We'll take you there live.

And women Senate candidates are grabbing the headlines. How they could make 2014 an historic year. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Ukraine's prime minister is calling for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. The call comes after 16 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a pair of attacks in the eastern Ukraine area overnight. Thirty-two others were injured. The prime minister says he has evidence Russia is trying to escalate the violence and interfere with Sunday's planned presidential elections.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, for us.

Jim, what are the expectations for the vote, the turnout, especially in the eastern part of Ukraine?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, with this violence today, truly a disturbing development because it's violence like this that officials here in Kiev as well as international observers who were in the country to observe this vote were concerned would bring down that turnout to the point possibly where the election might not be viewed as legitimate. That's the problem. So today you have the deadliest attack since the start of the crisis, 16 soldiers killed. That said, to this point you speak to officials here in Kiev. I have also spoken to observers who were here in the country and they believe that in the vast majority of the country voters will be able to get to the polls. Right now the polls closed, the interruption confined to those two regions you mentioned in Donetsk, in Luhansk, in the eastern part of the country where about half the polling stations we hear are closed.

But if the rest of the country can get there and you can get those figures high enough, the belief is here they can carry off this election and have something of a credible result. But with violence like this today it's really a disturbing development because as you know over the last week or so the violence had declined to the point where people thought one that Russia was not interfering as much and two that Ukrainian forces were getting a handle on the violence on these pro-Russian separatist. But today just a very disappointing result to see so many soldiers killed in attacks like this.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto is going to have a lot more coming up in the "SITUATION ROOM" later today.

Jim, we're glad you're on the ground in Kiev for us.

Other news, schools across Nigeria were closed today. Teachers held a day of protest in support of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram terror organization last month. It's been more than five weeks since their mass abduction and there are still no sign of them. The White House announced yesterday will deploy 80 U.S. military personnel to Chad to help in the search for the missing schoolgirls.

And if you want to help, if you want some ways to try to help these girls worldwide trying to overcome barriers to education, go to our Web site at CNN.com/impact. You will impact your world.

Still ahead, one of the big questions this election year is will the Republicans take control of the Senate after Tuesday's primaries? One group could hold the answer. We will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The dust has now settled a bit from this week's primaries and we're getting a better picture of what the race will look like in November. And as Dana Bash shows us, this year women candidates and women voters could tip the balance of power here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Kentucky.

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: I am not an empty dress.

BASH: To Oregon.

MONICA WEHBY (R), OREGON SENATE CANDIDATE: I am a doctor, a mom.

BASH: To Georgia.

MICHELLE NUNN (D), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Washington is going to learn a thing or two from our campaign.

BASH: These female Senate candidates will try to defeat a male incumbent or flip party control of a Senate seat. Add them to a list of vulnerable female senators in Louisiana and North Carolina and New Hampshire and it's clear the balance of power in the Senate could depend on how winning candidates in both parties fare. Gender is really at play in a neck-and-neck race here in Kentucky.

Alison Lundergan Grimes running against Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.

GRIMES: I am a strong Kentucky woman who is an independent thinker.

BASH: She is already leaning way in, using her gender to appeal to female voters who make up more than half the Kentucky electorate. And playing to the fact that poll showed McConnell is especially unpopular with women.

(On camera): Allison Grimes is a 35-year-old woman running very much appealing to women. You have a gender gap problem.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: We will find out in November, won't we? I mean, the point is, women in Kentucky have been treated badly in this environment as men have.

BASH (voice-over): But belying that bravado is McConnell over appeal to women, talking about his wife.

MCCONNELL: I am so happy to be joined tonight by my wife.

BASH: And three Kentucky women he says were hurt by Obamacare.

Democrats' other big hope for picking up a GOP Senate seat is in Georgia with Michelle Nunn, daughter of veteran senator, Sam Nunn.

NUNN: I believe that change is possible.

BASH: As for Republicans, Monica Wehby is a pediatric neurosurgeon, hoping to unseat Democrat Jeff Merkley in Oregon as a political outsider.

WEHBY: I'm not a career politician.

BASH: Republicans are favored to pick up a Democratic seat in West Virginia with Shelley Moore Capito, but even if she loses to Democrat Natalie Kenneth, the state would elect its first female senator.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And our chief congressional correspondent Dana is with us.

There already are a record number of women in the U.S. Senate.

BASH: That's right. There are 20. As you said, that is a record. But when you think about it it's still only 20 percent of the Senate. And the country as a whole is just over 50 percent so it's not representative at all. And -- but it's very fascinating to watch as I have done over the past many years is that there is a camaraderie among women in the Senate across party lines and there are actually able to get more things done because of the fact that they have an ongoing relationship. They have regular dinners and that it does make a difference.

BLITZER: Democrats and Republicans.

BASH: Democrats and Republicans.

BLITZER: Sort of like a women's caucus, if you will.

BASH: They meet once a month. They have off-the-record dinners. It's all led by Barbara Mikulski, the sort of the dean of the Senate women.

BLITZER: The Democrat from Maryland. And she has -- you know, she's been there the longest. And they have -- they have these relationships that I think the men don't have, especially in these times when everybody --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There were more women, there might be more cooperation, they might get more done.

BASH: I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes.

BLITZER: All right. Good reporting. We'll watch very closely because women will play a critical, critical role. See if the Democrats continue to have the majority in the United States Senate.

Dana, thanks very, very much. Before we go, one programming note for all of our viewers here in the United States, indeed around the world coming to CNN, a new series from executive producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman. The series is entitled "THE SIXTIES." It's the decade that reshaped Americans' lives in ways that still affect all of us today.

Please be sure to watch. Set your DVR for the premier. That airs next Thursday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.